Saturday, January 18, 2014

Illegal spying and net neutrality

Eric London and Barry Grey (WSWS) write about Barack's awful speech and 'reforms' to the illegal spying:

In a speech at the Justice Department Friday, President Barack Obama issued an unqualified defense of the National Security Agency (NSA) and the US government’s police state surveillance of the American people and countless millions around the world.
The address was an exercise in lies and historical falsifications. The fact that such a speech could even be given without provoking a massive outcry and demands for the president’s immediate impeachment is an indication of how far the American ruling class and political establishment have gone in the direction of totalitarian rule.
In the course of his 45-minute address, Obama never mentioned the Fourth Amendment, which explicitly bans warrentless and arbitrary “searches and seizures”—precisely what the NSA and other intelligence agencies are doing, and on a scale that could not have been imagined by the Founding Fathers of the American republic.
Instead, the speech was marked by repeated paeans to the military-intelligence apparatus.
“The folks at the NSA are our neighbors, they’re our friends and family,” Obama said. “Our intelligence community follows the law and is staffed by patriots,” he added, declaring that NSA operatives “follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people.”
Obama endorsed the surveillance programs “not only because I felt that they made us more secure, but also because nothing in the initial review [of the NSA programs] and nothing I have learned since indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.”

He really is a fraud.  It's not even debatable at this point.  He just lies and then lies some more.

He could have stood up for the Constitution, he could have stood up for the people.  Instead, he stood up for the NSA -- and betrayed the people and the Constitution.

I hope you've read Betty this week, especially her "One more time on net neutrality" and "Net neutrality."  Those are important posts on an important issue.  I don't think we have to lose the battle on net neutrality.  I think if we push back, we have a real chance of stopping the corporations theft of the internet.

Bruce A. Dixon (Black Agenda Report) notes:

“Network neutrality” on the internet is the idea that anyone can access it, with any device to view or contribute any content. Network neutrality is the foundation of the internet as we have known it. According to the federal court of appeals in DC, network neutrality on the internet is now over.
From this point on, the court has ruled, internet providers can levy extra tolls upon, slow down or , simply ban any content or any users they choose, for any reason whatsoever. Internet companies can now tell you which hardware and software devices, what kinds of computers, phones, programs and applications you may or may not use, and from which locations. The internet is now a plantation, with Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon its masters, and the rest of us serfs or worse.
This is one of those ground breaking, those earth shaking moments that reveal how capitalism works, how greedy corporations have captured the media, the courts and the other two bipartisan branches of government in these United States. This ruling is anything but a surprise. It's what the telecom companies have demanded for years, and what the administrations of President Bush and Obama alike seem determined to give them.
President Obama did campaign declaring he would take a back seat to nobody in fighting for network neutrality. The White House has occasionally, though increasingly feebly renewed that pledge. But Obama's first FCC chief was Julius Genakowski, a former telecom lobbyist who wrote the 1990s laws privatizing the internet backbone, which was built with taxpayer dollars, giving it to telecom companies like Comcast and AT&T for pennies on the dollar. Under this notorious privatizer, the FCC did almost nothing to assert the public right, to advance the public demand for a free and open internet, to head off this disastrous ruling of corporate rights over public property which was clearly in the pipeline. It's not the first time this or any president or Congress has campaigned on the public interest, but governed in the corporate interest, and telecom companies are always big campaign contributors.

As Betty's pointed out, Save The Internet has a forum for you to make your voice heard on this issue. I really do think that if people use the take-action page at Save The Internet, we can push back on this issue.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, January 17, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue,  Barack wants to arm and train Nouri's killers, BRussells Tribunal talks reality on Iraq, Robert Gates calls for conditions on any arms to Iraq, NPR and Tom Bowman edit out Gen Martin Dempsey's most important remark in an interview, and more.

The topic of Iraq was raised in today's State Dept briefing delivered by spokesperson Jen Psaki.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout about the Deputy Burns meeting with the Iraqi deputy prime minister?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, with the Iraq – mm-hmm.
Deputy Secretary Burns, as part of his regular diplomatic engagement with senior Iraqi officials, met today with Iraqi deputy prime minister – with the Iraqi deputy prime minister to discuss bilateral issues, including the ongoing situation in Anbar Province, the upcoming elections, and our shared commitment towards a long-term partnership under the Strategic Framework Agreement.

QUESTION: Was any part of that discussion regarding the Iraqi Government seeking arms or increased arms supplies from the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve, of course, seen those reports in the public comments, I guess it would be a more accurate way of referring to them. Certainly, we’re not going to get into a laundry list of FMS support. You’re familiar with what we have provided, the fact that we’re working with Congress on pieces like Apaches. In terms of whether they discussed that or not, I’m happy to see if there’s more detail to provide.

QUESTION: Jen, on the same issue --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just finish Iraq. Go ahead --

QUESTION: Yeah, on Iraq.

QUESTION: Also, was there any discussion about the willingness by – excuse me – the U.S. military to train Iraqi troops in a third country?

MS. PSAKI: I know there have been reports of that which are, I believe, referring to Jordan which are inaccurate, but --

QUESTION: Jordan, that’s inaccurate --

MS. PSAKI: I can check and see if there’s more about the meeting to read out to address your question as well as Arshad’s.

QUESTION: So is the report inaccurate that the U.S. military is ready to train troops in a third country, or just the part that it might be in Jordan? Which one is accurate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any more specific details for you beyond the fact that the report that has been specifically referring to Jordan and training and U.S. involvement at that is inaccurate.[i]

QUESTION: In the meeting with – between the Deputy Secretary Burns and Dr. Saleh al-Mutlaq, has the issue of the sectarian divide come up? The reason I ask this, because Mr. Mutlaq is saying all over the place that basically the sectarian differences are irreconcilable. He’s basically accusing his boss, al-Maliki, of being irreformably sectarian.

MS. PSAKI: Let me check, as I mentioned to Jo and Arshad, if there’s more that we can share about Deputy Secretary Burns’ meeting on all of your specific questions.

QUESTION: The reason I ask this is because the reconciliation has been really at the crux of the issue, but the United States has not taken any steps to sort of take initiative or perhaps lead the initiative on reconciliation.

MS. PSAKI: I think we – the United States has done a great deal to engage the Iraqi Government – not just providing military equipment to Iraq, but also working with all parties to better address the needs of the Iraqi people. We’ve had a range of officials on the ground, including Brett McGurk, as recently as, I believe, a week ago.


MS. PSAKI: We’ve engaged the government closely. We’ve encouraged unity repeatedly and consistently over the course of months. So I would just refute the notion of your question.

And they added this footnote to the transcript:

[i] Spokesperson Psaki understood the question to be about *current* training operations.
As we have said, we do consider the Government of Iraq an essential partner in a common fight against terrorism and our two countries continue to build a mutually beneficial partnership under the Strategic Framework Agreement. We remain deeply committed to supporting Iraq in its battle against terrorist threats and in its efforts to advance political and economic development. As part of our support, we seek to offer a broad range of security, counter-terrorism, and combat support capabilities for Iraq to draw on to help meet its significant security challenges in the near term and invest in its future over the longer term.

Let's talk about arming and training.  AFP speaks to an unnamed Defense Dept official, "Pending an agreement with Jordan or another nation to host the effort, the training was "likely" to go ahead as both Baghdad and Washington supported the idea, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity."  Luis Martinez (ABC News) adds:

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters Friday there were discussions underway with Iraq about future training possibilities for Iraq’s security forces.  “We are continuing to discuss with the Iraqis how we can train them and how we can keep their security forces at the highest possible levels,” Warren told reporters.
“The department recognizes that it is important for the Iraqis to have a capable force,” said Warren.  He would not detail whether those discussions would have U.S. troops doing the training or where such training might occur if it is agreed to.

Loveday Morris and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) report, "Maliki said during the interview that he would support a new U.S. military training mission for Iraqi counterterrorism troops in Jordan, marking the first time he has expressed support for a plan that the Pentagon has been contemplating in recent months. U.S. military officials have not provided details on the scope or timing of such a training mission."

That's the training issue.  And it should be noted that training in Jordan isn't a new idea.  It dates back to the Bully Boy Bush administration when Jordan was going to be used as a location to train Iraqi police.  Let's move over to the arming.  Oren Dorell (USA Today) reports, "The Obama administration said Friday it is sending more weapons to Iraq to help Baghdad put down a resurgent al-Qaeda that is battling government troops in cities that U.S. troops helped liberate during the Iraq war."  David Lerman (Bloomberg News) adds, "The aid will be delivered “as rapidly as possible” to meet a request made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman."

In light of the above, it's interesting that the Chair of Joint-Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin Dempsey declared, "No one has asked, nor have we offered direct military involvement because of the underlying religious issues and extremist issues."

That statement may surprise some.

It will certainly surprise the listeners of NPR who caught Tom Bowman's lousy report for Morning Edition today.

It really is amazing how NPR works to pull news from their broadcasts.

Dempsey made the quoted remark to Bowman.  It didn't make the edit.

Jim Garamone (DoD's American Forces Press Service) found the remark newsworthy:

 The United States is looking at how to help solve the problems of the region. Dempsey said the U.S. military can help in planning and logistics. “No one has asked, nor have we offered direct military involvement because of the underlying religious issues and extremist issues,” he said.

Claudette Roulo (DoD's American Forces Press Service) also found the remark newsworthy:

“No one has asked, nor have we offered direct military involvement because of the underlying religious issues and extremist issues,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told NPR this week.

On the heels of embarrassing adoption 'report,' NPR really didn't need to get caught with bad editing choices again.  But they have been caught.

Tom Bowman didn't report Dempsey saying,  "No one has asked, nor have we offered direct military involvement because of the underlying religious issues and extremist issues."

It's a real shame Tom Bowman fell in love with his own voice (he offers several cut-aways as though he's Peter Griffith on Family Guy) and lost interest in the subject of his supposed report.  What "underlying religious issues and extremists issues" was Dempsey referring to?

It's a shame Bowman and NPR didn't feel the need to allow the American people to hear the discussion.

Robert Gates is a former US Secretary of Defense (December 2006 to July 2011).  He has a new book he's promoting entitled Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.  The Christian Science Monitor hosted a press breakfast for him this morning.  Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) reports he declared that the US military had accomplished the goals they were tasked with and handed control of the country over to the Iraqi government:

The mistakes that have since been made by Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki have included isolating Sunnis in a country dominated by a Shiite-led government and "treating the Sunnis in such a hostile manner over the last couple of years or so."

The Christian Science Monitor has posted a brief clip of Gates speaking about Iraq.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates:  Well I think if I were sitting in the [White House] Situation Room today, I would recommend that we offer the Maliki government a wide range of military assistance -- both equipment and training.  But I would be very explicit about conditioning it on his outreach to the Sunnis and pulling back on all these acts such as trying to arrest Vice President [Tareq al-] Hashemi and other Sunni officials from his government, make some investments in Anbar and other Sunni areas that give the Sunnis some reason to believe this government in Baghdad does represent them and is better -- is better than any other.  I think -- I think there are two causes of the situation that we face, that is going on in Iraq.  One is Maliki treating the Sunnis in such a hostile manner over the last couple of years or so.  And -- and the other then is the spillover from Syria.

For more on the breakfast, refer to FORA TV which has more clips (and the recording of the entire breakfast is available for $9.95). Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq makes similar points to Joshua Keating (Slate):

The U.S. government has reportedly now agreed to supply the Iraqi government with more weapons in order to defeat the “al-Qaida linked” Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) militants now in control of the city of Fallujah in Anbar province, after conversations between Maliki and Vice President Biden earlier this week. But Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, a prominent secular Sunni leader whose party opposes Maliki’s, told Slate that today that “stability will not happen through supplying arms only” because Sunnis in the region “feel they are being marginalized, and they are uprising now.”

“There is a wrong feeling that what’s happening in Anbar is merely al-Qaida and da’ash (a nickname for ISIS). This is a mistake,” he said. “People in Anbar are uprising now because when the army was sent to defeat al-Qaida in Anbar [last year], they changed their direction and went after demonstrators. The attacked the demonstrators, removed their tents, and arrested one of the parliamentary people in Ramadi. This gave people the impression that the aim is not al-Qaida, that the aim is the demonstrators.”

And things are probably about to get even worse if previous patterns are any indication.  Currently, parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 30th.  What happened last time in the lead up to parliamentary elections?  Saleh al-Mutlaq should remember, it was done to him.

Candidates were disqualified.  They were labeled 'terrorists' and 'Ba'athists.'  This happened if they were political rivals of Nouri al-Maliki and it was done via the Justice and Accountability Commission.  Dar Addustour reports the Justice and Accountability Commission will be vetting candidates shortly.

They weren't supposed to vet anything in 2010.  They were a one-time committee that was supposedly phased out as part of Nouri's efforts to meet the White House benchmarks -- which included to move towards national reconciliation and to end Paul Bremer's de-Ba'athifaction process.

Sunnis are targeted by Nouri.  That's among the reasons they protest.

Above is Samarra from earlier today -- Iraqi Spring MC posted the video here.  December 21, 2012, a wave of protests kicked off in Iraq and they continued today. Protests also took place in Amiriya, Rawa, Falluja,  Tikrit, Baiji, and Baquba.

NINA reports:

Vice Chairman of the Council Faleh al-Issawi told / NINA / that the local government , represented by the provincial council and governor of Anbar province , is holding talks and continuous meetings with tribal sheikhs and elders , in order to end the crisis and the tense situation in the province.
Issawi added that the purpose of these meetings and discussions, is to know the demands of the clans, and to work on bringing together their points of views with the central government in order to end the current crisis and end armed manifestations in Anbar. 

This week, BRussells Tribunal's Eman Ahmed Khamas spoke with RT about the assault on Anbar.

Eman Ahmed Khamas:  I was saying that the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq is to be blamed for this violence.  And of course there are many other reasons behind this violence: the non-functioning state, for example, the corrupt and fascist government, the absence of any kind of services, the failing state, all of these -- and above all the persecution of people --  especially those who protest against the fascist policies of the government.  All these togethar are behind the escalation of violence.  [. . .]  Actually for the last year -- more than a year Iraqis are protesting peacefully I mean protesting against the government's policies and, above all, the executions and the detentions.  You know Iraq now has the first rate of executions in the world.  And, again, the non-functioning state, the failings, etc.   What the government did is that they attacked the peaceful protesters and they killed many of them.  For example, a few months ago, they slaughtered 45 people in Hawija, people who were protesting peacefully.  And in other places -- in Diyala, in Mousl, and Anbar -- all these killings.  Yes, Iraqis are trying to cope with this violence but simply the government has to stop persecuting the people.

Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports:

Iraq’s senior politicians are tripping over themselves to come up with proposals to solve the current crisis in Anbar. Despite the fact that some of the ideas are plausible and positive, it seems unlikely that any will get off the ground because of entrenched political antipathies in Baghdad. What is needed is a neutral mediator to bring all the enemies to the bargaining table.

National tension is running high due to the events in Anbar province over the past fortnight. Now that an all out military confrontation – between the Iraqi army and non-army forces in the southern province - appears to have been avoided several senior politicians in Baghdad have come up with plans to try and resolve the situation politically.

Some of the plans seem to have come about as a result of diplomatic pressure from Iraq’s allies, from countries like the US, and others may well be popularity ploys aimed at Iraq’s upcoming federal elections, due to be held in April. However whether any of them gets off the ground is a whole other issue.

The first of these initiatives came from former Iraqi Prime Minister and leader of the opposition, Ayed Allawi. Allawi is a Shiite Muslim politician who leads an opposition bloc made up mainly of Sunni Muslim politicians and who always emphasises the non-sectarian nature of his political positions. His suggested plan involves withdrawing the Iraqi army from Anbar province and looking seriously at the legitimate demands of Sunni Muslim protestors who have been conducting anti-government demonstrations for almost a year now.

Allawi also wants a committee formed to look into the issues – the committee should be made up of representatives of the government and other main parties in Baghdad as well as representatives from Anbar’s tribes and the Sunni Muslim demonstrators – and which would uphold the Iraqi Constitution and ensure that the first two parts of his plan are carried out.  

A second plan was announced by Ammar al-Hakim who leads the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. His party is part of the ruling, mostly Shiite Muslim coalition headed by Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. But in recent times, the Shiite Muslim organization has been forging its own path and maintaining a healthy distance from the increasingly unpopular al-Maliki.
Al-Hakim suggests the formation of a council of elders made up of representatives from Anbar’s tribes as well as constructing self defence militias made up of members of Anbar’s tribes. Additionally al-Hakim thought that accelerating reconstruction projects in Anbar would also help increase satisfaction in the area and give demonstrators less to complain about.

“Al-Hakim's initiative is aimed at preventing military intervention in Anbar,” Habib al-Tarfi, an MP for the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, explained to NIQASH. “It reassures Iraq’s Sunnis while stressing the importance of peaceful dialogue as the only way out of this crisis.”

The latest – but probably not the last – plan came several days ago from the President of the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani. In a press release, Fadhil Mirani, a senior member of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP, said that the President was working on a comprehensive initiative to contain the Anbar crisis.
Mirani suggested that, “currently Iraq’s Kurds might be more acceptable mediators to work with each opposing party in this conflict because they’re not a part of the problem.”
al-Hakim's proposal is the on that the US government has been backing for two weeks now -- as al-Hakim has repeatedly noted in public.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 640 violent deaths for the month.  Today?  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Tikrit armed attack left 1 Sahwa leader dead and his son injured,  1 corpse (gun shot wounds) was discovered dumped in the street northeast of Baquba, a Shura armed attack left 1 Iraqi soldier dead, a Mosul roadside bombing left one military Lt Col injured, an Almishahdah armed attack left 2 rebels dead, a Ramadi suicide bomber took his own life and that of 9 "Anabar's tribes sons," a Jorfi-ssakhar elementary school was bombed, and a bridge linking Anbar Province to Karbala was blown up.

Turning to the topic of war resistance, J.B. Gerald (Global Research) notes:

Canada continues to deport contemporary deserters to U.S. military prisons. One or two resisters have found safe haven through legal cases and appeals against the orders to remove them. Polls have shown a majority of Canadians supports war resisters, but in 2010 Parliament failed to pass bill C-440 amending the Immigration act in their favour. The Harper government continues to deny refuge and asylum. Aside from known cases there are unknown numbers of resisters.
Among the deported were Robin Long, Clifford Cornell, and Kimberley Rivera. In the U.S., sentenced to 14 months, Kimberley Rivera gave birth in prison Nov. 26th, and was released Dec. 12th, after serving 10 months. In reporting her release, the U.S. military paper, Stars and Stripes, noted her dishonourable discharge doesn’t necessarily mean she won’t be able to find work. Jeremy Hinzman, an upfront conscientious objector, after numerous complex legal battles received a permission to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. The UN Human Rights Commission has shown ongoing support for the rights of conscientious objectors. Yet on long term AWOL from the U.S. Army, Rodney Watson, under government warrant, enters his fifth year of sanctuary asylum in the First United Church of Vancouver. Many legal cases have been won by resisters, then appealed by the government and legal cases of war resisters such as Joshua Key remain under consideration as though waiting for politicians to wake up. Some cases are rarely mentioned, as though notice might upset an applecart.

Julie Berry writes the editors of the St. Thomas Times-Journal to note, "Conscientious objector, Kimberly Rivera, has just finished serving a 10 month jail term in U.S. Military prison because of her refusal to take part in the Iraq war. She has spent months separated from her husband and children and now faces rebuilding her life with a felony conviction on her record. This injustice only happened because our government chose to force her to leave Canada and return to the US, arguing that it was 'merely speculative' that she would be punished."  Last month, Courage to Resist noted Kim Rivera had completed her sentence.  While behind bars, Kim gave birth.  The San Diego Free Press reported November 30th,

Kimberly Rivera gave birth to her son Matthew Kaden Rivera in the Naval Hospital on November 25th.   Her husband Mario was initially denied access to the birthing room but was ultimately granted permission to attend the delivery.  Although the delivery itself went smoothly, this was no ordinary birth– Rivera has been serving a ten month sentence for deserting the US army while deployed in Iraq.  She deserted in 2007 because she felt morally unable to take part in the conflict.

Kim is part of a movement of war resistance which also includes Lt. Ehren Watada, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Justin Colby, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson,  Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia,  Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Brad McCall, Rodney Watson, Chuck Wiley and Kevin Benderman.

In January 2004, Jeremy Hinzman became the first US service member to go to Canada and seek asylum instead of deploying to Iraq to serve in the illegal war.  War Resisters Support Campaign explains:

Jeremy Hinzman was a U.S. soldier in the elite infantry division, the 82nd Airborne. He served in Afghanistan in a non-combat position after having applied for conscientious objector status.   After being refused CO status and returning to America, he learned that they would be deployed to Iraq.
  Hinzman did not believe the stated reasons for the Iraq war. In January 2004 he drove to Canada to seek asylum. He is currently living in Toronto with his wife Nga Nguyen and son Liam. His refugee claim was turned down in March 2005 by the Immigration and Refugee Board. This decision was upheld by the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal, and on November 15, 2007 the Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.
  On July 21 2008 their daughter Meghan was born in Toronto.
  Jeremy and his family was ordered to leave Canada by September 23, 2008, or face deportation to the United States where Jeremy would be turned over to the US military to face punishment for desertion. A judicial review of this decision was denied by the Federal Court in June 2009, but on July 6, 2010, the Federal Court of Appeal, citing serious flaws with the immigration officer's decision, ruled in favour of Jeremy and ordered a review of his application to stay on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds.

Hinzman remains at risk of being forced to return to the United States.  Tom Riley writes the editors of the Toronto Star, "During the Vietnam era, Canada welcomed 50,000 draft resisters and deserters. I was one of them. It’s shameful that 40 years later, rather than continuing this proud tradition and affirming Canadian values, our government is using its resources to try to actively intervene in the cases of Iraq resisters to try to ensure they are forced out of Canada."   On Global Research's latest radio show, they speak with war resister Joshua Key who notes that those who speak out are especially punished when they return or are forced to return.  He shares that due to his writing a book about war resistance (The Deserter's Tale, written with Lawrence Hill), his granting many interviews on the topic, his appearing in documentaries and his acting as an advisor on Kimberly Peirce's Stop-Loss mean he would, according to one expert, get 20 years in prison if he was forced to return to the US.

Finally, David Bacon's last book, Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press), won the CLR James Award. He has a new book, The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration.  Teofilo Reyes reviews it for Labornotes:

While immigrants were fasting on the Mall near the U.S. Capitol last month to pressure for immigration reform, the Mexican Congress was allowing privatization of the country's public oil corporation, PEMEX.
Separated by 2,500 miles, these events might seem a world apart.
But David Bacon's The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration shows how the two are intertwined. Bacon weaves narratives across borders, following communities as they struggle at home, migrate, and then struggle again in their new homes.
Over half the Mexican population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank. And Mexico is the only country in Latin America that saw poverty increase last year.
 In 1994 Mexico formally scrapped its decades-old program of economic development based on industrial and agricultural self-sufficiency. The government turned instead to a policy based on open markets and foreign investment: NAFTA.
Shortly after the NAFTA ink dried, the U.S. fell into a recession and the poverty rate in Mexico quickly grew to over 60 percent of the population. Ross Perot's sucking sound of jobs rushing south across the border was drowned out by the noise of U.S. capital vacuuming up cheap labor.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The illegal spying

Friday, Barack's supposed to give a big speech on the illegal spying.

The ACLU issued the following today:

January 15, 2014
NEW YORK – President Obama is not planning to change the core of the NSA’s bulk surveillance programs, according to a report today in The New York Times.
Anthony D. Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, had this comment:
“President Obama’s speech on Friday will not only determine the direction of national security policies and programs, but also define his civil liberties legacy. If the speech is anything like what is being reported, the president will go down in history for having retained and defended George W. Bush’s surveillance programs rather than reformed them.
“Keeping the storage of all Americans’ data in government hands and asking ‘lawmakers to weigh in,’ as reported, is passing the buck – when the buck should stop with the president. If Congress fails to act on this matter, as it has on other critical policy issues, President Obama will effectively be handing off a treasure trove of all our private data to succeeding presidents – whether it is Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, or Hillary Clinton.”
More information on NSA spying is at:

Passing the buck?

I think I prefer "kick the can."  Mainly because in 2007 and early 2008, Barack used the phrase incessantly -- he was against it and accused others of doing it.

I don't know anyone who still believes in the Hope of Barry O.  Up until the illegal spying story broke, I had three friends who were still Cult of St. Barack.  This was what finally woke them up.

This clarity about how awful he actually is may free him up to do nothing in some ways -- he won't feel the pressure of pleasing his fans since he no longer has any of them.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, January 15, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, rebels seize more territory in Anbar, Nouri orders a newspaper shut down, Nineveh wants to become semi-autonomous, Nouri ticks off the Kurds again, Iraq is noted in a US Congressional hearing today, an investigation is launched to determine whether US service members disrespected Iraqi corpses in Falluja in 2004, and more.

TMZ announces today:

The United States military is conducting a formal investigation into American soldiers burning the dead bodies of what appear to be Iraqi insurgents.
TMZ obtained 41 pictures that we're told were shot in Fallujah in 2004.  Two pictures show a Marine appearing to pour gasoline or some other flammable on the remains of what officials believe are 2 insurgents.  Two other photos show the bodies on fire.  You then see charred remains.
Another photo shows a Marine crouched down next to a dead body and mugging for the camera.
Still another pic shows a Marine rifling through the pocket of the pants on a corpse.
We have not included all of the photos.  Many are just too gruesome.  There are well over a dozen bodies in the pics and some are covered with flies and one is being eaten by a dog.
We turned them all over to the Pentagon last week, and a Pentagon official tells us the pics have triggered a Marine Corps investigation.

ABC News Radio explains, "The defiling of remains is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice but the photos may also be a violation of U.S. Central Command’s General Order Number One, which provides the guidelines for how American troops serving in the Middle East should conduct themselves."  The issue was raised at today's State Dept press briefing delivered by spokesperson Marie Harf:


MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you could say something about these pictures that were released about military soldiers pouring gasoline on the bodies of Iraqis in Fallujah in 2004. I understand there’s an investigation going on.

MS. HARF: I have not seen those. I’m sorry. I would point you to DOD. They probably have the lead on this. I’m happy to check with our folks. I just haven’t.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering. I mean, right now as you are trying to work with the Iraqis on countering what’s going on, the violence on the ground, if this kind of damages your credibility in terms of someone that can be helpful right now.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly extremely committed to working with Iraq in a variety of ways to counter this threat together. We’ve talked a lot about that in the past few weeks in a combination of political and counterterrorism support. I’m not familiar with the specifics about these photos, but we certainly are very committed to the relationship and have no indication that the Iraqis aren’t as well.

This comes as Michael Lipkin (Law360) reports, "The American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights organizations renewed their attempts on Wednesday to force the U.S. Department of Defense to release photos of prisoner abuse in U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, arguing conditions had changed since the DOD last rejected their requests."  And as the US Air Force is rocked by a test cheating and drug scandal.  At the Pentagon today, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James took questions about the investigation.  Those alleged to have been involved are members of the ICBM force -- the intercontinental ballistic missile force.  Phil Stewart (Reuters) reports, "The Air Force has suspended security clearances for 34 officers and is re-testing the entire forces overseeing America's nuclear-armed missiles after uncovering widespread cheating on a key proficiency exam."  Secretary James declared at the press conference, "I've directed that the OSI put full resources against this investigation so that we get to the bottom of exactly what happened, who was involved, and the extent of this so that we can hold people appropriately accountable for this."

Former US Senator Joe Lieberman:  Yet increasingly we hear voices -- on both sides of the political spectrum -- who say that the threat from terrorism is receding, the end of this conflict is here or near, and therefore that we can withdraw from much of the rest of the world. This narrative is badly and dangerously mistaken. There is no question, the United States -- under President Bush and President Obama -- has inflicted severe damage to 'core' al Qaeda, the senior leadership that reconstituted itself in the mid-2000s in the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan, after being driven by the American military from neighboring Afghanistan after 9/11. To borrow a phrase from General David Petraeus, while the progress we have achieved against core al Qaeda is real and significant it is also fragile and reversible . What has degraded core al Qaeda in the tribal areas of Pakistan has been the persistent, targeted application of military force against these indi viduals and networks. The precondition for these operations, and the intelligence that enables them , has been our presence in Afghanistan. If the United States withdraws all of our military forces from Afghanistan at the end of this year -- the so-called "zero option," which some now advocate -- you can be sure that al Qaeda will regenerate, eventually on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. If you doubt this, I urge you to look at what is now happening in western Iraq, where just a few years ago, during the US-led surge, al Qaeda was dealt an even more crippling blow than core al Qaeda has suffered in Pakistan. Yet now it is al Qaeda that is surging back in Iraq, hoisting its black flag over cities like Falluja and Ramadi, murdering hundreds of innocent Iraqis this year, with violence surging back to 2008 levels. 

Lieberman went on to advocate for "a small number of embedded [US] advisors on the ground" in Iraq as well as for the US to provide "airpower."  He was testifying today before the House Homeland Security Committee -- US House Rep Michael McCaul is Committee Chair and US House Rep Bennie G. Thompson is the Ranking Member.  Also testifying were former US House Rep Jane Harman, retired General Jack Keane and the RAND Corporation's Dr. Seth Jones.

Gen Jack Keane:  After the strategic blunder of leaving no residual force in Iraq -- and immunity for US troops was a false issue -- equally damaging was distancing ourselves from a long term strategic partnership between the US and Iraq leaving the al Qaeda to have re-emerged and the level of violence today is as high as it was in 2008 and destined to get higher.  The al Qaeda are quickly taking control of western Iraq while they have seized control of northern Syria.

Harman had nothing to offer on Iraq -- possibly because she was still focused on the Defense Policy Board briefing on South Asia that  "I've just come from" -- a briefing which she described as "bone chilling."  (What was she referring to?  US assessments on where nuclear war stands currently between Pakistan and India.)

We'll note this exchange.  It's typical of the hearing -- talking down to Americans, preaching war and death and destruction.

Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson:  A lot of us our faced, when we go into our districts, with an effort that's gone on a long time.  The people are becoming weary -- not defeated, but weary. And they say, "Why don't you do something to bring this to an end?" If we had a magic wand, we could do that. So, listening to some of our constituents who talk about the 6,000 people who died and the enormous costs so far, and I'll go, because I've heard it -- what would you suggest as a response to those constituents going forward, as to what members of Congress, the House and the Senate should do to bring that to an end? I'll start with you, Senator.

Former Senator Joe Lieberman:  Thanks, Congressman Thompson, that's a -- that's a really important question.  I'm glad you asked it because that's the reality.  And I know that's what you face and what members of both parties probably face -- when you go home.  So here's the point at which -- I mean one first reaction I have, which won't really convince people, but it - but it's an important one.  I will tell you that every time I went to a funeral of a soldier from Connecticut who was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, I was amazed and moved by the families saying, 'Please make sure that our son/daughter/husband/whatever didn't die in vain.'  So there is that element.  I mean, if we just, we learned some lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan, that if we just walk away, we do risk saying to those families whose family members gave their lives because we ordered them to go there in our defense that they did die in vain.  I don't think we ever want that to happen.  Second thing, I want to go back to and, in some ways, I want to make this personal about President Obama. Put it in this context, President Obama ran for office in 2008 and again in 2012 with one of the basic themes -- in addition to all the change and dealing with domestic problems -- was that he was going to get us out of the wars that we were in and not get us into additional wars around the world/  And, uhm, you know, fair enough.  But sometimes the world doesn't cooperate with a presidential narrative and I think that's where we are in the countries that I've talked about: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya.  Which, if we don't do something more than we're doing now, they're going to tip over.  So, I say this personally, I'm not here just to criticize what the Obama administration has done.  In some sense, I'm here to appeal to the Obama administration -- which, after all, the president's going to be our president for three more years and a lot that could be good or bad for our security couldan happen.  I repeat, what's a lesson learned that's consistent with the message that the president -- the policy that the president has adopted?  We're not going to send tens of thousands of troops on the ground to any of these countries.  But there's something in between that and just pulling out.  And I think what we've all , in different ways, tried to argue today, both militarily and in other ways in terms of aid and support where if we don't -- and this is what I'd say to the constituents -- if we don't at least maintain a presence, if we don't help the freedom fighters in Syria, the non-extremists, anti-Assad people, if we don't build up the Libyan military to maintain order against the militias, if we don't make the kind of agreement and support the government in Iraq, then we're going to get attacked again. Same from Afghanistan.  And, uh, then we're going to have to go back in there and have to spend more, risk more American lives.  It's not an easy argument to make -- and particularly, not in tough economic times.  But so I think, bottom line, we've learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, it's not going to be hundreds of thousands of troops but if we just turn away we're going to suffer and, therefore, we need your support, Mr. and Mrs. Constituent, to help us do that. 

Former US House Rep Jane Harman: I can think of five things -- some of which I've already mentioned, but I'll tick them off.  One, honor the service of those who followed orders and went to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Tens of thousands grievously wounded.  Many came home in decent shape.  Honor their service.  Make sure we have in place a welcome mat that includes all the benefits they're entitled to but also hopefully efforts to build good jobs for them -- the unemployment rate among returning vets is disproportionate to the unemployment rate of others.  Second, engage in a whole of government approach to solve this problem.  We've discussed that at length, I won't go into it again.  Third, continue the counter-terrorism mission in not just the Middle East but around the world.  The US has interests in other places other than our own country but we surely don't want training grounds to develop again in pick a place.  And we know that some are and we need to be active there using all the tools that we have. Fourth, continue our surveillance system although I think some reforms are in order.  The president will speak on Friday.  I was quite impressed with the report that was presented to him.  It's not clear exactly what he'll adopt but we need to have an effective system that can spot bad guys and prevent and disrupt plots against us.  And finally, enact cyber security legislation so that we are protected against what is a growing threat and could in the end be a more -- many predict -- a much more severe threat than some other form of terror threat against the homeland.

Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson:  General?

Retired General Jack Keane: Yes, I would first say to them that never before in the history of the country have so few sacrificed so much for so many and have done it for so long.  And the fact of the matter is that the reason why it has been so long is because of the mistakes that we made and be honest about it.  The fact of the matter is that our strategy initially in Afghanistan -- military strategy I'm talking about here -- and our military strategy in Iraq after we liberated Iraq was flawed  And that led to protracted wars.  And we should have an honest discussion with the American people and with your constituents. Now the fact of the matter is that if you know America's military -- and I can say this with some knowledge -- is that we normally get off on the wrong foot and we have throughout our history with some rare exceptions.  But because we're reflections of the American people, the American society, we're intellectually flexible and operationally adoptable.  And we sort of get to the answer faster than other people would when we're on a much larger war than what we're dealing with here.  And we did figure it out eventually in Iraq and we have figured it out in Afghanistan as well.  And the sacrifice is definitely worth it to protect the American people.  I mean, when you talk to the troops we deployed in the 90s and we were all over the world doing things in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Herzegovina, you name the place, there were problems and we were there.  Not necessarily fighting to the degree that we've done post-9/11 but nonetheless deployments and some fighting.  From 9-11 on, and we have a 9-11 generation in the military, we have a 9-11 generation in the Central Intelligence Agency -- The fact of the matter is when you talk to these troops, it's all about the American people.  Before it was about helping others.  This is about protecting the American people and they get it.  That's why they willingly go back and do four, five, six tours.  We have generals that have been away from their families for 8 out of 10 years.  I mean it's quite extraordinary the sacrifice that is willingly be made. Tell that story.  It's extraordinary because they are protecting the American people and our way of life.  And they're willing to do something that most of the American people cannot do and that is die for that.  And that is really quite extraordinary.  So I say be honest with them.  And then, in terms of this troublesome area, I know intellectually we like to talk about we're pivoting to the east because of the emergence of China.  Does anyone in this room believe that in any near term we're going to go to war with China? Not that we shouldn't be vigilant about them.  We can't be serious about that.  The fact of the matter is we have huge problems in the Middle East that threaten the United States.  And we have to stay engaged, Mr. Congressman, that is the word that we need to use.  We partner with our allies in that region and we support people who want to overthrow dictatorial regimes -- like in Libya, like in Tunisia, like in Syria.  In Libya and Syria, they just want us to help them.  They don't want our troops. And in Iraq, where we did help them, we walked away and look at the mess we have as a result.  That should inform us of how dangerous this situation is and how important American commitment is to stay engaged.  And we have to do that if we're going to protect the American people. 

Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson:  Dr. Jones?

Dr. Seth Jones:  I would say three things that are worth reminding constituents and all Americans that we talk to.  One is, as much as we would like this war and this struggle to end, there are organizations committed to fighting Americans and conducting attacks overseas that will not end.  They don't have a desire to end this and the struggle on their part will continue.  Therefore, the struggle continues.  As much as we want to end it, the terrorists we've talked about today are committed to continuing this struggle.  Second, I would say, as everybody here has noted, the days of large numbers of American forces targeting terrorists overseas -- particularly conventional forces -- are over.  And I think that as we have seen over the past several years, they have tended to radicalize populations rather than to facilitate.  So what that does leave us is, I would say, a third point.  There is a more modest approach.  I think we have learned we're talking about smaller number of forces, lethal ones overseas -- as well as civilians; we're talking about smaller amounts of American dollars that are being sent.  There is a need for direct action -- some direct action activity.  We have stopped plots targeting the US homeland from overseas because of this action.  We also have an interest in building some of the local partnership capacity so that we don't have to do all of this -- so that we don't have to do all the fighting and dying and that locals can do it.  This is the direction we've moved on in several fronts.  So I would say there has been a learning process.  But let me just conclude by again just reminding constituents and Americans, that from the al Qaeda and jihadists perspective, the war continues and, in that sense, we cannot retreat. 

Some quick take aways.  Joe Lieberman has never understood 9-11, not even the official story.  If you examine his claims about how inaction will cause another 9-11, you should realize quickly that the only inaction in the official story is the failure to heed warnings.  The reasons given for the attack are not reasons calling for more US troops stationed around the world. In fact, one reason given for the attacks was US troops stationed in the Middle East.  Second, it's really sad that two people who voted for the Iraq War -- Lieberman and Harman -- can do nothing to justify the war but hide behind dead soldiers.  Contrary to their embarrassing remarks, you don't continue insanity because some people died.  You learn from your mistakes.  Or, in Lieberman and Harman's case, you never learn.  Last main point we'll make: only a smaller number of forces will be used.

That's what the War Hawks said.  And that can be seen as a victory.  The force size -- even at its largest -- in Iraq was never as great in number as what the US sent to Vietnam.  So it's worth noting that the Iraq Wae which was supposed to bury memory and fact (more popularly known as "the Vietnam syndrome") didn't work.  And even War Hawks have to face that in the next go rounds the numbers sent will be even smaller.

Lieberman and others, of course, say send advisers so we should probably point out that this is the way they birth wars -- start it with advisers and kick it up to something greater.

I'll probably come back to the hearing tomorrow to note one more thing regarding Iraq.  Also in today's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Yep.

QUESTION: I have one more – Iraqi members of parliament are in town. Have they met anyone from the State Department?

MS. HARF: Members of parliament?


MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t know. I’ll check.

That's what we need to cover and I'll kick that back to tomorrow.  This is about the DC event that we covered in yesterday's snapshot.  We'll try to pick up the Iraq from the hearing and one of the MPs from yesterday.  Also Ruth and Kat were at this morning's hearing and plan to write about it at their sites tonight focusing on Benghazi.  Ava and Wally were at the hearing and are debating if they've got anything else they can cover.

Yesterday, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq began a visit to DC.  Speaking to  Eli Lake (Daily Beast) al-Mutlaq called for the US to send election monitors to Iraq.   He made his call for election monitors on the same day as a Nineveh Electoral Commission official was assassinated in Mosul.  Today, National Iraqi News Agency reports, "Unknown gunmen assassinated on Wednesday 15, Jan. an employee at Nineveh Elections Office, near his home in eastern Mosul."

The elections are the parliamentary elections which are supposed to take place April 30th.
Some have argued that Nouri al-Maliki's current assault on Anbar Province is a campaign move as he seeks a third term as prime minister.  Others have argued Nouri's assault is an attempt to delay the elections.
Alistair Lyon and Yara Bayoumy (Reuters) provide an analysis of Nouri's rule and we'll note this part on the 2010 parliamentary elections where Nouri's State of Law was beaten by Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya but the White House insisted Nouri be given a second term:

A former senior adviser to Maliki is cited by Iraq expert Toby Dodge of the London School of Economics as saying the prime minister began keeping decision-making far more to himself after the formation of his government in 2010.
"Maliki's paranoia went stratospheric and he wouldn't listen to any advice," Dodge quoted the adviser as saying.
The election also discouraged Sunnis who, after boycotting earlier U.S.-sponsored elections, had put their faith in the ballot box and supported Iraqiya - only to see it stymied after its success. "It's against that background that violence and alienation has flourished in Anbar," Dodge said.
In 2010, the Iraqi people voted and the White House stripped them of their votes.  Since then things have gotten progressively worse each year in Iraq leading up to the just finished 2013 which Prensa Latina describes as follows: "The city [Baghdad] is sunken in a wave of violence that left a death toll of 9 500 people last year, caused by the resurgence of the conflict between the Sunni Muslim Community, which feels discriminated, and the Shiite-led government."

Nouri's assualt on Anbar continues.  Colin Freeman (Telegraph of London) reports that, "in the town of Saqlawiyah, west of Fallujah, Iraqi police fled their station after being outgunned by militiamen, who used a mosque’s loudspeakers to urge them to leave. "   AFP notes that "militants took more territory from security forces in crisis-hit Anbar province.  The twin setbacks for authorities, grappling with Iraq’s worst period of unrest since the country emerged from a sectarian war that killed tens of thousands, come just months before parliamentary elections." F. Brinley Bruton (NBC News) reminds, "Sunni militants took over the city of Fallujah west of Baghdad two weeks ago, in a direct challenge to the rule of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."   Sameer N. Yacoub and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report:

The World Health Organization said the few health facilities in the province were no longer able to provide even lifesaving interventions and residents in Ramadi and Fallujah face acute health needs due to the conflict. The organization said it has dispatched 2 tons of medicine and supplies.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it has delivered food and essential supplies over the past few days to nearly 12,000 displaced people in Anbar and several other mainly Sunni areas. It warned the families "are enduring considerable hardship," and their situation has shown no signs of improvement.

Iraq Body Count counts 52 dead from Tuesday's violence and, through yesterday, 458 violent deaths for the month so far.

Sky News counts at least 75 dead today as does Alistair Lyon (Reuters) while EFE notes at least 152 people were left injured.   NINA reports 1 Shabak was shot dead in Mosul, an eastern Baghdad car bombing (Palestine Street) left twelve people injured, a northeastern Baghdad car bombing claimed 5 lives and left twelve people injured, 2 people were shot dead in Baghdad, Baghdad Operations Command announced they shot dead 1 suspect, an armed clash in Jlami-dor left 3 fighters dead, an Alhamrah Village roadside bombing left 3 police members dead and two more injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing killed 1 police officer, an eastern Baghdad roadside bombing (al-Obeidi area) left 2 people dead and five more injured, a Jalawla sticky bombing left 1 person dead, a Baghdad sticky bombing (Sadr City) left 1 person dead and two more injured, 4 corpses (1 woman, 3 men) were discovered dumped in the streets of Baghdad, a Mosul bridge bombing left 7 Iraqi soldiers dead and nine more injured, Anbar security announced they killed "11 members of Daash when military helicopters bombed" Saqlawiyah, an Ein al-Jahash roadside bombing left Ismail al-Jubouri wounded (he's the Director of Nineveh Operations Command), a south Baghdad roadside bombing (Zafaraniyah) claimed 2 lives, a western Baghdad car bombing (Shu'la) claimed 2 lives and left ten people injured, a south Buhruz funeral bombing left 13 people dead and twenty-one more injured, and a central Baghdad car bombing (Sena'ah Street) left 1 person dead and nine more injured. Sky News notes of the funeral bombing "In the deadliest single incident, a bomb blew up in a funeral tent in Buhriz - 35 miles north of Baghdad - where mourners were marking the death of a Sunni Muslim pro-government fighter."  All Iraq News notes 1 corpse was discovered dumped northwest of Mosul (gunshots to the chest).

Let me point out what we said here before Nouri's assault on Al Anbar Province began -- it would not stop violence in Iraq and that previous assaults by Nouri only stirred up violence in the parts he wasn't attacking.  That has proven to be the case this go round as well.  Of today's violence, Lateef Mungin and Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) observe, "Much of the violence recorded Wednesday was in and around Baghdad."  Michael Holmes (CNN) has a strong look at Iraq today which includes:

Plenty has been reported about the violence in Ramadi and Fallujah and the resurgence of al-Qaeda linked radicals, but the killing is widespread -- from Mosul in the north to Baghdad to the south of the country.
Dr. Ayad Allawi was Iraq's first post-Saddam head of government, serving as interim Prime Minister in 2004 and 2005. Tough as nails, but a committed secularist, he looks at his country today with more than a dose of pessimism.
"Unfortunately the country is moving on a sectarian road now," he tells me as we sit in his office, hidden behind blast walls and protected by government and private security.
"It was very dangerous to start with, and I warned leaders in the region. (Now) Iraq has started a civil war -- it hasn't reached the point of no return, but if it does then the whole region will burn up."
He points the finger of blame in many directions, from Syria to the U.S. to Iran, but mainly at the man who now holds his old job -- Prime Minister al-Maliki.
"He doesn't believe in power sharing, he doesn't believe in reconciliation," Allawi says. "He promised to do these things once he became Prime Minister, but in effect he talks against this -- accusing everyone else of being a terrorist, or corrupt, or extremist and so on.

"Authoritarian regimes don't work in this country -- we tried this before and it didn't work. No one sect can rule, no one party can rule, no one man can rule -- we want a democratic country but this is not, unfortunately, what this government wants."

The Irish Mirror notes that Nouri made a high drama statement today, "If we keep silent it means the creation of evil statelets that would wreak havoc with security in the region and world."  Some assume he means Falluja and Ramadi.  He may just as well be talking about provinces that want to declare their own independence (as guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution).  Bassem Francis (Al-Monitor) speaks with Nineveh Province's Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi (brother of Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi).  Atheel explains Nineveh is thinking about declaring its independence:

In a discussion with Al-Hayat, Nujaifi said: “The province is worried about the recent events in Anbar. Any conflict between the security forces and the Sunnis will be quickly reflected on the people in Ninevah. These events have made the people of Ninevah province despair that the conditions of the Sunnis in general, and the people of Ninevah province in particular, will be reformed any time soon. … Therefore, our only option to restore hope to the people of the province is to come out with a new project that has specific features. We have all agreed to request either the establishment of an [autonomous] Ninevah province or to demand the internationalization of the situation of the Sunnis in Iraq because of the injustice they are suffering.”
Nujaifi said: “[Iraqi Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki wants to risk the security of Iraqi society for electoral purposes. He always uses the [recess periods] to make his moves. Every year during the Christmas period he provokes a major crisis, taking advantage of the world being on holiday. … In today’s case, his aim is the election. [He wants] to achieve a victory over his Shiite rivals and at the same time to push the Shiite extremism project a step forward.”
Ninevah’s government accuses Maliki of confiscating its authority over the deployment of the army in major cities, and for launching arrest campaigns by exploiting the laws of “accountability and justice” and “the fight against terrorism,” as well as for depriving the province of a budget that is commensurate with its population.

Nouri's also stirring up problems with the Kurds.  Kitabat reports Kurdish Cabinet members walked out of the meeting on the budget today due to Nouri's efforts to penalize the Kurdistan Regional Government for the KRG's oil deal with Turkey. This is the second year in a row where Nouri has failed to work out what the Kurds see as a fair budget.  Though the budget's been forwarded to Parliament, Baghdad residents won't read about that in the Middle East.  The Baghdad and Saudi Arabia daily newspaper has been shut down.  Kitabat reports that Nouri's forces stormed the paper's Baghdad offices and shut it down.  Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory has called for an explanation and cites journalist Hamza Mustafa explaining that the Ministry of the Interior forces stormed in late Tuesday, shut them down and told them they were no longer allowed to print a newspaper in Baghdad.

jomana karadsheh

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Aaron Swartz

RT reports:

On February 11, a broad coalition of internet-involved organizations will go online to protest massive electronic surveillance by various governments. The action hopes to repeat the successful beating of SOPA/PIPA bills in 2012.
The protest was announced on the anniversary of Aaron Swartz’s suicide and is dedicated to his memory. The software engineer and online freedom activist took his life in 2013 amid prosecution over alleged illegal downloading of a large number of academic journal articles, the charges which could have landed him in jail for up to 35 years.
“If Aaron were alive, he'd be on the front lines, fighting against a world in which governments observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action,” the protest coordination website said.
Similar to the SOPA/PIPA protest in 2012, the new day of action will aim at raising public awareness of government online surveillance and pressuring US lawmakers to act against it.

For those who don't know about Aaron Swartz, Justin Peters (Slate) reported on him yesterday:

On Jan. 18, 2013, one week after Aaron Swartz committed suicide, a group of his friends and admirers gathered in the lobby of the MIT Media Lab to commemorate Swartz’s life and mourn his death. On one side of the room, the event’s organizers had unfurled a homemade banner. For about an hour that night, I watched people approach the banner, grab a marker, and scribble their thoughts. The most memorable was a skinny kid in a sweatshirt and ugly sneakers, who scrawled, “We will continue.”
When I profiled Aaron Swartz for Slate last February, I concluded my story with this anecdote. It was a powerful moment, one that’s stuck with me even though I can’t be entirely sure what that kid meant by his handwritten message.
Continue with what, exactly? That’s been the question that Swartz’s colleagues and acolytes have been trying to answer in the year since his death. Swartz’s busy, complicated life defied easy categorization. He was a programmer who didn’t like to be called a programmer, an Internet millionaire who was deeply ambivalent about Silicon Valley. People called him an “Internet activist,” but he was becoming less interested in “Internet issues” with every passing year. He jumped from project to project, cause to cause, and while this restlessness is part of what makes him such a widely heralded figure—so many groups are able to claim him as their own—it also makes his life difficult to distill into bullet points.
The Department of Justice was perhaps the one group that didn’t have trouble summarizing Aaron Swartz. To the DoJ, he was a computer criminal.

Aaron Swartz took his own life.  It is assumed he felt driven to do so as a result of the Justice Dept's actions.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Tuesday, January 14, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Ramadi's in the control of rebels, the assault on Anbar continues to target women and children, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq asks for US monitors to Iraq's upcoming elections, Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi explains the US has never given Nouri conditions for their support, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits the KRG (including a Syrian refugee camp), and more.

We'll start with Monday's US State Dept press briefing when spokesperson Jen Harf was asked about Iraq.

QUESTION: On Iraq, please.

MS. HARF: Iraq?


MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have anything about the recent – I mean, updating about the cooperation with the Iraqi Government regarding --

MS. HARF: Yeah, let me – yeah – sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off there.

QUESTION: -- confronting different --

MS. HARF: Yep. Let me just --

QUESTION: -- challenges?

MS. HARF: -- give you a few updates here, and then if there are any follow-ups, I’m happy to get to it.
So just a couple of things. We put out a fairly lengthy statement about Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk’s travel to Iraq. Just a little update on the situation on the ground, and we talked about this a little last week – but basically that if we think back on, I think it was January 1st when AQ took over much of Ramadi, Fallujah, that the Iraqis, their local police, with the support of the army in a supporting role, have really cleared out most of Ramadi, and basically did it in about a week, a little longer, and now have a plan to use some of those same tactics to do the same thing in Fallujah. We’re working with them very closely on this.
Obviously, Fallujah’s a more complicated situation, but I think it’s important to note when there is success in doing this. A lot of people covered when AQ took over Ramadi. I think there should be as much attention paid to when the Iraqi local police was able to push them out to the outskirts of Ramadi. So we’re working with them on a whole host of issues, really. It’s working with them politically – as you saw Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk met with everybody, I think, in Iraq over his few day trips there – but also on the military and counterterrorism side, certainly accelerating our cooperation.
I don’t have more details other than what we talked about last week.

QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, if it was the talk about 72 hours ago or 48 hours ago, was about this Apache helicopters and missiles and all these things are – these things are finalizing, or on --

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly hope so. This is – these are things we certainly support, the Administration supports. We will keep working with Congress to as quickly as possible get more things, for lack of a more technical term, more materials to the Iraqi Government they can use in this fight. We are very committed to supporting them in this way through foreign military sales, and also politically and diplomatically.

It's rather sad that on the day the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon begins a visit to Iraq, the US State Dept doesn't even note the visit.  Monday, Ban Ki-moon spent the day in Baghdad.  Among those he met with?  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  Deutsche Welle explains, "Visiting refugees from neighboring war-torn Syria in the Kurdish-hub of Irbil in northern Iraq on Monday, Ban had urged Iraqi leaders to seek 'political dialogue' and said he was saddened to 'so many young children and vulnerable groups who suffer from this man-made tragedy'."   UPI notes, "Their meeting followed a bloody Sunday that left 22 dead and 80 injured. On his fifth trip to Iraq, the UN leader expressed concern about the deteriorating security situation and encouraged political unity and civic participation."  ABC News Radio says the violence "overshadowed" the Secretary-General's visit to the capital.

Today, he visited the KRG in northern Iraq.  The UN News Centre reports:

Visiting with Syrian refugees in northern Iraq, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called “heart-breaking” what he saw in Kawrgosik camp, saying he was particularly saddened to see so many young children, women and vulnerable people suffering from “this man-made tragedy.”
“I am here to send our strong solidarity and support to all the refugees who came from Syria, on behalf of the United Nations and the international community,” said Mr. Ban alongside the High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, and Valerie Amos, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.
“We are also here to listen to the concerns and aspirations of all the refugees here,” the UN chief said, recalling the people with whom he met in their tents. “Families shared their struggles to survive, find their loved ones and cope with the sadness of those who have been lost.”
The Kurdistan Regional Government is hosting more than 220,000 Syrian refugees. Mr. Ban highly commended “its commitment to humanitarian principles” in establishing refugee camps, transit sites and a humanitarian corridor to north-east Syria. 

And they note:

In a private meeting in Erbil with the President of the Kurdistan Region, Massoud Barzani, and Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, Mr. Ban urged the Government to keep the border open for refugees fleeing the conflict.
  The request was echoed by Mr. Guterres, who said it “breaks my heart” to see Syrian refugees risking their lives to escape from the country, such as the reported 200 people who drowned in a Nile River ferry accident.
“Your border is open,” he said, urging Governments to take in refugees and assume full-burden sharing with neighbouring countries “in the noble need to respond to this dramatic situation.”

The KRG notes the Erbil meet-up with President Barzani and Ban Ki-Moon was also attended by Prime Minister Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Imad Ahmed as well as other officials. Ban Ki-Moon expressed his thanks for the KRG hosting the Syrian refugees and that the situations in Syria and Iraq were discussed.

Amir Taheri (Asharaq Al-Awsat) observes:

Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has claimed that the city, which drove governmental forces out last week, is now controlled by Al-Qaeda. His aides have warned that the new Iraqi army has received orders to “liberate” the city with a shoot-to-kill strategy. “We are not going to take any prisoners,” says Muwaffaq Al-Rubai, a veteran advisor to Maliki. Using the Al-Qaeda bogeyman, Maliki has managed to persuade the Obama administration in Washington to speed up arms deliveries, including drones using Hellfire missiles, to Iraqi government forces.
However, the black-and-white picture painted by Maliki does not tell the whole story. To start with, although radical Islamist groups are involved in the current crisis in Fallujah, it is simply wrong to brand them all with the Al-Qaeda label. Elements from the groups operating under the label of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are certainly present in Fallujah and, to a lesser extent, in Ramadi, another town in Anbar. But the insurgency that has wrested control of Fallujah away from Maliki has also attracted armed Arab Sunni tribes that helped drive Al-Qaeda out of the city almost a decade ago. Some of the radical Sunni armed groups came to Fallujah from neighboring Syria, where they have suffered a series of defeats at the hands of rival Islamist groups. In a sense, Maliki provoked them into direct control by launching operations at the Kilometer 90 junction where the borders of Iraq meet with those of Jordan and Syria, a major crossing point for radical Islamists fighting against President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria.

Nouri's assault on Anbar Province continues.   Alsumaria reports that Anbar Province's Health Committee announced today the vast number of victims (300 dead and 251 injured) in the two week assault have been women and children.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "Gunmen on Tuesday regained control of more districts in Ramadi, the capital of the volatile Anbar province in western Iraq, after fierce clashes with Iraqi army backed by Sunni tribes. [. . .]  On Tuesday, they managed to retake control of most areas in central and northern city, a provincial police source told Xinhua."  Al Jazeera adds, "Rebel fighters have staged coordinated attacks near the western Iraqi city of Falluja, destroying two army tanks and capturing a police station, police have said." AFP notes of Ramadi, "Most civil servants have returned to work and many shops reopened, but schools remained closed."  Meanwhile World Bulletin reports the Anbar tribal leaders held a press conference today:

Tribal chieftains held a conference on Tuesday in provincial capital Ramadi at which they issued a joint statement condemning what they called "the unjust war waged by the government of [Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki" on the province.
The province was rocked by clashes early this month when Iraqi security forces dismantled a months-old anti-government sit-in. The sit-in was staged by Sunni tribesmen to protest perceived anti-Sunni discrimination by the Shiite-dominated government.

Chieftains said that the crackdown on the province had led armed tribesmen to take up arms against government troops "in defense of their souls and the pride of the tribes that al-Maliki tried to undermine."

UNHCR issued a statement today which included:

The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that it has been able to deliver aid over the past week to some of the estimated 70,000 people displaced by fighting and insecurity in central Iraq's Anbar province.
"Aid from the UN and partner agencies has been reaching some of the affected communities since January 8, and yesterday a further 12 trucks of UNHCR relief reached neighbourhoods around Fallujah, carrying non-food aid," spokesman Adrian Edwards said, adding that the International Rescue Committee was conducting the distribution for UNHCR.
"At present, insecurity and access difficulties are still hampering the overall effort. The UN is advocating with the government of Iraq to ensure access to displaced persons and safe passage of humanitarian aid," he added.

Other responses to Nouri's assault on Anbar?  Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports,  "Up to 10,000 Iraqi commandos would get antiterrorism training from the United States to bolster Baghdad's fight against al-Qaida under a plan currently being negotiated, diplomats said on Tuesday.  Washington and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are finalizing a security pact that would arrange for antiterrorism training for between 8,000 and 10,000 Iraqi commandos in Jordan, US diplomats based in Amman said."  Tom Roeder (Colorado Gazette) reports on Fort Carson service members in Kuwait:

Soldiers with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team are preparing for three major training exercises in the next 40 days, with the biggest matching their tanks against a Kuwaiti battalion. The training allows the 3,800-soldier unit to fulfill its mission of helping America's friends while honing skills that leaders hope deter threats in the roiling region.
"It has taken on increased significance and meaning, many of us in the brigade are veterans of Iraq," said Col. Omar Jones, brigade commander and a veteran of fighting in Fallujah, Baghdad and Mosul.
The brigade deployed to Kuwait in the fall, replacing Fort Carson's 1st Brigade Combat Team for a nine-month stint.
Keeping Fort Carson troops at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, near the Iraqi border is seen as a safeguard against violence that could spread beyond Iraq. The Colorado Springs soldiers also are the nation's first responders if trouble arises in the Persian Gulf region.

And there are other reactions to note as well.  Michael Holmes (CNN) reports on Iraq today including interviewing Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi:

Ayad Allawi:  And I warned all the leaders in the world and the region that unless this is averted then Iraq really is on the -- has started the civil war but hasn't reached the point of no return.  Once it reaches the point of no return then, unfortunately, the whole region will burn up.  

[. . .]

Michael Holmes [. . .] what he's saying about the US is that they backed al-Maliki which he says is fine.  They have no put enough pressure on him to reign in this sectarianism, to be more inclusive.  Here's part of what he [Allawi] said about the US.

Ayad Allawi:  They should support Maliki, it's up to them.  But they should also clarify to Maliki that their support is conditional on the inclusivity of the political process and respecting the Constitution and respecting human rights.  But unfortunately, the Americans are not doing this. 

Michael Holmes:  And he's a very worried man.  You know, I've had that sense coming back this time.  He's very worried that this could slip down that road to all-out sectarian war.  He says at the moment it's an asymeterical war with the car bombings, the assassinations.  He said it wouldn't take much for it to become a symeterical war -- that is armed rebellion, if you like, by the Sunnis in this country.  And that would be a disaster for the region and the country.

Today Iraq Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak was among those speaking in DC at the United States Institute of Peace.  Excerpt.

Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq:  Cruelty and abuse and marginalization can create a rich environment for terrorism and al Qaeda specifically.  And that's why al Qaeda is growing again in Iraq. And now we need all the effort to come together to help Iraq get rid of that danger -- likewise in the region.  I would like to emphasize that your brothers -- Sunnis, Shi'ites, Kurds and Arabs -- are quite determined to clean the country from  sectarianism and terrorism.  And they really need your help. I am quite sure that at the end we will be able to defeat terrorism in Iraq.  So we need help from the United States [. . .]  But today we need your help with the heads of the political groups to have a reconciliation in the country because we believe that arming the Iraqi army is not enough by itself because, you know, there's a society, cohesive society is needed to fight terrorism.  If you don't have these two factors, things will be really difficult.  And, as you know, that the American army with its might could not defeat al Qaeda unless they could have the cooperation of the local people.  

Hannah Allam and Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) add, "In telephone interviews, residents of Anbar echoed Mutlaq’s talking points but said they no longer viewed him as a legitimate envoy for their concerns because he’d refused to resign from the Maliki administration. Tribal leaders said Mutlaq should have consulted with them about their priorities before he went to Washington representing the Sunni population."  Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) covers it here.  We'll note the speeches tomorrow as well.  Eli Lake (Daily Beast) interviews al-Mutlaq and reports:

 Saleh al-Mutlaq, a deputy prime minister of Iraq, arrived in Washington this week with a modest request for a president he says prematurely withdrew American forces from his country at the end of 2011. He is asking President Obama to provide observers for the national elections in Iraq scheduled for the end of April.
As far is it goes, election monitors are not a big ask for Iraqi politicians. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has asked for the United States to send advanced aircraft, attack helicopters and other munitions for his military. He is getting some hellfire missiles and surveillance drones now that al Qaeda has claimed dominion over the western Iraqi city of Fallujah.
But Mutlaq—who is his country’s second highest ranking Sunni Arab politician after Usama al-Nujayfi, the speaker of Iraq’s parliament—would like the United States to try to save Iraq’s fraying political system before strengthening its army. 

al-Mutlaq's call for election monitors comes on the same day as a Nineveh Electoral Commission official was assassinated in Mosul.  In other violence today, NINA reports a Kadhimiyah roadside bombing left six people injured, a western Baghdad (Adil neighborhood) bombing claimed 2 lives (one was a police member) and left three people injured, 1 corpse was discovered in the streets of Buhriz ("bullet in the head and chest"), 1 Supreme Judicial Council judge and his driver were shot dead northwest of Baghdad, Nouri's forces and forces of Anbar tribes killed 21 Daash in Ramadi, a Mosul shooting left 1 man dead and his brother injured, an armed attack in Albotama Village left 4 Iraqi soldiers dead and five more injured, a Baghdad car bombing (Sadr City) left 4 people dead and ten injured, a Khalis clash left 2 people dead and three more injured, an Alwihdah bombing left 1 police members and 1 Sahwa dead as well as five more police injured, an attack to the east of Ramadi left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and four more injured, a western Baghdad car bombing (Ghazaliya area) left 6 people dead and thirteen injured, a Baghdad armed attack left 3 police members dead, "At least four civilians were wounded when two bombed cars expoded on Tuesday evening 14, Jan. south and east of Kirkuk," and a Baghdad armed attack (Al-Ersan) left 2 fighters dead, Qarma mortar attacks left 2 children and 1 man dead and ten more people injured.   EFE identifies the assassinated judge as Muttar Hussein.  Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) notes, "In Diyala province, gunmen attacked two houses at the edges of the city of Khalis, near the provincial capital city of Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, killing five people, three of them from one family, and wounding two others, a provincial police source told Xinhua."

National Iraqi News Agency reports Abu Karma mosque (Diyala Province) was set fire to leaving "material damages" and that this follows the bombing of "two mosques in the Zaganiah village 14 km northeast of Baquba" yesterday.  In addition, they note:

Director of Laylan District Mohammed Wayis announced the burning of two shrines south east of the city.
Mohamed Wayis said in a press conference that an unidentified armed group set fire on Tuesday 14, Jan. to the shrines of Sayyed Abdul Majid and Sultan Kozlh Baba on the main road linking between Kirkuk and Laylan District, a matter that led to serious material damages in them. "

And if you think things can't get worse there's MP Kadhim al-Sayadi.  He's billed as 'independent' by the press but he usually makes news for doing Nouri's bidding.  All Iraq News reports he's insisting he won't return to Parliament until Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi resigns.  al-Nujaifi is a member of Iraqiya.  Worth noting since last fall, al-Sayadi got into a fist fight with Iraqiy MP Hayder al-Mula.  Also last September he began demanding that Iraqiya MP Ahmed al-Alwani be stripped of immunity.  You may remember Ahmed al-Alwani.

Nouri ordered the dawn raid and illegal arrest of him on December 28th which kicked off the current conflict.  (Six people were killed in the raid including al-Alwani's brother.  When Osama al-Nujaifi attempted to lead an investigation into the raid, Nouri's military would not allow al-Nuajifi to leave Baghdad and enter Anbar.)

There is nothing independent about Kadhim al-Sayadi.  When Nouri's ass itches, Kadhim provides the scratch.  Kadhim is often the trial balloon for Nouri's next plan.  So the notion that Nouri wants to get rid of Osama al-Nujaifi is very frightening.  Osama is the last check on Nouri.

Nouri controls the judiciary.  He's run off Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi (Sunni and a member of Iraqiya).  The country has no president.  December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

There are no checks left on Nouri al-Maliki except for the Speaker of Parliament -- a post held by a member of the political slate that beat Nouri's State of Law in the March 2010 elections.

UPI reports Turkey's state-run Turkey Petroleum Co. announced today "it discovered oil while working in what it described as tough conditions near the borders with Iraq and Iran."  There are many implications for this and some will try to see it in terms of the KRG and Turkey's oil deal.  That's not what's going to be the issue here.  Iraq and Iran are already in border disputes -- you could argue the eight year war from 1980 to 1988 between the two countries had something to do with border disputes.  Since 2003, Iran and Iraq have repeatedly disagreed about where the border between their two countries are.  It's something a real prime minister of Iraq would have established long ago.  This will only add more pressure to the issue and that's before you factor in third party Turkey.

Turning to an ongoing topic, Michael Mathes (AFP) reports, "Several US lawmakers led by Republican Senator Rand Paul introduced legislation Tuesday that would finally bring to an end Washington's authorization to wage war in Iraq. President Barack Obama's White House backs the efforts, in principle, having withdrawn US forces in December 2011."  As noted in Friday's snapshot, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Tweeted. "Co-sponsoring 's bill to , to end authority for war and prevent more troops being sent there."  John Hudson (Foreign Policy) notes today:

 An administration official made clear that repealing the Iraq AUMF was not a priority for the White House because the effect would be largely symbolic. But the statement may provide cover for other Democrats who voted against Paul's attempt to repeal the Iraq AUMF in 2011 due to concerns that it would hamstring the administration. (At the time, Paul's repeal effort failed by a landslide 30-67 vote).
[. . .]

The bill is now backed by a bipartisan group of co-sponsors including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mike Lee (R-UT), Jon Tester (D-MT) and Jeff Merkeley (D-OR).