Friday, September 21, 2012

Bad web experiences

If you click here, you'll be taken to a CBS News story about actors and actresses who never won an Emmy.  I clicked because (a) the Emmys are Sunday and (b) it seemed like it would be an interesting story.

It wasn't.

Text that read like a 4th grader wrote it.

And then, if I want to know 19 who didn't win, forget the story, we've got a link.

Which takes me to a page-by-page slideshow.  I'm supposed to flip through 19 pages.

I just wanted to know who hadn't won.  I wasn't planning to spend forever to find out.

If you're going to do a 'slide show' that's nothing but 19 or so unrelated photos, do a list that people can click on.  That would let me know the name of all 19.  I didn't click through.  If the hope was that keeping the list hidden would make me click through, forget it.  I didn't bother to. 

I am so sick of all this nonsense these days where I click a hyper-link and, boom, commercial.  That's bad enough but people have to pay bills so I can tolerate it.  But this nonsense of expecting me to go page by page through a slide show just to find out the names on a list is ridiculous. 

I'm going to call this bad web experiences and if you want to leave your own in a comment or to e-mail me it, go right ahead and we can include it on Monday.


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

Friday, September 21, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, today is both National POW/MIA Recognition Day in the US and International Peace Day around the world, Kim Rivera is arrested, Nouri whines to Joe Biden, bragging rights go to John Kerry not the sad little State Dept spokesperson, sequestration, and more.
 
 
Today is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs and he issued the following statement today:
 
 
On the third Friday of every September we pay tribute to the lives and contributions of the more than 83,000 Americans who are still listed as Prisoners of War or Missing in Action. "Leave no one behind" is a familiar refrain which echoes through the ranks of our Armed Forces. This motto is also what propels the men and women of Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), who devote their lives to finding the remains of those unaccounted for in foreign lands.
While JPAC's task is challenging, their cause is worthy. Those who never made it home hold a special place in our hearts, and it is the responsibility of the living to give them a proper resting place here at home on American soil.
This past July, the remains of Lt. Col. Clarence F. Blanton of the U.S. Air Force, who was lost on March 11, 1968, in Housphan Province, Laos, were recovered. Lt. Col. Blanton is a symbol for all those who are missing. No matter how much time elapses -- in his case 42 years -- no cause is lost.
We are committed to finding all 83,000 POW/MIA and bringing them back to the home they sacrificed so much to defend, and to give their families an answer.
 
 
At the Pentagon today, there was a National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony attended by many including Adm James Innefeld, the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former US Senator Chuck Hagel.
 
 
Chuck Hagel: Today the US military is one institution in this country -- by any metric -- that still enjoys the overwhelming support, confidence and trust of theAmerican people. No other institution in America can say that. That is a result of a generation after generation after generation of commitment, to what Ash Carter noted in his speech -- quoting my firend and former colleage [US Senator and former POW] John McCain -- what any POW has said, believes lived, continues to say: "If there is anything more important in society than to anchor that society with a belief in something greater than one's self interest in the future for your children, for your family, for the world, I don't know what it is. This institution, the military, all who sacrifice and serve daily, who have done that for years and through wars have built that institution that still anchors more than ever confidence and trust in our -- our free people, in our free society, and not only how we serve that society but how we keep that free society. Imperfect issues, problems, like all institutions, the world is imperfect. People are imperfect. But it is the POWs and their families, MIAs, those who serve who constantly remind this country of what's good, of what's strong, what's vital and what's decent.
 
 
 
Of this generation's wars -- the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War -- CNN notes there are 9 POWs and MIAs who were rescued. In addition there are two prisoners of war remaining from these two wars. In the Afghanistan War, the POW is Pfc Bowe R. Bergdahl of Ketchum, Idaho who was "Captured in Paktika province, Afgahnistan, on June 30, 2009. The Pentagon declared him Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown on July 1, 2009, and his status was changed to Missing-Captured on July 3, 2009." The Iraq War POW is Spc Ahmed K. Altaie of Ann Arbor, Michigan: "On October 23, 2006, Altaie was categorized as Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown when he allegedly was kidnapped while on his way to visit family in Baghdad, Iraq. The Pentagon changed his status to Missing-Captured on December 11, 2006."
 
 
Staying in the US, sequestration appears to be coming shortly. The Congress voted for automatic sequestration to kick in if they were not able to come up with $1.2 trillion cuts to the budget and get it signed by the White House. Veterans services will not be effected by sequestration. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta have both testified to Congress about that. The VA will be effected administratively if sequestration kicks in but both have testified it will not effect veterans care.
 
 
The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing yesterday to explore what sequestration, if it happens, will mean for DoD. US House Rep Buck McKeon is the Chair, US House Rep Adam Smith is the Ranking Member. Appearing before the Committee: DoD's Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Robert Hale, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen Lloyd J. Austin III, Vice Chair of the Navy, Adm Mark Ferguson, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen Joseph F. Dunford and Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Larry O. Spencer.
 
 
Chair Buck McKeon: The House Armed Services Committee meets today to receive testimony on the Department of Defense planning for sequestration, The Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, and the way forward. Thank you all for being here. This will be the last week that the House is in session until mid-November. Today's hearing will provide members a final opportunity before the lame duck session to inform themselves and their constitutents about how sequestration will be implemented and how those decisions will effect our men and women in uniform and our national security. We had hoped that the President would provide this information in the report required by The Sequestration Transparency Act. Unfortunately, he failed to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the law. Not only was the report late but the report submitted to Congress merely paid lip service to the dire national security implications of these cuts after the president has had over a year to consider this crisis. Moreover, the White House has even gone so far to instruct the Department of Defense not to make preparations for sequestration. Nevertheless, as previous testimony to this Committee has provided many of our military leaders believe that initial preparation for sequestration must occur well in advance of the January 2, 2013 implementation date. For example, when the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, was asked this spring if plans for sequestration were underway, he stated "We are not doing as yet any hard planning. That would probably happen later this summer."
 
 
Ranking Member Adam Smith declared sequestration to be "the most pressing issue facing our nation." I think every Committee should have held hearings this month asking what was being effected. Foreign Relations/Affairs in the Senate and House should have held a hearing to find out how it would effect the State Dept, etc. The Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees (chaired by Senator Patty Murray and US House Rep Jeff Miller) did do that, not this month, but repeatedly throughout the year. In addition, Senator Murray has asked questions about this issue in other hearings. (Murray also served on the Super Congress which may be why she takes the issue more seriously than some Committee Chairs in the House and Senate appear to do.)
 
 
If sequestration is implemented, what does it mean? We're noting what the officials told the Committee. Not what they said it might mean, not what they said they thought it might mean but they'd have to get back on that, what was actually said.
 
 
DoD's Robert Hale: We budget separately for OCO [Overseas Contingency Operations] and the Base Budget. And you approve each budget. When we actually begin executing, the budget's merge so there's one operation and maintenance army account for actives -- has both OCO and Base spending in there, we would have some authority to move money -- within that account -- and we would use it to try to protect the war time operating budgets. But I don't want to make that sound easy because what that means is we'd have to make disproportionately large cuts in the Base side and that will have some of the effects on readiness and training that are of such concern to us. So we would have some ability and we would move to use it to protect the actual wartime operating budget.
 
 
The Marine Corps Gen Joseph Dunford: Congressman [Joe Wilson], you're correct, 58% of our total obligated authority goes to personnel. Our cost per Marine is not higher, but the proportion that we spend in our budget on personnel is higher. As a result of personnel being exempt in '13, what I alluded to in my opening remarks, is that we would then have to find a preponderance of funds out of operation and maintenance, infrastructure and our modernization accounts. So we'll continue to do things like run Paris Island, we'll absolutely continue to support those Marines and sailors that are in harms way in Afghanistan, we'll support those that are forward-deployed, but where we will see the biggest impact from a training perspective and where those resources will come from are those units that are at-home station. And I think you know that right now, two-thirds of our units that are at-home stationed are already in a degraded state of readiness. They're in a C3, C4 status already and these cuts will further exaserbate deficiencies in home-station readiness. We'll also be unable to support the strategy. One of the things that we are beginning to do now and had intended to do in FY13 is reconstitute our 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force -- which was the core of our contribution to the US Pacific Command -- and the resources that are necessary to support that are unlikely to be available. And then what we'll see across the board in our modernization accounts is delays and so forth that will cause us to delay programs and in some cases do more with less.
 
 
Air Force Gen Larry O. Spencer: If sequestration is triggered, the first thing we would do is look at those accounts or those areas that we would want to try to protect and OCO or Overseas Contingency Operations would be one of those. So once you do that, that drives more of a cut into the other accounts. And so, assuming we would protect wartime operations, that would drive higher than a 9..4% cut into our other accounts like our procurement accounts. So what we would have to do -- We have not had specific conversations with the contractor for the [Boeing] KC-46. But depending upon the amount of the cut, we would -- The issue would be we would have to -- because we have a firm fixed price contract -- we would have to open up that contract and so -- and so we would then have to talk to the contractor about revising our payment schedule. And I would guess the contractor would talk to us about, 'Okay, well we can't give you as many airplanes on the schedule that you asked for or we may have to stretch out the airplane. Or, by the way, we may have to charge you more because now the contract's back open.' So clearly as we go down, as Mr. Bartlett mentioned, as we go down the thousands of contracts and thousands of lines, that's the type of process we have to go through with every kind of contract.
 
 
Space and other limitations mean we cover the hearing on bare bones. You can take those answers and think about whatever other government department -- except the Veterans Affairs Department -- and explore what sequestration might mean if it takes place. In terms of the hearing, we've quoted the Chair and he's a Republican. I'm not interested in Adam Smith. Sorry. Even if we had space there's little that I'd include from him -- for reasons that are obvious if you sit through hearings. (Including but not limited to, he's very fond of using his questioning time to offer editorials that use up the entire time and never allow a witness any time to speak.) Of the Democrats, the best performer was US House Rep Susan Davis (not a surprise there, she's one of the most informed members of the Committee -- and one of the most informed members of the Congress) with US House Rep Rob Andrews following closely behind. Among others things, he noted he was voting no on Friday about the House going into recess so everyone would have six weeks before the elections off from DC to return to their home districts where all current members of Congress are either running for office or have decided (or had redistricting decide for them) that they would not run for re-election -- all 435 seats of the House will be voted on in November. Andrews spoke of not understanding how you leave DC with this problem lingering in the air and felt instead it needed to be addressed. His comments were much better than my summary but there's not room for the. My apologies. (He also offered a proposal that was a serious proposal and deserves debate. I don't support it but others might.)
 
 
Staying with the US Congress, on Wednesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Robert S. Beecroft to be US Ambassador to Iraq. We covered that hearing in the Wednesday and Thursday snapshots. Kerry's questioning is in the Wednesday snapshot. Like others on the Committee, he was frustrated with the use of Iraqi air space to carry goods into Syria. (The Senate, like the White House, believes this is taking place. Nouri al-Maliki's government denies that it is.)
 
 
Chair John Kerry: Can you share with me an answer to the issue I raised about the Iranians using American airspace in order to support [Syrian President Bashar] Assad? What are we doing, what have you been doing -- if anything, to try to limit that use?
 
 
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: I have personally engaged on this repeatedly at the highest levels of Iraqi government. My colleagues in Baghdad have engaged on this. We're continuing to engage on it. And every single visitor representing the US government from the Senate, recently three visitors, to administration officials has raised it with the Iraqis and made very clear that we find this unnaceptable and we find it unhelpful and detrimental to the region and to Iraq and, of course -- first and foremost, to the Syrian people. It's something that needs to stop and we are pressing and will continue to press until it does stop.
 
 
Chair John Kerry: Well, I mean, it may stop when it's too late. If so many people have entreated the government to stop and that doesn't seem to be having an impact -- uh, that sort of alarms me a little bit and seems to send a signal to me: Maybe -- Maybe we should make some of our assistance or some of our support contingent on some kind of appropriate response? I mean it just seems completely inappropriate that we're trying to help build their democracy, support them, put American lives on the line, money into the country and they're working against our insterest so overtly -- agains their own interests too -- I might add.
 
 
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: Senator, Senator, I share your concerns 100%. I'll continue to engage. And, with your permission, I will make very clear to the Iraqis what you've said to me today -- and that is you find it alarming and that it may put our assistance and our cooperation on issues at stake.
 
 
Chair John Kerry: Well I think that it would be very hard. I mean, around here, I think right now there's a lot of anxiety about places that seem to be trying to have it both ways. So I wish you would relay that obviously and I think that members of the Committee would -- would want to do so.
 
 
Kerry proposed this. The Committee agreed with this. In a press briefing on Thursday that can be best be summed up with the line from Private Benjamin (starring Goldie Hawn, script by Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer) about "Next time, don't be so quick to raise the white flag," spokesperson Victoria Nuland insisted the State Dept didn't support tying funding in to Iraq's behavior. Excerpt.
 
 
QUESTION: But you've been protesting all along about this issue. Yesterday, Senator Kerry warned Iraq. Are you going to further pressure Iraq and warn about the aid to Maliki government?
 
MS. NULAND: Well, Senator Kerry has obviously made his own statements. We do not support linking U.S. assistance to Iraq to the issue of the Iranian over-flights precisely because our assistance is in part directed towards robust security assistance, including helping the Iraqis build their capability to defend their airspace. So there's a chicken/egg thing here.
 
 
It's a shame she couldn't back up Kerry and it's a shame she couldn't have just said she'd get back to them on it. Instead, she had to waive the white flag. Always. Reuters reported today, "Iraq denied permission to a North Korean plane bound for Syria to pass through Iraqi airspace last Saturday because it suspected it could be carrying weapons, a senior official said on Friday." On Friday, they announce the denial six days prior of a North Korean plane? Why?
Because they feel and fear the pressure from the proposal John Kerry and others on the Committee floated. So now they're making some sort of effort to say, "Well, we're at least doing this." And making it because they want the US money. So, Alsumaria reports, Nouri told US Vice President Joe Biden on the phone today -- I would say whined -- that he was being doubted about his Syrian position by US officials and that this wasn't fair. Point being, John Kerry and the Committee knew what they were doing. Again, it's a shame that Nuland was so quick to raise the white flag at the State Dept yesterday. Already, Kerry and his Committee floating the idea has had impact. It's not yet where they want it, but it could get there. If Nuland and company would stop undercutting the Senate. There's more here but we'll pick it up next week, hopefully on Monday. Nuland doesn't have the sense to be embarrassed but if anyone has bragging rights today, it's John Kerry and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which, in less than 48 hours, have accomplished more than all the talk and talk and talk with Nouri that the State Dept's done for months now.
 
 
With a court-ordered dealine looming, the US State Dept has finally made a decision on the MEK. Joby Warrick (Washington Post) reports, "The State Department is preparing to remove the Iranian opposition group Mujaheddin-e Khalq from the U.S. government's terrorist list, siding with advocates who say the controversial organization should be rewarded for renouncing violence and providing intelligence on Iran's nuclear program, senior Obama administration officials said Friday." Approximately 3,400 MEK members remain in Iraq. They were welcomed into the country in the eighties. After the US-invasion in 2003, the US military disarmed them and they entered into protected status which mean something under the Bush administration but meant nothing under the Barack administration. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions." Under Barack, 'protected persons' means Nouri may attack and kill you and the US government looks the other way.
 
 
That explains the attacks and the lack of accountability for them. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."
 
 
How bad was it? So bad the members of England's House of Lords not only noted Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq during both attacks, they publicly speculated if he carried messages from the White House okaying the attacks? That's how bad it was.
The MEK in Iraq are known as Camp Ashraf residents because, for years, Camp Ashraf has been their home. They have now been forced to relocate to Camp Liberty and most have been relocated there. The US State Dept defied the federal courts for two years. And then?
Dropping back to the June 1st snapshot:
 
 
Which takes us into legal news, it's a shock to the administration but most others saw the ruling coming. Jamie Crawford (CNN) reports, "A federal appeals court has ordered Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to make a prompt decision on whether to remove an Iranian dissident group from the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations." This was a unanimous decision handed down by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Why was it unanimous? Because the administration has been in violation for some time now. James Vicini (Reuters) reminds, "The appeals court ruled nearly two years ago that Clinton had violated the group's rights and instructed her to 'review and rebut' unclassified parts of the record she initially relied on and say if she regards the sources as sufficiently credible. It said Clinton had yet to make a final decision." The administration was in contempt. The courts and the executive branch were in conflict. (They still are.) What generally happens there is the court of appeals makes a united front because this is now a court issue (as opposed to the merits of the case from when it was heard earlier). Unlike the executive branch, the judicial branch has no security forces.
 
 
The court gave them until October. Mark Hosenball, Andrew Quinn and Vicki Allen (Reuters) note, "Officials said this week that the final large group of dissidents had moved from Camp Ashraf to the new location, ending a long standoff with Iraqi authorities." Elise Labott (CNN) speaks with a number of unnamed officials who undermine Hillary, attack her decision, insist the group is a cult and otherwise make clear that they do not enjoy their jobs currently. (Don't worry, one's leaving.) At the State Dept today, spokesperson Victoria Nuland was asked about the MEK.
 
 
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask what you could say about the MEK and the de-listing.
 
 
MS. NULAND: I cannot say a lot at the moment, but what I can say is as part of the review process that we have made clear has been ongoing here for some time, the Department is now in the process of sending a classified communication from the Secretary to the Congress today regarding the designation of the MEK. I'm not in a position to confirm the contents of this because it's classified, but we anticipate being able to make a public announcement about it sometime before October 1st.
So with that, I'm going to have to excuse --
 
 
QUESTION: October 1st.
 
 
MS. NULAND: Yeah, exactly.
 
 
QUESTION: What's today?
 
 
QUESTION: It's September 21st.
 
 
QUESTION: The 21st?
 
 
MS. NULAND: Exactly.
 
 
QUESTION: Sometime in the next ten days?
 
 
MS. NULAND: Correct.
 
 
Because it's always news when a man of his girth moves, Al Mada reports that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani plans to arrive in Baghdad on Tuesday and get started on solving the political crisis -- if he's feeling good, the report states. AKnews reports State of Law MP Ali al-Shalah has declared that Jalal will be "able to find the solution for the current political crisis." However, Raman Brusk (AKnews) reports, "Kurds expect Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to take 'practical steps' to end the file of the disputed areas between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), said" Mohsen al-Saadoun, MP and Vice Chair of the Kurdish Blocs Coalition. Al Mada notes the Kurdistan Alliance states that there will be no political agreement without the consent of KRG President Massoud Barzani.
 
 
If Jalal Talabani does make it to Baghdad to work on political issues, he'll be working with one less vice president since Tareq al-Hasehmi remains in Turkey after Nouri bringing charges against him for terrorism. The 'judges' ruled September 9th that he was guilty. Nouri's State of Law political slate wasted no time running to Al Mada to insist that no one gives a damn about Tareq, not even in Iraqiya, and that no one was worried about Tareq, that he has no role in the government, he is "finished" and he has no role in government. Really? He still holds his position as Vice President. Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq was targeted when al-Hashemi was. As Nouri charged Tareq with "terrorism," he demanded that al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post (it was an attack on Iraqiya -- the political slate that bested Nouri's State of Law in the 2010 elections). This followed Saleh al-Mutlaq calling Nouri a dictator. And he didn't just make the remark in passing, he made to the media. December 13, 2011, Arwa Damon and Moahmmed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is amassing dictatorial power as U.S. troops leave the country, risking a new civil war and the breakup of the nation, his deputy warned Tuesday. Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq told CNN that he was 'shocked' to hear U.S. President Barack Obama greet al-Maliki at the White House on Monday as 'the elected leader of a sovereign, self-reliant and democratic Iraq.' He said Washington is leaving Iraq 'with a dictator' who has ignored a power-sharing agreement, kept control of the country's security forces and rounded up hundreds of people in recent weeks." The round ups, the mass arrests continue. What's changed is Nouri and Saleh have kissed and made up and Saleh now trots after Nouri like an obedient dog or a cooing bird flying overhead. They travel together now and Saleh's always finding a silver lining. Al Mada reports he gushed that Nouri's agreed not to allow the Justice and Accountability Commission to target college professors.
 
 
Isn't that just wonderful? Unless . . . maybe you know that the Justice and Accountabilty Commission not only was not ever supposed to have anything to do with educators but also you know that the Justice and Accountabilty Commission was supposed to have expired years ago. If you know that, if you know that the Justice and Accountability Commission died and that Parliament let it die (by refusing to approve another committee), then why would you think it was good that the Commission was doing anything to begin with?
 
 
Let's drop back to the January 25, 2010 snapshot and, for those who've forgotten, Saleh al-Mutlaq was furious back then. The Justice and Accountability Commission had barred him from running for office -- even though he was currently an MP -- would not allow him to run in the 2010 elections. He was angry, he was mad. He insisted he was no terrorist. And he told the world a few other things when he appeared on Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera), we'll just note the most key passage.
 
 
Jassim al-Azzawi: [Overlapping] Yes, I shall come to the scare tactics and the fear politics that you mention but before that, I guess our international audience would like to know, who stands behind this campaign to disbar more then 500 people? Some of them such senior figures as yourself. The National Dialogue Front has about 12 members in Parliament. You've been in politics for many, many years. I guess the logical question is: Who's behind it? It is my role as a presenter and a journalist to ask the tough questions and perhaps it's your role as a politician and even your perogative not to answer. Let me give you a couple of options and see which one you lean on. Is it Ahmed Chalabi, the former head of the de-Ba'athification? Is it Prime Minister al-Maliki fearing that Saleh al-Mutlaq has the wind behind him and one day he might even become the president of Iraq? Or is it another force? Who is exactly orchestrating this?
 
 
Saleh al-Mutlaq: Well Ahmed Chalabi could not do what was done alone. I think there's a power behind that and my belief is that Iran is behind that and Ahmed Chalabi is only a tool -- Ahmed Chalabi agenda is a tool to do this. And Ahmed Chalabi is not alone. We discovered that Ahmed Chalabi now has an intelligence association in Iraq and he worked with so many people outside the Iraqi government. And what happened really surprised everybody. The same day that this decision was taken, everybody was saying, "I know nothing about it." You ask al-Maliki, he says, "I know nothing about it." You ask the president [Jalal Talabani], he says he knows nothing about it. You ask the Chairman of the Parliament, he knows nothing about it. Then who is doing that? We discover there is a small organization which does not exist legally. The de-Ba'athification committee has been frozen -- including Ahmed Chalabi himself -- has been frozen by the prime minister and by the president. And another committee, which is the Accountability, came in but it was not formed because the Parliament did not vote on the names that were being proposed by the prime minister because most of them are from al Dahwa Party [Nouri's party].
 
 
 
The Justice and Accountability Commission, Saleh told the world, was frozen and Parliament didn't allow another one to form. That was 2010. So how is this a good thing that the same commission is going to be around? It's not. Saleh al-Mutlaq is an embarrassment.
 
 
Alsumaria notes a Falluja sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, that a Washash mosque was stormed by assailants and an Imam was shot dead, and a Tarmiya roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left two more injured. All Iraq News has the 2 dead as police officers (the two wounded also a police officers) and also notes a Baghdad home invasion of a retired police officer's home in which he was shot dead.
 
 
 
Back to the US, Goldie Hawn Tweeted.
"@LiamJBayerSr: Happy International Peace day to all! @goldiehawn Thanks for sharing such a great image. Happy International Peace Day!"
 
 
The United Nations declared today to be International Peace Day. And to celebrate it early, Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper kicked Iraq War veteran and US war resister Kimberly Rivera out of Canada yesterday so she could be arrested. Canada's CTV explored the issues yesterday.
Sarika Sehgal: The first female soldier to seek refuge in Canada has lost her fight to stay and has been deported. Tonight Kimberly Rivera is back on US soil and in US custody. She was detained as soon as she reached the border. Rivera, who is married, has four children. Two of them were born here in this country. She served three months in Iraq but became disillusioned with the war. She came to Canada while on leave in 2007 and eventually sought refugee status. Her application was denied. That decision was later struck down. Today immigration officials again ordered her to leave. Jesse McLaren is a spokesperson with the War Resisters Support Campaign. He joins me now in the studio to discuss this. What is your reaction to what happened with Kimberly?

Jesse McLaren: It's been three things. First of all, we've been amazed by the outpouring of support for Kimberly Rivera over the past couple of weeks. There's been more than 20,000 signatures on a petition, there's been rallies from coast-to-coast. And this really reaffirms that Canadians want to continue our proud tradition. Now the second thing we've seen is that the government has been actively intervening against that mass support to try and deport war resisters where they are going to be jailed in the US. And so unfortunately today, Kimberly was sent across and despite the reassurances by government lawyers, she was immediately arrested.

Sarika Sehgal: So what happens to her now?

Jesse McLaren: She is going to be subject to court-martial. Previous war resisters who were deported by the Harper government were given disproprotionately harsh sentences because they spoke out in Canada so that amounts to persecution. So that is a fate that potentially awaits her but we already know she's already being punished. She's been deported from her new country. She's been separated from her family. And she's now been arrested. And that is at the behest of the Harper government.

Sarika Sehgal: Now you're saying separated from her family because two of her kids were born here in Canada, right?

 
Jesse McLaren: Her entire family has gone back to the US.

 
Sarika Sehgal: Oh. They left. Okay. What -- how common is this? War resisters or people being deported back?

 
Jesse McLaren: So there's dozens, even perhaps hundreds of war resisters in Canada. They have the support of the majority of Canadians, of two motions of Parliament, of international law, of Canadian tradition and the Harper government has already departed two: Robin Long and Clifford Cornell. Robin was also separated from his family -- from his Canadian-born son. And they were given harsh jail sentences. Much harsher than the majority of people who left the armed forces and those sentences were harsh because they spoke out in Canada.

Sarika Sehgal: What is the government saying or responding? How are they responding?

 
Jesse McLaren: The government claims to not be involved but in fact Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has a strong record. Firstly, he labeled war resisters bogus refugee claimants and the Canadian Council of Refugees clearly was dismissive of that and claimed that that provided evidence of the strong appearance political interference. Second of all, he's actually institutionalized his own personal ideological beliefs with what's called Operational Bulletin 202. And this is basically an instructive where he's told immigration officials to flag all US Iraq War resisters as "criminally inadmissiable" even though they refused to be criminally involved in the war in Iraq. And Amnesty International and the former chair of the Refugee Board have spoken out against Operational Bulletin 202, saying that it mistates the law and seeks to intrude on the independence of immigration. And finally, just this week, his lawyers claimed that the risk of Kimberly being arrested was merely speculative where in fact we have proof today that she was arrested just as we'd feared.

 
Sarika Sehgal: Okay, thanks so much for joining us.

 
Jesse McLaren: Thanks.
 
 
Amnesty International is dismayed that today the Federal Court of Canada denied the motion to stop the removal of Kimberly Rivera, pending the outcome of her Humanitarian and Compassionate application to remain in Canada. Kimberly has been ordered leave Canada for the United States on Thursday 20 September. It is expected that Ms. Rivera will be detained upon arrival in the USA, transferred to military control, court-martialed and imprisoned for refusing to serve in the U.S. military on grounds of conscience. Amnesty International considers Kimberly Rivera to be a conscientious objector, and as such would consider her to be a prisoner of conscience should she be detained for military evasion, upon arrival in the United States. Amnesty International considers a conscientious objector to be any person who, for reasons of conscience or profound conviction, refuses either to perform any form of service in the armed forces or applies for non-combatant status. This can include refusal to participate in a war because one disagrees with its aims or the manner in which it was being waged, even if one does not oppose taking part in all wars. The law of the United States only recognizes the right to conscientious objection where a person forms an opposition to war in any form.

Full Text

Amnesty International is dismayed that today the Federal Court of Canada denied the motion to stop the removal of Kimberly Rivera, pending the outcome of her Humanitarian and Compassionate application to remain in Canada. Kimberly has been ordered leave Canada for the United States on Thursday 20 September. It is expected that Ms. Rivera will be detained upon arrival in the USA, transferred to military control, court-martialed and imprisoned for refusing to serve in the U.S. military on grounds of conscience.
Amnesty International considers Kimberly Rivera to be a conscientious objector, and as such would consider her to be a prisoner of conscience should she be detained for military evasion, upon arrival in the United States.
Amnesty International considers a conscientious objector to be any person who, for reasons of conscience or profound conviction, refuses either to perform any form of service in the armed forces or applies for non-combatant status. This can include refusal to participate in a war because one disagrees with its aims or the manner in which it was being waged, even if one does not oppose taking part in all wars. The law of the United States only recognizes the right to conscientious objection where a person forms an opposition to war in any form.
Wherever such a person is detained or imprisoned solely for their beliefs as a conscientious objector, Amnesty International considers that person to be a prisoner of conscience, and calls for their immediate and unconditional release.
Amnesty International believes that the right to refuse to perform military service for reasons of conscience is inherent in the notion of freedom of thought, conscience and religion as recognized in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Kimberly Rivera formed an understanding of her position as a conscientious objector over a period of time while she was deployed in Iraq. At one point her convictions caused her to stop carrying her rifle while on duty in Iraq.
Amnesty International has followed the cases of multiple U.S. soldiers who have objected to military service on grounds of conscience since the U.S. led conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq began. Amnesty International has observed multiple U.S. soldiers who maintain principled objections to military service imprisoned solely on the basis of their beliefs. Some soldiers have been imprisoned despite pending applications for conscientious objector status, some have been imprisoned after their applications for conscientious objector status have been wrongly refused, other soldiers have been deployed to combat zones despite pending applications for conscientious objector status.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Deporter In Chief

ABC News quotes the Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights of Los Angeles' Jorge-Mario Cabera:

"I think that in order for deportations to stop and to end the suffering of the community, whoever gets to the White House will need to work very, very closely with Congress, because at this time it seems that neither candidate is willing to maintain the idea that deportations are not that answer to the broken immigration system," Cabrera said. "Mr. Obama has become the deporter-in-chief and Mr. Romney does not negate the fact that he'll continue to do the same thing."


You do realize that Barack has deported more people than Bush did.  That's nothing to be proud of. 
Get this, Barack lied about his record.  Why isn't that headlines?  Why aren't people obsessing over it?  Still on the ABC News article:

Obama, who has broken records for the number of deportations during his first term, tried to portray his administration as deporting bad guys and recent arrivals, not law-abiding residents and parents. "We have to focus our attention on enforcement of people who generally pose a threat to our communities, not to hardworking families who are minding their own business," he said. "We don't have the capacity to enforce across the board."
However, what the administration defines as a criminal deportation includes relatively minor infractions, as well as more serious crimes. The top three categories for removals in 2011, according to a report released this month by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, were "dangerous drugs," "criminal traffic offenses," and "immigration." Those three categories make up a whopping 66 percent of deportations and voluntary departures.

Barack cannot be trusted.  He campaigned on promises about how he was going to address immigration.  He's been in the White House for four years and never got around to keeping that promise.  Now he wants four more years and wants people to trust that somehow a second term will be different than his first term.  (His first term, please remember, when he had a super majority.)

You can't trust Barack, my opinion.  I'm voting for Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate.  Her campaign is noting a Washington Post report:


President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney have little need for public funding for their campaigns, given that, together, they have about $1 billion behind them. But Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, could use a little help: She had raised only $283,000 as of the end of July.

Her campaign officials, however, say they are having trouble getting the public funding fast enough to pay the campaign debts. They have been quick to find a culprit and allege a minor conspiracy by Democrats on the Federal Election Commission, hinting that the commissioners are seeking to limit Stein’s ability to peel off liberals who would otherwise support Obama.

In a letter to the panel, the campaign’s general counsel wrote, “It is our understanding that one reason for the delays . . . was due to that fact that the Democratic Commissioners were already in Charlotte, NC, for the Democratic National Convention, and were thus unavailable to sign off.”
Campaign manager Ben Manski echoed those concerns.

“You have staff who have been diligent in working with us, but it’s unclear whether the commissioners themselves want to see this money released,” he said. “You have an election administration that is bipartisan — it’s not nonpartisan.”




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



Thursday, September 20, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Kim Rivera is arrested, where in Iraq was the US flag burned Tuesday (better question: by who?), Nouri shuts down more night clubs in Baghdad by sending his thugs in to bust them up, and more.
 
Iraq War veteran and US war resister Kimberly Rivera was arrested today after being forced out of Canada despite support rallies taking place around Canada.  The Canadian Press notes of the Toronto rally, "Wednesday evening's rally in Toronto also attracted faith groups, local activist organizations and veteran associations. David Milne, a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, said he attended the protest because he had witnessed the brutality of war in three trips to Iraq."  Miles Howe (Halifax Media Co-op) covers the Halifax demonstration and notes, "The contingent had gathered over 200 signatures from Nova Scotia supporters of Rivera and her quest to remain in Canada, where she has resided since 2007 with her husband and four children, the two youngest of whom were born in Canada. Rivera, who signed up for the United States military when she was 24, has built a life with her family in Canada. She has been an active member in her community, doing volunteer work and educating others about the Iraq War."  Her story was told today on CBC News: Morning.
 
 
Heather Hiscox:  The first female war resister in Canada is scheduled to be deported today but there's still a last gasp effort underway to keep the US Army Private in this country and some well known people are rallying behind her.  Michael Serapio has the details.  Michael, this deportation order looming for Kimberly Rivera?

Michael Serapio: That's right Kimberly is an America, you see here in the photo and also in this video here.  Now Kimberly Rivera, we should point out, is originally from Texas and when she was 24-years-old, she joined the US Army.  Now this was in the wake of 9-11.  And she joined the US Army thinking she could help make the United States a safer place.  She was -- after enlisting -- deployed to Iraq and to Baghdad and after serving time there and spending more and more time there, she -- It occurred to her that the casualties were really mounting in terms of civilian death numbers and so she figured she could no longer fight this war with any conscience so she, in 2007, came to Canada.  She came as a conscientious objector, asking to stay in Canada on humanitarian grounds.  And after  a number of years of fighting back and forth, the Immigration Ministry has decided to deny her request to stay in this country and it is that denial of application that has led to the protests that we've seen in the last 24 hours trying to maybe have some kind of an 11th hour rescue for Kim Rivera.  Now we should point out that she has been ordered to leave Canada today.  She says that she and her family will comply.  This despite that Parliament has twice voted to allow War Resisters like her to stay in Canada and despite human rights activists -- some fairly famous ones -- advocating on her behalf, including the Bishop Desmond Tutu out of South Africa.  Take a listen to what he has to say about Kim Rivera: "The deportation order given to Ms. Rivera is unjust and must be challenged.  It's in times when people are swept up in a frenzy of war that it's most important to listen to the quiet voices speaking the truth.  Isn't it time we begin to redress the atrocity of this war by honouring those such as Ms. Rivera who had the courage to stand against it at such a cost to themselves?"  But despite that, Heather, she will be deported today.

Heather Hiscox:  Yeah, interesting to read the words of the government saying it doesn't consider these to be international -- like not genuinely refugees under the internationally accepted meaning of the term.  So it looks like this will go ahead despite these high profile supporters.  What will happen to her, Michael, when she return to the US?

Michael Serapio:  Well there is a group called War Resisters Canada that have been rallying not only for Kim Rivera but for other American soldiers that came here as conscientious objectors.  They note that the last two Americans sent to the United States were both given prison sentences.  In Kim Rivera's case, they expect her to be court-martialed, to spend at least one year in prison.  And she says the hardest part of it is the separation she will face -- separation from her family, not only her husband but her four children, as you see here in this photo, two of whom were born right here in Canada.


 
Diana Mehta (Canadian Press) reports, "Kimberly Rivera complied with a deportation order and presented herself at the border at Gananoque, Ont., on Thursday.  The War Resisters Support Campaign -- which issued multiple warnings that Ms. Rivera would likely face a court martial and jail time on her return -- said the mother of four was immediately arrested, detained and transferred to U.S. military custody."  Dan Burns (Reuters) adds that Kim "was taken into custody at the Thousand Islands Bridge border station about 30 miles north of Watertown, N.Y., said Michelle Robidoux, spokeswoman with the War Resisters Support Campaign."
 
Canada's United Steelworkers issued the following statement:
 
TORONTO – "Kim Rivera's deportation is an international tragedy," says Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers (USW) National Director.
"This gives Canada a black eye on the international stage. Our country's once-proud tradition as a safe haven for conscientious objectors has been destroyed with Kim's deportation," says Neumann.
"Kim should have been able to count on her safety by coming to Canada. I, along with her Steelworker supporters, decry her deportation to the U.S. today," says Neumann.
"Immigration Minister Jason Kenney had the opportunity to show compassion and do the right thing, and he refused to act," says Neumann. "Two of Kim's children were born here, yet the process for deporting her failed to consider the wellbeing of her family."
Rivera presented herself at the Canada-U.S. border in Gananoque, Ont., today, complying with her deportation order issued by the Harper government. In the U.S., the mother of four children faces a prison sentence of two to five years.
The USW has supported U.S. Iraq War resisters since 2004 when the first war resister arrived in Canada. The Toronto Steelworkers Hall is offered for the War Resisters Support Campaign's public meetings.
During the Vietnam War, 100,000 war resisters came to Canada and more than half of them remain here today. Many of them served in the military, and like Kim, later developed moral objections to the war that they could not ignore. In the 1970s, conscientious objectors who had voluntarily joined the U.S. military were accepted as permanent residents here without distinction from those who were drafted.
Public opinion polling shows that a majority of Canadians want our government to continue that tradition today. A 2008 Angus Reid poll found that 64% of Canadians would let U.S. military deserters stay in Canada.
 

www.resisters.ca

More information:
Ken Neumann, United Steelworkers National Director, 416-544-5951
Bob Gallagher, United Steelworkers, 416-434-2221,
bgallagher@usw.ca
 
 
 
 
While Kim was being ripped from her family, Nouri al-Maliki (aka Little Saddam) was again attacking freedom.  Alsumaria reports that the federal police stormed social clubs in Baghdad yesterday, shutting them down and expelling patrons and owners. More than any other recent actions, this one has Nouri being called a dictator. The raids echoed earlier ones in Baghdad this month in which clubs were shut down and patrons and owners attacked. From the September 5th snapshot:


In other violence, Alsumaria reports that armed forces in police uniforms attacked various social clubs in Baghdad yesterday, beating various people and firing guns in the air. They swarmed clubs and refused to allow anyone to leave but did make time to beat people with the butss of their rifles and pistols, they then destroyed the clubs. AFP adds, "Special forces units carried out near-simultaneous raids at around 8:00 pm (1700 GMT) on Tuesday 'at dozens of nightclubs in Karrada and Arasat, and beat up customers with the butts of their guns and batons,' said an interior ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity. 'Artists who were performing at the clubs were also beaten,' the official said." The assaults were ordered by an official who reports only to Nouri al-Maliki. In related news the Great Iraqi Revolution posted video Friday of other attacks on Iraqi civilians by security forces and noted, "Very important :: a leaked video show Iraqi commandos during a raid to Baaj village and the arrest of all the young men in the village .they threatened the ppl of the village they will make them another Fallujah and they do not mind arresting all village's men and leave only women . they kept detainees in a school, and beating them, u can see they burned a car of one of the citizens"

And from the September 6th snapshot:

Alsumaria notes that Iraqiya, led by Ayad Allawi, has called out the assault on the social clubs and states that it is violation of the Constitution as well as basic human rights. Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoun al-Damalouji called on the security forces to respect the rights of the citizens. Tamim al-Jubouri (Al Mada) adds that the forces working for Nouri attacked many clubs including Club Orient which was established in 1944 and that the patrons including Chrisitans who were surprised Tuesday night when Nouri's forces entered and began breaking furniture, beat patrons and employees and stole booze, cell phones and clothing. So they're not only bullies, they're also theives. Kitabat notes that the people were attacked with batons and gun butts including a number of musicians who were performing live in the club including singer Hussein Basri. Alsumaria adds that the Baghdad Provincial Council states that they were not informed of the assaults on social clubs.

Earlier this month, Al Mada attempted to make sense of the confusing stories. Nouri's spoksesperson maintained September 6th that these actions were done to carry out a court order. The Iraqi Supreme Court September 8th denied such an order. If such an order would have been issued, it would make sense to use the police. Of course Baghdad Province was never informed of the raids so that left them and their forces out. The Ministry of the Interior announces they knew nothing of the raids until the news covered it and that their forces did not take part in the raids. An unnameded, high-ranking Ministry of the Interior source states that the order was from Nouri and Nouri alone, that he issued the order and based it upon his role as commander-in-chief. Iraq has a struggling economy already with many people left unemployed with an official unemployment rate of 15.2%. In such a climate, shutting down a vibrant social scene -- and the jobs it creates -- is pretty damn stupid. Also true, it doesn't make anyone want to travel into Iraq to Baghdad. Better to book Erbil or any other location in the KRG. Nouri's Iraq has serious business problems.
 
 
 
Ranking Member Richard Lugar: His experience with managing large embassies is especially critical given the US mission in Iraq is the biggest embassy in the world. The operation includes the huge embassy in Baghdad, several outlying facilities, in Baghdad about ten security cooperation police training sites and consulates in Barsa and Erbil. Employees number approximately 1600 US-direct-hires, 240 Iraqis, thousands of contractors. Iraq sits aside the Sunni-Shia divide that's been the source of great conflict. Politically, Iraq remains fractured along sectarian lines and those divisions appear to have deepened in the last year. Iraq's stability depends on it being integrated with responsible neighbors and the world community. It's longterm future depends on its willingness to stand on the side of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Iraq's political fragmentation and corruption also present fundamental challenges to its economy. An annual World Bank report that analyzes the ease of doing business and the protection of property rights across 183 economies ranked Iraq 164th in 2012 -- down five slots from its 2011 ranking. Despite Prime Minister Maliki's claims that Iraq is open for business, most interested investors and trade partners are challenged to get a visa or definitive answer from the government about tender and bidding processes. According to the World Bank, Iraq last year implemented policies that made it more difficult for Iraqis themselves to do business.


 
 
That's Ranking Member Richard Lugar speaking at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing yesterday where the senators heard testimony from Robert S. Beecroft who is nominated to be the new US Ambassador to Iraq.  Yesterday, we noted Committee Chair John Kerry and Senator Mark Rubio's questioning.  Today, we're noting Ranking Member Richard Lugar and Senator Bob Casey who was Acting Chair for the bulk of the hearing. 
 
Lugar spoke movingly of the late US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens who was one of four Americans (Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods are the other three who were) killed in an attack on the embassy in Libya last week.  Kerry, Beecroft and others at the hearing noted Stevens' passing and his service but Lugar spoke of working with him when Stevens had been a Pearson Fellow with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2006 and 2007 and how he had made a point to stay in touch with the Committee. 
 
On that attack, earlier today Kathleen Hennessey of the Los Angeles Times reported, "The White House is now describing the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi as a 'terrorist attack,' a shift in emphasis after days of describing the lethal assualt as a spontaneous eruption of anger over an anti-Islamic film made in California."  Today in Tripoli, the US State Dept's Deputy Secretary William J. Burns presided over a ceremony honoring Stevens, Doherty, Smith and Woods (link is text and video)
 
From Lugar's questions:
 
 
 
 
Ranking Member Richard Lugar:  Let me just follow on Senator Kerry's questioning because what he and you have described is a country which clearly is a sovereign country but without the hydrocarbons law which was anticipated so that the oil, the basic revenue for a good part of managing the government never came into being and therefore deals have been made by the Kurds on occassion with companies outside of Iraq, the sort of -- Commerce is proceeding, with or without the hydrocarbons law and therefore some dispersion of the wealth of the country, quite apart from some questions about how the Kurds fit in to this Iraq situation. Now, as you point out, two important laws, hydrocarbon and the Constitution basically. And the question, therefore, that Iraqis must have, quite apart from Americans, sort of getting back to testimony that we used to hear before this Committee in which some people were advocating that there really were three different countries or we ought to recognize really the realities of Iraq as opposed to having this fiction that there was one country and somehow or other this oil and this constitutional framework representing three major groups -- and others -- would come into being. How does a country operate given these divisions? Granted that Maliki has authority but from time to time there are reports of terrorism in Iraq against Iraqis -- quite apart from the Kurd situation which is hard to describe. And you mention these are still to happen but how do they move towards happening at all? Is there an impetus in the country towards unity, towards cohesion that we should say -- given patience and given time -- this is going to work out? Or is the trend maybe the other way given events in the Middle East, given the ties with Iran, whatever they may be, or the problem of Sunnis and Shi'ites everywhere? Is this really a solid country?
 


Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: Thank you, Senator Lugar. Yes, I think it is. There's a solid basis for the country to go forward and succeed here. While there are forces that would pull Iraq apart, what we continue to see and what's encouraging is that Iraqis continue to-to resolve their differences through dialogue, through negotiation and so when they do have disputes, which they have frequently, to be perfectly honest, they find ways to resolve them peacefully and as part of this democratic process. Our job is to continue to encourage that and to support them as they do that and point out ways where they can do it more effectively. Hydrocarbons law, as you point out, is one way to do that, strengthening the legislative process is another way of doing that. Focusing on key -- helping them to focus on key laws that they need to pass as part of that legislative process -- For example, the, uh, law on the Higher Electoral Comission, putting new commissioners in place. These are the things that will help unify the country over time. Right now, I think it is headed in the right direction. But with plenty of ups and downs on the trend lines. We need to keep the trend line going and try to minimize the downs.

 
 
Ranking Member Richard Lugar: Is your counsel appreciated? Our enthusiasm in the United states is obviously for a unified, whole Iraq --

 
 
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: I think by and large, it -- We're listened to very closely. Most Iraqis will say the United States continues to have a role to play in Iraq and I think most Iraqis are committed to the same thing we're committed to which is a unified, federal and democratic Iraq.

 
 
Ranking Member Richard Lugar: Now you mentioned the relative security of our embassy and what have you. In the past, there's been considerable discussion, not only among diplomats but among the American public about the size in Iraq. There was discussion when this was first built -- a monumental structure, to say the least. I remember at one conference, I suggested in fact that this structure is so big that it might really serve as a unifying purpose for Middle Eastern countries -- a sort of united forum in which they would all come together -- or like the Hague or what have you. And some people found some interest in this even if the Iraqis did not necessarily nor could our government since its our embassy. But what is the future, simply of all of the real estate, all of the responsibilites? They're huge and this is going to be an ongoing debate, I'm certain, in the Congress as we come to budget problems in this country.

 
 
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: Uhm, thank you very much. We-we recognize that this is an issue we started with an embassy that was staffed to address all possible contingencies, to follow up on the wonderful work that the US military had done in Iraq. Since that time, and again starting with Ambassador [James] Jeffrey, and it's something that I personally am continuing and have been very closely involved in and we will pursue -- We're calling it a "glide path exercise" where we're looking at what our objectives are and how we are resourced and staffed to meet those objectives. And what we've found is that we can prioritize and can focus our mission and will continue to do that on what we really need to accomplish. And as we do that, we're able to reduce personnel. Since the beginning of the year, we have reduced personnel by more than 2,000. We're now somewhere between 13,000 and 14,000 personnel in Iraq -- down from over 16. Facilities? We have given back in the last couple of days, facilites we had in Kirkuk, had an airbase up there, and facilities we had in Baghdad for police training center. And we have another facility in the next few days which we'll give back also in Baghdad.  So we're reducing not just the number of personnel but we're reducing the number of pieces of property we occupy and use and we are very mindeful of the cost that it takes to support the mission in Iraq and I personally am dedicated to reducing those costs by again focusing on the mission on what we really need to achieve.
 
 
It continues but we're stopping him there. Yesterday, he got to have his say in the snapshot. We didn't fact check him because he's a diplomat and hopefully he doesn't believe half the happy talk he's saying but feels its necessary for relations should he be confirmed.
So when he claims that Iraq is resolving differences through politics, we just roll our eyes, think of the still unimplemented Erbil Agreement and chuckle.
 
But now we're to the part where his statements require a fact check.
 
If Republicans wanted to lodge an objection to the nomination -- they don't -- this is where it would come from:
 
Facilities? We have given back in the last couple of days, facilites we had in Kirkuk, had an airbase up there, and facilities we had in Baghdad for police training center. And we have another facility in the next few days which we'll give back also in Baghdad.  So we're reducing not just the number of personnel but we're reducing the number of pieces of property we occupy and use and we are very mindeful of the cost that it takes to support the mission in Iraq and I personally am dedicated to reducing those costs by again focusing on the mission on what we really need to achieve.
 
Do you see the problem?
 
Members of the Senate might not but House members most likely would immediately. It's not often the State Dept gets both caught lying in a hearing and fact checked in a hearing but that happened at the June 19th House Oversight and Government Reform's Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations. The State Dept's Patrick Kennedy was confronted with the fact that the US government was using land in Iraq that they had not secured lease agreements for. That's why the police training facility in Bahgdad was turned over. Kennedy lied and thought he could get away with it. Apparently he forgot who was on the second panel: the US Government Accountability Office's Michael Courts, the State Dept's Acting Inspecting General Harold Geisel, DoD's Special Deputy Inspector General for Southwest Asia Mickey McDermott, USAID's Deputy Inspector General Michael Carroll and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen Jr.
 
 
Acting Chair Blake Farenthold: Mr. Courts, Ambassador Kennedy and I got into a
discussion about the absence of or presence of land use agreements for the facilities
we have in Iraq do you have the current status for that information from your latest
eport as to what facilities we do and do not have land use agreements for?


 
Michael Courts: What Ambassador Kennedy may have been referring to that for 13 of
the 14 facilities the Iraqis have acknowledged a presence through diplomatic notes.
But there's still only 5 of the 14 for which we actually have explicit title land use
agreements or leases.

Acting Chair Blake Farenthold: Alright so I'm not -- I'm not a diplomat. So what does
that mean? They say, "Oh, you can use it until we change our minds" -- is that
basically what those are? Or is there some force of law to those notes?


Michael Courts: Well the notes are definitely not the same thing as having an explicit agreement. And as a matter of fact, there's already been one case where the Iraqis
required us to reconfigure, downsize one of our sites. And that was at one of the
sites where we did not have a land use agreement and so obviously we're in a much
more vulnerable position when there's not an explicit agreement.




After the elections, the House Oversight and Government Reform needs to hold a hearing about this. 
 
 
We have given back in the last couple of days, facilites we had in Kirkuk, had an airbase up there, and facilities we had in Baghdad for police training center. And we have another facility in the next few days which we'll give back also in Baghdad.
 
 
Unless something's changed since June, these facilities are being handed over for free.  And they're being handed over because the administration did not secure land-lease agreements.  The US taxpayer footed the bill.  And Beecroft is talking about how "we have another facility in the next few days which we'll give back also in Baghdad."  In June, Patrick Kennedy didn't give that impression.  In fact, he stated that the police training center in Baghdad was the only thing being given away and he lied that there were land-lease agreements for all properties.  Patrick Kennedy needs to be called before the Committee and asked why his testimony in June is in so much conflict with what's taken place in September.  If it were earlier in the year, it might happen.  But it will be hard to schedule the hearing in the brief amount of time left.  (October means all House members seeking re-election return home to campaign.  All 435 seats in the House are being elected.)  Possibly after the election, they can ask Patrick Kennedy to return and explain himself to the Committee?
 
Beecroft  told Lugar that protests in Iraq -- similar to others against the video in the region -- were mild.  I don't think that's an accurate description.  More to the point, he seemed unaware of a Tuesday action Dar Addustour reported.  An American flag was burned.  How is that any different from any other protest?  Well it was burned by an MP.  An elected official, a member of the Parliament burned it.  He is Hussein Aziz al-Sharifi.  And we're not done.  He didn't burn it in the streets of Basra, he burned it outside the US Embassy in Baghdad.  As a member of Parliament, he can enter the Green Zone.  So he was able to go in front of the US Embassy in Baghdad and burn the flag.  The Committee should have been informed of that.  Since Beecroft is acting US ambassador currently, he should have been informed of what happened outside the US Embassy on Tuesday before he testified to the Senate on Wednesday.  Let's remember what he told John Kerry about the safety in Iraq.
 
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: For some time now and all the more so in light of recent events we have taken a very cautious and careful look at our security on a regular basis.  We have our own security at the Embassy.  We think it is sizable.  It is robust.  And we're very confident that it's what we need at this time.  At the same time,  we're fully engaged with Iraqi officials both poltiical and security officials at the most senior levels to make sure that they give us the cooperation that we feel we need and so far they have done that.  They have pledged to protect us and we're doing everything   to ensure that they keep to that pledge and that we meet our part of it by ensuring that we're as safe as we can be on our terms.  At the same time, I'd comment, we enjoy geographic advantages.  The Embassy is located inside the International Zone, the Green Zone, as you know, and there are a number of checkpoints that are closely guarded getting into it.  It's not a place where demonstrations usually take place.
 
 
"It's not a place where demonstrations usually take place."  Chuckle implied.  But on Tuesday, a member of Parliament staged a protest, burned the US flag outside the Embassy.  That's a huge insult but, more importantly, it raises serious security questions.
 
And now we'll turn to a monumental moment for Congress in the continued Iraq War.  This took place during an exchange with Senator Bob Casey and try to remember when there were actual expectations for Iraq.
 
 
 
Acting Chair Bob Casey: I want to also ask you about the politics of Iraq.  We sometimes don't have a chance to spend enough time on an issue like that.  But I was struck when I was there in July -- I guess it was July of 2010 -- Senator [Jeanne] Shaheen and Senator Ted Kaufman from Delaware, the three of us were there.  Our visit to Iraq just happened to overlap with a visit from the Vice President [Joe Biden] so we had a moment -- probably a two hour window -- where we could actually sit with him and he had just come from a series of meetings with various Iraqi officials trying to work out the politics and the difficult management of that, doing everything he could to bring the sides together.  As you know a lot better than I, it's one thing to have political ideological differences, it's another thing when it has its origin in ethnicity and all kinds of other divisions, it's particularly difficult to bring the sides together.  Now the concern -- and I was also struck by how capable the Vice President was in dealing with that because he spent a lot of time with all these players. There's still a real concern that those politics haven't worked out as well as we'd  hoped.  And, in particular, there's a concern -- or maybe an allegation, that might be too strong of a word -- that Prime Minister Malaki is becoming more and more authoritarian.  And I wanted to get your sense of that and your sense of the overall politics because that of course will be the underpinning of progress.  They can't make progress to the extent that we would hope unless they can manage those political differences. So I wanted to get your sense of that and maybe what you could do to further advance those -- those areas of cooperation or consensus.
 
Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: Thank you.  There clearly are divisions within Iraq and different interests in Iraq but what we see and what's encouraging is that the parties -- when they have disputes, when they have differences -- that at the end of the day, they come together to talk and negotiate this -- their differences.  And they continue to function as democracy, they continue to work in the legislature, in the Council of Ministers and outside it in in formal processes or official processes and find their way forward.  Now it's often times a slow protracted process. It certainly does not move at the pace that we would like to see or at the efficiency that we would like to see.  But as I see it, our role is largely to encourage this, to point -- to be helpful in pointing out ways forwards, ways things might be done, the way they might be able to compromise or reach consensus on issues.  And then to be as helpful as possible to help them avoid any backsliding on those agreements and to find ways to help consolidate them.  And we'll continue doing that as best we can.  But, again, I'd like to reiterate that the encouraging thing is that Iraq has not fallen apart, that it has held together.
 
 
 
The encouraging this is that Iraq has not fallen apart?  Do you really think the US government would have had such a 'cakewalk' of selling the illegal war in 2002 and 2003 if they'd told the American people that "success" would be measured by the fact "that Iraq has not fallen apart."  Wow.  What a lowered expectation.  The encouraging thing is that Iraq has not fallen apart?
 
Ranking Member Richard Lugar noted early in the hearing, "Though some significant down-sizing has occurred, the Iraq operation continue to be enormously expensive. How does the administration define US goals in Iraq? What are the prospects for achieving these goals? And what resources will be required over the long term?"  Those are important questions.  They weren't answered in the hearing -- and no nominee could have been expected to answer them.  But the administration needs to.  Bush had to come up with benchmarks to justify the continued spending of US tax dollars.  Barack should have to as well.
 
And, no, Iraq 'not falling apart' doesn't justify a billion, a million or even a single penny for a continued US mission.
 
 
 
Nouri al-Maliki is not a thin man. He'd probably best be described as stocky (not fat, stocky). In a sign of just how large Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, now is, the photo Dar Addustour runs indicates it would take over three Nouris to make one Jalal. Talabani just returned to Iraq this week from Germany, where's he been since June following knee surgery.  His huge girth isn't healthy and that would explain why Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports Nouri was checking on Jalal's health with the visit and why  All Iraq News reports Sheikh Bashir al-Najafi phoned Talabani today to check on Jalal's health.  The outlet also notes that the National Alliance's Ibrahim al-Jaafari visited Jalal in Sulaymaniyah.  Accompanying Nouri to Sulaymaniyah and then to Najaf, Alsumaria reports,  was the human clutch purse Saleh al-Mutlaq.  No doubt, Saleh walked behind Nouri as he played Jiang Qing to Nouri's Chairman Mao.
 
Chairman Mao's rule was characterized by a wave of purges.  Nouri has so much in common with Mao.  Alsumaria reports tribal elders in Salahuddin Province are saying that the work of the Justice and Accountability Commission should be concluded and that a law should be passed dissolving the commission.  And their demand is correct.  The Justice and Accountability Commission was not supposed to be a standing committee.  It was supposed to term out.  Nouri, in fact, in 2007 promised it would do just that.  That was part of the benchmarks he signed onto.  It wasn't supposed to exist in 2010 -- remember how Saleh al-Mutlaq decried it, especially after it banned him -- but was used to eliminate political rivials.  It's not supposed to exist today and, as long as it exists, the damaging de-Ba'athification of Iraq continues.  (De-Ba'athifcation refers to the policy Paul Bremer implemented in Iraq on behalf of the Bush White House.  This policy was repeatedly and widely condemned by British officials testifying to the Iraq Inquiry in London.)  In related news, Dar Addustour reports that the Chair of the Parliament's Commission on Security and Defense, Hassan Sinead, has signed an order allowing MPs to purchase personal weapons because, as the document notes, members of Parliament don't trust the so-called security forces to protect them.
 
And who can trust Nouri?  Alsumaria reports State of Law is attempting to collect signatures to force KRG President Massoud Barzani to submit to an interrogation before Parliament.
 
Earlier this week a drone the Turkish government got from the United States crashed in Dohuk.  All Iraq News reports that the PKK is stating they shot the drone down.  In other shooting news, Al Rafidayn reports that 1 government employee was shot dead in Baghdad and that a police officer with counter-terrorism survived a Tikrit assassination attempt (bombing).  All Iraq News adds that 1 person was shot dead in Mosul.  Alsumaria notes a suicide bomber blew his/herself up in Diyala Province (no one else was injured), 1 member of the Association of Muslim Scholars was shot dead in Nineveh,  and 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul.
 
 
In the US, Jill Stein is the Green Party presidential candidate.  Her campaign issued the following today:
 
Earlier this week, the Obama administration announced plans to challenge Monday's federal court ruling protecting American liberty from the NDAA. In response, Dr. Jill Stein issued the following statement today:
It is important for everyone concerned with the preservation of liberty in America to stand up now against the Obama administration's attempt to defend the indefinite detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

Thanks to a lawsuit brought by journalist Chris Hedges and others, a federal judge ruled that indefinite detention is unconstitutional.  The judge said that it could allow a president to indefinitely imprison journalists - or anyone else they considered to be in some way assisting the enemy in the War on Terror - without charging them with a specific crime or giving them a chance to defend themselves in court.  The judge noted that this would have a chilling effect upon journalists reporting stories that displeased the government.
The judge told the Obama administration that they could not use the law.  The response of the Administration was to file for an emergency measure to keep the law in effect while they appeal the ruling.

Indefinite detention without trial is used to suppress dissent by dictators around the world.  It is the type of oppressive executive power that our Constitution was written to forbid.   It's time to tell President Obama that it doesn't belong in America.

Please don't let this pass without raising your voice.  Once your rights are taken away, it will be too late to protest.

This isn't just a matter for the lawyers to decide.  This threat to our constitutional rights is arising from a "look tough" political strategy adopted by the Obama administration.  The Administration needs to understand that continuing down this path will exact a political price.  They must be told that Americans resent their attempts to defend a law that undermines the constitution.

I and my running mate, Cheri Honkala, have opposed the indefinite detention provision from the time President Obama signed it.  We also urge people to
join us in signing the "First Amendment Pledge" against the use of military-style police tactics to intimidate people demonstrating against government policies (See http://www.firstamendmentpledge.org/ ).  We will continue to speak up against the ongoing attempts to militarize our justice system and undermine our rights of free speech.
 
 
 
 cbc

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