Friday, April 13, 2012

6 men, 1 woman

Friday on Talk of the Nation (NPR), Dan Burbank, Don Pettit, Henry Petroski, Marc Abrahms, Edward O. Wilson, Flora Litchtman and Piotr Naskrecki.


Okay, now for the offensive Hillary Rosen and Bob Somerby.  First off, shut your pie hole, Bob Somerby.  You're no friend to women.  You've repeatedly ripped off C.I. and never once linked to her because you really only slobber over men and probably wouldn't have linked to Digby to begin with if you hadn't thought she was a man to begin with.

You make no efforts to call out sexism and defend Larry Summers and assorted others.  And now you think you can open your sexist mouth and declare that Rosen's remarks were no big deal?

Why don't you shut your mouth when you know nothing.  No one needed to hear from you.  You've never done a damn thing for women and you never will, so just shut up, Bob Somerby, you pompous ass who think you have the right to determine what's important and what's not.

You who, in 2012, still can't shut up about Al Gore.

Guess what?  Al Gore doesn't mean s**t to most of our lives.  Hilary Rosen's comments were offensive and needed to be called out.  You're an idiot and a little boy beating his dick off to fantasies about Al Gore.  Are you unable to find a real profession, Bob Somerby?

Women don't need you.  For your entire online life, you've done s**t to help women.  So just shut your damn mouth.

Ruth and Trina address this better than I can:

Hilary Rosen's remarks were offensive.  I do not stop being a thinking person, capable of discussing the economy or any other issue I want to, because I have children. 

I think Ann Romney was far too kind to Hilary Rosen when she noted that Rosen chose to work and raise children.

HILARY ROSEN DOES NOT HAVE PRIMARY CUSTODY OF THOSE CHILDREN.

I'm sorry, Rosen, you're not raising those children.

If a man and a woman break up and the woman's awarded custody and the man sees the children on weekends and Wednesdays, we don't say he's raising them.

When it's two women who break up and one woman's awarded custody, that's who's raising them.

Hilary Rosen's ex-partner raises her children.  And that's why she won't Meet the Press this weekend, she ended up getting calls today about who is raising the kids?  It's going to be a little harder for Hilary Rosen to claim she's just a mother herself and knows how hard it is to raise kids since she's the weekend parent in this equation.

Hilary Rosen, damn liar.  Bob Somerby, sexist pig.



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


Friday, April 13, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's power-grab leads to more arrests, Nouri's 'promise' not to seek a third term is ignored as a third term is pushed, pilgrims are attacked in Iraq, and more.
As a friend who covers Iraq (but isn't there currently) said of the big news today, "You could say the s**t hit the fan but it seems to do that every week now since US forces left." Since most US forces left. And that's not an argument on my part for the US to send in more troops. It is noting that both Bush and Barack bear responsibility for the problems in Iraq because both administrations supported Nouri al-Maliki. Even after his secret prisons were known, even after the torture was known, even after he consolidated control of the security forces, even after he was rejected by the voters, the White House backed him in 2010. The election results meant that Iraq could have been freed of the US-installed tyrant. But Barack Obama decided to back Nouri. Despite the will of the Iraqi voters as expressed in the March 2010 elections.
Well's it's hit the fan again. Repeatedly today. For context, let's drop back to Tuesday when UN Secretary-General's Specail Envoy Martin Kobler was telling fairy tales to the United Nations Security Council. US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice presided over the meeting.
Martin Kobler: Madam President, it goes without saying that there can be no democracy without free, fair and competative elections. This makes UNAMI's work to provide election support all the more important for consolidating democracy in Iraq. At the request of the Council of Representatives [Parliament], UNAMI has been serving as advisor and observer in the selection process of the board of commission of the Independent High Electoral Commission before the expiration of the current board's term this month. The participation of UNAMI and the NGOs in the selection process is a clear sign to ensure transparency in the process. The final vote and selection of the nine new commissioners -- which was expected by the end of this month -- is unlikely to take place. However, in order to avoid delays in the upcoming elections in the Kurdistan region in September and the provincial elections in early 2013, the Council of Representatives is encouraged to extend the mandate of the current board of commissioners to enable it to initiate preparations for the conduct of those polls.
Oh, what pretty little words. Oh, what pretty little fantasies. Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot:

In more dist[ur]bing power-grab news, Raheem Salman (ioL news) reports, "The head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and one of its members were arrested by police on Thursday on corruption charges, IHED officials said, in the latest apparent move for more government control of independent bodies. Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki won a court ruling in January 2011 that put the IHED and other entities, including the central bank, under cabinet supervision, raising concern over attempts to consolidate power by the Shi'a premier."
Yes, two arrested. Two arrested who were supposed to oversee the upcoming elections in the KRG and in the rest of Iraq. These are provincial elections. The last ones were in 2009 (early 2009 for the bulk of Iraq, the summer for the KRG). And there are no new commissioners in part because UNAMI couldn't get its act together. And now Nouri's arrested two of the commissioners whose terms were supposed to carry over for these upcoming elections.


AP notes that the two are Karim al-Tamimi and the commission's chief Faraj al-Haidari. Yeah, the chief of the commission. Kind of important role, kind of an important person. He and Nouri have a history, of course. Nouri's angered pretty much everyone -- even erstwhile ally Motada al-Sadr -- in his too-long reign. Reuters observes, "Critics fear that the premier may be showing autocratic tendencies in some of his actions and view Maliki's control over key security ministries with suspicion." AFP does a service by explaining the history behind what went down, "There is bad blood between Haidari, a 64-year-old Shia Kurd, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri a-Maliki's State of Law list over his refusal to carry out a national recount after 2010 parliamentary polls, in which the premier's list came in second to rival Iyad Allawi's Iraqiya list."
For those who've forgotten the March 2010 parliamentary elections, they played out like a little psy-ops operations -- in fact, you have to wonder if the US government just provided support on that or if they actively devised the plan?
Nouri is the head of Dawa. It is the political party he belongs to. They are Shi'ites. They had all these plans for the 2010 elections but they hadn't done well enough for Nouri in 2009 (provincial elections). Nouri misread the 2009 results. Dawa wasn't the big problem. The big problem was sectarianism. Iraq's rejected it. That's why a number of sure-thing pre-election announcements were revealed as empty gas baggery once the ballots were counted and the tallies released.
But Nouri lives in a bubble where he convinces himself that he's the fairests of them all and that his enemies are evil Snow Whites. He convinced himself that Dawa was being rejected because, unlike himself, they weren't 'strong.' He was the Iraqi strong-man who had restored order and surely the people loved him for it right? No, he's never been popular with the Iraqi people. In 2006, the US imposed him on Iraq to prevent the popular choice from becoming prime minister.
Convinced that he and he alone knew the right thing to do, he refused to run with Dawa and instead invented State of Law, a political slate headed by him, a slate whose very name would trumpet his 'accomplishment' of ruling Iraq with an iron fist.
A new slate emerged to rival him: Iraqiya. Ayad Allawi is the head. He might not have been the original head. That's not meant as an insult to him, that's just noting that a number of members of Iraqiya were forbidden by Nouri al-Maliki's Justice and Accountability Commission from running. They were (prepare to shudder) terrorists!
Or that's what Nouri and his cronies insisted. Strange, some of them were members of Parliament but now were accused of being unrepetant Ba'athists plotting the return of the Ba'ath Party. Were that true (it wasn't), why not make your allegation and let the people decide?
Probably because Nouri grasped that even the Ba'ath Party was more popular in Iraq than Nouri was. Al Jazeera did their last good reporting on the political issues and divisions with regards to the February and March 2010. They probably had to. The bulk of their viewers are Arabs. Arabs around the world have been outraged by Nouri's actions -- a fact that the US press doesn't like to inform you of. Which is how you get garbage like, most recently, "The Arab League Summit in Baghdad was a huge success!" followed by the whisper of, "Except none of the leaders of major Arab states attended."
The Arab world has seen a very different war than the US has and that includes not just who gought and who died but also the political policies and witch hunts that the US press has largely ignored. The US press pretends that Arab fighters cross over into Iraq to be part of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and they site the anti-Arab SITE (run by the discredited Ritz Katz) as 'proof' for whatever false claims they make. Soemtimes they get honest enough that a few US outlets will say "al Qaeda linked" as opposed to declaring them "al Qaeda." It's all b.s. and nonsense. Arab fighters enter Iraq, throughout the long war and ongoing occupation, for one reason only: They preceive their Arab brothers and sisters to be victimized in the 'new' Iraq.
And they have that perception because that is what has taken place and what is taking place. The US press deludes Americans into thinking something puzzling took place when what happened is the most natural and obivous reaction and, if you remove the heightened term 'al Qaeda,' you have the story of every invasion and every response to it throughout history. But they want to play dumb and pretend that something puzzling and new and never-before-seen is taking place.
No such thing is or has happened.
In fairness to Shi'ites in Iraq, they lived as an oppressed people for years. It's very rare that an oppressed people learns from the experience. (A modern exception is South Africa where, after apartheid was finally overturned, the people sought justice and not vengence, equality and not oppression.) Equally true, most Shi'ites aren't taking part in oppressing anyone. Most Shi'ites are trying to go about their daily lives without getting killed the same as the Sunnis and other groupings.
Iraq is a country of widows and orphans. The current war, the sanctions before that and the Gulf War ensured that Iraq would remain a young country because so few people would live to an old age. The median age in Iraq is approximately 20.9 years. Again, it's a very young country age wise.
So all of the past oppressions could be distant enough that the Iraqi people could work together. The thing that prevents that, the thing always prevented that, has been the exiles the US placed in charge of the country.
Too damn scared to fight Saddam Hussein, they fled the country decades ago. Lived in Iran, Syria, England, etc. while they plotted to get other countries to over throw Iraq's president Saddam Hussein.
"Saddam tried to kill me!" Nouri has whimpered when telling his life story to a few members of the press. Yeah, maybe so. But your response was to run like a coward (he'd spend 8 years in Iran alone). Your response wasn't to stand up and fight. You're response wasn't to leave with dignity by making a life another country. You fled like a coward and spent years nursing your hatred. That's what you brought back with you to Iraq. that's all Nouri brought back, a grudge he's picked and nursed for decades. What kind of idiots would ever think someone like that should run a country?

Oh, that's right. The US government.
And not by accident. We commented on Nouri's paraonia months after he became prime minister in 2006. It was obivous to the naked eye. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know that as early as 2007, State Dept cables were noting Nouri's paranoia. Nouri was put in charge because he was paranoid. When you install a puppet, you don't want someone with a strong, positive self-image. They're harder to control. Hugo Chavez has a healthy ego. He was not installed by the US and cannot be co-opted by the US government because he doesn't have those inner demons. Nouri does.
With Nouri, the US always knew how to appeal to his vanity, how to prey on his fears. Want something done, tell Nouri that he looks weak, tell him that the Kurds are disrespecting him, feed his inner doubts and he will act.
He haas no core strength and he no ethics or beliefs he stands by. He is nothing but id and he responds not only instinctually but also instantly. That's why he became prime minister and that's why, in 2010, the White House backed him to continue as prime minister. A psychological dossier exits on Nouri and made him the best (meaning most pliable) choice for US interests. (I dispute that conclusion/finding. He accomplishes nothing. If the US government has certain goals that they want achieved via a puppet, they need a puppet who can accomplish something. Instead Nouri's technique of stalling leads to paralysis which is why the US puppet has still not been able to deliver and oil & gas law all these years later.)
The Iraqi people were supposed to be scared of Iraqiya. Members were being purged from the election. (If you were labeled a 'terrorist,' your name was pulled from the ballots.) The political slate was scrambling to find people to run. Nouri controlled state-TV and controlled the message. It should have been a landslide victory for Nouri -- as he was insisting it would be. As Quil Lawrence (NPR) reported the Monday after the Saturday elections (when no ballot totals existed) it was.
It wasn't. The Iraqi people continued the trend of 2009. The parliamentary elections reflected the provincial elections. In most cases, Iraqis didn't want sectarian rule. They were exhausted by it, they were tired of it and they were tired of living in fear (fear being the only thing Nouri had to campaign on).. They rejected it. And they rejected Nouri's State of Law.
Which is why it came in second to Iraqiya. For some reason -- attempts to whore for the US government? -- a number of reporters feel the need to insist that Iraqiya only won a few seats more than State of Law!
So what? It had many, many more votes. Since when do we refer to the voters desires by noting seats and not vote totals?
By votes, which is how the Iraqi people expressed themselves, Iraqiya was the clear winner and the direction the country to go in. Iraqiya, headed by Shi'ite Ayad Allawi, was a mixture of various sects. It was a party that spoke to national identity. They did this by the candidates they put forward, they did it by the spokespeople they put forward. Even now, the most prominent woman in Iraqi politics is the spokesperson for Iraqiya: Maysoon al-Damluji.
State of Law is the past, always refighting old battles, always seeking revenge. Iraqiya was a way forward for the country, representing a national identity ("We are Iraqis") and representing that all were taking part, regardless of sect, regardless of belief or religion, regardless of gender. Iraqiya's message was: "We are Iraq. We are the party of all Iraqis."
And then there was Nouri with his announcements that a terrorist attack would be taking place any second -- trying to use fear the way Bully Boy Bush did in the 2004 US elections.
That's why Iraqiya won despite all the problems they faced -- losing candidates (and that includes their candidates that were murdered in February -- no one killed State of Law candidates), losing the media wars, being outspent (Nouri bribes with potable water at election time, suddenly your village has water when Nouri shows up and he tells you that you will have water after the elections -- of course that doesn't come to be but he's all about the election cycle and not the future).
Iraqiya's victory was a huge victory and the press belittled it with "they only won a few seats more." THe press belittled because the US government was backing Nouri al-Maliki. Imagine if Iraqiya had run against Saddam Hussein and had the same outcome as they did in 2010? You don't think the world press would have been all over the surprise upset? Of course, it would have. But in 2010, the press curbed itself and took a surprise out-of-no-where win and demoted it to "no big deal."
Doing that allowed Nouri to steal the election. He first dug in his heels. He then announced the results of the Supreme Court he controls. Suddenly it was learned that Nouri had brought lawsuits regarding the process oof selecting a prime minister. No one knew about those lawsuits before hand. Damned the court he controlled didn't find in his favor.
There was the issue fo the Constitution but Nouri just ignored it. And dug his heels in creating Political Stalemate I which lasted eight months. During that time, the US and Iranian governments worked together to press everyone to give Nouri a second term as prime minister. The US held no sway over Moqtada al-Sadr but Iran did. So Moqtada's announcement that he would not back Nouri was set aside. The vote Moqtada held in April 2010, where he asked his followers to pick who he should back for prime minister also got set aside. While Iran worked on a number of Shi'ites (and Iran and the US worked on Amar al-Hakim, the head of ISCI), the US worked on the Kurds and Iraqiya. It was time to move forward was the message repeated over and over.
'Look, it's just a four year term. And if you give on this, if you show you're the better person, we will make sure that you receive concessions. In fact, we'll even make sure it's put in writing.'
Hence the Erbil Agreement which ended Political Stalemate I. A document with many concessions that allowed Nouri a second term. He honored the agreement . . . long enough to be established as prime minister for a second term. Then he trashed it and refused to deliver on what had been promised to the other political blocs.
To the Kurds, the promises in the Erbil Agreement covered a number of things but most importantly, it mean the question of Kirkuk would finally be addressed. The Kurds don't consider it disputed territory, they consider it to be their land. That was made very clear by KRG President Massoud Barzani when he spoke in the US last week. And even more so when he took questions on the issue of Kirkuk and the Erbil Agreement:
President Massoud Barzani: Article 140 is a Constitutional Article and it needed a lot of discussions and talks until we have reached this. This is the best way to solve this problem. It's regarding solving the problems of the territories that have been detached from Kurdistan Region. In fact, I do not want to call it "disputed areas" because we do not have any disputes on that. For us it is very clear for that. But we have shown upmost flexibility in order to find the legal and the Constitutional solution for this problem. And in order to pave the way for the return of these areas, according to the Constitution and the basis of law and legally to the Kurdistan Region. And we have found out that there is an effort to evade and run away from this responsibility for the last six years in implementing this Constitutional Article. And I want to assure you that implementing this Constitutional Article is in the interest of Iraq and in the interest of stability. There are people who think that time would make us forget about this. They are wrong. Time would not help forget or solve the problem. These are Kurdish countries, part of Kurdistan and it has to return to Kurdistan based on the mechanism that has been stipulated in the Constitution. And at the end of the day, as the Constitution stipulates, it's going back to what the people want to determine. So there is a referendum for the people of these areas and they will decide. If the people decide to join Kurdistan Region, they're welcome and if the people decide not to, at that time, we will look at any responsibility on our shoulders so people would be held responsible for their own decisions. As far as the second part of your question, the Erbil Agreement. In fact, the agreement was not only for the sake of forming the government and forming the three presidencies -- the presidency, the Speakership of Parliament and premier. In fact, it was a package -- a package that included a number of essential items. First, to put in place a general partnership in the country. Second, commitment to the Constitution and its implementation, the issue of fedarlism, the return of balance of power and especially in all the state institutions,the establishment in [. . .] mainly in the armed forces and the security forces, the hydrocarbons law, the Article 140 of the Constitution, the status of the pesh merga. These were all part of the package that had been there. Had this Erbil Agreement been implemented, we would not have faced the situation that we are in today. Therefore, if we do not implement the Erbil Agreement then there would certainly be problems in Iraq.
The Kurds have been the US government's biggest supporter in Iraq -- that's before the invasion, during the invasion and all the time that's followed. They wrongly thought that meant the US would look out for them and ensure that the Constitution and the Erbil Agreement were honored. They were wrong and they've slowly realized that. They've grasped that the US forever bends to Nouri and that, at present, it has no desire to stop.
That realization -- one that Iraqiya appears to have reached as well -- makes the ongoing political crisis all the more dangerous. And with Nouri now going after the independent commission overseeing elections, things are going to get a lot more dangerous.
An interesting development this week, Al Mada reports that the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq is accusing State of Law of making the National Alliance less popular with the Iraqi people as a result of the war with the Kurds and Iraqiya. If someone were trying to figure out the reason for this public declaration, two spring quickly to mind. One, ISCI is speaking for others within the National Alliance and attempting to send Nouri a message that he needs to dial it back. Two, ISCI has already made a decision to replace Nouri and these statements are to prepare the public for that soon-to-emerge event. There are other possibilites, we're focusing on those two.

Why might they be concerned enough to be acting out either of the two scenarios? As Al Mada points out, Nouri sent to an independent MP with the National alliance (Ablzona al-Jawad) to the press yesterday to declare that Nouri is the only one who can lead. This is about a thrid term, as the MP makes clear. The third term's not that far away. Elections are now supposed to take place in 2014 -- though it may be 2015 or maybe Nouri will just call them off completely?
Nouri wants a third term. Nouri wants to be the New Saddam, actually. He hopes to go on and on and on in office. How else to keep his corrupts sons and cousins on the payroll? How else to fleece so much from the people of Iraq who live in poverty in an oil rich country while Nouri's own life is "palatial."

Nouri can't just run for a third term. There has to be a roll out. Because as Iraqis began protesting in January against him, against his fabeled "law and order" (they demanded to see their loved ones who'd been disappeared into the 'legal' system), against his corruption, and this took place while other leaders in the region were being challenged and overthrown. The protests in Iraq only grew in size and number. And what did Nouri do?
In March 2011, the New York Times editorial board offered "Mr. Maliki's Power Grab:"
Instead of taking responsibility, Mr. Maliki charged that the protests were organized by "terrorists." He ordered the closing of the offices of two political parties that helped lead the demonstrations.
His only concessions were vows not to seek a third term in 2014 and to cut his pay in half. That was not persuasive, especially given his many recent power grabs.
The press never followed up on the pay cut but how could they? No one knew then and no one knows now how much Nouri legally takes from the Iraqi treasury. But, as the editorial board noted, he did make a laughable claim that he wouldn't seek a third term. He made that claim to Sammy Ketz of AFP which quickly reported it. And other outlets quickly followed suit. But the day after he made that announcement, Ben Lando and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) reported that Nouri's spokesperson, Ali al-Mousawi, was declaring, "We would like to correct this article. Maliki said, 'I think that the period of eight years is adequate for the application of a successful program to the prime minister, and if he is not successful, he must vacate his place'."
From the February 7, 2011 snapshot:


Of course no one does easy, meaningless words like Nouri. Saturday, his words included the announcement that he wouldn't seek a third term. His spokesperson discussed the 'decision' and Nouri himself announced the decision to Sammy Ketz of AFP in an interview. Ketz reported him stating he won't seek a third term, that 8 years is enough and that he supports a measure to the Constitution limiting prime ministers to two terms.

Well Jalal Talabani declared he wouldn't seek a second term as President of Iraq in an interview and then . . . took a second term. Point, if you're speaking to a single journalist, it really doesn't seem to matter what you say. Did Nouri announce his decision to the people? No,
Iraqhurr.org is quite clear that an advisor made an announcement and that Malliki made no "public statement" today.


In other words, a statement in an interview is the US political equivalent of "I have no plans to run for the presidency" uttered more than two years before a presidential election. That's Iraqi politicians in general. Nouri? This is the man who's never kept a promise and who is still denying the existence of secret prisons in Iraq.
Deyaar Bamami (Iraqhurr.org) notes the Human Rights Watch report on the secret prisons and that they are run by forces Nouri commands.
And Nouri couldn't even make it 24 hours with his latest 'big promise.' Sunday, Ben Lando and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) reported that Nouri's spokesperson, Ali al-Mousawi, declared today, "We would like to correct this article. Maliki said, 'I think that the period of eight years is adequate for the application of a successful program to the prime minister, and if he is not successful, he must vacate his place'." Of course he's not announcing that. He's a thug. His previous four year term was an utter failure.

That's not speculation, that's not opinion. He agreed to the benchmarks that the White House set. He was supposed to achieve those in 2007. Those benchmarks, supposedly, were what would determine whether or not the US tax payer continued to foot the bill for the illegal war. But he didn't meet those benchmarks and apologists rushed forward to pretend like they weren't a year long thing and that, in fact, he had 2008 as well. Well 2008 came and went and the benchmarks were still not met. Nor were they in 2009. Nor were they in his last year in 2010.

That's failure. When you agree you will meet certain things -- such as resolving the Kirkuk issue -- and you do not, you are a failure. Not only did he fail at the benchmarks, he failed in providing Iraqis with basic services. He failed in providing them with security.

There is no grading system by which Nouri can be seen as a success.

But just as he will not admit to or own his failures from his first term as prime minister, do not expect to own or admit to his failures in his second term. In other words, Little Saddam wants to be around, and heading the Iraqi government, for a long, long time.

And, as 2011 entered its final month, Al Mada reported Nouri al-Maliki's legal advisor Fadhil Mohammad Jawad had stressed to the press that there is no law barring Nouri from a third term as prime minister. And at that moment, the trial balloon was officially floated.
Now we have it advanced even further by a Member of Parliament. And Nouri's arresting members of the electoral commission. And not a word, not a peep from the State Dept or from UANMI or from the United Nations.
It really is something how the world has destroyed Iraq.
We noted a friend at the top explaining how bad things had gotten since the bulk of US forces left Iraq. (Special Ops, 'trainers,' Marines to protect the embassy, the CIA and the FBI remain in Iraq as do thousands of contractors working for the State Dept.)
That was always going to happen, violence and power-grabs were always going to take place after most US forces left. We've argued and advocated for US forces to leave and to leave immediately. Most US forces leaving Iraq is not why you have the problems you have today. The problems you have right now go to Nouri al-Maliki and no one else in Iraq. Nouri is the cause of the problems. And the cause of Nouri is the US government.
The Bush administration demanded he be named prime minister in 2006. The Barack administration demanded he remain prime minister in 2010.
With US forces gone, Nouri no longer has to deal with the US military command. Nouri faced more calls for equality and fairness from US General Ray Odierno than he ever did from US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill. Odierno put pressure on him. And, yes, he could do that in part because he had forces Nouri needed the influence of. So those who want to say Iraq might be better off with a larger number of US forces on the ground may be right in the short term -- but that would also require having DoD in charge of them. Because Odierno did not represent the State Dept. And Barack has put the State Dept in charge of all operations in Iraq.
But possibly, for the short term, Iraq would be more peaceful right now -- at least in terms of the political process -- if a larger number of US forces were on the ground in Iraq and under DoD command. However, the struggle taking place currently would still take place at some point because US forces would have to leave at some point.
The mistake the US made after the initial mistake of starting an illegal war was to then go on and back Nouri al-Maliki whom the US government knew was deranged but thought they could control. "Control" not to protect the Iraqis, mind you, but control in terms of use him to influence Iraqi policies -- especially with regards to energy. That selfish choice (and idiotic one because Nouri can't influence anything, that was evident by 2007 if you paid attention) has doomed the Iraq people in the current situation that they're in. Barring a no-confidence vote the only hope Iraq has is the 2014 elections (if they take place) and, even then, you're asking Iraqis to risk violence to vote four years after they did just that and the US refused to respect their vote, the US refused to recognize their vote and the US government instead insisted that the losing political slate get to hold onto the post of prime minister.
Iraq today is a story of violence inflicted upon the average Iraqi by the US government and by puppets of the US govenrment. Reuters notes an armed attack on a bush of pilgrims headed to Samarra which left 5 dead and six injured and an armed attack on pilgrims headed to Kerbala which left 2 of them dead and six more injured. Alsumaria reports that 1 soldier was shot dead today in Mosul.
In the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The Committee notes:
Committee on Veterans' Affairs
United States Senate
112th Congress, Second Session
Hearing Schedule
Update: April 12, 2012
Saturday, April 21, 2012
10:30 am MST
2465 Grant Road
Billings, Montana
Field Hearing: Improving Access to Quality Health Care for Rural Veterans
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
10 am EST
Senate Dirksen Office Building Room 138
VA Mental Health Care: Evaluating Access and Accessing Care
Matthew T. Lawrence
Chief Clerk/System Administrator
Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
202-224-9126

Thursday, April 12, 2012

4 men, 3 women

I hope no one was waiting for my post.  C.I., Gina, Krista and I were working on something for tomorrow's round-robin and only just finished.

Okay, Talk of the Nation (NPR) today had Abe laser, Richard Hornsby, Geoffrey Corn, Will Doig, Kathleen Hughes, Dorian Mintzer and Mary Elizabeth Williams.  I thought Mary Elizabeth Williams was an important guest and the best one the program had all week.  I wish they'd do a follow up with her.  Although the segment's around 16 minutes long, it really seemed like it had just started and then BOOM it was over.  That's how it is with good radio.

Ann Romney.  C.I., Gina, Krista and I wrote a humorous piece for the round-robin.

Backing up.  Democrat strategist Hilary Rosen (not affiliated with Barack's re-election campaign) went on CNN Wednesday night to attack Mitt Romney and decided, what the hell, I'll go for Ann too.

So she very snidely declared that Ann Romney wasn't qualified to advise her husband on anything to do with economics because Ann's never worked "a day in her life."

Ann Romney is a stay-at-home mother.  She and Mitt have five sons.  That is so insulting to her and to all women, it really is.

And as C.I. notes in the roundtable we all did for the round-robin, 'Let's carry this out.  Hilary Rosen says this week that a woman can't talk about economics because she's 'just' a stay-at-home mom.  Next week, when Rush Limbaugh or Bill Mahr is saying that women who have children -- whether they work outside the home or not -- can't talk abotu economics because they're mothers, how do we fight back on that, how do we push back after we've already allowed Rosen to take us half-way down that road?'

It's a good point.

(And if you're saying, "Damn it, Ann! You've spoiled the roundtable for me."  That's the opening.  Gina does her brief set up as usual, then tosses straight to C.I. who says what I semi-quoted her saying above.  So I've not spoiled the roundtable for you, trust me.)


I feel sorry for Ann Romney.  She didn't deserve that.  I think she handled herself very well today when she responded (I streamed it online).  I also think Michelle Obama did a really important thing today and I applaud her.  And I'm not big on Michelle Obama.  But by Tweeting what she Tweeted, she really helped re-set the conversation.

If she never does anything else as First Lady, she should be noted for that in the history books.  Because she could have been silent or she could have offered, "I wish people would get along."  Instead, she chose to Tweet something that basically says, "I'm a woman too and I'm not going to be silent while another woman gets trashed for something she doesn't need to be slammed for."

My opinion of Michelle Obama really increased today.


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


Thursday, April 12, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the political crisis continues, gential mutilation gets some attention, a mayor's killed in Iraq, Barack Obama gets praise (yes, praise from me), and more.
US President Barack Obama did a good thing today. We're going to start on something other than Iraq. The reason being US President Barack Obama did a good thing today and a White House friend I was speaking to on the phone a little earlier said, "You won't mention it, you never mention anything nice" about him here. Not only will we mention it, we'll open with it. The following appeared here this morning:
Hilary Rosen is a corporatist who has done very little for anyone except herself. She's also a lousy spokesperson for the Democratic Party due to her previous lobbying for the RIAA. But that's their problem. And I wouldn't be weighing in were it not for nonsense Dylan Byers (POLITICO) reports:


Democratic strategist and DNC adviser Hilary Rosen took a swipe at Mitt Romney's wife on CNN tonight, claiming that Ann had "never worked a day in her life" — a statement that led to criticism on Twitter from not just Ann but from the Obama campaign as well.
"I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work," Ann wrote in response to the comments Rosen made earlier in the evening on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360.

Hillary Rosen owes Ann Romney an apology. She owes all American woman an apology. A stay-at-home mom is not a woman on extended vacation. It is work, it is tremendous work. Those of us in the feminist movement -- apparently that does not include Hilary Rosen -- are aware of that and made a point to note that from day one. The media -- especially bad TV shows written largely by men like the awful 30-something and Everybody Loves Raymond -- like to invent this split where feminists sneer at home makers. That's not reality. "The Politics of Housework" by Pat Mainardi was not decrying the fact that women had extra hours of leisure. It was noting the very real work required to run a home.

Ann Romney made a choice on how to live her life and was fortunate enough to be in a position to make that choice (all women aren't so fortunate -- some are single-mothers, some have economic issues that prevent such a choice). There is nothing wrong with her choice or with her life as a mother. If she had decided to be a mother who works outside of the home, that would have been a valid choice as well.

Hilary Rosen's statements need to be condemned loudly. She needs to be rebuked. What she said is offensive to all women, regardless of what choice we make or we're forced into. Rosen's remarks are sexist and divisive and I'm not in the damn mood to see the sexism we endured in 2008 flourish again. Those of us who are feminists need to stand together and say, "It's not okay, Rosen." It's not okay, it's not acceptable.

My apologies to Ann Romney that someone who will (wrongly) be seen as a feminist made such insulting remarks. They do not represent feminism and they are not appropriate. I don't know Ann Romney, have never met her, but from the press it would appear she's been very happy with her choice. I'm happy for her.
--------------------------
That is from this morning. Mary Bruce (ABC News -- link is text and video) reports that President Barack Obama has rejected Rosen's comments and stated "there's no tougher job than being a mom. Anybody who would argue otherwise, I think, probably needs to rethink their statement." Good for Barack.
Good for Michelle Obama who had responded to the nonsense assertion (by Rosen) by 10:00 am this morning on her Twitter feed: "Every mother works hard, and every woman deserves to be respected." That was a strong and graceful message. Good for Michelle Obama.
Good for David Axlerod and Jim Messina who publicly rejected it last night. Good for the Republican female senators that stood up for Ann Romeny -- and for all women -- in a press call today. I'm sorry, I haven't been following that story, I know (from a friend at CBS News) that Senator Kelly Ayotte was one. Good for her and the other women. (I'm also aware that they don't think Rosen was acting alone or independently. I'll leave that for someone else to decide.) Thank you to Michelle Obama, to David Axelrod, to Jim Messina, to Kelly Ayotte and everyone else who took it seriously including the president.
Those are the praises. Now the idiots. A friend at CBS News tells me that there is one article after another about how feminists were silent. I wasn't silent. I'm a feminist. I'm sure the many women with websites in our community will note it in some form tonight. Like me, they're not really following the race or, if they are, like Trina, they're blogging about Jill Stein's campaign. But as was pointed out to me -- by a non-feminist male with CBS News -- this silence is why the image of 'feminists don't care about home makers' can take root. I don't control the feminist movement or feminist bloggers. I am sure some others had to have weighed in. But who got attention? Zerlina's bad post at Feministing was mentioned.
According to Zerlina, "the real magic started when Ann Romney" went on to Twitter and saw "it as an opening to restart the 'mommy wars' of the 1990s." She did no such thing and posts like that don't help feminism. Ann Romney acknowledged today her good fortune to have been able to have made that choice, she noted that not every woman had that chance and she talked about how all choices were valid.
Zerlina wasn't funny or cute or -- most importantly -- helpful to feminism. Ann Romeny came off as more of a feminist than you today. (And Ann Romney may be a feminist. I don't know. I've never spoken to her.) Zerlina can take comfort in that Joan Walsh, as always, carries the torch for stupidity at Salon. Having distorted and outright lied with her coverage of the late Trayvon Martin (see Bob Somerby's archives), you'd think Walsh would learn when to close her mouth and take a seat, but that would be crediting her with far more intelligence than she has.
As usual, Joan's got a 'quote' but it's not really a quote. A quote is what someone said. Joan's edited it, as usual, so that it is different than what was said. Joan Walsh should have been kicked out of Salon a long, long time ago. You can watch Ann Romney here (link is video). I don't watch Fox News, I can't find a transcript so I'm providing one but I don't know the name of the woman she's speaking to.
Ann Romney: My career choice was to be a mother. And I think all of us need to know that we need to respect choices that women make. Other women make other choices -- to have a career and raise a family which I think Hilary Rosen has actually done herself. I respect that. That's wonderful. But you know, there are other people that have a choice. We have to respect women in all those choices that they make. And, by the way, let me give a shout out to all the Dads that are at home raising kids. This is obviously an awesome responsibility to raise children. It's, to me, the most important thing, we can do. I will tell you that Mitt said to me more times than you can imagine, "Ann, your job is more important than mine." He was making money and doing the things, raising funds and helping other companies and he would come home and say, "Ann, your job is more important than mine."
I'm holding up the roundtable for the gina & krista roundrobin (meaning everyone in the community will be late posting due to me). So I can't do a full transcript. But there was nothing insulting in Ann Romney's remarks. "Look I know what it's like to struggle. Maybe I haven't struggled as much financially as some people have. I can tell you and promise you that I have struggled in my life." Joan edits that quote down to "I know what it's like to struggle." And having lied like the piece of trash she is, Joan Walsh then wants an apology.
Joan, you deserve a public stoning. And you haven't walked in Ann's shoes and hopefully you never will, you will never have to raise children while dealing with your own illness or fear of being unable to do all you need to as a parent due to your illness. Joan Walsh is a disgusting person. She's allowed partisanship to turn her into the worst stereotype of a woman and all to attack another woman. We saw that in 2008. It needs to stop and it needs to stop now. And Joan Walsh needs to be called out loudly for her 'creative' 'reporting.'
This should have been about women. Barack got it. Again, praise to Barack for that, he earned it.
But instead we got Joan Walsh or Zerlina -- writing on one of the most prominent feminist websites -- who saw this as an opportunity to attack Ann Romney and other women. And then Zerlina wants to call it a "faux controversy" (apparently reading from the Hilary Rosen Handbook). How dare you?
What feminist would ever say that issues about choice were a "faux controversy"? James Downie (Washington Post) puts quotes around controversy. So, he's an ass and an idiot. Ruth Marcus makes an idiot out of herself as well though I don't think we'd mistake her a feminist either. Rosen did not say the right thing the wrong way, Ruth Marcus. (Marcus: "Hilary Rosen made a legitimate point the wrong way.") How dare you suggest that because a woman makes a choice -- one that as feminist we're supposed to support -- to be a stay-at-home mom that she's not smart enough to know about the economy.
I'm not in the damn mood, let's strip away the nonsense and get to what Hilary Rosen's remarks are about.
The subtext of Rosen's remarks is: A woman who stays home is not smart, is not able to navigate the world, is not a full person, is but an appendage of a man.
Now that description, I can remember hearing that sort of thing said about women when I was very young. And you know who said? Men. And that's what the feminist movement fought against. So I'm not in the mood at this late date to hear the sexist insults come from women.
Any woman who is a stay-at-home mother has just as much chance of being aware of 'the world around' as does any other person on the face of the planet. How dare you suggest that their experiences and their work isn't valid and doesn't matter in the grown up world, in the public sphere. That's what Rosen's remarks do. That's what those remarks did when they came out of a man's mouth. There is no excuse for it.
And, yes, Ann Romney's proud of raising five children, why shouldn't she be?
I'm just not in the mood. I'm sorry you're all so damn bitter and disappointed in your own lives. That has to be the reason that you're slamming Ann Romney. She defined her job -- her main job -- as raising her children. That's her job. Let her have pride in it. I worked outside of the home and I take pride in a number of projects I worked. I also raised kids. I take pride in the fact that they turned out well in spite of me. (Truly, they deserve all the credit for the way they turned out.)
Where is the bitterness coming from? I worked outside the home. I hear Ann Romney take pride in her choice to be a stay-at-home mom and I'm not threatened by that, I'm not offended by it, I don't see it as a judgment on my choices. I don't know her age, I'd guess we're close to the same age and so you've got two women and we made two different choices and we're both happy with our choices. What's to go negative on Ann Romney in her remarks today? I'm not hearing a judgment or stone cast at me. So why are so many being defensive and attacking her. She's happy with her life, I'm happy for her. I'm happy with my life, I'm sure she'd be happy for me.
In 2008, it was acceptable to call Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin the c-word. It was accepted and treated as okay. Hillary was called a "bitch" on air, on CNN and that was acceptable. Sandra Bernhardt worked Palin into her act saying that African-American men should gang-rape Palin. Which was not only anti-woman, it was rather racist that when casting for the part of "Rapist," Bernhardt's first thought was, "African-American men!" We could do a whole week of snapshots that were nothing but examples of all the sexism in 2008 aimed at women who dared to run for higher office (in Hillary's case, the highest office). As I said this morning, I'm not going to stand for it a replay of that this year and America shouldn't stand for it either.
Hilary Rosen did not choose her words poorly. (And, be honest, it's not that she forgot to say "work at home." She stated Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life. That was an insult and it was intended as such. This was much more than I 'forgot to include work without pay.') She offered a point of view that was sexist, a point of view that argues that women who do not work outside the home don't know how hard it is, don't know what the real world's like. That's the point she was making and how she was attempting to discredit Ann Romney. If Hilary Rosen had a brain, she'd have woken up this morning and said, "I am so sorry." And then everyone could have moved on to something else. Instead, she took to the Huffngton Post justifying her remarks. There is no justification.
She was wrong. She should have said that this morning and offered an apology.
There's been no real apology. I've been arguing with friends over that (reporters and producers and editors see Rosen's words late this afternoon as an apology). Lucy Madison (CBS News) reports that Rosen told Wolf Blitzer today, "I apologize Working moms, stay at home moms, they're both extremely hard jobs." Good. Glad you grapsed that basic. But that's not where it ended. You have not taken away the sexist implication that a stay-at-home mother isn't a full person, a grown up who can understand the economy and certainly has just as much right as any other woman or man to discuss it.
Rosen made it worse by telling Blitzer that "we are all sort of falling victim to this amazing crashing political machine in this campaign, to move awy from the real issues . . ."
The real issues?
The right of every woman to make their own choices aren't real issues?
Rosen could have argued, "I applaud Ann Romney for her decision to stay-at-home and raise her children. She seems to be very happy with that choice. My concern is that her husband's proposed policies might make it difficult for other women who want to be stay-at-home mothers to do the same because I believe his policies would adversly effect the earning power of most couples and force some women who would choose to be stay-at-home moms to work outside the home instead."
But to say that these aren't real issues? These are the issues of the feminist movement. Thank you, Hilary Rosen, for insulting all the work so many women have done to establish that a woman had a right to choose her path.
Her apology, Rachel Rose Hartman (The Ticket) explains, included, "Let's declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance."
Does she not get how insulting that is? How insulting to the feminist movement?
Some of us -- including me -- strongly believe that all employers should provide on-site day care. Sorry, Hilary Rosen, that's a real issue. And it's a real issue if you disagree with me. If you think I'm wrong on this, that's your opinion, and you're voicing it because whether or not there is on-site day care is a real issue to you as well. You're not in favor of it, I am, these are real issues we are debating.
Everything Hillary Rosen has said since last night's interview has been an insult. She should have simply stated, "I was wrong. I am sorry. Please accept my apology and I'm going to take a few days to reflect on this before saying anything else."
Instead, she's offered 'apologies' where she blames Ann Romney (if her husband didn't bring Ann up, Rosen insists, she never would have!), offers insulting remarks and thinks she's apologized?
How did Hilary Rosen teach her own kids to apologize?
I taught my children: You say you're sorry, you ask if you can do anything to make it better.
Apparently Hilary Rosen taught her kids: You say you're sorry and then spend 30 minutes explaining to them why it was their fault to begin with.
This is not a 'faux' controversy about made up issues. This is about the rights of women and if Rosen has a problem with Ann Romney's comments on the economy, she should address those, not play pat-the-stay-at-home-mommy-on-the-head-and-say-you're-so-pretty. Her remarks today have made it clear that she was stating not just that stay-at-home moms don't work but that they're not really full adults, they can't grasp the economy, those 'hair-brained' gals. Her remarks and her attitude are insulting.
Again, praise for Barack from me. He could have been silent. I'm glad he wasn't. And Michelle Obama handled it with strength and grace, so good for her too. Excuse me, Michelle handled it with strength, grace and wisdom. Strong applause for her from me today.
Now to Iraq, where the violence never ends. Alsumaria reports that 72 people were arrested by Iraqi forces yesterday, 1 guard was killed outside Baquba, a Baquba home bombing killed a husband and wife and their three children and 1 person was shot dead in Kirkuk. In another report they identify the man in the Baquba bombings as Mayor Younis Youssef Ibrahim. And they note that early this morning the home of the chair of the Diwaniyah security committee was targeted with dynamite. Though the house was damaged, no one was harmed. Meanwhile Al Rafidayn reports two bombings in Baquba this morning have left fifteen people injured. Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) notes an armed attack outside Kirkuk on a police patrol which left 2 police officers dead and three more injured. AFP adds that 3 civilians were killed in the attack and three more were left injured.
Staying on the topic of violence, we move over to the death penalty. Tuesday, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq appeared before the United Nations Security Council to brief on the latest developments (see Tuesday and Wednesday's snapshots). He also submitted a written report entitled "Second report of the Secretary-General pursuant to resolution 2001 (2011)." Page 7-8, Section C ("Human rights activities") includes this:

From December 2011 to February 2012, there were 80 executions, compared to 68 for January to November 2011. Those executed, most of whom had been convicted under anti-terrorism laws, included one foreign national and at least one woman. UNAMI requested the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Human Rights and the Higher Judicial Council to provide details concerning individuals executed and the charges on which they had been convicted, but no information has been forthcoming. On 24 January, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement expressing concern over trial standards in Iraq and the use of the death penalty, urging the Government of Iraq to suspend its implementation.
Hala Kareem (NIQASH) reports on the death penalty including noting that it is popular in Iraq with officials and thought to be popular with the people. Kareem offers these numbers:
While United Nations figures suggest that more than 1,200 people have been senteced to death in Iraq since 2004. Figures obtained by NIQASH from the Ministry of Justice indicate that from 2004 up until the end of 2011, 1145 people were sentenced to death and around 250 have been executed, 84 of them in 2010. Those numbers would have increased due to executions in late 2011 and early 2012, totalling at least 63.
The Iraqi government justifies the executions by arguing that only the death penalty can deter terrorist acts. And somewhat unusually, this sentiment is iterated by the Iraqi Minstry of Human Rights. According to a Ministry spokesperson, Kamil Amin, death by hanging is suitable as long as there has been a fair trial.
Violence in Iraq also includes genital mutilation. Though there have been efforts to portray this as a problem exclusive to the Kurdistan Regional Government, the problem goes beyond that. MESOP sent the following press release to the public e-mail account:
For the first time, an empirical study proved that female genital mutilation is also prevalent in parts of Iraq beyond the borders of the Kurdish Region. WADI and the local women's rights organization PANA have conducted an in-depth research about the existence and background of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Kirkuk. They interviewed 1212 women above the age of 14 and asked each of them 61 questions.
Two years ago, WADI did a similar research in Kurdish Northern Iraq which revealed an alarmingly high prevalence rate of more than 72%. Around the same time, Human Rights Watch published a qualitative study which backs and complements WADI's results. Meanwhile, after extensive protests and lobby efforts from activists and women's rights groups (see notably the campaign STOP FGM in Kurdistan ), the Regional Government has adopted a legal ban of FGM and other forms of violence against women and children.
Not so in Southern and Central Iraq, which also comprises the multi-ethnic, oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The public authorities assume that FGM is non-existent outside the Kurdish Region.
The new Kirkuk study proves this assumption to be utterly false. According to its findings, 38.2% of Kirkuki women live with the consequences of FGM.
With 65.4%, Kurdish women are the most affected ethnic group. Arab women hold 25.7% and Turkmen women 12.3%.
Focusing on the religious affiliations, 40.9% of the Sunnis, 23.4% of the Shi'ites and 42.9% of the Kaka'is are genitally mutilated.
No Christians were found to be affected.
The FGM prevalence rate among girls under the age of 20 is a "mere" 15% which may indicate that the practice is about to decrease gradually. Among women aged 60-70, it is up to 80%.
When it comes to the reasons for the practice, the answers are evenly divided between "tradition" and "religion", i.e. Islam.
In most cases, FGM means the amputation of the clitoris. Some women however – in the Arab-dominated countryside it is 21% – experienced more severe types, including the cutting of the inner and/or outer labia.
The Kirkuk findings prove that FGM is a common practice also among non-Kurds – Sunnis and Shi'ites alike. This data constitutes strong evidence for the assumption that FGM is prevalent throughout Iraq. Millions of women and girls are likely to be affected by these grave human rights violations.
Therefore, we call on the Baghdad parliament to address the issue as soon as possible, support public awareness and discuss further ways to counter female genital mutilation in Iraq. The complete study will be published in June 2012.
Wadi e.V. – Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Co-Operation Phone: +49-69-57002440
Email: info@wadinet.dewww.wadi-online.de – 60439 Frankfurt am Main / Germany
Wadi Office Sulaimaniyah/Northern Iraq
Phone: +964-7701588173 7 Pana Kirkuk Phone: +964-7701512007
Some Iraqis manage to physically escape the violence. Amir Al Tamimi (GS Summit) reports on "Moon," an Iraqi woman whose husband worked for US troops and was kidnapped and killed for doing so. Her parents and sister had already moved to Egypt due to the violence. She was now a widow and alone with threatening phone calls declaring her late husband a traitor and spy. She went to Jordan but was not allowed to work (refugees who flee to Jordan or Syria are not allowed to work -- those who do get paid under the table) and returned to Iraq. Her family had been accepted in the US and her father "received assistance from Catholic Charities and Survivors of Torture International in persuading Rep. Duncan Hunter to sponsor a bill to permit her to reunite with her family, after four long years of separation." She states, "I am telling my story to show the people, wnever there is hope, there is a chance to have a new life."
Along with genital mutiliation, Iraqi women also face so-called 'honor' killings. We'll again note the Housan Mahmoud's Feburary report (Mahmoud is with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq):
What the brutal 'honour killing' of a girl in Iraq's Kurdistan province shows about the country's headlong descent into sectarian violence
Houzan Mahmoud, an Iraqi Kurd who lives in Britain, is the overseas representative of the Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq and initiator of the Campaign against Killing and Stoning of Women in Kurdistan
When 17-year-old Doa appealed to the men to stop their attack, she was completely ignored. Surrounded by an excited, baying crowd of dozens of mature, burly men, she was beaten to death. Slowly. Having thrown her to the ground, they surrounded her and began a barrage of stones and chunks of concrete, mostly aimed at her head, deliberate blow after deliberate blow. Periodically she was disdainfully kicked by some of her assailants. Her suffering was dragged out for half an hour, long enough for many of the killers to film her death throes on their mobile phone videocams.
Doa's crumpled figure now adorns several websites. This horror-porn emanates from Iraq, in particular, from Iraqi Kurdistan, my own homeland and one that I believe is descending into the wider maelstrom of religious sectarianism that is tearing post-Saddam Iraq apart. And in Doa's death, I think we can see a terrifying portent of a future Iraq increasingly eviscerated by primeval sectarian hatreds. But let us go back to poor Doa.
She was a 17-year-old girl called Doa Khalil Aswad. This teenager came from the Yezidi community in northern Iraq, one of the country's religious minorities, an ancient Kurdish faith with strong links to Sufism and non-Islamic ancient Babylonian beliefs. Her misdemeanour, her 'crime', was to fall in love with a local Sunni Muslim boy. And her fate was sealed, it seems, when, one day last month she spent a night away from her family home. Rumours circulated that she had 'converted' to Islam and suddenly there was a witch-hunt for the couple, especially for the female now deemed guilty of a 'crime of honour'. A Yezidi tribal leader in the town of Bashika initially sheltered the girl, but his house was stormed and in broad daylight she was dragged outside and literally stoned to death. The boy escaped and is said to be in hiding.
Kurdish websites are now buzzing with postings on Doa's death and there are both photographs and gruesome videos of her last minutes. The videos show other spectator-participants holding their phones aloft, capturing their own trophy shots even as the girl writhes in pain in front of them.
Amnesty International (now celebrating 50 years) helped get the word out on the above. And yesterday, Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project released a video on being gay in Iraq which the Huffington Post has posted to their site. and which noted that gay men in Iraq are also targeted with the so-called 'honor' killings. Others may have grasped that before yesterday. I didn't. (And am never afraid to note my ignorance.) I was aware that LGBTs in Iraq were sometimes killed by family members. I was not aware that it was done as an 'honor' killing -- which is generally done a bit more publicly or less secretly because the intent is to restore 'honor' by killing.
Moving on to the continued political crisis. Michael Peel (Financial Times of London) sees the division as "between Iraq's religious and ethnic groups" and notes some fear that a civil war is about to resurface. The Economist recaps the crisis as follows:
Parliament barely functions. The Iraqiya bloc, comprising mostly Sunnis and secularists, won the most seats of any party in the 2010 election and subsequently joined a coalition government. But the animosity of its Shia partners, who jointly hold more seats, has in effect pushed Iraqiya into opposition. Its nominee as deputy prime minister, Saleh al-Mutlaq, fell out with Mr Maliki last year over the lack of Sunnis in the security forces. He claims that tanks then surrounded his house, forcing him to flee the country.
The prime minister also chased away Tareq al-Hashemi, the Sunni vice-president, by issuing an arrest warrant in connection with terrorism charges. Mr Hashemi took refuge in the Kurdish north and is now abroad. He says that three of his bodyguards, who stand accused by Mr Maliki of running a Sunni death squad, have been tortured to death in police custody.
Kurdish leaders are also angrier than usual with Mr Maliki. The president of the autonomous Kurdish area, Masoud Barzani, has accused the prime minister of building a million-man army loyal only to himself, and of violating a 2010 power-sharing deal. Mr Barzani has appealed to the White House, but appears to have secured only limited support. The American embassy in Baghdad released an unprompted statement stressing its backing for a unified Iraq.
Al Mada reports that Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi states that Prime Minister and thug Nouri al-Maliki took advantage of the White House's indifference to violate the Constitution and grab powers to intimidate and suppress political rivals. Iraqiya came in frist in the March 2010 elections, Nouri's State of Law came in second. Allawi criticizes the corruption in the current government -- a non-controversial position in Iraq. Last year, Iraqis took to the streets protesting the government corruption. To distract protesters, Nouri claimed he needed 100 days to address it and then the problem would be solved. At the end of 100 days (all Nouri does is stall), the corruption was not addressed and Nouri offered more excuses and more brutality. Mahmoud Othman leads the Kurdish Alliance in Parliament and he states that KRG President Massoud Barzani's call for a national conference is in keeping with the needs of Iraq and what Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has been calling for. Since December 21st, Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference to address the political crisis. Aswat al-Iraq reports that Iraqiya is stating that there will be "a change in Iraqi political bloc if the National Conference" does not "rectify the process in the country."

Alsumaria notes
that Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, states that many mistakes have been made in Iraq since 3002 and that this is "natural" due to the fact that many now participating in the process were kept out of it under Saddam Hussein but that the political crisis must be addressed. Al Rafidayn notes that al-Hakim stated it will take courage to recognize mistkaes that have been made. The article also reminds that since April 6th, there has been speculation that the National Alliance and the Kurds have made a political agreement that would replace Nouri al-Maliki with Ahmed Chalibi -- an agreement everyone has public denied exists.

It's not a repeat, it just feels like one: Al Mada notes that KRGS is sending a delegation to Baghdad to discuss the crisis. Yes, they did that in the fall of last year. No, it didn't resolve anything then. Yes, as with that time, the people involved are stating that they believe the delegation's dialogue can resolve the crisis.

Al Rafidayn notes that KRG President Massoud Barzani has repeated his concern that Iraq is currently headed towards a dictatorship and that, if the political crisis cannot be addressed, the only option would be for the Kurdish region to go with full autonomy (three provinces currently make up the KRG and it is a self-autonomous region). Barzani, who has been visiting several countries including the US, states that when he turns there will have to be real efforts at partnership ("sincere") and democracy or else the Kurds will have to decide for themselves what their future holds.
In more distrubing power-grab news, Raheem Salman (ioL news) reports, "The head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) and one of its members were arrested by police on Thursday on corruption charges, IHED officials said, in the latest apparent move for more government control of independent bodies. Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki won a court ruling in January 2011 that put the IHED and other entities, including the central bank, under cabinet supervision, raising concern over attempts to consolidate power by the Shi'a premier."
Turning to the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The Committee notes:
Committee on Veterans' Affairs
United States Senate
112th Congress, Second Session
Hearing Schedule
Update: April 12, 2012
Saturday, April 21, 2012
10:30 am MST
2465 Grant Road
Billings, Montana
Field Hearing: Improving Access to Quality Health Care for Rural Veterans
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
10 am EST
Senate Dirksen Office Building Room 138
VA Mental Health Care: Evaluating Access and Accessing Care
Matthew T. Lawrence
Chief Clerk/System Administrator
Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
202-224-9126

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

6 men, 1 woman

Today on NPR's Talk of the Nation, the guests were Ken Rudin, Vin Weber, Ed Rogers, Daniel Akst, Joe Ferrari, Liz Weston and Robert Gravani.  6 men and one woman.

Carole King's book?  I'm love it.  In addition, Carole was the guest on Fresh Air today.  Here's an excerpt of Carole talking about her first husband, lyricist Gerry Goffin:




GROSS: So it's a great story how you found Gerry Goffin. Tell us how you found him.


KING: Well, I - my family announced - we were living in Brooklyn, and my family announced that we were moving to Queens, and I have a line in the book: Queens? What could there possibly be in Queens? Well, as it turns out, you know, quite a few wonderful things, including Paul Simon, who I met first, before I met Gerry.
Paul Simon and I went to Queens College in the same, you know, class. We were both freshman, as was Art, but I didn't know Art very well then. And Paul and I sort of got together and formed this little group that we called The Cousins. We didn't actually do anything except help other people with their demos or, you know, play - he played bass and guitar. I played piano. We both sang. And we helped people out making demos.
And sometimes they'd pay us $25, which Paul said we'd have done it for free. But Paul and I never wrote together. It is astonishing to me now, but he - when I asked him years later, he said he wasn't much of a collaborator, and he didn't think he could write very good lyrics until "Sounds of Silence" went to number one, hello.


(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)




KING: But so that was not where I found my lyricists, oddly enough, but that's - I met Gerry Goffin at Queens College, and that is where I found a great lyricist. He was just outstanding.




GROSS: So you started writing songs together, you the melodies, he the music. Did you know right away, like, this was your lyricist? And what was it about his lyrics that made you realize he was good?
KING: In order of questions, yes, I did. And what made him so extraordinary as a lyricist was his ability to say in really simple words big ideas, big feelings, big thoughts. And the thing - for example, "Will You Love Me Tomorrow." You just listen to the lyric of the first verse: tonight you're mine completely, you give your love so sweetly, tonight the light of love is in your eyes, but will you love me tomorrow? Is that not what every teenage girl is thinking?
You know, it's - he - and he had the ability, he's, you know, he's a straight man, and he had the ability to get inside a woman's head and say the things women were thinking. "Natural Woman" is another example. And when he didn't write with me, "Saving All My Love For You."




Amd  along with the lyrics for that one, he also wrote the lyrics for Diana Ross' "Do You know Where You're Going to?"


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


Wednesday, April 11, 2012.  Chaos and violence continues, Iraq's LGBT community gets some attention, Martin Kobler talks about Camp Ashraf, did two bodyguards of Tareq al-Hashemi die, and more.
 
As pointed out in yesterday's snapshot,  Omar Ali (Liberation) notes A.N.S.W.E.R.'s San Francisco chapter held a teach-in the afternoon of March 25th at the First Unitarian Chuch on Franklin.  The topic of the teach-in was the Iraq War.  Speakers included Dr. Jess Ghannam, Nazila Bargshady, Dr. Henry Clark, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Richard Becker and Gloria La Riva. Ali notes, "The teach-in was well attended by progressives from many different movements and communities.  The diversity of the attendees demonstrates the sense of unity of different strata of the working class of this country in opposition to the war against the Iraqi masses.
 
We included some of Iraq War veteran and March Forward co-founder Mike Prysner's speech in yesterday's snapshot.  A number of e-mails state that the video with Omar Ali streams visually but there's no audio. I didn't know that.  I was using my own notes of Mike's speech.  Since there are problems with the stream, we'll note some more of his speech (I didn't take notes during the other speeches) 
 
Mike Prysner: Families would come to us whose children had been killed, whose children's limbs had been blown off, who came to us begging for some kind of monetary compensation because they were left with absolutely nothing. I saw literally thousands of detainees who did absolutely nothing except be a military age male who happened to live in a village that was picked at random to be raided one night and who was brought into detention facilities to be tortured and humiliated.  You know, for me personally, as I said earlier, I wanted to go to this war.  I believed very much in it.  I believed very much in the military and our country. But all of the lies and indoctrination that we were being fed couldn't match reality because I had other teachers beyond the president and the military commanders and those were the Iraqi people.  And there are several people who will always be burned in my memory, they're the ones who taught me the truth and taught me which side I was on.  It was men who were urinating themselves, pleading through sandbags on their heads in detention facilities.  It was a father who was shot through the neck and as he was dying saying over and over, "I just want to see my family, I just want to see my family."  And the number one person, the one that really did it for me was -- I have a little sister who's now 18 so she was about 8 at the time I deployed.  I got her name tattooed on my arm before I -- before I left. Her name's Rachel.  And we were ordered at this one point to kick these families out of their home for whatever reason.  And there was this 8-year-old girl who looked exactly like my sister and it was my job to drag her out of her house as she was crying, as her parents were crying, as her siblings were crying, arrest the males in her family, put them on a truck and send them to those detention facilities.  And I couldn't stop looking at her face because it was my sister's face.  And I realized that this girl was exactly like my sister, that man who was shot was exactly like my father and that these people were just like my family.  And so what happened was, I couldn't stop seeing that everything that we were doing to the Iraqi people, I was doing to my own family.  Because they are our family, they're our brothers and sisters.  And so this was the breaking point for myself and so many others.  And the daily violence, the daily abuse, the daily humiliation all by an unwanted foreign invader, led to a widespread popular uprising against the occupation.  And no rank-in-file soldier who has been to Iraq can say that they don't understand why the Iraqi people stood up and fought back. In fact, that's the main factor why the majority of US troops ended up opposing the war: Because it was clear that the resistance of the Iraqi people was justified. But the US government had a plan for the popular rebellion too.  They used the tactics of divide and conquer and shredded a once united country.  And in it's wake, they left a country completely destroyed. And it's difficult to overstate the level of suffering and destruction that the Iraqi people now deal with.  And anyone believing the lie that the war in Iraq was somehow out of care for the Iraq people, one just has to look to the wave of the war within the US military to see how true that is, to see how much this government cares about its own soldiers -- let alone Iraqis.  Today, in the wake of the Iraq War, there's an epidemic of suicides in the US military -- where, for the past three years more active-duty soldiers are killing themselves than are being killed in combat. This is a staggering, shocking number. Thousands already have been abandoned and left to die alone with the guilt and trauma of what they've been sent to do, hundreds of thousands of families thrown into chaos by loved ones they no longer recognize.  Suicide and suicide attempts are at such a staggering record breaking rate, they can only call it an emergency situation.  You can only call it a crisis that this government has refused to respond to in any meaningful way.  I've traveled to different bases that have high rates of suicides and the numbers are staggering.  Among veterans there's 950 suicide attempts a month.  But when you see these peoples' faces -- I mean, I met people who jumped out of their window in the middle of the night because they heard voices speaking in Arabic every time they turned the lights off. I've met people who can't eat because they can't hold their utensils because they shake so bad.  And these same people, when the go to the doctors in the army and say "I need help," they're told that they're fine and that they have to go on other deployments.  And they can go a million times a day to every doctor, every chaplain, every leader that they have in their chain of command and they'll be told the same thing. It will always be written into the history of this war that during this time the US government allowed a wave of preventable suicides through it's US military and did absolutely nothing to stop it but not only did nothing to stop it but actively tried to deny soldiers their access to treatment, to deny them compensation. This is what they're doing now as they try to save precious tax dollars -- you know the same people who spared no expense writing blank checks for new weapons systems.  And of course if you can witness the truly shocking, devestating effects of the war on US troops, one can only imagine the level of psychological trauma experienced by Iraq's entire population who didn't do just one tour or two tours but lived 20 years under constant bombing and nine years of brutal occupation.  None will bear the scars of the war deeper than the Iraqi people.
 
The Iraqi people have suffered and the suffering continues to this day.  In many ways, that's due to the fact that the US government refused to utilize trained people and instead put thugs in power to scare the people with the hopes that a scared people couldn't fight back against the empire.  The thugs get bored and consumed with their self-hatred so they lash out at others.  Sometimes it's women, sometimes it's Christians, sometimes it's the LGBT community, sometimes it's . . . Anyone who isn't in the thug class is at risk of targeting in Iraq.  Iraqi Refugee Assistance Project has released a video on being gay in Iraq which the Huffington Post has posted to their site.  There is no closed caption but here's a transcript of the video.
 
 
Ahmed's Story: Surviving Persecution Against LGBT in Iraq
 
War and sectarian violence in Iraq forced thousands to flee for their lives and seek refuge elsewhere. 
 
These people are stranded, unable to return to Iraq without risking their lives.
 
Ahmed had to flee Iraq as after the war intolerance towards homosexuality increased. 
 
Neighboring countries fail to provide adequate protection to the growing number of refugees in Ahmed's situation.
 
For the safety of Ahmed and his family, identities have been concealed.
 
Ahmed: I was studying medicine in Baghdad University but after the war everybody starts to express every hatred he has. I don't support Saddam [Hussein -- ruler the US overthrew with the Iraq War] and I don't like him but at least there was law somehow.  Sadly, my ex-boyfriend that I met four years ago and I was devoted to him for four years, I gave him my life, I gave him everything.  He was the first boyfriend for me. He lost his job and he started to ask me for money, okay? Immediately, I started to give him, I give him everything I have.  But then he started to ask for more and more.  I told him, "My love, I cannot any more because my parents are suspecting.  You know, I may lose my parents.  He said, "I don't care about your parents." I had a lot of private pictures between me and him.  He said, "You remember the photos we had?"  I said, "Yes."  He said, "Imagine that I will send the CDs to your uncles."  I said, "No, you're joking."  One day my sister called me.  She said, "You have to flee Baghdad now. I have just received a call."  She said that six of my uncles -- I have eight uncles -- they received a small envelope under the main gates of their houses.  A letter was written with the CD: "Your son is one of Baghdad's biggest gay bitches."  They made a meeting, those uncles, and they decided they want to make an 'honor' killing. And they want to shoot me in front of people. I said, "Are they serious?"  She said, "Sure they are serious. You have to flee now.  I prefer that you live in a far place rather than seeing your name on a rock on a grave." I said, "Do you hate me?"  She said, "No, no.  Just please, for God's sake, you have to flee."
 
Ahmed was able to escape to a neighbouring country, where he joined other family members.
 
Ahmed:  I had a kind of stable, calm life.  You know, I lived with my mom and dad, they loved me so much.  I have my own friends and I had a boyfriend there.There was a small shop called Sense for perfumes and I liked some of their perfumes. I went there and I am paying.  At that moment, I felt a hand is grabbing my hair and two hands grabbing and pulling my hands.  I looked at them.  I was shocked.  The religious police. They say, "You're a f**.  Is that how a man has to look like?"  Then we went to the high court. The judge, he said, "You know, you are accused for being a homosexual.  I want to tell you something, you don't deserve to live and you are a shame for your family, for the Iraqi nation, or for the Muslim nation.  God, he took a lot of time.  More than you deserve." In that jail, a police man entered.  He said, "I know your story and I feel sorry for you."  I was so happy.  I said, "At last there is a good guy here." He said, "I want you to stand up."  I said, "Okay."  I stood up. He said, "I want to make sure.  Are you really f**got?"  Then he said, "Yeah, it seems that you are."  Okay, then he tried with me. I refused.  I refused. I refused.  I clenched and clenched and spass-ed my muscles so as he won't be able to rape me fully. He was so mad.  And he said, "You bitch.  I will turn your days to hell in this jail.
 
Ahmed's parents were able to get him a conditional release from jail, prior to his trial. 
 
They then contacted IRAP.
 
With the help of the Iraqi Refugees Assistance Project, Ahmed is now living safely and openly in the United States.
 
In Iraq, however, violence against the LGBT community is resurging.
 
Support the work of IRAP and help others like Ahmed.
 
Visit RefugeeRights.org to donate.
 
 
 
Imagine living in Iraq today and being gay (or just being thought to be gay).  Huffington Post notes, "As Reuters reports, death squads have been targeting two separate groups -- gay men, and those who dress in a distinctive, Western-influenced style called 'emo,' which some Iraqis mistakenly associate with homosexuality, since the start of this year."
 
 Near the start of last month,  Trudy Ring (SheWired) reported:


A recent wave of violence in Iraq has resulted in the kidnapping, torture, and killing of about 40 people perceived to be gay or lesbian, with the murder weapon sometimes being a concrete block to the head.
The killings began in early February after an unidentified group put up posters with death threats against "adulterous individuals" in largely Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad and Basra, reports the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. The threats listed the targets' names and ages, and gave them four days to change their behavior or face divine retribution.
Some of the murders have been carried out by smashing the victims' skulls with concrete blocks or pushing them off roofs of tall buildings, says a report from two other groups, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq and Iraqi LGBT.
 
 
Again, imagine living in Iraq today and being gay (or just being thought to be gay).  And, yes, it was better for Iraq's LGBT community under Saddam Hussein.  As it was for Christians and for women and for minority groups in general. 
 
 
What pretty words.  What a shame his Special Envoy to Iraq spits on those words, betrays Iraq's LGBT community, stays silent as they're targeted and killed, ignores the persecution.  
 
As we noted yesterday, the Special Envoy Martin Kobler appeared Tuesday before the United Nations Security Council where he yammered away for approximately 20 minutes and also handed in a written report/statement which was 17 pages long.  Though he was supposedly concerned about violence and targeted groups and though he made his focus the first three months of the year, he couldn't bring himself to mention the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community.  He could talk about the so-called 'honor' killings but not in relation to gay men or lesbians.  Ban Ki-moon assured the world's LGBT community just last month that they were not alone.  Just yesterday, his Special Envoy to Iraq, made clear that, in fact, Iraq's LGBTs are very much alone.  Martin Kobler made very clear that the United Nations, as represented by him in Iraq, will gladly and always look the other way while thugs go on killing sprees.  One of the slogan of the United Nations is, "It's your world." But apparently that doesn't apply for LGBTs.  Someone with the UN to address whether Ban Ki-moon was lying or if Martin Kobler just doesn't understand how offensive what he did yesterday was?
 
Also smelling up the room was US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice who didn't say a word about the exclusion and silence despite the fact that she presided over the Security Council hearing.  The White House is aware, see this White House announcement,  that this is LGBT Pride Month.  But Barack mouths a lot of pretty words he apparently doesn't mean.  This was made clear today when the White House announced they would not issue an executive order barring discrimination against LGBTs on the part of contractors awarded State Dept or Defense Dept contracts.   Byron Tau (POLITICO) reports:
 
 
Obama is under pressure from some gay activists to endorse same-sex marriage -- and his refusal to address discrimination through executive order is unlikely to help him among those in the community who are hoping for a more forceful stance on equality from the White House.
"I don't know if the White House is politically homophobic, actually homophobic, or just afraid of doing anything that might risk some attention," Heather Cronk, the managing director of GetEQUAL.
"He's not going to have hoards of gay folks running over and voting for Romney," Cronk said, admitting that Obama stands little chance of losing votes to Republicans over the issue. "The problem [is] that the White House is making a calculation."
 
 
And making it clear that they aren't that 'gay friendly,' let alone the fierce advocate for gay rights Michelle used to insist Barack was. 
 
As shameful as Kobler's silence on the targeting of Iraq's LGBTs is the Iranian press' refusal to be honest about what happened yesterday in the hearing.  Fars News Agency and the Islamic Republic News Agency are among the outlets focusing on remarks read out loud by Iraq's Ambassador to the UN Hamid al-Bayati while ignoring Kobler's remarks.  al-Bayati can demand that the Iranian dissidents who have been housed in Iraq since 1986 leave and imply that this is the case and he can state that the government of Iraq cannot  keep these MEK in Iraq.  That's in contrast to remarks made by Kobler who stated that Iraq may have to learn to be flexible with regards to the departure of the MEK.  Only the Iranian press even seemed to care about the issue, this despite it being a signficant especially with regards to the US government which gave the dissidents of Camp Ashraf protected persons status under the Geneva coventions.  We're going to include Kobler's full remarks on Camp Ashraf since they've been ignored near completely by the press.
 
UN Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler:  Madam President, a year ago on 8th of April 2011, the tragic incidents in Camp Ashraf led to the death of dozens of Camp Ashraf residents and hundreds injured. In an effort to reach a peaceful and durable solution, UNAMI and the government of Iraq signed a memorandum of understanding on 25th of December 2011.  The government of Iraq agreed to extend the deadline for the closure of the camp.  From mid-February until now, almost 1,200 residents of Camp New Iraq were safely relocated to the temporary transient location in Camp Hurriyah, near Baghdad. UN monitors are deployed to monitor both the relocation and the situation in Camp Hurriyah around the clock. The UNHCR has a team at Camp Hurriyah to carry out the verfication and the ajudication. I wish to make it clear that this memorandum of understanding concerns voluntary relocation and its implementation is based firmly on all sides acting peacefully and in good faith.  It should be noted that on 8th of April an incident took place at Camp Iraq during the prepartion for the fourth transfer of residents. A confrontation developed. UN monitors now report that the situation has returned to calm.  Both sides have no resumed cooperation in preparation for the next trasfer. I would love to have reported that another 400 group of residents have moved to Camp Hurriyah. These incidents have  momentarily interrupted the relocation but as we speak, UN monitors are at Camp Hurriyah and in Camp Liberty -- in Camp New Iraq and, I'm pleased to report, that the next 400 residents will move immediately once the loading of personal belongings is completed.  This is a sign of good will of the residents. And I will continue to be actively engaged that an understanding is reached on the remaining issues. With this move, half of the residents of Camp New Iraq will have been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  I would like to take this opportunity to make the following four remarks.  First, I would like to commend the Iraqi authorities, particularly Prime Minister al-Maliki for his advisers and the commanding general and the many Iraqi police men and the Iraqi army for their patience and cooperation in ensuring the safe and secure relocation of the first three groups of the residents.  I encourage them to pursue the relocation of the remaining residents in a manner that guarantees the residents human rights, safety and security.  And avoid everything which can be seen as provocative.  We will do everything possible to assist the government of Iraq to relocate the remaining residents. There are, however, still major obstacles ahead which might require flexability on the deadline. Second, I would also like to highlight that the Camp residents, despite initial difficulties, have shown goodwill and cooperation recently in the relocation process. The residents have indeed come a long way. It is difficult to abandon a place where one has lived for more than two decades. And I do encourage the residents to continue to show good will and continue to work in a cooperative spirit.  Third, and most importantly, I reiterate my call to member states to accept the residents. Now that the UNHCR has begun its work, it is high time for the international community to accept eligable candidates and fund the relocation process.  The support of the international community is urgently needed. I welcome the joint UNHCR - UNAMI resettlement conference  which took place last month on March 23rd. More than 30 member-states participated; however, no country has committed to accept residents. A donors appeal meeting also took place the same day seeking to raise $39 million US dollars fund for the Ashraf Project.   Only one member-state made a concrete pledge and this falls far behind what we had hoped.  Without international support, the process cannot succeed.  Last, but not least, I would like to thank my colleagues in UNAMI, UNHCR and the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights for the hard work and support.  The Ashraf file placed a heavy burden on the mission.  I could count on the support of most of my colleagues. My admiration goes to the monitoring staff at Camp Hurriyah and the UNHCR staff in particular -- those who accompanied the convoys under truly dangerous conditions.  As stated by the Secretary-General in his report  the process is still fragile and incidents of violence cannot be excluded.  We must, therefore, remain vigilant.  
 
 Again, Kobler speaking to the UN Security Council yesterday.
 
 On the hearing, AP, Trend News Agency, Antiwar.com (Margaret Griffis) rushed to tell you that Special Envoy Martin Kobler declared 613 Iraqis were killed in the first three months of the year.  Those are not UN numbers, the United Nations doesn't keep its own count.  Those are the official numbers from the Iraqi government.  For a more reliable and independt The independent Iraq Body Count has a different number. IBC says 295 civilians died in March, 278 in February and 458 in January. That's 1031. That's over 400 more than what Kobler offered. (418 more, check my math -- always.)  If you're going to run with a number Kobler gave, it's probaby a good idea to provide another number so that readers can compare and contrast.

The press also missed that Kobler states the ongoing political crisis is resulting in violence. 


UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler: [. . .] the tensions that have arisen between the main party blocs in Iraq which have developed into a political impasse. I have therefore Iraqi political parties and leaders to work together in the spirit of partnership towards finding common ground that will resolve their differences. In this regard, Iraqiya's decision to end its boycott of the Council of Ministers and Council of Representatives was the right step. President [Jalal] Talabani suggested holding a National Conference as a way forward to bring about an end to the stalemate. Unfortunately, until today, there was no agreement on the agenda. An inclusive forum is needed, however, as a first step to end the political impasse. I call on all Iraqi leaders to sit together to address all their differences in a meaningful way. UNAMI stands ready to continue supporting these efforts. [. . .] I'm concerned that Iraq's political situation is heightening communal tensions in the country and leading to an increase in the number of attacks on civilians. 



Not only was Kobler's remarks on the political crisis ignored so were those by US Ambassador to Iraq Susan Rice in her press briefing  (mainly on Syria, she dismissed the topic of Iraq quickly) who noted Martin Kobler  had spoken of the political crisis, "SRSG Kobler and Council members noted the importance for Iraq to resolve political differences and to address the concerns of all political blocs in an inclusive forum."
On the topic of violence, Reuters reports that Diyala Province saw multiple home bombings today in an organized attack by unknown assailants which left 5 people dead and another six injured.
 
Meanwhile the day started with confusion and ends that way.  This morning BBC News and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) were among those reporting that Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi stated two more of his bodyguards had died in the custody of Nouri's security forces.    In a later report,  Yacoub notes that Iraq's Supreme Judicial Council is maintaining there have not been any deaths. Al Rafidayn was reporting the denial several hours prior to AP. They also note that al-Hashemi is calling for Parliament to investigate. Someone needs to and doesn't appear that the press did since the story is no more clearer this evening than it was this morning.
 
 
In the US, peace activist Cindy Sheehan refuses to pay her taxes as a protest against empire and the perpetual war.  As a result of her activism, the US government now wants to take her to court.  She notes:
  • Thursday, April 19, 2012
    10:30am
US Court, 501 I St. Sacramento, Ca 95814


Peace Activist and Gold Star Mother, Cindy Sheehan, is a conscientious war tax resister and the US Attorney, on behalf of the IRS, has summoned her to court to produce requested documents. This hearing date is just a few days after Tax Day where millions of Americans will help fund the war machine with their hard earned money.

Cindy is calling for a rally before the hearing in Sacramento, Ca and wants everyone who can make it to be there to support her and show opposition to the war machine, the wars, and other oppressions.


CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE FACEBOOK EVENT
 
 

 
 
 
 
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Green Party of Michigan
 
News Release
April 11, 2012
 
For More Information, Contact:
Media Coordinator: Jennifer La Pietra (508)280-1360
 
Green Party of Michigan Concerned About Consent Agreement
 
(Detroit) - On April 4th, the Detroit City Council approved a consent agreement by a vote of 5-4. The close vote emphasizes the controversial nature of the final agreement, its measures clearly unfair to citizens of Detroit, and especially union workers.
 
The Green Party of Michigan has long supported unions and works to assure that the people's voice is heard in government, encouraging groups which are in line with our stated goals. John Anthony La Pietra, Platform Committee Chair explains: "We endorse the sharp criticisms of the consent agreement expressed on Monday in a letter to City Council members by Concerned Citizens for Democracy. The Green Party of Michigan believes in grassroots democracy as one of its key values -- that's why we oppose the anti-democratic power grabs of Public Act 4 and this coercive contract on Detroit."
 
One of the most unsettling of the measures include the ability of the city to void contracts, which could prove detrimental to the unions which are the heart of many of Detroit's industries, clearly a measure not desired by the numerous union workers in the city. The agreement also calls for the city to slash costs, unfortunately, with no assistance from the state. While re-examining expenditures and emphasizing efficiency is important for recovery on any level, cuts called for by this agreement will have to be made by the average struggling citizen.
 
The threatened alternative of an emergency manager could be even worse than a consent agreement, so a well-reasoned consent agreement which places more power in the hands of the citizens it affects would pave a road to recovery. For weeks, Detroit's residents watched press releases anxiously, hoping that the unjust Emergency Manager Law would not be implemented in their city as has been the case in surrounding communities. However, as the debts continued to mount, a record-making financial collapse began to seem disturbingly possible. And without adequate financial support, the consent agreement could slide down the slippery slope and put the city under an emergency manager anyway.

What makes this consent agreement worrisome is the similarity between the emergency manager and the appointed "financial advisory board" (along with other bureaucrats appointed by the mayor). Even though the consent agreement states explicitly that its goal is to improve finances while maintaining a safe, secure environment, maintaining public services and attracting business, the financial advisory board's main goal is improving finances. Maintaining, or especially growing, a city requires an influx of funds - not a reduction. The consent agreement is self-defeating.
 
A city in such financial straits undoubtedly needs a boost to get it started down the path to financial solvency. The expectation that Detroit will be able to live under the strict budgetary constraints and pay down its debts at the same time seems unreasonable. Flint's emergency manager realized the same of his situation as he prepared a budget proposal for the city. It included a request for $20 million in bonds backed by the state. Detroit leaders should have insisted on a similar commitment.
 
The timing of the back and forth agreement authorship between Governor Snyder and Mayor Bing is far from coincidental. This consent agreement could not have come too quickly for the governor as a successful petition drive is very near to making the implementation of an Emergency Manager a moot threat. Even despite a feeble challenge to the type size on the petition, there is every likelihood that it will pass. If it does, the Emergency Manager Law will be suspended until Michiganders can vote on it. The governor undoubtedly knows that support for his law is very slim, so he is using it while he can.
Art Myatt, Green Party of Michigan Vice-Chair, sums up the reasons why the consent agreement isn't in the city's best interest: "It looks to service the city's budget at the expense of the city's people and the city's employees, and to preclude the possibility of the affected population interfering with the process by way of local elections."
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