Saturday, August 31, 2013


"British parliament votes down Syria action as US presses ahead with strike plans" (Chris Marsden and Julie Hyland, WSWS): 
In a stunning setback for the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government of Prime Minister David Cameron and the Obama administration in the US, Britain’s MPs voted down a government attempt to secure agreement in principle for military intervention in Syria.
Cameron is deeply wounded, his future as Conservative Party leader uncertain. As for the Obama administration and its European allies, their war drive against Syria has been discredited and exposed as a criminal conspiracy hatched in the recesses of the CIA, MI5, Mossad, and other intelligence agencies. They seized upon a chemical attack in Ghouta most likely carried out by the US-backed insurgents themselves as a casus belli—the opportunity to activate a plan for regime change in Syria aimed at isolating Iran and securing US hegemony over the oil riches of the Middle East.

I loved C.I.'s take on that in Thursday's "Iraq snapshot" and I absolutely loved how she took on the State Dept. re:Iraq and Facebook.  I also, on unilateral Barack, hope you read:

    20 hours ago

    I always mean to highlight Cedric and Wally who do joint-humor posts.  I always forget.  I'm on vacation and I can remember now so let me include them.

    If you missed it, the UN weapons inspectors have left Syria.  I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out Barack ordered an attack over this holiday weekend.

  • "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Friday, August 30, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue, Nouri attempts to stop protests tomorrow, Stuart Bowen weighs in on the US efforts in Iraq, John Kerry continues to huff and puff about Syria, US government may have lost France's support as well (yesterday they lost England -- at least for now), four US Senators (Bernie Sanders, Patty Murray, Richard Burr and Bill Nelson) work together (proving that it can be done) for the American people, and more.

    We'll move quickly to Syria and then onto Iraq but with the US government being such an embarrassment currently as so many members of Congress think the term "oversight" actually means "conceal from the American people," let's open with the rare example of members of Congress working for the betterment of the American people and doing so in a bipartisan fashion.  Applause for Senator Bernie Sanders (Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee),  Senator Patty Murray (Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee), Senator Richard Burr (Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee) and Senator Bill Nelson (Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging) -- an Independent (Sanders), a Republican (Burr) and two Democrats (Murray and Nelson) working together and for doing what we expect members of Congress to do but what rarely is done anymore.  From the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 30 – Leaders of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and the Special Committee on Aging said today that they are “deeply troubled” by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ lax oversight of private advisers to veterans applying for pensions and other benefits.
    The senators cited a new report by the Government Accountability Office that faulted the VA for loosely enforcing its own vague rules on accrediting private financial planners, attorneys, insurance agents and others. The nonpartisan congressional agency that audits federal programs also criticized the VA for leaving itself vulnerable to abuses and for keeping veterans in the dark about their rights.
    The GAO report was cited in a letter to Secretary Eric Shinseki from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman and ranking member of the veterans’ committee. Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a veterans’ committee member and former chairman, and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the Senate Special Committee on Aging chairman, also signed the letter.
    “We are deeply troubled by the findings indicating weaknesses in the accreditation program, which may prevent VA from ensuring that veterans are served by knowledgeable, qualified, and trustworthy representatives,” the senators wrote. 
    The senators said the accreditation procedures should be strengthened to protect veterans from unscrupulous advisers among the 20,000 approved by the department. They also echoed a GAO recommendation and urged the department to do a better job letting veterans know how to report abuses. Problems with the accreditation program are compounded by a lack of staff and inadequate technology, the senators added. 
    The latest GAO report builds on an investigation last year that found weak oversight and unclear rules made the VA ripe for abuse. That report found that some firms overcharge veterans for services or sell financial products that end up limiting veteran’s access to the benefits that they deserve.
    To read the GAO report, click here.
    To read the senators’ letter to the VA secretary, click here.

    Daniel Akaka was Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee before Senator Murray and he and Richard Burr had a professional and respectful relationship.  Murray and Burr continued and deepened that.  It continues now with Sanders and Burr.  No, Burr didn't agree with the three on everything or them with him on everything but they found a way to be adults and to stay focused on the issues.  It's a shame that this is not carried through on every Congressional Committee.  The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has been able to focus on a large number of issues and actually move mountains on a few because of the lack of egos in leadership.  Akaka, Murray, Sanders and Burr especially deserve applause.  And, again, it is so very nice to see one aspect of Congress (or, for that matter, the federal government) which functions and works.

    Over to the topic of Syria . . .

    Still reeling from yesterday's vote in the British Parliament (which means -- for now -- England will not be able to join the US government in attacking Syria), US President Barack Obama insisted this afternoon that, Eyder Peralta (NPR) notes,  "he has not made a final decision on launching a military strike on Syria." Why?  The morning started with efforts by the administration to sell France as a historic and glorious partner in an attempt to use France's support of an attack to take the place of England's backing.  Ian Black (Guardian) was calling it a "coalition a deux."  But, by mid-day, a wrinkle emerged on that front.  John Lichfield (Independent) reports that French President Francois Hollande "appeared today to back away from immediate air strikes against Syria by talking of the importance of a 'political solution' to the crisis."

    Another break Barack and his fellow War Hawks couldn't quite catch this week.  And the reason that, mid-morning, the White House dropped the effort to talk up historic ally France. 

    Before Barack spoke on the matter, US Secretary of State John Kerry had a mini-meltdown in front of the press.  Lindsay Wise and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) quote him blustering, "This is common sense.  This is evidence.  These are facts."  Facts?  John Kerry offered facts?  Jason Ditz ( cleared up that misconception:

    Secretary of State John Kerry, leading the charge for war in Syria for months, is continuing to take the helm in pushing the case in speeches, not so much providing evidence for their allegations but reiterating the claims and insisting that the evidence is “clear.”
    Incredibly, Kerry doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the allegations that have already been disproved, reiterating rebel claims of 1,429 killed as an unquestionable fact even though Doctors Without Borders already put the real figure at 355 dead nearly a week ago.

    Having yet again presented 'facts' that were not, in fact, actually facts,  Lindsay Wise and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) quote John Kerry insisting, "This matters to us, and it matters to who we are, and it matters to leadership and to our credibility in the world."

    Golly, that doesn't seem like national security at all.  That sounds like vanity and ego.  You know how to avoid having egg on your face and being a public laughingstock?  Stop making false claims and stop making threats.  As a member of the Senate, John Kerry grasped that.  In fact, he so grasped what diplomacy was that world leaders were pulling for the 2004 election to result in President John Kerry.  All that skill and ability has left him as he degrades himself and his legacy (Secretary of State is Kerry's last big hurrah on the national scene).  DS Wright (Firedoglake) dissects the speech here.

    John Kerry, possibly after being beaten at the ballot box by a moron like Bully Boy Bush, has no respect for the American citizens.  Mark Murray (NBC News) reports on a new poll.  The Hart Research Associates poll could be titled Bad News For Barry.  48% disapprove of Barack's job performance as president (only 44% approve); 49% disapprove of Barack's "handling foreign policy" (41% approve); approval for handling of Syria specifically 44% disapprove (35% approve).  What should the US government do with regards to Syria?  7 responses in order of popularity:

    Provide only humanitarian assistance  40%
    Take military action to help stop the killing 26%
    Take no additional action  23%
    Provide arms to the opposition 6%
    Not sure 3%
    Take some sort of action 1%
    Take some mix of actions 1%

     If chemical weapons were used by the Syrian government, 42% say military action is needed while 50% say no, it is not.  41% feel military action would not improve life for the people of Syria while 27% think it will.

    Asked, "Do you think that President Obama should or should not be required to receive approval from Congress before taking military action in Syria?"  79% said, "Should be required to receive approval."  Only 16% say he's not required to.

    PDF format warning, the full results are here.  Margin of error is +/- 3.70%

    Are you getting why John Kerry's so desperate that he's spouting lies to the American people?

    George Eaton (New Statesman) offers a breakdown of yesterday's historic vote in England with 224 Labour MPs, joining with 30 Conservatives, 9 Liberal MPs (Eaton has a list of the MPs by name).  Also weighing in on the vote, Great Britain's Socialist Worker's "Cameron's Defeat Is Proof Of Protest Power:"

    David Cameron was humiliated last night, Thursday, when he suffered a historic Commons defeat on plans to bomb Syria.
    He asked MPs to back military action but in an unprecedented blow, they voted by 285 to 272 against air strikes.
    The vote reflects the overwhelming anti-war feeling among people in Britain – and the fear that missile strikes against Syria would be the start of yet another failed attempt by the West to control the Middle East.
    Cameron, who had made a passionate plea for support for his proposals to launch attacks on Damascus after a chemical weapons attack last week, was forced to issue an embarrassing climbdown.
    The shaken leader admitted it was clear that parliament “does not want to see British military action”. He added, “I get that. The government will act accordingly.”
    Opposition MPs responded by shouting, “Resign”.
    The last time a prime minister was defeated over an issue of war and peace was in 1782. As the scale of the historic defeat became clear Conservative MPs turned on each other. Education secretary Michael Gove barked, “You’re a disgrace, you’re a disgrace” at government rebels.
    The result was also a blow to Nick Clegg who had ditched his party’s soft anti-war stance to side with the Conservatives.
    “This marks a sea change in British politics. The government no longer has a blank cheque to go to war,” Labour MP and chair of the Stop the War Coalition, Jeremy Corbyn, told Socialist Worker.

    Jes Burns (Free Speech Radio News) reports:

    As the United States and France move towards military action in Syria, Syrian-Americans are voicing concern for the safety of their families back in the Middle East.  FSRN’s Theresa Campagna reports from Chicago.
    Anti-war protesters in several cities worldwide will march Saturday, saying a Western intervention in Syria will only intensify the war already happening on-the-ground.  This morning, both President Obama and President Hollande of France told the press they want military intervention, despite their ally's vote against it in the UK.
    “My cousin was on his way to his senior, like exam, you know, his high school exam you know.  It was the same day the university was bombed.”
    That's Bassel Al-Madani, a Syrian American in Chicago who has been fundraising to send money to family in Syria since February.  He says most Syrians are getting by, despite the war.  But like many Syrian-Americans, Al-Madani wants it to end so his family can move on. FSRN, Theresa Campagna, Chicago.

    At the Fellowship of Reconciliation,  Joshua Brollier offers a list of thing to remember including the following:

    To those who think the United States should intervene in Syria,
    Remember this is the same United States which;

    Earlier today, Amy Goodman (Democracy Now! -- link is text, video and audio) explained, "Pentagon officials say the U.S. Navy has moved five destroyers equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles into the eastern Mediterranean Sea to prepare for a possible strike on Syria. This comes as the British Parliament voted Thursday not to back international action against Syria following the Assad regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons last week. This comes as a team of U.N. inspectors, who spent the week traveling to rebel-controlled areas in search of proof of a poison gas attack, is set to give its preliminary findings to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday."

    On this week's CounterSpin (FAIR -- link is audio), Peter Hart spoke with IPS' Phyllis Bennis about the coverage of the US push for an attack on Syria.  Excerpt.

    Phyllis Bennis:  Only if the [United Nations] Security Council votes to endorse the use of force is the use of force legal.  No other agency, institution, organization has that right.  So the Kosovo precedent that you refer to and that unfortunately this is being talked about in the press.  It's being asserted that if the Security Council doesn't agree, there are other options.  Yeah, there are other options.  The problem is they're all illegal.  The Kosovo model was illegal.  What the US did in 1999, when it wanted to bomb, to start an air war against Serbia over Kosovo, realized it would not get support of the Security Council because Russia had said it would veto.  So instead of saying, 'Well okay we don't have support of the Security Council, I guess we can't do it,' they said, 'Okay, we won't go to the Security Council, we'll simply go to the NATO High Command and ask their permission.'  Well, what a surprise, the NATO High Command said 'sure.'  It's like the hammer and the nail.  If you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  If you're NATO everything looks like it requires military intervention.  The problem is, under international law, the UN charter is the fundamental component under international law that determines issues of war and peace.  And the charter doesn't say that the Security Council or NATO or the President of the United States can all decide over the use of force.  The only agency that can legally approve the use of force is the Security Council of the United Nations.  Period.  Full stop.

     [. . .]

    Peter Hart: We've heard right from the beginning that the Syrian government would not allow inspectors access to the site of this attack.  That was considered proof that they were culpable, that they were hiding something.  But the reality seemed to be that the United States was trying to pull the plug on this UN  investigative team from the start which I think is one of the most shocking, under-covered part of this story.

    Phyllis Bennis: I don't think we can say with any certainty what the motivation was of the US but certainly what they did was to try and scuttle the role of the team and to deliberately mislead people.  Secretary Kerry, in particular,  misled people about what the timeline was and stated that the time line very clearly indicated some guilt by the Syrian government.  His claim was: 'We asked -- and the UN asked --  for access to the site on Thursday.  They didn't grant that access until Sunday, therefore, they were delaying for days because they were trying to hide something.  They're trying to degrade the evidence.  They may be bombing the evidence.  They're trying to make sure that the inspectors can't do their job.'  Well it turns out that the facts are a little different.  The facts are that on that Thursday, the UN announced that they were going to request access. The actual request did not arrive until Saturday when Angela Kane, the disarmament chief of the United Nations, arrived in Damascus.  The announcement that they were going to ask is not a legally acceptable anything in diplomatic terms.  When asked about it, when pushed on it, the UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said, 'Well that's just semantics.'  But diplomacy is all about semantics, you know?  A press release does not equal an official request from the United Nations. There was an official, legal request and it arrived on Saturday with Angela Kane.  On Sunday, the Syrian government said "yes," the inspectors can go in.  And on Monday, the investigators were on the ground doing their work.  That's hardly an example of a major delay.  Now I should be clear in saying that, it doesn't necessarily mean that the Syrian regime is not responsible for these attacks.  They may well be.  But it does mean that that claim by Secretary Kerry -- which is the basis, a big part of the basis, for saying --'This proves that they are responsible and therefore we can go in and bomb Syria,' it certainly did not happen that way. 

    Let's stay with the stupidity of the press.  The Atlantic (as usual) is working overtime to sell war on Syria.  Molly Ball plays dumb or is big time stupid in her piece which includes:

     Like Obama, Tom Perriello, a former congressman from Virginia who now serves as president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, strongly opposed the Iraq war. But he now strongly backs action in Syria. 

    Molly Ball, get an education.  I'm not even talking about the Center for American Prissies, I'm referring to the false claim that Perriello "strongly opposed the Iraq War" and the sleight of hand Molly uses to make you think he did that while in Congress.

    There is no proof that Perriello opposed the Iraq War -- strongly or weakly.  He wasn't even focused on the US at that point. He spent 2002 and 2003 a s the Special Court for Sierra Leon's International Prosecutor's Special Advisor.   The Center for American Progress insists of Perriello, "Expertise: Congress, Middle East and Africa, conflict . . ."

    Stop.  He is not an expert on Congress.  He may be an expert on quickly losing public support.  In the 2008 elections, he was elected to the House of Representatives.  In the 2010 elections, he lost that seat.  He served one term (Jan. 2009 to Jan. 2011).  He was not in Congress when the Iraq War was being sold or when it started.  In the position he did have during that time, he was working for a foreign government and for the United Nations and, in that capacity, if he did have an opinion re: Iraq War, he would have been encouraged to keep it silent.

     In their bio on Perriello,  CAP forgets to note that Perriello received the endorsement of the NRA (probably since demonizing the NRA has become a Democratic Party priority of late)  and that the bachelor candidate Perriello had a campaign that couldn't stop running to the media to scare up homophobic rumors about his GOP rival in the 2008 race.

    The Center for American Progress is yet another tired Democratic Party front group -- started by the man who threw "a girlish hissy fit" (words of a Democratic US House Rep) when John Conyers, Ramsey Clark and Francis A. Boyle presented the case for impeaching Bully Boy Bush and the need for it.  John Podesta is a joke.  He's a well used political prostitute and CAP is just a bordello for the Democratic Party.  We've covered this at length for many, many years. And we aren't the only ones to do so.  John Stauber's owned the topic and written of it better than anyone (and written of it much, much, much better than I have).

     On Syria, we'll give the last word to  the Center for Constitutional Rights:

    August 30, 2013 – In response to signals from the Obama administration that it will pursue U.S. military intervention in Syria in the wake of attacks last week, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:
    We strongly oppose U.S. military intervention in Syria and urge the Obama administration to support increased diplomatic measures to protect civilians in the region. A United Nations investigation into the massacre of last week is still ongoing. For whoever is deemed responsible, accountability must come by way of investigation and prosecutions under international law, not further militarism in the region.
    It is a manifest lesson of this country’s recent history that U.S. military intervention in conflicts of this kind has not served human rights or humanitarian purposes, even when these are the stated goals. The U.S. and Iraq are still reeling and suffering from a decade-long illegal war that was waged on the basis of false information about weapons of mass destruction and sold to the American people as a quick military intervention. Hundreds of thousands, including many civilians and children, died as a result of that war, in which the U.S. used weapons that have been widely condemned, such as white phosphorous, napalm-class weapons and weapons containing depleted uranium. Iraq is still dealing with the catastrophic aftermath, which includes skyrocketing rates in birth defects and cancer widely attributed to the use of these weapons. The U.S. should be accounting for this harm and making reparations, not readying to engage militarily once again.
    UN officials are calling for political solutions to the crisis in Syria – not additional violence. The Obama administration needs to act in concert with other countries and international legal bodies to broker a political settlement in Syria and bring an immediate cessation of violence. Diplomacy and the rule of law, including international law, must be our guideposts for acting in this situation.
    The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCR has previously challenged U.S. military action and use of force as violating U.S. and international law, including in the invasion of Grenada, in El Salvador, in Panama, for the First Gulf War, Serbia/Kosovo and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  CCR is currently representing a group of U.S. veterans of the Iraq war and two Iraqi human rights organizations seeking accountability and reparations for the war as part of the Right to Heal initiative.

    From the new war they want to the one they hope Americans have forgotten . . .

    Since December 21st, protests have been ongoing in Iraq.  And they continued today. Dropping back to Tuesday's snapshot:

    Despite that, look for the attempted storming of Ramadi to be ignored.  Alsumaria reports that Nouri is attempting to use the court, the Ministry of the Interior and Nouri's attorney general's office to stop the protests, insisting that it's so violent in Iraq today, the protesters are in danger.  Whether in Hawija or elsewhere, the only people who have killed protesters have been Nouri's forces.  Alsumaria notes that the attempt to kill the protest is being denounced with a coalition stating Nouri is attempting to violate the Constitution which allows for peaceful demonstrations and that this is yet another attempt by Nouri to silence opposition.

    Aswat al-Iraq reported Tuesday:

    Iraqi Interior Ministry called the citizens not to demonstrate out of fear of security breaches that may attack them, as well as estimating the current military situation of the country.
    In a statement by the ministry, copy received by Aswat al-Iraq, it added that "some youths have the intention to demonstrate on 31 August instant demanding the cancellation of parliamentary pensions and provision of political and economic reforms".

    Iraqi Spring MC notes that protests continued today in Najaf, in Baghdad's Almlhanih, in Ramadi, in Falluja, in Samarra and in Jalawha

    They protested despite intimidation techniques and safety warnings.  (Protesters who have been killed at protests have all been killed by Nouri's forces.)  They gathered today despite the continued mass arrests of the week.  They gathered today in the hope that they could make that better Iraq that the US government pretended to want back in 2003 when they launched an illegal war on Iraq.

    NINA reports:

    Preacher Sheikh Mustafa Sabri of Fri-prayers of Fallujah said in his sermon that campaign of /revenge of martyrs / is a sectarian campaign targeting Sunni areas directed by the government in Baghdad belt areas were arbitrary arrests and besiege of residential areas are massively perpetrated.
    He added in his sermon addressed to thousands of worshipers who held a unified Fri-prayers east of Fallujah : " Prime Minister Nuri al - Maliki launched unprecedented arrest campaign against Sunnis.
    The source also added that the campaign dubbed / martyrs revenge / is extremely a sectarian injustice campaign noting that Iraq ever witnessed a similar which began with the support of sectarian militias backed by Iran, but it created a serious impacts.

    In Samarra, Sheikh Samir Fouad delivered similar remarks, ""The security breaches that followed the sectarian crackdown that targeted areas of Baghdad's belt ,is in reality targeting the people of these areas under the pretext that they represent incubator of terrorism behind them sectarian motives , as during which unjust random arrests are perpetrated so far ."  Alsumaria reports Sheikh Samir Fouad, in Samarra, decried the mass arrest campaign and stated that the many arrests of innocent people has demonstrated to the world that the claim that the campaign is just and to avenge the dead is a false claim.  The Sheikh called for the release of the innocents.  Kitabat adds there was a call in all areas of protests on the members of the Iraqi military to disobey any orders that they target their Sunni brothers and sisters and they called for an end to the killings and displacements.

      Iraqi Spring MC notes that in Najaf, they called on the government to stop trying to shut down the protests.   NINA notes "thousands" participated in the Falluja and Ramadi protests today and quotes Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad stating that today's goal "is to send once again a message to the governing in Baghdad that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by citizens' deep conviction."  Sam Mahmoud and Ammar al-Ani (Alsumaria) note that the Ministry of the Interior has announced that they have not yet decided to institute a curfew for Saturday but they have banned all vehicles with paper plates (temporary license plates) from Baghdad for 24 hours.  In addition, Ahmed Hussein (Alsumaria) reports that the four bridges connecting the east and west of Baghdad have been closed, large concrete barriers put in place and large numbers of security forces stationed by the barriers.

    Earlier today, Human Rights Watch issued a call for the Iraqi government to cease efforts to ban tomorrow's protests:

    Iraqi authorities should legitimately explain why it is necessary to ban demonstrations planned for August 31, or allow them to proceed. They should ensure organizers are able to appeal any ban.
    Two groups who organized concurrent demonstrations in Baghdad calling for the cancellation of parliamentarians’ pensions applied to the Interior Ministry for permits on August 21, 2013, as required by Iraqi law. On August 22, Interior Ministry officials refused to issue them permits, without providing them a reason. Organizers of both demonstrations expect them to go ahead, but told Human Rights Watch that they are concerned that Iraqi security forces will use force to block what they said would be peaceful demonstrations, and may arrest and intimidate organizers should the planned demonstrations take place.

    “It’s ironic that officials suggest that using force to block peaceful demonstrations will assist Iraq’s ‘march to democracy’,” said Joe Stork, acting Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The authorities can ban demonstrations if they believe they will be violent, but here the concern seems that protests will be politically embarrassing or inconvenient.”

    In a statement published on its website on August 27, the Interior Ministry said that “security challenges and traffic problems require us to delay the demonstrations” of August 31. Citing “consideration of the risks of terrorism by al-Qaeda and Ba’athists… and of weakening the authority of the state, compounded by regional agendas that seek to weaken Iraq for their own interests,” and its determination to “challenge all negative phenomena that stand in the way of the march of democracy,” the statement said security forces would “firmly confront those who disrupt the security of the country and of its citizens.”

    The UN’s first special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai, emphasized in a May 2012 report that states may only restrict the right to peaceful assembly where there is a “pressing social need.” The report stressed that states should not need to ban peaceful gatherings in order to fight terrorism effectively, and said “the free flow of traffic should not automatically take precedence over freedom of peaceful assembly.” Kiai places responsibility on authorities to provide assembly organizers with “timely and fulsome reasons” for any ban, and the possibility of a swift appeal.

    Amnesty International has issued a statement as well entitled "Iraq: tomorrow's protests against MPs' pensions should be allowed to go ahead:"

    Posted: 30 August 2013
    Ahead of planned country-wide protests across Iraq tomorrow over Iraqi MPs’ pension payments, Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to respect and protect protesters’ rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
    Demonstrators are intending to gather in several locations in Iraq tomorrow to protest at regulations that grant Iraqi MPs high pensions - even after only a few years of service. In light of economic difficulties faced by many Iraqis, the generous parliamentary pension scheme has drawn widespread criticism.  
    On 18 and 20 August organisers of the demonstration applied for permission with the Office of the Governor of Baghdad and the Ministry of Interior, respectively. Their requests were refused. Since then Iraqi authorities, including the Ministry of Interior and the General Prosecutor, have called for the demonstration in Baghdad to be postponed due to security concerns. However, protesters plan to go ahead with the demonstration.
    In several provinces outside Baghdad, including Babel and Diyala, the authorities have reportedly granted permission for demonstrations to be held this weekend. Yesterday the Iraqi Bar Association held demonstrations against the MPs’ pension scheme in several of its branches, including outside its head office in Baghdad.
    In general, the Iraqi authorities have appeared determined to stop large demonstrations taking place in central Baghdad since anti-government protests erupted across the Middle East and North Africa in 2011.
    Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
    “People in Iraq have the right to express their views freely and to protest peacefully without the threat of violence.
    “Rather than preventing peaceful assemblies, the government should be taking steps to ensure people can exercise their right to protest in safety and security.
    “Ongoing violence in the country must not be used as a pretext for continuing a blanket ban on peaceful anti-government demonstrations in central Baghdad or any other public spaces, anywhere in the country.”
    Hundreds of people continue to be killed every month in violent attacks by armed groups across Iraq. On 28 August scores of civilians were killed in a wave of bomb attacks targeting Shi’a neighbourhoods of Baghdad.
    Suppression of protests in Baghdad:
    At the end of last year, tens of thousands of Iraqi opposition activists took to the streets, mainly in provinces with a Sunni majority, to demonstrate at violations of detainees’ rights. However, the authorities prevented any such protests taking place in central Baghdad.

    Earlier this month (2 August) more than 100 people attempted to demonstrate against corruption and violence at Tahrir Square in Baghdad. Thirteen were arrested by security forces. Several detained protesters later reported being beaten in custody. Amnesty has seen images purporting to show bruises sustained during these beatings.

    Kitabat reports the protesters continued preparations for tomorrow's demonstration today.  They are not backing down.  Iraqi Spring MC hails tomorrow as a revolt against injustice.

    In today's violence, NINA reports 1 Sahwa leader was killed in Mosul by a roadside bombing which also injured "one of his bodyguards," an armed clash in Anbar left 1 rebel dead, and a Baquba bombing has left one person injuredAll Iraq News adds an armed attack in Tikrit left two Sahwa injured.  Press Association calls Tuz Khormato the site of "the deadliest attack," "Insurgents there set off a non-lethal stun bomb apparently designed to attract a crowd before detonating a real bomb that killed 12 and wounded 10, said the town's police chief, Colonel Hussein Ali Rasheed."

    Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 862 deaths for the month thus far.  .

    Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) offers some thoughts on the political groups in Iraq including the following:

    On Aug. 5, 2013, Sadr decided to retire from political life, as a punishment to his supporters.
    After announcing that decision, Iraqi parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi himself demanded that Sadr retract this decision.
    Nevertheless, Hanan al-Fatlawi, a parliament member in Maliki's State of Law Coalition, questioned what Sadr’s retirement from political life meant, asking, “Is he a president, a prime minister or even a minister to [be able to] retire?”
    This statement angered Sadr’s supporters, who considered it disrespectful of their spiritual leader. Yet the motives that pushed political and parliamentary forces to call Sadr to retract the decision to retire from political life are that the departure of Sadr would lead to a division or disagreement in his political bloc, or restore power to its military wing, the Mahdi Army.
    The fact is, the political party in Iraq reflects the image of its leader. Therefore, there are conflicting speculations about the fate of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in the absence of its leader and the president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani. For this reason also, Maliki's State Law Coalition seems committed to nominating its leader for a third term. It will inevitably be unable to agree on an alternative to Maliki. The same applies to all other parties.

    Stuart Bowen Jr. was the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.  Dan Parsons (National Defense Magazine) reports on a talk he gave yesterday:

    Between 2003 and 2012, the United States spent $60.6 billion on the relief and reconstruction of Iraq. During the nine-year rebuilding program, $15 million per day was spent on reconstruction.

    In some cases security costs estimated at 10 percent of a project’s price tag, ended up being 25 to 30 percent of the total expenditure for some schools and hospitals and other civil infrastructure projects, he said.

    “There were several healthcare clinics blown up,” said Bowen, who visited Iraq more than 30 times during the war. “There were 24 people killed building the Basra Children’s hospital. The Fallujah wastewater treatment plant saw multiple people killed and it took eight years to finish instead of two and a half. “

    The United States did worse in establishing a democratic government and essential public services like health care and infrastructure building, Bowen said. He awarded basic governance a C-minus, citing the failed election of 2010 as a catalyst of the unrest that has marked the past four years of life in Iraq.

    “Our strategy cannot be ‘No more Iraqs and Afghanistans.’ It has to be, 'how are we going to succeed in the next stabilization and reconstruction operation?'


    jason ditz


     hannah allem

    mushreq abbas

    Wednesday, August 28, 2013

    When Bully Boy Bush did it, we objected

    Am I the only one struck by the silence as the White House declares it doesn't matter what UN inspectors find or don't find?  That it's 'too late'?

    Didn't we object to this crap when Bully Boy Bush pulled it in Iraq?

    I know I did.

    The weapons inspectors were looking for the WMD (which were not there).  Fleetwood Mac even had a song, remember?, that came out right after the start of the Iraq War that people thought was about Bully Boy Bush not letting the inspectors finish their work.  (The song was "Peace Keeper.")

    But now, no one cares.

    No one objects.

    It's just treated as 'normal' and 'okay' because the War Criminal is a Democrat.

    That says a great deal about Barack, but sadly it says even more about us.

    It doesn't say anything good, sadly.

    We should be outraged.  We should be offended that yet another violent attack is most likely soon to be carried out by the government.

    I know if you read this that you are outraged.  I know you care. But where is everyone else?

    It's really sad.

    We built nothing under Bully Boy Bush because we allowed ourselves to be used by whores (Leslie Cagan, Jodie Evans, Bill Dobbs and others) who were pimping us for the Democratic Party.

    Hopefully people will learn from us and not fall for the liars as we did.  Make a demand that any antiwar group promises not to engage in 'electoral' actions.  They need to focus on the issues and the demands.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Wednesday, August 28, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri puts security forces on 'high alert,' concerns over how a US-strike on Syria might effect Iraq are aired, some ethical voices (Robert Scheer, Sara Flounders, Debra Sweet, David Swanson, Justin Raimondo, Dennis Kucincih) demonstrate it is possible to call out War Hawks even when they are Democratic War Hawks, CodeStink demonstrates they'll 'act' for the media even if they won't take real action or show leadership, and much more.

    We're going to kick off with Truth Dig's Robert Scheer and his thoughts on an attack on Syria.  We called out Scheer for his verbal attacks on Ralph Nader and Hillary Clinton and have avoided him since.  He's getting pulled back in now because he spoke out against the Iraq War and he's speaking out against an attack on Syria.  We'll ignore him with regards to election politics (although, who knows, he may now regret his blind cheer leading of Barack) but I will applaud him for speaking out.  Ava and I are planning a piece for Sunday on all the human crap that has chosen to remain silent -- but, wait, is silent promoting yourself?  No, they're not silent, they Tweet and blog about their albums, concerts and movies -- they can hawk their wares, they just can't call out the illegal spying or the attack on Syria.  But, oh, how they had a great deal to say when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House.  I strongly and loudly applaud Robert Scheer for having the ethics to speak out today as he did during the Bully Boy Bush reign.

    Philip Maldari:  So in this piece, you sort of run down the history of the US close relationship with Saudi Arabia indicating that the Saudis are very interested in encouraging an attack on the Assad regime and, in this case, the possible -- I'm using the word "possible" -- nerve gas attack on the civilians there as a pretext to your way of thinking.  Do you want to elaborate?

    Robert Scheer:  Look, the US record in the whole MidEast is so tawdry, so wrong headed for so long, I mean, gosh you could go back to the overthrow of [Prime Minister Mohammad] Mosaddegh in Iran, you know the last really significant, secular, democratically elected leader.  Now we're financing the military and they've overthrown a democratically elected government in Egypt. And for  John Kerry and others to oh-we're-shocked-and-we-have-to-act-and-we-have-to-respond?  No, the US does not have to do anything.  I mean this idea that we are somehow the moral force keeping the peace when we're still the people who believe in using nuclear weapons.  We're the only ones who have used nuclear weapons.  And we just went through the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki a couple of weeks ago and we still, as a nation, have not absorbed the significance of killing hundreds of thousands of men, women and children.  And yet we get on our high horse, here is Kerry -- you know, how did Kerry come to prominence?  He was an officer in Vietnam and, you know, War Crimes were committed, 3.5 million people were killed.  So I'm only going through this whole litany to challenge the whole idea here that somehow a US response or France -- the great colonial power -- or England, that they have to respond.  It's utter nonsense.  But the real subtext here, the important subtext is this is all being done for a theocracy, for oil.  This is all driven by Saudi Arabia for gosh sake.  This is, all markers [point to], as I pointed out in my column Bandar bin Sultan the guy who was the Saudi ambassador in Washington for two decades -- and they're the great winners in this thing -- whether you're talking about Egypt or Syria or anything else that's happening.  They have made Iran the great enemy here.  Somehow Iran is identified with terrorism and so Syria has a connection with Iran and Hezbollah and so forth.  And the real issue here is whether Saudi money and along with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates should be allowed to buy, purchase what was the Arab Spring.  And that's what's happened.

    Philip Maldari:  And in the meantime, we've got the video of hundreds of men, women and children were murdered.  We're talking about no visible trauma on their bodies.  It has not been proven by the UN inspectors yet that it's nerve gas.  This is playing on TVs around the world.

    Robert Scheer:  Yes.

    Philip Maldari:  And for you to suggest, 'Oh well, what's a person to do' is just -- 

    Robert Scheer:  No, no, no.  Not 'what's a person to do,' you know, no.  What is the United States to do.  And the idea that the United States has a responsibility everywhere in the world to be the moral force and decider and 'Oh, the UN inspectors got in there too late' and so forth.  And by the way, you're talking about a people killed what about the people killed in Egypt?  We didn't do anything.  We still haven't even cut off aid even though legally our president's required to cut off.  So we are the ones who are intimately involved in a military coup to destroy democracy in Egypt, the most important Arab country in the MidEast by far.  You know, we are the people who supported intervention in Egypt forever.  And, no, we are not the great decider, old George W. Bush.  Why do you buy into that?

    Philip Maldari:  [snapping] I'm not buying into anything! 

    Robert Scheer:  You know what about these pictures, there are pictures all over the place of people killed in Egypt.  Did we then intervene to prevent this military coup?  No.  So this hysteria that is created and then somehow -- What I am challenging is, yes, the basic assumption that the US is the great moral force that should intervene everywhere in the world.  And what's happening in Syria, which we should understand here, we don't know, it's very murky, who is creating, producing poison gas or what have you.  But the fact of the matter is that the people who are opposed to the regime are people who we claim are terrorists.  They're supporters of al Qaeda, they're coming in from all over the world.  We forget that it was Saudi Arabia, the same Bandar who supported the Taliban in Afghanistan where the whole war on terror started. And Saudi Arabia's financing the opposition in Syria, they're supporting the military in Egypt and they were one of the three governments in the world that recognized the Taliban along with the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan and we're now following their lead.

    Philip Maldari:  So in the meantime, Bob, we've got Obama already having said, more than a year ago, there's some kind of red line if chemical weapons are used in Syria.  So he appears, if he does nothing, to be essentially a wimp internationally and that is actually his reputation with Republicans right now.  So that's okay with you?

    Robert Scheer:  What is this language wimp?  This is how we discuss foreign policy? Because Obama's speech on this or his comments on this the other day were very clear that you should have evidence, and you should be international and the UN should -- and so on.  All the things that Bush did not do.  Everyone's forgetting this horrible war that Bush waged on Iraq -- which by the way extended Iran's influence enormously and put people who had been living in exile in Iran in power in Iraq.  And Saddam Hussein, by the way, is someone who did use chemical warfare.  We supported Saddam Hussein.  That's what Rumsfeld went and met with Saddam Hussein after he had used that against Iran in the Iraq - Iran War.  We didn't think that was such a horrendous thing.  And then we invented the charge of Weapons of Mass Destruction which turned out to be a big lie.  You would think after waging this war and totally upending the whole life and politics of the MidEast on the basis of lies that you would have some humility.  Where is humility in foreign policy?  George Washington in his farewell address said, "never use force in international relations, use gentle means."  He was against this arrogance and foreign entanglements.  The whole notion of the American republic was not to be an empire, not to follow the lead of Rome, France and England and their empires -- Spain.  And so you're talking like -- what is this wimp language, it's stupid. Frankly, it's stupid.  What is this machismo?

    We'll stop there.  Robert Scheer's exactly right and if Philip is more concerned about Barack's image than Syrians who would be harmed in killed in missile strikes?

    Oliver Holmes and Erika Solomon (Reuters) report today, "People in Damascus stocked up on supplies on Wednesday and some left homes close to potential targets as U.S. officials described plans for multi-national strikes on Syria that could last for days."  And Philip's fretting over Barack's image?  Where are the priorities?  And Philip needs to stop talking about Republicans -- it was the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show last week (Diane was not part of the broadcast) when the guest host and 3 journalists advocated for war (if you're late to the party, see "Media: Pimping War") and basically called Barack a p**sy.

    Philip really needs to re-examine why Lew Hill started Pacifica Radio and ask himself why he's at Pacifica?  What a sad day for Pacifica, as an on air (with KPFA for too many years -- forced retirement needs to be raised at Pacifica) implores for war on the basis of 'not attacking will mean the man I want to suck off will be called a wimp.'  Actually, Philip should have been removed from the air in 2008 when he was saying, on air, that Barack was a Socialist.  At this point, Philip's KPFA's Bertha Mason -- who knows what horrors took place before he was confined to the attic and seen as insane?

    Picking up on a point Robert Scheer made above, we'll note Robert Fisk (Independent via ZNet):


    If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida.
    Quite an alliance! Was it not the Three Musketeers who shouted “All for one and one for all” each time they sought combat? This really should be the new battle cry if – or when – the statesmen of the Western world go to war against Bashar al-Assad.
    The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achievement for Obama, Cameron, Hollande and the rest of the miniature warlords.

    It's a point that pops up when Julian Pecquet (The Hill) interviews former US House Rep Dennis Kucinich:

    Airstrikes on Syria would turn the U.S. military into “al Qaeda's air force,” former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) told The Hill.
    The outspoken anti-war activist said any such action would plunge the United States into another war in the Middle East and embolden Islamist militants fighting Bashar Assad's regime.
    “So what, we're about to become Al Qaeda's air force now?” Kucinich said. “This is a very, very serious matter that has broad implications internationally. And to try to minimize it by saying we're just going to have a 'targeted strike' — that's an act of war. It's not anything to be trifled with.”

    Kucinch spoke out then and speaks out now.  Another person who spoke out against war on Iraq and speaks out against the push for war on Syria is Sara Flounders.  From this Workers World video:

    Sara Flounders: A big thing on Syria, and a reason that the US is determined to destroy it, to shred it, to rip it apart is that it is a secular state and there is nationalized property.  And, as Barbara just described, there's a rich culture.  There's enormous -- whether it's in TV or it's archaeological or its the high education level, or it's the fantastic, really, I mean, the medical schools?  Top notch.  The pharmaceutical industry.   They want to destroy all of this.  And they also -- It's what they want to destroy.  It's what they're targeting in Iran.  The idea of a country using its oil wealth for its own development and the development of the culture and the educational level of its people and a huge improvement in life expectancy -- a big cut in child mortality.  That's big accomplishments.  But the very fact that Syria -- it's an example to the whole region --  could be a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural, secular state.  And it's secular, see.  And the US response has been how to bring in intolerant religious fanaticism.   And fund it.  And fund it and use it as a battering ram against any kind of progress.

    Debra Sweet also spoke out against the Iraq War.  She and her group World Can't Wait are the only left group that has remain true and ethical with regards to opposing wars others folded shop (United for Peace and Justice) and others offered cover for Barack (and whine today -- but we'll save that for Sunday).  Debra is calling out proposed military action against Syria and she notes David Swanson so let's point out that he too called out the Iraq War and he's now calling out the proposed violence aimed at Syria:

    But while the U.S. never contemplated an intervention to stop the killing in Egypt by an illegitimate government it supports, President Obama is already intervening in Syria, "supplying paramilitary material, intelligence, and training and working to define the politics of the armed opposition forces. Its close allies—especially Saudi Arabia and Turkey—are supplying weapons to these forces" according to Revolution.
    The US Navy is putting ships into place for an action that could have huge consequences: the killing of many more civilians in urban areas in aerial attacks; the increase in violence on both sides (both of which have terrorized the people); the widening of war into Iraq, Iran, Lebanon? Nothing good or the people of Syria can come of this "humanitarian intervention."
    David Swanson wrote Saturday Lying About Syria, and the Lying Liars Who Lie About the Lying:
    “Threatening to attack Syria, and moving ships into position to do it, are significant, and illegal, and immoral actions.  The president can claim not to have decided to push the button, but he can't pretend that all the preparations to do so just happen like the weather.  Or he couldn't if newspapers reported news.
    “(Yes, illegal.  Read the U.N. Charter: ‘All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.’)”
    Ask the population of Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia — the most recent recipients of U.S. "humanitarian intervention" — how it has U.S. presence worked out?

    I only thought we were saving it for Sunday.  We'll touch on it there but I just went to the website of CodeStink.

    Medea Benjamin, stop lying.

     She whines to Buzzfeed that it's just so hard these days to mobilize and Syria and blah blah.  Well you know what,  it's a lot damn harder to mobilize when you don't even bother to mention Syria on your website's front page.

    3 action alerts, 3 events and 8 news items on their main page and six changing items (all listed below the slide show) and not one of them -- not one damn one -- is about Syria.

    Medea, stop whoring.

    You're not trying to do a damn thing re: Syria so stop lying.  No one needs it.  And no one needs to take you or Jodi seriously.  CodeStink is a joke because it was used in 2007 and 2008 to clear the path for Barack.  You whored before he was president, you whore now.

    And don't bother telling me, "We had an action alert."  Yes, I found your attempt to get media attention ploy.  You just didn't put it on the main page of CodeStink, did you?  I already took a screen snap so don't try to rewrite history again.    Wait and see where Ava and I go on Sunday.  People's lives are at stake and we've had it with the Brigade of Barack's Bitches.  Maybe we'll call the piece "The Burial of Barack's Bitches"?  Tick-tock, find a spine by Saturday or be prepared for the humiliation that's coming.  That includes CodeStink's friends (I'm not referring to grassroots members of CodeStink -- believe me, when I say "CodeStink's friends," a shiver just went up Jodie's spine).

    From the right, Libertarian Justin Raimondo ( spoke out strongly against war on Iraq.  (And was one of the first to call out the frauds of CodeStink, noting Medea's embrace of the Afghanistan War after Barack became president.)  Today he notes talk of attacking Syria:

    The UN inspection team in Syria has been "delayed" due to a dispute among the rebels, who could not or would not guarantee the team’s safety. While the Assad government has granted them access, the suburb of Damascus where the alleged chemical attacks occurred is in rebel-controlled territory. Western news media aren’t reporting the reason for the delay, mostly sticking with the official UN statement:
    “Following yesterday’s attack on the U.N. convoy, a comprehensive assessment determined that the visit should be postponed by one day in order to improve preparedness and safety for the team. Considering the complexities of the site, confirmation of access has not been obtained but is expected later today.”
    The "complexities of the site" include a rebel occupation force that has everything to fear from a real inspection. These are same people responsible for serial hoaxes, some of them pretty crude, and all designed to fool us into believing Assad’s forces had launched a poison gas attack – not against rebel forces but against civilian bystanders. The last UN inspection led to the conclusion that if anyone had used chemical weapons it was the rebels, and after this tremendous buildup that’s the last news the US and its Syrian sock-puppets want to hear.
    Of course it’s just a coincidence that the US government told the UN inspection team to turn back even before they arrived on the scene, with Washington claiming they already have enough evidence to convict the Assad regime out of hand.

    At the State Dept today, their very own Minnie Pearl handled another briefing.  Could someone tell spokesperson Marie Harf that if she's going to be a spokesperson, she needs to pay attention to her appearance?  That means dressing appropriately, combing your hair before the briefing and choosing a non-ridiculous pair of glasses.  Those tasks shouldn't be too difficult, Jay Carney manages to accomplish them before every one of his White House press briefings and doesn't appear to be winded or wiped out from doing so.  Marie Harf's annoying "let me finish, I'm talking" b.s. is also starting to tick off the press so her superior may need to talk to her about that. Excerpt of Minnie Pearl's performance today.

    MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I do not have anything at the top, so I’m going to go ahead and open it up for questions.

    QUESTION: Can we start with Syria and maybe never leave Syria, actually --

    MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: -- and the – what’s going on or what did go on at the UN earlier? Is it the Administration’s position that UN authorization is required for any kind of response that you might undertake, and did you or do you have any feelings about what – the British move to get, apparently unsuccessfully, to try and get authorization?

    MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Well, as you know the P-5 just met this morning to discuss the text of a draft UN Security Council resolution, which as you pointed out, was drafted by our UK counterparts. We’ve consistently said that we support UN Security Council action. My understanding is that today we heard nothing different from the Russians in today’s meeting than we have for months and, indeed, years about Syria, including – let’s just go through some of the history here – three vetoes of UN Security Council resolutions. Just last week, the Russians blocked a press statement – a potential press statement condemning the attack without even assigning culpability. So we have no reason to believe that efforts at the Security Council would be any different than these previous efforts that have failed.

    QUESTION: Okay, but that doesn’t really answer my – that’s good to know, but –

    MS. HARF: Okay.

    QUESTION: -- do you believe that UN Security Council authorization is required for any kind of response to the chemical weapons attack?

    MS. HARF: Well, I’d say a few points. First is that there’s been no decision made on what the response will be.

    QUESTION: But --

    MS. HARF: Second, in --

    QUESTION: Regardless, you have said --

    MS. HARF: Can I make my second point, please, and then if you have a follow-up, we’ll get to that next?

    QUESTION: Yeah.

    MS. HARF: Well, our initial read of the text put forward this morning is that it is a strong and compelling text. We see no avenue forward given continued Russian opposition to any meaningful council action on Syria. Therefore, the United States will continue its consultations and will take appropriate actions to respond in the days ahead. I think I would like to point out a statement that I think is appropriate from William Hague, the Foreign Secretary – I think he made it recently – that the UN Security Council should rise to its responsibilities by condemning these events and calling for a robust international response. But all previous attempts to get the Security Council to act on Syria have been blocked, and we cannot allow diplomatic paralysis to be a shield for the perpetrators of these crimes. I think we would certainly share that view.

    QUESTION: Right. But my question is --

    MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: Do you believe that UN Security Council authorization is required to make whatever response you’re going to come up with legal?

    MS. HARF: Well, as I just said, we see no avenue going forward given continued Russian opposition to any meaningful council action. We will continue our consultations and take appropriate actions going forward. I don’t have anything further for you than that.
      Yes, James.

    QUESTION: Can I follow up on this --

    MS. HARF: I’ll go to you next, Arshad.

    QUESTION: -- specific question, though? It seems as though the U.S. and its allies on the Security Council deemed the Security Council an appropriate venue for some sort of preliminary diplomatic action that would precede whatever other action is going to follow, but having not gotten the result desired from that venue, is then blithely moving on and saying we really don’t need that venue to do what we want to do.

    MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. We’ve consistently said that we support UN Security Council action. Instead, what we’ve seen – not just today, not just last week, but over the course of many months – is the Russians at every move doing things to fail to hold the Syrian regime accountable. They’ve had three resolutions vetoed, as I said. They’ve blocked many other statements condemning the Syrian regime. So we do not believe that the Syrian regime should not be able to hide behind the fact that the Russians continue to block action on Syria at the UN, and we will make our decisions on appropriate action going forward, and we will stay in close consultation with the United Nations, with the Secretary General, with our partners on the P-5 and around the world.

    QUESTION: So in other words, if you don’t get the verdict or result that you want from the Security Council, then you blow off the Security Council and do with your allies what you planned to do anyway, right?

    MS. HARF: I think I would respond to that by saying we believe it’s very important, as others have said – including the Arab League, the most important regional group of Arab nations – that the Syrian regime needs to be held accountable here. We firmly believe that. We will take action towards that end after the President makes the decision, and that’s what we’re going to do going forward.

    QUESTION: So why did you bother with the Security Council in the first place if you were so accustomed to Russian obstructionism there?

    MS. HARF: Well, we believe it’s an important venue, obviously. Again, the P-5 just met this morning. We value the work of the UN. We’ve long said that we welcome UN actions on Syria. This case was no different, but again, we cannot be held up in responding by Russia’s intransigence – continued intransigence at the United Nations that, quite frankly, the situation is so serious that it demands a response.

    QUESTION: Why not --

    MS. HARF: Yes, Arshad.

    QUESTION: -- take it to – why not take it to a vote and, in effect, dare the Russians to veto again?

    MS. HARF: Again, in terms of a vote, we don’t see an avenue going forward with a vote given 
    continued Russian opposition. And I would underscore again, as I did yesterday, that no decision’s been made, so much of this is hypothetical. But again, that’s our position, and I don’t think I have much further than that.

    QUESTION: Are you afraid that if you took it to a vote and the Russians vetoed, as they have the three previous efforts, that you would then have the – made manifest the absence of Security Council authorization, and in fact you would have – it would be very clear that the Security Council had ultimately decided not to authorize such a resolution? Are you afraid that that makes anything you might do much harder?

    MS. HARF: I’m not going to venture a guess in answering that question. I think the Russians have made clear repeatedly what their point of view is. I don’t think there’s any secret about where the Russians stand on Syria in the Security Council, so it’s not like anybody’s hiding anything here. We just, at this point, don’t think it’s the proper course of action.

    QUESTION: So do you believe that the U.S. decision to bomb Kosovo in – or to bomb – excuse me – Serbia in ‘99 was legal?

    MS. HARF: I’m not going to do a legal analysis on many things, but certainly not a historical event that happened some time ago. I just don’t think that’s relevant for this discussion today.

    If you're unable to state whether an action the US government took 14 years ago was legal or not, you're really not ready to handle press briefings.

    Syria is not located on the moon or Mars.  Syria borders Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Iraq.   An attack on Syria would effect the entire region.   Catholic World News notes:

    The destructive results of Western intervention would be felt not only in Syria but also in neighboring Iraq and Lebanon, said Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako. He said that Syria could be torn apart by “a proliferation of jihadist militias,” leaving the country in chaos.
    The Chaldean Patriarch pointed out that Iraq is still suffering from the consequences of American-led intervention 10 years ago. Iraq, he said, is “still battered by bombs, security problems, by the instability of the economic crisis.”

    Father Sako is calling for dialogue.  He is not the only with serious concerns in Iraq.  Today, Marco Werman (PRI's The World) spoke with Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor).  Excerpt.

    Marco Werman:  And on top of all of that, as I said, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki put Iraqi security forces on high alert because of the possibility of a US-led strike on Syria.  Connect the dots if there are dots to be connected here. Is what's happening in Iraq linked to a possible strike on Syria?

    Jane Arraf:  The Iraqi government believes it is and lots of Iraqis themselves believe that's what's happening there with the increased attacks is absolutely linked to Syria 

    Marco Werman:  How so?

    Jane Arraf:  If we just go back a little bit -- Well, a decade let's say to 2003 when al Qaeda really didn't exist in Iraq, the Americans coming in, toppling Saddam Hussein and installing US forces in the country provided the perfect battle ground for al Qaeda and other groups.  Syria has now become that perfect battle ground.  There are all sorts of reasons to be fighting there.  There are Iraqis going to fight on either side.  And it has become the new rallying call.  Now the problem is that it's a very long border between Iraq and Syria.  There are a lot of tribal links and there are a lot of other links.  In fact, fighters and weapons are going back and forth across that border.  If you talk to the prime minister, he will say that a lot of their problems are coming from Syria.  It's not clear whether you can blame most of the violence, most of the chaos in Iraq on what's happening in Syria.  But Iraqi officials, and American officials as well, do seem quite confident that there is a link between groups in Iraq that are engaging in violence and groups in Syria that are not only engaging in violence but that seem to be in the ascendancy there.

    Marco Werman:  I mean, so could you see, Jane, how a possible US strike on Syria would just completely open up that border and suddenly all sorts of violent, bad people would be crossing back and forth?

    Jane Arraf:  To some extent yes.  But that's not the only danger there.  As the Iranians have pointed out, if there is a strike on Syria, that will be the spark that sets the whole region alight because then, all of the sudden, you have history in a sense replaying itself and you have the United States and other western powers coming in in what will be seen -- no matter what side you're on -- as -- in many cases, it will be seen -- as an unprovoked attack.  So they're in a rather impossible situation.  But there does seem to be a consensus that if there is an air strike, it will inflame the situation.  What that means is it will provide more reason for fighters to go to Syria because all of the sudden you have the West again attacking an Arab country.  And terms of the border?  Iraq has been trying to beef up that border.  It's physically trying to deepen and widen a trench that exists.

    Iraq already suffers enough.  For example, through yesterday, Iraq Body Count puts the violent deaths for the month at 725 so far.   And Iraq is yet again slammed with violence today.

    Kareem Raheem, Raheem Salman, Sylvia Westall, Yara Bayoumy, Sami Aboudi and Mark Heinrich (Reuters) count 71 dead today and another 201 injured.  Charlie Campbell (Time magazine) notes the Baghdad and immediate surrounding area death toll has risen to 80.   AFP counts over a dozen bombs in Baghdad. In Baghdad, Haddad Salih (BBC News) notes of the areas hit, "Some of these areas are Shia dominant, others are mixed, Shia-Sunni, while Mahmudiya and Saydiyah to the south are mainly Sunni."  Fu Peng (Xinhua) explains, "The attacks occurred during the morning rush hours when 12 car bombs went off in Baghdad, while a suicide bomber struck a restaurant in the nearby town of Mahmoudiyah, an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."

    Prensa Latina notes, "According to the Iraqi police, the explosion of a car bomb near a movie theater in the capital's southern neighbour Yadida was the most serious attack, which caused the death of five people and wounds to 15."  Agencia EFE goes with, "The worst incident occurred in Latifiya, a city located about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) south of the capital, where gunmen killed seven members of a family."  Adam Schreck and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) emphasize, "In one particularly brutal attack, a Shiite family was shot dead at home in the largely Sunni town of Latifiyah, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Baghdad. Four children, ages eight to 16, were killed along with their parents and an uncle, police said."  Sadie Gray (Times of London) repeats  Reuters' report of an eye witness in Sadr City believes he saw a man park a car, eat "breakfast and drank his tea" before setting off a car bomb,  "I heard a huge explosion when I was inside the kitchen.  When I went outside, I saw his car completely damaged and he had disappeared.  Many people were hurt."  AFP observes, "Angry residents of one neighbourhood chased down a suspected attacker and killed him before setting his corpse ablaze."

    In addition to violence in Baghdad, NINA reports a Tikrit roadside bombing left two police officers injured, a Hilla armed attack claimed the life of 1 military captain (eleven soldiers left injured), a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left four other family members injured (all were Shabaks),  and 1 police officer was shot dead in KirkukThe Voice of Russia adds, "The Sunni governor of Mosul, Athiel al-Nudjaifi survived an attack in which people ignited explosives near his convoy, reported security forces."

    Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) points out, "This comes as Iraqi security forces have been conducting "The Revenge for the Martyrs" -- an operation designed to track down al Qaeda members in and around Baghdad."  Because violence doesn't solve violence.  But why should Nouri grasp what his puppet master Barack doesn't?  Alsumaria reports Nouri has declared Iraq to be on maximum alert.  Gulf Today explains he did this in his weekly address.  Yasir Ghazi and Tim Arango (New York Times) report:

    For days before the strikes, the local media published warnings by the government that a new wave of attacks was imminent, and security forces set up new checkpoints and other security measures. But in the end, the security forces were unable to stop the attacks, further undermining the confidence Iraqis have in the government to protect them. In recent weeks, the security forces have undertaken a series of operations, mostly in Sunni neighborhoods, as part of a campaign the government is calling “the revenge of the martyrs.” The Shiite-dominated government claims to have arrested hundreds of Sunni extremists and discovered a factory that makes car bombs, but the operations have also further antagonized the Sunni community, with only limited effect on reining in the violence.

     As W.G. Dunlop did earlier this week, Ghazi and Tim Arango put it on the record that the Iraqi government is attempting to bury the death toll (the Ministry of Interior -- headed by Nouri because he failed to ever nominate someone to head it -- issued a statement this evening claiming only 18 people were killed in Iraq today).

    Turning to the topic of illegal spying, what's wrong with this item Amy Goodman delivered on Democracy Now! this morning:

    The National Security Agency has acknowledged new abuses of its surveillance powers. In a statement, the NSA said it had uncovered "very rare instances of willful violations of NSA’s authorities" by agency operatives. Some NSA officials were found to have spied on love interests, with one monitoring a former spouse. According to The Wall Street Journal, the practice is "common enough to garner its own spycraft label: LOVEINT."

    Someone may have thought that was cute.  It wasn't.  It was stupid and offensive.  A "love interest" is a character in a film that's the hero or heroine's partner and is little more than that.  It's Robert Redford in The Way We Were -- no matter how many script tantrums he had, the film is the story of Barbra Streisand's character (his inability to play the naming scenes -- when Hubbel names names -- also go to his character being nothing but the love interest) or it's Michelle Pfeiffer in Wolf.

    A "love interest" is not a former spouse.  Even in the medically enhanced sixties, Paul Newman couldn't sell that as his pursuit of ex-wife Janet Leigh (Harper) just seemed creepy.   Today, we're much smarter -- except for whomever wrote the item Goodman read -- and grasp someone obsessed with a former spouse is a stalker.

    So call what it is and stop trying to cute-en it or sweeten it.  And stop being stupid enough to accept the crooks own terminology ("LOVEINT").  This is offensive.  The National Organization for Women has this fact sheet on violence against women.  I suggest people familiarize themselves with it before they next want to play cute with stalkers.

    Not only is playing 'cute' insulting to the victims of violence and not only does it distort obsession and stalking by treating them as funny and cute (in a newscast, come on), it also allows the offensive spying to sound better.  'Oh, we all do crazy things when we're in love, ha ha.'  No, that's not love.  Spying on someone is not love.  The American people most recently rejected that lie on a massive scale in their response (box office) to 2012's 'romantic comedy' This Means War -- in which two CIA agents spy on Reese Witherspoon.

    There was nothing funny about the US government and the UK government terrorizing David Miranda at a London airport.  Miranda is the spouse of Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who has broken many of the NSA spying stories (including the first scoop).  Greenwald speaks with  Jonathan Franklin (Truthout via ZNet):
    JF: How do you think history will remember this whole affair? It is still unfolding but nonetheless, a lot has already gone down. What is Glenn Greenwald’s prediction on the historic legacy of all this?
    GG: I think this will be the time the world realizes that the US and its closest allies are trying to build a surveillance system that has as its primary objective the elimination of privacy globally, by which I mean that everyone’s communications electronically will be collected, stored, analyzed and monitored by the US government.
    I think it will be seen as the moment that the United States showed its true face to the world in terms of attacks on journalism and their desire to punish anyone who brings transparency.

     [. . .]

    JF: You have cracked many a secret at the NSA, but we all think this is just the tip of the iceberg. What are your deepest fears about surveillance and spying? How much more insidious, widespread is this?
    GG: The goal of the United States, which they are rapidly approaching fulfilling, is to be able not just to collect and monitor everybody’s electronic communications, but to store them for increasingly long periods of time. They are building a massive facility in Utah that has as its purpose storage of electronic data that they are collecting. They are collecting electronic data in such large quantities that they are incapable of storing it for very long, and they want to make sure that they can keep it for as long as they want. So you are really talking about a radical transformation in what kind of society we have if everyone of our electronic communications is being monitored and stored by this government that operates with very little accountability or transparency for anybody.

    And we'll close with these two Tweets Greenwald made today:

    1. Here's what candidate Obama said about a President[s power to authorize military strikes without Congress