Friday, July 1, 2011

4 men, 2 women

The first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) was Jerry Selb, Lynn Sweet and David Welna. The second hour Daniel Dombey, Susan Glasser and Abderrahim Foukara.

If you're wondering, Diane didn't have time for Iraq in her 'international' hour. She's such a waste of time. Someone should just say to her, "You're old, you're out of touch and it's time to retire." I have no idea where anyone gets the idea that public radio should be a lifetime gig.

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

Friday, July 1, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Baghdad, the US government continues to target an Iraq War veteran, Iraq scores poorly on the State Dept's report of human trafficking, and more.
Starting with Libya. Yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who has left Canada to report from Libya on the illegal war. Michael Birnbaum (Washington Post) reported, "French officials announced Wednesday that they had armed rebels in Libya, marking the first time a NATO country has said it was providing direct military aid to opponents of the government in a conflict that has lasted longer than many policymakers expected." Actually, they didn't just 'announce' it was taking place. Philippe Gelie (Le Figaro) reported that France was dropping weapons to the 'rebels.' Only after Gelie's report got traction and the pressure was on the French government to answer the charge did they 'announce' -- which most of us would call "admit" -- that this had happened. Nick Hopkins (Guardian) explained, "The revelation surprised officials in Nato's headquarters in Brussels and raised awkward questions about whether the French had broken international law -- UN resolution 1973 specifically allows Nato nations to protect civilians in Libya, but appears to stop short of permitting the provision weapons." This is the topic Kevin Pina and Madhi Nazemoroaya are discussing at the start of the excerpt.
Kevin Pina: So let's talk about this. Has the word reached there in Libya that France has openly flaunted the UN resolution?
Madhi Nazemroaya: Yes, yes, it has. And it's no surprise in Tripoli that the French have been involved with this breach of the United Nations resolution.
Kevin Pina: And so what has the reaction been? Has there been any official reaction from the Gaddafi government?
Madhi Nazemroaya: I was at the Rixos Hotel which as your listeners might know is the media center where the government spokesman is. There's been no official statements yet but speaking to the people there at the media center, as I said, they're not surprised. But they are outraged. I'm sure that tomorrow the manifestation of this outrage will appear in Triopli because there is a major protest -- a major protest that is going to take place.
Kevin Pina: And you're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio and that's the voice of Madhi Nazemroaya coming to us direct from Tripoli in Libya. Madhi, have there been any other sorties of NATO bombers within the last 24 hours?
Madhi Nazemroaya: Well in Tripoli there have been no bombings that I know of but I can tell you that NATO jets have been flying robustly over Tripoli and there noises can be heard to the point where at some points I think I've been woken up to this very moment by them. They've been flying a lot during the day. Most likely going south towards Fezzan bombing God knows what because there are no military sites south of here. But there have been robust flights, that's for sure.
Kevin Pina: And what about actual battles between the so-called rebels and the forces of the Libyan Army?
Madhi Nazemroaya: Well I could tell you this in regards to the front between -- between both sides, between the Benghazi based Transitional Council forces and the military of -- the Libyan miltary of Col Gaddafi . In regards to the front, it was announced yesterday that one city fell. Now I know this because I was witness to the official government spokesperson, Dr. Moussa Ibrahim --
Kevin Pina: This is a city that fell back to Gaddafi forces?
Madhi Nazemroaya: No, it was said to have fallen to the rebel forces. Now this is reported by the rebels and by the mainstream media but Dr. Moussa Ibrahim and the Libyan government, the Libyan regime, have contradicted it and denied it. And what they have dones is actually taken international press with them to this city to prove that it did not fall as was reported. Now I bared witness to them leaving on a shuttle towards the city and they returned this morning. I actually talked to some of the reporters before they left. They came from places such as France, Britian and Hong Kong. So we have misinformation being given about the front when one city's been reported to have fallen when, reality, it hasn't. So this I can tell you right now about the front.
Kevin Pina: Now you've also spoken about the psychological warfare that's been used by NATO and its allies against the people of Libya. Give us a sense of where that's at now. You said there were still fly-bys and they were making a lot of noise over the capitol. Obviously, that's got to make the people very nervous.
Madhi Nazemroaya: Yes, these flights -- these flights are a daily event here in Tripoli and in the districts around Tripoli. And it does make them -- it does make the citizens here think of NATO on a constant basis. This has become a part of their lives. Now I said before too that they're trying to live normal lives and I'm actually very impressed with their efforts to live normal lives here in Tripoli and the districts around Tripoli. But the facts are that these flights make one really nervous and especially at night. Even I myself have trouble sometimes sleeping at night because sometimes these noises wake you up and you might have a problem, like a fear and mistake even a car noise for these flights over Tripoli. It's very disturbing and I have to point out that I've come at a time where the bombings in this area have been reduced compared to what they were. The war is nothing like it was -- the bombings are nothing like it was prior to my arrival. Still, it's a very scary thing, Kevin, it's a very scary thing.
Kevin Pina: It seems like the bombings really fell off after it became clear that NATO was responsible for killing civilians -- that they were claiming they were bombing military targets but civilians were being killed at the same time. And there was an incident that happened about a week ago, right, where it was really clear and they could no longer deny it and it seems that they have fallen off since then. Right?
Madhi Nazemroaya: Well in Tripoli, like I've said, the bombings have been reduced, they're far less [unknown word] to the citizens than before but other places are being bombed. Like these planes are flying south of Tripoli. God knows where they are bombing because there's nothing of military value in Fezzan. And south of Tripoli, I can't imagine what they're bombing down there except for small cities and villages and the desert. But they are bombing south of here, they're bombing places. And we have reports of them bombing the areas in [. . .] south of here. These things are of no military value at all which actually is an indicator that this war is wrong and that NATO is involved in War Crimes, bombing civilian structures.
Kevin Pina: Now you had also said in a previous interview that there was evidence of depleted uranium in bombing -- in the bomb casings that were being dropped on the population. Where's that at now? I understand there's some evidence that's going to be released soon.
Madhi Nazemroaya: That evidence will come forward. It's something that's being waited on. The machinery here -- There is machinery here that's been ordered that will detect radioactivity levels. It's only a matter of time before it comes. I don't know exactly when it will come up but the machinery is here and there would have actually been more machinery had it not been for the disaster in east Asia, in Japan specifically, because a lot of this machinery ended up going there. But I spoke to an American gentlemen the other day about it and they will be using this machinery to prove to the world that depleted uranium has been used here. And not only have I mentioned this but so have others and so has the Stop the War coalition in the United Kingdom.
Kevin Pina: Well Madhi, this is the voice of Madhi Nazemroaya our special correspondent on the ground in Tripoli, Libya. This is Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio.
In related news, AFP reported this week that the 'rebels' (National Transitional Council) has received the equivalent of $100 million in "international donations" according to England's Foreign Secretary William Hague who was speaking to the House of Commons.
Former US house Rep Cynthia McKinney is attempting to raise awareness of the illegal war and this is from her "What America Stands For In Libya" (Information Clearing House):
At a time when the American people have been asked to tighten their belts, teachers are receiving pink slips, the vital statistics of the American people reveal a health care crisis in the making, and the U.S. government is in serious threat of default, our President and Congress have decided that a new war, this time against the people of Libya, is appropriate. This comes at a time when the U.S., by one estimate, spends approximately $3 billion per week for war against Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today protests continued in Iraq. This was "Grandchildren of the 1920 Rebels" -- a not to the Iraq Revolution of 1920 in which the Iraqis -- Shia and Sunni -- protested the British occupation and the policies put in place by British Bwana Arnold Wilson. It kicked off in May 1920 and saw 6,000 Iraqis and 500 British and Indian forces killed from May to October. To avoid further risk, the British handed control over to Faisal bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi who ruled as the King of Iraq from August 1921 to September 1933. Revolution of Iraq features videos of the Baghdad protests filmed by Rami Hayali. During the demonstration, they burned to the United States flag to show their rejection of the occupation. A characteristic of the Baghdad protests are the women with photos of their loved ones who are missing -- some lost in the Iraqi 'justice' system and there are least two such women (plus other women as well) in this video. Families have no idea where their loved ones are. They just disappear one day. Maybe they're seen being hauled away by Iraqi forces, maybe that's not seen. But they disappear and the government is of no use to them, provides no assistance to find them. Southern Iraq protests in the last months have also noted the difficulties in visiting imprisoned/detained Iraqis that the system seems to practice intentionally by repeatedly swapping prisons and by keeping them far from their home base where family would be closer. In this video, the protesters wash their hands of Ayad Allawi and Nouri al-Maliki stating that both men are useless and two-of-a-kind, thieves unwilling to help Iraq. Alsumaria TV reports that they called for Nouri's government to be toppled and to end corruption and that they were joined by "employees from the branch centers of the Independent High Electoral Commission rallied for the second time in Tahrir Square calling to be employed as fixed term employees."
Protests have continued every Friday despite the attacks on the peaceful protesters. Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) reports:

Human Rights Watch charges today that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears to have ordered the beating, stabbing, and sexual assault of protesters earlier this month.
"It's pretty worrying," says Joe Stork, the head of the Middle East department at Human Rights Watch. "There are a few things that we hadn't seen before, like the sexual molesting, that kind of thing. The pattern of using plain clothes people who to all appearances were working with the connivance of the security people, that's certainly not new … we saw that when the so-called Arab spring protests started in Baghdad in February. This use of 'thugs' who may or may not be security is itself not unique to Iraq; in fact, it seems to be right out of the Egyptian playbook."

In other news out of Iraq, Alaa Fadel (Dar Addustour) reports that Nouri's spokesperson, Ali al-Dabbagh, announced that the increase in oil prices (meaning more income for Iraq) will be used to increase the payment for wheat and barley to Iraqi farmers. The government is planning to spend trillions of dinars on these crops. While that takes place, Al Mada reports UNICEF is calling on Iraq's government to invest some of the money into a one billion a year fund to assist Iraq's disadvantaged children. There are an estimated 4 million severely disadvantaged children thought the number could be much higher and Iraq's estimated to have 15 million children. 15 million children is a large number by itself but especially when you consider that population estimates for Iraq are generally somewhere between 25 million and 30 million. Iraq is a young country, a country of widows and orphans thanks to the illegal war.

And the protests that take place in Iraq are about these issues, the war, the effects of the war, the occupied government's refusal to provide basic services such as potable water, the lack of jobs and much more. Iaq needs housing and every six months or so Nouri shows up at a newly built housing project for a photo-op. Iraq needs many things. So there should be more than enough jobs to go around. Somehow that's not the case. (Also true, a lot of the government funded projects never see the funds because someone uses the money to line their own pockets.)

Al Mada reports on the Iraqi government's reaction to the US State Dept's annual human rights report on human trafficking which finds being put on the "watchlist" good news. Hassan Rashed explains it's so much better to be on the watchlist than on the blacklist. They have no reason to be proud, the report notes:
Protection
The Iraqi government demonstrated minimal efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. Government authorities continued to lack a formal procedure to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as women arrested for prostitution or foreign workers, and did not recognize that women in prostitution may be coerced. As a result, some victims of trafficking were incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as prostitution. Some victims of forced labor, however, were reportedly not detained, fined, or jailed for immigration violations, but they were generally not provided protection services by the government. Some Iraqi police centers have specialists to assist women and children who are victims of trafficking and abuse; the number of victims assisted and the type of assistance provided is unclear. The government neither provided protection services to victims of trafficking nor funded or provided in-kind assistance to NGOs providing victim protection services. All available care was administered by NGOs, which ran victim-care facilities and shelters accessible to victims of trafficking. However, there were no signs that the government developed or implemented procedures by which government officials systematically referred victims to organizations providing legal, medical, or psychological services. Upon release from prison, female victims of forced prostitution had difficulty finding assistance, especially in cases where the victim's family had sold her into prostitution, thereby increasing their chances of being re-trafficked. Some child trafficking victims were placed in protective facilities, orphanages, and foster care, while others were placed in juvenile detention centers. Since trafficking is not established as a crime in Iraq, the government did not encourage victims to assist in investigations or prosecutions or provide legal assistance or legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution for foreign victims of trafficking into Iraq.
Prevention
The Government of Iraq did not report efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. The government has not conducted any public awareness or education campaigns to educate migrant workers, labor brokers, and employers of workers' rights against forced labor. There were also no reported efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts beyond enforcing anti-prostitution laws. The Iraqi government does not consistently monitor immigration and emigration patterns for evidence of trafficking, but there are reports of isolated instances in which Iraqi border security forces prevented older men and young girls traveling together from leaving Iraq using fake documents.

Their fallback position was to do nothing. When pressed, they did the "minimal." The report also notes:
Iraq is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Iraqi women and girls are subjected to conditions of trafficking within the country and in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia for forced prostitution and sexual exploitation within households. Women are lured into forced prostitution through false promises of work. Women are also subjected to involuntary servitude through forced marriages, often as payment of a debt, and women who flee such marriages are often more vulnerable to being subjected to further forced labor or sexual servitude. One NGO reports that recruiters rape women and girls on film and blackmail them into prostitution or recruit them in prisons by posting bail and then holding them in situations of debt bondage in prostitution. Some women and children are forced by family members into prostitution to escape desperate economic circumstances, to pay debts, or to resolve disputes between families. NGOs report that these women are often prostituted in private residences, brothels, restaurants, and places of entertainment. Some women and girls are trafficked within Iraq for the purpose of sexual exploitation through the use of temporary marriages (muta'a), by which the family of the girl receives money in the form of a dowry in exchange for permission to marry the girl for a limited period of time. Some Iraqi parents have reportedly collaborated with traffickers to leave children at the Iraqi side of the border with Syria with the expectation that traffickers will arrange for them forged documents to enter Syria and employment in a nightclub. The large population of internally displaced persons and refugees moving within Iraq and across its borders are particularly at risk of being trafficked. Women from Iran, China, and the Philippines reportedly may be trafficked to or through Iraq for commercial sexual exploitation.
Iraq is also a destination country for men and women who migrate from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Pakistan, Georgia, Jordan, and Uganda and are subsequently subjected to involuntary servitude as construction workers, security guards, cleaners, handymen, and domestic workers. Such men and women face practices such as confiscation of passports and official documents, nonpayment of wages, long working hours, threats of deportation, and physical and sexual abuse as a means to keep them in a situation of forced labor. Some of these foreign migrants were recruited for work in other countries such as Jordan or the Gulf States, but were forced, coerced, or deceived into traveling to Iraq, where their passports were confiscated and their wages withheld, ostensibly to repay labor brokers for the costs of recruitment, transport, and food and lodging. Other foreign migrants were aware they were destined for Iraq, but once in-country, found the terms of employment were not what they expected or the jobs they were promised did not exist, and they faced coercion and serious harm, financial or otherwise, if they attempted to leave. In addition, some Iraqi boys from poor families are reportedly subjected to forced street begging and other nonconsensual labor exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation. Some women from Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nepal, and the Philippines who migrated to the area under the jurisdiction of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) experienced conditions of domestic servitude after being recruited with offers of different jobs. An Iraqi official revealed networks of women have been involved in the trafficking and sale of male and female children for the purposes of sex trafficking.
The Government of Iraq does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so. The government did not demonstrate evidence of significant efforts to punish traffickers or proactively identify victims; therefore, Iraq is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. Iraq was not placed on Tier 3 per Section 107 of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, however, as the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. Nonetheless, the government did not enact its draft anti-trafficking legislation and has reported no other efforts to prosecute or punish traffickers. The Government of Iraq continues to lack proactive victim identification procedures, persists in punishing victims of forced prostitution, and provides no systematic protection services to victims of trafficking.
Violence has increased in the last months in Iraq. Aswat al-Iraq reports that MP Hakim al-Zamili has declared, "The premier [Nouri al-Maliki] is the first responsible for the deterioration in the security situation. He has to solve this question by appointing the security miniters who should be specialized and knowledgeable."
Turning to some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes 2 police officers "and a Kurdish security force member" were shot dead in Mosul last night, that 1 "Iraqi oil police" killed a suspected smuggler last night outside Mosul and that, today, 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Khaldiya.On the Mosul attack, Aswat al-Iraq noted that the assailants wore military uniforms. They also note that a Baghdad attack led to the death last night of a police officer and an Iraqi officer.
Meanwhile the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has issued a statement. Irina Bokova has called out the recent deaths of journalists in Iraq, Congo and Mexico. We'll note the Iraq aspect.
Ms. Bokova also deplored the death on 21 June of cameraman Alwan al-Ghorabi, who died in a car bomb explosion in the southern Iraqi city of Diwaniyya, becoming the fourth journalist to be killed in that country this year.
Mr. al-Ghorabi, who worked for the Afaq satellite television channel, was reportedly with several other journalists at the entrance of a Government building when the bomb exploded.
Ms. Bokova said this latest death is a reminder of how precarious the security situation still is in Iraq.
"Media professionals, working to keep citizens informed, are particularly exposed," she noted.
In other news of violence, Ed O'Keefe and Tim Craig (Washington Post via Boston Globe) note the US officials and military 'chatter' that Iran is behind June's deadly attacks on US soldiers: "Those weapons include powerful rockets, armor-piercing grenades, and jamming-resistant roadside bombs, military officials say. Officials caution that they do not have evidence that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran or his government is ordering Shi'ite militias to strike US forces in Iraq." Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) reports the US military is happy that Nouri al-Maliki has "unleashed a sweeping crackdown on Iranian-based Shiite militias" and that they feared this wouldn't happen due to the fact that "[m]any of the militant groups have ties to the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr" so it's relief to them that Nouri's sent soldiers and police officers into Maysan Province. Really? Moqtada didn't have a stronghold in the Maysan Province. The closest he is supposed to have had was a toe-hold in Amarah and that toe-hold fell apart during Basha'ar al-Salam in 2008 when Sadr's sole office in the province, in Amarah, was shut down. Now that's 2008. Two years prior to that, Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi milita was supposed to have seized control of the city of Amarah briefly (for one day in October). Where they do have control, Sadr supporters (militia or not) is in the province's government and that's due to Nouri al-Maliki who handed the province over to Moqtada to garner al-Sadr's support for his 2010 prime minister bid. Since Sadrists control the government in the province (including the post of governor) and since there were other militias in the province (going back for years and years) what might be taking place is that Moqtada al-Sadr is using his sway with Nouri to have Nouri take out rivals -- militia and political? -- in the province. Moqtada and his followers did't win control of the province via elections, they won it via a graft with Nouri. This may be an attempt at taking out enemies and 'purifying' the region. In which case, Nouri would be doing Moqtada's bidding and the US military brass would have jumped the gun in its praise for Nouri. If you're wondering what the other 'name' militia in the province is, it's the Badr Organization. If Moqtada was able to knock them out, he might neverhave to worry about control of the province or having to wrestle with Ammar al-Hakim over who's going to run it. He had to repeatedly wrestle with Ammar's father, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, over just that until Abdul Aziz al-Hakim passed away in 2009. Ammar al-Hakim being rather popular with US government officials, now would be the perfect time for Moqtada to work on weakening al-Hakim's support since a number of foreigners think, should Nouri be recalled or forced out, Ammar al-Hakim would be the perfect choice for prime minister.
15 US soldiers have died in the Iraq War during the month of June. Wednesday was the most recent deaths when a missile hit a US military vehicle killing three soldiers. The Intelligencer reports one of them was 29-year-old David VanCamp whose survivors include his wife Chelsea, his parents and his three brothers. David VanCamp first deployed to Iraq in the fall of 2005 and was awarded "the Purple Heart and Bronze Star after being injured in 2006 by a suicide bomber." The State Journal notes his passing and has a photo of him here.
Another of the 15 fallen for the month of June is Dylan Johnson. KJRH (link has text and video) speaks to his father Jeff Johnson who explains his son was known for his sense of humor, "I got a recent message from one of his buddies there and they're still finding remnants of practical jokes that he played on them, that was just the type of guy he was, he enjoyed life to it's fullest." Dylan Johnson was 20-years-old and on his 25th day in Iraq when he died in a bombing.

Staying with the United States, Elisha Dawkins is an Iraq War veteran. He remains a member of the military who was serving until the government recently decided that he had falsified a passport application by saying he'd never applied for one before when, a few years prior, he'd started an application but not finished it. On the basis of that, they have threatened and bullied Elisha. US Senator Bill Nelson has called the treatment outrageous. He's been offered the option of taking probation and the charges against him would be dropped. Probation would not be a felony conviction which would allow him to apply for citizenship. (There's confusion on citizenship. Elisha was raised believing he was a US citizen. He has a birth certificate from the state of Florida. But there's a deportation order from when he was a small child for him and for his mother.) Carol Rosenberg (Miami Herald) reports that his case has now caught US House Rep Federica Wilson's attention and that Wilson has written Janet Napolitano, US Homeland Security Secretary, asking for assistance and noting, "Mr. Dawkins is not someone who should find imself in a detention center. His situation is more than unfortunate, it is inexplicable. I am asking, earnestly, for your help. I am asking that Mr. Dawkins be allowed to continue to be the type of role model he has always been -- here, on American soil." US House Rep Federica Wilson's office has released the following statement:
Washington, DC -- Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (FL-17) today sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to request a removal of detainer on former Petty Officer 2nd Class, Elisha Leo Dawkins, who has been held for the past month in a Miami federal detention facility. Officer Dawkins was originally detained for an alleged passport violation. Even if he is released from detention, he is still at risk of deportation based on an order issued in 1992.
Mr. Dawkins was brought to the U.S. as a baby from The Bahamas and was raised believing he was a U.S. citizen, eventually rising to serve in our military with distinction. He grew up in the heart of Florida's 17th District, attending Poinciana Park Elementary and Miami Central Senior High School.
"This is a man we should be celebrating, not deporting," said Congresswoman Wilson. "He has bravely and heroically fought for our country and deserves our utmost gratitude. His situation is more than unfortunate; it is inexplicable. I am asking that Mr. Dawkins be allowed to continue to be the type of role model he has always been -- here, on American soil.
"This is precisely why we need to pass the DREAM Act. We need comprehensive immigration reform to fix our broken immigration system and ensure that incidents like this never happen again to our brave men and women who served in uniform."
In addition to awaiting a response from Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, Congresswoman Wilson's district office is working closely with all relevant authorities to resolve the case.
Free Elisha Dawkins is a Facebook page which has been started by friends of Elisha who goes by "Leo" his friend and Jake Birchfield reveals to Ted Hall (11 Alive -- link has video and text) and.Birchfield explains of the friend he served with, "He has done more for this country than most people will in their lifetimes and he's a young man. The fact that he has gone to the front lines to fight for our country. The government needs to say this is a mistake."

Thursday, June 30, 2011

5 men, 2 women

The first hour of today's Diane Rehm Show (NPR) featured Scheherazade Rehman, Vassillis Kaskarelis, Alan Beattie and Antonio de Lecea. The second hour? John Wennberg, Daniel Callahan and Karen Ignani.

I've been Facebooking. Do you like Facebook?

It seems like a chore.

I think that's just the week I've been having.

But I did get e-mails complaining about my lack of Facebooking so I made time yesterday and today for it.




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

Thursday, June 30, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, 3 more US soldiers are announced dead in Iraq, the Christian Science Monitor doesn't get a lot of Iraq 'hits' and wonders why (we explain it for them), the Libyan War goes on, Human Rights Watch documents the attacks on peaceful demonstrators and notes that "It's not every day that thugs with clubs flash their police IDs at us," and more.
Yesterday US President Barack Obama held a press conference. It was rather creative. Calvin Woodward, Nancy Benac, Erica Werner and Matthew Lee (AP) noted many 'errors' in Barack's remarks such as:
OBAMA: "Moammar Gadhafi, who prior to Osama bin Laden was responsible for more American deaths than just about anybody on the planet, was threatening to massacre his people."
THE FACTS: Gadhafi's history of supporting terrorist acts lethal to Americans did not stop the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, from cultivating a relationship with him after he renounced terrorism. Gadhafi's government shared information on its nuclear program, tipped Washington about Islamic militants after the 2001 terrorist attacks and persuaded Western nations to lift sanctions.
Elaine took on the lies of the administration noting, "They know what they're doing is wrong. But they have contempt for the law, contempt for democracy and contempt for citizens. [. . .] As awful as that is, has anyone explained to you why the US went to war with Libya. Excuse me, Barack doesn't call it war. Has anyone explained to you why the US is heavy petting with Libya? No, because there's no reason for the war. Did Libya attack the US? No. There's no reason for the war." Matthew Rothschild (The Progressive) calls out the nonsense Barack was spewing yesterday:
Calling it a "limited operation" doesn't render the War Powers Act null and void.
Nor does saying the action is against one of the "worst tyrants in the world."
And Obama's insistence that we send "a unified message" is the same undemocratic claptrap that we hear from every war President who wants the Congress and the citizenry to shut up and keep silent and not dare question his royal judgment.
Madhi Nazemroaya: This war has not only hurt Libya, it's hurt the rest of Africa because Libya is a major investor in the rest of African and a pan-African leader. So many agricultural and development projects have been abandoned or frozen in the rest of Africa. And there's going to be famine underway in other parts of Africa because agricultural programs have just been frozen and stopped. And tens of thousands of people, tens of thousands of people in different countries have become unemployed. Like in Mali a huge agricultural project has ended because of this war and this was directly has to do with British, French and American -- specifically American interests in the rest of Africa. What they've done by attacking Libya and putting sanctions on it and stopping all of these development projects is they've blocked -- they've blocked Libya from developing these countries and have kept them in a position of dependence on the European Union and the United States. I was clearly told by their Minister of International Cooperation whose specific area is Africa because Libya is in Africa and most of their projects are in Africa, I was specifically told by him that the United States, France and the countries were not happy about what Libya was doing in Africa.
Kevin Pina: That's the voice of our special correspondent Madhi Nazemroaya who's speaking to us directly from Tripoli, Libya. He's also a research associate with the Center for Research and Globalization, I should say. Madhi, what you're describing isn't just effecting Libya although it's having a devestating effect on the Libyan people, this bombing campaign that continues by NATO but also it's having a regional effect in Africa because of the role Libya has played in funding other projects throughout the region.
Madhi Nazemroaya: Exactly, Kevin, exactly. You hit it right on the bull's eye. That's exactly what it's doing here. And there's a lot of Africans from other places who've come here to show their support by working in NGOs and by trying to help the world see that Africa, the African people, stand behind Libya. Libya is an African country as well as an Arab country and a country of the Mediterranen. And I've even talked to them about the devestating effects it's having on the rest of Africa. Another thing the war has done, it's stopped a pan-African railroad that was going to go north across North Africa and through Libya to the south. They stopped this and it's going to have a longterm devestating effect on Libya if the war does not stop. And everybody in Libya has just heard that in the United States, Senator [John] Kerry and a group of senators are talking about providing funding or support for the war to go on another year. So that is very dire news
Kevin Pina: Well Madhi let's talk about on the ground, the face of the so-called resistance or opposition to Libya. Is there a clear indication that they're being funded, that they've been built by the international community, specifically the US and Britain and Canada? That they built this opposition this resistance against Muammar Gaddafi's regime?
Madhi Nazemroaya: First of all, the rebels here, the resistance, the revolutionaries, the transitional council, whatever you want to call them, terrorists, whatever you want to call them, they have a lot of different names to a lot of different types of people. They're not a monolistic body. They are ecletic. They're a group of different people together. And fighting each other. We know that they're fighting each other. They've been fighting each other. Just like how, during the Chinese civil war, The Nationalist and the Marchists fought each other but they were also fighting the Japanese. These guys, they're also fighting their Libyan government in Tripoli, Col Gaddafi's government and they're fighting each other at the same time. In fact, they're -- they found out that they're giving each other's coordinates to NATO saying that these are enemy forces to have each other bombed. Now --
Kevin Pina: Wait, wait. Madhi, Madhi, you mean there's indications that the resistance or whatever you want to call them that they're actually targeting each other to get NATO to wipe out the other so that they can be the lead force?
Madhi Nazemroaya: Yes. I've been told that by numerous people, that they're fighting, yes, there's inter-competition. If these people take over Libya don't think -- Let's say, hypothetically for argument sake, that the transitional council in Benghazi takes over Libya which I doubt will happen. There will be another blood bath and another civil war. They're already fighting with each other in Benghazi, they're separate militais. This is not a monolithic body. They're fighting each other. They're kiling each other. There's actually more than one government. In Darnah they've declared an Islamic emierate, okay ? In Misrata there's another group which has tense ties to the groups in the east. They're all fighting each other. There's also even Communists involved in this. There's Islamists, Communists and former regime members as well and the -- specifically speaking about the Islamists, there's the Libyan Fighting Group which is a well established and old group and most people refer to it as al Qaeda because it is al Qaeda-like and has ties to al Qaeda as well as the CIA, it has ties to the CIA. Now a lot of these people have been caught and they've been giving explanations of foreign support and foreign funding. Yes, there's foreign funding because they're talking about how they've been helped from abroad. And these indigenous forces? There's a lot of foreigners fighting. I'm not talking about security forces or NATO forces, I'm talking about the jihadists coming in from other parts of the world. We have people coming in from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, people who used to be in Afghanistan. And they're part of these forces that are fighting the Libyan military right now.
Kevin Pina: Well Madhi, let me remind our listeners that you're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio and that's the voice of Madhi Nazemroaya who is speaking to us directly from Tripoli, Libya. Mahdi, I guess what I'm getting at is that there was a point where these forces were called "rag tag forces" and then suddenly we heard that there were advisors going in by Britain. We heard that there were advisors coming in from the United States that were assisting them to get their act together. And then there was talk that there was a lot of funding and assistance that were going to these groups. And I'm wondering, can we say that they're really indigenous or is most of this happening because of foreign funding and assistance?
Madhi Nazemroya: Okay, most of this is happening -- This wouldn't have happened without foreign funding and assistance. That's -that's very clear on the ground here and by talking to people who've come from Benghazi and by talking to Libyans in Tripoli, okay? This could -- This would have never been possible. They without even NATO air support without the political support without the financial support without any of that without the media support, this would have never happened. Col Gadhafi's support's gone up in this country. Call him a dictator or not, his support's gone up in this country. And it's very evident when you walk the streets of Tripoli and the district around it that his support has grown. And that's the bulk of the country's population, just to inform your listeners. My sense of the situation, and I also spoke to the pope's envoy in Tripoli days ago, the Bishop of Tripoli. His sense is the same as mine that this country's probably going to be Balkanized and divided in two cause NATO has no way of winning the war and neither do the transitional council forces based in Benghazi. They have no way of winning this conflict. The only thing they can do is make a settlement where the country is divided. Right now, they're pushing to get as much territory as possible and as much oil fields as possible. They're not going to come to Tripoli, I highly doubt it. Unless you see a NATO invasion. And if there's a NATO invasion, there will be a worse blood bath here than there was in Afghanistan or Iraq, that's very sure. The people's spirits are up, they're getting ready, they're training and they have contingeny plans for a ground invasion.
That's an excerpt. Those who don't benefit from streaming options (due to computer operating systems or hearing issues) can find more from Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya in this article, published yesterday, that he wrote about Libya for Global Research.
Out of Iraq this morning comes the news of more US soldiers killed. Ed O'Keefe and Tim Craig (Washington Post) report that 3 US soldiers were killed yesterday making 15 for the month. The reporters tell you 39 US troops have died in Iraq this year. We'll do hard numbers but first, George Prentice (Boise Weekly) notes, " Fifteen American soldiers were killed in June, the highest number of combat fatalities since June 2008, when 23 soldiers and Marines were killed."

4469 is the number of US military deaths in the Iraq War as yesterday at ten a.m. So add three and you have 4472. (The DoD number does not increase until after DoD announces names of the fallen, FYI.) But the number is "48" (and, again, add 3 to get the current number of 51).

What is that number? What is 51? Well it's not a prime number. But it is the number of US service members killed in Iraq during "Operation New Dawn" you're soaking in it, as Isaiah's September 6th comic noted.
Operation New Dawn began September 1st. Remember why? Barack declared combat over on August 31st. His own little "MISSION ACCOMPLISHED." Barack show boated and, yes, LIED. Since his little photo op, 51 US troops have died in the Iraq War. That would be the war he falsely and wrongly has received credit for ending.

Tim Arrango (New York Times) notes that 15 is the sort of "monthly toll not seen since 2008." Arango notes 14 of the fallen were killed "in hostile incidents." That may be 15. One of the three killed on Sunday was killed, according to what the military told his family, while he was doing a house sweep. That's Sgt Matthew Gallagher and his death is under investigation, according to the military. The Boston Channel (link has text and video) reports Cheryl Ruggiero, his mother, is asking that US Senator John Kerry help the family find out what happened because the military's changed their story, "We're getting bits and pieces from different people and I don't know what to believe. And when it's your child, you want to know." John Basile (Fall River Herald News) cites Capt Matthew Merrill stating that the statements about Matthew Gallagher doing a home sweep were mistaken and that he died "inside the wire".

Again, the Iraq War is not over. Many people wrongly believe it is and not just due to the pretty words of Barack but due to a media that's refused to cover Iraq. We'll come back to that but let's yet again note the memo AP Deputy Managing Editor for Standards and Production Tom Kent sent out at the start of September 2010 (following Barack's 'combat's over, boys and girls!' speech):

Whatever the subject, we should be correct and consistent in our description of what the situation in Iraq is. This guidance summarizes the situation and suggests wording to use and avoid.
To begin with, combat in Iraq is not over, and we should not uncritically repeat suggestions that it is, even if they come from senior officials. The situation on the ground in Iraq is no different today than it has been for some months. Iraqi security forces are still fighting Sunni and al-Qaida insurgents. Many Iraqis remain very concerned for their country's future despite a dramatic improvement in security, the economy and living conditions in many areas.

As for U.S. involvement, it also goes too far to say that the U.S. part in the conflict in Iraq is over. President Obama said Monday night that "the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over, and the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country."

However, 50,000 American troops remain in country. Our own reporting on the ground confirms that some of these troops, especially some 4,500 special operations forces, continue to be directly engaged in military operations. These troops are accompanying Iraqi soldiers into battle with militant groups and may well fire and be fired on.
In addition, although administration spokesmen say we are now at the tail end of American involvement and all troops will be gone by the end of 2011, there is no guarantee that this will be the case.
Our stories about Iraq should make clear that U.S. troops remain involved in combat operations alongside Iraqi forces, although U.S. officials say the American combat mission has formally ended. We can also say the United States has ended its major combat role in Iraq, or that it has transferred military authority to Iraqi forces. We can add that beyond U.S. boots on the ground, Iraq is expected to need U.S. air power and other military support for years to control its own air space and to deter possible attack from abroad.
Unless there is balancing language, our content should not refer to the end of combat in Iraq, or the end of U.S. military involvement. Nor should it say flat-out (since we can't predict the future) that the United States is at the end of its military role.

It's a shame more outlets couldn't follow the AP's lead.

Most can't even follow Iraq. Like Diane Sawyer. Long before ABC World News Tonight airs this evening, the news is 3 US soldiers die in Iraq. Will Diane cover it? Not likely. When 5 US soldiers died in a single attack on June 5th (the death toll rose to six when a soldier injured in the attack died days later), World News Tonight couldn't tell you because they just don't give a damn about Iraq (they were all over Anthony Weiner that night and George Steph had to inform the world that Katie Couric would be joining ABC News in the not-to-soon future -- either of those stories could have been trimmed to allow time to note the death -- and to be clear, Katie didn't participate in the in-house announcement George tried to pass off as news). Will she continue her month long pattern of ignoring Iraq this evening? You could turn into a drinking game, I suppose, but if you're wanting news this evening on the deaths, you're better off tuning into CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley or NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams -- both anchors have made a point to cover the news out of Iraq this month while Diane Sawyer's spent June attempting to turn World News Tonight into The View: Almost Prime Time. Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) pens something that I'm having a difficult time characterizing as anything other than a whine. Supposedly writing about the Iraq War he offers:
The war itself feels all but ignored by the general public here at home. On the desk at the Monitor, Internet traffic is our lifeblood and we follow how many "hits" individual stories receive. For at least a year now, it's felt like all our Iraq stories – whether features with strong, unique reporting; analysis pieces on the security situation; or simply straightforward accounts of a major bombing or political meeting – can't get any traction at all.
Let me break the news to Dan: Your paper and website do a lousy job. Lousy.
We get stronger reports from Jane Arraf via Al Jazeera than from the Christian Science Monitor. I doubt that anything in the last year from the paper has gotten anywhere near the hits that Arraf's occassional piece for the paper has. The Monitor has a lousy reputation when it come to Iraq and that didn't happen yesterday or last year. That has been throughout the Iraq War.
Sam Dagher made a name for himself at the New York Times (and then went on to the Wall St. Journal where I don't think he's done a good job at all). Long before the Times, Dagher was writing for the Christian Science Monitor. They do not know how to play their Iraq stories, writers have to write down when writing about Iraq, it's pathetic. Throughout the Iraq War that's been the case. Now once upon a time -- before the last ten years -- the Christian Science Monitor prided itself on having no bias in its reporting. Some of the watering down required for Iraq reporting results from that and that can be seen as a good thing. But it's clear that a writer like Anthony Shadid would never become Anthony Shadid at the Christian Science Monitor. They don't build stars or names at the paper.
When they ended up with one by accident, Jill Carroll, they showed how easily they could destroy a reporter. Carroll was kidnapped in Iraq at the start of 2006. She was held hostage for about three months. She did strong reporting for several outlets (she was a free lancer) and her work for the Christian Science Monitor had sparkle but not like her writing for other outlets (her work for the San Francisco Chronicle during this same period was far superior to her work for the Monitor). But she was kidnapped. And when she was released she had a story. Only the Christian Science Monitor could screw up her story. No one else would have been that stupid. At the very least, a backward publication would have thought, "Lifetime movie" (woman survives!). But instead it was play Carroll up as a victim and pathetic and pitiful. That's how that coverage came across. And part of the reason she's not a reporter now has to do with her having to take part in that covergae. Jill Carroll is and was a strong woman. Was what happened to her terrifying? Yes, it was a nightmare. And she survived it. None of the other journalists kidnapped in Iraq was turned into a victim by their outlet. And Jill Carroll wasn't the only woman kidnapped. The Committee to Protect Journalists counts 44 male journalists kidnapped in Iraq from 2003 through 2009 and 12 women. The most famous female kidnapping was that of Italy's Giuliana Sgrena who was kidnapped in 2005 and held for a month (her country negotiated her release). She was injured in a shooting . . . by the US military. There was no attempt to portray Giuliana as a victim. Even when she had trouble speaking early on (due to being shot and it effecting her breathing), she presented herself and was presented by others as a strong, brave journalist. There was something creepy and sick about the way the Christian Science Monitor portrayed Jill Carroll (again, Carroll is a strong woman and I am not insulting her, I am referring to the way the paper presented her). Rebecca called it out in real time. And good for her. I should have but felt like I was drawing attention to it if I did. As Rebecca observed of the paper's 'coverage' of Carroll:
this is the sort of thing you go on oprah and talk about it. it's not really what a reporter who wants to be known as a reporter writes about. when you are the story, you become a personality.
[. . .]
i think she got some bad advice and i thinkher paper (christian science monitor) felt this was a way to drive up interest. i don't know that it does anything for her as a reporter.
Now not only was the paper reducing her to a victim -- "Tuesday's victim, come, witness the tragedy" -- but she was also being attacked and the paper was no help there either. John F. Burns (New York Times) wrote a piece basically blaming her for the kidnapping and whining about how it requires so much work to free a kidnap victim in Iraq. (As we noted at Third, no work on the part of the US military appears to have been required for Carroll's release and if it had been, oh well.) John F. Burns never went anywhere in Iraq without armed bodyguards unless he was embedded with the US military. Jill Carroll was a freelance writer who didn't have the luxury of bodyguards -- armed or unarmed. The treatment of Jill Carroll, by the paper, did a lot to further decrease interest in anything the Christian Science Monitor could publish on Iraq.
Jill Carroll is the paper's most famous Iraq reporter and it's not for the work she did, it's for the way the paper portrayed her (a negative portrayal in my mind). Ellen Knickmeyer, Thomas E. Ricks, Damien Cave, Alissa J. Rubin, Sabrina Tavernise, Nancy A. Youssef, Leila Fadel, Lara Jakes, Rebecca Santana, Ned Parker, Alexandra Zavis, Tina Susman, Deborah Amos, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Stephanie McCrummen, Anna Badkhen, Robert Collier and many others built up a reputation as a result of their Iraq work. Does no one else notice that you don't have a Christian Science Monitor discovery on that list? Again, Sam Dagher did work for them but he only made a mark when he was working for the New York Times. Jane Arraf's reports lift the paper but if they gave her more freedom and didn't force her into "Christian Science Monitor style," she'd be doing a lot stronger work (as she currently is for Al Jazeera and PRI's The World).
Equally true, the Christian Science Monitor runs with whatever Barack Obama says. There's not Tom Kent at the paper saying, "Things are still dangerous in Iraq, just because the president says . . ." And that makes their articles laughable including Dan Murphy's. You don't know that US forces are all withdrawing on December 31, 2011. It hasn't happened yet. The paper should be an independent voice. Instead, it's seen as a play toy for the editorial staff that wants to feel part of the beltway.
Here's a little story the Christian Science Monitor doesn't like told, their daily paper? They killed it. Their own actions. Their own business model. They were aware of the problem in 2003 and ignored it. In 2003, with the Iraq War impending or just starting, people were looking for independent news sources. Many contacted the Christian Science Monitor -- by phone, by e-mail, by letter -- about how to subscribe. Specifically, how much was the weekly rate. From January through April 2004, these people were repeatedly informed of a special rate (I believe for six weeks -- and I first heard this story from a friend with Knight-Ridder but heard it from other outlets as well and have seen some of the e-mail replies due to a friend -- editor NYT -- hearing about the issue and e-mailing them near daily as a private joke). Okay, but after the special rate, how much will it cost?
That's a fairly easy answer. Or it should be. But the Christian Science Monitor couldn't provide it, wouldn't provide it. Repeatedly. Over and over for four months. They lost a ton of potential subscribers. People knew the paper would be mailed to them (by snail mail) and would arrive after the news was 'dated' but they were interested in an independent resource. Instead of using that moment to build the paper's base, the circulation staff refused to answer the question and people went elsewhere. That's what killed the daily print version of the Christian Science Monitor and it was no one's fault but their own. They could have seen their circulation soar; however, they were repeatedly unable to tell potential subscribers how much it would cost to subscribe to the paper (after the six week 'special' offer expired).
And if Dan Murphy wants to increase "hits" for Iraq stories at CSM, he might try having more stories like the one he wrote this evening -- in fact, the paper could carve out its own niche just by covering the protests. Human Rights Watch remains the best non-Iraqi source for coverage of the protests due to HRW's coverage of all the violence that the protesters experience. (The Great Iraqi Revolution remains the best Iraqi source for coverage of the protests.) Today HRW issues a finding which includes:
Iraqi authorities should order a prompt and impartial inquiry into the role of state security forces in attacks by pro-government gangs against peaceful demonstrators in Baghdad on June 10, 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. The groups of mainly young men, armed with wooden planks, knives, iron pipes, and other weapons, beat and stabbed peaceful protesters and sexually molested female demonstrators, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.
In the days following the attack, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 25 demonstrators who said they were punched, beaten with sticks or other weapons, or stabbed during the June 10 assault. Human Rights Watch observed and witnesses said that security forces stood by and watched in several instances. Several organizers told Human Rights Watch that the attacks have had a severe chilling effect on people exercising their right to peaceful assembly. In the two Friday demonstrations since then, on June 17 and 24, many regular protesters and organizers have stopped attending the demonstration, mainly because of fear of attacks, they said.
"Instead of protecting peaceful demonstrators, Iraqi soldiers appear to be working hand in hand with the thugs attacking them," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The Iraqi government needs to investigate why the security forces stood by and watched as thugs beat and sexually molested protesters - and take action against those who did so."
Two separate Defense Ministry sources told Human Rights Watch that a ministerial order authorized more than 150 plainclothes security forces from both the police and army to infiltrate the June 10 protests. The sources indicated that the government was worried about increased numbers of demonstrators on that date because the 100-day period for improvements that Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki had promised in February would have ended.
During the attacks, four government supporters, some carrying planks and chasing after demonstrators, identified themselves to Human Rights Watch as members of Iraqi security forces. Two others showed Human Rights Watch concealed Interior Ministry police ID badges.
"It's not every day that thugs with clubs flash their police IDs at us," Stork said. "The government needs to find out who was responsible for the assaults and punish them appropriately."
It's amazing how HRW has had to stand alone on this issue. In part because few paid attention but it's also true that a number of people and outlets did and they chose -- and continue to choose -- to be silent.
As noted yesterday, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, just back in Baghdad after a diplomatic visit to the US, allegedly floated the idea of a Sunni region in Iraq. It has created a firestorm. Al Mada runs a descriptive or charged headline proclaiming Nujaifi "set off a bomb" and they rush to quote State Of Law which is in such a tizzy they don't even have time to pimp prepared statements on the murder of Ali al-Lami's brother yesterday. (Remember how State Of Law tried to turn Ali al-Lami's death into a week-long tragedy?) State of Law's Abdul Ilah Naieli not only attacks the notion of a Sunni region, he insists that it could cause instability resulting in the US keeping troops in the country "longer". He calls Nujaifi's statement's strange but that would apply to Naieli's own statements. Hadar Ibrahim (AK News) adds MP Izzat al-Shabandar has collected signatures ("over 110," he says) to demand Nujaifi answer questions before Parliament. Aswat al-Iraq runs with the Ninewa Province rejects the proposal -- really? The whole province? A proposal floated yesterday? It was determined the entire province rejects it how? That's some polling. Aswat al-Iraq notes that Nujaifi denies having floated the idea and they quote him stating, "I can't accept the establishment of Regions on sectarian basis, but they can be set up on geographic basis, but not now; and I did not call for that during my visit to Washington."

Turning to Iraqi oil and, no, we're not interested in the "in two years, we'll meet . ." storylines. Iraq's pimped that claim every year of the war. But Iraq is leaving UN receivership status which Caroline Alexander and Nayla Razzouk (Bloomberg News) leaves open new issues: "The expiration today of United Nations protection of Iraq's oil revenue from creditors seeking damages stemming from Saddam Hussein's 1990 invasion of Kuwait may make the assets vulnerable to seizure, exacerbating tensions between the two countries." Kuwait is owed millions and would be the most obvious challenge; however, it is far from the only country claiming to be owed money. The US cancelled Iraq's debt in 2004 (over $4 billion) as did many other Western nations. Today the United Nations Security Council's President Alfred Moungara Moussotsi issued the following statement:
The members of the Security Council welcomed the Government of Iraq's assumption of full autonomy over the proceeds of the Development Fund for Iraq as of 1 July 2011.
The members of the Security Council welcomed the Government of Iraq's establishment of a successor arrangement for the transition of the Development Fund for Iraq, consistent with resolution 1956 (2010).
The members of the Security Council noted that, in this regard, oversight of the full proceeds from the Development Fund for Iraq has been transferred from the International Advisory and Monitoring Board to the Government of Iraq's Committee of Financial Experts, which will exercise authority, in accordance with its terms of reference approved by Iraq's Council of Ministers.
The members of the Security Council reiterated their welcome of the ongoing efforts and commitment by the Government of Iraq to ensure that oil revenue is used in the interests of the Iraqi people, and to ensure that transition arrangements remain consistent with the Constitution and with international best practices in respect of transparency, accountability and integrity.
The members of the Security Council underscored the importance of Iraq's continued compliance with relevant resolutions, including paragraph 21 of resolution 1483 (2003) and resolution 1956 (2010).
Meanwhile Hemin Baban Rahim (Rudaw) reports on the oil industry:


In an interview with Rudaw, Iraqi member of parliament and former head of the parliamentary committee for gas and oil, Nuraddin al-Hiyali criticized the Iraqi oil policies, describing it as "unclear". Al-Hiyali also said that the Iraqi government has failed in running the country's oil sector properly.
"It is an unclear policy," he said. "The Iraqi government has failed to manage the oil sector of Iraq."
Regarding Kurdistan's oil contracts, al-Hiyali said that the oil companies benefit from those contracts more than anyone else.
"A big portion of the oil income goes into the pocket of the foreign companies," said al-Hayali.
Up to now, the Iraqi parliament has not ratified its oil and gas law and al-Hiyali attributes this to huge disputes over the details of the draft law. He admitted that neighboring countries are also a cause for this delay.

Al Rafidayn notes that the town of Nasinriyah is facing a large influx of counterfeit dinars. Also facing a large influx is Iraq's beleaguered health care system. Dahr Jamail reports for Al Jazeera:

"The hospital is crowded, the medical staff are overloaded, and we are deficient of medical staff because doctors continue to leave Iraq," Dr Yehiyah Karim, a general surgeon at Baghdad Medical City, told Al Jazeera, "There is still the targeting of doctors."

Dr Karim said that many Iraqi doctors are continuing to flee the country because kidnappings and assassinations are ongoing problems. Since the US invasion in 2003, doctors and other professionals in Iraq have been targets of these crimes in staggering numbers.

According to the Brookings Institute, prior to the US-led invasion in 2003, Iraq had 34,000 registered physicians. It is estimated 20,000 of those have left the country, and between 2007 and April 2009 only 1,525 had returned.

"Many doctors are still leaving the country because we are in danger," Dr Karim, whose hospital is the largest medical center in the country, added. "Last week we had three doctors kidnapped in Kirkuk. Following this, doctors there didn't go to work for two days. We always feel insecure about our safety."
Prolonged violence in a country tends to create a health crisis all by itself. Reuters notes today's violence includes 1 police officer shot dead outside his Kirkuk home and 1 "North Oil Company employee" shot dead in Kirkuk with another person left injured. Aswat al-Iraq reports 1 Iraqi military officer and a police officer were attacked (shooting) in Baghdad and left injured, a luggage train bombing (train had left Baghdad and was headed to Salahal-Din Province) resulted in two people being wounded, a Baghdad bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier with four more left wounded, and, dropping back to last night, 1 Ministry of Sciences and Technology employee was killed in a Baghdad bombing and his son was injured.

Meanwhile Dar Addustour reports that Ali Khamenei's criticism of an alleged deal in Parliament (already made) to keep US forces in Iraq beyond 2011 has resuled in an MP stating that some leaders of political blocs have already promised the US that they will support the extension and Tareq al-Hashemi (one of Iraq's vice presidents) is quoted stating that the focus on the agreement is taking attention away from more serious matters such as the continued lack of ministers to head the security ministries (Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of National Security). Basra had a local council resolution last week that it would not house US forces beyong 2011. How binding that decision is or isn't is probably something Nouri will refer to the Supreme Court. But Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) reports that the al-Sadr bloc is now targeting 10 provincial councils to do as Basra did.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

4 men, 2 women

Today the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) featured these guests: Carroll Doherty, Michele Swers and Reid Wilson. The second hour: Derrick Harkins, Susan Page and Samuel Lloyd.

Seth Myers and Donald Trump are still not friends. I don't blame Trump. Seth's not funny to begin with (he sucks on Weekend Update) and there was Seth at the little DC dinner sucking up to Barack and trashing Trump. Seth's just a little baby.


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


Wednesday, June 29, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, talk of Iraq developing a Sunni region is shot down, officials are repeatedly targeted in today's violence, Iraq is discussed in the US at a Senate Subcommittee, and more.
Starting with this on veterans employment from Senator Patty Murray's office:
Chairman Murray Applauds Committee Passage of Landmark Veterans Employment Legislation
Having unanimously passed the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, the bill will now go to the full Senate for consideration

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, applauded the unanimous passage of her landmark veterans employment bill, the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011 (S. 951) through the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. Chairman Murray's bill is the first of its kind to require broad job skills training for all service members returning home and comes at a time when more than one in four veterans aged 20-24 are unemployed. In addition to providing new job skills training to all service members, the bill will also create new direct federal hiring authority so that more service members have jobs waiting for them the day they leave the military, and will improve veteran mentorship programs in the working world.

Having unanimously passed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, the bill will now go to the full Senate for consideration.
Read Senator Murray's statement about the passage below:
"With today's passage, this critical legislation moves one step closer to providing veterans with the broad job skills training and support they need to break down barriers to employment. For the first time, this comprehensive bill will require service members to learn how to translate the skills they learned in the military into the working world. It will also ensure that more veterans have jobs waiting for them when they leave the military by streamlining the path to private and federal employment.
"Our veterans sacrificed greatly to fight for our freedoms and they shouldn't have to fight for jobs when they return home. I'm hopeful that this legislation will quickly make its way before the full Senate, and I look forward to fighting for it when it does."
Senator Murray has long championed veterans and her bill should be passed quickly by the full Senate.
Turning now to the wars that produce the veterans (the wars also produce the fallen).
Cynthia McKinney: Congress must exercise its authority and reign in this president. [Applause.] If this president proceeds -- now we already know that this president is guilty of committing war crimes. [Applause.] We know that. Now if having oral sex is an impeachable crime certainly war crimes and crimes against humanity are also impeachable crimes. [Applause.] Ignoring the War Powers Act and the Constitution is an impeachable crime. If President Obama refuses to heed public opinion in the United States -- 60% of which is against the involvement against Libya -- if he is determined to violate the Constitution and violate the War Powers Act and defy Congress, I'm hoping that we will bring enough pressure to bear on our members of Congress that they will follow the House and, in the Senate, also vote to cut off the funding for this NATO operation. [Applause.] Because of what NATO is doing in Libya, what we're seeing is the Israel-ization of NATO policy against the people of Libya. Whether it's collective punishment -- NATO now is refusing to allow food, fuel and medicine to come in as they bomb people and hurt people, NATO is refusing to allow Libya to import the necessary medicine. That too is against international law. That makes our president's actions also criminal in the collective punishment that is being visited on the Libyan people. They can't even fish in their own territorial waters because NATO is stopping that. Sounds a lot like Gaza, doesn't it?
The Libyan War was also addressed this week on Law and Disorder Radio (began broadcasting at 9:00 am EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week). Attorneys and hosts Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) discussed Libya and other topics during the opening of the show. And, FYI, Michael Ratner and Margaret Ratner Kunstler are the authors of the new book Hell No, Your Right To Dissent. Also Michael Ratner and Heidi Boghosian read from the column that Michael Ratner and Margaret Ratner Kunstler have written (The Progressive) about the current war on protest and dissent in the US. Excerpt:
Michael S. Smith: Michael, Heidi, there's been a lot of ink spilled over Obama overstepping legal authority with the war in Libya. And Michael, you've litigated this question on the War Powers Act. What's your take on it?
Michael Ratner: We should first say that, as hosts, we're against this war to begin with, apart from the legality, that this is just another US imperialistic war in the Middle East. I mean, whatever we think about that. But, in addition, what's come out lately is that it's flatly illegal and the administration is fighting an illegal war. I wrote an op-ed on this way back at the end of March that this was an unconstitutional war because it was attacking another country and under the Constitution you have to get the consent of Congress. He didn't. Since then, of course, the War Powers Resolution has clicked in. That's the resolution that was passed in the wake of the Vietnam War. And it was passed for a particular reason: Congress was afraid that presidents would continue to go to war without their consent and so they built an automatic trigger into the War Powers Resoultion saying that 60 days after the president initiated a war, for whatever reason, whatever basis, if it didn't have explicit Congressional consent, the troops had to automatically be withdrawn. I say that again: automatically be withdrawn within 30 days after the 60-day time clock expires. So that's 90 days. There shouldn't be any attack on Libya going on that the United States is involved in at all -- not involved in coordination, not involved in helping with the radar, not involved in helping send its own missiles -- which it's still doing, not involved in bombing -- which it's still doing. So the 90 days are over. The war started over 90 days ago. And there's now been a big debate in the administration with Obama saying, 'I'm not violating the War Powers Resolution. There's no hostilities. We haven't entered into hostilities.' I mean, it doesn't pass the straight-face test. I mean, it's ridiculous. It's a total lie. And what's sad about it, of course, is that he got advice from the administration official lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel --
Michael S. Smith: And the Pentagon.
Michael Ratner: And the Pentagon which -- the OLC actually is authoritative on the law with the president. Yes, he can override it, but it's authoritative. Very rarely over-ridden. Then he went to some other people at the State Dept and elsewhere -- including Harold Koh -- who I used to work with very closely. And they give him the opposite opinion. They said, 'Oh, no. There's no violation of the War Powers Resoultion here.' And Obama, to the American people, with a straight face, has the nerve to say, "We're not violating the War Powers Resolution." So now you see them scrambling around in Congress -- you know, [Dennis] Kuccinich and some Republicans -- saying 'let's cut off all the funding for this war.' They never actually funded the war. That's another interesting point. Obama took the money from some raw defense dept budget. He didn't even use specific funding for the war.
Michael S. Smith: That's utterly unconstitutional. The Constitution [says the Congress] is supposed to have the power of purse and since war is so important they're supposed to fund them or not fund them.
Michael Ratner: Right and I was asked this morning, about how do you compare Obama and Bush on the war? Well whatever you thought of the resolution authorizing -- 'authorizing' -- the war in Afghanistan or the war in Iraq, there was at least resolutions. I mean there isn't one for Libya. And now you see the great scene is to see [John] Kerry, our former presidential candidate who, you'll recall, when he ran for president saluted the Democratic Convention saying, "Reporting for duty" to show that even though he was against the Vietnam War after the fact, that he was still a figher. Well he proved he's still a fighter. He's now joined by [John] McCain at the hip to say, 'Now let's pass a resolution authorizing the war.' So here you go, the president does an unconstitutional war, he violates the War Powers Resolution and then, of course, exactly what the problem was in Vietnam, you're seeing with a war going on, Congress is saying, 'Well we can't abandon our troops in the field, we can't abandon our troops in the air, our credibility is at stake if we abandon NATO. The same BS we've heard forever. So underneath it, and it's the only analysis that counts, is this is one of a half-dozen imperial wars the US is fighting. And, as someone once said to me, "If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail." In the US, the world looks like a bunch of nails that it can just hit around when it gets into a problem.
Michael S. Smith: I think the other point is whether it's Bush or whether it's Obama, whether it's a Republican, whether it's a Democrat, that certain necessities of empire that these guys follow regardless of what party they're in or what promises they make when they're running for office.
Michael Ratner: I think that's right. I mean, you always tell me about there's two capitalist parties --
Michael S. Smith: One party with two wings.
Michael Ratner: Right, so this is, you know, we have one War Party really, the question is are there even two wings?
We'll stop there but I do love what Ratner says next. From the illegal Libyan War to the never-ending Afghanistan War, Bill Van Auken (WSWS) observes Barack and Richard Nixon:
In our response to the Obama speech, the World Socialist Web Site stated: "The plan announced by Obama will spell an escalation rather than a reduction in the bloodshed in Afghanistan. The aim is to carry out a military offensive over this summer and the next in an attempt to militarily crush the popular opposition to US occupation. To the extent that the withdrawal affects firepower available to US commanders, it will inevitably lead to the use of more air strikes and drone missile attacks and, as a result, an even greater number of civilian casualties."
The opinion piece drafted by Rose provides added confirmation to this assessment.
Both the author of this piece and the publication that he edits are worth examining. Foreign Affairs, the organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, has long served as a public forum for debating foreign policy issues within the US political establishment. It is the same magazine where Henry Kissinger, then a private citizen, first advanced views on Vietnam that would subsequently be embraced by Nixon after his 1969 inauguration.
As for Rose, he is described by the magazine as an expert on international conflict, terrorism and economic sanctions. He was a Middle East advisor on the National Security Council during the Clinton administration, helping craft the sanctions regime against Iraq estimated to have claimed the lives of over half a million Iraqi children.
And if Barack's Tricky Dick, Tom Hayden's Rose Mary Woods because his revisionary and 'creative' interpretation of Barack's speech creates its own highly edited response and we long to see him demonstrate the Rose Mary Wood stretch. David Walsh (WSWS) observes, "Hayden makes entirely unwarranted claims about the so-called withdrawal plan and then attributes the 'de-escalation' to pressure from a 'peace movement' that is largely the product of his imagination." Ivan Eland (Antiwar.com) also sees Richard Nixon when he looks at Barack:
Richard Nixon faced the same dilemma presiding over the lost Vietnam War. In 1971, he wanted to withdraw U.S. forces from South Vietnam until Henry Kissinger reminded him that the place would likely fall apart in 1972, the year Nixon was up for reelection. To avoid this scenario, Nixon unconscionably delayed a peace settlement until 1973, thus trading more wasted American lives for his reelection.
Obama appears to be up to the same thing. A phased withdrawal of 33,000 U.S. troops before the election will push back at Republican candidates' demands for more rapid withdrawal and signal to the conflict-fatigued American public that he is solving the problem, while leaving 70,000 forces to make sure the country doesn't collapse before that election. Again, American lives will be needlessly lost so that a slick politician can look his best at election time.
WTVB reports on a new report from Brown University on the financial costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and the drone war in Pakistan which finds that $2.3 trillion dollars have already been spent in the last ten years on these wars. Reuters explains that the three wars have resulted in "between 224,475 and 257,655 deaths." Alex Sundby (CBS News) adds, "However, one of the project's co-directors told Reuters that the Pentagon's tally of troops who died from the wars should include those who come home and commit suicide or die in car accidents." And Tim Mak (POLITICO) offers that "the report asserts that conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will continue through the decade, adding to both financial and human costs." John Glaser (Antiwar.com) provides another aspect of these costs, the return:
It's also worth contemplating what the return on the investment was. It has been helpful to the expansion of the American Empire and has put dough in the pockets of the military industry, but the notion that Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are more stable countries than they were ten years ago is almost laughable. Iraq's "government, economy, legal systems, and basic services like electricity and water remain unstable," corruption is widespread, sectarian and insurgency-based violence is again on the rise, and governance there is slipping towards dictatorship with the Maliki government harassing media outlets who speak ill of him, harsh repression and crackdowns of Arab Spring protesters, and a closed political system. Afghanistan is in ruins: it is one of the poorest, most corrupt nations in the world, nation building efforts are failing, violence and civilian deaths keep hitting record-setting highs, and the U.S. is in an unending and dangerous quagmire there. Pakistan is increasingly unstable with rife poverty and corruption, pockets of extremists in the autonomous tribal regions are very strong, well over 1,000 civilians, and possibly a few thousand have been killed by Predator drones, and the dictatorial government relies on U.S. aid in the billions to even function at all.
With those kind of numbers, you might think people would be wisely pulling up and pulling out of these costly and deadly wars; however, Xinhua (link has text and audio) reports 55 soldiers from Fiji are being deployed to Iraq, increasing their total number in Iraq to 278. The Fiji Times cites a statement from the Ministry of Information stating that the deployment was made at the request of the United Nations.

Eight years after the start of the illegal war and the installation of exiles into a puppet government in occupied Iraq, there's little that can pass for 'progress' and "political stagnation" has become the watchword. Will US troops remain in Iraq? The issue, Al Mada reports, is little more than a "political pressure card" within Iraq used by various blocs in various ways. A political scientist at Baghdad University tells Al Mada that he fears that politicians are not factoring in what's best for Iraq but how to posture on the issue. Aswat al-Iraq adds that US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met and Talabani's office issued a statement which includes: "The bilateral relations between the Republic of Iraq and the United States were discussed in the meeting, and necessity for their expansion and development, especially the bilateral future cooperation, within the Strategic Agreement, concluded between the two friendly countries."
What the White House wants is an extension of the SOFA or a new agreement which would allow US troops to stay on the ground in Iraq beyond 2011 and under the US Defense Dept. If that is not possible, the plan is to take the troops remaining in Iraq and slide them under the umbrella of the US State Dept in which case their presence is covered under the Strategic Framework Agreement of 2008. Ed O'Keefe does the "Federal Eye" beat for the Washington Post. For the next several weeks, he is in Iraq. This morning, he Tweeted:
edatpost edatpost
In his article on this issue he explained that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, in a GAO Office report, "acknowledged it is not designed to assume the military's mission in Iraq and will have to rely on its own resources and the assistance of the host country to protect the U.S. mission in the absence of the funding, personnel, equipment, and protection formerly provided by the U.S. military." He was referring to the report entitled [PDF format warning] "Expanded Missions and Inadequate Facilities Pose Critical Challenges to Training Efforts." The report stood as prepared remarks by GAO's Jess Ford as he appeared this afternoon before the Senate's Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Federal Workforce and DC. Senator Daniel Akaka is the Subcomittee Chair. He noted, "This Subcommittee held a hearing in 2009 to examine staffing and management challenges at the State Dept's Diplomatic Security Bureau which protects State Dept employees and property worldwide. Today's hearing will build on the previous hearing, as well as examine the results of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of Diplomatic Security training challenges."
There were two panels. Ford was on the first panel with the State Dept's Eric J. Boswell. The second panel was Susan R. Johnson of the American Foreign Service Association. We'll excerpt this from the first panel.
Subcommittee Chair Daniel Akaka: My question to you, what planning is underway to make sure DS [State Dept's Diplomatic Security] will be able to be prepared to protect diplomats and US civilian personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan as the military withdraws?
Ambassador Eric Boswell: Mr. Chairman, thank you for that question. We are engaged -- we the Dept of State and DS -- are engaged in a marathon of planning. I think that's the right way to describe it. It's probably -- The planning for the transition in Iraq is probably the most complex planning effort ever undertaken by the State Dept and perhaps one of the most complicated civilian planning efforts ever undertaken by the US government. We've been working on it for years. We think we have a very good planning strategy and we think we have a good plan and the short answer to your question, sir, is that I think that we will be able to be in a position to provide the security for our people in Iraq after December 31st of this year when all US troops will be gone from the country. Having said that, as I said, it's a very, very complex and difficult task. We are going to be dramatically increasing the number of security personnel at post in Iraq. And we will be increasing also the use of contractors in part for some of the things you mentioned and Mr. Ford mentioned, certain functions and activities that are not mainstream State Dept functions and were we are taking over functions now provided by the US military. We think we've got the structure in place to do it. I'l -- I-I-I should make the point that combat operations in Iraq ceased over a year ago, US military combat operations in Iraq ceased over a year ago. We have been providing security to our very large US embassy in Baghdad for over a year without any assistance from the military beyond certain very specialized funtions and we expect to be able to continue to do so. You asked about Afghanistan also, sir. Obviously, we are not there yet, there is not a transition yet. The president has just announced the beginning of a drawdown in Afghanistan but I can assure you that we have learned a lot in the planning process for Iraq and we will apply those lessons in Afghanistan.
Subcommittee Chair Daniel Akaka: Thank you. Ambassador, as the military withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan -- later Afghanistan -- DS will provide certain security and protective services that the military is performing now such as downed aircraft recovery and explosive ordinance disposal; however, the military provides many services such as intelligence collection and providing a visible deterrence in ways that DS cannot. How will the loss of these important capabilities effect the way DS provides security in Iraq and Afghanistan? And is DS equipped to handle all of the functions it will be asked to assume?
Ambassador Eric Boswell: Uhm, senator, Mr. Chairman, I was in Iraq several years ago and the security situation in Iraq now, I think it's fair to say, is infinitely better then it was at the worst of times: 2005 to 2007. You are right, sir, in saying that certain key functions of the US military will be absent. They can't be replaced by DS -- notably, uh -uh, counter-rocket fire. We are not an offensive unit in DS. Some intelligence functions as well. We are going -- As Iraq normalizes as a nation, we are going to rely as we do in most countries on the Iraqi forces and the Iraqi police for these functions to the maximum extent that we can.
Subcommittee Chair Daniel Akaka: Well, Mr. Ford, in 2009, GAO recommended that State conduct a security review of diplomatic security's mission, budget and personnel as part of State's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. While State agreed with the recommendation, the QDDR did not include this strategic review. Will you please discuss how inadequate the stategic planning may effect DS operations?
Jess Ford: Uh, yeah, Mr. Chairman, let me respond to that. First of all, I can say that we were disappointed that the QDDR did not take a more strategic look at DS operations. Our 2009 report suggested that DS has been required to expand a number of missions that it's asked to support by the Dept overall and that they're often put into what I would characterize as a reactionary posture which we don't think is good from a planning point of view and our goal of that 2009 was that the Dept would take a longer look at DS and come up with a more strategic way of asessing needs, resources and requirements. I think I can say that our current report which is focused on the training parts of DS suggests that there still seems in my mind to be a gap here.
Asked about the use of security contractors, Boswell insisted this was a must, that multiple studies demonstrated this and he cited his 2007 visit as somehow proof. He then suggested that at some point, as Iraq becomes more 'stable,' they might be able to replace the foreign security contractors with "nationals" (Iraqis) and stated that they currently use "nationals" in Erbil. He also claimed "about eighty" DS employees would be providing contract oversight to ensure that contractors were behaving properly (in his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair Daniel Akaka noted the Nassar Square slaughter in September 2007 by Blackwater mercenaries guarding the State Dept). He noted there were two kinds of security contractors: contract guards and the bodyguards -- contract guards = static guards; bodyguards = protective security details, "the movement people who travel in the motorcades and who run the motorcades."
Meanwhile Iraq has a Kurdish region, some want it to now have a Sunni region. And, no, we're not talking about US Vice President Joe Biden. (Biden favored a federation system for Iraq made up of a Shi'ite region, a Sunni region and a Kurdish region.) Al Mada reports that while Osama al-Nujaifi (Speaker of Parliament) has long supported (that's their call, I have no idea whether he's long supporter it or not) a centralized Iraq, he's now begun talking about a Sunni region. The Secretary-General of the Justice and Reform Movement, Abdul Hamidi al-Yawar, finds the idea distressing and claims it will add to the tensions. Aswat al-Iraq quotes Hussein al-Muayad stating, "The Iraqi people, with all their fraternal components, strongly reject any step to ignore the national principles, mainly the unity of Iraq. Sunnis in Iraq understand well that their real and active existence can't be achieved through projects of secession and division, but through cohesion towards Iraq's unity." Alsumaria TV carries the response from Iraqiya:

"Al Iraqiya stands firmly against any attempt to strip down Iraq through despicable sectarian motives", Iraqiya official spokeswoman Maysoun Al Damlouji said in a statement which Alsumarianews obtained a copy of.
"Marginalizing citizens is not restricted to a specified province. Bad services, unemployment and poverty affect all people while the only beneficiaries of Iraq's wealth are a group that does not represent a sect or a rite", she said.

Aswat al-Iraq quotes the Iraqi Republican Gathering stating that this talk is "a dangerous turn that will open regional and international greed."

Why might some feel the need for a Sunni region? They might be concerned, bothered or threatened by the new political landscape in Iraq. From Rawya Rageh's Al Jazeera report (video):
Rawya Rageh: Sheikh Osama al-Tamimi recalls a time when he couldn't pray freely here. The Shi'ite cleric was imprisoned under Saddam for fourteen months for leading worshippers in this Baghdad shrine. But today the Sheikh calls the mosque named after a revered 8th Century Shi'ite figure has emerged into the light. He says thousands of visitors come here to pay their respect to an Imam whose life story exemplifies the suppression of Shia Islam with numbers swelling during an annual festival marking his death.
Sheikh Osama al-Tamimi: We found the freedom to hold our religious rites and rituals and, year on year, there's more creativity and development in commemorating these religious occasions.
Rawya Rageh: Scene like there would have ben unimaginable under Saddam Hussein. Iraq's Shia have been experiencing a renaissance that's enabled them to express their identity openly and proudly and has created a whole new political landscape. For the first time in modern history, Shia have come to power in an Arab country. Their various competing political parties have been predominantly shaping Iraqi politics differences between them at times advancing democracy, other times deadlock.
Turning to today's violence, Reuters notes a military officer with the Ministry of Interior was left wounded in a Baghdad shooting, an employee of the Hajj Commission was injured in a Baghdad shooting, Lt Col Mohammed Abdul Ridha with the Ministry of Defense was injured in a Baghdad shooting, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left seven people injured, a Baghdad bombing injured two people and Ali al-Lami's brother Jamal Faisal was shot dead.
In the US, an Iraq War veteran is facing legal trouble. 26-year-old Elisha Leo Dawkins, Susannah Nesmith (New York Times) reported last week, has been "in federal lockup" for a month with the government planning to deport him because of a passport application and his apparently not being a citizen. His attorney explains that Elisha was raised in this country and led to believe he was a citizen. He was never informed he wasn't. The US military considered him a US citizen and gave him a very high security clearance. The State Dept issued him a passport. Kyle Munzenrieder (Miami New Times) added, "Dawkins applied for a passport in order to serve in Guantánamo. A question on the form asked if he'd ever applied for a passport before. He checked no. That wasn't entirely true. He had begun an application for a passport before deploying to Iraq but never finished the process. That single check on a box is why he now sits behind bars." Carol Rosenberg (Miami Herald) explained, " His lawyer says he grew up fatherless and estranged from his mother, staying with relatives in Miami, believing he was a U.S. citizen. He even obtained a Florida Birth Certificate to get a passport to travel to war as a soldier, with neither the Navy, the Army nor the state of Florida apparently aware of a two-decade-old immigration service removal order issued when he was 8 years old." Today Susannah Nesmith (New York Times) reported that an offer was on the table: Elisha takes an offer of probation and completes the probation, he can then apply for citizenship. (A felony conviction would interfere with the citizenship process. Probation would allow him to avoid a felony conviction.) The judge, Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga, thinks it's a strong offer. Marc Caputo (Miami Herald -- link is text and video) reports US Senator Bill Nelson raised the issue on the Senate floor today and his remarks included:
A federal indictment says the serviceman failed to acknowledge he'd once applied for a passport when filling out a new application - something prosceutors call passport fraud; something his public defender calls an innocent oversight.
Mr. Dawkins now faces up to 10 years in prison, if he's convicted.
All John Dillinger served in prison was 8 ½ years on a conviction for assault and battery with intent to rob and conspiracy to commit a felony.
According to his lawyer, he came to this country from the Bahamas when he was just a kid. His mother brought him here. And he's still not a U.S. citizen....
Mr. President, some have wonder whether passage of the Dream Act might have prevented something like this from happening in the first place. That legislation would grant legal status to some undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children and who join the military. Let's finally pass it.




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