Friday, November 01, 2013


Thursday, there were two comics. Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "It's The Great Bumpkin, Barry O"

it's the great bumpkin, barry o

sends up ObamaCare by having Kathleen Sebelius as the block head (Valerie Jarrett's Snoopy).  It was a trick, ObamaCare, for him to get his treat, a second term.

I think it's a cute cartoon.

I also enjoy "Accountability."


Sebelius insisted she was taking responsibility.  That's what she told Congress Wednesday.

If you missed it, she's still on the job.

So what's this nonsense about accountability?

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, November 1, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri and Barack go through the motions as they play tragedy as farce, World Bulletin does the impossible (for the US press) and writes about the poison apple known as The Erbil Agreement, Jalal Talabani's health is part of the farce, the most violent October since 2007 comes to an end, and much more.

The farce that is Nouri al-Maliki's visit to DC continued today.  A Sunni Iraqi community member e-mails:

If they are able to pass it [Parliament pass an election law], why should I bother even to vote?  I should go through five security checkpoints in [deleted] to vote?  By foot because it is always vehicle curfew on election day.  I should do by foot to vote only to have the President of the United States again overturn my vote?  That is what he did last time [2010] and it is what he will do again.  He owes us an apology for overturning our voices.

Barack does owe the Iraqi people an apology.  Instead of providing that, he takes part in the farce Bully Boy Bush started and that he (Barack has continued).  And he'll never be forced to even justify his actions -- let alone apologize -- as long as people like Aamer Madhani (USA Today) play the fool:  "Obama hopes that a new round of elections in which the country's minority Sunni population is more active could help stem some of the violence."  Madhani damn well knew that in 2010, Sunni's turned out.  That's one reason Iraqiya won.  But their votes were overturned by Barack Obama.

To keep thug Nouri.  Human Rights Watch's Erin Evers (The Hill) notes Nouri's use of torture:

Earlier this year, interviewing prisoners in Shaaba Khamsa, Baghdad’s death row facility, I met a 52-year-old woman, one of the thousands of prisoners the U.S. turned over to Iraqi custody when American troops left nearly two years ago. She showed me the scars where security forces had burned her with cigarettes, used electric shocks and beat her so badly that she was still using crutches three years later.
Two courts had declared her innocent of the terrorism charges against her, owing in part to a medical report documenting the extensive torture that led to her confession. A third court, though, reversed these rulings and sentenced her to death late last year, on the basis of “secret evidence provided by the Americans.”

In September, she was among 42 prisoners executed in Iraq in two days.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is in Washington this week to ask President Obama for warplanes, drones, and other assistance for Iraq’s counterterrorism efforts. The president should send a clear message that the kind of assistance Maliki seeks is not possible as long as his security forces continue their widespread torture – often in the name of counterterrorism.

Torture and forced confessions take place all the time in Iraq under Nouri.  They're so common, in fact, that people may forget that both are banned by Iraq's Constitution.  Thursday, Nouri al-Maliki gave a ridiculous speech, overflowing with lies, at the US Institute of Peace.  As we covered in yesterday's snapshot, he lied  he had never, ever stepped on the Constitution.  He lied, we backed that up with examples yesterday, refer to that.  Today National Iraqi News Agency reports:

MP, Walid Mohammadi for Mottahidoon coalition called on the United States of America to " listen to all sides in Iraq, not to a sole side which is considered by a big percentage of Iraqis as the opponent ruling political side.
Mohammadi said in a statement today: " The statements made by Maliki currently in Washington are amazing and surprising , especially regarding the strictly application of the Constitution,as Maliki alleges, where everyone knows that the Constitution in Iraq, is not implemented but only taken paragraphs which corresponds to the interests of the government, otherwise the constitution is neglected and abused , he said.

Again, the meet-up between Barack and Nouri was a farce.  Paul Danahar (BBC) predicted ahead of the meet-up today, "And he [Nouri] will no doubt be told in private he needs to rule for all his people - not just those who share his faith or point of view.  He'll probably smile and agree and then ignore the advice while gladly accepting whatever aid he might get."  Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi Tweeted the following yesterday:

  • هناك تفرد في وضع الحكم بالعراق وابتعاد عن الشراكة الوطنية وهناك ازمة يجب ان تنتهي وان نؤسس  يضم كل الشركاء في هذا الوطن الواحد
  • There is no national partnership in . Autocracy is governing and we must build a process that includes all Iraqis.

  • The farce is much more than the notion that the US-installed prime minister is anything but a thug.  It also includes the notion that there is a functioning government in Iraq.  Al Rafidayn reports that Nouri's office in Iraq today announced that Nouri was filing an official request to be informed of the health status of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

    Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

    If still in Germany next month, Jalal will have 'served' an entire year out of the country and he's drawing a salary -- is he conducting any official presidential business?  Let's drop back to the snapshot for Tuesday, September 10th:

    Sunday, All Iraq News reported, Osama al-Nujaifi declared he attempted to meet with the hospitalized Jalal five months ago  (that would have been around April) but was rebuffed.  He states he has again asked for another meeting.  He further states if Jalal is unable to resume his tasks shortly, a new president needs to be named.  Monday, Dar Addustour columnist As Sheikh noted that the Constitution is very clear on what happens when the president can't perform duties but how is that determination made? (Is Jalal performing duties from the hospital in Germany?  He could be.  If he is, the Constitution would see him as in office.)  The Constitution says nothing, Sheik notes, about how long a president can be out of the country.  He reviews the rumors that Jalal has not recovered, that he is in a coma, that he has passed away, that his family is putting up a pretense that Jalal has recovered.  He ends his column with a call for clarity both in terms of the governing rules and in terms of the state of Jalal's health.

    In June, Going Global East Meets West noted MP Hassan Alawi asserted that Jalal was "clinically dead"  as well as "that the images that appeared in Al Cardsat TV owned by the First Lady Hero Talabani were fabricated."

    The photos the MP is referring to include the one below and were published in May.


    You can see three of the photos released here.  You'll note that people are seated to Jalal's left and right but in every photo he just stares ahead with the same 'expression' and the same body position (including hands).  In other words, he doesn't move one bit although the players in the photos -- the pretenders -- they rush to lean forward, pretending they're listening to Jalal.

    In real time, many scoffed, some wags dubbed it Weekend At Bernie's (two young men use the corpse of Bernie to pretend he's alive and have a wild adventure).

    After denying the Speaker of Parliament a meeting in April, visits to Jalal have continued to be denied.  His political party is the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and, as President of Iraq, he's the head of it.   With provincial elections scheduled for the end of September in the KRG, the PUK desperately needed to speak with Jalal and contacted his people.  They were rebuffed. reported August 26th, "Leaders from Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Talabani confirmed that they did not see him since he was transferred to Germany, pointing out that Talabani’s wife, Hero Ibrahim and their two sons as well as his nephew , Sheikh Genki Talabani are the only ones who have visited him, as no one from the party’s officials saw Talabani."  And the PUK went on to have it worst showing in any election.  Attempts to meet with him after the disastorous elections?  As reported October 7th:

    A senior official from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has revealed that ailing Iraqi president and PUK leader Jalal Talabani’s family won’t let party members visit him at the German hospital where he is recovering after suffering a stroke.
    A few days ago, a PUK official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, complained that no one from his party other than Iraqi First Lady Hero Ibrahim and Talabani’s official doctor, Kirkuk governor Najmaldin Karim, has seen the President since he fell ill late last year.
    "They always says Talabani’s health is improving, but repeating those wards a few times so far has put a question mark on Talabani’s future," the official told the Pan-Arab Newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.

    Are you getting why Iraqis, in ever larger numbers, are assuming their president is dead?

    It doesn't help that the Talabani family originally even denied it was a stroke.  CNN was the first to report the reality there.  Jalal is -- or was  -- grossly obese and 79-years-old.  We've followed his health since 2007 when, after being released from the Mayo Clinic, he collapsed in a US bookstore and it took over six people to lift him.  His stroke was never a surprise.  He refused to listen to doctors' orders that he eat right and lose weight (they were only asking him to lose 60 pounds which still would have left him at over 200 pounds).  For five years, he stuffed his fat face and just put on more weight as he ate greasy and sugary foods and got no exercise.  His stroke was desitned.

    But the last thing the Talabani family has been honest about is that he had a stroke -- and, again, their honesty on that was forced by CNN blowing their cover story.  Every few weeks since December 2012, Iraqis are told that Jalal's health has improved and he'll be back in Iraq shortly.  We're now in the 11th month stage.  When's he coming back?  And when will he address the Iraqi people?  As Nermeen al-Mufti (Al-Ahram) pointed out last month, "According to the Iraqi constitution, Iraqis should elect a new president after 30 days of the presidency being vacant, for example as a result of illness."

    Clearly Jalal is not recovering.  Clearly he is not up to being president and this has been over ten months of fraud, lying to the Iraqi people.  This is fraud if the rumor Rudaw reported in September is true, "Sources tell Rudaw that on a visit to Iran last May Talabani’s wife, Hero Ahmed, sought Tehran’s help in delaying discussion over the position of the Iraqi presidency until the end of the current presidential term. Hero reportedly told the Iranians that such a debate will weaken the PUK’s position in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. Rudaw tried to verify the authenticity of this information but none of the PUK’s senior officials were willing to comment."

    As Moqtada al-Sadr has been pointing out for over a month, the Iraqi people have a right to know the status -- the real status -- of Jalal's health and whether or not he's able to handle presidential duties.

    They don't know.  But everyone pretends that the country Transparency International has ranked 169th most corrupt country in the world (out of a total of 176 countries) has a functioning government.

    This week's farce has required so much lying.  Here's "senior administration official" providing background Wednesday:

    At the breakfast we just had with the Vice President and the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister had with him his core delegation, and that included his Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, his National Security Advisor Faleh Fayyadh, his Minister of Defense Saadoun Dulaimi, and the Iraqi Ambassador Luqman Fayli, and also the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.

    Can we spot the lie?  Saadoun Dulaimi is not Minister of Defense.

    He is Minister of Culture.  That's his only legal title.  Nouri nominated him for that post in December 2010 and the Parliament voted to confirm him -- that is how someone becomes the minister of a ministry in Iraq.

    But there is no Minister of Defense.  In January 2011, Iraqiya and its leader Ayad Allawi charged that Nouri was making a power grab by refusing to nominate people head the security ministries.

    Nouri can't just nominate from his own party (Dawa) or own political slate (State of Law).  Parliament won't support that -- in part because there are so many other groupings in Iraq.  But whomever he nominates, if they are confirmed, Nouri can't fire them.  He can't force them to quit.  The only way they are forcibly removed from heading a ministry is if the Parliament votes to remove them.  That's not going to happen in most cases.  (Nouri tried, in 2011, to get Saleh al-Mutlaq removed as Deputy Prime Minister and to get Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi removed as well.  Parliament didn't support it, both men retain their titles.)

    Nouri's broken the Constitution by creating 'acting ministers.'  This means Nouri picks a stooge, say Jay Carney, and Nouri says, "You are acting minister of Defense."  Carney now has to do what Nouri tells him.  If he doesn't, he's not 'acting minister,' Nouri just fires him.  And Carney can't appeal to Parliament because Parliament never made him a minister.

    It was a power grab.

    Back in July of 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."

    In light of that, we really need to look over the whore from Barack's administration's claim -- but let's back up two sentences so we can really enjoy the lying.  FYI, the official has outlined the goals for the US this week:

    And then finally is to support Iraq's overall democratic development and with a key focus there on elections. They just had provincial elections over the last few months, and then they're going to --  they're scheduled to have national elections in April of 2014. And I can talk about that.
    At the breakfast we just had with the Vice President and the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister had with him his core delegation, and that included his Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, his National Security Advisor Faleh Fayyadh, his Minister of Defense Saadoun Dulaimi, and the Iraqi Ambassador Luqman Fayli, and also the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff.

    To support Iraq's overall democratic development!

    Are your sides splitting yet?

    Democracy in Iraq in 2010 started with the Iraqi people voting in the March parliamentary elections.

    It ended there too.  Per the Constitution, Ayad Allawi should have been named prime minister-designate.  His Iraqiya came in first.  But instead Nouri al-Maliki pissed his panties, stamped his feet and refused to step down for over eight months.  Not only did the White House back his tantrum, they ordered US officials in Iraq to broker a contract, The Erbil Agreement, which went around the Iraqi people, went around their votes, circumvented the Constitution and took a dump on democracy to give Nouri a second term.  This contract is what all of Iraq current crises stem from.

    By going around the Constitution, Nouri didn't have to appoint a Cabinet.  The way the position works is you're named prime minister-designate and you have 30 days to put together the Cabinet.  If you can't do it, per the Constitution, someone else is supposed to be named prime minister-designate.  The only rule is to create the Cabinet.

    That's not partial.  If it was only part of a Cabinet, it wouldn't be the requirement to move from prime minister-designate to prime minister.

    The Erbil Agreement, the poison fruit of Barack Obama.

    And yet a cowardly background briefing official wants to pretend the US supports democracy in Iraq.

    And, worse, a cowardly press doesn't want to confront the lies.

    That's a cowardly western press to be clear.  The Iraqi press and the press in many Arab countries have shown repeat bravery and a real commitment to journalism.  World Bulletin deserves applause for their reporting today:

    In his second term he secured his position by sewing division between political elites and set up unofficial, alternative strongholds. When it comes to agreements made regarding the city of Irbil, either he hasn’t applied any of the conditions of the agreement or he has narrated the agreements according to his own stance. He has brought the defense, the National Security Council and the internal affairs of his nation under his control by breaching agreements regarding the appointment of deputies.
    Moreover, he has breached the most important factor of the Irbil agreements by not establishing a Strategic Policy National Assembly, which was supposed to be given veto rights. In weakening independent corporate control institutes and taming the high judicial authority, he is asserting his power to intimidate the nation.
    Iraq’s Sunni vice-president Tariq al-Hashimi has been forced to go on the run after being accused of supporting terrorism, for which he was given the death sentence. The former finance minister Rafi al-Isawi also finds himself in a similar position.
    Tensions are also increasing between Maliki and the president of the autonomous Kurdish regional government of northern Iraq, Mesud Barzani, who has criticized Maliki for taking full control of all aspects of the country. ‘Where else in the world can you find one man who is the commander of the army, head of state, head of defense, the intelligence chief, and the head of the national security council all at the same time?’ he asked.
    Maliki has already been called ‘the second Saddam’ due to the torture and abuses that take place under his American-made authoritarian regime, which threatens and carries out attacks on the press and uses the judiciary not to secure justice, but to intimidate rivals.

    Barack met with Nouri today.  The White House issued a lengthy statement:

    In their meeting today at the White House, President Obama and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reaffirmed the strategic partnership between the United States and the Republic of Iraq and pledged to advance common interests to support a stable, secure, and prosperous Iraq and Middle East.  They also discussed their shared commitment to enhance cooperation under the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA). 
    The two leaders noted that it has been nearly two years since the final American troops departed Iraq and the United States and Iraq entered a new phase of their relationship, based on mutual respect and a shared commitment to build a strategic partnership between two sovereign nations.  They recalled the thousands of Americans and Iraqis who have given their lives in our common fight against terrorism and extremism in Iraq.  The President and Prime Minister renewed their determination to honor the memory and sacrifice of those killed by strengthening our joint long-term strategic partnership across the fields covered by the SFA, including security, diplomacy, trade, education, energy, culture, science, and justice. 
    Following the President’s meeting with the Prime Minister, Vice President Biden and Prime Minister Maliki convened the Higher Coordination Committee (HCC).  This was the fourth meeting of the HCC since it was established in 2008 under the SFA.

    No.  That's not correct and hopefully the Iraqi press will demonstrate the courage that the American press lacks.  Thousands of "Iraqis who have given their lives in our common fight against terrorism and extremism in Iraq"?  Many Iraqis -- Shi'ites as well as Sunnis, even Shi'ites in Nouri's State of Law -- see the lives lost from "terroism and extremism" lost to US troops.  Barack can try to smooth it over all he wants, but there were no roses strewn at the feet of the US military in Iraq.

    The U.S. and Iraqi delegations discussed Iraq’s position as an emerging democracy in the region, leading energy producer, and a nation representing a diversity of social customs, religions, and ethnicities.  The Iraqi delegation described the challenges Iraq faces due to its geography and the legacy of the former regime after decades of wars and international isolation.  In this regard, both delegations welcomed the full restoration of relations between Iraq and Kuwait, expanding energy, security, and commercial ties with Jordan, and improving relations with Turkey.  Both delegations also welcomed ongoing exchanges of high-level visits with Turkey, as well as a strategic dialogue to be held later this month between the United States, Iraq, and other regional partners, with an emphasis on supporting moderates and isolating extremists in the region.
    The Iraqi delegation noted that with seventeen Arab embassies open in Baghdad, the Government of Iraq recently renewed an invitation to other Arab countries to open an embassy as soon as possible.  In this regard, the United States welcomed the participation of the Iraqi Security Forces in joint exercises with regional partners over the past six months, including the Eager Lion exercise in Jordan, and surface warfare and mine countermeasures exercise in Bahrain.  The United States pledged its ongoing diplomatic coordination under the SFA in these and other areas. 
    The two delegations shared an assessment of al Qaida affiliated groups threatening Iraq, with particular emphasis on the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 
    The Iraqi delegation confirmed a comprehensive strategy to isolate ISIL and other extremist groups through coordinated security, economic, and political measures.  This strategy includes security operations coordinated with local officials, and renewed efforts to empower local security structures, such as the Sons of Iraq, to mitigate extremist infiltration.  Both sides emphasized – on an urgent basis – the need for additional equipment for Iraqi forces to conduct ongoing operations in remote areas where terrorist camps are located.  The Iraqi delegation stressed its desire to purchase U.S. equipment as a means of strengthening long-term institutional ties with the United States, and confirmed its commitment to ensure strict compliance with U.S. laws and regulations on the use of such equipment.
    Both delegations further confirmed the need for aggressive political outreach as a means to isolate and defeat ISIL and other extremist networks.  They welcomed the national charter of social peace signed last month by political and religious leaders from across Iraq.  Both parties welcomed calls to reject violence and sectarian incitement, and discussed the critical role of religious leaders as a force of moderation in the region.

    How is Nouri supposed "to reject violence and sectarian incitement" when he's backing militias -- Shi'ite militias -- to kill Sunnis?

    September 28th in print (27th online),  Tim Arango (New York Times) broke the story of Nouri   supporting Shi'ite militias that are killing Sunnis:

    The group, which is backed by Iran and split off from the Sadrist movement several years ago and was responsible for many deadly attacks on the American military when it was here, has seen its political wing welcomed into the government by Mr. Maliki. And as the security forces have proved ineffective in stemming attacks by Sunni insurgent groups, the group’s armed unit, according to militiamen, is increasingly working in secret with the government.
    “We don’t do anything until the government asks us,” said one of the group’s leaders, who gave his name as Abu Abdellah. “We have a direct connection with the leaders of the security forces.”
    In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.

    At the Guardian, Haifa Zangana called out the simplistic narrative that Nouri (and the press -- I'm saying "and the press" uses to portray 'terrorism' while hiding his own crimes:

    The Maliki regime blames all terrorist acts (frequent car explosions, often in markets, cafes and mosques) on al-Qaida, selectively choosing not to mention the regime's own militias: Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Iraqi Hezbollah, factions of the Mahdi army, the Badr brigades and the Mokhtar army.
    A common belief among Iraqis is that only agents connected to the nearly 1 million strong army and security forces, and especially to the Special Forces (inherited from the occupation, trained by the US and now attached directly to Maliki's office) could carry out such sustained and widespread campaign of terror.
    Why is it that so many come to the conclusion that most atrocities blamed on al-Qaida are actually the work of the regime, its factional fighters, and regional actors with links to security services? It is because the regime is the embodiment of the sectarian divide entrenched by the occupation. Its constitution and political process, nurtured by the US and UK, has spawned a kleptocracy of warlords, charlatans, and merchants of religion. Yes, al-Qaida is a presence. But the sectarian political parties that mushroomed after the invasion are also fighting each other, killing thousands of civilians in the process. Almost 3,000 people were killed in acts of violence between July and September this year alone with three times that number wounded. Many of those wounded often die due to lack of medical services. Acts of violence are presented daily on Iraqi TV like the weather forecast in Britain. They are destroying the very fabric of society and pushing people who have been living together for centuries to speak and act about "them" and "us".

    Protests continued in Iraq today -- this wave began December 21st.  Iraqi Sprinc MC reports that Bahghdad saw the Association of Imams and Khateebs declare the Iraqi army was infiltrated with sectarian militias.  They also stated that some of the current Iraqi soldiers are operating under sectarianism and not out of love for the country.  They noted the Ministry of Defense estimates 90,000 soldiers have self-checked out.

    Protests also took place in Tikrit, Rawa, Mosul, Jalawla, Samarra, Baquba, among other cities.  National Iraqi News Agency reports:

    Thousands of people flocked from different parts of Fallujah and Ramadi cities , to participate in the unified Fri-prayer.
    Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad, one of the organizers of Anbar sit-ins ,said to NINA reporter : "The citizens participated in the prayers that held in the courtyard northern Ramadi and eastern Fallujah cities , stressing that the goal of this trickle is to send one again a message to the governing in Baghdad that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by citizens deep conviction.

    As for the White House claim of  rejecting violence?    January 7th, Nouri's forces assaulted four protesters in Mosul,  January 24th,  Nouri's forces sent two protesters (and one reporter) to the hospital,  and March 8th, Nouri's force fired on protesters in Mosul killing three.  All of that and more appeared to be a trial run for what was coming, the April 23rd massacre of a peaceful sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53 dead.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).  Equally true, Nouri's forces attacked the Ashraf community.  That actually came up in today's  White House press briefing:

    Q    You have a noisy demonstration out front by Camp Ashraf folks.  Can you tell us how hard is the President going to press the Iraqi Prime Minister on the issue of accountability for the killings that took place in September at Camp Ashraf?

    MR. CARNEY:  Well, as you know, the President has meetings this afternoon with — very shortly with Prime Minister Maliki.  And I’m not going to give you a readout of meetings that haven’t happened yet.  They’ll discuss a whole range of issues; this is I’m sure going to be one of them. 
    But this is an important relationship, and it’s one that in the aftermath of the ending of the Iraq war and the withdrawal of U.S. troops remains important.  And our commitment remains very strong to Iraq and the assistance we provide them in dealing with their challenges from al Qaeda in Iraq, the renamed al Qaeda in Iraq, and dealing with their overall economic challenges as they continue to make progress out of the past that created so many problems for the Iraqi people.

    Q    What’s the current position on who was responsible for that? 

    MR. CARNEY:  I would refer you — well, let me say this.  I’m sure State Department has more on this for you, but I can tell you that we remain deeply concerned about the fate of the individuals abducted from Camp Ashraf as well as the security of the residents remaining in Iraq at Camp Hurriya.  We are pursuing these matters actively and daily with UNAMI, with UNHCR, the government of Iraq and other relevant authorities, to seek information on the MEK members who went missing and to ensure as much protection as possible is provided for the residents who are at Camp Hurriya. 
    So I’m sure, as I said, that these are the kinds of conversations we have with our counterparts as part of a whole array of topics that will come up.

    Today Afzal Afzalnia (UPI) shares why he was against Barack meeting with Nouri:

    On Sept. 1 my brother was killed -- brutally murdered by masked gunmen under the command of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
    I ask you, how would you feel if you lost a loved one and only two months later the person responsible for his death arrived as a guest at the White House?
    That is what I am facing Friday, when Maliki is to be received by U.S. President Barack Obama in order to discuss the lasting friendship between their two countries.
    I am not alone in being outraged. Indeed, hundreds, even thousands of people will look on with the same sense of revulsion and betrayal, for my brother was only one of 52 individuals killed in a merciless and unprovoked attack on Camp Ashraf in eastern Iraq.
    Most of these people were shot in the head at close range. Some were wounded first and later executed while they lay bleeding. Many had their hands tied behind their backs before being shot dead.

    Nouri is the new Butcher of Baghdad.  Again, the whole meet-up was a farce.  Back to the White House claims:

    Both delegations also noted the recent resolution from the Iraqi Council of Representatives stating that national elections would be held no later than April 30, 2014.  The Iraqi delegation confirmed its commitment to holding these elections on time.  Both parties emphasized the importance of the Iraqi government’s determination to hold elections on time and its support to the High Electoral Commission to ensure that the elections are well prepared.  The United States offered its technical support in full coordination with the Government of Iraq and the United Nations.

    No, not a resolution.  A statement by Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi that Iraq would hold elections April 30th.  A law needs to be passed for elections.  al-Nujaifi says that it doesn't need to be passed because the old election law can be used.  The Kurds have rejected the use of the previous law. Might they change their minds?  Possibly but they felt ripped off in 2010 and with Jalal and his collapsible spin out of commission you're left with leaders the KDP and Gorran which won the provincial elections in the KRG back in September, you really think they're going to cave on a law that they think harmed the KRG?  It could happen, anything could.

    Kirk Sowell (Foreign Policy) explains today:

    The law is necessary for the parliamentary elections due by the end of April 2014, and since the electoral commission says it needs six months to make preparations, parliament is cutting it close. But with the Kurds and the Arab parties deadlocked, and Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani threatening to boycott the elections, Speaker Osama al-Nujayfi has repeatedly postponed the vote. 
    The core dispute that is holding up the law is between the Kurdistani Alliance and the Arab blocs, with the Kurds wanting a return to electoral systems used in 2005, under which they did better, and the Arabs preferring a modified form of the law used in 2010. But another amendment on which Maliki and his Sunni rivals agree is intended to suppress independent challenges to the major blocs. Maliki, in particular, is keen to avoid a repetition of this year's provincial elections, in which he (only partially with justice) blames losses by his State of Law Coalition to the system used to allocate seats. 

    Back to the White House statement:

    The U.S. and Iraqi delegations reiterated the importance of Iraq’s future energy sector development and economic growth so all Iraqis can share equitably from its resources, as well as the valuable role that Iraq plays in providing a steady flow of energy resources to global markets.  In this regard, the Iraqi side presented Iraq’s new five-year $357 billion development plan and their long-term vision for developing strategic infrastructure that provides energy system resilience and new commercial opportunities, with multiple oil export routes through the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, and Mediterranean.  The delegations welcomed the opportunity to expand cooperation on energy, including steps to advance these projects, at the next Energy Joint Coordination Committee in early 2014.

    6 million Iraqis live in poverty by the Iragi's government's admission.  When exactly do "all Iraqis" get to "share equitably from its resources"? And at what point does Iraq develop beyond oil? Oh, that's right, the highest official to grasp that Iraq needed to diversify its economy is Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Nouri railroaded him out of the country (but not out of office).  Back to the White House statement:

    The Iraqi delegation confirmed its support for the Geneva II process and efforts to forge a diplomatic settlement to the ongoing conflict in Syria.  The United States took note of the important role Iraq can play in helping to shape conditions conducive to a peaceful political settlement.  The Iraqi delegation expressed its increasing concern about weapons coming into Iraq from Syria for use against the Iraqi people, emphasizing the need to take increasing measures to police its borders and airspace against the transit of weapons or cargo proscribed by applicable U.N. Security Council Resolutions, and called on all neighboring states to cooperate fully. 

    Nouri can't help with Syria.  If you think Iraq's inflamed right now, let Nouri choose a side in the Syrian War and then watch the Green Zone really get attacked.  There's no side he can pick that won't either inflame the Sunnis or the Shi'ites.  As for his 'help' that he keeps promising -- I don't know that anyone will take seriously his suggestions for peace when he's only inflamed his own country.

    Back to the statement:

    The Iraqi delegation stressed their desire to harness the U.S. private sector to advance mutual interests in Iraq and the United States.  The delegations noted the signing earlier this year of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, which will help increase American exports to Iraq and provide more economic opportunities for the Iraqi people.  Both delegations welcomed the steady increase in U.S. companies doing business in Iraq – including major corporations such as Citibank, Ford, General Electric, and Boeing.  The Iraqi delegation expressed hope that U.S. businesses can have a prominent role in their country’s rapidly developing energy, transportation, banking, and health sectors.  In this regard, both delegations looked forward to mutual trade events to be held over the coming months.

    Well, yes, that was the whole point, wasn't it?  "Baghdad Year Zero" was about destroying everything to create new markets and new opportunities for big business.

    Back to the statement:

    The Iraqi delegation discussed their vision to strengthen their nation through education and exchange programs with an emerging generation.  They noted that twenty-five percent of their population – nearly 8 million Iraqis – was born after 2003, and that the Government of Iraq is determined to give this generation educational opportunities inside Iraq and abroad, including at American colleges and universities.  Both delegations agreed that the best way to honor our shared sacrifice over the past decade is to provide these young Iraqis with opportunities never enjoyed by other generations. The U.S. delegation noted that under the SFA and the educational programs established through bilateral Joint Coordinating Committees, the number of Iraqi students studying in the United States has grown to nearly 1,000 – and that a university fair last month in Baghdad attracted 30 U.S. universities and 2,000 Iraqi scholarship students.

    I'm sorry, are we supposed to swallow that one to?  A student exchange program means, for example, an American goes to Paris and studies and a French students comes to the US.

    There's no exchange program.  No US students are going to Baghdad to study.

    The White House really hopes you're as stupid as their spokespeople.  The statement finally winds down with:

    The two delegations closed the meeting with a shared commitment to increase the numbers of Iraqis studying in the United States, in addition to strengthening other institutional ties beyond government-to-government ties, to include cultural, artistic, and scientific exchanges.  Both sides again reflected on the sacrifice that has made this progress possible, while recognizing the very serious challenges that must be confronted together.

    That has to be the weakest conclusion to a White House statement ever.  (And we ran it in full, FYI.)

    With the visit concluded, we'll note Dion Nissenbaum and Jared Favole (Wall St. Journal) observing:

    But while Mr. Maliki worked to persuade American leaders to free up more U.S. military aid, leading lawmakers expressed dismay over the Iraqi leader's repeated insistence that he bore little responsibility for the sectarian violence sweeping his country.
    Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was "extremely disappointed" by his meeting with Mr. Maliki and said the prime minister hurt his case for new U.S. arms.
    "If the visit was to cement American confidence and support, he certainly didn't do it for me," Mr. Menendez said in an interview.

    On Thursday's NewsHour (PBS -- link is video, text and audio), Margaret Warner reported on this topic:

    MARGARET WARNER: But many critics here and in Iraq say elected Prime Minister Maliki and his Shiite-dominated government share the blame for the rising dangers to their country by monopolizing government power in a way that has rekindled Sunni resentment and anger.
    Arizona Senator John McCain is among them.

    JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: The major reason for the unraveling in Iraq was Maliki's failure to govern in an inclusive fashion, measures that he has taken which have alienated the Sunni population, therefore, a breeding ground, therefore, then assistance to Syria. I think the genesis was the failure of Maliki's government, and it was taken advantage of by the situation in Syria.

    MARGARET WARNER: Obama administration officials don't disagree, but want to help Maliki anyway. The reason, explains Ryan Crocker, is that there's still much at stake in what happens in Iraq for the security of the U.S. and the wider region.

    We've called out a lot of press this week -- and there were so many we didn't have time to call out -- but we can also offer some applause for one person:  Spencer Ackerman.  From his piece for the Guardian:

    Intelligence sharing still carries a risk: Maliki’s closest ally is the US's regional adversary, Iran. The New Yorker reported recently that Iraq’s rejection of a residual US military force in 2011, an act that resulted in all but a handful of US troops withdrawing that December, came at the instigation of the Iranian spy chief Qassem Suleimani.

    Max Boot's a conservative and a supporter of the Iraq War.  I'm a leftist and began speaking out against the war to college audiences in February 2003 -- a month before the war started.  I don't think Max Boots agree on much of anything.  Nor do I expect us to.  But he is one of the few who does cover Iraq regularly.  So here's a link to his latest -- I haven't read it, even if I had, I couldn't offer critique because we don't have the room.  Many things are getting edited out but because he does cover Iraq regularly, I will give him a link in this snapshot.  I have not had time to listen to Patty Culhane's audio report for Al Jazeera but we'll link to it as well.  Another non-text link is Ahmed Maher's BBC News report from Sadr City.  Here and Now (NPR) continued their Iraq coverage today by speaking with Iraqi journalist Omar Fekeiki.

    Yesterday, a very violent month for Iraq ended.  As we noted last Saturday, it was the "Most violent October in Iraq since 2007."  Today we have some totals.  AFP's tally: "Overall, at least 743 people were killed by attacks in Iraq in October, according to the AFP tally, more than similar figures for January, February and March combined."  The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq's toll is 979 dead and 1,793 injured.  Margaret Griffis ( reports, ", which compiles figures using various media sources, found that 1,370 people were killed and 2,361 were wounded during the month."  And  Iraq Body Count notes:


    Turning to today's violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Mosul armed attack left 4 police dead, an armed attack west of Samarra left 2 police dead and three more injured, a Jorfi-ssakhar roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Sahwa, Nouri's forces shot dead 1 suspect in Anbar while conducting mass arrests, a Falluja sniper shot dead 1 police officer and left another injured, Alsumaria adds a Kirkuk armed attack left one Iraqi soldier and one Operation Tigris Command member injured. and a Taji attack left 1 police officer dead and another injured.

    al rafidayn

    Thursday, October 31, 2013

    Barack has blood on his hands

    Richard Sisk ( reports that an unnamed "senior State Department official" said that
    the US will suppy Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki "with a major weapons sale . . . that will include Apache attack helicopters."

    Blood on Barack's hands.

    Nouri is a tyrant.  As C.I. has so often noted, Nouri is another Augusto Pinochet.  He has repeatedly attacked the peaceful protesters in Iraq.  Just today, Human Rights Watch noted:

    Human Rights Watch is extremely concerned by the deepening crisis in Iraq, including the harsh crackdown on a range of government critics, which has intensifiedin the two years since Prime Minister al-Maliki’s last state visit. Immediately upon returning from Washington in 2011, al-Maliki ordered the arrests of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and a number of his staff, one of whom died in police custody and whose body displayed signs of torture. The arrests kicked off a year in which security forces under his direct command threatened government critics and used state institutions—some of which the US had a role in setting up, like the Integrity Commission and Inspectors General in the Interior and Defense ministries—to arrest and charge political opponents without disclosing the evidence against them. Over the past two years, the government dramatically escalated use of the death penalty despite serious flaws in the justice system, executing 65 people already this month and 140 so far in 2013. At least one of those executed in October had a court judgment declaring him innocent shortly before he was executed.
    Equally disturbing is the fact that al-Maliki’s government has not implemented promised key legal reforms, such ending the use of secret informant testimony and coerced confessions as a basis for convictions. Authorities exploit vague provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Law to settle personal or political scores, while judges and investigating officers collude to prolong the time detainees are held and ignore their allegations of abuses. Suspects have little or no access to an adequate defense, and are frequently detained for months and even years without charge.
    Over the last two years Iraqi security forces illegally detained and tortured scores of peaceful protesters as well as men and women living in areas in which the government believes armed groups operate. This past February Human Rights Watch viewed the physical signs of torture on more than 20 women in Baghdad’s Central Prison for Women and on death row. Court documents in the case against a woman executed earlier this month showed that two courts had dismissed charges against her due to a medical report documenting security forces had severely tortured her to induce her to confess to terrorism.In June 2013 the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) reported that large numbers of detainees, particularly those arrested under Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law, complain that they were “subjected to a range of abuse, mistreatment and torture in order to extract confessions” during detention and interrogation.

    People better start paying attention in this country.  Nouri is Pinochet.  Back in the day, on the left, we called out despots.  Today the faux left represented by pissing her panties Katrina vanden Heuvel stay silent to protect their titty baby Barack Obama.

    Millions suffer in Iraq so that little whiney asses won't have to call out The Golden Calf.

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):  

    Wednesday, October 30, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri meets with Biden, Nouri's involvement in the attacks on the Ashraf community gets attention, as do his other misdeeds, his fluffer returns to fluff for him, the Pope offers a prayer for Iraqis,  the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee holds a hearing and Chair Bernie Sanders makes a statement that undercuts the work of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and much more.

    Julian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Top officials from the government of Iraq met Wednesday morning with Vice President Joe Biden over ways to address the rising levels of al Qaeda violence in the country, administration officials said. A senior administration official said Wednesday the intensifying violence is a threat to Iraq, regional stability and U.S. interests. The official said that Iraqi forces lack the capability to effectively counter al Qaeda and its camps in western Iraq."  Iraq's prime minister and chief thug, Nouri al-Maliki, is in the US and Reuters notes he met with Biden today for two hours.

    US President Barack Obama is set to meet with Nouri on Friday at the White House.  Human Rights Watch publishes an open letter to Barack today which includes:

    Human Rights Watch is extremely concerned by the deepening crisis in Iraq, including the harsh crackdown on a range of government critics, which has intensifiedin the two years since Prime Minister al-Maliki’s last state visit. Immediately upon returning from Washington in 2011, al-Maliki ordered the arrests of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and a number of his staff, one of whom died in police custody and whose body displayed signs of torture. The arrests kicked off a year in which security forces under his direct command threatened government critics and used state institutions—some of which the US had a role in setting up, like the Integrity Commission and Inspectors General in the Interior and Defense ministries—to arrest and charge political opponents without disclosing the evidence against them.
    Over the past two years, the government dramatically escalated use of the death penalty despite serious flaws in the justice system, executing 65 people already this month and 140 so far in 2013. At least one of those executed in October had a court judgment declaring him innocent shortly before he was executed.
    Equally disturbing is the fact that al-Maliki’s government has not implemented promised key legal reforms, such ending the use of secret informant testimony and coerced confessions as a basis for convictions. Authorities exploit vague provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Law to settle personal or political scores, while judges and investigating officers collude to prolong the time detainees are held and ignore their allegations of abuses. Suspects have little or no access to an adequate defense, and are frequently detained for months and even years without charge.
    Over the last two years Iraqi security forces illegally detained and tortured scores of peaceful protesters as well as men and women living in areas in which the government believes armed groups operate. This past February Human Rights Watch viewed the physical signs of torture on more than 20 women in Baghdad’s Central Prison for Women and on death row. Court documents in the case against a woman executed earlier this month showed that two courts had dismissed charges against her due to a medical report documenting security forces had severely tortured her to induce her to confess to terrorism.In June 2013 the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) reported that large numbers of detainees, particularly those arrested under Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law, complain that they were “subjected to a range of abuse, mistreatment and torture in order to extract confessions” during detention and interrogation.
    Iraq does face serious security threats, but the government’s failure to make urgently needed reforms and hold officials accountable for terrible abuses like torture has made Iraq less safe, not more. In fact, the government’s heavy-handed approach is contributing to greater instability and exacerbating sectarian tensions. Violence this year worsened considerably after security forces stormed a camp of peaceful protesters in Hawija in April, killing 51 people. Attacks by armed groups, which claimed over 5,740 lives already between January and September, have internally displaced another 5,000 Iraqis from Basra, Thi Qar and Baghdad, and within Diyala and Ninewa. The escalation in executions after trials in which people are convicted on the basis of coerced confessions and secret evidence—for the most part in the name of counterterrorism—have done nothing to address the crisis. On the contrary, numerous Iraqis, Shia and Sunni, have told Human Rights Watch that authorities’ failure to hold perpetrators accountable regardless of their sect has polarized Iraq’s population, particularly in Sunni areas where people see the government’s failure to hold Shia-dominated security forces accountable as confirmation that policies remain rooted in sectarianism.
     The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called Iraq’s border restrictionsof Syrians seeking asylum cause for “major concern.” Despite Iraq’s insistence they would continue to admit “urgent humanitarian cases” and family reunification cases, authorities severely limited the number of Syrians allowed to enter beginning in August 2012. In September, the Interior Ministry threatened to close al-Waleed camp, where 5,000 Syrians currently reside. New arrivals virtually ceased in late March, when Iraq’s Interior Ministry closed its al-Qaem border crossing, effectively violating the customary international law principle of non-refoulement. Of the over 200,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, all but 5,000 of entered through border crossings the Kurdistan Region Government de facto controls.
    Many Iraqis—civilians and government and security authorities—have told Human Rights Watch that they believe the security gains US troops and their allies made after the surge have been undermined. The US has largely turned a blind eye to the terrible abuses Prime Minister al-Maliki’s government is helping to perpetuate. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal cited senior administration officials in reporting that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other US intelligence and security personnel were cooperating with Iraqi security forces that have allegedly committed abuses.

      Nate Rawlings (Time magazine) uses the visit to note:

    But Iraq’s current crisis is not purely the work of al-Qaeda and extremists slipping in from Syria—and some would argue Maliki himself is in part at fault OK?. While exacerbated by the Syrian civil war, the violence is largely the result of domestic sectarian and political rifts. The current crisis arguably began in December 2012, when the government raided the home of a prominent Sunni politician, leading to anti-government protests in the heavily Sunni Anbar Province. In the spring, government security forces clashed with Sunni gunmen, sparking a cycle of violence that has continued into the fall.
    Maliki recently acknowledged that Iraq suffers from a “crisis of its entire political system,” and few would disagree. Another op-ed this week in the International New York Times, co-written by Emma Sky, a British Middle East expert who served as a political adviser top U.S. commanders in Iraq (who Petraeus lauded in his piece as “brilliant”), eviscerates Maliki and argues he triggered the current crisis, chiefly, by not integrating Sunnis into the political process.
    But Sky, and her co-author Ramzy Mardini, a research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, argued that Maliki is not the root of Iraq’s ills, and that if he were defeated in next year’s elections, “the primacy of survivalism in Iraqi political life” will continue. Maliki was an unlikely prime minister who won the post, in part, because then U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad argued he would be independent of Iran. In the years since, Maliki and his Shi’a State of Law coalition have been criticized for failing to bring Sunnis into the governing quorum and launching authoritarian crackdowns against Sunni politicians.  “Mr. Obama shouldn’t mistake Iraq for a liberal democracy,” Sky and Mardini wrote. “At best, it’s a democracy without democrats.”

    That's a good effort from Nate and stronger on the facts than most American reports but before we explain what's missing, let's deal with Nouri's fluffer.  Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch) is as crazy as his dead brother, the denier of global warming Alexader Cockburn.  In his latest garbage Patrick Cockburn insists:

    The civil war in Syria is reigniting the sectarian civil war in Iraq. A vast area of eastern Syrian and  western Iraq is turning into a zone of war. Well-armed and well-organised al-Qa’ida-linked movements are launching attacks with  suicide bombers from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Tigris River. 

    Unlike Patrick, we don't have a break from Iraq.  We don't get to forget Iraq for several months as we shift to Syria or some other country.  Which means we actually pay attention.  And you have to do that or you will lose track of what's going on.  I worry that our focus on Nouri's visit means we're not including important stories from within Iraq.

    Reality, when nobody in the US media gave a damn about what was going on Iraq, we were saying here  violence was increasing, pay attention to Iraq.  But no one wanted to notice, everyone was too busy.  The violence in Iraq has nothing to do with Syria with the possible exception that violent Iraqis -- Shi'ite and Sunni -- who want Iraq to take a side in Syria may take that anger and frustration out in Iraq.  Patrick's only US media via CounterPunch and Antiwar Radio but he's focused on everything except Iraq and he's been an apologist for Nouri for seven years now.

    Nate Rawlings is right about December 2012 forward but he's unaware of what happened before.  For example the targeting of December 2012 echoes the targeting of December 2011 with Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.

    But how did Iraq get to this point.  Unlike Patrick Cockburn, Mohammed Tawfeeq is a real reporter. Back in July of 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."

    Now according to the Iraqi Constitution, if you can't appoint a full Cabinet, you can't become prime minister (someone else is named prime minister designate and given 30 days to build a Cabinet).  But US President Barack Obama wanted Nouri to have a second term and that required tossing aside the votes of the Iraqi people and spitting on the Iraqi Constitution to create The Erbil Agreement -- a legal contract which gave Nouri his second term.  If the Constitution had applied, Nouri would not be prime minister.  More importantly, if the Constitution had applied, Nouri would have had to have created a cabinet (in full).

    You can't fail to name people to head the security ministries and not have problems.  Nouri refused to nominate people to head the security ministries because this was a power grab.  Each year, violence gets worse but Nouri's term is almost over and he will have ended it by refusing to have a Minister of Defense, etc.

    The Erbil Agreement was brokered by the US government to give Nouri a second term as prime minister.  To get the leaders of other political blocs to sign off, this was a power-sharing agreement which made various promises.  Nouri used the contract to get his second term, stalled on delivering his end of promises and then flat out refused.

    It's not December 2012 that the breakdown takes place.  The Erbil Agreement is the poison apple.

    By the summer of 2011, tired of being patient, the Kurds, Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya are calling for The Erbil Agreement to be implemented as promised.  Nouri refuses.  Violence is increasing but no one notices apparently.  Then people are tired of asking.

    That's when the move begins to unseat Nouri.

    In May of 2012, after over a month of threatening, the groups had their signatures.  Enough for a vote of no-confidence.  They handed them over to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani whose only job was to present the petition to the Parliament.  If he had, a vote would take place.  If just the MPs who signed the petition had voted no confidence, if no one else had, Nouri wouldn't be prime minister today.

    The US government and Nouri applied strong pressure to Jalal and he's got no spine, he's always been worthless.  So he announces that some people who signed the petition have changed their minds or there are forgeries or there are this or there are that.

    Fat ass Jalal's only job was to deliver the petition.

    But if he had, a vote would have been called immediately and Nouri would have been out of office.

    Violence again increases.

    It's not surprising.

    You're an Iraqi, you went and voted.  You voted for the winning party: Iraqiya.  But you saw your vote didn't count.  And you tried to be patient with the process.  But you see MPs sign on for a no confidence vote to remove Nouri.  And even though they play by the rules and even though they get the signatures required, it means nothing.

    That's the message Barack Obama has sent the Iraqi people: Your vote doesn't matter, your Constitution doesn't matter.

    In the face of that, of course people will resort to violence.  Of course they will.  This has been the same story throughout the beginning of time.  That's the point Jackson Btowne makes in "Lives in the Balance:"

    Or the people who finally can't take any more 
    And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone

    It is not a mystery.

    Granted, there are some who will crawl across cut glass before they will ever hold Barack accountable but his actions with regards to nullifying the 2010 elections in Iraq commanded all that followed.

    The increase in violence is in relation to Iraqis attempting to escape Nouri but being denied all legitimate attempts.  When every available legal recourse is taken from you, violence can be seen as a viable option.

    What Patrick Cockburn works to hide and conceal, a few can shine a light on.  David Petraeus was once the top US commander in Iraq.  During that time he oversaw the so-called 'surge' (influx of additional US troops into Iraq) and the creation of the Sahwa ("Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" are two other names).  At Foreign Policy, he offers:

    Various actions by the Iraqi government have undermined the reconciliation initiatives of the surge that enabled the sense of Sunni Arab inclusion and contributed to the success of the venture. Moreover, those Iraqi government actions have also prompted prominent Sunnis to withdraw from the government and led the Sunni population to take to the streets in protest. As a result of all this, Iraqi politics are now mired in mistrust and dysfunction.

    Let's move over to the Ashraf community.  Camp Ashraf in Iraq is now empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty) as of last month.  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). That's the attack Lara Logan reported on.  In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.

    US House Rep Ted Poe has a written about the attacks on the Ashraf community for The Hill and he notes:

    In June 2011, I and other members of Congress met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq to discuss U.S.-Iraqi relations. The meeting that was supposed to last 20 minutes but went for two hours came to an abrupt halt when our delegation asked to see the camp where these opposition members lived. The camp had been attacked just two months prior, resulting in the death of 36 unarmed residents. Al-Maliki’s mood immediately changed, and he said that there was no way that we were going to see the camp. Al-Maliki did not allow us to go because he had something to hide.
    Two years and three attacks later, there are troubling signs of at least complicity, if not outright involvement, by the government of Iraq in this latest attack. There are more than a dozen checkpoints manned by Iraqi security forces on the road to the camp. There are also armed Iraqi guards surrounding the camp, ostensibly there to protect the residents. The idea that the assailants could get past all of the checkpoints and carry out an approximately three-hour attack on the camp without the knowledge of the government of Iraq is difficult to believe.
    The State Department condemned the attack and asked the government of Iraq to investigate. Given the history of the previous attacks and the circumstances of this latest attack, that’s like asking Al Capone to run the IRS. When I was a prosecutor, the first thing you did in opening an investigation was interview the witnesses, but more than a month after this most recent attack, the Iraqi government has yet to interview any of the 42 survivors. That’s because there is no investigation. It is all a sham. The Iraqi government cannot be trusted to keep these refugees safe.
    On Nov. 1, al-Maliki will come dragging the sack to collect more of our taxpayers’ money as he meets with the president. The U.S. must do a better job of holding the government of Iraq accountable; there should be real consequences for the lack of protection of these unarmed, innocent civilians. 

    AFP reports today:

    Calling for a UN investigation into the attack, the Aachen-based Rights for Migrants group said interviews with the 42 survivors of the attack on Camp Ashraf, in central Diyala province, "unequivocally puts Iraqi forces at the scene."
    It alleged Iraqi police moved blockades guarding the camp to allow access to about 120 armed attackers, who were dressed in uniforms identical to those worn by a special Iraqi forces division and spoke with Iraqi accents.
    "For two hours, the attackers scoured the camp, killing 52 and destroying millions of dollars in property. Every individual killed was shot in the head or neck, and many were handcuffed before being executed," the report said.

    While issues are being raised in the US press about Nouri's visit, there are also opinions being offered in the Iraqi press.  All Iraq News reports MP Hussein al-Shirifi has issued a statement regarding Nouri's visit to the US:

    This visit is rejected and we do not welcome it because America occupies Iraq and destroyed its infrastructure in addition to creating terrorism that kills Iraqis daily. Will the Iraqi government call for the rights of the Iraqis who were killed by the US soldiers? and will the crime of Black Water Security Company be discussed?

    Hussein al-Shirifi is with Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc.

    Let's take a look at violence in Iraq.  AFP reports, "Three suicide bombings killed 14 Iraqi security force members overnight, officials said"  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) adds, "a bomb exploded near an outdoor market in the afternoon in Baghdad's western suburbs of Abu Ghraib, killing three shoppers and wounding nine."  Also overnight,  Press TV notes  "in a village outside the city of Mosul, situated about 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, three Iraqi security forces and four civilians were killed after a bomber exploded his explosives-laden car near a checkpoint."   Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Attackers targeting security forces staged a coordinated assault on a police checkpoint west of Mosul, Iraq, killing at least nine people and wounding 25 others Wednesday in the latest spasm of violence in an increasingly restive country."  National Iraqi News Agency reports an Abu Sayda roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left four more injured, a Falluja armed attack left 1 police officer and 1 police member dead, 2 brothers were shot dead outside their Mosul home, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 Ministry of Interior employee, a Tikrit home bombing (police officer's home) left one civilian injured, a Kirkuk armed clash left three police officers injured, an Albu-Ajeel Village roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer while leaving two people injured, 2 Baquba bombings left three people injured (one s a police officer) and a Muqdadiya bombing injured "a woman and her two children."

    On violence, BBC News offers, "Since the beginning of 2013, there have been just 16 days in which there were no deaths from violence in Iraq, the most recent of which was 24 May, according to figures compiled by the AFP news agency."  We try to be nice.

    The AFP count is a good thing.  It serves as a check on the official figures Nouri's ministries release each month.  We had noted they were an undercount.  We had noted that for years.  Prashant Rao started the AFP count and suddenly reports can note the official figures are an undercount.  That's great and I'm not being sarcastic.  If the AFP count never accomplished anything else that's something.

    For some reason, the last six weeks have seen media outlets -- such as NPR -- suddenly noticing that AFP is keeping a count.  And we were kind and let them have their moment to shine.  But now the BBC is using them.  And fools like W.T. Whitney Jr. (CounterPunch) are rah-rah over them.

    They are a reference point, they are nothing more.  Iraq Body Count remains the  best count.  The AFP count suffered last year and this year whenever Prashant was out of Iraq because other AFP employees didn't necessarily feel the need to update.

    So you need to be very careful, when using the AFP count.  On May 24, 2013, there were no reported deaths.  But it was a Friday which should make you cautious as well.  Friday's have been the worst for reporting violence.  The Friday in question?  Even worse since reporters were arrested that day:

    But as BBC allegedly reports on violence, they rush to insist, per AFP -- they state -- no one died on May 24, 2013.

    We've said it many times before, the dead are probably the lucky ones.  Being challenged or disabled is no treat anywhere but it is especially brutal in a war zone.  Did violence take place on May 24th?  Yes it did.  From that day's snapshot:

    Too bad all the fairy tales in the world won't chase away the ongoing violence.  All Iraq News notes 1 person was shot dead in Mosul yesterday.  Alsumaria adds that a Mosul attack today left one police officer injured and an armed attack on a Baghdad police station has left seven police officers injuredNational Iraqi News Agency reports an assassination attempt in Awja on Col Akrahm Saddam Midlif which he survived but which left two of his bodyguards wounded, a Falluja attack left two people injured (drive-by shooting), a Baquba bombing left a Sahwa injured, and late last night there was an attempted assassination on Diyala Province Governor Omar Himyari in Hamrin which left one of his bodyguards injured.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 653 violent deaths so far this month.

    That's 13 injured (we're not counting the attack on Omar Himyari in Hamarin which left a bodyguard injured due to it taking place Thursday night).  And AFP records how many injured for that day?

    Zero.  Which means BBC got very lucky because AFP didn't fill out the 24th.  It happens there were no deaths.  But you're reporting on violence and there were 13 people left injured that day.  But AFP took the 24th off and never filled in it.

    You need to be very careful about citing AFP.  Prashant Rao has repeatedly explained on his Twitter feed that they may miss some deaths.  It's a reference.  That's all it is.  A stronger count will always be Iraq Body Count.

    And while we're being critical of the AFP count, let's also note that  that they do not include civilians as a category.  If you'll deduct all their categories ("Police," "Soldiers," "Sahwa," "Kurdish Security Forces" and "Militants") from the day's total, you can have a number for civilians.  That AFP did not feel civilians rated as their own category is very messed up.  

    Civilians do get attention and sympathy from one figure today.  Catholic World News reports, "Pope Francis issued an appeal for prayers for peace in Iraq at the close of his regular weekly audience on Wednesday, October 30."   Vatican Radio (link is audio and text) quotes the Pope saying,  "I invite you all to pray for the dear nation of Iraq, unfortunately affected daily by tragic episodes of violence in order that Iraq might find the way that leads to reconciliation, peace, unity and stability."In Italy today,  Rome Reporrs explains, "At the end of the Wednesday's General Audience, Pope Francis met with the delegates of the many religious groups that call Iraq home. He met with Christian, Shia and Sunni Muslim leaders, as well as Sabeans and Yazidis."  Prensa Latina adds, "The Iraqi delegation, comprised of Shiite, Sunni, Christian and other religious representatives, participates, since Tuesday, in a meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, headed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.  During the meeting, both parties analyzed the situation of religious communities in Iraq and the relations among them and the possible creation of a Permanent Committee for Dialogue of Baghdad and the Vatican."

    "Okay," declared US Senator Bernie Sanders this afternoon, "we've got a lot of work in front of us, let's get going."  He is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member.  Today was a legislative hearing where people testify about their bills.  So we heard from senators.  We heard from others as well -- and we shouldn't have.

    Chair Bernie Sanders:  Before I discuss a few of the bills I have on today's agenda, I want to briefly touch on the issue of the administration's views.  Let me be kind of to the point on this one, I understand that as a result of the government shutdown and a lot of the pressure on the VA  they have not gotten all their comments and views in.  We also understand that in the past, they really have not been prompt in their responses to the legislation that we have proposed.  So let me just say this to them, the job of this Committee and what we were elected to do is to represent the people of this country and, in particular, the veterans of this country.  And if the VA is not responsive in getting their comments in, that's fine, doesn't impact us at all, we're going to forward.  But clearly the VA is going to have to implement the policies developed by this Conmittee and this Congress and we want to work with them.   But our job is to legislate and we're going to go forward with or without the cooperation of the VA and the administration.

    There is nothing good about that statement. That statement doesn't cut and should not be made by any chair.  Congress has rules.  If they're going to waive them for the VA, they're going to have to waive them for everyone.

    And on the House Veterans Affairs Committee?  They're fighting to get statements on time, to get questions answered promptly.  Sanders has no right to say, "It doesn't matter."  That's embarrassing.

    VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is an embarrassment.  Under him, the VA refuses to even turn in written testimony promptly.

    Here's how you deal with that, you don't let the VA testify.  I'm not noting them or their testimony because the VA's failure to do what is required means they shouldn't be allowed to testify.  This is not a new problem.  It began emerging just before Sanders became Chair.

    And it's been noticeable throughout actually.  Forget the written statements for a moment, Eric Shinseki's first obvious failure was knowing for months that the VA system would be overwhelmed in the fall of 2009 and some veterans would not get tuition checks.  He refused to inform Congress.  This has happened over and over.

    From the House VA Committee's website:

    Trials in Transparency is designed to highlight one of the committee’s top oversight challenges: getting timely information from Department of Veterans Affairs officials.
    This page will be updated on a weekly basis and will keep a running record of outstanding information requests made to VA by both Democrat and Republican members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
    VA is currently sitting on nearly 100 separate requests for information made by the committee, some dating back more than a year. The leisurely pace with which VA is returning requests – and in some cases not returning them –  is a major impediment to the basic oversight responsibilities of the committee.
    VA’s unanswered questions have created mounting frustration for committee members, and prompted Chairman Miller to take the unprecedented step of writing weekly letters to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki listing the number of outstanding information requests and asking for “accurate information in satisfaction of these requests.”
    Notable Outstanding Info Requests:
    Quick Facts (As of October 28, 2013):
    Number of Outstanding Requests: 11
    Three Oldest Outstanding Requests: June 5, 2012; July 10, 2012; and July 23, 2012
    Requests Pending since 2012: 12 

    Even if the Senate VA Committee no longer gives a damn whether VA responds or not, it is still not appropriate for Sanders to take that position when it undercuts the House VA efforts to obtain information.  The two need to work together, they do not need to be at cross purposes.  If Sanders is unable to help the House Committee, he should at least refrain from harming it.

    From today's hearing:

    Senator Bill Nelson:  The first one is a no brainer. It's naming the Bay Pines Hospital in Pinellas County, Florida after the longest serving Republican member of the House of Representatives who we just lost last week, Bill Young. His record as Appropriations Chairman and as Defense Appropriations Chairman, the way he lived his life where he and his wife who literally adopted a Marine who was back from the war and have raised him as their son, and the way that he has reached out to veterans -- so much so, that the Florida delegation and I conferred last week, before his funeral -- while we were still in recess, the House was in session -- and the House took it up and has already passed it, naming the Bay Pines VA Hospital after Bill Young.  That's the first piece and if you all see fit to move that legislation, it would be a timely -- a timely thing for the family.  Veterans Conservation Corps.  This is for post-911 veterans coming home who are unemployed.  They would be employed -- not unlike the old CCC -- for up to one year with a possible one year extension.  It obviously has a price tag of about a couple of million dollars.  The question is: What is the value to society of employing veterans for worthwhile things in our national parks and schools?  And I can go into as much detail as you want but that's the idea.  And the third piece of legislation is what this Committee has already pushed: Electronic Health Records coming out of the Dept of Defense active duty as they then go into the VA health care system.  And of course you know the difficulty there.  And this tries to set a timeline that is achievable and tells the VA and the DoD  set your goals, set your milestones, achieve them, and then have the full implementation of the electronic health records that will allow a seamless transfer which is what we all want.  Those are my three pieces of legislation

    Let's go to that third bill:

    Official Summary

    Servicemember's Electronic Health Records Act of 2013 - Amends the Wounded Warrior Act to require the Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs, in implementing electronic health record systems that provide for the full interoperability of personal health care information between the Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to ensure that: 
    (1) a health data authoritative source that can be accessed by multiple providers and that standardizes the input of new medical information is created by the Departments within 180 days, 
    (2) the ability of patients of both Departments to download their medical records is achieved within 180 days, 
    (3) full interoperability of personal health care information between the Departments is achieved within one year, 
    (4) acceleration of the exchange of real-time data between the Departments is achieved within one year, 
    (5) the upgrade of the graphical user interface to display a joint common graphical user interface is achieved within one year, and 
    (6) current members of the Armed Forces and their dependents may elect to receive an electronic copy of their health care records beginning not later than June 30, 2015. Requires the Secretaries to assess the feasibility and advisability of establishing a secure, remote, network-accessible computer storage system (commonly referred to as cloud storage) to: 
    (1) provide members of the Armed Forces and veterans the ability to upload their health care records, and 
    (2) allow DOD and VA medical providers of the Departments to access such records.

    I applaud Senator Bill Nelson for that bill.  Why, though, is it necessary?

    Because the VA and DoD were supposed to have done this long ago.  What happened was Eric Shinseki got then DoD Secretary Robert Gates to agree on the computer system they would both use.  And then Shinseki dropped the ball (intentionally, from what I'm told).  Leon Panetta then becomes DoD Secretary and Shinseki starts all over.  We have to pick a system!  Leon is fine with whatever, his attitude is, "Let's just get it started."  But Shinseki doesn't.  Now Chuck Hagel is VA Secretary and Congress has some questions about the progress on this system that was supposed to have started back in 2009 and Eric LIES to Congress and pins the blame on Hagel.  Hagel's so busy and they haven't been able to pick out a system.  That's finally been done thanks to very few who have held Shinseki accountabile.

    This is part of the VA stonewalling and not answering or informing Congress.  Again, Sanders should not have made the remarks he did.

    We'll close with this from Senator Patty Murray's office:

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
    Wednesday, October 30th, 2013                                                                                  (202) 224-2834        
    VETERANS: Murray Applauds Passage of Veterans Cost-Of-Living Increase
    Bill will result in more money in the pockets of millions of veterans across the country
    (Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that a bill she co-sponsored to provide a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for America’s veterans passed the U.S. Senate Monday by unanimous consent.  The COLA for veterans will match the annual increase provided to Social Security recipients which CBO estimates will be 1.5 percent. The Veterans COLA affects several important benefits, including veterans’ disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.  It is projected that over 4.2 million veterans and survivors will receive compensation benefits in Fiscal Year 2014.
    “Particularly in this difficult economy, our veterans deserve a boost in their benefits to help make ends meet,” Senator Murray said. “We have an obligation to the men and women who have sacrificed so much to serve our country and who now deserve nothing less than the full support of a grateful nation.  A COLA increase will help bring us one step closer to fulfilling our nation’s promise to care for our brave veterans and their families.”
    The COLA is designed to offset inflation and other factors that lead to the rising cost of living over time.  The COLA rate is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index. 
    Kathryn Robertson
    Deputy Press Secretary 
    Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
    154 Russell Senate Office Building
    Washington D.C. 20510

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