Saturday, June 01, 2013

Mike posts and people whine to me

FYI, I'm in a pissy mood.  I went to look at the news.  Hope everyone's fine in Oklahoma but I have no experience with tornadoes and nothing to say on the subject.  Finding nothing to write about, I went into the e-mails.


Last night, Mike wrote about one of his friends in "The long day (and veterans issues are much more complicated than I ever knew)."

Mike can do that.  He can write every post in the world about his friends that he wants.

He didn't break any confidentiality.  He didn't reveal his friend's name but he could have if he wanted to. Mike is not a therapist.

Mike did not break my confidentiality.  I have met his friend once.  (Mike does legal aid.  That's how he met the veteran months ago and how they became friends.) His friend is not one of my patients, I have never treated him.  Mike did not break my confidentiality by writing about it.

Reading the post, which I did this afternoon, I was impressed with what Mike wrote.

A) He didn't pretend to be an expert on veterans issues.  He's not one and he didn't pretend to be.

B) He wrote of reality.  He was shocked by what was happening.  I think a lot of readers who have loved ones or friends who are veterans that struggle with an issue will identify with what Mike wrote.

C) The veteran got help at the end of the post so the post had a happy ending regardless of what happens in a week or a month or a year.

D) There was some 'joker' e-mailing me that took Mike to task for not rushing over.  He had our daughter.  Our daughter is not a portable radio who can be taken here, there and everywhere.  You had a person having a meltdown and threatening violence.  Yes, it would have been great if Mike could go there immediately.  But he wasn't able to.  Had he taken our daughter over there, Mike and I would still be have a loud argument over what he'd done.  He did the right thing with regards to our daughter.

E) "When someone is threatening suicide, you call the police," informs one 'wise reader.'  Not necessarily.  Calling the police can make things much worse.  There is suicide by cop.  You need to know the person, know where they're at, know how far they'll go.  The truth of the matter most people would have been no help.  Mike tried to get a hold of one of his friends that I did treat, an Iraq War veteran but that friend had turned off his cell.  He called late last night/early morning when he heard the message.  That guy probably could have helped because he was a veteran.  As I have heard the situation from Mike and C.I., that Iraq War veteran probably could have gone to the door as a veteran and been let in by the veteran in crisis. With what was being said and what was being threatened over the phone to Mike, if he had been able to get a hold of me (I was in a session and Sunny had the afternoon off so the phone went straight to voice mail), I would have recommended alternatives to calling the police because with this veteran (as described to me by Mike and C.I.) things most likely would have escalated and violence could easily have taken place.

F) C.I., and I hate to say this, can do practically anything.  Mike notes one of my exes in his post.  He was a psychiatrist and I hated it when C.I. would visit because my lover would know (we lived together) and he would immediately act as if C.I. were a crisis center.  My friend was visiting to relax, she was not there to be called up every time you had a troubled client.  The story Mike shares -- and no confidentiality was broken in that -- really was the last straw.

C.I. was staying with us for a week, she'd come in to spend time with me.  My lover had called on C.I. the whole week with one crisis after another.  When I got home from work and found a note C.I. had left, I was irritated because I had specifically told him to stop asking her to help him.  I went to his work and said that whatever needed solving he was going to have to handle on his own because C.I. and I were going to go to dinner and have fun.  At which point he says that can't happen just yet.

C.I. is in a locked treatment room with the guy, yes, a 20-year-old football player.  Why?  The guy had a shiv.  Well there are ways you deal with that, in fact, you have an entire staff to deal with that.  You don't have to call my friend and say, "Can you work your magic?"

So we walk over and look at the cameras.  C.I. and he are on the ground, she has him in some hold and he is laughing and she's laughing and she lets go and he hands her the shiv.  Happy ending.

Except, I don't appreciate a lover who puts one of my very best friends in physical danger.

C.I. will help anyone, she'll walk through fire if she thinks someone needs it.  She's also very lucky -- as lucky as she is gifted.  But luck only lasts so long.

G) I'm adding this point before a round of e-mails come in: "Mike did the same thing!"  No, he didn't.  He was calling around for help -- which included someone to watch our daughter so he could go over himself.  He did not make C.I. his sole call or his primary call.  When she called him back, he was hoping things were a little better and she's the one who told him, 'Tell me the address and I'll go there.'  (Also true, I was friends with C.I. before Mike, yes.  C.I. and I go back to right before college.  However, Mike became friends with C.I. in 2005 and that had nothing to do with me.  They became friends on their own.  He can ask anything of his friend C.I. that he wants.  If she's uncomfortable with it, she will let him know.  That is very different from my ex-lover who was not friends with C.I. and only knew her through me.)

H) Back to my ex-lover.  I didn't treat his patients.  I have no confidentiality there.  Mike telling the story that he did, didn't break any confidentiality.  An e-mail insists that knowing where I live and knowing the football player was 20, it is very easy to deduce who the football player is.


Because you don't know where I live.  You also don't know where my practice is.

Furthermore, that story could be from 2003 or 1993.  You have no idea.  You may know when Mike and I got together and that eliminates the latter half of the '00s.  But that's all you know.

On the one hand, I am glad that people are concerned with confidentiality.

On the other, I'm amazed at how they know so little about it.

No medical confidentiality was broken anywhere in the post.

I really think Mike wrote a great post.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, May 31, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue, May ends with a huge death toll, the British people struggle with how many have died in Iraq, Senator Patty Murray raises the issue of rape and assault in the military, we explore Amnesty International's new report on Iraq, and more.

Let's start in the US and start with Congress.  Senator Patty Murray sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Before this year, when she became the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, she was the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  She's the subject of a profile -- Jamelle Bouie and Patrkick Caldwell's "Patty Murray In 19 Takes" for The American Prospect -- that's good for votes so there's probably not much reason to dispute the article.  But I do question the assertion that "she lacks any major legislation to her name."  That really undercuts the work she's done over the years and specifically with regards to veterans.  The Vow To Hire Heroes Act is major legislation and it took Murray's S. 951 (Hiring Heroes Act) and paired it with House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller's J.R. 2433 (Veterans Opportunity to Work Act).  The American Progress writers ignoring this is really unfortunate because it goes to the central points they are trying to make in the article -- she gets things done (they repeatedly quote people calling her a "workhorse").  In this case, Murray and Miller got things done.  She's a Democrat, he's a Republican.  They had related bills.  Hers easily passed in the Senate (I believe it was 95 votes in favor and zero opposed).  His bill was popular in the House.  They worked together and, as a result, major legislation was passed.  I think that both she and Miller have much to be proud of with regards to that.  I also fault the article for failing to note the work she has done on veterans issues which includes shining a light on issues when no one else was.  If you're a veteran who pays even a little attention to Congress, you usually know her for some issue.  If we're speaking to seriously wounded veterans, for example, they generally will note Senator Murray's efforts to help veterans start families.  She's led on that issue -- veterans whose injuries mean conception will require medical assistance -- and on many others.

Murray, before she was Committee Chair on the Veterans Affairs Committee, was often the only one on the Committee who would address issues like rape and assault.  This should not be an issue that only women can raise.  One of the many reasons to be proud of former US House Rep John Hall is that he led on this issue -- and made a real difference on it -- when he was in the House.  Currently, in the Senate, Senator Richard Blumenthal is a strong voice on the issue and is one of several former prosecutors in the Senate who are strong voices on this issue -- two others are Senator Claire McCaskill and Senator Kelly Ayotte.  And Senators Murray and Kelly Ayotte have teamed up to co-sponsor the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act (Legislation, Summary, Cosponsors).  The two senators explained their bill in a column for POLITICO earlier this month:

Our bill, the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act, would attack this crisis on multiple fronts. It would empower victims with special military lawyers to help guide them through the legal process. It would prohibit sexual contact between instructors and trainees during basic training and ensure the National Guard and Reserves have improved access to sexual assault response coordinators. Our bill would also take steps to make certain sexual assault cases are referred to the general court-martial level when sexual assault charges are filed -- or to the next superior competent authority when there is a conflict of interest within the chain of command.
Our legislation has gained support from members of both parties, and we welcome additional proposals that will turn "zero tolerance" rhetoric into "zero tolerance" policy and practice.
Make no mistake, our nation continues to have the best military in the world, largely because of the character of the brave men and women who selflessly serve. The vast majority of our service members are exceptional citizens who serve with unparalleled honor, dignity and distinction. We owe them nothing less than to take meaningful action to rid our military of the scourge of sexual assault.

This morning in Seattle, Washington, Senator Murray joined with Dr. Joyce Wipf (Professor of Medicine and Director of VA Puget Sound's Women's Program), Bridget Cantrell (PTSD and MSA expert), Jackie McLean (Director of King County Department of Community and Human Services), Charles Swift (former Navy JAG, MSA advocate) and some survivors of assault  to discuss the proposed legislation.

One of the survivors is former Marine Angela Arellano.  Dana Rebik (Q13 Fox News)  reports she was assaulted while serving in Japan, 'I had gone with a group of friends to watch a football game and after the game one of the senior Marines, an NCO, raped me."  Patricia Murphy (NWPR -- link is audio and text) quotes Angela explaining what happened after she reported the rape, "I received two weeks barracks restriction, two weeks extra duty and two months reduced pay.  And the most that he got for what he did was they transferred him off our base to another base in Okinawa."  Elisa Jaffe (KOMO News) quotes Angela stating, "I was accused of smearing a good Marine's name, I was accused of being a slut, I was called a whore, and this was by investigators."  Senator Murray adds, "We have to ask why any victim would trust the system as it currently exists to protect them.  We have literally given our victims nowhere to turn and we need a cultural overhaul."  Adam Ashton (Olympian) adds:

Former Army Spc. Nichole Bowen of Seattle, 34, said she kept quiet about the persistent sexual harassment she felt during her deployment to Iraq in 2003. She said she was propositioned almost every day.
“Every day on the deployment was a rape threat,” she said.
Both she and Arellano said the effects of the unwanted sexual contact haunt them years later.

Read more here:

Tim Haeck (My Northwest) quotes Senator Murray explaining, "It is absolutely unconscionable to me that a fellow servicemember, the person you rely on to have your back, would commit such a terrible crime against one of their fellow servicemembers."  Senator Murray's office notes:

Senator Murray’s legislation to reduce sexual assaults within the military and provide greater resources to the victims of this crime, the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013: Legislation, Summary, Cosponsors
Follow the conversation on Twitter with @PattyMurray & #CombatMSA

“The services have struggled for decades with pervasive sexual assault in the ranks. SWAN has been at the forefront of demanding institutional changes that would help improve this crisis and transform military culture. The Combating Military Sexual Assault Act introduced today by Senator Patty Murray and Senator Kelly Ayotte contains many provisions that will give the military the tools it needs to combat this widespread problem. Common-sense solutions like providing victims with their own designated lawyers, criminalizing sexual relationships between basic training instructors and students, and making sure that our National Guard troops have access to the same resources that active duty service members have are critical in making sure that survivors are supported and that offenders will be better prosecuted."
-Anu Bhagwati, Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) Executive Director 
“The 380,000 member Military Officers Association of America strongly endorses the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013. Preventing sexual assault is a duty of everyone in the chain of command.  This legislation will increase support for sexual assault victims and strengthen policies and procedures for such cases in our nation’s Armed Forces.”
-MOAA national President, VADM Norb Ryan, USN-ret. 
“The Association of the United States Navy strongly support the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act. The number of sexual assault cases is unacceptable and reflects the need for immediate action as the Department of Defense has reported.  This bill will help set in place the right oversight and stronger processes needed to protect our Sailors, men and women.”
-AUSN Executive Director, RADM Casey Coane, USN-ret.
"In light of the Pentagon's announcement that an estimated 26,000 cases of sexual assault occurred in the military in 2012 alone, the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013 is a necessary step to protect victims and hold perpetrators accountable. The effects in our culture of victim-blaming, cover-up and misogyny goes far beyond individual cases of criminal justice to be pervasive throughout the military. Survivors of military rape should have all the means they need to recover from their trauma, and the CMSA's provisions will help ensure these resources are available. NOW is glad to support Sens. Murray & Ayotte's legislation in the hope that it will improve the lives of the millions of female (and male) members of the military.”
 -Terry O’Neill, National Organization for Women President
“The special victims counsels have helped...typically it's 30 percent, as I mentioned, of our victims who won't -- continue through prosecution, even after making an unrestricted report. So far, the 265 assigned special victims counsels, two have done that. That's a great trend. We must now continue it. One of the other problems we have is that we have never had people who make restricted reports initially change from a restricted to unrestricted at a very high rate so that we can investigate and potentially prosecute those cases. About 17 percent of our reportees in the past have changed from a restricted mode to an unrestricted. Of the victims who have special victims counsel assigned, that number is tracking at 55 percent right now. And it's rising slowly as confidence grows. We have to continue that trend.”
-General Mark Welsh, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, 5/8/13

Turning to Iraq, last week, Amnesty International released their State of the World report which noted the protests in Iraq which have been ongoing since December 21st:

In December, tens of thousands of mostly Sunni Iraqis began holding peaceful daily anti-government protests against the abuse of detainees.  The unrest was triggered by the detention of several bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafi'e al-Issawi, a senior Sunni political leader, and by allegations of sexual and other abuse of women detainees.

Iraqi Spring MC offers video footage of RamadiNational Iraqi News Agency reports, "Tens of thousands of citizens flocked to sit-in squares in Falluja, Ramadi before noon today to participate in the Friday prayers named by sitters/ Our movement path convince your Militias/."  Alsumaria reports Salahuddin Province saw big turn out in Tikrit, Samarra and Baiji (and look at the crowd in the photo Alsumaria has up). The protesters called out the bombings and shootings that have claimed lives across Iraq and they vowed that they would continue demonstrating until the Iraqi people are heard by the government.  Iraqi Spring MC reported that SWAT forces surrounded Ramadi protesters (this was around 9:10 a.m. EST).  Alsumaria reports that the tribal clans then arrived with their forces.  The goal of SWAT was to arrest protest leaders such as Mohammed Abu Risha and Ali Hatem al-Suleiman.  The tribal clans then provided the leaders with a safe way out of the square and, after this took place, SWAT withdrew.

Nouri may have closed Baghdad to some vehicle traffic but he couldn't stop those in Baghdad from gathering.  This Iraqi Spring MC photo shows (it's al-A'mirya in western Baghdad) the prep for the sit-in.  Kitabat features a photo of the large turnout in al-A'mirya.

On this last day of May, violence continued in Iraq.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 873 violent deaths so far this month.  ABC News Radio observes, "The international community is deeply concerned that the recent spate of violent episodes in Iraq triggered by simmering sectarian tensions could explode into a full-blown civil war."  Martin Kobler is United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's Special Representative to Iraq.  Press TV quotes him stating, "I am seriously concerned.  This can get worse, and that's why I strongly advocate that this bloodletting is stopped and the situation does not deteriorate."  Iraq was discussed today on Here and Now (NPR) by guest host Meghna Chakrabarti and the BBC's Rami Ruhayem. Excerpt.

Meghna Chakrabarti:  More than 1,000 people have been killed there in the past two months making it the deadliest period in Iraq since 2008 when the US ended it's so-called surge of troops there.  The current blood shed is so bad the UN Special Representative to Iraq sounded a dire alarm.  Martin Kobler told reporters in Baghdad that, "Systemic violence is ready to explode at any moment if all Iraqi leaders do not engage immediately to pull the country out of this mayhem."  Rami Ruhayem is with the BBC's Arabic service.  He's in Baghdad and, Rami, can you tell us, are there pockets where the violence is occurring or is it just all over the country?

Rami Ruhayem:  Well there is one exception -- it's the Kurdish north, probably the most secure area in the country.  We very rarely hear of anything happening over there.  Other than that, it's mostly all over the country.  Baghdad?  Very hard hit in many cases.  Mosul, Ramadi, Anbar, the western provinces, also, of course, many Shi'ite areas.  Probably the south is a little bit more secure than other areas of the country but the only place where we do not see bombs or assassinations is probably the Kurdish north.

Meghna Chakrabarti: Mmm.  And as you mentioned assassination attempts in Anbar Province  on the governor there -- he escaped that -- car bombs in Baghdad, roadside bombs, do you have a sense as to why this is all happening now? 

Rami Ruhayem:  Well it's not just happening right now.  It's been happening for the past ten years actually -- ever snce the United States and Britain invaded and knocked Saddam Hussein out of power.  So it's not really new.  And, obviously, every time something big happens, observers and everybody tries to link it to the latest political development -- rather inside Iraq or the neighborhood.   For example, elections or what's going on in Syria.  But this kind of violence hasn't really stopped for the last ten years.

Meghna Chakrabarti:  So, Rami, this doesn't seem like an unusual uptick in violence?  I mean, a thousand people dead in two months?  I take your point that Iraq has been ground down by violence and warfare for a decade now, but this isn't out of the ordinary?

Rami Ruhayem:  Well possibly.  The last week, not just the last month, but the last week has seen probably what you could call an uptick. But it's very difficult to measure whether violence is going up or down in Iraq because you see sudden outbursts within  a week or a month or even  several weeks or several months and you see a picture of relative security but yes we have seen quite a lot of attacks  during the past week and, of course, rumors.  Maybe this is the new thing?  We've heard rumors of sectarian killings and that would be new because we haven't seen that since 2006, 2007.

Meghna Chakrabarti:  Well tell me more about that.  There seems to be an even greater rising of Sunni - Shia tension in Iraq.  So is there any evidence that those rumors of sectarian violence -- that there's substance to those rumors?

Rami Ruhayem:  The rumor, of course, was that in Sunni areas of Baghdad there are basically checkpoints manned by irregular militias seeking revenge for attacks or car bombs in Shia areas.  So that's the rumor.  We haven't seen any evidence of that.  The government says we haven't seen any such thing and has urged people to call if they see any irregular checkpoints.  No proof yet but rumors are enough to scare people.

Diane Rehm also touched on Iraq in the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today with her guests Nadia Bilbassy (Middle East Broadcast Center), Nathan Guttman (Jewish Daily Forward) and Mark Landler (New York Times). 

Diane Rehm:  And lots of violence going on in Iraq this week as well, Nathan. 

Nathan Guttman: Definitely. The think the numbers are -- we've seen more than a 1,000 people killed in violent attacks since April, which is critical to the numbers we've seen during the Iraq war. And the concern is that the sectarian violence is getting out of hand. To a certain extent, some people think it's a spillover of the Syrian situation where Sunnis and Shiites are on opposing sides. And this is reigniting the old sectarian tension in Iraq. 

Mark Landler: Yeah, there's sort of both a domestic element in Iraq and potentially a regional element. The domestic element is that Sunnis -- minority Sunnis feel that the Shiite government is persecuting some of their leading political figures. And there's a lot of anger among Sunnis. That's a long-running chronic issue in Iraq.  The regional element, which troubles a lot of people -- Ryan Crocker's talked about this, the former U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad -- is that you now see an alliance forming between al-Qaida and Iraq. And Jabhat al-Nusra, which is the -- you know, the more extremist group in Syria. And so you could see the tensions that are inflamed in Syria spilling over and in a sense making this domestic -- this preexisting domestic issue far more explosive. And that troubles a lot of people. 

Diane Rehm:  Is Iraq heading back toward civil war? 

Mark Landler:  Well, let me quote Ryan Crocker because he knows more about it then I do. He doesn't think so. He thinks this is manageable, as bad as it is. And he doesn't think it has to go in that direction. But, you know, it raises an interesting question for Americans. The criticism of President Obama was that he got out of Iraq leaving very little, if any residual force behind and sort of left the Iraqis to their own devices.   So the question now is, what is our role? The Iraqis desperately want trade and economic ties with the United States. Can we play any sort of a constructive role in heading off that worse-case scenario? 

Nadia Bilbassy:  I think the UN spokesperson in Baghdad won already that the country is heading towards a broader conflict if the political leadership do not act. The problem for -- as Mark said, basically the power sharing agreement that happened after the election never really fully implemented. There is always a suspicion between the Sunnis who dominated the country political life during Saddam Hussein and the majority Shiites.

Today's violence?    Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports a Baghdad bombing has claimed 4 lives and left eleven people injured while a Falluja armed attack left 3 police officers dead and two more injured. National Iraqi News Agency reports a Muqdadiya bombing claimed 2 lives and left six more people injured, a Sharqat bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa and left another and one police officer injured, and a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured.  The Muqdadiya bombing targeted a mosque.  Alsumaria notes that six other mosques in Diyala Province have been targeted with bombings over the last two months.

Jason Ditz ( offers this look at the month's violence:’s own daily round-ups from Margaret Griffis tracked Iraq violence counts, and came up with 1,077 dead in the month of May, and 2,258 others wounded. Such a level has not been seen since the last sectarian civil war in Iraq in early 2008.
Perhaps most troubling is that the toll wasn’t a straight line throughout the month, and that much of the violence came in the second half of May. 

Over a thousand in May?  That's certainly a surprise to some people.  Alex Thomson (Channel 4) reports on new poll of the British that asked them how many people died in Iraq.  Here's a summary of the polling results:

  • Two-thirds (66 per cent) of the public estimate that 20,000 or fewer civilians and combatants have died as a consequence of the war in Iraq since 2003.
  • One in 10 (10 per cent) think that between 100,000 and 500,000 have died and one in 20 (6 per cent) think that more than 500,000 have died.
  • According to public estimates, the mean number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion is 189,530.
  • Women in Britain are more likely to underestimate the number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion than men. Half (53 per cent) of women think 5,000 or fewer deaths have occurred since the invasion compared to one-third (35 per cent) of men.
Perhaps that last figure is the most startling – a majority of women and more than a third of men polled say fewer than 5,000 deaths have occurred.

Thursday, May 23rd, I dictated (the Iraq snapshots are dictated), "Amnesty International's State of the World report was released today.  We will cover it tomorrow."  We did not cover it the next day.  A number of things, including the Associated Press' Matthew Lee's strong questioning of the State Dept, grabbed my focus.  My apologies.  In the Iraq section, the opening includes this -- remember this is the description of a government the US props up, funds and arms:

Thousands of people were detained; hundreds were sentenced to death or prison terms, many after unfair trials and on terrorism-related charges.  Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife and were committed with impunity.  At least 129 people were executed, including at least three women.  Armed groups opposed to the government continued to commit gross human rights abuses, killing hundreds of civilians in suicide and other bomb attacks.  Harassment, intimidation and violence against journalists and media workers continued to be reported.

After I missed noting the report last Friday, a number of e-mails speculated I was ignoring the report because of current problems with Amnesty.  When possible, the last four years, we've noted Amnesty UK because a friend with the UK chapter is someone I speak to regularly so it's very easy, in the course of our conversation, for me to get a heads up about Iraq.  But we haven't dropped Amnesty International's US chapter.  I understand why people would wonder and I heard the radio report this week about the woman in charge of Amnesty US -- thing is, she stepped down from that post back in January.  When you make a dumb mistake like that, SF, you make it very easy for every thing else you say to be dismissed.  Once upon a time, we could pick and choose with regards to Iraq.  That's not possible anymore.  We'll even note Commentary and other conservative sources -- with links -- these days.  Yes, it's usually to disagree with them but once upon a time, we didn't note them at all.

Amnesty International has never been the ideal that so many wished it had become.  The outrage being expressed currently is, to me, laughable.  Francis A. Boyle can and has written and talked about Amnesty.  His criticism has been serious criticism.  A lot of what's going on right now isn't serious.  It's conjecture and it's Hillary hatred (the woman who stepped down in January had worked under Hillary Clinton).  I don't mind conjecture.  I do mind it when conjecture is presented as established fact.  A number of voices on the radical left give the radical left a bad name by repeatedly insisting conjecture is fact.  They are largely attacking Amnesty because of Bradley Manning.  I consider Bradley a political prisoner.  Amnesty currently has not made that call.  Is that fair?  Actually, by Amnesty standards, it is.  By the standards in the 70s, they're being true to their guidelines.  Amnesty has not spoken to Bradley and cannot speak to him.  His attorney is an ego maniac -- yeah, I said it -- who doesn't know what he's doing and that has impacted the coverage.  (He refused to give interviews -- I was at his little presentation when he bragged about that.  What an idiot.  When your client can't speak to the world, when he's gagged, you do every interview you can to humanize him.)  How is Amnesty supposed to determine he's a political prisoner?

If they declare him one and he reveals something different in his testimony at the court-martial, they'll look too eager to label people "political prisoners."  Bradley is one person.  Amnesty's ability to shine a light on those in need is a great power -- it's why some of his supporters are attacking Amnesty for not labeling him a political prisoner.  But that ability is lessened when a non-political prisoner is wrongly labeled by them.

They've been unable to interview him, his attorney is a joke (civilian attorney), what's been presented to the court as the foundation of an argument created an uproar among his supporters but could have laid the groundwork for declaring him a political prisoner (but were Amnesty to now do so on the basis of gender issues, they would be attacked for that by some of Bradley's supporters).  He gave a statement in court.  That's all anyone has to go by.

And it appears he's going to plead guilty in some form or manner to partial or full charges.

If you think back to 'reporter' Sarah Olson, it's actually similar.  We supported Lt Ehren Watada (the first officer to publicly refuse to serve in the Iraq War).  Olson was among the journalists who interviewed him.  The military wanted to call her as a witness for the prosecution.

And Sarah distracted from the story from that moment on.  And all of her supporters were as loud as they were stupid.  We didn't support Sarah.  We couldn't.  I noted repeatedly that if she would say, "I'm not going to testify," we could support her.  We supported Judith Miller's right to refuse to answer questions about her sources.  If Sarah had refused, I would have led every snapshot addressing the issues involved.  But regardless of the outlet and the interviewer, she refused to say what she was going to do.  And she was all over the place getting publicity.  In the meantime, Ehren had stated what he was going to do.  And his story was lost as Sarah sucked up all the media oxygen.  (And then, in the end, when Ehren saved her cry baby ass, she 'rewarded' him by giving an interview shortly after where she trashed him.)

I can't defend her if she can't discuss her "strategy" (her term).  By the same token, Amnesty can't call Bradley a political prisoner.  Is he going to plead guilty in part or in full?  No one knows (but it looks that way).  Bradley needs to do what he thinks is right and we've stated that all along.  That mean if he gets offered a deal that works, he should grab it if he can live with it.  But he could issue statements through his attorney that would assist Amnesty in labeling him a political prisoner.  That's not happened.  (Monday on NPR's Here and Now, Slate's Emily Bazelon will be a guest to discuss the issues involved in Bradley's court-martial.)

I wish Amnesty would declare Lynne Stewart a political prisoner and I've lobbied for that to friends with Amnesty.  We don't always get what we want.  I haven't attacked them for not labeling Lynne a political prisoner (and I label Lynne one hear whenever I write about her).  Amnesty International is an organization, it's not pizza delivery -- you can't just place an order and expect to get what you want.

Does Amnesty have value?  Yes.  And if you doubt it, let's drop back to yesterday's snapshot:

The US State Dept today issued "Country Reports on Terrorism 2012."  The annual report focuses on terrorism or 'terrorism' around the world.  The Iraq section includes these claims:

We then included some of the claims and then I noted:

We're not going to spend a lot of time on the above because, first of all, it's almost June 2013.  Iraq's far too fluid for a look at 2012 violence to offer a great deal of insight.  Second of all, it's a dishonest report.  When you're praising the ability to 'secure' the Arab League Summit and you're not noting that Baghdad shut down the week before the Summit? You're not being honest.  If you can shut down Baghdad for the week before and the week of a Summit, it's not a surprise that there's no violence in Baghdad.  Was it worth it to the Iraqi people?  Was it worth it to them for all that money for security (and painting and prettying Baghdad) and for the inconvenience of the city shutting down for two weeks?  Probably not.  But that's not even considered in the report which fails to note any of the details of the Arab League Summit -- which was a huge failure and avoided by the leaders of all the major countries in the region.  So we'll note the ridiculous claims but we're not going to focus on them.  And the 'international' meet-ups in Baghdad continue to be a laugh.

If Amnesty is nothing but a cheap megaphone of the State Dept, then surely this report that they released Thursday of last week will track with the State Dept report released this week, right?

So let's see what it says about the Arab League Summit:

In March, the League of Arab States held its summit meeting in Baghdad for the first time since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.  Prior to the meeting, the security forces carried out mass arrests in Baghdad, apparently as a "preventive" measure.

I'd forgotten about that, the mass arrests.  I don't just mean that it slipped my mind when I was dictating the snapshot yesterday, I mean, until I read the Amnesty report today, I had forgotten about it.  Amnesty didn't forget and they didn't was on the way the State Dept did.  Know what else they noted:

Young people, particularly those seen locally as nonconformists, were subject to a campaign of intimidation after flyers and signs targeting them appeared in the Baghdad neighbourhoods of Sadr City, al-Hababiya and Hay al-'Amal in February. Those targeted included youths suspected of homosexual conduct and those seen as pursuing an alternative lifestyle because of their distinctive hairstyles, clothes or musical tastes.

You know who didn't note that in their recent report?  The US State Dept.

There's no better example of terrorism than groups who are targeted because of who they are.  That's the Jews during WWII, it's the Armenians during the Turkish genocide, it's gays and lesbians (or people suspected of being gay or lesbian) in oppressive societies.

"B-b-b-but, that's your definition of terrorism and the State Dept was focusing on the Iraqi government."  No.  Read through all of what they wrote and the lists of violence they compiled.  It's 'terrorism' when they don't have to take a stand.  Also grasp that the targeting was done by the government. The Ministry of the Interior, specifically.  (That's the police ministry, by the way.)  They had put out a paper about the Emo, demonizing them.   March 5th, we noted:

In the meantime, the attack on Emo youth or suspected Emo youth in Iraq continues. Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that those with longish hair, suspected of being Emo are being threatened and killed. Grace notes that there are lists of Emo youth (or accused of being Emo youth) publicly displayed in Sadr City, Shula and Kadhimiya with the promise that, one by one, each will be killed. An unnamed official in the Sadr City municipal court states that people have, on their cell phones, the names of young people to "liquidate" because they are Emo. This is beyond insanity and what happens when the US government turns a country over to thugs. And where is Nouri calling this out? Oh, that's right, he's not a leader. Well where's the United Nations? A segment of Iraqi youth is being targeted for "liquidation." That's pretty disturbing. Note the silence.

Four days later, March 9, 2012, Dan Littauer (Gay Star News) reported:

The report from the local LGBTQ activist indicates that Jaish Al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) are at least partially responsible for the murders.
An anonymous official in Sadr city’s municipal council affirmed that some people are recruited by extremist armed militias who carry lists stored in their phones with the names of emo youths and LGBTQ people to be murdered.
It has also emerged that some officials are actually behind the killings.
Colonel Mushtaq Taleb Muhammadawi, director of the community police of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, stated on 6 February that they had observed the so-called Satanists and emos. He added that the police have an official approval to eliminate emo people because of their ‘notorious effects’ on the community.
The colonel declared to Iraq News Network that: ‘Research and reports on the emo phenomenon has been conducted and shared with the Ministry of Interior which officially approves the measures to eliminate them.
‘The Ministries of Education and Interior are taking this issue seriously and we have an action plan to “eradicate them”. I will be leading the project myself and we have the necessary permits to access all schools in the capital,’ added the colonel, thus possibly indicating at the very least Iraqi state complicity with the massacres.

The Ministry of the Interior tried to deny involvement but got caught in their lie by Al Mada which printed the handout the ministry passed out during school presentations calling for death of the Emo. Scott Lang's wrote a column for the Guardian that addressed this:

Iraq's brutal interior ministry issued two statements in February. The first announced official approval to "eliminate" the "satanists". The second, on 29 February, proclaimed a "campaign" to start with a crackdown on stores selling emo fashion. The loaded language suggests, at a minimum, that the ministry incited violence. It's highly possible that some police, in a force riddled with militia members, participated in the murders.

That's not terrorism?  If you don't think that's terrorism, I think there's something seriously wrong with you.  Children were targeted for death and other children were encouraged to kill them -- encouraged by the Ministry of the Interior.  Shame on the US State Dept for turning a blind eye to it in their supposed 2012 report.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  Amnesty's far from perfect and I agree with Francis A. Boyle's criticism of Amnesty (which is much harsher than "they didn't label my hero a political prisoner!).  But to call them just a mouth for western government's foreign policy is selling them short. 

the guardian
scott long



Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Final thoughts on Smash

 Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Eric Investigates Eric" went up Monday.

eric investigates eric 001

Yesterday's "Smash" dealt with the end of the NBC show.  There were a lot of e-mails so I'm doing a Smash post tonight.

Deadline reports Katharine McPhee (Karen) will now star in a film called Depravity.  Broadway World notes:

Debra Messing will star opposite Paul Adelstein in a a CBS comedy from Julie Rottenberg and Elisa Zuritsky. The project is based on the Israeli series Mother's Day. The single-camera comedy is about a married mom (Messing) struggling to balance family, life, and work. Adelstein will play Messing's TV husband Bryan, a Google employee who might be a smidge oblivious to how much of a burden his wife is contending with. Megan Hilty is doing concert appearances and has an upcoming reading for the revised revival of Can-Can.

John (The Backlot) offers six "WTF" moments in the series finale:

Including a pregnancy story in Smash highlights the fundamentally dishonest way that American television treats pregnancy, abortion and motherhood. Smash isn’t the first and won’t be the last show to milk drama from an unplanned pregnancy, but I had hoped that Smash, being set in the theater world, could have a more honest and sophisticated conversation about it. But no, the show immediately falls into the same tired tropes. Motherhood is the ultimate goal of every woman and if a woman doesn’t want to be, or at least seriously consider being, a mother there’s something wrong with her. Pregnancy is always a good thing even when it’s fundamentally not. And if any woman on American television would have an abortion it’s Ivy, a career performer who’s just won her profession’s highest accolade and whose career prospects are practically unlimited. But because as a nation we’re still so broken over abortion and control of women’s bodies and health choices, Smash can’t bring itself to risk pissing off conservative potential viewers even though they aren’t likely to tune into a show like Smash in the first place.

That's one.  There are many more.  I agree with him especially regarding the above and the way they ended Julia.

A few e-mails noted that Smash could come back.  Yes, it could.  Stranger things have happened.  I thought, for example, It's a Living was a cheesy ABC sitcom.  But after ABC axed it, it became a cheesier sitcom in syndication with new episodes.  That said, I really don't see Smash as the next Star Trek.  I don't see Smash: Generations or Deep Six: Obie Awards in the future.

If that's what you're wanting, I have a cure for you.  Tim Stack (Entertainment Weekly) interviewed Josh Safran. Safran  took over as show runner for season two.  He left the 'art' of Gossip Girl to come to Smash and ruin the show.  As you will see, he would have made it even worse in season three:

Josh Safran:  The plan for season 3 in my mind was a Hollywood movie musical. It would shoot in New York. I felt like after two seasons of watching two shows full trajectories, I didn’t want to repeat the story again so I thought I would take the season off and do a movie musical still using Broadway actors, still using Broadway stages, maybe it would have even been set in the world of Broadway. Who knows because we didn’t even get that far but it would have given audiences a season to [see] a different way of muscials being put together and then you could come back to Broadway in season 4. You see the seeds that are in the finale.
Tim Stack:  Like with Luke McFarlane’s character Patrick.

Josh Safran:  Yeah, and it was going to be maybe Derek was going to direct it or maybe he wouldn’t direct it or Tom would direct it? And they’d need a new composer so Jimmy would compose with Julia. It’s all there. So that’s the Smash that would have been.

 Yes, that is what Smash wanted, a TV show that wasn't at all about Broadway.  That is sarcasm.  Safran never understood the show or why people watched it.  He was awful.

Firing Theresa Rebek was what killed the show.  She understood it, she delivered a great season.  Season one was quality and adult entertainment.  Season two was a desperate attempt to turn Ivy and Karen into Krystal and Alexis in some middle school production of Dynasty.

Getting rid of Ellis was the first mistake Safran made.  You do not ditch the character that creates the conflict.

Failing to grasp that Eileen could be a business woman and have a love life should have been the first clue that Safran would never know what to do with Anjelica Huston or her character.

An involving show became repetitive and was dumbed down into Dawson's Creek On Broadway.  That's on Safran.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills): 
Wednesday, May 29, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, another protest organizer is killed in Iraq, the number of Iraqis killed this month in violence passes 800, were Moqtada's remarks earlier this week a "final warning" to Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraq Inquiry continues to stall the release of a report, US Senator Patty Murray with survivors and advocates of assault and rape in the military, tomorrow is a national call-in day for Lynne Stewart, and more.

Let's start in the US.  There is an epidemic of assault and rape going on within the US military.  Despite a great deal of talk by Pentagon leaders, the Defense Dept has demonstrated it cannot address the issue by itself -- if at all.  Senator Patty Murray sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee where she has long addressed the issue and called for accountability.   Her office notes today:

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834

MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT: SEATTLE: FRIDAY: Murray to Meet with Survivors of Military Sexual Assault, Discuss Her Bill to Protect Victims

Of the estimated 26,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2012, only 3,374 were reported
Murray bill would provide greater victim resources while improving current prevention programs

(Washington, D.C.) – Friday, May 31st, 2013, U.S. Senator Patty Murray will meet with survivors of military sexual assault and advocates in Seattle.  Last month, Senator Murray introduced the Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013, which would reduce sexual assaults within the military and address a number of gaps within current law and policy. One provision in Senator Murray’s bill would provide victims with a dedicated counsel to guide them through the difficult process of reporting sexual assault. According to DoD estimates, there were about 19,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2010 alone. Of these, 3,192 were reported, leaving thousands of victims to face the aftermath alone as their assailants escape justice. That number rose to 26,000 cases in 2012 with less than 3,400 of those cases being reported. Murray will use the stories she hears Friday to continue fighting for victims of military sexual assault in Washington, D.C.  More about Senator Murray’s bill HERE.

WHO:          U.S. Senator Patty Murray
         Survivors of military sexual assault
         Charles Swift, former Navy JAG, MSA advocate
         Dr. Joyce Wipf, Professor of Medicine and Director of VA Puget Sound’s Women's Program
         Bridget Cantrell, PTSD & MSA expert
         Jackie McLean, Director, King County Department of Community & Human Services
WHAT:        Senator Murray will meet with survivors of military sexual assault, discuss ways her legislation will protect victims
WHEN:        Friday, May 31st, 2013
          10:00 AM PT
WHERE:    UW Medicine at South Lake Union
         850 Republican Street, Conference Room C359
                     Seattle, WA 98109
Kathryn Robertson
Deputy Press Secretary 

Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

154 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington D.C. 20510


RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

Monday, Ruth did another one of her outstanding "Ruth's Report"s and in this one she covered two radio documentaries on issues veterans and service members face.  Among the details she noted from Free Speech Radio News' Memorial Day documentary:  "Ms. [Alice] Ollstein noted that there were 3400 assault charges filed last year and that only 1300 were investigated while over 360 were just tossed out.  Of the 3400 complaints, only 600 went to a court-martial and, from that number, only 238 were convicted." Ruth also noted  Iraq War veteran and rape survivors advocate Sarah Plummer explaining how coming forward to report your rape can be used against you.

Sarah Plummer : Fear of retaliation -- both formal and informal -- what happens within the system.  I know for instance I did report my rape I was told by my command, "Oh it's a modern military, these counseling services are available, go ahead, you're not suicidal, you're not homicidal, you're not on any drugs go get counseling."  I did and was then later medically disqualified from continuing in flight school because I had sought counseling -- even though I was not having any problems.  I had to work years later to try to get a waiver for that which I did, but at that point had already gone on with my career.  Some people, especially with pilots, would say, "Oh, that ruined my career."  I mean, most people who want to be pilots to be their whole lives. So to be told you can't because of something somebody did to me and I sought the appropriate after action yet was punished?

This is not a minor issue. Sunday, at Third, in "Now they wonder?," we noted:

Today Mark Sappenfield and The Christian Science Monitor want to wonder, "How can Chuck Hagel fix military sexual assault epidemic?" Today they wonder? Today? Where were they back in January? From January 4th's "And people are pushing for Chuck Hagel?":

I'm not sure what they think a Secretary of Defense does. (The Foreign Policy in Focus pieces were written by two different people. We're being kind and not naming them.) The Secretary of Defense does not have sleep overs with the Israeli prime minister. The Secretary of Defense does not engage in heavy petting with the Israeli defense minister. 
When you hear about rates of suicide in the military?  That's something that the Secretary is supposed to address.  The same with assault and rape in the ranks.

It was an issue this community could and did raise.  Isaiah even did a comic.

But the press didn't want to treat it as a serious issue back then.  It should have been one of the two issues that Hagel was most pressed on and most reported on (the other being the suicide crisis and how he would address that).  We noted in the Third piece that we hope Hagel's up for it but it's a little late to be asking that question.  Are the press going be attending Friday's event or will they wait until the next assault and rape scandal to act shocked?  Either you treat the issue seriously or you don't.  And nothing's going to change until it's treated seriously.

Turning to the topic of Iraq and someone who provides unintended laughs.  Press TV  interviewed a parrot today.  The parrot was George Washington University's Nabil Mikhail who hasn't made such a fool of himself since he went on Press TV to talk about the 'film' that wasn't a film (the anti-Islamic YouTube video of last fall) and its large cast and so mcuh more.  It was a video, there was never a movie.  But gas bags fear silence and must fill all sapce with chatter.  Today Nabil Mikhail went on Press TV to utter the phrase he'd been taught for nearly a decade "counter-terrorism."  Mihail insisted, "Iraq needs a counter-terrorism strategy."  Someone give Polly her cracker and put her back in her cage.

Iraq has a counter-terrorism strategy.  As Tim Arango (New York Times) reported in September another "unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism" -- and this was done "at the request of the Iraqi government."  As we've repeatedly noted (such as here), this unit has trained Iraq's new SWAT forces.  How do we know that?  Stream any Alsumaria report on this issue and listen to the Arabic speaker say "SWAT."  SWAT is an American acronym for Special Weapons And Tactics.  Those four terms would not be used in Arabic and would not form the acronym SWAT.  After saying "SWAT," Iraqi anchors usually then begin referring to them with an Arabic phrase which translates as "rapid response teams."  SWAT not only fails the Arabic test, it's not native to Iraq.  It was introduced by outsiders.  So Nouri's recently created SWAT teams -- with the American name -- are the result of the US units counterterrorism training.

Have they done any good?

Nope.  And they won't.

The parrot knew all the phrases but lacked the ability to process.  At one point he even claimed "that there are no suicide attacks" these days and that this is due to the fact that "the terrorist know these neighborhoods well."  The 'terrorists' are Iraqis.  Of course they know the neighborhoods, but how uninformed must you be to not know that suicide attacks continue.  They're not often stressed as such -- it won't make a headline crawl at the bottom of a screen -- but they continue and have never ceased.  Just this week, there was the suicide tank bombing, to note just one example.

While most people are grasping that the violence stems from the continued repression of the Iraqi people, the parrot wants to pretend that what the country needs is more repression.

What an idiot.

The police training program the State Dept planned to oversee in Iraq failed and it failed primarily because there was no "buy-in" on the Iraqi side (as former US House Rep Gary Ackerman warned would end up happening).  There's no buy-in in Iraq of the government.

It's run by a man, Nouri al-Maliki, that Iraqis showed up in the 2010 elections to get out of office.  That's why 'sure thing' Nouri who abused his office, had many of his rivals purged from the list of candidates and tried to scare the Iraqi people into voting for him, saw his State of Law get bested by Iraqiya.  The Ayad Allawi headed political slate was where Iraq wanted to go.  Nouri was the bloody past, the divisions, the hatred and so much more that the last years had stood for.  Iraqiya was a way forward, an Iraq without sectarian warfare, where Shi'ite Allawi and Sunni Osama al-Nujaifi could be in the same political group and work together, where Iraqi women could reclaim the role the illegal US invasion and all that happened after stripped them of.  It was about forming a national identity, not having an identity thrust on them by foreign occupiers.

And as this was blossoming and taking root, US President Barack Obama (based on the crackpot advice of Samantha Power among others) didn't stand up for democracy, didn't stand up for the people or the sanctity of the ballot box.  Instead, he backed Nouri al-Maliki who refused to step down as prime minister and would refuse to do so for over eight months.  Not only did Barack back the thug -- who had already been repeatedly caught running secret prisons where torture took place --  he had US officials broker The Erbil Agreement, a contract, which went around the Iraqi Constitution and gave Nouri a second term.  (To get that second term, Nouri had to promise, in the contract, to give the political blocs various things.  Nouri never honored that contract but let's leave that aspect out of it today.)

So Iraqis are supposedly free in 2010 and able to do what they want, to express their voice and their dreams.  And there's this marvelous new gift of 'democracy' that's supposedly been given.  But in 2010, when they vote in a way that the White House doesn't like, they quickly find that their votes don't matter.  Isn't that what the US said happened under Saddam Hussein?

When a people vote out a leader and the leader remains in power, what message does that send?

Samantha Power is a deeply stupid woman.  She's one who never grasped the lessons of her own country (or how to bathe properly, hence the odors) but wants to speak as if she's an expert on Ireland and then wants to apply Ireland to Iraq.  Iraq was never Ireland and will never become Ireland (or vice versa). The traditions and cultures of each country are completely different and are often rooted in the lands themselves -- climate, proximity, etc.  But Samantha Power has never known a sweeping generalization she couldn't stretch to the breaking point and she made these ridiculous (and honestly offensive) comparisons between Ireland and Irish leaders and Iraq and Iraqi leaders.

What the White House did was trample democracy in Iraq.  It didn't have to be that way.  Gen Ray Odierno saw what was coming before the election and warned about it.  But the idiot Chris Hill, the US Ambassador to Iraq who would be fired from his job -- but fired too late, had the ear of the White House and worked to marginalize Odierno.  By the time then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could get the White House to listen to Odierno, the elections had taken place and eight month political stalemate had begun.  (To his credit, Barack did sack Chris Hill.)

If I invite you over to my home and tell you that you're going to be tasting the best cake ever and you show up and I never serve that cake, maybe toss out some dry crackers your way instead, you're going to feel cheated and wronged.  And that's exactly how the Iraqi people felt.  Go back to the press of November 2010 when the stalemate ended and Nouri became prime minister and listen to the Iraqis -- in western press because they still cover Iraq then -- telling reporters that they didn't know why they voted, telling reporters that despite their votes, things remained the same.

The White House trampled on democracy.  The Erbil Agreement spat on democracy and on the Iraqi Constitution -- the latter of which is most damning because the Constitution exists for a reason and if the US is going to go around it, why is it there?  It mandates, for example, that Nouri appear before Parliament when they want to question him.  But he's refused to do that over and over in his second term.  Why should he show respect for the Constitution when going around it got him a second term?

The damage that was done is immeasurable and that's why we called it out as it was happening, it's why the topic saddens me like few others.  The US government destroyed the country of Iraq and 'democracy' was the last promise to the Iraqi people that the US government hadn't broken.  But by overturning the results of a fair and free election, the US government broke that promise to.

So George Washington University parrots need to get it through their thick skulls that when you take away people's belief that they can change their government and that their votes actually matter, you don't leave them with a lot of processes or avenues.  That's especially true in the post-invasion Iraq where the US government rushed to overturn many of Saddam Hussein's laws but kept the ones attacking unions.  And Nouri's attacks on the unions are infamous.  So the ballot box doesn't matter, collective bargaining is attacked by the government, what is left?


When Iraqis took to the streets in 2011 -- protesting the 'disappeared' loved ones in Iraq's 'legal' system, protesting corruption, the lack of public services, the lack of jobs, the failure of Nouri al-Maliki to implement the power-sharing (Erbil Agreement), etc -- what happened?  He turned his forces on them and on the press.

Dropping back to the February 28th Iraqi snapshot:

Over the weekend, a number of journalists were detained during and after their coverage of the mass demonstrations that took place in central Baghdad's al-Tahrir Square. Simone Vecchiator (International Press Institute) notes:
["]During a news conference held on Sunday, four journalists -- Hussam Saraie of Al-Sabah Al-Jadid newspaper, Ali Abdul Sada of the Al-Mada daily, Ali al-Mussawi of Sabah newspaper and Hadi al-Mehdi of Demozee radio -- reported being handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened by security forces. They also claimed they were held in custody for nine hours and forced to sign a document, the contents of which were not revealed to them.
Aswat al Iraq news agency reported that the journalists will file a court case against the executive authority in response to the alleged violations of their civil rights.
This episode is the latest in a series of repressive measures adopted by security forces in order to stifle media reports about the current political and social

NPR's Kelly McEvers would interview Hadi for Morning Edition after he had been released and she noted he had been "beaten in the leg, eyes, and head." He explained that he was accused of attempting to "topple" Nouri al-Maliki's government -- accused by the soldiers under Nouri al-Maliki, the soldiers who beat him.  Excerpt:

Hadi al-Mahdi: I replied, I told the guy who was investigating me, I'm pretty sure that your brother is unemployed and the street in your area is unpaved and you know that this political regime is a very corrupt one.

Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was later put in a room with what he says were about 200 detainees, some of them journalists and intellectuals, many of them young protesters.

Hadi al-Mahdi: I started hearing voices of other people.  So, for instance, one guy was crying, another was saying, "Where's my brother?" And a third one was saying, "For the sake of God, help me."

Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was shown lists of names and asked to reveal people's addresses.  He was forced to sign documents while blindfolded.  Eventually he was released.  Mahdi says the experience was worse than the times he was detained under Saddam Hussein.  He says the regime that's taken Sadam's place is no improvement on the past. This, he says, should serve as a cautionary tale for other Arab countries trying to oust dictators. 

Hadi al-Mahdi: They toppled the regime, but they brought the worst -- they brought a bunch of thieves, thugs, killers and corrupt people, stealers.

Yesterday, on Air Force One, White House spokesperson Jay Carney addressed the press and declared of Iraq, "We have an important and ongoing relationship with the government of Iraq and the Iraqi people.  We engage with the government on issues all the time.  And it’s something that we continue to monitor and continue to provide advice on both with Iraq and with countries in the region.  This is a matter that I know, from having worked with him on it, the Vice President remains concerned about and focused on."

Did you?  Did you have meaningful dialogue with Nouri?  Like you had with him when he was attacking the protesters in 2011 or the Emo kids in 2011?  As he terrorized the country did you really think your 'meaningful dialogue' meant one damn thing?  Because looking at it now, all you did was humor the tyrant.  He still won't follow the Constitution.  And  Tuesday, April 23rd his federal forces massacred a sit-in in Hawija.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.UNICEF informed the world that 8 of the dead were children and twelve more children were left injured.  That was last month.

Today the BRussells Tribunal offers an Al Rafidayn interview with the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq's Sheikh Mohammed Bashar al-Faidhi.  February 25th refers to the kick off of the 2011 protests in Iraq.

What is your personal impression of the interesting momentum that Iraq is going through?

In the beginning, Bissmillah Al Rahman Al Raheem.  
We had a previous meeting during which we discussed our expectations of the revolution starting for a second time.  
It is possible that this revolution continues and it is also possible that it will not.  
But in any case in a future instant/moment, the revolution will continue.  
Based on our experience of the Iraqi People and on the first time on 25th February, the revolution was a trial run and when it was suppressed, the revolution was cut off at the time, but we knew that the idea of the revolution had remained in the psyche and conscious of the Iraqi People and that it is the sole means left for it to rid itself of this oppression.  
This second stage came, according to observers, and we too had people who followed the revolution’s activities in the interior, assurances that the people are living in a revolution of rage and that their insistence on continuing this time is greater than the previous time.  
In any case, we are watching the scene and we will make our own statements and comments about it as far as we are capable and as I said, it may well continue and it may not, but in any case it is a station (stage) not only important for us but it is also an advanced stage as far as the final target that we all wish for.

How much surprised were you with the suddenly change in January?

As far as I am concerned there is nothing there that causes surprise, because our reading of the scene and our public statements in the media has always been that this instant is coming and we have said more than once that the revolution that was put a stop previously was not ended and even  if you remember the expression I used  during my previous meeting with you, that it was “like the embers under the ash”, and this is an Arab trait that expresses the existence of rage and fury that is hidden (protected)- it exists but it is protected.
It is like a volcano that exists in America!   So, as far as we were concerned it was not a cause for amazement or surprise; on the contrary it is expected and we expect even more.   Yesterday, I also had a meeting with foreign press and I said to them that I predict a “tsunami” for Iraq, with all that this word entails.

Demonstrations have been ongoing since December 21st.  Despite calls from various political leaders for Nouri to heed the protesters demands, he has not done so.  As the editorial board of Gulf News notes today:

 So far, those demonstrating in the west of the country have done so largely peacefully, but their continued hopelessness in getting the government’s ear is bound to lead to further tensions. The responsibility for that, as well as the eventuality of Iraq’s splitting — as has been demanded — rests on the shoulders of Al Maliki and his government. The people of Iraq, and history, will never forgive them for it.

Nouri should be listening to them.  Instead he is attacking them verbally and physically and encouraging others to do the same.   Sunday, All Iraq News reported Nouri's SWAT forces raided the home of Anbar protesters spokesperson Sa'eed al-Lafi.  National Iraqi News Agency added that they also raided the home of protest spokesperson Qusay al-Zain in Ramadi.  Kitabat reported that after their failure to find al-Zain at his home, SWAT forces then raided a mosque that al-Zain prayed at.  They terrorized the people inside and nabbed one of al-Zain's bodyguards but al-Zain wasn't present.  Alsumaria noted there was a bounty on al-Lafi.  Al Mada reported that supporters say al-Lafi is being accused of crimes with no proof.   And today?  Iraqi Spring MC reports that Nouri's SWAT forces have arrested Sheikh Farhan al-Alwani, a Falluja preacher.  In adition, Nouri's forces arrested Sheikh Awil Fahdawi in the al-Amiriya section of BaghdadIraqi Spring MC notes that the outrage on that arrest was so intense and protests in the street so immediate that the authorities announced they will be releasing Sheikh Awil Fahdawi.  In the worst attack on those taking part in the ongoing protests, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jason Hanna (CNN -- link is text and video) report:

Gunmen fatally shot Sunni activist Sheikh Hassan al-Jabouri with pistols equipped with silencers in central Mosul, a predominantly Sunni city, police said. No suspects have been announced.
Al-Jabouri was active in demonstrations demanding that the Shiite-led government stop what protesters call second-class treatment of Iraq's Sunni community. Since December, tens of thousands of such demonstrators have taken to the streets across Iraq.

The US government currently wants war in Syria, ground troops in Syria.  Why?  So they can hold hands with the tyrant they install?  That's all they do with Nouri.

The US government is ineffectual and unable and unwilling to help the Iraqi people.  They can't help journalist Hadi al-Mahdi now.  His 'mistake' was in beliving the US government lies.  He believed that Iraq was going to be different and that there would be freedom and that the press was one of the most important resources for a free Iraq.  The US government did nothing, the White House did nothing, to help him.  But they continued to provide Nouri with support and arms.   Hadi al-Mahdi was assassinated in his own Baghdad home September 8, 2011.  Like every other murder of a journalist in Iraq, Nouri's never been able to locate the killers.  Now let one of his soldiers get killed and he starts terrorizing an entire province, sending in helicopters and the SWAT teams and threatening collective punishment on all the residents of the province.  But Hadi's killer/killers runs/run free.

Earlier this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists' 2013 Impunity Index:


Iraq has the world’s worst record on impunity. No convictions have been obtained in 93 journalist slayings in the past decade. The vast majority of the victims, 95 percent, were local journalists. They include freelance cameraman Tahrir Kadhim Jawad, who was killed on assignment outside Baghdad in 2010 when a bomb attached to his car exploded. Jawad was a “courageous cameraman” known for getting footage “where others had failed,” Mohammad al-Jamili, Baghdad bureau chief for the U.S. government-funded outlet Al-Hurra, said at the time. Police opened an investigation but made no arrests.
Impunity Index Rating: 2.818 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants
Last year: Ranked 1st with a rating of 2.906

And this is the government that the White House backs?

And this is the government who just needs to 'get tough' according to the parrot on Press TV?

You've taken away the ballot box, you've attacked the right to assemble, you've allowed murders of journalists to go unpunished and you attack the unions.

In that situation, what are a people to do other than rise up in violence?  What other avenues or opportunities have you left them?

But as Iraq veers ever closer to a complete breakdown, an idiot at George Washington University wants to insist that the answer is more oppression?  He also feels that Iraq needs to implement an anonymous tips phone line.  Really?  Because there aren't enough innocents locked away without charges in Iraq already?  What an idiot.

On the issue of the attack on the unions, US Labor Against the War notes:

In response to strikes in the oil sector, the Iraq government filed a criminal complaint against Federation of Oil Unions President Hassan Juma'a Awad, and has taken disciplinary actions against many others. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and stiff fines. Stand with Iraqi workers against a corrupt authoritarian government and greedy multinational oil companies. Demand the charges be dropped, repression of unions and labor activists cease, and that internationally recognized labor rights be respected, including the right to organize, bargain and strike in the union of choice without government interference.

Please  sign, like, share, forward
Twitter: Demand Iraq drop charges against oil union leader, end persecution of labor activists. Sign the petition:
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Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 789 violent deaths so far this month.  With three days left to count and only 11 deaths needed to hit 800, hitting 800 was pretty much a sure thing.  And it happened today with at least 44 reported deaths.  The assassination of Sheikh Hassan al-Jabouri in Mosul today was only one in a series of violent events across Iraq.   Alsumaria reports 1 police officer was shot dead today in Mosul.  BBC News notes that 3 Baghdad bombings left 25 people dead and fifty-five injured.  Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jason Hanna (CNN) add that a Mosul suicide car bomber claimed the lives of 2 people with seven more injured, the federal forces in Mosul shot dead 4 people,  and that three corpses were pulled from the Tigris today -- signs of torture and they had been hanged to death.   National Iraqi News Agency reports that a bombing in Hibhib today has claimed 7 lives and left thirteen injured, and a home invasion in Abu Ghraib left 1 military officer dead.

Abu Ghraib wasn't only the location of a home invasion today, it was also, Alsumaria reports, where a Sunni male and a Shi'ite female married and declared their love a protest against sectarianism.  Kitabat calls them Iraq's Romeo and Juliet -- let's hope not, that didn't end pretty.  While the young couple tried to appeal to the Iraqi spirit, National Iraqi News Agency reports State of Law MP Hassan Sinead is screaming that terrorists and Ba'athists are terrorizing Iraq and doing so with the aid of Jordan and Turkey.  When everything is falling apart, always count on Nouri and his State of Law to make them worse.  Al Mada reports Nouri's insisting that the satellite channels are responsible for the violence.

Monday, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr issued some remarks.  Ali Abedl Sadah (Al-Monitor) weighs in today and sees this as Moqtada's "final warning to the government:"

However, Sadr’s statement clearly indicated that Maliki wants to engage in an internal war in the country. He said, "We have learned that the prime minister wants to declare the start of a sectarian war in Iraq."
Sadr called on the government to "unite [political forces], but not through banquets and economic forums attended by Israelis, but purely national meetings which I have called for and accepted to attend."
Sadr concluded his statement and calls for the people and government by saying: "This is the last call I make to the people on one hand, and the government on the other hand. Forewarned is forearmed. Oh God, I have warned."
Sadr's position coincided with security developments that followed a series of bombings. Armed men deployed in towns in central Baghdad and its suburbs. Eyewitnesses and security sources provided conflicting accounts regarding the identity of the gunmen, but some stated that they belong to the Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq is an insurgent group that defected from the Sadrist current about five years ago. Last year, Qais al-Khazali, the group’s leader, expressed [favorable] positions toward the prime minister and declared that [his group] was defending the Shiites in Iraq. This raised the concerns of Sunni parties in the government.
In his statement, Sadr gave Maliki an ultimatum, calling on him to withdraw the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militants from the streets of Baghdad within 24 hours.
In England, a government inquiry's report on Iraq has long been due.  Peter Oborne (Telegraph of London) explains today:

Almost four years have passed since Sir John Chilcot called a press conference to launch his inquiry into Britain’s role in the Iraq War. He grimly acknowledged that “there have been inquiries which have taken very long periods of time: they are being held on a quite different basis from ours”. Sir John insisted that he was “determined to avoid… a long, drawn-out inquiry”. His would all be over within “a year and a half, maybe a bit more” – in other words, by the summer of 2011.
Sad to report, Sir John’s inquiry was (apparently) still at work in the summer of 2011. Then 2012 came and went. Earlier this year, there was a buzz around Whitehall that Sir John was due to announce his findings this summer, but this hope has also vanished. Eyes are now starting to turn, in the words of one senior figure very close to the inquiry, towards “the end of this year and maybe 2014”.
Comparisons are being made privately to the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, which was published an unfeasible 12 years after being commissioned, and an outrageous 38 years after the events it investigated. Furthermore, just the faintest stench is starting to surround Sir John’s inquiry: there is talk of documents being withheld, perhaps because too many senior reputations are at stake.

Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) reported last week:

In February, I made a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request to the Cabinet Office concerning the Inquiry, specifically the statement in chairman John Chilcot’s July 2012 letter to David Cameron that the Inquiry would not “publish further information piecemeal and in advance of its report”, ie that it had decided to sit on large numbers of documents that it had been given permission to publish. My request asked the Cabinet Office what those documents were.
As I have previously documented on this site, the government has constantly used the Inquiry to to kick the issue of Iraq into the long grass, hiding behind the eventual publication of the Inquiry’s long overdue report. Also in February, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas asked Cameron to identify those documents whose declassification remained in dispute, including the dates of the declassification requests. Referring to Chilcot’s letter, Cameron said that he did not intend to undermine Chilcot’s intention “by publishing details of the incomplete declassification process.”
Unsurprisingly therefore, the Cabinet Office used an FOI exemption to block my request.

Attorney Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner.  She's also a very brave woman and a very caring woman.  The Bully Boy Bush administration used 9-11 to scare the country into war with Iraq and did so by falsely linking Iraq to the 9-11 attacks.  The same administration scared up a conviction against Lynne -- who broke no law, there is no law that she broke -- by using 9-11 as a scare tactic, by falsely linking her (and her client) to 9-11.  There's no connection there.  There was never a connection.  But they played the same game with a bunch of jurors that they did with the American people.  They fooled a jury the same way they fooled a large number of Americans.

 Under Barack Obama, things did not get better for Lynne.  In fact, they got worse as Lynne, who'd been receiving treatments for her cancer, was suddenly thrown in prison even though her appeal hadn't been decided.  As bad as Bush, Ashcroft and Gonzalez were, they didn't throw Lynne in prison while she was appealing.  And it's under Barack that her sentence goes from 28 months to 10 years.

Lynne is a lawyer.  She took on the clients who needed her and she fought to give them the best defense she could.  Anyone who faults that doesn't understand the American judicial system.  Which is why I have never been surprised to encounter conservative attorneys or judges who get that Lynne was made an example of by the government in an attempt to scare defense attorneys.  Even people on the right grasp that.  The attack on Lynne was an attack on the principles of defense that are part of the America legal system -- and that attack came from the government that acts as prosecutor.  They wanted to intimidate and they wanted to tip the scales.

Lynne's cancer has returned.  She's over seventy-years-old.  She's never been accused of being violent to anyone.  She's never been accused of breaking any law.  (She released a press release to Reuters in violation of an agreement the Justice Dept had her sign.  She did that when Bill Clinton was President.  Bill and Attorney General Janet Reno were aware of it.  They didn't consider it a crime.  They didn't let her see her client until they had her sign another agreement, but that was it.  And, it should be argued that when the Clinton administration had her sign another agreement, that was the 'judgment' on the press release.  Meaning what Ashcroft and Bush put her through was double jeopardy.)   Lynne has released the following message:

May 28th, 2013
Dear Friends and Supporters:
One month ago I made a request for compassionate release which was honored by the warden at Carswell Federal Medical Center.  Today the papers are still on a desk in Washington, D.C. even though the terminal cancer that I have contracted requires expeditious action.
Although I requested immediate action by the  Bureau of Prisons, I find it necessary to again request immediate action from you, my  friends, comrades and supporters  to call the three numbers listed below on Thursday, May 30 and request action on my behalf.
This could result in my being able to access medical treatment at Sloan Kettering so that I can face the rest of my life with dignity surrounded by those I love and who love me.
Please do this.
Yours truly
Lynne Stewart  FMS CARSWELL-53504-054 & Ralph Poynter
Lynne Stewart Defense Organization


Attorney General  Eric Holder -  1 202 514 2001
White House President Obama – 1 202 456 1414
B.O.P. – Director  Charles Samuels – 1 202.307.3250

That's tomorrow.  Please make time for Lynne who's always made time for everyone else and call to ask that she be allowed to live out the remaining days surrounded by her family.