Saturday, April 26, 2014

Music (PJ Harvey)

"What We’re Listening to This Week" (CounterPunch):

PJ Harvey: Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea (Island, 2000)
1969: The Velvet Underground Live (Mercury, 1969)
Pink Mountaintops: Get Back (Jagjaguwar, 2014)
Kristin Kolb writes the Daydream Nation column for CounterPunch magazine. [Editors' Note: Kristin has recently been diagnosed with a vicious form of breast cancer, please help her fight it off by donating a few bucks to her campaign. -- JSC & JF.] 

I went with Kristin this week.  Kevin Alexander Gray didn't have a pick.  I like all three of Kristin's picks.

I do love Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea.  But my favorite PJ Harvey album is Let England Shake.

PJ Harvey's Let England Shake

That one is like a gut punch set to music.  It's raw, it's rock, it's moving.  PJ came to fame on this side of the Atlantic via 120 Minutes for many.  That was an MTV program.  Two hours on late Sunday night.

It was an alternative music program.  It's where, for example, you'd see Patti Smith's video "People Have The Power."  Or you might see Kate Bush, They Might Be Giants, Husker Du or PJ Harvey's video for "50ft Queenie."  "Down By The Water," though, took her to a new level -- in fact everything on 1995's To Bring You My Love took her to a new level.

"The Words That Maketh Murder" and "The Last Living Rose" and, especially, "Bitter Branches."  All three are on Let England Shake.

You can check out Kat's review "PJ Harvey Let England Shake" for more on the album and it also made Kat's list of the best of 2011.

"This edition's playlist" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):

1) Carly Simon's Into White.

2) Afghan Whigs's Do The Beast.

3) Ben Harper's Both Sides of the Gun.

4) Laura Nyro's Eli and the Thirteenth Confession.

5) Etta James' All The Way.

6) Rolling Stones' A Bigger Bang.

7) Imagine Dragons' Night Vision.

8) Pulp's This Is Hardcore.

9) Aimee Mann's The Forgotten Arm.

10) Tori Amos' Scarlet's Walk.

I love all of the albums on the list above.  The Forgotten Arm, for example, is one I loved when it came out but I only love it more each year.  It may be Aimee Mann's finest album.

Also on music, these are the community posts on music last week:

"Carly's Have You Seen Me Lately?," "Music (Carly Simon)," "Carly Simon's Spoiled Girl," "The Carly Simon Dream Album"  "Jay Z and Beyonce?," "Janis Ian and the FBI," "Afghan Whigs," "Afghan Whigs new album is out" and "Afghan Whigs"

So that's some music writing you can enjoy.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
Friday, April 25, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, a rally of a terrorist group in Baghdad gets bombed,  the US sends more Americans into Iraq, campaign season heats up, Tareq al-Hashemi shares his thoughts, and much more.

Mark Hosenball, Warren Strobel, Phil Stewart, Ned Parker, Jason Szep and Ross Colvin (Reuters) report, "The United States is quietly expanding the number of intelligence officers in Iraq and holding urgent meetings in Washington and Baghdad to find ways to counter growing violence by Islamic militants, U.S. government sources said."  It was 1961 when US President John F. Kennedy sent 1364 "advisors" into Vietnam.  The next year, the number was just short of 10,000.  In 1963, the number hit 15,500.  You remember how this ends, right?

The advisers get to participate in the War Crimes of chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.  As he continues to bomb the residential neighborhoods of Falluja, NINA notes four civilians were injured today. NINA reports: "Fallujah Education Hospital announced on Friday that / 1418 / people killed and injured in the city of Fallujah since the beginning of military operations."  That's 259 civilians killed and 1159 injured. These are War Crimes, the term is "collective punishment." And the bombings are aided by 'intel' provided by the US.

Earlier this week, we noted this from Fanar Haddad "Sectarian Relations and Sunni Identity in Post-Civil War Iraq" (Middle East Institute):

For example, many have fairly asked why Iraqi state television, namely Al Iraqiya, airs the confessions of dozens of (Sunni) terrorists but never of a (Shi‘i) militia commander? For that matter, why are different terms applied to Sunni and Shi‘i militant groups, namely terrorists and militias, if not to deny any moral equivalence between them? A remarkable example of double standards is how the state deals with the Mahdi Army and other Shi‘i militant groups: why is it that an organization heavily involved in the civil war, and parts of which are responsible for atrocious crimes, is allowed to hold public events and rallies with state approval? And why is the extension of similar courtesies to any Sunni militants unthinkable? Such questions reinforce the conviction that the new Iraq directly or otherwise targets Sunni Arabs. Te depth of Sunni feelings of encirclement is perhaps best illustrated in the claim made by some that they had personally seen banners in Baghdad on 9 April 2003 displaying the slogan “No Sunnis after today.” 

It's worth noting again.  And pondering.  Why are Shi'ite 'militant' groups allowed to hold rallies?  Why are Sunnis militants called "terrorists" and Shi'ite called "militias"?

It's especially worth asking today.

Five days before scheduled parliamentary elections, an eastern Baghdad campaign rally was bombed.  BBC News offers a photo essay. Ben Mathis-Lilley (Slate) posts photos of the bombing taken by Thaier al-Sudani (Reuters).  NBC News has video of outside the stadium.   NINA notes  al-Senaa Sports Club is the stadium the rally was being held in.  Iran's Focus Information Agency notes that the gathering was a "rally for the Saadiqun bloc, the political wing of the Asaib Ahel al-Haq militia"  BBC News adds, "Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq is backed by Iran and is a public supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad."  Raheem Salman  (Reuters)  reports, "The militant group, Asaib Ahl Haq (League of the Righteous), introduced its candidates for elections on April 30 at the rally in eastern Baghdad."

The League of what?

Peter Moore and four other British citizens were kidnapped by the League of Righteous. Of the other four, three corpses were turned over: Jason Crewswell, Jason Swindelhurst and Alec Maclachlan in one handover.  Much, much later, the remains of of Alan McMenemy were handed over. The kidnapping was mentioned in the State Dept's "2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices:"

Five British men (a computer expert and four bodyguards) were kidnapped in 2007. Peter Moore, the computer expert, was released unharmed on December 30, while the bodies of three of the four bodyguards were returned on June 19 and September 3 to the United Kingdom. The whereabouts of the fifth man remained unknown at year's end. Fifteen Americans, four South Africans, four Russian diplomats, and one Japanese citizen who were abducted since 2003 remained missing. There was no further information on the 2007 kidnapping of the Ministry of Science and Technology acting undersecretary, Samir Salim al-Attar.

For more on the League, we'll drop back to the June 9, 2009 snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

That's the League of Righteous.  Yet few outlets will label them as militants -- let alone as terrorists.  They are terrorists.  Tim Arango and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) report on today's rally:

Festooned around the stadium were banners bearing the names and faces of the men the group had lost in Syria, more than 80 names in all. Men in militia uniforms -- green camouflage with Asaib Ahl al-Haq patches on the sleeves -- some just back from the battlefield in Syria, lined the track surrounding the soccer field. As the group’s parliamentary candidates filed into the stadium, a campaign song played through scratchy stereo speakers.

Jane Arraf (PBS NewsHour) notes:

Its leader, Qais al-Khazali, spent more than two years in U.S. detention, believed by the U.S. to have organized and ordered the killing of five American soldiers in Karbala in 2007. He and other leaders of the Iranian-backed militant group were later released in what was believed to be a swap for a captured British contractor and the bodies of his slain security guards. Rehabilitated and rebranded, the group has emerged as a political party, running candidates in the elections for the first time.

Rehabilitated by whom, Jane?  A lazy press?  Believed to be a trade?  Months after the hand off of Moore and the three corpses, the League went to the Iraqi press to explain why Alan McMenemy wasn't handed over: the White House didn't keep their promise.  And this rehab?  The US Dept of Treasury didn't think so.  This is their press release on Qais al-Khazali -- read it and look for 'rehabilitated':

Treasury Designates Hizballah Commander Responsible for American Deaths in Iraq


WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated Ali Mussa Daqduq al-Musawi (Daqduq) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224 for acting on behalf of Hizballah. Daqduq is a senior Hizballah commander responsible for numerous attacks against Coalition Forces in Iraq, including planning an attack on the Karbala Joint Provincial Coordination Center (JPCC) on January 20, 2007, which resulted in the deaths of five U.S. soldiers. 
On March 20, 2007, Coalition Forces in southern Iraq captured Daqduq, who falsely claimed to be a deaf mute at the time and produced a number of false identity cards using a variety of aliases.  From January 2009 until December 2011, U.S. military forces held Daqduq in Iraq under the terms of the 2008 "Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq on the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq and the Organization of Their Activities during Their Temporary Presence in Iraq" (the Security Agreement).  In December 2011, the United States transferred Daqduq to Iraq's custody in accordance with our obligations under the Security Agreement.  He was subsequently tried in Iraq on terrorism and other charges.  On May 7, 2012, an Iraqi court dismissed terrorism and false documents charges against him.  Daqduq remained in Iraqi custody until last week when the Iraqi government determined that it no longer had a legal basis to hold him, and he was released Friday.
"Ali Mussa Daqduq al-Musawi is a dangerous Hizballah operative responsible for planning and carrying out numerous acts of terrorism in Iraq," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen. "The United States is extremely disappointed he was allowed to go free and we will continue our efforts to bring him to justice." 
Today's action further highlights the fact that Hizballah's terrorist activities stretch beyond the borders of Lebanon.  These terrorist acts are in some cases funded, coordinated, and carried out in concert with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF).  Hizballah, along with its Iranian allies, trained and advised Iraqi militants to carry out numerous terrorist attacks against Coalition and Iraqi forces.
Daqduq has been a member of Hizballah since 1983 and has served in multiple Hizballah leadership positions, including as commander of a Hizballah special forces unit and chief of a protective detail for Hizballah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. 
In approximately 2005, Iran asked Hizballah to form a group to train Iraqis to fight Coalition Forces in Iraq.  In response, Hassan Nasrallah established a covert Hizballah unit to train and advise Iraqi militants in Jaysh al-Mahdi (JAM) and JAM Special Groups, now known as Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq.
As of 2006, Daqduq had been ordered by Hizballah to work with IRGC-QF to provide training and equipment to JAM Special Groups to augment their ability to inflict damage against U.S. troops.
Identifying Information
Individual:  Ali Mussa Daqduq al-Musawi
AKA:  Ali Musa Daqduq
AKA:  Hamid Muhammad Jabur al-Lami
AKA:    Hamid Muhammad al-Lami
AKA:    Husayn Muhammad Jabur al-Musui
AKA:    Hamid Muhammad Jabur al-Musui
AKA:    Hamid Muhammad Daqduq al-Musawi
AKA:    Hamid Muhammad Jabur al-Musawi
AKA:    Hamid Majid 'Abd al-Yunis
Nationality:  Lebanese
DOB No. 1:  1 September 1969
DOB No. 2:  31 December 1971
DOB No. 3:  9 August 1971
DOB No. 4:  9 September 1970
DOB No. 5:  9 August 1969
DOB No. 6:  5 March 1972
POB No. 1:  Beirut, Lebanon
POB No. 2:  Al-Karradah, Baghdad, Iraq

Arraf  appeared on The NewsHour tonight.

Al Jazeera notes of the League of Righteous, "Its leader, Sheik Qais al-Khazali, spent years in U.S. detention but was released after he was handed over to the Iraqi government. At the rally Friday, he gave a brief address that challenged militants holding two cities in Anbar province."  And when the bombs went off?

Did he show leadership, this 'brave' leader?  Did he tend to the hurt, call for calm?  No.  Al Jazeera notes the little princess turned tail and ran, "Security guards jumped on al-Khazali and pushed him away from the stadium after the blasts."  What a little princess.  Just like when he got caught by coalition forces and claimed he was deaf.   Gulf Times reports the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has announced they carried out the attack and that the leader of the League of Rightous (which ISIL called "the League of the Vain")  had spoken to the assembled just before the attack and had boasted, "To all ISIL . . . we are ready.  We are prepared.  We are the defenders of this country.  You will never reach us." And then came the attack and the little princess was rushed out of the stadium instead of standing like a leader and offering help.  Reuters notes the speech as follows:

[. . .] Sheik Qais Khazaali, had just delivered a speech accusing some politicians of aiding terrorism and vowed his movement was ready for any action by ISIS.
"To all ISIS... we are ready. We are prepared," he said.
"We are the defenders of this country. If ISIS is the sickness, were are the medicine."

We are prepared . . . We are defenders . . . I must be rushed out of here by my security detail because I'm such a delicate flower and have no leadership skills.

  • Before the attack on his rally, Shiite cleric Qais Khazaali warned: “If ISIL is the sickness, were are the medicine."

  • Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report, "Attendees fled to a nearby building under construction in the stadium complex as female parliamentary candidates screamed and prayed for safety." Citing an unnamed Ministry of the Interior official as the source, Sky News reports the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar al-Hakim was present in the stadium.

    Al Jazeera says 10,000 people were in the stadium. And that Sheik Qais al-Khazali spoke at the gathering and insulted Sunnis.  al-Khazali was in US custody but Barack Obama decided to negotiate with terrorists so Peter Moore and four corpses could be released to England.  America's president likes to say he thought Nouri al-Maliki was going to prosecute al-Khazali but even Barack can't be that dumb. And certainly Congress was raising objections.  Dropping back to November 19, 2012:

    And many senators were calling for Daqduq to be brought to the United States and tried.  Instead, in 2011, the White House turned him over to Iraq and received 'promises' regarding Daqduq's fate.
    'Promises" turned out not be all that.  As noted in Friday's snapshot, " Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports that the rumors Ali Musa Daqduq had been released from Iraqi custody are true (see Wednesday's snapshot).  It's a huge embarrassment for the White House.  Victoria Nuland, State Dept spokesperson, was asked about it in today's press briefing."  Michael R. Gordon (New York Times) reported Friday:
    In a phone call on Tuesday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. told the Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, that the United States believed that Mr. Daqduq should be held accountable for his actions and that Iraq should explore all legal options toward this end, an American official said. Robert S. Beecroft, the United States ambassador in Baghdad, made a similar appeal to Mr. Maliki that day. But Mr. Maliki told Mr. Biden that Iraq had run out of legal options to hold Mr. Daqduq, who this year had been ordered released by an Iraqi court.
    Julian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) reminds that when the White House announced their plan to hand Daqduq over to Iraq, many members of Congress objected before the transfer took place, "Ms. [Senator Kelly] Ayotte and 18 other Senators called on U.S. officials not to hand him over to Iraq, but the Iraqi government insisted on taking him into custody."  

    Nouri released him and now even pays the 'militia' which hunts and kills Sunnis in Iraq.  It's a detail no one mentions in today's reporting.  Tim Arango (New York Times) broke that news in September of last year:

    In supporting Asaib al-Haq, Mr. Maliki has apparently made the risky calculation that by backing some Shiite militias, even in secret, he can maintain control over the country’s restive Shiite population and, ultimately, retain power after the next national elections, which are scheduled for next year. Militiamen and residents of Shiite areas say members of Asaib al-Haq are given government badges and weapons and allowed freedom of movement by the security forces.

    They're terrorists.  The League of Righteous is terrorist.  You can step back and argue that with regards to British and American forces, they were at war.  (You don't have to step back, if you don't want to.)  But they are terrorists on the government payroll to terrorize the Sunni population in Iraq.

    And if you don't step back, you should grasp that the US had placed al-Khazali in military prison and the plan was to put him on trial -- US military trial -- for his killing of 5 US service members.  But Barack decided to let him go.  Maybe Barack can fly to Baghdad and campaign for him?

    There were at least three bombs  Al Jazeera says 31 people are dead and fifty-six more injured. Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) updates the numbers to 33 dead and ninety injured.   Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "A car bomb first hit the gathering. It was followed by a suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest."   EFE notes, "Some of the fatalities belonged to the group handling electoral publicity for the Sadequn alliance, whose candidates will run for office in the legislative elections next Wednesday."

     Osama al-Khafaji and Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) have noted that there are 9032 candidates competing for 328 seats.  Drop the 9032 down to 9031.  Al Arabiya News reports Sheikh Abdulkarim Dousari was shot dead in Basra.  He was a Sunni politician.  An aide was also shot dead and Dousari's son and one other person were left wounded.  Monday, security forces will vote.  Wednesday the rest of Iraq -- minus some parts of Anbar Province -- will vote.  Iraqi refugees in Syria will not be allowed to vote.  Iraqi refugees elsewhere will be allowed to vote.  For example, Miriam Raftery (East County Magazine) reports:

    All Iraqi-born people living in the U.S. are eligible to vote, the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce announced today.  Locally, eligible voters can cast their ballots on April 27-28 at the Crystal Ballroom, 414 North Magnolia Avenue in El Cajon from 12-2 p.m.

    Al Jazeera offers a photo essay on the campaign posters and other voting issues.  We'll note this Tweet on the elections.

  • Najaf's Grand Ayatollahs don't have a unified stance on Iraq elections. Sistani, Fayadh & Hakim support no one. Najafi supports Ammar Hakim.
  • DPA notes, "Despite the ongoing bloodshed, Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is seeking to win a third term in office in the April 30 vote."  All Iraq News notes that MP Bahaa al-Araji (Ahrar bloc) stated the government was responsible for providing security but instead "the governmental and security officials are busy with their electoral propagandas leaving the country towards the unknown."

    In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Kirkuk roadside bombing left Iraqi soldiers injured, Judge Edan Hassan Khalaf was left wounded "in an armed attack on his home west of Kirkuk," a Hamrin roadside bombing left 1 person dead and another injured, Baghdad Operations Command announced they killed 4 suspects, and an armed battle southeast of Ramadi left 9 rebels and 4 soldiers dead.  Alsumaria adds that last night that 1 police officer was shot dead in Qadisiyah.  All Iraq News notes "4 Iraqi Army Intelligence elements were killed [. . .] at the main road between Beji and Tikrit."

    David Ignatius (Washington Post) offers:

    How did such catastrophic violence return to Iraq? That’s really the saddest part of the story. The United States helped engineer Maliki’s reelection as prime minister in 2010. But once the Americans had left, Maliki’s government foolishly created a vacuum that allowed Sunni extremists to take root again in western Iraq after they had been crushed by the U.S.-backed tribal movement called the Sahwa, or “Awakening.”
    Zaydan’s cousin, Sheik Sattar Abu Risha, was one of the Sahwa’s founders. But when Maliki reneged on promises to keep paying the tribesmen, they turned elsewhere for support. Now, with Anbar in revolt, Maliki has tried to revive the Sahwa network, offering fighters as much $400 a month to back the government. But it’s probably too late. “That ship has sailed,” says the Pentagon expert.

    The ship has sailed and, in fact, sunk.  Iraq has a prime minister: Nouri al-Maliki.  It also has a president.  At least in name. 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 currently.

    Iraq's missing more than just a president.  It has a vice president, Khodair al-Khozaei.  He's the Shi'ite Vice President and he is in Iraq.  He is one of the country's two vice presidents.  The other?

    Tareq al-Hashemi is the Sunni Vice President and he is not in Iraq.  We'll note this from Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazai's "Iraq in Crisis:"

    The Hashimi case quickly escalated into a major political crisis in December 2011, only days after the US occupation ended. Vice President Hashimi was leader of the largest Sunni coa lition, the Iraqi Accord Front , whose most powerful faction was the Iraqi Isla mic Party (IIP). He had supported a unified Iraq, but was one of the Sunnis who had withdrawn from the 2005 election, had called for oil revenues to be distributed based on population, had opposed de-Ba'athification as often arbitrary and unjust, and want stronger Sunni representation in the Iraqi Security Forces. He had argued that Sunni and other provinces could individually take the decision whether or not to form federal regions, and some reports indicated that he had tried in 2006 to form a multiparty coalition to replace Maliki. 
    Hashimi had become a symbol of Sunni opposition to Maliki during 2011, and it was far from clear that this opposition did not involve some form of conspiracy against Maliki . A wide range of open sources show, however, that Maliki acted first. 199 While the full range of fact in the case is unclear, and media sources are contradictory, it does seem clear that Maliki sent Iraqi security forces to arrest him and they surrounded his house in the Green Zone on December 15, 2011. At least two of his bodyguards were attacked and beaten and five more were arrested and interrogated under conditions that were suspect at best. 
    Hashimi was ordered not to travel abroad and -- in what became something of a model of the kind of charges Maliki was to use in the future -- Iraq's Judicial Council issued an arrest warrant for him on December 19, 2011. The warrant came only a day after the last US combat forces officially left Iraq, and the charges were very broad. They accused Hashimi of organizing bombing attacks, as participating in terrorist activities, controlling an assassination squad, and killing senior Shi’ite officials. They were based on confessions obtained from his bodyguards, and five more of them were arrested on the day the warrant was issued. 
    Hashimi denied all the charge the next day, having fled to Irbil in the Kurdish Regional Government the day before the warrant was issued, leading some sources to believe Maliki had given him warning in an effort to drive him out of the country, rather than hold an embarrassing show trial that would lead to his actual imprisonment and make him more of a Sunni martyr. The risks involved are illustrated by the fact that the Sunni Iraqiyya party had 91 seats in the Majlis and began a boycott of the Majlis that virtually froze it operation. This boycott ended in late January 2012 , but only after the US Embassy made intense efforts to end it without publically taking a stand on the charges. 
    The Iraqi Ministry of Interior called for the Interior Ministry of the KRG to extradite Hashimi to Baghdad on January 8th 2012 . By that time, Hashimi had said that 53 of his bodyguards and employees had been arrested. Hashimi responded by demanding to be tried in Kirkuk, but a court in Baghdad rejected his demand on January 15, 2012. In February 2012 , a panel of Iraqi judges accused him of directing paramilitary teams to conduct more than 150 attacks during 2006 - 2012 against political opponents, Iraqi security officials -- including a Shi’ite brigadier general -- and Shi’ite pilgrims. 
    Massoud Barzani , president of the KRG, formally rejected Baghdad’s demand for extradition in M arch 2012. The fact Kurdish leaders protected Hashimi --  in addition to conflicts between the KRG and central government over oil concessions and finances -- raised tensions to the point where Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) leader Massoud Barzani threatened to separate the KRG from Iraq during his visit to Washington in April 2012. 
    Hashimi continued to deny all charges and claimed constitutional immunity . He then left Iraq to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and did so in his official capacity as vice president of Iraq. Hashimi claimed in an interview in Al-Jazeera on April 4, 2012 that accusations that he ran a death squad “have a sectarian dimension.” He claimed that he was the “fifth Sunni figure to be targeted” by the Shia-led government, and that, “More than 90 percent of the detainees in Iraq are Sunnis.” al-Hashimi said he would return to Iraq to carry out his vice presidential duties, despite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s demands that he face trial. 
    He also claimed -- with considerable accuracy -- that, “Corruption in the country is widespread,” that the prime minister’s policies were undermining "the unity of Iraq," that al-Maliki’s government was giving "military assistance" to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. "There is information about Iraqi militias fighting alongside the Syrian regime," al-Hashimi told Al-Jazeera. He also stated that there were "unconfirmed reports that Iraq’s airspace was being used to help [Assad’s] regime," and hinted at Iranian involvement. 
    The KRG allowed Hashimi to travel to Qatar to meet with Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani , on what the Qatari administration described as an official diplomatic visit on April 1, 201 2. Hussain al - Shahristani, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister , then attacked the visit and called for Hashimi to be handed over to the Iraqi central government . Qatar refused the request and Hashimi then travelled to Saudi Arabia and met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal. Several days later, he went to Turkey with his family. Iraq Interpol issue a red notice for his arrest on May 8, 2012. The Turkish government rejected a request for extradition and granted him residence permit 
    A show trial then followed in May 2012, in which Hashimi and his son-in-law -- Ahmed Qahtan, his secretary -- were tried in absentia. The charges now included murder and well over 100 charges of involvement in terrorist attacks after 2003. A number of Hashimi's bodyguards "confessed" that he had personally ordered them to perform the attacks. Hashimi and Ahmed Qahtan were sentenced to death in absentia on September plotting to assassinate Interior Ministry official , and again sentenced in absentia to death. He was then sentenced in absentia to death three more times in December 2012. While Iraqi politics had remained a blood sport throughout the US occupation, the sheer volume of the charges and the way the confessions were obtained scarcely gave the trials great credibility. As for Hashimi he remained in exile, now the Sunni martyr that Maliki initially seemed to have tried to avoid.

    Abdulkadir Karakelle (Daily Sabah) speaks with Tareq al-Hashemi today.  Excerpt.

    Do you believe that the upcoming elections will reflect the will of all Iraqis?

    The major demand of the Iraqi people and the key issue is simply change. The upcoming election, however, is insufficient to fulfill this mission. Nori al-Maliki's endeavor to consolidate absolute power is the major threat. In order to achieve this and win the elections, al-Maliki is expected to manipulate the elections through fraud and cheating.
    Taking this into consideration, even if proven to be conducted as per international standards, there is no guarantee that the winning party is going to form the government - I am specifically referring to the 2010 elections. Generally speaking and taking into account the complexity and range of challenges we are faced with, I am not optimistic about the upcoming elections. What we need more right now is for the election to first stop the ongoing deterioration and to recourse the political process and put it back to on its democratic track. 

    The editorial board of the Daily Star isn't optimistic about this round of parliamentary elections and notes, "At the last elections, in 2010, it was clear that what the people of Iraq wanted did not really matter, and that with Iran’s backing, Nouri al-Maliki was sure to be re-elected."  Abdul Rahman al-Rashid (Arab News) observes, "The Americans, spending trillions of dollars, tried to do a similar thing and created a democracy in Iraq. The result, however, is disastrous. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki has grabbed more power than the former dictator of Baghdad, Saddam Hussein. "
    This week Nouri again accused Saudi Arabia of interfering in Iraq.  BBC News noted:

    Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki has told the BBC that Saudi Arabia has "clearly interfered" in Syria and in Iraqi internal affairs.
    He said he believed Saudi Arabia was facilitating the entry of foreign "mercenaries" into Iraq, worsening the sectarian violence.

    Mr Maliki said the violence in Syria was causing "security problems" in Iraq's Anbar province.

    Wait a second, the League of Rightous holds a campaign rally in Baghdad today where they brag about fighting in Syria and, as AFP noted earlier this week, Faleh al-Khazali is running on Nouri's State of Law address and bragging about how he's gone to Syria to fight Sunnis.

    Nouri's never been able to prove his longstanding accusations against Saudi Arabia but while he's making charges that others are interfering with Iraq, Shi'ites are publicly bragging about interfering in Syria including Faleh al-Khazali who is part of Nouri's State of Law coalition.

     qassim abdul-zahra
     the associated press
    hamza hendawi

    the new york times
    alissa j. rubin

    michael r. gordon

    the washington post
    david ignatius

    Thursday, April 24, 2014

    Iraq gears up for elections

    "Maliki Looks to Iraq's Oil Gusher for Election Edge Amid Strife" (Nayla Razzouk, Khalid Al-Ansary and Dana El Baltaji, Bloomberg News):

    Maliki, 63, is seeking a majority in April 30 parliamentary elections to extend his hold on power in the nation of 33 million people, where he first took office in 2006. The new parliament will also choose a president to replace Jalal Talabani, who has been receiving medical treatment in Germany since suffering a stroke in December 2012.
    “Maliki is still the front-runner, but he has lost support,” Robin Mills, the head of consulting at Dubai-based Manaar Energy Consulting and Project Management, said by phone on April 20. “For a new government to be successful, it has to go much beyond the energy sector, and it will have to actually start showing some big improvements in basic delivery of government services.”

    US puppet Nouri al-Maliki has now been imposed on Iraq two times -- first by the Bully Boy Bush White House then by the Barack White House.

    Will the Iraqi people ever see their own votes respected.

    They'll go to the polls April 30th (except in some parts of Anbar Province which will not be allowed to vote) and wonder if their votes will count this time.

    The two previous times, their votes did not count.

    C.I. has lead on that, by the way.

    She's noted how destructive that was.  Iraq's on the road to what?  Democracy?

    Not after the White House negotiated the 2010 Erbil Agreement to set aside the votes of the people so that the loser Nouri al-Maliki could get a second term.

    He lost the elections.  Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya defeated Nouri's State of Law.

    This is 2010.

    This is Barack.

    There was no respect for democracy.

    There was no respect for the will of the people.

    There was just a snot-nosed little brat named Barack stamping his feet that Nouri must get a second term.

    So what happens next week?

    "Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
    Wednesday, April 23, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, campaigning continues, USAID calls out War Crimes (but not in Iraq, of course), Stephen Beecroft may be leaving Iraq, today's is the one-year anniversary of Nouri's assault on the protesters in Hawija, War Criminal Tony Blair still thinks the world needs him, and much more.

    Seven days from now, Iraq is supposed to hold parliamentary elections.  NINA notes that today US Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Beecroft declared that elections would be taking place April 30th.   Osama al-Khafaji and Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) have noted that there are 9032 candidates competing for 328 seats.  Reidar Visser (Gulf Analysis) examines the candidates who aren't running because they were disqualified:

    Firstly there are lists of those excluded, around 400 names, which appeared in four separate batches released by the de-Baathification committee in early February . Second, there is a list of those excluded with reference to criminal charges (the first three batches along with the criminal  charges list is here; the separate fourth list is here). Thirdly, there is a list of those who were reinstated from the first two batches of de-Baathification subsequent to the appeals process (in some sources this has erroneously been described as a fifth exclusion batch). Importantly, the lists of those subject to de-Baathification give candidate names only, not list affiliation. It is therefore very difficult to pin down their party affiliation, especially so since many of them are not very prominent figures. Advanced name searches on them on Google in Arabic will rarely return any hits at all, even if a liberal number of name combinations is attempted. However, there remains a key to establishing some links between individual candidates and lists for at least a part of the material. This relates to the 52 reinstated candidates, who appear in the final list of election candidates and can therefore be identified by party affiliation.  Also, although no list of those reinstated in cases not relating to de-Baathification has been published, for the smaller number of reinstated candidates who were initially excluded with reference to the “good reputation” requirement it is possible to search through the final candidate list with the names of everyone who had been reported as excluded. It is noteworthy though, that in both categories – de-Baathification and “good reputation” – a large number of reinstated candidates appear to have opted to remain off the list, despite having regained the right to stand as candidates. One possible explanation, especially for candidate far down on the list, is that their lists may have deemed them to be more of a burden than an asset following the suspicions unleashed by their initial disqualifications.

    As has been the case with every provincial election and every parliamentary election since the illegal war allegedly 'liberated' Iraq, campaign season means politicians get targeted.  Today? Alsumaria reports four homes were blown up in Sulaiman Bek, including one belonging to a candidate with Ayad Allawi's coaltion.   All Iraq News notes an attack on "some cars carrying leaflets [. . .] for Deputy Premier, Salih al-Mutleq" in Tikrit.

    While violence has become an expected occurrence at election time, this year's elections will see a new development.  This election, Iraq is debuting electronic voter cards and not the ration cards that they used in past elections.  Monday Duraid Salman and Tarek Ammar (Alsumaria) reported that the Independent High Electoral Commission notes that 85% of the new electronic cards that will be required for voting have been distributed.  The elections are next Wednesday and they still haven't distributed all the cards?  You can't vote without the card this go-round.

    US Ambassador Beecroft met today with Sarbast Rashid Mustafa who chairs the Independent High Electoral Commission.  The US Embassy in Baghdad released the following:

    Ambassador Beecroft Praises IHEC’s Efforts in Preparation for National Elections

    April 23, 2014
    U.S. Ambassador Stephen Beecroft and U.S. Embassy staff met on Tuesday April 22 with Mr. Sarbast Rashid Mustafa, the Chairman of the Independent Higher Electoral Commission (IHEC) and Mr. Muqdad Alsharify, the Chief Electoral Officer of IHEC.
    Chairman Mustafa and CEO Alsharify outlined for the Ambassador the extensive plan that IHEC has in place for the national election on April 30.  The Ambassador emphasized his appreciation for the professionalism and thoroughness of IHEC's work under often very difficult circumstances and offered his condolences for IHEC employees who have been killed or injured as a result of this essential work.
    The Ambassador expressed the expectation of the United States that the electoral process would reflect the will of the Iraqi people and that the Government of Iraq would take every measure to ensure that Iraqi citizens would be able to exercise their right to vote in a secure and fair environment.  He relayed that he is confident that IHEC would succeed in its mission of achieving a result that would be credible and represent the democratic decision of the Iraqi people.
    The United States has consistently emphasized with Iraqi officials from across the political spectrum of the importance for the election to take place on time and has fully supported the independence of IHEC as defined in the Iraqi constitution. 

    Chairman Mustafa extended his appreciation for the technical support provided by the U.S. Government for conducting transparent and credible elections in Iraq.

    On the topic of Stephen Beecroft, Laura Rozen (Backchannel) reports the word is Beecroft will be nominated to be the US Ambassador to Egypt shortly.

    That would be a deeply stupid move.  So it's probably going to happen.  If it does, we'll go into how stupid it is.  Until then, we'll just note the rumor.

    Monday,  Duraid Salman (Alsumaria) reported on allegations that Nouri's SWAT forces are forcing voters in Diyala Province to hand over their election cards so that they can be used for voter fraud.  Joel Wing (Musings On Iraq) notes some of the problems with the electronic cards:

    Apathetic Iraqis and problems with the voter rolls offer loopholes for political parties to exploit the new cards. Shafaq News for example interviewed a member of the Election Commission in Kirkuk who said that voting cards were going for as much as $500 a piece. The article claimed that people who were not going to vote were willing to sell their cards. With voting participation at 50% out of approximately 20 million registered voters that provides a huge pool of people to purchase cards from. In another example, Niqash ran an article in April that included a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan who said that parties in the northern region were buying up voting cards as well. Another area of potential abuse is the fact that Iraq does not have up to date voter information. There has not been a census for decades because of the political differences between the ruling parties. Instead the Election Commission relies upon information provided by the Ministry of Trade and the food ration system that it operates. There are plenty of reports about the problems this presents. The IHEC for instance, announced in March that it had withdrawn 32,000 voting cards that it found were for the deceased or duplicate names. There are likely several thousand more of these types of wrongly issued cards still out there, because of the flawed nature of the voting rolls. Ironically the Election Commission went with these cards to try to cut down on fraud and cheating. In October 2013 it signed a $130 million 5-year deal with a Spanish company to create the voting cards. They have to be produced with one other piece of identification for anyone to vote. If parties are dishing up hundreds of dollars however to buy them they will have the money to forge other ID’s as well. These are obviously huge problems which the IHEC is aware of, but has limited time and money to try to fix especially since the balloting is only days away. 

    Barbara Slavin can be a real idiot.  If her recent ridiculous piece hadn't been at the Voice of America, I would have linked to it.  I wouldn't have called her the names that many Americans would have -- I would have just called her stupid and grossly insensitive (her piece was 'get over it, America, Iran can pick whomever they want for an ambassador).  She's a stupid woman and a deeply troubled one whose personal demons effect her work.  At Al-Monitor, she writes an embarrassing and vapid piece following her soft-ball interview with Iraq's Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily.  We'll note this from the article:

    After the 2010 elections, it took Iraqis nine months to form a new government and this could happen again, with Maliki serving in an acting capacity, said the ambassador, who comes from Maliki's Dawa Party. “The key challenge is that most of the political blocs don’t have clear red lines, which creates confusion and misreading of each other,” he said. “You may have prolonged government formation after. Historically it wasn’t quick. But the concept of time is not as crucial for us as in the Western concept.”
    Among the tough decisions on hold until after elections: agreement on how much of their oil Kurds can export through Turkey and how much revenue they will get from the central government. Faily said the Kurds are not the only ones who are looking for more resources from Iraq’s oil wealth. “We get more calls from the governor of Basra than from the KRG on this issue,” he said.
    At the same time, Faily said that oil remains the “gel” for society and could keep Iraq from fragmenting into three or more pieces. “There is enough oil there for everybody to be prosperous,” he said.

    Slavin's a disaster as a reporter.  She can take dictation, that's about all she can do. That and normalize the notion that months is acceptable for forming a government.  No, it's not.  The process is supposed to take mere weeks for a prime minister-designate to be named and then he or she has 30 days to form a Cabinet.

    It is a sign of failure of the democratic process that the government is unable to do their damn job.  This actually happened in 2006 as well.

    That's a detail a reporter would know, Babs.  Parliamentary elections took place in December 2005.  Nouri is named prime minister-designate in April of 2006 and becomes prime minister at the end of May 2006.

    She also doesn't question Faily's claim that, "There is enough oil there for everybody to be prosperous" when the reality is that vast numbers of Iraqis live in poverty.

    At The Hill, the European Parliament's Delegations for Relations with Iraq's President Struan Stevenson explains:

    The election is being held while he is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and all military and security forces are under his personal command without any legal check. For more than four years he has directly controlled the ministries of Interior, Defence, Security and Communications, in total breach of the Erbil Agreement; he has filled all key posts with his own men, and through influencing the judiciary has trampled on its independence and brought Iraqi judges under direct political control. In a similarly contemptuous and illegal move he has repeatedly refused requests to appear before the elected parliament and provide explanations for his authoritarian behaviour.
    Last year, the Iraqi parliament adopted a resolution whereby none of the three key posts of prime minister, president and speaker of parliament, could be occupied by any one person for more than two consecutive 4-year terms. However, through influencing the judicial system, he declared this law unconstitutional, despite the fact that the constitution does not bestow such authority on the judicial system.

    Also weighing in today is Harith Hasan al-Qarawee of the Carnegie Middle East Center:

    The prime minister emphasized Shia dominance in state institutions and has changed the dynamics of Shia politics. In his second term, Maliki took advantage of deficits in power-sharing agreements. Using the powerful patronage available to him as chief executive, he pursued a policy of “divide and rule” in dealing with other parties. He filled vacant positions in the military and administration with his loyalists and augmented the powers of his office and of networks related to him personally, thereby creating a kind of “shadow state” within the government. He gave more influence to independent commissions such as the de-Baathification committee, the Communication and Media Commission, the Iraqi Media Network, the Central Bank of Iraq, and the Commission of Integrity. He managed to greatly subjugate the federal court and forge an alliance with its chief that helped him encircle his opponents and weaken their ability to check his power through the parliament. The fact that Iraq is a rentier state and the Iraqi economy is largely dependent on oil revenue has also tended to empower the executive branch and those forces that seek to establish a more centralized state. 

    Maliki’s ability to consolidate power sent warning signals to his Shia rivals and forced Ammar al-Hakim, the leader of the ISCI, and Sadr to overcome the traditional competition between their families and work together to face Maliki. Sadr has become a fierce critic of the prime minister and described Maliki’s actions as “dictatorial.” In 2012, Sadr expressed unusual defiance when he aligned with the Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani and Sunni forces to initiate a move to unseat Maliki through a vote of no confidence. However, even then, Sadr kept within the communal power-sharing framework by announcing that Kurds and Sunni Arabs accepted that the new prime minister should also come from the Shia alliance.3  Although the move to force Maliki out of power was aborted due to Iranian opposition and the reluctance of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to support it, Sadr continued his criticism of the Shia prime minister and promised his followers that he would not support the prime minister’s efforts to win a third term.

    Over on the right is neocon Kimberly Kagan's Institute For The Study Of War and, writing for them, Ahmed Ali argues:

    Maliki’s State of Law Alliance (SLA) did not fare well in the provincial elections in 2013, causing Maliki to re-think his 2014 campaign. SLA member Salman al-Musawi stated on March 10, 2014 that the SLA is not dependent on political blocs in order to secure Maliki a third term, but rather is dependent on his popularity among voters.1 This message demonstrates a broader trend of targeting local communities for votes in the 2014 elections. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s SLA will again compete internally for Iraqi Shi‘a votes with the Citizens’ Bloc of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and the Ahrar Alliance, representing the Sadrists. This internal Shi‘a competition may cause the national elections to serve as a referendum on Maliki’s continued rule. 
    The vote among Iraq’s Arab Sunnis may be split among Council of Representatives Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi’s Mutahidun (United) for Reform, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq’s Arabiyya alliance, and Ayad Allawi’s secularist Wataniyya Alliance. The Kurdish PUK and the KDP will also compete separately for the first time in several northern provinces for the Iraqi Kurdish vote. Rather than ethno-sectarian unity, 2014 pre-elections behaviors bear a new quality of principled pluralism.

    On the left, James Petras (Global Research) notes:

    Beginning with the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 and continuing under its proxy vassal Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens have been tortured, jailed and murdered. Iraq’s ruling junta, has continued to rely on US military and Special Forces and to engage in the same kinds of military and police ‘sweeps’ which eviscerate any democratic pretensions. Al-Maliki relies on special branches of his secret police, the notorious Brigade 56, to assault opposition communities and dissident strongholds. Both the Shi’a regime and Sunni opposition engage in ongoing terror-warfare. Both have served as close collaborators with Washington at different moments.
    The weekly death toll runs in the hundreds. The Al-Maliki regime has taken over the torture centers (including Abu Ghraib), techniques and jails previously headed and run by the US and have retained US ‘Special Forces’ advisers, overseeing the round-up of human rights critics, trade unionists and democratic dissidents.

    That's not about the campaign per se but in the US the left -- or the hustler left -- doesn't give a damn about Iraq.  I'm left, I care about Iraq, but supposedly The Progressive, The Nation, blah blah blah are left and they can't be bothered with Iraq.  (If Joel Wing or Reidar Visser see themselves as left, my apologies to them.  Although both have bent to Nouri's will too often for my tastes, I don't see them as right or left but more centrist analysts.)   But Petras' remarks are about the election in that he's focusing on the state of Iraq at a time when parliamentary elections are just around the corner.

    The Middle East Institute's Fanar Haddad has published a paper today entitled "Sectarian Relations and Sunni Identity in Post-Civil War Iraq."

    For example, many have fairly asked why Iraqi state television, namely Al Iraqiya, airs the confessions of dozens of (Sunni) terrorists but never of a (Shi‘i) militia commander? For that matter, why are different terms applied to Sunni and Shi‘i militant groups, namely terrorists and militias, if not to deny any moral equivalence between them? A remarkable example of double standards is how the state deals with the Mahdi Army and other Shi‘i militant groups: why is it that an organization heavily involved in the civil war, and parts of which are responsible for atrocious crimes, is allowed to hold public events and rallies with state approval? And why is the extension of similar courtesies to any Sunni militants unthinkable? Such questions reinforce the con-viction that the new Iraq directly or otherwise targets Sunni Arabs. Te depth of Sunni feelings of encirclement is perhaps best illustrated in the claim made by some that they had personally seen banners in Baghdad on 9 April 2003 displaying the slogan “No Sunnis after today.”

    The above is especially worth noting when Nouri continues to target Iraq's Sunni population.

    For example, it was exactly one year ago that the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija took place with Nouri al-Maliki's federal forces storming in on the peaceful protesters.   Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

    While the State Dept refused to confront Nouri or even call him out after the massacre, the BRussells Tribunal carried a translation of one activist who was an eye-witness to what went down:


    I am Thamer Hussein Mousa from the village of Mansuriya in the district of Hawija. I am disabled. My left arm was amputated from the shoulder and my left leg amputated from the hip, my right leg is paralyzed due to a sciatic nerve injury, and I have lost sight in my left eye.
    I have five daughters and one son. My son’s name is Mohammed Thamer. I am no different to any other Iraqi citizen. I love what is good for my people and would like to see an end to the injustice in my country.

    When we heard about the peaceful protests in Al-Hawija, taking place at ‘dignity and honor square’, I began attending with my son to reclaim our usurped rights. We attended the protests every day, but last Friday the area of protest was besieged before my son and I could leave; just like all the other protestors there.

    Food and drink were forbidden to be brought into the area….

    On the day of the massacre (Tuesday 23 April 2013) we were caught by surprise when Al-Maliki forces started to raid the area. They began by spraying boiling water on the protestors, followed by heavy helicopter shelling. My little son stood beside me. We were both injured due to the shelling.

    My son, who stood next to my wheelchair, refused to leave me alone. He told me that he was afraid and that we needed to get out of the area. We tried to leave. My son pushed my wheelchair and all around us, people were falling to the ground.

    Shortly after that, two men dressed in military uniforms approached us. One of them spoke to us in Persian; therefore we didn’t understand what he said. His partner then translated. It was nothing but insults and curses. He then asked me “Handicapped, what do you want?” I did not reply. Finally I said to him, “Kill me, but please spare my son”. My son interrupted me and said, “No, kill me but spare my father”. Again I told him “Please, spare my son. His mother is waiting for him and I am just a tired, disabled man. Kill me, but please leave my son”. The man replied “No, I will kill your son first and then you. This will serve you as a lesson.” He then took my son and killed him right in front of my eyes. He fired bullets into his chest and then fired more rounds. I can’t recall anything after that. I lost consciousness and only woke up in the hospital, where I underwent surgery as my intestines were hanging out of my body as a result of the shot.

    After all of what has happened to me and my little son – my only son, the son who I was waiting for to grow up so he could help me – after all that, I was surprised to hear Ali Ghaidan (Lieutenant General, Commander of all Iraqi Army Ground Forces) saying on television, “We killed terrorists” and displaying a list of names, among them my name: Thamer Hussein Mousa.

    I ask you by the name of God, I appeal to everyone who has a shred of humanity. Is it reasonable to label me a terrorist while I am in this situation, with this arm, and with this paralyzed leg and a blind eye?

    I ask you by the name of God, is it reasonable to label me a terrorist? I appeal to all civil society and human rights organizations, the League of Arab States and the Conference of Islamic States to consider my situation; all alone with my five baby daughters, with no one to support us but God. I was waiting for my son to grow up and he was killed in this horrifying way.
    I hold Obama responsible for this act because he is the one who gave them these weapons. The weapons and aircrafts they used and fired upon us were American weapons. I also hold the United States of America responsible for this criminal act, above all, Obama.

    A ridiculous official made a ridiculous statement today.  USAID's  Nancy Lindborg declared on tonight's NewsHour (PBS) that the Sudanese government is "targeting women and children.  That's a War Crime."

    Is that a War Crime?


    What about the above, Nance?  Huh?  UNICEF counts 8 children dead.  What about that?

    Or how about the targeting of civilians in Falluja.  It's been going on for months now, Nouri's ordered residential neighborhoods in Falluja bombed.  NINA notes that today's bombings left five civilians injured.  Is that not a War Crime because it meets the legal definition of a War Crime.

    Whores like Nancy always want to scream "War Crime!" if it'll help them start a war.

    But to scream it about Iraq?

    Useless Nancy knows if the government admits it's a War Crime, the US government, all aid to Nouri's thuggish government ceases and that's the real point that  USAID doesn't want to talk about.

    In other violence, National Iraqi News Agency reports security sources say they killed 9 suspects in Saqlawiyah, Baghdad Operations Command announced they killed 5 suspects, a Mada'ain sticky bombing killed 1 person, a Mosul car bombing left 8 people dead and forty-five injured, 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Arab Jabour, Joint Operations Command announced they killed 39 suspects,  a Mosul roadside bombing left 3 police members dead, a Muqdadiyah attack left Ahmed al-Harbi dead (he was a member of Diyalal Provincial Council and a member of Iraqiya) and four of his bodyguards injured, 5 people were kidnapped in Haditha  and a Dorah roadside bombing killed 1 person and left two more people injured. Alsumaria reports an attack on a Sulaiman Bek police station left seven police members injured, All Iraq News notes 1 police member was shot dead in Tikrit and a Dijail bombing left 1 boy dead and four other people injured.  WG Dunlop (AFP) notes, "Bomb targets Iraq minister's convoy as attacks kill three people "

     Mehdi Hasan (Huffington Post UK) explains:

    I wanted to begin this piece with the sentence "Tony Blair is back". But, of course, our former prime minister has never really been away. Not for him a quiet life of self-portraits and coin tosses. Blair, unlike his ol' partner-in-crime George W. Bush, has spent his 'retirement' agitating for military action against Syria, calling for regime change in Iran, dodging citizen's arrests over his illegal invasion of Iraq and making the case for Tory-style austerity at home. Oh, and don't get me started on all those awkward rumours about the former PM and the former Mrs Murdoch.
    This morning, the ex-Labour-leader-turned-Middle-East-peace envoy turned up at Bloomberg's HQ in London to deliver a keynote speech on the threat from Islamist extremism. It was a classic from the Blair-as-liberal-hawk meets Blair-as-expert-on-Islam genre; a collection of half-truths, belligerent threats, sweeping statements and ill-informed generalisations.

    Iraq War supporter John McTernan squealed at the Guardian and jizzed in his pants as he pictured Tony dominating the world -- or at least dominating John McTernan. Remember, John, agree to a safe word first.
    AP briefly covers the speech and notes, "Blair’s political legacy in Britain is tarnished by his decision to lead the country into the divisive invasion of Iraq in 2003."  No he can't escape the past.  He seems to think the world has forgotten or is so in need of his help that they'll overlook his past.   Kounteya Sinha (TNN) notes Blair called for the United Kingdom and the United States to join with Russia to combat what he termed "radical Islam."  Cedric's "Tony Blair and Radical Islam: A dialogue" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! THE TONY BLAIR-RADICAL ISLAM DIALOGUES!" this morning offered:


    Seumas Milne (Guardian) offers:

    The neocons are back. That toxic blend of messianic warmongering abroad and McCarthyite witch-hunting at home – which gave us Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo and the London bombings – is coursing through our public life again. Yesterday the liberal interventionists' hero, Tony Blair, was once more demanding military action against the "threat of radical Islam".
    Reprising the theme that guided him and George Bush through the deceit and carnage of the "war on terror", the former prime minister took his crusade against "Islamism" on to a new plane. The west should, he demanded, make common cause with Russia and China to support those with a "modern" view against the tide of political Islam.

    Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) explains the Royal United Services Institute has issued a study, "In a passage with added piquancy given Tony Blair's appeal to western leaders on Wednesday to counter more vigorously the threat of Islamic extremism, the study says there is no longer any serious disagreement over the fact that Britain's involvement in the invasion of Iraq served to channel and increase the radicalisation of young British Muslims."

    Tony Blair, who left Iraq overrun with fundamentalist terrorists and backed Saudi fundamentalists, says we need to fight Islamic extremists

    The Daily Mail states, "Tony Blair today admitted that his military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan has made the West less inclined to tackle radical Islam."  

    In his speech, he did mention Iraq -- four times.

    1) "We have been through painful engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq."

    2) "But wherever you look – from Iraq to Libya to Egypt to Yemen to Lebanon to Syria and then further afield to Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan – this is the essential battle."

    3) "We change the regimes in Afghanistan and in Iraq, put soldiers on the ground in order to help build the country, a process which a majority of people in both countries immediately participated in, through the elections. But that proved immensely difficult and bloody."

    4)  "In saying this, it does not mean that we have to repeat the enormous commitment of Iraq and Afghanistan."

    Four times and nothing of value.  Four times and no accountability.  He felt the need to offer his overview on
    five countries specifically but Iraq wasn't one of them.  Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Iran, Blair wanted to discuss.  Iraq?  He wasn't so keen on the topic.

    That's strange because he could have talked about Iraq and noted today's one year anniversary.

    It was exactly one year ago that the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija took place with Nouri al-Maliki's federal forces storming in on the peaceful protesters.   Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

    That bloodbath captures modern Iraq where, if you speak out, Nouri will have you killed.  If your parents speak out -- as 8 children learned last year -- Nouri will have you killed.

    That's the state of Iraq where thug Nouri is attempting to go for a third term as prime minister.

    Again, Tony Blair didn't reflect on Iraq.  He chose five countries and Iraq wasn't one of them.

    He had nothing to say that the world needed to hear. But his yacking may have been intended to serve as a distraction, preventing people from focusing on other things.  Jack Sommers (Huffington Post) reports:

    A former minister in Tony Blair's government has said the report of the official inquiry into the Iraq War must be published immediately, after prolonged delays.
    Former MP Lord Morris, who served as attorney general between 1997 and 1999, said the delays in publishing the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry were "a national scandal" and said there was "a real danger" it would still not be public by the 2015 general election.

    Matt Chorley (Daily Mail) adds:

    Mr Brown launched the inquiry by Sir John Chilcot in June 2009, soon after becoming Prime Minister.
    The inquiry last took evidence from a witness three years ago.
    There is mounting speculation that the process of declassifying documents, including Mr Blair’s correspondence with President George W Bush before the war, has stalled.

    Last week Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg expressed his frustration at the lengthy delays and suggested Mr Blair is to blame – a claim denied by the former prime minister’s office.
    Today Lord Morris, who spent two decades on the Labour frontbench, warned there is ‘now the real danger is that the publication will run into the 2015 election’.

    Blair appeared on Sky News today (link is text and video) and insisted to Sarah Hewson that he had nothing to do with the delay and stated, "It is the responsibility of the people who run the inquiry."  Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) observes:

    If you unpick the central allegation that is implicit in blaming Blair for the delay, it is that he is using his influence to encourage the Cabinet Office to block disclosure of what he said and wrote to George Bush. He is entitled to take the view that such disclosure is not going to happen and that in failing to move on, the Inquiry is respsonsible for the delay. Therefore the question “are you responsible” is always going to result in a denial that is worthless. No-one has actually asked him whether he is encouraging the Cabinet Office to suppress certain documents.

    chris ames