Friday, April 05, 2013

Sexist in the White House

At the start of last month, Al Kamen and Emily Heil (Washington Post) reported:

Loop Fans may remember our report a year ago that the Obama administration had penciled in Brett McGurk, a talented aide on the Bush II National Security Council staff and then a special adviser to President Obama, to be the next ambassador to Iraq.
But the eventual nomination stalled in the Senate and McGurk withdrew three months later — after news reports revealed a racy e-mail exchange that he had in 2008 with a Wall Street Journal reporter when both were working in Baghdad. (The couple later married.)
McGurk has been serving as a senior Iraq adviser at the State Department since then. Now, foreign policy blogger Laura Rozen reports, McGurk is likely to be named deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran.
A good job — and no Senate confirmation required.

Are they married now?  That's because they both divorced the spouses they cheated on in Iraq.

Sending a serial cheater back to Iraq?

Not helpful to Iraqi women. 

But that's what the US did, that's what Barack Obama did.  (See the snapshot where C.I. explains just what McGurk's been up to in Iraq this week.)

In Iraq, there are so-called 'honor' killings.  A woman is judged to have 'disgraced' her family in some manner and she's killed.

So Denise al-Hamadi is an Iraqi reporter.  She goes to the US Embassy to cover some story.  A rumor spreads about her speaking to McGurk. The rumor morphs into sleazy McGurk forced himself on her and now she's targeted for death.

That's a very likely scenario and why, in fundamentalist societies, you're very careful about whom you send. 

McGurk being at the American embassy means that it is very difficult for Iraqi women to visit.

Barack Obama is a sexist pig who doesn't give a damn about the freedoms of Iraqi women or their safety.

He should be ashamed of himself but look at him this week in California, exhibiting his pig boy behavior yet again as he reduced the state's attorney general to a beauty contestant.  He really is sick.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, April 5, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Brett McGurk returns to Iraq (pray for Iraqi women), the US stabs the Kurds, Iraqiya and others in the back, The Erbil Agreement is now officially shredded by McGurk, Nouri issues an arrest warrant for Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi, protests continue, and more.

Never think Thug Nouri al-Maliki possesses any sanity. 
  World Bulletin News reports that a Baghdad court has "issued arrest warrants and inquiry against outgoing Finance Minister Rafi al-Issawi on charges of 'involvement in issues of financial and administrative corruption'."  This is not something minor.  Protests have gone in Iraq for over 100 days.  They kicked off December 21st.  From that day's snapshot:

After morning prayers, Kitabat reports, protesters gathered in Falluja to protest the arrests and Nouri al-Maliki.  They chanted down with Nouri's brutality and, in a move that won't change their minds, found themselves descended upon by Nouri's forces who violently ended the protest.  Before that, Al Mada reports, they were chanting that terrorism and Nouri are two sides of the same coin.  Kitabat also reports that demonstrations also took place in Tikrit, Samarra, Ramdia and just outside Falluja with persons from various tribes choosing to block the road connecting Anbar Province (Falluja is the capitol of Anbar) with Baghdad.  Across Iraq, there were calls for Nouri to release the bodyguards of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi.  Alsumaria notes demonstrators in Samarra accused Nouri of attempting to start a sectarian war.

So what happened yesterday?  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports:

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

Kitabat explains that these raids took place in the Green Zone, were carried out by the Iraqi military and that Nouri, yesterday evening, was insisting he knew nothing about them.    In another report, Tawfeeq quotes al-Essawi stating, "My message to the prime minister: You are a man who does not respect partnership at all, a man who does not respect the law and the constitution, and I personally hold you fully responsible for the safety of the kidnapped people." BBC News adds, "Rafie al-Issawi, a prominent member of the al-Iraqiyya political bloc, said about 150 of his bodyguards and staff members had been arrested on Thursday."

That was day one of the protests.  The targeting of Rafie al-Issawi was the final straw.

The arrest has echoes and implications that go far beyond your average arrest warrant.  Not only will this likely impact the ongoing protests, there's the fact that provincial elections are supposed to be held in 15 days (in 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces).  al-Issawi is a member of Iraqiya and a Sunni and this will be seen as yet another attempt by Nouri to influence the elections by painting his political rivals as crooked.  (Iraqiya beat Nouri's State of Law in the March 2010 parliamentary elections.)

In December 2011, when most (but not all) US troops left Iraq (15,000 remain in the surrounding area -- in addition to those in Iraq), you had something similar take place.  Dropping back to the December 19, 2011 snapshot:

CNN reported this afternoon that an arrest warrant had been issued for Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi by the Judicial Commitee with the charge of terrorism.  Omar al-Saleh (Al Jazeera) terms it a "poltical crisis" and states, "The government says this has nothing to do with the US withdrawal, that this has nothing to do with the prime minister consolidating his grip on power.  However, members of al-Iraqiya bloc, which Hashimis is a member of, say 'No, [Maliki] is trying to be a dictator."  Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) observes, "The arrest warrant puts Mr. Maliki on a possible collision course with the Kurds, who run their own semiautonomous region in the north and participate in the central government but have longstanding disputes with Baghdad over oil and land; and with Sunni Arabs in provinces like Anbar, Diyala, Nineveh and Salahuddin who have pressed in recent weeks for more autonomy from Baghdad with the backing of the Kurds."

What the hell is going on? 

Over the weekend, Nouri went for another power grab. 

It actually started before Saturday but the press was ga-ga over photo-ops.  'Last soldier out! No, really, last US soldier out! Except for the ones still there! Don't look behind the curtain!'   And apparently covering for Barack was more important than telling Americans what was taking place in Iraq.

Late Saturday night online (Sunday in print), Liz Sly (Washington Post) noted that the 'government' in Iraq is "unraveling faster than had been anticipated Saturday." Really?  All in one day.  Well,  no, not in one day.  She continued,  "In recent days, the homes of top Sunni politicians in the fortified Green Zone have been ringed by tanks and armored personnel carriers, and rumors are flying that arrest warrants will be issued for other Sunni leaders."



"In recent days."  

Golly, seems to me if you know -- for even just one damn day -- that Nouri's goons -- in tanks, no less -- are 'ringing' his political opponents home, you report it then.  Yet even with Sly reporting this late Saturday -- by which point it was already all over the Iraqi media -- you had Jim Axlerod (CBS News) filing garbage and crap and pretending that was covering Iraq. 

The targeting of Tareq al-Hashemi only ensured that Nouri's power-grab became more obvious.  For months before that happened, you had Iraqiya, the Kurds and Moqtada al-Sadr calling on Nouri to honor The Erbil Agreement and stating that he was ruling like a dictator --  Ayad Allawi said it outright to a British publication; Saleh al-Mutlaq told CNN Nouri was the new Saddam.  We'll come back to The Erbil Agreement because the US government officially trashed it this week -- but the US press 'forgot' to report that.  Imagine that. 

May they cut off his cock and shove it down his throat.  Let's talk Iraqi women.  Sophie Ghaziri (Al Arabiya) explained last month how the US-led Iraq War destroyed the status of women in Iraq:

Women in the country once had a place in society; held prominent and important roles across the public and private sectors. But after two wars, an authoritarian administration and U.N. sanctions Iraq has been left crippled with most women struggling to meet their most basic needs; most living in poverty.
The daily life of ordinary, poor women in Iraq is tough as they are without income, social security and are constantly at risk of being abused. Not to mention the women who still remain locked up in Iraqi prisons for unspecified reasons, or as blackmail to get their male loved ones to hand themselves over to security forces and confess to charges the government has brought against them.
Those women are the ones that sparked protests in Iraq over the last couple of months. Those women are the ones who face daily abuse, torture and no respect. The plight of female detainees brought thousands onto to the streets carrying placards of those who still remain behind bars, looking for justice.

In Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale, fundamentalist militias take over the United States and women lose all rights and agency.  What was a brilliant but scary novel has become reality for Iraqi women. 

Symbolism matters in Iraq today and has mattered.  Canada deserves applause for their recent move.  Fan-Yee Suen (CTV News) reported Monday on Stephanie Duhaime:

Duhaime, a Sudbury native who is fluent in English, French and Arabic, was appointed as the charge d’affaires of Canada’s newly created diplomatic mission in Iraq on Monday.
The new one-woman semi-ambassadorial post -- the Canadian embassy in Jordan will continue to work full-time to restore diplomatic relations in Iraq -- is meant to expand Canada’s engagement with the country at a time of economic prosperity.

I don't care about (or know) Stephanie Duhaime's politics.  I do care about the fact that Iraqi officials are forced to interact with women in power and that the Iraqi people see this.  Iraqi women have great strength and are fighting their way back to equality.  The very least foreign countries can do is to make clear that women are forces within government. 

That was too much for the sexist in the White House.  US President Barack Obama can't be bothered with symbolism -- even though his own electoral victory was in large part due to symbolism.  Before he was sworn in, he was asked to appoint a woman to be the US Ambassador to Iraq.  He and his team chose to ignore that request.

In addition, Barack found four people he could support as US Ambassador to Iraq -- all were men.  He first nominated the idiot Chris Hill, then he nominated James Jeffrey, then he nominated Brett McGurk and then he nominated R. Stephen Beecroft.

Hill, Jeffrey and Beecroft were all confirmed.  No, three different Ambassadors to Iraq in one term does not make for stability and that's another criticism of the lack of consistency the US government has provided in dealings with Iraq.  But Brett McGurk went under for a reason.

He slept with Gina Chon when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House.  He and Chon were both married to other people.  Some idiots in the US want to act like that doesn't matter.  It matters and we'll get to it.  Chon was a reporter, he was working for the US government.  Chon allowed him to vet her copy (he read it before her editors did) and that's so wrong.  It's also equally true, you're not supposed to sleep with your sources.  That is a major ethical lapse.  Because he was Barack's nominee when all this came out, Columbia 'Journalism' 'Review' and others wanted to dismiss this.

You had a government employee sleeping with a reporter covering the government's actions in Iraq and CJR wants to pretend it's a private matter?  There is whoring and then there is whoring.  They made themselves a joke (and we did the parody at Third).

Whores abound in the US and they like to pretend that Republicans killed Brett's nomination.  No, his penis killed his nomination.  Republicans couldn't block Hagel.  The White House was approached by three Democratic senators stating that they couldn't vote for McGurk.  That's why McGurk pulled his nomination.  The three senators were Democrats and they also had brains. 

I don't give a damn who sleeps with whom in the US.  I don't care.  I have no idea who's cheating, who's faithful, it really doesn't matter to me.  In the US.

Iraq isn't the US.  Iraq has been destroyed by the US.  You cannot send Brett McGurk back to Iraq and without him taking his baggage.  When the affair emerged last year, it didn't matter in the Iraqi press that Gina and Brett were married to each other now.  The scandal and his texts about "blue balls" were all the rage in Iraq -- in a way that even Rhianna's semi-nude outfits aren't (and every one of those outfits get tons of attention).

In Iraq, Brett McGurk is known now as a man who sleeps with married women.  Iraqi women could not have met with him if he'd been made Ambassador.  They would have been risking their own safety.

If it's not clear to you, you need to follow closely this excerpt from Jonathan Hiles (Harvard Record) report on a panel about the Iraq War:

Apart from damaging the environment, the war has also given rise to civil disorder and religious extremism, leading to great victimization of women. Ms. [Yanar] Mohammend [of Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq] said that many women and girls were trafficked abroad during the war’s first years and that growing numbers are now being been sold to "entertainment houses" frequented by government officials in Iraq. A large portion of victims are orphans of the war, and 65 percent are 17 years old or younger, she said.
The "honor killing" of women suspected of "immoral" conduct has also increased. OWFI estimates that at least 1,000 Iraqi women die annually in the "honor killings," which are often committed by family members. In 2010 an employee of the Baghdad morgue told OWFI that it receives 300 to 500 women each year whose bodies have the "signature" marks of an honor killing, "which could be like a hand chopped off."
Section 409 of the criminal code, written after the U.S. invasion, sets a three-year sentencing cap for a man who "surprises his wife or one of his female dependents…in a state of adultery…and kills her." According to Ms. Mohammed, the Iraqi government rarely enforces even this punishment. Iraq's Constitution, finalized in 2005, has expanded the role of Sharia Law, which allows polygamy and arranged marriages for minors, among other things. Ms. Mohammend claimed that the previous legal system involved a "more humane" combination of secular and religious law, while Iraq’s new Constitution "feels like it was written in the Middle Ages."
Ms. Mohammed argued that U.S. authorities are partly responsible, since they have supported religious zealots in order to lend an Islamic fa├žade to neo-liberal economic reforms. "Policies against the working class, the new labor code that’s being written, the suppression that's going on against the labor demonstrations…it all goes hand in hand, it's not just the women."
Religious extremists outside of government have persecuted gay teenagers, murdering dozens in Baghdad alone. According to Ms. Mohammed, U.S. authorities, in conjunction with the Iraqi government, have chosen to obscure the true nature of the problem by referring to gay killings as "emo killings." The "emo" culture is generally associated with teen alienation, fashion and punk music. "You ask any Iraqi what's the meaning of emo, nobody knows."

Can you start to get it now?  The desire of the press to play stupid -- scary thought: It's not pretending to be stupid, it actually is that stupid -- and to whore for a president is appalling.  Sending Brett McGurk into Iraq as the US Ambassador to Iraq would mean Iraqi women were stripped from the political process or they were at risk of 'honor' killings because they associated with a man who came to Iraq earlier and slept with a married woman.  Americans are not held in high regard (for good reason) in Iraq as it is.  You bring in Mr. Can't Keep It In His Pants and you're kicking women out of the process because it is not safe for them to have been to have met with him.

And that's what the three Democratic senator based their object to McGurk on.

He withdrew his nomination.

That should have been the end of it.

But alas and alack, look who's back in Iraq.

The filth is back in Iraq.  Kitabat reports that Brett McGurk, a US State Dept advisor, dined with journalists at the American Embassy in Baghdad and declared that a majority government was fine and dandy.  We'll come back to that outrageous shift in policy in a moment.  We're going to stay focused on women.

Let's put a curse on Brett right now:  If even one woman is 'honor' killed because she interacted with Brett McGurk, may he be grabbed by Iraqis who cut off his cock and shove it down his throat.  He damn well knows the baggage he carries.  May he be cursed from the four corners of the earth.  While I don't myself practice witchcraft, I do have Pagan and Wiccan friends (hello, upstate New York) who do and, yes, they will work the spellcraft.  And hopefully it will take.  Because no Iraq woman should die due to Brett McGurk being unable to keep it in his pants or because Barack Obama cares so damn little about Iraqi women.

Not that he cares a great deal about Iraqi men or children either.

Where Barack Obama flips the middle finger to the Iraqi people.  Let's go back to Kitabat reports that Brett McGurk, a US State Dept advisor, dined with journalists at the American Embassy in Baghdad and declared that a majority government was fine and dandy. We mentioned The Erbil Agreement earlier.  It's amazingly important and so rarely reported on by the western press which appears to have mistaken a major in whoring for one in journalism.

In March 2010, Iraq held parliamentary elections.  They have a parliamentary government and the person with the most members in their 'Congress' is named prime minister-designate and given 30 days to form a cabinet.  Not a partial cabinet.  A full cabinet.  You do that in 30 days or someone else named prime minister-designate.

The winner of the 2010 elections?  Iraqiya headed by Ayad Allawi.  It's a mixed political slate attempting to include of all Iraq.  Iraqiya offers and embraces a national 'we are all Iraqis' identity.  It is also the political slate that has female members of Parliament and not tokens.  (Al-Fadhila's Susan Sa'ad is not a MP I would want to represent me but she's also not a token.  One of the few non-Iraqiya female members who can make that claim.)  In the 2009 provincial elections a thread in those results was that it appeared Iraqis were moving away from a (US-imposed) Sunni-Shi'ite split and going for a national identity.  This was confirmed in the 2010 results when Nouri's State of Law was defeated by the new Iraqiya coalition (whose members were killed in the lead up to the election, whose members were barred from running by the Justice and Accountability Commission). 

Nouri stomped his feet and demanded a recount.  The results were the same.

It was now time for Nouri to step down and for a new prime minister to emerge via the process outlined in the Constitution.

But Nouri refused to allow that to happen.  It's as though, in January 2009, Bully boy Bush announced he wasn't leaving the White House and Barack Obama wasn't going to be named president.

Nouri kept the country of Iraq in an eight-month political stalemate while he refused to step down as prime minister.  He was only able to do that with the backing of the governments of Iran and the United States.  Nouri is a White House puppet.  He was first appointed by the Bush White House when they didn't want Ibrahim al-Jaafari to become prime minister in 2006.  By 2010, Nouri's secret prisons, torture cells, corruption and much more were well known and documented.  While Barack and others in the White House love to sneer at the Iranian government's alleged embrace of torture, their hands are just as dirty.

And the Iraqi people had gone to the polls.  They had expressed their wishes and the votes were counted and then recounted.  And yet the US that supposedly wanted to introduce 'democracy' to Iraq immediately pissed on democracy, pissed on the voters, pissed on the Iraqi Constitution.

During the eight month political stalemate, US officials repeatedly pressured the political blocs to let Nouri have a second term.  No surprise, most said no and said no repeatedly.  After it hit the eight month mark, US officials began telling the political leaders that Nouri was willing to go another eight months, that nothing would ever get done in Iraq.  So why not be the adult in the room, give Nouri a second term as prime minister and, in exchange, we'll put your concerns on paper in a legally binding contract that Nouri will have to follow. 

Their concerns?  One example.  Kirkuk is oil rich.  Because it's oil rich, it's disputed.  The semi-autonomous KRG in the north claims it and the Nouri's Baghdad-based government claims it.  How do you solve who gets it?  Well Iraq wrote and passed a Constitution in 2005.  Article 140 explained how this would be addressed: A census and a referendum.  Nouri took an oath in 2006 to obey the Constitution.  He never implemented Article 140.  Before you say, "Maybe he was busy," the Constitution mandates that Article 140 be instituted no later than December 2007.  Nouri ignored the Constitution.

It is thought that a vore would see Kirkuk go to the KRG.  So Nouri's delayed the vote, repeatedly ignoring the Constitution.

Okay, say US officials, we'll put it in writing, it'll be a binding contract and Nouri will have to honor it.  [He wasn't honoring the Iraqi Constitution but he was going to honor a contract?]  US officials did this with the leader of each political bloc to get them to agree that Nouri would get a second term.  This is the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.

It is extra-constitutional because it goes around the Constitution which clearly defines how someone becomes prime minister.  For example, Nouri never formed a full cabinet.  Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."  Those positions were supposed to have been filled before the end of December 2010.  They were not.  They are still not filled.  Nouri refused to fill them because once the Iraqi Parliament confirms a nominee, that nominee is autonomous.  Nouri can't fire them, only the Parliament can.  (Which isn't easy.  Nouri's gotten Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi convicted of 'terrorism' and sentenced to death with the Baghdad courts he controls but he can't get Parliament to strip Tareq of his title.)

Because he was governed by The Erbil Agreement and not the Constitution, he didn't have to meet any requirements.  And he trashed The Erbil Agreement.  Immediately.  A census was supposed to take place in Kirkuk the first week of December 2010.  Nouri called it off, said it was postponed.  It's never been brought up again.  He was supposed to appoint Ayad Allawi to head an independent national security agency.  Immediately after President Jalal Talabani named Nouri prime minister-designate, Nouri told Parliament that Allawi's position would have to wait.  It's 'waited' ever since.

The US image in Iraq wasn't good before then.  For obvious reasons (an illegal war that destroyed Iraq).  Barack Obama's election meant that Iraqis thought a real change might be coming.  They were hopeful.  They no longer are.  They have seen through Barack Obama and his 'withdrawal' which is actually more counter-terrorism US troops in Iraq today than at the start of 2012.  (Not surprising because he told the New York Times he'd do that when he was first running for the presidency.) But what it mainly did was send the message to Iraqi political leaders that the US can't be trusted.  For example, there is so much damage in the trust that did exist among Kurdish leaders.  They now realize they will be screwed over every time.  It didn't have to be this way.

Barack could have supported the will of the Iraqi people, the votes, the attempt at democracy.  He refused to do so.  Let's again note John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq’s first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."

What The Erbil-Agreement put forward was a power-sharing government.  This week, Brett McGurk announced that the US government now supports a majority-government.  that's what Nouri has been insisting on all along.  He couldn't accomplish that at the ballot box -- hell, he couldn't even win a term as prime minister at the ballot box -- but now the US is backing his power grab.  This is major news and will have huge implications on the way the Iraqi people see the US.

Nouri went to Karbala today.  Speaking alongside his political cronies, Nouri refused to take off his sunglasses.  None of the over 16 people standing beside him required sunglasses but Nouri had to hide his eyes.  He has to hide a lot.  Alsumaria reports that he accused other political parties and slates of being terrorists. And what is a reach around to Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, he declared that some political parties work to keep smaller ones from success.  (al-Mutlaq is currently the leader of the National Dialogue Front which is a part of Iraqiya.  al-Mutlaq and Nouri have gotten very tight as al-Mutlaq's leadership has fallen into question.)  He also pushed his desire for majority government -- again, something the voters did not sign off on -- and declared it was the only way to end the "political impasse." Kitabat notes that he declared this is what has kept Iraq from moving forward.  Parliamentary elections are currently supposed to take place in March of 2014.  Nouri called for early elections and said the 2010 elections were marred by vote rigging.  This is the piece of crap that the United States government has backed -- under Bush, under Barack.  There's not a damn bit of difference between Bush and Barack except Barack can speak properly and Bully Boy Bush knew how to come off human (and not like the first place winner in a Leonard Nimoy competition).

Alsumaria reports that Brett McGurk has announced he will be entering discussions with various political leaders on how to solve the political crisis.  Well it's "crises" -- not crisis.  And the roots go back to the failure of Nouri to honor The Erbil Agreement and the failure of the US to keep their promise that they would ensure The Erbil Agreement would be honored.  It's 2013.  It's a little damn late, even if the US was trying to strong arm Nouri, for the 2010 contract to be honored (because come 2014, new parliamentary elections will be held).  But why would any Iraqi politician expect either Nouri or the US government to be honest at this point?  With their track record of lying over and over, why should Nouri or the US government be trusted?

Chain smoking cigarettes
Enemies across the table
Wonderin' if I can ever trust anyone again

-- "Darkness 'Til Dawn," written by Jacob Brackman and Carly Simon, first appears on Carly's Another Passenger

Wonderin' if I can ever trust anyone again
Kitabat reports protesters in Kirkuk and Hawija today called out the "traitors" -- Cabinet ministers who returned to the Cabinet meetings -- as usual the list of the denounced included Saleh al-Mutlaq.  The people do not feel the government is representing them.  NINA reports that Hayde al-Mulla has declared today that Iraqiya wants the protesters' demands to be met before they return to Cabinet sessions.  NINA notes, "Thousands demonstrated in the protest squares in Ramadi and Falluja, on the international highway connecting Iraq with Syria and Jordan, carrying banners criticizing the Government for having double standards and demanding it put a stop to the executions and random arrests as well as not to discriminate between citizens."  Organizer Mohammed al-Dulaimi declared that Nouri's government refuses to listen to the demands of the people but instead to respond with "executions and random arrests."

Today they also protested in Jalawlaa, Baiji, Samarra, Tikirt, and Baquba.  They protested despite attempts to stop them. National Iraqi News Agency notes, "Security forces closed off all roads leading to the sit-in yard north of Ramadi before noon today."  Despite this, NINA notes that "thousands of people flocked to the main sit-in squares north of Ramadi and eastern Falluja."  Iraqi Spring MC reports that the Baghdad mosque was raided and one was raided in Nineveh ProvinceArbitrary arrests of activists are taking place in Diyala Province and Nouri's forces disrupted morning prayers in Muqdadiya.  In Samarra, NINA reports, Sheikh Hussein Ghazi declared that Iraq ranked "first in the world in human rights violations and corruption and criminality against the Iraqi people."  And the outlet notes that Sheikh Yunis al-Hamdani in Falluja observed that Nouri bears "responsibility for assassinations and executions against Sunnis" and called on the Kurds to join in the cry to stop the mass executions.  Iraqi Spring MC reports that the protesters in Falluja asked that the "BBC Make the Unmissable, Unmissable!!"  But the BBC didn't rush to provide coverage.

On the topic of violence,  National Iraqi News Agency notes that a Baquba bombing has left a number of people injured, a Hilla roadside bombing has claimed 5 lives and left two more people injured,  an armed attack outside Kirkuk left three Sahwa injured, an armed attack to the north of Tikrit left 2 Sahwa dead and one injured, a Hilla car bombing claimed 2 lives and left two more injured, and a Tikrit sticky bombing claimed 1 life.  All Iraq News adds that seven people were injured in the Baquba bombing, a Mahawil bombing claimed 3 lives and left seven more people injured, and, dropping back to last night, a farmer and his son were kidnapped from their Samarra farmQassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) notes that a Baghdad bombing (Abu Ghraib) claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers. Alsumaria notes 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul.  In addition, AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:

. security message - 'Rocket casing discovered near the US consulate in Arbil' in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan

We noted the excavations yesterday.  Arwa Damon has a strong story at CNN on the topic

Now you tell me
Who you gonna get to do the dirty work
When all the slaves are free?

-- "Passion Play," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on Joni's Night Ride Home

When all the slaves are free.  In the US, Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner, tossed in prison not for breaking a law but for breaking an agreement.  Sentenced and then re-sentenced to even more time.  She's over 70, she's a grandmother and her cancer has returned.  If Barack had any compassion, he would move to release her immediately.  She's an attorney who used her degree to try to defend people, not to try to get rich.  She was the people's attorney and now she remains behind bars, the victim of Bully Boy Bush and Barack Obama.  There is a petition calling for a compassionate release of Lynne due to her health.  Ralph Poynter, her husband, notes:

5,600 and counting! Individuals are reaching out to their friends, family and colleagues. Organizations are reaching out to their members. People throughout the world are joining together in the effort to free Lynne Stewart.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu sent this Cri de Coeur: “It is devastating, totally unbelievable. Is this in a democracy, the only superpower? I am sad. I will sign. Praying God’s blessings on yr efforts.”
+Desmond Tutu
Pete Seeger declared: “Lynn Stewart should be outa jail!” on a postcard signed “old Pete Seeger” accompanied by a drawing of his banjo.
Your outpouring of support has lifted Lynne’s spirits as she undergoes the ravaging effects of chemotherapy. On March 20, she sent this message to each and every one of you from her seven-person cell in the Federal Medical Center, Carswell, Texas:
“I want you, individually, to know how gratifying and happy it makes me to have your support. It is uplifting, to say the least, and after a lifetime of organizing it proves once again that the People can rise.
“The acknowledgement of the life-political, and solutions brought about by group unity and support, is important to all of us. Equally, so is the courage to sign on to a demand for a person whom the Government has branded with the ‘T’ word — Terrorist. Understanding that the attack on me is a subterfuge for an attack on all lawyers who advocate without fear of Government displeasure, with intellectual honesty guided by their knowledge and their client’s desire for his or her case, I hope our effort can be a crack in the American bastion. Thank you.” — Lynne
Lynne Stewart devoted over 30 years of her life to helping others as a criminal defense lawyer. She defended the poor, the disadvantaged and those targeted by the police and the State. Such had been her reputation as a fearless lawyer, ready to challenge those in power, that judges assigned her routinely to act for defendants whom no attorney was willing to represent.
Now Lynne Stewart needs our urgent help or she may die in prison. Our determination can compel the Bureau of Prisons to file the motion for compassionate release that will free Lynne Stewart.
Check out the Justice for Lynne Stewart website to view the signatories (up to 03/31/13), the postcard from Pete Seeger, Archbishop Tutu’s message as well as Lynne Stewart’s letter back to him, and much more.
Remind your friends to sign the petition and to disseminate it to others. Ask each person to get five people to sign, and each of those five to ask five people of their own. In five stages, you will have reached another 3,000 people!
Ralph Poynter


the associated press
qassim abdul-zahra
arwa damon

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


Smash airs on NBC.  It's supposed to move to Saturdays shortly.  It aired last night.

This was actually a good episode.

I don't know what's up with Bernadette Peters.

She's very talented.  But her speaking voice for this character makes her sound drunk.

I was afraid it was age or illness.  But when she plays Marilyn's mother Gladys and says her lines, she's using the Bernadette voice we know.

So, yes, this episode Ivy found out that her mother was hired to play Marilyn's mother in Bombshell.  She was not pleased.  When she found out that Tom didn't have the decision forced on him but instead embraced Eileen's plan, Ivy told him she worked for him but they weren't friends anymore.

Jimmy climbed out of Karen's window after spending the night when her father made an early visit.  He saw the leather jacket and little else.

He's upset Karen walked out on Bombshell.  He feels that way even after seeing her perform in her new play.  Derek tries to tell him this is what's best for Karen and her father asks if he means best for Derek.  He looks at Derek's leather jacket and tells him a man would own up to what he did but a little boy climbs out a window.

Ana.  If I were in charge of this show I would fire the hair dressers.  All of them.  Debra Messing's hair looks good now.  She's clearly no longer using the people on set.

They can't even do a Marilyn wig right.  When Ivy and Bernadette are doing the song, Tom pictures them onstage in costume.  The Marilyn wig wasn't even a Marilyn wig.  It was disgusting.

Which brings us back to Ana.

She finally gets to have her big Diva number in Jimmy and Kyle's play.  It was over-the-top in a very bad way.  Do the people not get this is for TV?

But could they not have fixed Ana's hair.  They've got her in this big, hippy skirt.  Her hair should have been Patti Labelle like, spikes, to counter-balance the width of the skirt.

They didn't have the brains to do that.

Her song?

Not all that.  She sang it fine.  But it isn't a show stopper and, to be honest, after Spider-Man the musical, the idea of people being elevated above the audience is neither new nor exciting all by itself.

Scott's the man who runs the non-profit theater, the one who was supposed to direct Julia's first play but she went with Mike Nichols instead.  As I suspected, this appears to be a new romance.  I didn't think this was a passing moment.  Debra Messing continues to be the best thing about the show.  Tom and the actor who plays him?  The worst.

Tom was like Katharine Hepburn in last night's episode -- in one of her virgin roles like Lizzie in The Rainmaker or the spinster in Summertime.

That's not meant as a compliment.  Hepburn was supposed to seem odd and strange in those roles and that's how Tom came off espcially after Ivy ended the friendship.  He has these weird, non-human body movements.  He reminded me of a large crane -- the bird, not the machine.

At the benefit for Jimmy and Kyle's musical the main events were (a) Scott wanting Julia (Debra Messing) to look at the book for the musical and give some input (as a favor to him, she agreed) and (b) Jimmy tried to steal.

Jimmy owes $8,000 for drugs.  I wasn't aware that they had a use-now-pay-later plan but I guess Jimmy found the dealer who did.  The dealer wants money (also Jimmy's changed his name, the dealer points out).  So he tries to steal when he can't get an 'advance' for a play being done as a workshop at a non-profit. Derek catches him.  JImmy tells him why.  Derek says he'll give him the money.

Derek does that and many now regret it.  Karen's father came to the fundraiser and he sees Karen with Jimmy but most importantly he sees Jimmy in the leather jacket.

As he's leaving at the end of the episode, he makes plans to have breakfast with Karen and Jimmy soon (and I would assume Karen's mother would be there as well).  Derek then walks him to the taxi and he apologizes to Derek.  He explains he wrongly assumed Derek was sleeping with his daughter but now he knows better, looking at Jimmy and Karen.  Derek looks over and it hits him that the two are sleeping together.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, April 3, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, calls to postpone voting in Anbar and Nineveh come from the Electoral Commission, the oil workers remain targeted in Iraq, the US government has a sudden and selective interest in War Crimes, Arabic social media is tickled by a cartoon of a nude and saggy Victoria Nuland (neocon Iraq War supporter, Dick Cheney's former deputy national security advisor and current US State Dept spokesperson), Cindy Sheehan gets ready to kick off the Tour de Peace, and more.

No Jail Time for Lt Dan Choi, argues a new Care2Care petition:

In 2011, President Obama repealed Don't Ask Don't Tel (DADT), which finally made it legal for U.S. servicemembers to identify as gay or lesbian without fear of being fired. That's great news. The bad news is that many soldiers and former soldiers are still facing the repercussions of coming out.
One of the most recognizable of these soldiers is Lieutenant Dan Choi, a gay man who made national headlines in 2009 for publicly coming out and being summarily fired from the U.S. army. He then spent the next two years using his story to protest DADT, which he viewed as a homophobic, outdated law that had no place in the United States. In 2010, the Iraq war veteran was arrested for protesting DADT in front of the White House -- and slapped with federal charges.
While most of the other protesters were charged with a fine and released, Lt. Choi refused to plead guilty. He believes that he's being unfairly targeted by the military as a gay man who's attracting too much attention. Now, he's unable to re-enlist and facing six months of possible jail time.
Lt. Choi is a national hero, not someone who should be punished for peacefully protesting a policy that violated his Constitutional rights and left him jobless. Tell the U.S. Department of Justice: no jail time for Lt. Choi!

For more on Dan Choi refer to his Tweeter feed and you can also refer to the March 28th snapshot which was his most recent day in court fighting the charges against him.

Dan Choi stood up.  The world could use more people who take a stand.  A lot of people just hang in the background and claim to stand up.  For example, Reporters Without Borders (still) defines their own mission as:

Freedom of expression and of information will always be the world’s most important freedom. If journalists were not free to report the facts, denounce abuses and alert the public, how would we resist the problem of children-soldiers, defend women’s rights, or preserve our environment? In some countries, torturers stop their atrocious deeds as soon as they are mentioned in the media. In others, corrupt politicians abandon their illegal habits when investigative journalists publish compromising details about their activities. Still elsewhere, massacres are prevented when the international media focuses its attention and cameras on events.

The Committee to Protect Journalism insists:

CPJ promotes press freedom worldwide and defends the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. CPJ takes action wherever journalists are censored, attacked, imprisoned, or killed for their work. Our advocacy helps to ensure the free flow of news and commentary.

Wherever journalists are censored, attacked, imprisoned, or killed?  Even Iraq?  As Elaine asked of Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists yesterday, "Why does it always seem that, with both of these organizations, Iraq always has to come last?"

As covered in yesterday's snapshot, Dar Addustour, Al-Parliament, Al-Mustaqbal and Al-Nas were attacked in Baghdad Monday evening, their employees threatened (five people stabbed, more left with bruises and fractures), offices destroyed and cars set on fire (a fifth Baghdad newspaper, Al Mada, was threatened but not attacked).  As Elaine notes, the press was "covering this topic this morning and this evening the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders have still not managed to issue anything.  Not a statement condemning the attacks, not anything."  It's now a day later and still nothing from the 'protectors' of journalists.

Four newspapers attacked in Baghdad. And not one word from the Committee to Protect Journalists?  No condemnation from Reporters Without Borders?

That's a funny way to protect the press, a funny way to be an advocate for journalism.  But Elaine is correct, especially with regards to CPJ, when it comes to Iraq we have seen this over and over.  It's like there is the whole world and then, after they've dealt with everything else in the world, they may make times to mention something from days or weeks ago in Iraq.  Iraq doesn't matter to these outlets obviously.  Monday evening the attacks took place.  It is Wednesday evening now.  And neither press 'protector' could managed to issue a statement.  48 hours after the attacks and not one damn word.

They can take comfort in the fact that Arab social media is focusing more on the silence of the US State Dept and some very funny (and cruel) illustrations of State Dept spokesperson Victoria Nuland are popping up with her 'concern' expressed Monday about Egypt.  It's noted real concern would require Nuland -- a neocon married to neocon Robert Kagan -- to express concern for the Iraqi press.  The funniest cartoon features a nude and saggy Victoria Nuland with the question of where is her remorse for Iraq?  Obviously, no where to be found.

Dar Addustour reports that the the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council's Sheikh Humam Hamoud has joined those who have publicly condemned the attacks and he has termed them "disturbing and scary."  He has called on the security forces to double their efforts to find the assailants.  As Sheikh is a columnist for Dar Addustour and today he weighs in on the attacks noting that the solidarity many Iraqi officials, politicians and media figures have expressed with the papers attacked has been empowering.  He calls on Iraqis to reject violence and to come together to build a modern, democratic Iraq.  The attacks were a dangerous precedent, he writes, and must not happen again while the assailants must be brought to justice because this will affirm Iraq's commitment tot he law, to democracy and to Constitutional principles.  He ends his column calling for the Almighty's blessing on Iraq and thanking those Iraqis who stood up and expressed solidarity.

Sara Hamdan (New York Times) is expressing
something -- bliss?  Maybe something stronger.  It's the usual neo-liberal crap advocating that state banks be replaced with private banks.  While that may not be surprising -- this is the New York Times, after all --
being low-fact, semi-fact free, may be.  Hamdan offers, "According to the Web site of the Central Bank of Iraq, the country is served by 7 state-owned banks, 32 private banks and 15 foreign banks. But analysts say that a handful of state-owned banks -- and two in particular, Rafidain Bank and Rasheed Bank -- dominate 90 percent of the business."  And that's about all she can handle.  Many days this would be less noticeable.  Too bad for Hamdan that she writes on the same day Farid Farid (Transparency International) chooses to weigh in on the topic of corruption in Iraq -- including that $800 million is "said to be unlawfully transferred out of Iraq every week."   Iraq ranks 169 out of 174 countries on Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index.  Maybe today wasn't the best day for the New York Times to again pimp privatization -- which brings about even less checks and balances?

Let's stay with the topic of the greed motivated push towards privatization.  David Bacon, whose latest book  Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press)  won the CLR James Award, explains the continued attacks to destroy the Iraqi oil industry -- state-owned before the start of the war.  From Bacon's "For Unionists, Iraq's Oil War Rages On; The leader of Iraq's oil union is being threatened with prison -- again" (In These Times):

The big multinational petroleum giants now run the nation’s fields. Between 2009 and 2010, the Maliki government granted contracts for developing existing fields and exploring new ones to 18 companies, including ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, the Italian Eni, Russia's Gazprom and Lukoil, Malaysia's Petronas and a partnership between BP and the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation. When they started, the U.S. military provided the initial security umbrella protecting all of their field operations.
The Ministry of Oil technically still owns the oil, but functions more as the multinationals' adjunct, while stripping workers of their rights. Since 2003 the ministry has denied the union its right to exist and retaliated against its leaders and activists. As the oil corporations rush in to lay claim to developing fields, ministry spokesman Assam Jihad told the Iraq Oil Report in 2010, "Unionists instigate the public against the plans of the oil ministry to develop [Iraq's] oil riches using foreign development."
In 2011, Hassan Juma'a and Falih Abood, president and general secretary of the Federation of Oil Employees of Iraq, were first subject to legal action by the ministry and threatened with arrest. Many of the union’s elected officers have been transferred from jobs they’d held for years to remote locations far from their families, in an effort to break up its structure and punish activists. "The government doesn't want workers to have rights, because it wants people to be weak and at the mercy of employers," said Juma'a.

Currently Hassam Juma'a is being asked to appear in court Sunday, April 7th.  US Labor Against the War is asking for people to sign this petition which explains:

Despite all the talk about fostering democracy and human rights in Iraq, workers there continue to be denied the right to freely organize trade unions and negotiate over the terms of their labor - just as they were under Saddam Hussein.  
In the last two years, repression against unions has escalated.  A wave of peaceful strikes has recently swept Iraq as workers seek to redress grievances and assert their rights.  The response of the Al Maliki government has been to crack down on discontent with disciplinary action against union activists, and even criminal complaints against union leaders.
Recently the Ministry of Oil lodged a criminal complaint against Hassan Juma'a Awad, President of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions*, claiming he was responsible for strikes in the oil industry.  

If convicted, he could face stiff fines and five years in prison. He has been ordered to appear in court on April 7th to respond to charges leveled against him.
Persecution of union leaders for exercising rights promised by Iraq's constitution and protected under international treaty must not be allowed to stand unchallenged.
Labor organizations across the U.S., including the AFL-CIO, and around the world have responded by signing a letter to Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki demanding that all charges against Hassan Juma'a be immediately withdrawn and that persecution of Iraqi workers peacefully exercising their rights must cease.  
They further demand that the Iraqi government promptly enact a basic labor and trade union law that guarantees the right of workers to organize and join unions of their choosing free from government interference and harassment, and that both public and private employers be required to negotiate over the terms and conditions of employment with the unions chosen by their employees.
  • No government that denies these basic labor and human rights can claim to be a democracy.  
  • The U.S. and other governments ought to freeze economic aid to Iraq until these and other basic human rights are respected.
U.S. Labor Against the War calls on its affiliates, members and supporters in unions and allied social justice organizations to sign this petition supporting the rights of Iraq's workers and solidarity with Hassan Juma'a and other union activists who are being persecuted by the government for exercising their rights.

As Bacon notes in his article, there have been several protests in Basra by oil workers in the month of February.

Of course, there are ongoing protests in Iraq that reached the 100-day mark on Monday.  The protesters are calling for a responsive government that addresses the needs of the people.  These are the people who live in poverty.  Billions of dollars come in each month from oil and Iraq has around 30 million people but the government can't provide.  It can't provide needed jobs, it can provide consistent electricity, it can't provide potable water, it can't provide needed sanitation infrastructure (which is why the rainy seasons in Iraq meaning flooding throughout the bulk of the country -- standing water, up to the knees, in parts of Baghdad -- such as Sadr City -- even a day after the rain stops).  Nouri al-Maliki's government  also attacks political rivals and anyone who fights for a better life for Iraq, Hassam Juma'a is only one example of that.  Iraqi Spring MC notes that Nouri's forces killed activist Qahtan Adnan Shalash Hiti yesterday and then grabbed four other activists and took them away with no one providing information about where the four have been taken.

Today, All Iraq News reports National Alliance MP Kareem Alewi declares that Nouri's government "is serious in responding to the demonstrators' legitimate and constitutinal demands soon to serve the Iraqis."  Nouri can line up all of his flunkies for the rest of the year, no one's going to believe words, especially not from him and his supporters.  They're looking for actions.  And what are they seeing?

For one thing, NINA reports they're seeing another mass arrest today, this time in Qadissiya Province, 31 people were arrested.  One of the things the protesters have been protesting is Article IV.  This means that Clay Miller is suspected of terrorism -- suspected, please understand, not guilty of, nothing has been proven.  They can't find Clay.  But I'm married to Clay.  So they arrest me.  Am I thought to have taken part in terrorism?  No.  But I'm Clay's wife and in 'free Iraq' that's all it takes for me to be arrested.  Or I'm Clay's child or his parent or his aunt . . . That's all it takes for me to be arrested.  I don't have to be accused of having done anything wrong.  But the police can't find the suspect and I'm related to the suspect so I get arrested.

This is used to detain thousands of Sunnis and it's part of the continued war that Nouri and thugs like him maintain in Iraq.  Iraq will either learn to be Iraq -- learn to embrace one another -- or it will be the land where Coward Nouri who fled the country decades ago because he was scared he might be hurt now gets to return and overcompensate for the fact that he was a coward who couldn't fight for his own country but instead had to lobby imperial America to overthrow Saddam Hussein.  The impotence of Nouri is so great that he will continue to work out these grudges in his failed attempts to demonstrate something that he hopes approximates masculinity.  And Iraq will suffer day after day.  In contrast to Nouri, Dar Addustour reports Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is speaking of the importance of Iraqi blood -- of all Iraqi blood -- and the need for the country to pull together.

As  Human Rights Watch's Erin Evers observed last month:

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.

So, no, there's been no movement on this issue or on any other.  Iraqi Spring MC declares today that the country mourns daily those who have been falsely arrested and notes a Falluja activist who 'disappeared' has returned: His corpse was returned to his family today, he was tortured to death.  For the 'crime' of peaceful assembly.

Nouri's a thug, a despot and a liar.  Like when he told the protesters in 2011, 'give me 100 days and I'll address your demands.'  The 100 days came and went and he didn't do a damn thing.  He's empty promises, he's a broken oath.

Alsumaria reports that protesters gathered in Nineveh today to protest the security forces arresting an Iman in Mosul and that the security forces fired shots into the crowd.  Iraqi Spring MC notes that today warrants were sworn out for the leaders of the on-going sit-in in Kirkuk.

Kitabat reports protesters in Kirkuk are decrying the Minister of Education Mohammad al-Tamim and, yes, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq -- they are saying that in an attempt to stop the people from exercising their right to assembly and end the protests, the two men have sworn out false warrants on three leaders of the Kirkuk protests.

Saleh al-Mutlaq is the leader (at least for now) of the National Dialogue Front.  He is also a member of Iraqiya (if only in name).  Iraqiya pulled out of the Cabinet meetings (as did the Sadr bloc) weeks ago and refused to return unless Nouri would respond to the demands of the protesters.  Saleh al-Mutlaq -- always one to curry favor as he crawled before his betters -- broke the boycott and returned.  He then went on to 'speak for' the protesters with lies and distortions leading the protesters to announce that not only did he not speak for them, each province would select advocates who would speak for them.  Last Friday's protests saw Saleh al-Mutlaq denounced in one city after another, at one protest after another.

Saturday, All Iraq News noted that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has said al-Mutlaq's actions are outrageous and he declares to al-Mutlaq, "Your attitude is unacceptable and does not serve your interests whatsoever; therefore, I call on you to reconsider your decision as we are tired of our experiences with Nouri al-Maliki since 2006.  Maliki is not trustworthy to start with him on new negotiations, so we advise you to cut your relations with him."  Tareq al-Hashemi is currently in Turkey because he didn't rub his crotch against Nouri's ankles the way al-Mutlaq did while whimpering like the dog al-Mutlaq is.  In December 2011, Nouri targeted them both.  He dropped his opposition to Saleh al-Mutlaq after al-Mutlaq worked overtime to curry favor.  He continued to persecute Tareq al-Hashemi.

While the western media has largely ignored al-Mutlaq's current troubles, Ma'ad Fayad (Asharq al-Awsat) tries to get al-Mutlaq on record about how "he controversially decided to resume his post at the end of last month, in a move that some feel has divided the Iraqiya bloc to which his party belongs. Some have even speculated that his reinstatement was engineered by Maliki to divide the Sunni parties in advance of the provinicial council elections scheduled for April 20."  Excerpt:

Asharq Al-Awsat:You recently decided to return to cabinet meetings despite the fact that your coalition, Iraqiya, has withdrawn from the government. Does this mean that you are running counter to your coalition or that you have left the fold?

Saleh Al-Mutlaq: Iraqiya boycotted the cabinet sessions because of the government’s actions against Mr. Rafie Al-Issawi, the former minister of finance who recently resigned. Security forces raided his offices and his home, and we viewed this as a violation of the principles of a peaceful state. The way in which Mr. Issawi’s offices were ransacked was brash and illegal in our eyes. Following that, our boycott was fueled by the demonstrators in the western and northern governorates, and we announced that we would not return to cabinet meetings until the demonstrators’ demands were realized.
After the boycott had stretched on for some time, we received invitations to return to cabinet meetings. We replied that we would not return unless the government convened a special session that would exclusively discuss the demands of the demonstrators, and the government responded that it would convene such a session. The General Secretariat of the cabinet issued a statement that called for an emergency session in order to discuss the demands of the demonstrators, and when we attended the session we found that the agenda did not include discussing the demonstrators’ demands. We opposed this, but it just so happened that the only thing that we ended up discussing was the demonstrators’ demands. The session was devoted entirely to this topic, and we discussed a set of laws that would address the priorities of the demonstrators.
For instance, an issue that had particularly vexed the Iraqi people was that of the women detainees who had allegedly been exposed to torture in Iraqi prisons. We in the cabinet adopted a resolution that granted amnesty to imprisoned women, as well as to those who have been sentenced. There are 963 women in detention in Iraqi jails, some of whom will be released in accordance with the amnesty resolution. Those convicted of graft will be released once they have paid back the money they stole from the state, and those convicted of terrorism will have their status discussed on a case-by-case basis. There is a push to remove all women from prison, and there is also an amnesty agreement in the works for male prisoners.

[. . .]

Q: Do you feel that you defected from Iraqiya?

We did not split from Iraqiya. Those who split are those who formed an independent bloc for electoral purposes. Those who left and fragmented the coalition are the ones who abandoned the true national agenda that works to benefit all Iraqis. By forsaking Iraqiya’s vision, they have unfortunately betrayed both it and the coalition.

Poor Saleh al-Mutlaq, scrambling to avoid the shame that he's brought to his onw name.  Meanwhile the Iraq Times reports that Haider al-Mullah is calling out Nouri for his failure to attend sessions of Parliament and answer questions.  This is a key story and not because of Nouri.  This goes to the split the State Dept delegation saw in Saleh al-Mutlaq's National Dialogue Front on their one-day visit to Iraq.  Haider is seen as making a move to take leadership of the political party.  To take leadership from Saleh al-Mutlaq who has displeased party elders.  This is a key moment and it may play out at a low level for another year but we noted here what the State Dept observed with regards to al-Mutlaq on that visit.  This goes to those observations.  My own personal guess?  al-Mutlaq would immediately leap over to Nouri's State of Law if he lost his leadership of the National Dialogue Front.

Let's turn to the US State Dept for a moment.  This afternoon Stephen J. Rapp and Donald Y. Yamamoto held a press conference.  Rapp is the Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues and Yamamoto is the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs.

Stephen J. Rapp:
  We’re here today to announce the designation of additional fugitives for a reward – for which a reward can be paid under recent legislation to expand the State Department’s longstanding War Crimes Rewards Program. We’re announcing today that the Secretary of State will offer up to $5 million for information leading to the arrests, the transfer, or conviction of three top leaders of the LRA, the Lord’s Resistance Army: Joseph Kony, Okot Odhiambo, and Dominic Ongwen, as well as the leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known as the FDLR, Sylvestre Mudacumura. The nine fugitives that had earlier been designated for the ICTR, the Rwanda tribunal, will remain on the list. Accountability is a key pillar of the United States Atrocity Prevention Initiative and our national security strategy, which states that the end of impunity and the promotion of justice are not just moral imperatives; they’re stabilizing forces in international affairs. We act today so that there can be justice for the innocent men, women, and children who have been subjected to mass murder, to rape, to amputation, enslavement, and other atrocities.
I’d like to tell you just a little about this program and its expansion. It’s managed by my office, the Office of Global Criminal Justice, here at the State Department. It originally offered rewards for information leading to the arrest or conviction of individuals indicted by the three international tribunals that were created for the former Yugoslavia, for Rwanda and Sierra Leone. Since 1998, our ability to pay these rewards has proven to be a valuable tool for the United States Government to promote accountability for the worst crimes known to humankind, by generating valuable tips that enable authorities to track down the world’s most notorious fugitives from justice.

Here's a tip for Rapp, Iraq provides a ton of opportunities to prosecute various leaders for War Crimes.

Last week, Felicity Arbuthnot (Pravda) noted the realities of the massacres of Falluja:

There were numerous reports during the 2004 April and November-December US assaults on Fallujah of, in addition to DU - three times unanimously designated a weapon of mass destruction by UN Sub-Committees - illegal, experimental chemical weapons and napalm being used in the decimation of this city of about three hundred thousand people.

After the second assault, Dr. Saleh Hussein Iswawi of the Fallujah General Hospital told the BBC, "About sixty to seventy percent of the homes and buildings are completely crushed and damaged, and not ready to inhabit ... Of the thirty percent still left standing, I don't think there is a single one that has not been exposed to some damage."

Charred bodies and those half eaten by stray dogs littered the streets. One resident, Yasser Sattar said, "This is the crime of the century. Is this freedom and democracy that they brought to Fallujah?"

What happened in Fallujah was a pogrom.It was by no means the only one.

People leapt into the Euphrates River to put out their burning flesh - it continued to burn in the water. Dead were described as "caramelized." Other bodies were described as melting, disintegrating, but their clothing staying intact, by doctors who have seen much in Iraq in 1991 and since, but never this.

"All forms of nature were wiped out," stated the (pro-American) Iraqi Health Minister, Dr. ash-Shaykhli.


So maybe Rapp and the US State Dept could start there?  If Rapp and the State Dept are confused, they can refer to Margaret Kimberley's report published at Black Agenda Report today:

Babies in Fallujah are born without eyes, or only one eye, or organs outside of their bodies, or no heads or two heads. The gruesome toll has gone on since 2005 and now nearly ten years later continues unabated.
The United States is not a signatory of the Treaty of Rome which established the International Criminal Court. That is not by accident. Former president George W. Bush, his vice president and all of his foreign relations and national security team would be in the dock in the International Criminal Court if it hadn’t been created to punish only Africans. Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell and company are easy targets for blame but the denunciation must go much further. Only two members of congress, Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, ever made an effort to investigate the number of civilian fatalities in Iraq. No candidate for president or any other high office ever raised the subject. Newspapers and television networks were eager to curry favor with the Bush administration and never directed their embedded reporters to say anything about the war’s toll on civilians.
Now the Bush administration has been out of power for four years. Newspaper editorial boards no longer have to worry about them. Most combat troops have left Iraq and reporters have left with them. What now prevents the New York Times from doing a story on the high rate of cancers and congenital deformities in Fallujah? MSNBC is supposed to be the Democratic Party’s cable news network. Why haven’t they covered this story?

Rapp declared at today's press conference, "Here today we’re talking about war crimes, which are situations where international or internationalized courts have sought people for atrocity crimes, for crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes."  Okay, so let's talk about War Crimes, here today.  Let's talk about what was done to Falluja, let's just start there.

Don't hold your breath on that.  And don't hold your breath waiting for Rapp to talk about how Barack Obama's Drone War is a War Crime -- but it is a War Crime.

Let's note some of today's violence.  The National Iraqi News Agency reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing has left eight people injured, 1 corpse was discovered in Maysan Province (gun shots and signs of torture), a Mosul roadside bombing left 2 police officers dead and a third injured, a bomb near a Kirkuk mosque left one police officer injured, 1 person was shot dead on the streets of Mosul, a Falluja drive-by shooting left 1 person dead, a Baghdad attack left Mohammed al-Qasim (brother of a National Security Advisory official) dead, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Baghdad, a Baghdad bombing left three people injured, and a Tikrit roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured.  In addition, AP notes a Sahwa member and his mother were shot dead in Baghdad and his brother was left injured.  10 people reported dead and fourteen injured  but not a lot of interest from the western press.

In other news, it is said that 12 of Iraq's 18 provinces will hold elections April 20th.  All Iraq News notes the Electoral Commission met with UNAMI and Martin Kobler yesterday -- Kobler is United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq.  In a statement from the Electoral Commission, it's noted the meeting included a discussion of postponing elections in Anbar and Ninvehe Province (as Nouri has ordered).  Kitabat reports the Electoral Commission is offering that elections in Anbar and Nineveh be postponed until May 18th.

National Iraqi News Agency reports
, "The spokseman of Motahedoon Alliance, Dhafer al-Ani said that the government's bias and lack of impartiality became a foregone conclusion, nothing that postpone elections in Nineveh and Anbar is an attempt to deprive the provinces to catch up with the other Iraqi provinces."  He states that what needs to happen is "to postpone the elections in all parts of Iraq because of the security situation is worsening in more than one province, particularly Baghdad, stressing the need to achive this demand or cancel the previous decision which was to postpone the elections in Nineveh and Anbar."

In the United States, peace activist Cindy Sheehan is beginning the Tour De Peace.  We'll close with that:

for Thursday, April 4, 2013
Contact: Tour Media - DeDe Miller 562/500-9079
National – Cres Vellucci 916/996-9170

Anti-War Mom Cindy Sheehan Announces 3,000-Mile
Cross Country 'Tour de Peace' Bike Ride for Peace; 1st Leg
Begins Thursday at Son Casey's Grave, and Ends in Sacramento

VACAVILLE/SACRAMENTO, Ca. – Cindy Sheehan will begin an arduous 3 month, 3,000-mile Ride-for-Peace – dubbed "Tour de Peace" – this Thursday/April 4 from the Vacaville grave of her son to Arlington Cemetery and White House.

She will hold a press availability at 10 a.m., Thursday (April 4) at Vacaville-Elmira Cemetery (522 Elmira Road/West Side), where her son Casey is buried. He was killed in Iraq nine years ago.

The first leg of the 'Tour de Peace" runs from that Vacaville gravesite in to Sacramento, about 41 miles. Supporters are expected to welcome Cindy and the initial bike rider in Sacramento about 6 p.m. Thursday at Sierra 2/Curtis Hall (2791 24th St.).

Cindy will be available for interviews along the route, and in Sacramento at the end of the first leg.

WHAT: The Tour de Peace bike ride across the United States will follow historic Route
66 to Chicago, and other roads from there on to D.C.  Bicyclers will join in for all or part of the tour, which will include public events organized by local groups along the way. 
Complete route:

The tour begins April 4, 2013, nine years after Casey Sheehan was killed in Iraq, and 45 years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed in Memphis.  It will conclude on July 3, 2013, with a ride from Arlington National Cemetery to the White House.

WHY: This August will mark 8 years since Cindy Sheehan began a widely reported protest at then-President George W. Bush's "ranch" in Crawford, Texas, demanding to know what the "noble cause" was for which Bush claimed Americans were dying in Iraq.  Neither Bush nor President Obama has yet offered a justification for a global war now in its 12th year.  The Tour de Peace will carry with it these demands:

To end wars,
To end immunity for U.S. war crimes,
To end suppression of our civil rights,
To end the use of fossil fuels,
To end persecution of whistleblowers,
To end partisan apathy and inaction.

Watch the trailer: