Friday, April 04, 2014


From CounterPunch's "What We’re Listening to This Week:"

Nina Simone, “Little Girl Blue”, Bethlehem Records, 1958.
Deniece Williams, “This is Niecy”, Columbia Records, 1976.
And thinking of Marvin Gaye this week (April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984.)
Let’s Get it On”, Tamla Records, 1973.
Midnight Love”, Columbia Records,  1982.
Kevin Gray’s latest book, Killing Trayvons, (co-edited with JoAnn Wypijewski and Jeffrey St. Clair) will be published by CounterPunch this spring.

Nina Simone.  I can remember when I was introduced to her music by C.I. in college.  There was a time when we lived on two albums:  To Love Somebody and Here Comes The Sun.

To Love Somebody not only contained Nina's cover of the title track (a Bee Gees song), it also included her powerful versions of "Suzanne" (the finest recording of that song in my opinion) and a very powerful version of Dylan's "I Shall Be Released."

It's a solid album with the Beatles' "Revolution" and other songs.  But as much as I love To Love Somebody (and I do), Here Comes The Sun is even better.

She's like a cooling rain on a hot day with her cover of George Harrison's "Here Comes The Sun."  "O-o-h Child" and "New World Coming" are excellent performances as well but, most of all, the album works as a whole.

It's truly amazing, as is Nina Simone.

By the way, I had planned to highlight whomever grabbed me from the playlist.  As I scrolled down and found no choices that spoke to me, I thought/worried, "What if Kevin Alexander Gray's not participating this week?"  Because I end up highlighting him each time (due to liking his choices).

From Third's "This edition's playlist:"

 This edition's playlist

1)  Pretenders' The Isle Of View.

2)  Melanie's Ever Since You Never Heard of Me.

3) Beatles' Rubber Soul.

4) Carly Simon's Never Been Gone.

5) Love's Forever Changes.

6) Jefferson Airplane's Volunteers.

7) Minnie Riperton's Perfect Angel.

8) The Mamas and the Papas' The Papas and the Mamas.

9) Pretenders' Packed.

10) Phil Ochs' All The News That's Fit To Sing.

When you see the Beatles on the list, especially just one album, it's either Jess' pick or Mike's because they love the Beatles.  We all do but they're the ones who tend to pull for them.  I had a pick on the list, Volunteers.  That's probably my favorite Jefferson Airplane album.  Betty picked another one I love, The Papas and the Mamas.  I love all ten choices but my pick was Volunteers. 

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, April 4, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri continues killing civilians in Falluja, the Guardian calls him a 'front runner' because they're so useless, the State Dept -- primarily under Hillary Clinton -- lost billions, the press seems to be unaware that the Hillary-led State Dept stonewalled Congress, Stuart Bowen and others in their bid to be non-transparent about Iraq, and much more.

Will today be remembered as the day Iraq War supporter Hillary Clinton's presidential dreams vanished?


A letter from [PDF format warning] the Office of Inspector General letter might just do the trick.

Fox News noted:

The Office of Inspector General, in a March 20 "management alert" to department leaders, said the department has failed to provide all or some of the files for $6 billion worth of contracts in the last six years.
"The failure to maintain contract files adequately creates significant financial risk and demonstrates a lack of internal control over the Department's contract actions," the memo said.

Adam Kredo (Free Beacon) noted, "The State Department misplaced and lost some $6 billion due to the improper filing of contracts during the past six years, mainly during the tenure of former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, according to a newly released Inspector General report."

But nobody appeared to know what they had.

Let's first note how this plays out in a campaign.  The obvious question is one of competency as in, "Can she handle the presidency when she couldn't even handle the State Dept budget?"

It needs to be noted that Hillary has spent her year-plus since resigning as Secretary of State with only one public goal: To present herself baddest bitch in the whole damn town.

She's screamed for war, compared people to Hitler -- Let's just stop for a moment on that.  How do you become president when you're screaming "Hitler!" at someone?

At any rate, she's attempted to prove just how tough she is -- as if anyone ever doubted she could be cold blooded or ruthless.

And now this comes up.

How is John Kerry better Secretary of State than Hillary Clinton?

There are a lot of variables which go to opinion.  And there are some people who would argue that neither are good in their positions.

But these are appointments, these people are not elected, they are appointed.  Since the American people had no say in the process -- despite paying their salaries -- it is especially important that they do their jobs and do the jobs professionally.  In a democracy, you're supposed to have an open government.

Does Hillary grasp that?

John Kerry did.

Let's drop back to the April 17, 2013 snapshot, where we reported on that day's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing:

Chair Ed Royce:  I'd also like to call your attention to the State Department's Inspector General's Office.  This is the key independent office looking at waste and fraud.  Mr. Secretary, as of today, there has been no permanent State Department Inspector General for over five years.  This includes President Obama's entire first term.   The Committee raised this issue in a bi-partisan letter sent to you in February and we would like to see an immediate appointment to this position.

Secretary John Kerry:  On the IG, you're absolutely correct.  We're -- we're trying to fill a number of positions right now, the IG among them.  The greatest difficulty that I'm finding now that I'm on the other side of the fence is frankly the vetting process.  And I've got some folks that I selected way back in February when I first came in and it's now April and I'm still waiting for the vetting to move.  I've talked to the White House.  They're totally on board.  They're trying to get it moved.  So I hope that within a very short span of time, you're going to see these slots filled.  They need to be.  And that's just the bottom line.  It's important and I commit to you, we will.

Chair Ed Royce:  I think this is the longest gap that we've had in the history of this position.  So if you could talk to the President about this in short order, we would very much appreciate it. 

Secretary John Kerry:  I don't need to talk to the President, we're going to get this done.  We know it and we're trying to get the right people.  Matching person to task and also clearing all the other hurdles, as I am finding, is not as easy as one always thinks.  But we'll get it done.  

Kerry kept his word.  As Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported yesterday, "The warning was the second 'management alert' in State Department history, both issued by new Inspector General Steve Linick. Linick took over the job in late September, after it had been vacant for nearly six years."

For Hillary's entire four years as Secretary of State, she didn't feel she need to be accountable.  She wasn't about to 'subject' herself to oversight.

She proved to be hostile to it.

It's this sort of thing that made many hate her -- yes, hate -- as First Lady.  She thought she could do whatever she wanted with, for example, health care and do it away from the public eye and from any oversight.  She had the chance, as Secretary of State, to embrace democracy and she chose not to.

$6 billion is unaccounted for and that's largely from her four years.

John Kerry only had to be asked once publicly by Congress about the IG.  And he didn't have to puzzle it.  He didn't have to take the question for the record.  He immediately agreed that an IG was necessary and that there would be someone appointed to that position and that they were already working on it.

But for her entire four year term as Secretary of State, Hillary avoided oversight, she subverted democracy and, in the process, she appears to be unable to account for billions of US taxpayer dollars.

That doesn't say "presidential."  And it means "Travelgate" and all the other scandals or 'scandals' (I didn't think there was anything there beneath the smoke) come back to haunt her.  Secretary of State was supposed to be the prestige position that propelled Hillary to a new level but that didn't happen.

A comment on DeYoung's article is confusing:

7:11 AM CST
Once again paying the price for the corrupted GOP refusing to approve needed vital personnel to protect us from the vast network of fraud establish under W went he rented out our government functions to his highest campaign contributors. W belongs in a cage at The Hague.

Is Sleeve stating that the money that's missing/unaccounted for from 2008 to present is Republicans' fault?

If so, is Sleeve saying ("refusing to approve needed vital personnel") that the Republicans in the Senate must have blocked a nomination for the State Dept IG?

If that's what's Sleeve's saying, Sleeve is wrong.

There was no nominee.

And Republicans in Congress joined with Democrats in raising the issue in public letters to the White House and Republicans in the House tended to raise this issue repeatedly.

December 7, 2011 we reported on the House Oversight and Government Reform's National Security Subcommittee hearing.

Subcommittee Chair Jason Chaffetz:  Before recognizing Ranking Member [John] Tierney, I'd like to note that the Defense Dept, State Dept, USAID and SIGAR will not have IGs in January.  In May of this year, I wrote the President asking him to move without delay to appoint replacements.  That letter was signed by Senators [Joe] Lieberman, [Susan] Collins, [Claire] McCaskill and [Rob] Portman, as well as [House Oversight Committee] Chairman [Darrell] Issa and Ranking Member [Elijah] Cummings and Ranking Member Tierney.  I'd like to place a copy of htis record into the record.  Without objection, so ordered.  To my knowledge, the President has yet to nominate any of these replacements, nor has he responded to this letter.  I find that totally unacceptable.  This is a massive, massive effort.  It's going to take some leadership from the White House.  These jobs cannot and will not be done if the president fails to make these appointments.  Upon taking office, President Obama promised that his administration would be "the most open and transparent in history." You cannot achieve transparency without inspectors general.  Again, I urge President Obama and the Senate to nominate and confirm inspectors general to fill these vacancies  and without delay.

So don't blame Republicans or Democrats in Congress for what Hillary did as Secretary of State.  Let's note
Speical Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen from that same hearing:

SIGIR Stuart Bowen:  First, I am concerned about maintaining SIGIR's ability to get the information we need to complete ongoing audits and investigations and to continue to provide the kind of comprehensive Quarterly Report coverage that the Congress has come to expect from us. The State Department recently instituted a new bureaucratic process, requiring the channeling of information that we request from the Embassy through Foggy Bottom offices.  This process inevitably will cause delays, impede our capacity to deal directly with the individuals in Iraq responsible for providing the necessary data, and thus reduce our  responsiveness. Symptomatic of this bureaucratic development, one of my investigators, working jointly with the FBI on a criminal case, recently was refused information by the State Department regarding a potential subject (who is a State employee). State directed my investigator to use the "audit process" to obtain this investigative information. Worse, he was challenged as to whether the information, which he had requested in good faith, was even related to "reconstruction funding." This development is just the latest quandary in a predicament-filled year, during which the State Department has repeatedly raised fallacious objections to varying SIGIR requests. I thank the Chairman and Ranking Member -- and the full Committee's leadership -- for their steadfast support of our oversight mission; but these recent issues underscore  the reality of the continuing oversight challenges that confront us. 

Attending hearings on Iraq and what the State Dept was doing there was very frustrating and not just for me watching the interaction but for members of Congress.  As we have noted repeatedly since the State Dept took over the US mission in Iraq in October of 2011,  they did so with no transparency.  They attempted to circumvent Stuart Bowen and his office (which is no more today even though the State Dept continues to have a budget of approximately a billion each year just on Iraq) and they refused to inform his office or the Congress what they were doing.

How bad was it?

For one example, let's drop back to the December 1, 2011 snapshot which covered the November 30th hearing of the  House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East ans South Asia.  The State Dept was represented by Brooke Darby.

US House Rep Gerald Connolly: Madame Deputy Assistant Secretary, welcome. Is it your testimony here today that the State Dept is fully committed to transparency and accountability with respect to any and all programs it has oversight and responsibility for in Iraq?

Brooke Darby: We take our responsibility for accountability and cooperation with all of the  audit entities, with Congress very, very seriously.

US House Rep Gerald Connolly: No, ma'am, that was not my question.  Is it your testimony that you're fully committed to transparency and accountability with respect to those responsibilities?

Brooke Darby: We are absolutely committed to accountability.

US House Rep Gerald Connolly: Full accountability?  Full transparency and accountability?
Brooke Darby:  I'm not sure -- I'm not sure how you define that so . . .

US House Rep Gerald Connolly:  Well I guess I'm not sure why you avoid the word.  That was my question and you've ducked it three times.  Are we or are we not, is the State Dept committed to full transparency and accountability to the tax payers in the United States and the people who served in Iraq or not?

Brooke Darby:  We absolutely are accountable to the tax payers, to our Congress and to all of the oversight bodies who are looking into how we are spending our dollars, whether our programs are achieving success.  We are absolutely --

US House Rep Gerald Connolly:  Alright. I'll sort of take that as a commitment. 

This was characteristic of Hillary's tenure as Secretary of State.  The Congress was unable to get answers -- especially ahead of the transfer of Iraq from a DoD-led mission to a State Dept-led one and in all the time that followed that transfer.

Six billion is unaccounted for.  And the bulk of it is from Hillary's term as Secretary of State.  She came in with no IG and she demanded no IG.  She served four years without any check or oversight.  And she and her people stonewalled Congress and any body or official attempting to provide oversight.

The missing money is a mark against her and against what she tries to pass off as "leadership."  No oversight, no accountability, that's not leadership in a democracy.

The issue was raised at today's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: Marie, do you have any comment on the OIG report that was made public today on the $6 billion?

MS. HARF: I do. Just give me one second. Well, reports that there is a $6 billion that can’t be accounted for are grossly inaccurate. The OIG’s report noted that there were a number of incomplete files for our contracts and that these contracts’ cumulative value was about 6 billion. As highlighted in our response to the OIG, this is an issue of which the Department is aware and is taking steps to remedy. It’s not an accounting issue. I think it’s more like a bureaucratic issue. But it’s not that we’ve lost $6 billion, basically.
On March 20th, our new Inspector General did issue a management alert on contract file management deficiencies. The Bureau of Administration responded with a plan to address their three recommendation. Those are all posted on the IG’s web page now.

QUESTION: So how much money can you not account for if it’s not 6 billion?

MS. HARF: I have no idea.

QUESTION: But whatever amount it is, it’s --

MS. HARF: I think we try to account for all of our money.

QUESTION: But it’s way less than 6 billion? I mean, you said it was grossly inflated.

MS. HARF: Grossly inaccurate. Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Okay. So do – you must have --

QUESTION: What’s a rounded-up figure --

MS. HARF: I’m not – no --

QUESTION: You must have an estimate of what it is if you have an understanding --

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding that it’s not an accounting issue. It’s not that we can’t account for money. So I don’t – I’m not sure that there’s any money that we can’t account for.

QUESTION: So how is it grossly inaccurate, then?

MS. HARF: Because it’s not that there’s $6 billion we can’t account for. They said there were incomplete files --


MS. HARF: -- and that the files were – their cumulative value for those contracts was about $6 billion. So it’s a filing issue. It’s not a “we lost money” issue.

QUESTION: So you’re sure that you know where all that money is even though you acknowledge that the files are not complete?

MS. HARF: I – that’s my understanding, yes. But again, all of this is posted on the IG’s website in much more detail.


MS. HARF: I don’t have the $6 billion.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, I just – (laughter) – it sounds like it may be more of a distinction without a difference, saying it’s an accounting error, like maybe --

MS. HARF: No, because the notion that we can’t find $6 billion, right, would mean that it’s an accounting issue, that somehow we lost money that – you can understand why when people hear that they think that it means we’ve lost $6 billion. That’s my understanding that that’s not the case.

QUESTION: Yes, please. I mean, regarding this IG issue, it’s like every other day something is coming out of --

MS. HARF: IG’s been very busy, apparently.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, because there was no IG before, no five years.

MS. HARF: We have a new IG, yep.

QUESTION: Yeah, it came on September. Yeah. I mean, I’m trying to figure out – I mean, when he’s like – when you say grossly and inaccurate, does he presenting these things with information or just like a number?

MS. HARF: Yeah. So the way the IG works in general – and I don’t have the details about their methodology here – is they are independent and they undertake independent reviews, some I understand that are done just routinely, some I think are in response to people submitting things to them. And in general, after the IG does a draft report they submit it to either the post overseas or the office here or the bureau that deals with it so they can have a chance to review it and comment on it and to begin implementing recommendations, if there are any that they think are helpful. So there’s a process here. Then they eventually release the final report that sometimes takes into account comments, sometimes they disagree. We have a variety of ways to respond.

QUESTION: The reason I am asking because these things are related more about overseas activities and contracts. Does the State Department officially – when you say grossly inaccurate, are you going to say what is accurate?

MS. HARF: Yes. And as I said, our response and the entire report is up on the IG’s website. I’m happy to dig into it a little bit more. But yes, we do. I mean, that’s why we give responses and they’re published.

I don't know that State Dept spokesperson Marie Harf should have treated the issue so lightly.

It's really not a good public visual for the State Dept to be seen by the public as yucking it up over missing money.

That said, it's Hillary's problem.  The money can be accounted for tomorrow, it doesn't matter now.  It's underscored the failures of her leadership and the damage done by her refusing the oversight that is supposed to come with the job in a democracy.

Again, it's Hillary's problem and Marie Harf's not part of Hillary's crew so she doesn't have to worry but it still doesn't create a good visual for the public when the State Dept spokesperson appears to have 'fun' with the topic of billions of missing taxpayer dollars.

Turning to the state of Illinois where the lower house of the state legislature has House Joint-Resolution 68 supported by the following:

Rep. David Harris - Jack D. Franks - Lou Lang - Mike Bost - Scott Drury, Jerry F. Costello, II, Barbara Wheeler and Elaine Nekritz

Rep David Harris proposed the bill:

Synopsis As Introduced
Urges the United States Department of State to rescind its decision to transfer artifacts seized from Iraq's Jewish community by Saddam Hussein's regime back to the Iraqi government.

House Committee Amendment No. 1
Replaces everything after the heading with similar language. States the proper name of the collection of artifacts held by the Iraqi government. Adds language concerning resolutions passed by the United States House of Representatives and Senate regarding the artifacts and their return to Iraq. Urges the United States Department of State to renegotiate with the Government of Iraq the provisions of the original agreement in order to ensure that the Iraqi Jewish Archive collection be kept in a location accessible to scholars, Iraqi Jews, and their descendants where its long-term preservation and care can be guaranteed.

November 13th, the State Dept's Brett McGurk appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa.  We'll note Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen explaining the archives from that hearing.

Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  And finally, a letter to Secretary Kerry regarding the return of Iraqi-Jewish community artifacts that are now on display at The National Archives.  In 2003, US and coalition forces found a  trove of Iraqi-Jewish cultural artifacts being warehoused in the basement of Saddam Hussein's secret police headquarters.  And the US subsequently brought them here, to The National Archives, for restoration, preservation and display; however, these artifacts are scheduled to be returned to Iraq where the government will claim possession of these artifacts which were unjustly taken from the Iraqi-Jewish community.  The US government must not return those stolen treasures to the Iraqi government but instead should facilitate their return to their rightful owners or descendants.  Therefore, on behalf of me, Congressman Steve Israel and over 40 of our House colleagues, we ask you, Deputy Secretary McGurk, to personally deliver this letter to Secretary Kerry and the Dept of State ensures that the Iraqi-Jewish community does not get robbed again of its collective memory and treasures. 

The White House intends to hand the archives over to the Iraqi government in June.  As that moment looms ever closer, others, such as Illinois state Rep David Harris, step forward to make a case for the artifacts to be returned to their rightful owners.   Mara Ruff (Jewish United Fund) reports:

Rep. Harris feels strongly on this issue, both on a personal and professional level.
"Having served in Iraq for 14 months, I was concerned about what would happen to the artifacts if they were returned to the Iraqi government," he said. "The decision to return them should be renegotiated so that the artifacts are returned to the original Jewish owners, if possible, and if that is not possible, then returned to the Jewish community where they would be respected and preserved."
With this resolution, Harris hopes the Illinois General Assembly's support will help influence the appropriate government authorities to reconsider and keep the Iraqi Jewish Archives in a location that is accessible to scholars and Iraqi Jews around the world.

Handing the collection over to Nouri's government is nonsense.  This is the property of Iraqi Jews.  Rebecca Shimoni Stoil (Times of Israel) explains, "The archive is a collection of Jewish religious items and documents which were seized from Iraq’s persecuted Jewish community in the 1970s and 1980s, under Saddam Hussein’s regime. It contains more than 2,700 books, dating back as early as the 16th century."  Stolen property is not returned to the thieves, it's returned to the rightful owners.  Add in that Nouri's Iraq has run off all but a handful of Jews and there's no reason in the world -- certainly no legal or ethical reason -- for the artifacts to be handed over to the Iraqi government.

There's also the issue of Nouri's hatred of Israel.  Nouri was first installed by the US government in May of 2006.  Two months later, July 25, 2006, US Senators Dick Curbin, Harry Reid and Charles Schumer were calling Nouri out in a letter for the anti-Israel remarks he was making.  Six years later, in July of 2012, Al Arabiya reported, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Saturday that Baghdad does not discriminate against countries but said he rejected forming any ties with Israel."

Nouri refused to protect the Jewish community in Iraq.  He's also refused to protect the Christian community in Iraq which is why so many have become external and internal refugees.  Alex Newman (The New American) observed last December, " Before the U.S. government imposed so-called “democracy” on Iraq, estimates suggested there were as many as 1.5 million Christians throughout the diverse country. They had survived centuries of invasions, persecution, and more — but in many respects, the community was still thriving. Today, experts and Christian leaders suggest the number of Christians still in Iraq is somewhere closer to 200,000. Many of those would leave if they could."

The internal Christian refugees have largely migrated north.  The October 31, 2010 attack on Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation Church led many Baghdad Christians to flee.  That wasn't the only or even the last attack on Baghdad's Christian community but it was an attack that shocked many.  When Iraqis flee for safety, they don't sell the home first.  So homes are left abandoned.

AFP reports today that "gangs claiming ties to powerful militias" are grabbing the empty homes in Baghdad and that the owners are left with little recourse:

The US State Department said in its 2013 human rights report that "delays and corruption prevented the (Iraqi) government from effectively adjudicating property restitution claims".
It added, citing local human rights NGOs, that "the government's inability to resolve claims disproportionately affected Christian communities".

KRG President Massoud Barzani has increased his international profile, for over a year now we've noted there's a good chance he will become the next president of Iraq.  Shafaq News reports an expected -- not surprising -- development, "President of the Iraqi National Congress , Ahmed al-Chalabi announced his support for the candidacy of Kurdistan Region's President , Massoud Barzani as the president of Iraq , considering him as a 'good' president."

On the topic of the next President of Iraq, Alsumaria reports State of Law is having a hissy fit.  MP Haider al-Abadi was sent out to denounce the suggesting that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi should be president.  al-Abadi fumes this is a conspiracy.  Tareq remains Vice President and remains outside of Iraq due to Nouri's efforts to have Tareq sentenced to death.

That's the next president.  Where's the current one?  December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 following Jalal's argument with Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot).  Jalal was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany all this time later.

Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that the Sadr bloc has expressed fear that Nouri may attempt to declare a state of emergency and dissolve the Parliament with Jalal out of the country still to avoid losing the election.  Should that happen, not only will Jalal and his family be the subject of scorn and hostility but the PUK will suffer as well -- this after they already went from leading party in the Kurdistan Regional Government to coming in third -- behind Barzani's KDP and the newly emergent Goran.

Moving over to the wimpy Guardian newspaper out of England.  They wanted everyone to stand up for them against the British government but the cowards don't stand up for themselves.  Nouri al-Maliki sued them over reporting and won.  The verdict was reversed on appeal.  Since then, the newspaper's Iraq reporting has been a joke and reporters for the paper, like Martin Chulov, have done better work in radio interviews than they've been allowed to do at the paper.

And that's why the paper offers crap like this:

Date: 30 April
No of voters: 18 million
Frontrunner: Nuri al-Maliki
Free and fair factor: 2
Biggest anxiety: full-scale insurgency, spilling over from Syria, makes security parlous across much of the west of the country
What it means for the world: country that cost so many lives appears to be backsliding towards autocracy and instability, rendering democracy almost irrelevant. Would further carnage trigger an American re-engagement?

How's Nouri the front runner?  Based on 2013 parliamentary elections?  I thought the press told us that was bad news for Nouri?

Based on his popularity now?

Nope, he's more unpopular than ever.

Because Shi'ites want to coalesce around him?  Motada al-Sadr, just this week, again declared Nouri shouldn't seek a third term.  Wednesday,  Al Arabiya News reported:

Iraq’s Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr urged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday not to run for a third term, accusing him of terrorizing Sunnis so that they don’t go to the polls in the upcoming April 30 general election.
“I advise brother Maliki… brother Maliki thinks he served Iraq, let him rest for four years, and see if whoever comes next would serve better… if not let him come back after four years, it is not a problem,” Sadr told reporters in Najaf, 60 kilometres south of Baghdad.

The Shiite leader, who had announced his withdrawal from active politics, accused Maliki’s government of “building a dictatorship” by excluding candidates from the parliamentary elections.

And today Al Arabia News reports:

Editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper, Adnan Hussain, told Al Arabiya News that Ahrar “is entering the upcoming elections with strength.” He expects the Sadrists to keep their 40 parliament seats, particularly since Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, whom Sadr has described as a “dictator,” is in a shaky position.
“Maliki didn’t achieve anything in the past four years. On the contrary, the situation in Iraq has deteriorated,” said Hussain.
Baghdad-based TV commentator Ahmad Al-Abyadh said he expects Ahrar to at least consolidate its position or win about 45 seats in the upcoming elections.

The Guardian's nonsense has been highlighted by Alsumaria as 'news' that Nouri is expected to win.

There's no reason to declare a Nouri a front runner.  There's no factual basis for the claim.

Nouri is responsible for more deaths today.  NINA notes the military's continued shelling of residential neighborhoods in Falluja -- this happens every day, this bombing -- has left 6 civilians dead and nine more injured.  But the Guardian won't report that, they're too damn busy cowering in fear.

Margaret Griffis ( counts 102 people dead from yesterday's violence with another sixty-two injured.  Today?  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Rashad roadside bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and two more injured, a security source tells NINA 6 suspects were killed today in Subaihat, Joint Operations Command announced they killed 15 suspects in Anbar, a Husseiniya roadside bombing left 1 person dead and six more injured, a Ramadi battle left 3 police members and 3 rebels dead (with three more police members left injured), and, late last night, a bombing in Sindej left 1 police member dead and nine more injured.

Moving to the US, Unforgettable returns to CBS tonight for its third season. Marilu Henner is a consultant on the show.  Actress Marilu is also an author and activist and Sunday she's a guest on Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox where she and Cindy will discuss health and genetically modified foods.

Turning to the Fort Hood shooting. Eleanor Goldberg (Huffington Post) sums it up,  "On Wednesday afternoon, Ivan Lopez, 34, opened fire at Fort Hood in Texas, killing three and injuring 16 before turning the gun on himself. The violence was particularly disheartening because Fort Hood was the site of the worst mass killing at an American military installation, which left 13 people dead and more than 30 injured in 2009."  Will Weissert and Danica Coto (AP) report, "On Friday, authorities formally identified the dead as 39-year-old Daniel Ferguson, of Mulberry, Fla.; 38-year-old Carlos Lazaney-Rodriguez, of Puerto Rico; and 37-year-old Timothy Owens, of Effingham, Ill."  Al Jazeera's The Stream speaks with Iraq War veteran Michael Prysner.  Excerpt.

Are the problems at Fort Hood unique or is it just a difference in scale?

Prysner: The scale is different because the base is so large. The crisis in mental health treatment is endemic to the entire military. Other bases, such as Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Fort Carson, Fort Bliss, have come in the media spotlight after soldiers have helped expose treatment on base. 
It’s important to note that this suicide epidemic and crisis in mental health care is no secret. For many years, the shocking rate of suicides, mass PTSD diagnoses and scandals around mistreatment have been made blatantly obvious to the Pentagon and Washington. They respond to media pressure by just giving speeches about “supporting troops” and “caring for veterans.” 
The fact is that this has been a real emergency situation for so, so long. Our “leaders” have made very clear that they are either unwilling or incapable of taking any meaningful action to address this horrific crisis facing our community.

the washington post
karen deyoung

al arabiya news

Thursday, April 03, 2014


I told C.I. on the phone earlier that I was exhausted (from sessions today) and so not looking forward to blogging.  She said there was a Senator Ron Wyden press release that she had not gotten to and that she'd run it tomorrow and I could grab it tonight.

Ron Wyden is a Senator from Oregon.  He has decried the illegal spying.

So this is the latest on the spying:

Wyden, Udall on Revelations that Intelligence Agencies Have Exploited Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act 'Loophole'

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), who serve on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, issued the following statement following revelations that the National Security Agency has been exploiting a loophole in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to search for Americans' private communications:
"It is now clear to the public that the list of ongoing intrusive surveillance practices by the NSA includes not only bulk collection of Americans' phone records, but also warrantless searches of the content of Americans' personal communications,"* Wyden and Udall said. "This is unacceptable. It raises serious constitutional questions, and poses a real threat to the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans. If a government agency thinks that a particular American is engaged in terrorism or espionage, the Fourth Amendment requires that the government secure a warrant or emergency authorization before monitoring his or her communications. This fact should be beyond dispute.
"Senior officials have sometimes suggested that government agencies do not deliberately read Americans’ emails, monitor their online activity or listen to their phone calls without a warrant. However, the facts show that those suggestions were misleading, and that intelligence agencies have indeed conducted warrantless searches for Americans’ communications using the 'back-door search' loophole in section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Today’s admission by the Director of National Intelligence is further proof that meaningful surveillance reform must include closing the back-door searches loophole and requiring the intelligence community to show probable cause before deliberately searching through data collected under section 702 to find the communications of individual Americans."
Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act established a legal framework for the government to acquire foreign intelligence by targeting non-U.S. persons who are reasonably believed to be located outside the United States under a program approved by the FISA Court. Because Section 702 does not involve obtaining individual warrants, it contains language specifically intended to limit the government’s ability to use these new authorities to deliberately spy on Americans. 
"The revelation that — despite the clear intent of Section 702 to target foreign communications — the government is deliberating searching for the phone calls or emails of specific Americans and circumventing traditional warrant protections should be concerning to all," Wyden and Udall added.
Click here to read the letter.
*The original version stated that the searches include emails but the letter does not specify what forms of communications were searched.

It is very horrifying that we have two US senators who know something is wrong in the country but have to tip-toe around.  Why?

If they just came out and said it, there's a good chance Barack would file some charges against them.  It's considered a 'for sure' that they would lose their security clearances for briefings.

Again, this is horrifying.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Wednesday, April 2, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri continues his efforts to disenfranchise Sunni voters, Moqtada al-Sadr may be the only official in the world to note this fact, Operation Happy Talk always results in the world pushing back and today it pushed back with another deadly shooting at Fort Hood military base, and much more.

Today, at the US State Dept press briefing, spokesperson Marie Harf noted Iraq because Said Arikat, Al Quds bureau chief, raised the issue:

QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: The death toll as a result of violence in March was 1,888 in Iraq. And as we’re getting closer to the election day, what is the United States providing in terms of security aid, trying to help the Government of Iraq stemming the violence?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. Let me be clear that the elections need to happen. We have every expectation they will. This is an important step forward for the people of Iraq in choosing what they want their country to look like going forward, so elections need to happen as scheduled.
We are concerned by the continued escalation of violence in Iraq. We know there’s been a number of adverse impacts on the population, including massive civilian displacement.
In terms of security assistance, I don’t think I have anything new to update you for on that. I would – and so we are working very closely with the Iraqi Government on the security issue. I can see if there’s more update for you on what we’ve provided. We believe it’s very, as I said, very important for these elections to go forward. They’ve held successful elections in the past during periods of significant violence, which is obviously not the situation we want to see, but I think – I just want to underscore the importance for the Iraqi people of these elections going forward.

QUESTION: Could you – these deliveries that were promised last fall, could you update us or --

MS. HARF: Which ones are you talking about specifically?

QUESTION: Well, there were the Hellfire missiles --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- the – other equipment, helicopters and --

MS. HARF: Yeah. Let me see. Said, let me take that and check with our folks and see what has been delivered.

The State Dept thinks elections need to happen?

No, they don't.  They don't give a damn about real elections or they would be speaking up as Iraqis denied the right to vote in the planned April 30th parliamentary elections.  Elections were supposed to take place in all 19 provinces (the KRG increased by 1 province last month).  But Iraqi elections, to be legitimate, must include the displaced.  And they have in the past.  In fact, Nouri's attempt to short change refugees out of the country in 2009 pushed the parliamentary elections back to 2010 (Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi used his veto power to sink the bill).

The illegal war in Iraq created the largest refugee crisis the region had seen in over sixty years.  Many fled to neighboring countries.  That's why, in 2010, polling stations for the elections were all over the world.  Syria has a large number -- even now -- of Iraqi refugees.   This go-round, it has been decided that refugees in Syria will not be allowed to vote (see the March 3rd snapshot).

It is stated that Syria is just too dangerous for a polling station.  Syria, Jordan and Lebanon remain the three countries with the highest number of Iraqi refugees as a result of their sharing borders with Iraq (and as a result of governments like the US leaving them stranded -- both in terms of ridiculous regulations and, in Syria, by closing down the means the refugees had to apply for admission to the US).

As we pointed out weeks ago, "Then again, it really just effects the Sunnis so maybe that's why it didn't receive any coverage?"

You saw that yesterday:

Yes, campaigning kicked off today and to ensure that the corruption could take hold, broken promises were not called out.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports, "If the fighting goes on, Iraqi military officials say it would be impossible to hold elections inside the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, which has been taken over by the militants — but they hint the vote could perhaps be held on the city's outskirts. As many as a third of the province's cities might be affected, election officials say."  AFP words it, "Though not officially confirmed, the vote appears unlikely to take place throughout parts of the western desert province of Anbar, which has been wracked by violence since the beginning of the year, with militants holding control of an entire town on Baghdad’s doorstep."  The US State Dept, once so adamant that elections must take place everywhere in Iraq, was silent on the news.

And today?  Anadolu Agency reports, "Residents of militant-held cities and towns in Iraq's western Anbar province will have to leave their neighborhoods to cast ballots in upcoming parliamentary elections, Anbar Governor Ahmed al-Dulaimi said."  It's real cute how, bit-by-bit,  Nouri al-Maliki chips away at the Sunni vote in his attempt to win a third term as prime minister.

Only one person right now is speaking up, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr.  Al Arabiya News reports:

Iraq’s Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr urged Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Wednesday not to run for a third term, accusing him of terrorizing Sunnis so that they don’t go to the polls in the upcoming April 30 general election.
“I advise brother Maliki… brother Maliki thinks he served Iraq, let him rest for four years, and see if whoever comes next would serve better… if not let him come back after four years, it is not a problem,” Sadr told reporters in Najaf, 60 kilometres south of Baghdad.

The Shiite leader, who had announced his withdrawal from active politics, accused Maliki’s government of “building a dictatorship” by excluding candidates from the parliamentary elections.

Good for Moqtada but how telling that he can speak the truth that the State Dept can't.

Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Anbar is months old and still continuing.  Nigel Wilson (IBT) notes, "The violence in Anbar began when government forces stormed a protest camp last December. The protestors had been there for a year, disgruntled by government neglect and withholding of regional funds."  It was a bit more complex than that -- there was the issue of the rape and torture of Iraqi girls and women in detention centers and prisons, there was the lack of public services, the lack of jobs . . .   But the storming of the camp, the murder of protesters, did kick off this assault.

In his continued shelling of residential neighborhoods in Falluja, Nouri has killed 2 civilians and injured five more (including children).  This is the dictator Barack insisted Iraq must keep in 2010, even though Nouri lost that election.  Barack knew better than the people of Iraq.  Strange because after insisting  Nouri remain prime minister, Barack's not visited the country once.

He won't visit a country where a thug like Nouri is in charge but he'll inflict Nouri on the people of Iraq who've already suffered more than enough.

And as the suffering continues, people aren't staying silent except in the United States.  One of the most vocal statements was issued by Campaña Estatal contra la Ocupación y por la Soberanía de Iraq (CEOSI) and BRussells Tribunal carries it here.  Excerpt:

  At the beginning of 2011, the different peaceful protests that began to struggle fight against the occupation — involving trade unions, students, human rights activists, etc.,— unified their efforts in what was called the February 25th Movement [5] and reached a national level.
This peaceful resistance was suppressed by the state and intentionally ignored by the mainstream media, which largely led to its disappearance. However, this long journey of struggle and growing popular discontent has been the root of the popular revolution that we are witnessing today in Iraq.
Since late 2012, these demonstrations and popular and peaceful sit-ins have resumed in some western provinces; they have been spread to the South and have reached the capital, Baghdad. [6] Despite the government non-stop attempts to put an end to the protests, they have continued till now, especially in Central and West Iraqi provinces, where people have been suffering persecution and the regime’s sectarian policies. There are many reasons for the people to take the streets: Corruption, sectarianism, unemployment, lack of access to basic services, illegal arrests, etc., which derives from the foreign occupation and from a class rule that triggers hatred, division, power struggles and the plundering of the national resources. In 2011 the reasons for the popular revolution were crystal clear in the mottos demanding the withdrawal of the U.S. troops and the removal of the regime.
For more than two months now, the Maliki government has been waging a war against the Iraqi people in several provinces in an attempt to end the popular revolution. Although the protests have been totally peaceful, Maliki has accused the population of these (majority Sunni) areas of being part of or supporting the terrorist organization, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. [7] Without any hesitations, the government continues bombing the civilians, while receiving military aid from the U.S., Russia and Iran. The bombing has caused numerous deaths and new waves of refugees. [8] In response to the government attacks, the population has organized itself into military councils to protect its territory and fight for what all Iraqis ― from North to South ― have demanded since the beginning of the occupation: prosperity, unity and national sovereignty. [9]

In these critical time to Iraq, CEOSI would like to express its full support for the Iraqi popular revolution — armed and peaceful— and we state that the military councils have been created for self-defense due to the total absence of legal protection and contempt for the law in Iraq; a situation where sectarian and partisan militias run the country and the government, far from ensuring the safety of citizens, exercises state terrorism, so that,

We noted many counts yesterday on the death toll for the month of March.  UNAMI (leaving out Anbar Province) 582 deaths,  AFP had 512Iraq Body Count counted 1009 dead from March violence and  Jason Ditz ( reported, "Another month has come to an end, leaving a staggering number of people dead across Iraq. figures show 1,886 killed and 2,186 wounded nationwide, with 1,063 of the dead civilians or security members, and 823 militants."

I forgot John Drake of AKE.

Not including militants, I counted at least 146 people killed and 366 injured in violence last week. True figure likely higher.

  • The West has criticised for military intervention in . In totally unrelated news I counted 153 deaths in last week.
  • He only Tweeted two weeks but we'll include him because he usually does the full month.
    Again, I forgot him, my apologies.  There's another count.  I didn't forget this person, I didn't know they were doing a count.  Joel Wing (Musings On Iraq) offers his own count:
    Finally, Musings On Iraq’s own statistics had 1,607 killed in March, the highest amount so far this year. One major cause for deaths to go up and down are the number of major bombings. Musings On Iraq counted the same number of car and suicide bombers 73 and 43 respectively in February and March, so that was not the case this time. Rather the reason why there was an increase in casualties was a sharp jump in violence in Anbar and Salahaddin. The news agencies and the Iraqi press reported 184 killed in Anbar in February compared to 343 in March. 122 of the latter were from government shelling. Likewise in Salahaddin deaths went from 272 in February to 368 in March. Since the start of the year those two provinces have become some of the most insecure in the country. 

    Today?   National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 SWAT member was shot dead in Kut (and one civilian was injured), 1 person was shot dead in Taji, Baghdad Operations Command announced they killed 1 suspect in Baghdad, a security source states 3 suspects were killed in Ramadi, Desert and Island Operations Command stated they killed 1 suspect in AnbarNineveh Operations Command announced they killed 11 suspects, 2 police members were shot dead in Mosul, 1 police member was shot dead in Ramadi, a University of Baghdad teacher was injured by a Baghdad sticky bombing, an Abu Ghraib roadside bombing left 2 Sahwa dead and two more injured, a Kirkuk roadside bombing left 5 Iraqi soldiers dead and three more injured,  another Kirkuk bombing left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and eight more injured2 Sahwa were shot dead in Anbar and two more left injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left six Iraqi soldiers injured, a Hit roadside bombing killed 1 police member and left three more injured, 1 police officer was shot dead in Wadi Hajar, 1 person was shot dead in Mosul, a Lakes Region of Alexandria armed battle left 4 rebels and 1 police officer dead, and a Karbala shooting left "Anti-Crimes police chief of Karbala Col. Aqeel Al-Kurtani injured,  IANS adds, "At least five people were killed and 16 others wounded in a suicide attack at a recruitment centre in Iraq's northern province of Kirkuk Wednesday."

    Let's turn to the world of Tweets.

  • Pres. Obama: "We just went through the first month since 2003 that no U.S. soldier was killed in either Afghanistan or Iraq." Students cheer

  • Did Barack say that today, Nerdy Wonka?  I notice you didn't note the Iraqi death toll.  We covered that nonsense yesterday.  Today, Charles P. Pierce (Esquire) sums up the silence on the Iraqi dead, "Casualties among the native populations are not noted, because that's the way we roll."

    What makes the moronic statement from Barack today (the press was doing the propaganda yesterday, Barack joined in today)  is the fact that on a US military base there was an attack today.  So maybe next time don't act like what should be normal events are news.  If Iraq has won one war in all the years since the US started the illegal war, it's been the war of fate that slaps upside the head any idiot stupid enough to offer some form of turned corner.  Call it fate, call it karma, call it reality, say that the universe doesn't like being Punk'd,  or that Iraq just doesn't like being used as a prop, but those who engage in Operation Happy Talk always get their ass kicked in public.

    So you take what should be a normal event, inflate it to propaganda levels and what happens?  Tragedy.

    Ben Brumfield (CNN) reports the location was Fort Hood and a service member or veteran shot dead 3 people, left sixteen injured and then killed himself.  Ivan Lopez is the name of the man who did the shooting and took his own life.  The names of the other people who have died or were wounded have not been released yet.

    Iraq War veteran Mike Prysner offered a series of Tweets on the tragedy.

  • If there's anything Army officers do best, it's throwing enlisted soldiers under the bus to cover their asses. Fort Hood Ivan Lopez
  • Retweeted by
    Yeah, I used to wake up screaming, "Gas, gas, gas..." before I joined.
  • This is likely how Ivan Lopez was treated for PTSD. Notoriously stupid classes while waiting on years-long discharge
  • In March the Army contributed to fighting PTSD by popularizing study asserting troops with PTSD were just screwed up before joining.
  • Hope all my veteran friends are doing okay today; these things can stir up so much. Remember you always have someone to call, me included
  • Army launched study to "detect threats" after 1st Fort Hood shooting, aimed at "radicalism," when threats always been the kids they screw up
  • Our politicians and officers too busy passing out blank checks to defense contractors to think about fixing suicide/PTSD crisis. Fort Hood
  • If Ivan Lopez was in Warrior Transition Brigade in 2010 it means he really should have been discharged from the Army in 2010.

  • If 22 veterans suicides a day (1 a day in active-duty military) isn't enough to embarrass US politicians/officers, maybe 2nd Fort Hood will

  • And we'll note Tweets on the tragedy from Greg Mitchell and Andrea Mitchell:

  • Update: General at Ft. Hood says shooter served in Iraq 4 months and was being treated for PTSD. Had mental issues.

  • Hood says shooting suspect was being checked for PTSD Iraq combat veteran recently purchased Smith +Wesson semiautomatic handgun

  • Tuesday, I almost weighed in a poll a number of people are talking about.  Then I noticed no one was speaking of  Shaima Alawadi's murder and wrote "The real war against women" instead.  We may or may not address the topic -- I already crunched the data so it would be easy but it's something there may not be time for.  In case not, we'll at least note Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe on the topic:
  • MUST-READ: 2nd in series of stories on and vets "After the Wars" (by and )

  • Iraq Veterans Against the War notes that their event last week is streamable (it was streamable live last week but the event is now archived):

  • Lastly, David Bacon's latest book is The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press). We'll close with this from Bacon's "YOUNG, AT WORK IN THE FIELDS" (Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, v. 41 no. 5):

    The communities of Mexican migrants living in California are increasingly made up of young people. The typical age of someone crossing the border today is about twenty years old, and the average age of all California farmworkers is twenty-one. Many young people, even children, work in the fields. On average, Mexican farmworkers in California have only six years of school, but younger Mexicans tend to have more education than older migrants.

    Ricardo Lopez, living in a van with his grandfather in a grocery store parking lot in Mecca, a tiny farmworker town in the Coachella Valley, says working as a migrant without a formal home was no surprise:

    This is how I envisioned it would be working here with my grandpa and sleeping in the van. It's hot at night, and hard to sleep well. There are a lot of mosquitoes, very few services, and the bathrooms are very dirty. At night there are a lot of people here coming and going. You never know what can happen; it's a bit dangerous. But my grandfather has a lot of experience and knows how to handle himself.

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