Saturday, April 30, 2011

4 men, 2 women

I finally finished Shirley MacLaine's wonderful book I'm All Over That. I can't recommend it strongly enough. It made me laugh, it made me think. It was a wonderful reading experience and I strongly suggest you pick it up.

Ava and C.I. noted in their review ("TV: Exploding a stereotype") that it was a search and it is, a real journey.

Friday on The Diane Rehm Show, Susan Page was the guest host. First hour guests were Jerry Seib, Karen Tumulty and Ronald Brownstein. Second hour Youchi Dreazen, Courtney Kube and Mark Landler. 4 men, 2 women.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Friday, April 29, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, throughout Iraq protesters are surppressed by military forces, the head of the Iraqi Army says they need the US to stay beyond 2011, and more.
Tuesday Chen Zhi (Xinhua) noted, "The Iraqi government is preparing to accept the presence of more than 15,000 U.S. servicemen in Iraq to protect the U.S. interests after the deadline of U.S. troops' pullout by the end of 2011, an Iraqi newspaper reported on Tuesday. [. . .] It also said that thousands of employees working for foreign security firms will stay in the country to protect the U.S. embassy staff, American civil contractors, engineers and investors." Nouri went on to hold a press conference that day declaring that he had made no deal "to keep 10,000 or 5,000 or 1,000 or even 100 US troops in Iraq." In addition, Nouri stated that Iraq's forces could protect the country internally (meaning the military can take on the people of Iraq); however, it was not yet ready to defend itself from external threats and would not be for at least two years -- that especially included the Iraqi air force.
Rudaw interviews Babaker Zebari who is the Chief of Staff of Iraqi Joint Forces. Excerpt:

Rudaw: What does the US say about its army presence in Iraq?

Zebari: If we ask them to keep their army in Iraq, I think they will respond positively because they have fears about the region.

Rudaw: How about yourself?

Zebari: Yes, I am personally worried, too.

Rudaw: This means the US army must stay then?

Zebari: We are soldiers and this is a political decision that must be made by the politicians. We can only give our impression to the politicians and they will decide.

Rudaw: What is your impression?

Zebari: We have conveyed our impression to the politicians which is that the Iraqi army will not be ready to control Iraq until 2020.

These remarks are consistent with remarks Zebari has made since 2007. Last August, BCC News reported, "Gen Zebari told a defence conference in Baghdad that the Iraqi army would not be able to ensure the country's security until 2020 and that the US should keep its troops in Iraq until then." Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reported yesterday that Iraqi observers believe that a narrative will be found to excuse the government extending US forces' stay beyond the end of this year. David Ali (Al Mada) adds that should a withdrawal take place the unresolved Article 140 of the Constitution (calling for a referendum to be held on the status of Kirkuk by 2007) would lead "armed groups" to attempt to game the system.
While some try to have an adult discussion about reality, others resort to fairy tales. Adult child Brian M. Burton (Foreign Policy) grabs the big box of Crayolas and scribbles:
Over the past few weeks, top U.S. officials have started to publicly press the Iraqi government to decide whether it will allow thousands of American troops to stay in the country after the expiration of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) on December 31st. On recent trips to Iraq, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen appeared to signal that the U.S. government desires a continued American military presence past the end of the year. "Time is short for any negotiations to occur," Admiral Mullen warned last week.
In one sense there is less here than meets the eye. Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen are probably less concerned with whether Iraq wants the troops or not than with simply getting an answer for practical purposes. Complying with the SOFA's requirement that all American troops leave is a massive logistical undertaking, and it would be much better to know whether a residual force will be needed before the final stages of withdrawal begin in earnest this summer. Any extension of the U.S. military presence if troops were to remain past the 2011 withdrawal deadline requires a request by the Iraqi government. U.S. officials hoped that the Iraqi government would share their own assessment of the lack of readiness of the country's security forces and ask for a continued presence sufficiently far in advance of the deadline to enable an orderly transition. Instead, the Iraqi government has been bogged down in its own internal troubles and has made no official moves toward renegotiating.
But the problem is that, while cajoling Iraq into giving an answer, American leaders send a counterproductive, if unintended, signal that the United States wants a longer-term military presence. To be sure, there is some basis for such a position: a residual American force could continue to train Iraqi forces, provide intelligence and other important support capabilities, and, in northern Iraq, help maintain the peace between the forces of Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish government. Iraq is also incapable of defending its borders and airspace from external threats. Yet however well-intentioned or seemingly obvious these arguments seem in Washington, they are unlikely to sway the Iraqi government because they ignore the domestic imperatives faced by Iraq's political leaders.
He scribbled, "In one sense there is less here than meets the eye. Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen are probably less concerned with whether Iraq wants the troops or not than with simply getting an answer for practical purposes." Yeah and next the White House is sending Regis and Meredith over so they can ask, "Is that your final answer?" Guess they raise them mighty stupid at the Center of a New American Security. Forget what Robert Gates has repeatedly testified to Congress, forget what the US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey has stated, forget what the heads of each division of the military -- Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force -- have repeatedly testified to Congress. Forget? More likely: Don't know. Again, they appear to raise them mighty stupid at the CNAS.
If you want the Iraq War to continue, I'm not going to call you "stupid" just for that. I'll disagree with you and disagree with you strongly. But "stupid"? Stupid is reserved for the idiots -- grown adults -- who need fairy tales. Right now the US and Iraq are determining what will happen. No one is served by the child-like and stunted fantasies of Brian Burton. He needs to grow the hell up and someone needs to ask CNAS if they're a think tank or a fairy tale tank? Of course, CNAS tells many fairty tales about counter-insurgency which they claim saves lives but which is and has always been seen historically as war on a native people. Brendan McQuade (CounterPunch) provides an overview:

Today the War on Terror involves American military forces and intelligence operatives in at least 75 countries, not just Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan but the Philippines, Colombia, Yemen, Somalia and "elsewhere in Middle East, Africa and Central Asia." The CIA is now on the ground in Libya and questions about the twenty years General Khalifa Hifter spent in suburban Virginia and a possible CIA ties are rising. Leon Panetta, the CIA director Petraeus is set to succeed, just held five days of secret talks in Turkey regarding the rebellion in Syria. As the United States continues to involve itself in conflicts like these, counterinsurgency becomes increasingly important. In places like Pakistan, Libya and Syria, where an overt military presence is political difficult, the CIA leads. Under Petraeus' command, we can expect the CIA to become even more active in this regard.

As Philip Giraldi, a retired CIA counterterrorism expert, told me when I interviewed him in the summer of 2009: "The military's got a huge tail whenever it goes it has an enormous footprint. The CIA operates in smaller units. They're civilians. They can blend in. They can have predator [drone] bases in places that politically sensitive like inside Pakistan. For example, the other predators are operating out of Africa. They operate in Djibouti. There's a French military base where the CIA people are stationed. The French would not let an American military presence but they would accept an intelligence group under civilian auspices."

Political circumstances have not always favored counterinsurgency. In the Vietnam years, the CIA was the leading proponent of counterinsurgency and the military was quite resistant. It needed the backing of President Johnson to force its agenda on a recalcitrant generation of traditional military officers. After the Tet Offensive, the military embraced counterinsurgency but only for a time. After Vietnam, everyone -- including the CIA -- distanced themselves from counterinsurgency.

When I asked Giraldi who was the leading counterinsurgent today in the CIA, he told me: "Nobody comes to mind. When I was teaching at the CIA school back in the early eighties, the counterinsurgency people -- the Special Operations Group is what it was called at the time -- was down to about forty guys and, you know, no leaders, no renowned figures. It wasn't that kind of thing. It was an adjunct of the Special Activities Division, which I was in, and was sent in do training in various places in Asia and Africa."

CNAS and former journalists like Thomas E. Ricks join the great unwashed of academia in attempting to 'rebrand' counter-insurgency today.
To return to reality we'll note this from Amy Belasco's March 29th Congressional Research Service's [PDF format warning] "The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11:"
Funding to train Iraqi forces fluctuated between $3.0 billion and $5.5 billion from FY2004 to FY2008. In 2008, Congress became reluctant to rebuild Iraqi security forces as Iraqi government revenues rose rapidly with the swell in oil prices.
In response to congresional concerns raised in September 2008 House Budget Committee hearing on a GAO report suggesting that there would be an Iraqi budget surplus of from $67 billion to $79 billion in 2008 due to oil prices, members called for "burdensharing" by Iraq in the rebuilding of its security forces.
This push to require Iraq to share the burden of rebuilding its security forces resulted in restrictions prohibiting U.S. funding of security forces as well as other "infrastructure" projects in Iraq, including those to rebuild security forces in the FY2008 Supplemental, as well as various requirements to report the readiness and transfer of responsibility to Iraqi units, and the overall costs to train both Iraqi and Afghan security forces. DOD has not provided estimates of these total costs for either Iraq or Afghanistan.
In FY2008, U.S. funding dropped from $3 billion in FY2008 to $1 billion in FY2009 as Congress halved the ISFF request. In its initial FY2010 request, DOD did not ask for any funds but then modified that to request $1 billion in the FY2010 supplemental for expenses that DOD believed were necessary but the Iraqi government would not cover, an amount Congress approved.
UPI reports Kurdish MP Dilair Hassan would like to see some US troops remain in Iraq. Reports deny that a UN force would remain in Iraq but that may be the case. Meantime, Rohan Gunaratna (Sri Lanka Daily Mirror) notes:
Given the delays in the UN seeking similar mechanisms to bring alleged war crimes by US forces in Iraq or Afghanistan under discussion, is the allegation that the UN exercises double standards fair?
The UN levelling allegations of war crimes against Sri Lanka in a report is not unique. It is a common challenge faced by coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, Russian forces in Chechnya and elsewhere in the caucuses, Pakistani forces in FATA and in Swat, Israeli forces in occupied Palestine, and Indian forces in disputed Kashmir and in its northeast. All these theatres have produced civilian suffering, injuries and deaths. As such, instead of singling out Sri Lanka, Colombo should call the UN to launch an investigation into all on-going major conflict zones especially Iraq and Afghanistan where as a proportion more civilians have been killed by US and British forces. Nobel laureate Mohamed Mustafa ElBarade former Director General of the UN body, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), [December 1997 to November 2009] called international criminal investigation of former Bush regime officials for their roles in fomenting the war on Iraq. Over a million civilians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and the fighting is still continuing. Nonetheless, human rights have become a political instrument used by Western and other nations to pressurize other countries.

The government of Sri Lanka has many problems of its own to deal with (click here for Amnesty International reports on Sri Lanka), but it obviously intends to note the tragedies and crimes that are the US-led wars. They have more traction than usual with the publication of Mohamed ElBaradei's book and his assertion that there should be a War Crimes probe of the Bush administration. (When ElBaradei, former UN nuclear inspector, calls for the same of Barack's administration, we'll take him seriously and not assume he's just trying to generate publicity for a book that's going to be a hard sell.)

Still on the UN, the Himalayan News Service reports, "The Nepali Army is considering sending its troops to restive Iraq to become a part of the 'stationary force' under the United Nations, a highly placed source said.The UN had asked Nepal to commit around 222 personnel -- including 35 personnel for mobile units -- for deployment in Iraq around four months ago."
In related news, Alsumaria TV reports, "The Sadr Front affirmed on Thursday that in case the Mehdi Army has to resume armed opposition, it will include in addition to its Iraqi members other sects and components and non Iraqis as well to fight against the US military if US forces stay in Iraq beyond their scheduled departure late this year." And yesterday, Alsumaria TV reported on US Maj Gen Bernard Champoux "blamed Mahdi Army for some of the latest assassinations in Baghdad. Iraq should establish good relations with the neighbouring countries that are uninvolved in providing armed groups with weapons and missiles, the US Commander stressed."
Assassinations and other violence continues, Reuters reports a Buhriz home invasion (by assailants wearing Iraqi military garb) in which 3 brothers were killed and a fourth was injured and 1 of the assailants was shot dead, 1 Iraqi military officer was shot dead in Baghad and, dropping back to Thursday for both, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 Iraqi military doctor (and left two more Iraqi soldiers injured) and a Baquba home invasion in which an Iman, his wife and their daughter were killed. AFP identifies the Iman as Basheer Mutlak. Aswat al-Iraq adds that the daughter was 9-years-old and adds, "A police officer was killed late Thursday by gunmen in al-Shurqat district, a police source said on Friday." Reuters also notes 2 Bahgdad roadside bombing which claimed 3 lives and left twenty eight injured, a Kirkuk attack in which 1 person was injured and 1 person shot dead in Mosul.

Al Mada reports Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (Shi'ite political body), is calling out the continued inability of the government to function and stating it's harmful to Iraq. Iraq lacks a Minster of the Interior, Defense and one for National Security. Not really sure that bickering is the country's biggest problem.

Surveying the region, Tariq Ali (Guardian) observes:
In January, Arab streets resounded to the slogan that united the masses regardless of class or creed: "Al-Sha'b yurid isquat al-nizam!" – "The people want the downfall of the regime!" The images streaming out from Tunis to Cairo, Saana to Bahrain, are of Arab peoples on their feet once again. On 14 January, as chanting crowds converged on the ministry of interior, Tunisia's President Ben Ali and his family fled to Saudi Arabia. On 11 February the national uprising in Egypt toppled the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak as mass rebellion erupted in Libya and the Yemen.
In occupied Iraq, demonstrators protested against the corruption of the Maliki regime and, more recently, against the presence of US troops and bases. Jordan was shaken by nationwide strikes and tribal rebellion. Protests in Bahrain spiralled into calls for the overthrow of the monarchy, an event that scared the neighbouring Saudi kleptocrats and their western patrons, who can't conceive of an Arabia without sultans. Even as I write, the corrupt and brutal Ba'athist outfit in Syria, under siege by its own people, is struggling for its life.
The dual determinants of the uprisings were both economic – with mass unemployment, rising prices, scarcity of essential commodities – and political: cronyism, corruption, repression, torture. Egypt and Saudi Arabia were the crucial pillars of US strategy in the region, as confirmed recently by US vice-president Jo Biden, who stated that he was more concerned about Egypt than Libya. The worry here is Israel; the fear that an out-of-control democratic government might renege on the peace treaty. And Washington has, for the time being, succeeded in rerouting the political process into a carefully orchestrated change, led by Mubarak's defence minister and chief of staff, the latter being particularly close to the Americans.
In his column, Tariq wonders who will reshape the MidEast? In Iraq, at least, it may very well be US-backed and supported thugs. It's Friday, the day of protest and yet it's been transformed to the day of oppression. Namo Abdulla (Reuters) shows up in the KRG at Sulaimaniya, site of "the largest and most sustained of rallies across of Iraq" only to find that "heavily armed troops" have put down the legal demonstrations: "This week, Sulaimaniya's Liberation Square, where protesters had camped out for weeks chanting 'freedom, freedom, freedom,' was a military zone watched over by hundreds of armed forces. The ruling parties have said the demise of the protests represented a success over 'trouble-makers' staging 'politically motivated' demonstrations."
And don't expect to hear a peep out of the US government over the latest assault on freedom of speech and the right to assembly. "Democracy" is just a word tossed around when you're caught on camera.
Ramadi was hard to catch on camera today with the imposed media embargo. Don't look for the White House to call Nouri out for that either. And don't look for the US to convincingly play dumb on this one, US reconnaissance planes flew over the demonstration repeatedly. Iraqi Revolution reports that a cleric speaking to the assembled declared, "We demand the withdrawal of the US occupation forces and the release of the detianees." And the cleric vowed they would "sit continuasly until we acheve all the demands." And Mosul?
The Iraqi Revolution reports, "Clerics of the mosques within the city of Mosul Iatbon on Arabic channels, which have bcome accessible to the West and the non-coverage permanently to the sit-ins in Iraq depiste the demonstrations in Iraq. Demonstrators in all the provinces of Iraq have been subjected to repression by the government forces." Wire, so frequently used to keep protesters away from demonstrations in Baghdad, has made its appeareance in Mousl as security forces attempting to keep protesters from the site of protest. Mosul saw reports of gun fire. And the media emargo will continue.
Call it the coalition of the baffled -- a diverse group of prominent public figures who challenge the U.S. government's logic of keeping on its terrorist blacklist an Iranian exile organization that publicly renounced violence a decade ago and has fed details on Iran's nuclear programme to American intelligence.
On the U.S. Department of State's list of 47 foreign terrorist organizations, the Mujahedin-e-Khalq is the only group that has been taken off similar lists by the European Union and Britain, after court decisions that found no evidence of terrorist activity in recent years. In the U.S., a court last July ordered the State Department to review the designation. Nine months later, that review is still in progress and supporters of the MEK wonder why it is taking so long.
Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. April 4th, Iran's Fars News Agency reported that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday April 8th saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied. Thursday April 14th, the United Nations confirmed that 34 people were killed in the April 8th assault on Camp Ashraf. Barbara Grady (San Jose Mercury News) reported that the dead included journalist Asieh Rakhshani who has family in California.
Toby Vogel (European Voice) reports, "The Iraqi government has denied a group of MEPs access to Camp Ashraft, where Iraqi security forces killed scored of Iranian opposition supporters earlier this month." Camelia Entekhabifard (Alarabia) observes, "Thousands of MEK members, most of them middle-aged, were residing in the Ashraf camp when it was taken over by the Americans in 2003. Iran wondered what their fate might be. Eight years later, still nothing has happened to them. Iran won't have them back and they're struggling to stay in Iraq. Who's going to offer a safe haven to 3,500 MEK members, all on the US terrorist list?" And in other Iraq-Iran news, Alsumaria TV adds, "On Thursday, a Shiite cleric called the Iraqi government to file a lawsuit against MP Haidar Al Mulla for offending Imam Khomeini. Insulting Imam Khomeini is an offense against the entire Shiites, he said and warned that 'Shiite resistance' will take strict measures against Al Mulla.
'When two people are fighting they cannot both be wrong. One should be right and the other mistaken,' said Watheq Al Batat Spokesman of the Shiite Authority in Najaf, Mohammad Ali Al Alawi Al Jarajani.'"No comparison can be made between Imam Khomeini and Saddam', he added."
A US commander is leaving Iraq. Matthew Hansen (Omaha World-Herald) reports Nebraska National Guard's Col Philip Stemple has been dismissed of his command according to the US Army and "Stemple's dismissal comes just six weeks before the brigade is expected to return home. Army spokesperson Col Barry Johnson states "there was an environment in the command not conducive to the standards and expectations of leadership."

Commemorating 6,000 servicemembers killed in Iraq & Afghanistan

Today we mark a tragic milestone: 6,000 U.S. service members have been killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We mourn for these lost lives, as well as those who've taken their own lives as a result of their experiences. We extend our deepest condolences to all Gold Star families, and honor those who have chosen to speak out and channel their grief into ensuring that no other family goes through what they have gone through.
What you can do:
  • Volunteer to send condolence cards to Gold Star families who are MFSO members. To volunteer, write to samantha@mfso.org
  • Let other families know about the resource page we provide to help families cope.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

All of her guests were men




The president said he was prompted to act “two weeks ago, when the Republican House had put forward a budget that will have huge consequences potentially to the country, and when I gave a speech about my budget and how I felt that we needed to invest in education and infrastructure and making sure that we had a strong safety net for our seniors even as we were closing the deficit, during that entire week the dominant news story wasn’t about these huge, monumental choices that we’re going to have to make as a nation. It was about my birth certificate. And that was true on most of the news outlets that were represented here.”

But the president was wrong.

According to Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, that week the dominant news story was without question the economy.


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"


Thursday, April 28, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, protests take place in Ramadi, Camp Ashraf finds some new supporters, and more.
AP reports the US military has announced another death -- this one "in southern Iraq in a non-combat related incident" -- which, no doubt, is currently under investigation. Meanwhile Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports that a suicide bomber in Diyala Province targeted a Shi'ite mosque and a police source counts 12 dead and forty more injured. Chin Zhi (Xinhua) reports that yesterday in Kirkuk, Sa'ad Abid Mutlak al-Jubouri, "son of Iraqi former deputy prime minister," was kidnapped. AFP reports "a senior Iraqi general" was shot dead in Baghdad today. Reuters adds a Hawija car bombing claimed the lives of 4 police officers, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life, a Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured, and, dropping back to yesterday for the last two, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left three people injured and a second Baghdad roadside bombing injured four people. The Hawija car bombing took place near Kirkuk and Aswat al-Iraq notes twelve people were wounded in the blast.
Nizar Latif (UAE's National Newspaper) reports "Demonstrators in Iraq are being tortured and intimidated by the security services into shopping anti-government protests, political activists say. In recent weeks, those organising public rallies claim to have been targeted in a campaign of repression by security units, carrying out illegal arrests and abusive interrogations. Among the allegations made by civil-rights activists are that government forces have beaten, shocked with electrical devices and fabricated criminal evidence against protesters involved in peaceful street rallies."
Yesterday's snapshot noted former DNC chair Howard Dean declared Tuesday of Nouri al-Maliki, "The truth is the prime minister of Iraq is a mass murderer." " Dean was referring to the most recent assault on Camp Ashraf. Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. April 4th, Iran's Fars News Agency reported that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday April 8th saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied. Thursday April 14th, the United Nations confirmed that 34 people were killed in the April 8th assault on Camp Ashraf. Barbara Grady (San Jose Mercury News) reported that the dead included journalist Asieh Rakhshani who has family in California. The British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom released the following statement yesterday:
MPs and Peers on Wednesday accused Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of committing a 'Gestapo-style massacre' at Camp Ashraf which led to the death of 35 Iranian dissidents and caused hundreds to be injured.
At a press conference, the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom disclosed new video footage of the 8 April attack, showing direct shooting at camp residents and the various military weaponry used.
Committee chair Lord Corbett of Castle Vale (Labour Peer), said: 'The attack on Camp Ashraf was an organized military massacre on the orders of Nuri al-Maliki who is publicly committed to erasing the camp from the face of the earth.'
Medical practitioner Hoda Hosseini pointed to photographic evidence of the injuries sustained by the wounded which clearly indicated that a targeted shoot-to-kill policy was used by Iraqi forces. 'Traces left in the bodies of those killed and the wounded, and a study of the wounds and x-rays show that the Iraqi forces used automatic Kalashnikov machine guns with live, tracer and armour-piercing bullets as well as firing sonic grenades directly at the heads and chests of the civilian population at Camp Ashraf.'
Former Home Secretary Lord Waddington demanded a UN investigation into the attack to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice, while Lord Maginnis of Drumglass said: 'Prime Minister Cameron and President Barack Obama must use the appropriate language in describing this attack as a massacre.'
Mark Williams MP (Liberal Democrat) demanded that Iraqi forces immediately withdraw from Camp Ashraf and that the United Nations take over protection of the camp as part of their mandate.
Malcolm Fowler, a solicitor and member of the Law Society's human rights committee, said that the Law Society, which represented more than 130,000 solicitors, had issued a statement urging the UN to help protect the residents.
Pointing to video footage evidencing the continued menacing presence of Iraqi armed forces in and around Camp Ashraf, on behalf of the Committee Lord Corbett urged the UN to establish a permanent monitoring team at the camp and take over responsibility for protection of the residents to prevent a further such 'Gestapo-style massacre'.
Camp Ashraf, 60 kilometres northeast of Baghdad, is home to 3,400 members of the main Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI), who are 'protected persons' under the 4th Geneva Convention.

British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom
27 April 2011
In addition, Jonathan Rayner (Law Gazette) notes the April 8th assault has been condemned by the UK Law Society's human rights committee whose chair Tony Fisher states, "We call on Iraqi security forces immediately to cease all violence against the residents of Camp Ashraf and immediately withdraw from the camp. Furthermore, the relevant UN bodies, lawyers and the press must be given immediate access to the residents." Until the end of last year, James L. Jones, retired US General, was the current US administration's National Security Advisor until last November. Paul Taylor (Reuters) reports he's declared "he knew of no evidence that the People's Mujahideen were involved in terrorism" and that they should be removed from the US terror list becase "we should be more in synch with the Europeans, who have already de-listed them." Jones also shared his thoughts April 14th at the Near East Human Rights Inititiative on this issue where others speaking out against the assault including retired Gen Wesley Clark, former US Senator Evan Bayh (disclosure, I know Evan), former US Senator Bill Bradley, for CIA director Porter Goss, Barack's former DNI Denni Blair, the last spokesperson for the Bush White House Dana Perino, retired Gen Richard Myers and former AG Michael Mukasey. We'll quote Wesley Clark, "When I look at what happened at Camp Ashraf over this past weekend I find it absolutely deplorable and inexplicable. We did make a promise they would be protected persons. That's the word of the United States of America. That's important, it's time. We talk about American credibility, there it is."
Also weighing in is Reza Pahlavi whose late father was the Shah of Iran (Reza Pahlavi and the rest of his family left Iran when the Shah was overthrown in 1979's Iranian Revolution). He was interviewed by Radio Koocheh (link is text) and the topic of Camp Ashraf was raised:

Radio Koocheh: At first I would like to know about your position about what happened within recent days, as you know, based on an agreement between Iran and Iraq, there is the chance of extradition of MKO members to Iran. You have been one of the first to condemn the attack on Camp Ashraf. According to the policy of the government of the United States since 2009 that handed the Camp Ashraf to the Iraqi government and their condition of undecided fate, What kind of problems do you think this extradition can bring to this Camp members and basically what kind of policy is followed?

Reza Pahlavi: At first, allow me to address my greetings to my compatriots inside and outside of Iran and to your audience and again thank you for the opportunity of this interview. I can not guess exactly the details of the policy of the Iraqi government associated with the members of MKO currently present in Iraq, or have any particular information about the conditions that you have already expressed. But in general, what I wanted to say is that from the perspective of human rights issues, today, to no one, especially to our compatriots, it is not complicated that these people have rights as humans.

Extradition of anyone who is publicly or indirectly in a struggle with this regime, will constitute a serious threat of torture, and a thousand kind of problems or even death. What unfortunately the Islamic Republic has always done to its own people all these years and still does. Therefore it is important that in this case, that all the governments concerned be aware of the terrible and serious consequences of such act. I think this will have a very negative effect not only on public opinion in the world but also especially on our compatriots opinion.

Where the freedom fighters, today, in all the countries of the region are busy fighting for their rights, expect support and above all protection. We see this today in Libya. If these things are not respected, it definitely indicates the lack of implementation of a clear policy and even worse, a kind of political hypocrisy. Especially this fact that goes back to human rights and protection of the natural rights of individuals regardless of their political views and thoughts.

Moving to the topic of protests. Yesterday's snapshot included the following: "You pretend to know, Tim Arango, how the protests started in Iraq -- well they re-started. They were enough last year to force the Minister of the Electricy out. But you weren't covering Iraq then and are apparently unfamiliar with that aspect of the protests. " That was incorrect.
I was wrong. My apologies. Tim Arango writes to inform that he was present in Iraq when the Minister of Electricity resigned following protests last year. I stand corrected. I was wrong. Arango was present for that.
A community member found this claim by Tim Arango: "Prior to the Sadrist protest against the Americans, that issue was not a defining aspect of the protests." That was during his exchange with Dan Hind at Hind's The Return of the Public. No, that is not correct. We noted that this morning and that if he had a comment on it before the snapshot went up, it would be included. He replied to Jim's e-mail, "I don't think i have a further comment other than to say that the protests that began in february here have been about a variety of issues: services, corruption, jobs, civil liberties, Bahrain, detainees (especially in Sunni areas) -- at some of them you can hear anti-american slogans, and there have been some smaller gatherings that speak about the american military, but the overall message is that they want to perfect and improve their fledgling democracy. Of course, the Sadrists held their big protest on April 9 against the troops, and demanding that they leave on time." (Jim and everyone who works the e-mails can write back or not, that's their decision. I can't engage in private conversations via e-mail with writers covered here -- critiqued here -- because that creates a layer of conflict of interest and we can take that up tonight in "I Hate The War.)
Again, that's not correct. The protests in Iraq can be seen a series of unconnected brush fires starting at the end of January. By Februray 3rd, connective tissue is beginning to form with all people-led demonstrations.
People-led? These are demonstrations by and for the people. There are no marching orders (though Nouri will claim they are being led from outside of Iraq, and he will claim they're backed by 'terrorists' and by 'al Qaeda'). People-led, people-driven. These are very different from the Moqtada al-Sadr let-me-order-my-merry-band-of-followers. February 25th is the first day of protest where you see real connections between the movements in Baghdad and the ones in Ninevah Province or elsewhere. In addition to previous snapshots, I went over this with 2 protesters in Baghdad this morning on i.m., on the phone with a community member in Mosul and via e-mail with a protester in Falluja. February 25th was dubbed "The Day Of Rage." Protests prior to the 25th were not 'national.' Meaning there might be one in Hawija and one in Baghdad and the two weren't coordinated for a specific day. The occupation and corruption were key issues in the protests, however, even when unrelated. The Baghdad protesters were surprised that there would be a claim that they occupation was not an issue since banners were present calling for US troops to be out of Iraq. And, in fact, the whole point of attempting to storm the US-created and occupied Green Zone had to do with reclaiming that section of Iraq for Iraq. Opposition to the US occupation has always been a part of the national protests.
What's going on is Tim Arango isn't present for protests outside of Baghdad (a comment Iraqi community members make loudly in the community newsletters and one that's already up here in a Saturday entry from weeks ago) and probably the paper was not present for most in Baghdad. That's certainly explains why Stephanie McCrummen and the Washington Post were owning the story of what happened on The Day of Rage (such as here) and the New York Times missed it. The New York Times embarrassed itself as journalistic organizations -- international ones -- and human rights organizations called out what happened on Feb. 25th but the Times?
Their deference to Nouri al-Maliki is rather sad when you consider that the paper had a few outstanding reporters in Iraq (including Damien Cave) and now they're just lackeys. If Tim doesn't like that judgment call on my part, try explaining why Nouri's trashing of protesters and telling people not to participate in the Day of Rage receives more prominence than the Day of Rage actions? In the article about the Day of Rage -- or allgedly about it -- Jack Healy and Michael S. Schmidt don't open with the attack on journalists or attacks on protesters. They do one setnence and then want to rush to "high-ranking Iraqi officials." And then it's time for paragraphs on Nouri and it's paragraph seven before we actually meet a protester -- in a story about the Day of Rage. Paragraph seven of a 16 paragraph story. And for some reason, we still have to meet the US military in the story. Don't think that the last nine paragraphs are about the protesters or -- and this goes to Dan Hind's issue -- explaing what brought to protesters out in the streets. Now let's contrast that with Stephanie McCrummen's article for the Post -- which is award-worthy. Here's the opening:
Iraqi security forces detained hundreds of people, including prominent journalists, artists and intellectuals, witnesses said Saturday, a day after nationwide demonstrations brought tens of thousands of Iraqis into the streets and ended with soldiers shooting into crowds.
Four journalists who had been released described being rounded up well after they had left a protest at Baghdad's Tahrir Square. They said they were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with execution by soldiers from an army intelligence unit.
"It was like they were dealing with a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives, not a group of journalists," said Hussam al-Ssairi, a journalist and poet, who was among a group and described seeing hundreds of protesters in black hoods at the detention facility. "Yesterday was like a test, like a picture of the new democracy in Iraq."
Protesters mostly stayed home Saturday, following more than a dozen demonstrations across the country Friday that killed at least 29 people, as crowds stormed provincial buildings, forced local officials to resign, freed prisoners and otherwise demanded more from a government they only recently had a chance to elect.
And that's just the opening. And, as we've noted before, the New York Times editorial board has commented on these events . . . even though the paper's reporters never filed on it. Woops. This is what has so many people outraged about the bad coverage. In fairness to the reporters for the Times, the paper wasn't interested at all in Iraq. They were Cairo-obsessed and flooding the zone on that -- pushing Iraq right out of the paper during this very key time (one that you better believe will be in the history books) -- and then they did a brief withdrawal on Cairo before setting off to Libya. Somewhere in all of that, they tried to flood the zone on the Japan tsunami but only demonstrated that they do their best tsunami work when most of the staff is on vacation (see January 2005).
Show me where the Times took serious what the Post did? Again, from Stephanie's article:
Ssairi and his three colleagues, one of whom had been on the radio speaking in support of protesters, said about a dozen soldiers stormed into a restaurant where they were eating dinner Friday afternoon and began beating them as other diners looked on in silence. They drove them to a side street and beat them again.
Then, blindfolded, they were driven to the former Ministry of Defense building, which houses an intelligence unit of the Iraqi army's 11th Division, they said. Hadi al-Mahdi, a theater director and radio anchor who has been calling for reform, said he was blindfolded and beaten repeatedly with sticks, boots and fists. One soldier put a stick into Hadi's handcuffed hands and threatened to rape him with it, he said.
Where's the paper's coverage of that?
The Times has never known what was going on -- at least not judging by what's made it into the paper. (And it's falling back into its habit of rendering Iraqi women invisible.) Tim Arango overestimates the influence of Moqtada al-Sadr in my opinion (see April 19th snapshot and, as I noted then, that's in contrast with the State Dept so I will applaud Arango for refusing to go along with the State Dept's official line -- though I do think the State Dept is right in this case). He basically elevates Moqtada to officialdom and there is no higher status for the New York Times. So unless it's a small protest ordered by Moqtada (the April 8th one), the paper's really not interested. They'll serve up a ton of quotes from all the people who weren't at the protest and try to pretend that such an article actually covered the protests. Or they'll go ga-ga for Ahmed Chalabi all over again and treat his attempts at deflecting attention from protests against the Iraqi government as genuine protests.
Real protests are led by the people. They don't have to be ordered to show up. The Iraqi people have shown up for their events. And those events aren't connected to Moqtada or Chalabi so the paper's not interested. Real violence took place on February 25th but, to read the New York Times, it was the protesters who were violent -- they knocked over two of the barricade walls to the Green Zone!!!! The kidnapping and torturing of journalists and protesters never happened to read the New York Times' report. It's amazing that the paper not only took sides but took sides against the people. The paper's done a lousy job covering the protests. Dan Hind's criticism actually was on the mark. You do not learn about the protesters from the paper of record. Instead you learn what Nouri thinks or what some lying flack for the US military thanks -- and the spokesperson quoted about what a great job the Iraqi military was doing was a lying flack.
More importantly that's the end of Feburary. Where's the paper's coverage of the ongoing assault in Mosul? Where is that? Does Moqtada need to call a protest in Mosul for it to get attention from the New York Times?
These questions go beyond Tim Arango who is a reporter and not an editor for the paper. He's pitching ideas and many who covered Iraq for the paper can share their difficulties -- and many have shared them in e-mails to this site -- in convincing someone with the paper in the US that ____ is a story in Iraq and needs to be covered.

But a question he should be asking himself is: Where is the humanity? It took Sabrina Tavernise to bring the humanity onto the pages of the New York Times (Dexy and Burnsie appeared to see the whole thing as a video game). Others who followed her managed to keep that alive. It's gone now. And it's hard not to be reminded that this is the paper that reported on the murder (not the gang-rape) of Abeer in near real time but couldn't name her. This is the paper that when the truth came out that 14-year-old Abeer was gang-raped and murdered, that she was gang-raped as her five-year-old sister and her parents were killed in the next room, still couldn't name her. This is the paper that 'reported' on an Article 32 hearing on the crimes and the conspiracy (the murders and gang-rape were carried out by US soliders) and still couldn't name her. By contrast, Ellen Knickmeyer at the Post was reporting on Abeer from the minute the news came out that US soldiers might have been responsible for the crimes (and they were, and they either entered a plea of guilty or were convicted) and she had no problem providing a name.
Sabrina Tavernise provided Iraqi people with the dignity they deserve and gave them life on the pages of the New York Times. It's really sad that this accomplishment which Cara Buckley, Alissa J. Rubin, Damien Cave and so many others kept alive is now disappearing. That may be due to the fact that articles that do make the paper (as opposed to the ones that only show up on the paper's blog) have to be shorter and shorter and shorter. (It's always surprising when a paper comes to the conclusion that they're selling to non-readers.) But it's happening.
Happening tomorrow, according to Iraqi Revolution's al-Obeidi, "the sons of Mosul preparing for a major demonstration tomorrow". They note a sit-in took place at the Anbar University (link goes to video reports from Al Jazeera).
To the President of Iraqi Parliament
Greeting
we condemns in our name and the name of all the civil society activists and Iraqi bloggers and on behalf of every Iraqi citizen who tries to exercise his the rights within Iraqi constitution, which went out to vote for under the threats of terrorism, we raise your condemnation of the ongoing attacks against demonstrators in tahreer Square and the failure of troops to secure their safety , but on the contrary troops supported
the infiltrators who tries to sabotage the demonstrations
Today one of the founding member of our site and civil society activists and free Iraqi citizen suffered brutal attack and was severely beaten in front of the eyes of army troops without your security forces try to move , is this our new and this democracy that we fight for it?
We invite you to stand and condemn and questions the security forces and to demands from the Government to implement the demands of demonstrators into a realistic, real way and to stop putting obstacles in front of them and trying to sabotage their free demonstrations , they are exercising their right to expression, and we remind you that their voices are the tools that got you
today to power ,
and it will remove of any institution Governor that can not fulfill
its duty to serve the nation,
democracy requires a national army and a Governor to serve the citizen wither they support or opposite their views ,
it is your responsibility either you fulfill it or leave it to those who can
protecting
media and the protesters and activists are part of the duty of any democratic institution plays its role effectively and freely is the responsibility and obligation your job to follow who performs them and guarantee to secure for all
For Iraq and for freedom and the Constitution
Condemn and call
Iraqi streets web site
collation of activists and bloggers from Iraq
Iraqis go up against outrageous odds and circumstances to protest and make their voices heard. Front Line notes:
Front Line expresses concern regarding the attack against Iraqi human rights defender and blogger Mr Hayder Hamzoz on 22 April as he was taking part in a regular Friday protest in Sahat Al -Tahrir, a public square in Baghdad. Hayder Hamzoz attends the protests at Al-Tahrir square every Friday and uses his mobile phone to record the events to put up on Twitter and Facebook.
On 22 April he was approached by young men who asked him about his Qalaxy mobile phone (a type of mobile that facilitates connection to social media networks) and then took the phone away. It is reported that he managed to take back his phone, but the group was then joined by more than 9 people at which point Hayder Hamzoz ran to escape the assault. The men reportedly grabbed him and beat him up using their hands and feet, causing him to bleed and almost faint. His phone was confiscated.
The security forces who were around at the time reportedly stopped protesters and friends of Hayder Hamzoz from rendering assistance to him. The attackers then made away with the phone under the watchful eye of the security forces who did not interfere. Following the attack, Hayder Hamzoz, along with human rights defender Hanaa Adwar, went to the army officer who was in charge of the surrounding area but he refused to listen to their story. Later that night the attackers called him on another number and told him not to record or post anything anymore.
Hayder Hamzoz was the only protester to be attacked by the assailants, a matter which casts doubt as to their real motives. It is suspected that the assailants are security men in plainclothes who apparently attacked him as a reprisal against his peaceful cyberactivism.
Hayder Hamzoz, aged in his early twenties, is a prominent blogger and documentalist who runs a popular blog titled Iraqi Streets 4 Change. He also organises the coverage of peaceful Iraqi protests over the internet and has set up along with others a short messaging service which does not require subscription to the internet. Along with his colleagues, he also utilises social media networks to mobilise and document peaceful mass protests to encourage the Iraqi government to expedite democratic reforms. It is believed that the attack on Hayder Hamzoz is related to his peaceful and legitimate work as a blogger.
And to the thug who encourages thuggery in Iraq, New Sabaah reports on Nouri's plan to turn failure into a take over. As noted yesterday, Nouri is claiming the right to call for new elections at the end of the 100 days to fix corruption. New Sabaah notes today that Nouri's talk of a majority government does not include Ayad Allawi, head of Iraqiya. Iraqiya, of course, won the most seats in Parliament in the March 2010 elections. Nouri is eager to cut out his opponents and that's why he's threatening the new elections. He hopes this could also get rid of the Speaker of Parliament (Osama al-Nujaifi). New elections called by Nouri do not include the possibility of his stepping down but, hey, the March 2010 elections didn't either, now did they? The Parliament can call a vote of no confidence at any time. They can remove Nouri and they may need to review the process for how that's done before the 100 days expire.
Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq reports, "A leader in north Iraq's Kurdistan Alliance has demanded that a portion of the U.S. forces remain in the areas of dispute of eastern Iraq's Diala Province, due to what he described as non-readiness of the Iraqi forces to take over the security dossier in the province." They add, "The UN Secretary-General's Representative in Iraq, Ad Melkert, has said during a visit to north Iraq's city of Kirkuk on Wednesday that the United Nations does'nt intend to send "peace-keeping forces" to the conflict areas in the country, after the withdrawal of the U.S. troops by the end of the current year." David Ali (Al Mada) also notes the UN announcement and that Ban Ki-moon's special envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, insists there is a move towards holding elections in Kirkuk. Those elections, per the Constitution's Article 140, were supposed to have taken place by 2007. It's four years later and the UN pins their hopes on a 'move' towards elections? How very, very sad. New Sabaah explains that Melkert met Governor Najm al-Din Karim, Deputy Governor Rakan Saeed al-Joubouri and the provincial council's chair Hassan Turan.
Amira al Hussaini (Global Voices) reports on a rumor spreading throughout Iraq, "Saddam Hussein is making the rounds on social media, with a new recording claiming that the Iraqi dictator is alive and well and that his double Mikhail was the one executed on December 30, 2006. Many netizens are quick to describe the video as phoney and assure readers that Saddam is dead and gone. Had he been alive, the former Iraqi dictator would have turned 74 today." Al Rafidayn quotes Hassan Al-Alawi who received a phone call from someone claiming to be Hussein, "I was sure that the person who phoned me and said he was Saddam is not Saddam because Saddam died."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Diane Rehm

Today on The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane's guests the first hour were Julie Rovner, Michael Cannon, Robert Zarr and Pete Shumlin. The second hour? Maureen Dowd, Syrie James and John Pfordresher.

That's 3 women, four men.

Sunday, at Third, we look back at Diane's guest balance for the last week.


This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Mosul, Nouri preps for a takeover if his 100 days results in failure, Howard Dean calls Nouri a cold-blooded killer, Tim Arango has a snit fit in front of the entire world, and much more.
O our people everywhere in the pure land of Iraq ...


What was expected happened and the occupation supported, corrupt government bared its teeth when the forces in Nineveh province, raided AlAhrar Square last night, controllled and closed all entrances all under the supervision and orders of war criminal Naser Ghannam, commander of the government second battalion, and then have these forces led by the offender Colonel Ismail al Joubouri randomly opened fire on the crowd which resulted in a large number of martyrs and wounded, including the brothers stationed from the popular movement to save Iraq:

1 - Brother Khalid al-Khafaji, Fri 2 - Brother Rakan Abdullah al-Obeidi 3 - Brother Ghanim Abid 4 - Brother Haitham Jubouri 5 - Brother Mohammad AlKadhy, and we shall relsease a detailed list of names in a later statement.

This cowardly criminal act which flows directly in the interest of the American occupation and survival, is only appropriate to the authority of the war criminal Nuri al-Maliki, who will bear legal and moral responsibility in full for every drop of blood shed being Minister of Interior and Minister of Defense.

While we promise the children our brothers to continue to demonstrate and picket, we declare after depending on God the case of civil disobedience in Medeenat Elremah until the criminals are tried in court in the city of Mosul, on top of this list of war criminals is Nasser Al-Ghannam and Colonel offender Ismail Jubouri, which we call upon the renowned Jabour tribe , to disown him like the people of Heet disowned the rootless Nasser Al-Ghannam, which has become a wanted criminal not only for the people of Mosul, but for all the Iraqi people, and we call on this occasion on our people to exercise restraint and to work closely and avoid giving them the opportunity to lure us into violence and confrontation and the need to maintain a peaceful and civil protest and without prejudice to public and private property.

((And no victory except from Allah, the Mighty Holy))

Popular movement for the salvation of of Iraq

Oday Al Zaidi

NCRI notes Monday's assault on the people of Mosul, "On April 25th, al-Maliki's forces opened fire on protesters in Mosul and killed and injured dozens of people. Al-Baghdadia TV quoted witnesses and announced: The forces of the 2nd Division that had entered Mosul two days ago, started indiscriminate arrest of a large number of demonstrators. The protesters, picketing at Mosul's Ahrar square (Freedom square), are asking the leaders of the southern and central tribes to intervene, join them, and support them." An e-mail from Iraq Veterans Against the War notes that Mosul has "become the epicenter of the continuing protests" and, "Last week, Iraqi Facebook pages administered directly by protest organizers reported that government security forces encircled their camp, surveiled and taunted them, and called on them to end their sit-in. Protesters also reported that a low-flying American military helicopter swept towards the demonstrators, in what was interpreted as an attempt to intimidate them. Their response, captured in the video below, was to throw shoes. Demonstrations have been joined by dozens of women, who are calling for the end of the U.S. occupation and the release of their sons and brothers who are held in both Iraqi and US prisons throughout Iraq. This week tribal chieftains from nearby Anbar province joined the Mosul prostests as well." Today the Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "A member of Ghannam's henchmen has now announced live on air that he and 16 other members of Ghannam's force are resigning because they cannot accept his comands to detain women demonstrators as well as shoot at demonstrators. He also stated that there are Iranian officers in Ghannam's force in the 2nd Regiment."
Let's move over a second to one of Iraq's neighbors, Syria. Eleanor Hall (The World Today with Eleanor Hall, Australia's ABC -- link has text and audio) summarizes the current events as follows, "Now to Syria where anti-government protesters say that government security forces shot dead at least six more people in Deraa overnight in a new round of clashes. Human rights groups say that up to 400 people have now died since the protests began in mid-March. The United Nations Security Council held emergency talks on the issue and the secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, led Western nations in expressing alarm at the deadly Syrian government crackdown." AFP adds, "UN chief Ban Ki-moon has expressed 'increasingly grave concern' at the bloody crackdown on protesters in Syria, especially at the use of tanks and live ammunition by security forces" and quotes Ban Ki-Moon stating, "Syrian authorities have an obligation to protect."
And what about the obligations of Iraqi authorities? Where's the "increasingly grave concern" for the Iraqi protesters? When even the governor of Ninevah Province is calling out the Iraqi military's attacks on the people of Mosul, where's the concern from the United Nations? Human rights groups -- Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Women's Freedom in Iraq -- have decried the targeting of protesters (and the targeting of Iraqi journalists). Where's the concern for what's happening to Iraqis from the UN -- or, for that matter, from the US government?
I'll get a pen and make a list
And give you my analysis
But I can't write this story
With a happy ending.
Was I the bullet or the gun
Or just a target drawn upon
A wall that you decided
Wasn't worth defending?
-- "I Can't Help You Anymore" written by Aimee Mann, first appears on her album The Forgotten Arm
On Mosul, War News Radio posts video from Link TV's Moasic which is from Al Jazeera:
Al Jazeera: In Iraq, security forces opened fire on protesters in Mosul city's Ahrar Square. In light of the events, the Ninevah Provincial Council suspended its official duties in the province for one day, in protest of the security forces attack on Mosul demonstrators. In this video, people rising up are trying to reach Mosul's Ahrar Square. Security forces prevented them from doing so in an open fire on them with live bullets. There is no doubt that this video will be followed by others. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was unexpectedly confronted on three different levels. These days it comes from al Mosul. These are stressful days for every ruler that finds himself surrounded by angry protesters calling for his downfall unless he meets a list of demands. Their first no is a firm rejection of the Ninevah Provincial Council's nomination of a new police commander in the province who protesters accuse of killing hundreds of Iraqis. The second no comes as a rejection to Nouri al-Maliki's invitation for delegation of Mosul residents to meet with him. What is the purpose of such a meeting when their demands are as clear as the sun at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. The government of Baghdad is politically marginalizing Mosul and imposing its security mechanism on the city -- security forces arrest whomever they want and impose arbitrary rules on the people's movements to impede traffic and daily life. And this rejection is based on the marytyrs.
Speaker at protest: Brothers in your name and in the name of all honorable people, we reject this offer! We reject this offer! We say to al-Maliki -- we say to al-Maliki that those who want to talk to us can come to us They can meet with us here in the Square.
Al Jazeera: Then came an official rejection -- in addition to that of the masses -- to the curfew and teh ban on demonstrations because as soon as the curfew is imposed, the people take to the streets en mass. Their actions are reciprocated as if the issue is some sort of struggle to break the people's will and see who will last longer. An additional facet was added to the issue when security forces fired live bullets at protesters. The Constitution of the country allows the people of the country to stage sit-ins and protests but then the land seems to be devoid of a Constitution. Powerism imposed on the people telling them either you stay home or live bullets from above and probably to your heads is what you can expect. In reality a number of Mosul residents were hit after security forces forcibly dispersed protests; however, this has been tried and proven: As soon as people hear the sounds of bullets, feelings of nationalism and revenge are born inside of them. 'Why are they killing us and depriving us of our rights?' So the ruler applies in the end, 'How I wish hadn't killed and how I wish I had met their demands on the very first day.'
Still on the protests but moving over to the KRG, Christian Peacemaker Teams have been on the ground in the KRG reporting on the violence. CPT publishes this piece by Annika Spalde today:
On Monday 11 April, the four of us from the CPT short-term delegation accompanied the CPT Iraq team to the central square in Suleimaniya to meet the demonstrators and the people organizing the demonstrations.
As soon as we entered the square, we were surrounded by twenty-thirty men of different ages. One of them started asking CPTer Michele Naar Obed, "Have CPT done the report that you were talking about? What are you doing to tell the world about what's happening here?"
I started talking with a young man standing next to me. He had been a student at the university, but was now unemployed. "Our leaders are worse than Saddam," he said, with a tired voice. "They have learnt from Saddam. There are no human rights for us here." In his opinion, many of those who come to the square each day are unemployed. "It is very difficult to get a job if you don't have a connection to one of the parties, PUK or KDP. And if you don't have a job, you have no money. You can't even afford to buy a cup of tea."
Michele told one of the men questioning her that Amnesty International would publish a report on the repression against protesters in Iraq and Kurdistan the following day. He said they would mention this from the stage as an encouragement to the people that the information is getting out.
After a half hour we met with two organizers of the protests in a café. One was a journalist, the other works for an international non-governmental organization. They told us how, in mid-February, the demonstrations started in a very spontaneous way, with inspiration from the people's nonviolent fight for democracy and human rights in Tunisia and Egypt. After just a few days of demonstrations, representatives from different sectors of society created a committee to coordinate activities and to think strategically. One decision they took early on was to always follow the principles of nonviolence. Another was to have an "open mike" at the square, where anyone could share his or her opinions and experiences.
The demonstrations at the square in Suleimaniya have become a daily event for almost two months. Demands to the government that it prosecute persons responsible for the killing of unarmed protesters, have not been met. There is no dialogue between the demonstrators and the authorities. The ad hoc committee organizing the demonstrations is thinking about its next step. They have written and published a "Roadmap for a peaceful transition of power in Southern Kurdistan," where they would call for the resignation of the president, among other things.
We're going to be pulling from the Amnesty report mentioned above. But first, Tim Arango (New York Times) reports:

When he returned to his native Kurdistan in February to join the flickering of a protest movement, Dr. Pishtewan Abdellah, a hematologist who lives in Australia but also carries an Iraqi passport, suspected that the demonstrators might face harsh treatment from the Kurdish authorities. At several protests during the last two months security forces have opened fire, and an estimated 10 people have been killed and dozens wounded, according to human rights activists.
What Dr. Abdellah did not anticipate, though, was a barrage of one of this country's more peculiar menaces: death threats by text message.
Death threats by text message. Hmm. I want to text you, I do what? April 12th, Amnesty International issued the report [PDF format warning] "DAYS OF RAGE: PROTESTS AND REPRESSION IN IRAQ" and pulling from the section on the KRG:
At around 2.30pm as I had just finished a phone conversation with a friend, three men confronted me and asked me to give them the mobile. Other men arrived within seconds, including from behind, and then I received several punches on the head and different parts of the body. I fell to the ground, they kicked me for several minutes, but I managed to stand up. They put one handcuff on my right wrist and attached it to someone else's left wrist. But I managed with force to pull my arm away and the handcuff was broken. I ran away towards the Citadel but within seconds another group of security men in civilian clothes blocked my way and they started punching me and hitting me. There were now many security men surrounding me and kicking me. There was blood streaming from my nose and from left eye. My head was very painful.
They put me in a car . . . One security man told me I was one of the troublemakers. I was taken to the Asayish Gishti in Erbil. I was first asked to go to the bathroom to wash my face wash my face which was covered in blood. I was then interrogated in the evening and the person interrogating me kept asking about why I was in the park and kept accusing me of being a troublemaker. I was asked to sign a written testimony. When I said I needed to see what is on the paper he hit me hard. Then I signed the paper without reading it. I stayed there for two nights sharing a room with around 60 people. Then on the third day I was taken to a police station where I stayed for one night before I was released. I was not tortured in the Asayish Prison or in the police station."
As noted earlier this month, "There are many more in the KRG who share stories and one of the most disturbing aspects -- something that sets it apart from the arrests/kidnappings of activists elsewhere in Iraq -- is how and when the forces appear. The report doesn't make this point, I am. Forces in the KRG show up as people are on the phone or have just finished a call. It would appear that beyond the physical abuse and intimidation, they're also violating privacy and monitoring phone calls." Tim Arango's article today makes that even more clear. How do you call someone to threaten them over the phone or to text them over the phone? You start by knowing their phone number. How do you get that information if you don't personally know the person? How do you end up with their cell phone number? Privacy is not being respected within the KRG and the big question is are telecoms cooperating with the government to spy on residents and, if so, when did this spying begin?
We're still on the protests -- specifically teh coverage of them. Dan Hind is a British writer who posts at The Return of the Republic. He wrote about the protests in Iraq. He questioned Tim Arango's coverage. A friend at the New York Times was pleased (proud) of Tim's response and thought I'd like to include it. Friends know I'm not just going to write what they want and there's nothing to be proud of here. Dan Hind weighed in on coverage of the protests here. Excerpt:
The reader might reasonably wonder what these other issues were, but the article, at least in its British incarnation, was remarkably unforthcoming. Arango tells us later that 'inspired by uprisings by Arabs elsewhere, Iraqis held their own protests in Tahrir Square' in late February. The authorities attacked the protesters and the protests did not 'blossom nationally'. But apparently the government did decide to 'dial back the crackdown on night-life'.
But why were the protesters taking to the streets in Iraq? The New York Times doesn't give us much of a clue. But the Guardian, the Observer's sister paper in London, published a piece by Sami Ramadani that sheds light on their grievances. Ramadani quoted some of the slogans:
Dan Hind was very kind. There's no point in being kind. Reporters -- ask any editor -- can't take criticism, they're married to every damn word and convinced that they've done something amazing when most haven't even risen to "adequate." Tim's one of those who likes to whine in e-mails. Instead he left a comment. He opens saying he's responding "with great relish" -- thereby explaining the breath. He snaps that if Hind had "read the original article" -- there's no reason for him to, Tim. Your paper chose to syndicate the article. Dan read it in the Observer. If your larger points are missing (or, more likely, you think they are) you take it up with people at your paper who syndicated the article, don't blame British readers of the Observer. Tim could have noted -- but fails to -- that he wrote the piece for the Week In Review sectio nof the paper and therefore it is an opinion piece and not actual reporting. That's no reflection on Dan Hind's commentary but it would explain the point of view in the piece. Instead he wants to note that if Dan had "perused The New York Times' coverage of the ongoing protests in Iraq you would have discovered that your points of criticism do not hold up to scrutiny." First, Tim, familiarize yourself with your paper's style manual. You should get the point very quickly. Secondly, it's not on the reader. No reader of an article has to "familiarize" themselves with past coverage.
If I don't convey something in the snapshot -- and frequently I don't, these are dictated and dictated quickly, any edits are done in my head with 'take out paragraph three and move the section on Camp Ashraf up above the Parliament section' -- that's on me. If you don't, that's on you. You wrote a piece for your paper's opinion section on Sunday -- biggest day of the week for the paper in terms of circulation so you had the potential to reach a large section of readers you've never reached before. Your article, as Dan Hind pointed out, did not offer clarity on the protest motivations. It should have. Instead of carping and trying to bicker, you should file that away for when you next write for The Week In Review.
Tim Arango then writes, "You then continue with a more general critique of The Times' coverage of the protests in Iraq, a gripe that you surely wouldn't be able to make had you taken the time to read our numerous articles over the last several months about the grievances of Iraqis. It is astonishing that you would take the liberty to make the following statement, without seemingly reviewing our coverage: '… for The New York Times to be so vague about the grievances of the Iraqi people in a country that is, after all, still occupied by 50,000 American troops seems to me to be extraordinary'." Take the liberty? Again, no one's required to read every article the paper's published to weigh in on one of your pieces. If you'd practiced clarity in your Week In Review piece, no one would have been confused.
Of course, they wouldn't have been informed either. Because the Times has done a lousy job of covering the protests. That includes the fact that the Washington Post has owned the government's reaction to the protests because the Times has ignored journalists being pulled out of cafes, beaten in Baghdad by security forces.
You pretend to know, Tim Arango, how the protests started in Iraq -- well they re-started. They were enough last year to force the Minister of the Electricy out. But you weren't covering Iraq then and are apparently unfamiliar with that aspect of the protests. To prove the paper's been on the ball and show that the paper covered the issues, you provide a list of links. But, thing is, Tim, those links don't go back far enough this year alone.
What started the protests? The paper's never been huge on crediting others but Iraqi protests this year kicked off in February and kicked off outside of Baghdad. As January wound down, Ned Parker. reported on the secret prisons for the Los Angeles Times and Human Rights Watch issued their report on it. Parker's January report on the secret prisons and how they were run by Nouri's security forces, the Baghdad Brigade followed up on his earlier report on how the Brigade was behind the prison that he and the paper exposed in April 2010. All the while Nouri insisted that there were no secret prisons in Iraq -- such as February 6th when Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported, "The Iraqi government on Sunday denied a human rights organization's allegation that it has a secret detention center in Baghdad, run by Prime Minister Nur al-Maliki's security forces." The report then quoted Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi stating, "We don't know how such a respectable organization like Human Rights Watch is able to report such lies." Camp Honor is a prison that's under Nouri's control, staffed by people working for him. Amnesty International would also call out the use of secret prisons while Nouri continued to deny them.
But while many in the press would play dumb, the Iraqi people knew better. They knew their loved ones were gone, disappeared into Iraq's legal system. That is what began the protests in Iraq: the prisons. It's what fueled them throughout. From the Feb. 10th snapshot:
Alsumaria TV reports protests took place in Babel Province today with one protest calling for the release of prisoners and another calling out the continued lack of public services. Dar Addustour reports the the Council of the Bar Association issued a call for a Baghdad demonstration calling for corruption to be prosecuted, for the Constitution to be followed and sufficient electricity in all the schools. Nafia Abdul-Jabbar (AFP) reports that approximately 500 people (mainly attorneys "but also including some tribal sheikhs") marched and that they also decried the secret prisons. They carried banners which read "Lawyers call for the government to abide by the law and provide jobs for the people" and "The government must provide jobs and fight the corrupt." Bushra Juhi (AP) counts 3,000 demonstrating and calls it "one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in Iraq" this year. Juhi also notes that attorneys staged smaller protests in Mosul and Basra today. Al Rafidayn reports that five provinces saw protests yesterday as the people demanded reliable public services and an end to government corruption. Noting the Babylon Province protest, the paper quotes Amer Jabk (Federation of Industrialists in Babylon president) stating that the provincial government has not provided any of the services the province needs, that basic services have deteriorated and that heavy rains have not only seen streets closed but entire neighborhoods sinking. Hayder Najm (niqash) observes protests have taken place across Iraq, "The protesters' grievances have been many and varied: the quality and level of basic services, government restrictions on civil liberties and freedom of expression, violations against civil servants, and the rampant financial and administrative corruption within state institutions. [. . .] Eight years after the US invasion of Iraq, the electricity supply in most areas of the country still does not exceed two hours a day, and the country still suffers from poor infrastructure, a weak transport network, and an acute crisis of drinking water and sanitation."

The February 10th snapshot. But Tim Arango can only go back to Feb. 15th because that's when the paper finally, kind of sort of (Jack Healy's article is an embarrassment of non-knowledge) acknowledges the protests.
Again, I didn't seek out the above topic. A friend with the paper thought Tim Arango had done an amazing job responding to a critique. I said I'd review it and then note it in some way but warned I might disagree. And I do. Tim Arango wrote an article (an opinion piece) that his paper chose to syndicate around the world. A reader in England, reading the syndicated version, was left confused. Instead of owning that and addressing it, Arango wants to stomp his feet and insist it is the reader's job to go back and read eight other articles. No, that's not how it works. And Arango's stomping of the feet? Off putting here in the US. But overseas, probably a little worse than that? If I made the call at the Observer, Tim Arango would not be featured again since he's unable to take criticism from Observer readers and wants to insist that it is their job not just to read what the Observer prints but all these articles from another paper. It's a point I'll be making to two friends at the Observer on the phone tomorrow morning.
Ben Birnbaum (Washington Times) reports former head of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean is speaking out on behalf of the MEK and said yesterday of Nouri al-Maliki, "The truth is the prime minister of Iraq is a mass murderer." What's Howard Dean referring to? Camp Ashraf. Following the US invasion, the US made these MEK residents of Camp Ashraf -- Iranian refuees who had been in Iraq for decades -- surrender weapons and also put them under US protection. They also extracted a 'promise' from Nouri that he would not move against them. July 28, 2009 the world saw what Nouri's word was actually worth. Since that Nouri-ordered assault in which at least 11 residents died, he's continued to bully the residents. April 4th, Iran's Fars News Agency reported that the Iraqi military denied allegations that it entered the camp and assaulted residents. Specifically, Camp Ashraf residents state, "The forces of Iraq's Fifth Division invaded Camp Ashraf with columns of armored vehicles, occupying areas inside the camp, since midnight on Saturday." Friday April 8th saw another attack which the Iraqi government again denied. Thursday April 14th, the United Nations confirmed that 34 people were killed in the April 8th assault on Camp Ashraf. Barbara Grady (San Jose Mercury News) reported that the dead included journalist Asieh Rakhshani who has family in California. Dean explains to Birnbaum how he learned of the MEK, "I got asked by my agent to go over to Paris to speak to a group I knew nothing about. I spent a lot of time on the Internet learning about them. Brinbaum notes, "Mr. Dean cited a long list of former U.S. officials who had become vocal supporters of the Mojahedin, maing Jim Jones, a former director of the National Security Council and Louise Freeh, a former FBI director."

The US government failed to live up to its legal obligations. It's an issue in England -- even letters to the editor decry the US, like Martyn Storey's letter to the Guardian which includes, "Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt has issued a strongly worded statement deploring the loss of life and emphasising the need to make medical assistance available. There is no sign, however, of the US administration rushing to fulfil its obligations. We are waiting for President Obama's strong condemnation of the atrocities committed by Iraqi troops at Ashraf. " For all the attention it receives in England, it's largely ignored in the US. The Tehran Times notes, "The Iranian ambassador to Baghdad has predicted that the members of the terrorist Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO) would leave Iraq by the end of the current Iranian calendar year, which started on March 21. The Iraqi government has issued a declaration and the Iraqi cabinet has approved a ratification, both of which require that the MKO members leave Iraq, Ambassador Hassan Danaiifar told the Mehr News Agency in an interview published on its website on Tuesday." This week at the Huffington Post, former resident of Camp Ashraf Hajar Mojtahedzadeh contributed a column:

On Thursday, April 8th, I received a phone call a little before midnight D.C. time. The voice on the other end franticly told me to turn on the Iranian satellite channel, Iran NTV, adding that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's forces had stormed Camp Ashraf just hours before. As my friend on the phone continued speaking, all I could think about was my brother Hanif and our mutual friend Elham. Hanif and Elham Zanjani, both 29, are residents of Camp Ashraf located in the Diyala province, north of Baghdad in Iraq. The camp is home to 3,400 unarmed Iranian refugees, members of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), the primary opposition group to the tyrannical mullahs in Iran. Surely acting at the behest of Tehran, the Iraqi Prime Minister ordered the deadly assault.
As I watched the scenes of carnage unfold that day, I recognized the familiar face of my dear Elham. Her body, badly injured by a hand grenade thrown by Iraqi forces, was lying on a medic stretcher. Overwhelmed with a sense of anger and disbelief, I realized that my loved ones were paying the price of their legal protector's broken promises, with their blood.

In England, Natalie O'Neill (Times) reports, "A MOTHER has protested almost every day for 25 years in aid of Iranian refugees in Camp Ashraf, where her daughter lives. Despite finding it difficult to walk, 75-year-old Fatemeh Mohammad has rallied alongside hundreds of fellow Anglo-Iranians outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and US Embassy in Westminster calling for the protection of exiles in Camp Ashraf, Iraq." A British MP, Alex Carlile of the House of Lords, weighs in on the assault on Camp Ashraf at the Independent of London:
Such international condemnation as there has been of the deadly attack this month carried out by Iraqi forces against a camp housing members of the Iranian opposition leaves two pertinent questions unanswered. First, is the attack a crime against humanity under the principles of international law; and, secondly, have the US authorities turned a deliberate blind eye to a massacre on their watch in Iraq as part of a deal with the Iraqi authorities, or as part of a policy of appeasement?
Undoubtedly, the answer to the first question is yes. Video footage of the incident shows Iraqi forces running over unarmed residents with armoured vehicles and Humvees. Further as stated by the Bar Human Rights Committee: "the Camp residents, all of whom are recognised as Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention, were shot at indiscriminately". The United Nations confirmed that at least 26 men and 8 women were killed, while 178 suffered gunshots out of some 300 injured.
The actions of the Iraqi authorities and specifically Nouri Al-Maliki is an international criminal justice offence which demands that the UN, US and EU condemn the attack and define it appropriately as a crime against humanity. Firing at the unarmed residents with live machine gun rounds in these circumstances was clearly a government sanctioned act of war perpetrated against a civilian population and specifically a civilian population which has repeatedly been recognised as protected under the Convention.

Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki threatened on Tuesday to ask for the dissolution of the government in case it fails to accomplish the country's projects beyond the 100 day deadline. The deadline involves Iraq's Parliament also, Maliki said." If that happens, Nouri says, he may call for early elections. Yeah, that's what Iraq needs, another round of elections. Those 2010 elections were resolved so quickly. Not noted in the report, it's already been floated by Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nufaifi that if the 100 days passes without marked improvement, it may be necessary to register a vote of no confidence. That would topple Nouri's government. It is fear of that which has prompted Nouri to begin speaking of the need for a "majority government." Al Rafidayn reports Nouri was again speaking of that yesterday saying it would allow 99% consensus -- that would be 99% consensus on plans that currently his own hand-picked Cabinet can't or won't agree to. The puppet wants some puppets of his own to play with.

Al Mada reports on Nouri's press conference in Baghdad yesterday where he declared that Iraq could not defend its external borders or the country from an invasion if one should take place. Moqtada al-Sadr's spokesperson Salah al-Obeidi is quoted insisting that if US forces remain on the ground in Iraq past December 31, 2011, the Mehdi milita/mob will be in the streets of Iraq again. Al Rafidayn also reports on the press conference noting something others are skipping, Nouri says that afer he returns from his trip to Korea, he will invite members of Parliament to share their own views. The wording could be seen as Norui refusing to see the Palriament as a body that makes the decision -- that's a position in keeping with his previous stance. Meanwhile Dar Addustour notes that MP Haidar al-Mula and 75 others are calling for Nouri to appear before the Parliament and take questions in his role as commander-in-chief of the military.


Al Sabaah reports
that the Cabinet has put an end to employees of "the three presidencies" (Iraq's president and two vice presidents) grabbing up residential land plots. Dar Addustour calls it a "private ownership scheme" It sounds very good but before you buy it hook-line-and-sinker, note that the source is Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh.
We've noted Firas Ali several times in the snapshots, most recently Monday:
In the text version of the report, Muir notes that Firas Ali campaigned for Ala Nabil's release while he was imprisoned for eight days and that the response was for "armed security operatives" to seize Firas Ali from an NGO office and that Ala Nabil is attempting to get Firas released.
In Defense of Marxism notes, "After almost two weeks of detention, Firas Ali was released from Muthanna Airport prison on the evening of Monday, 25 April. We would like to express special thanks to all those who in the campaign to free Firas Ali the youth leader of Rahrir Square in Baghdad Iraq."
Turning to violence, Reuters notes a Baghdad shooting that left the a Ministry of Defence official injured, a Hamman al-Alil roadside bombing which claimed 1 life, a Baghdad market bombing which injured five people, a Baghdad bombing which injured two people, a Baghdad bombing which injured four people and a Baghdad sticky bombing targeting Shafqi Mahdi ("general director of Iraq's theatre and cinema department").
On violence in Iraq, Kelly McEvers (NPR's All Things Considered -- link is audio and text) filed a report yesterday that's rather confusing. John Drake of AKE Group is on speaking. He does not say in the report what Michele Norris apparently wanted so Norris puts in his mouth? Maybe she just misunderstood him or McEvers' report? I have no idea but McEvers interviewed him, recorded the conversation and the pitch of the report Norris did on air is not him actually being quoted. That's a problem right there. It's a bigger problem for those of us who receive AKE Group's reports because it's hard to believe that the John Drake who writes those reports would have said the words NPR puts into his mouth. Kelly McEvers has an interesting report. But violence has been on the rise since February 2010. Steady rise. And the latest report from AKE opens with, "Levels of voilence rose in Iraq over the past week." Those of us who are paying for AKE's reports like to believe we're not wasting money.

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