Saturday, December 1, 2012

3 women, 4 men and the awful film Lincoln

Friday on Tell Me More (NPR), the guests were Allen West, Sister Consuelo Morales, Nik Steinberg, Maisie Kate Miller, Ammad Omar, Ken Matos and Denise Greewish.

This was an awful show.  Does Michele Martin not grasp how sexist her last segment was?

Let me move on. 

Lincoln.  Cedric and I went to see it. 

Why?

Because I like going to the movies.

I'll see anything.

So when Cedric thought this crap was going to be good, I went along with it.

I shouldn't have.

I knew Spielberg had destroyed The Color Purple and imposed the Church on Shug. 

I knew that he handled aliens with more care than he did Black characters.

The only reason to see this piece of crap film is because of Sally Field.

Sally should get an Oscar for her performance.

Everytime she came on, you could feel everyone sit up straight and pay attention.  When she was offscreen?  I heard snoring.  I'm not joking.  We were at a Friday night showing that started at nine.  Not a midnight showing.  I heard snoring.

I heard people talking back to the screen.  I heard a couple behind us complaining how "boring" the film was.

Spielberg's inability to ever grow up means Peter Pan's now directed a film about Lincoln and did so from a meandering script that felt more like a senior thesis and less like a film.

Avoid Lincoln at all costs.  If you have to see it, join me in begging the Academy to give Sally Field the Oscar.  She's the only one involved in the film that seems aware a paying audience might end up trapped in the theater.  She works for her money.  She delivers a performance in spite of the odds. 

I like Sally Field and would probably put Places of the Heart on my top 100 films of all time (I'd also put Mrs. Doubtfire too because it's so hilarious) and she won her second Oscar for that.  But Sally deserves a third Oscar for her performance as Mary Todd Lincoln.

She is the only thing worth praising in this film.



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


Friday, November 30, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Ali al-Dabbagh swears he's being attacked by Nouri's media office, talks between Baghdad and Erbil are now off, the UN's Martin Kobler insults Iraqi women, 'forget's to inform the UN of a planned conference in Baghdad (to be presided over by Zebari) in which the Iraqi Constitution will be called out as a tool of impearlism, the US military allows a prosecutor to present a case that argues the families of military suicides should be filing charges against the DoD right now in a huge class-action lawsuit, and more.
 
 
Today is the 921st day Iraq War veteran Bradley Manning has spent in military custody.  Today, he again spoke in court and we start with that because the US military has yet again demonstrated it is a culture that refuses to adapt and is so rooted in the status quo that it is responsible -- continues to be responsible -- for the deaths of its own.
 
Background, Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea and has neither affirmed that he is the leaker nor denied it. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. 
 
 
Bradley appeared in military court yesterday and we'll note various details about the case itself.  But the most important detail is one that effects all serving and veterans who have served -- as well as their family members.
 
 
No, it did not.  AP, from time to time, exists solely to keep Dorothy Parker's adage alive: You can lead a whore to culture but you cannot make her think.
 
Taking away his clothes was never about his protection.  And, at Third, we noted that as soon as those details became public and we pointed out that there were non-cloth items he could be provided with to wear if it really was about his safety.  (And didn't the military then suddenly discover that to be true?)  It was not about his protection.
 
 
Bradley being forced to sleep in the nude -- nude and on full display -- is not normal, it is not therapeutic and for the AP to suggest that it is is as offensive if they started running "She asked for it" columns on rape.
 
If the US military wasn't trying to punish Bradley (I believe they were trying to humiliate him, my opinion), their actions do not suddenly become 'good.'  It goes to the larger issue that you have a  lot of idiots who don't know what they're doing.
 
Forcing anyone to be on public display is humiliating and counter-productive enough, adding nudity to it? 
 
Immediately after he was taken into military custody, Bradley was transferred from Iraq to Kuwait.  He was not told what was taking place or if he would stay there or be moved.  Extraordinary rendention was already well known and discussed in the press.  When Jane Mayer was an actual reporter and not the partisan hack she's since morphed into, you could read all sorts of tales by her about what the US government was allowing to be done in the name of 'interrogation.'
 
In such a climate, a very young man, already under stress, was taken into military custody.  He had no idea what would happen to him.  In Kuwait, at one point he made a knoose.  He's called it that in his testimony.  The artist rendering of what prosecutor held up is not actually a knoose.  It's a sheet with a series of knots in it. 
 
The military prosecution is attempting to assert that this knoose or 'knoose' along with another statement is why certain measures were taken with Bradley.  The AP apparently feels it is their job to make the military's case for them as opposed to being a skeptical press.
 
The statement?  Arriving at Quantico, he was admitted.   When he was being admitted into Quantico, Bradley wrote on a form, in response to a question about suicide, "always planning and never acting."
 
Are you telling me that the US military didn't have a follow up?
 
If there was a follow up verbal question, then there was a follow up verbal response.  Why isn't that noted?
 
Because it wouldn't back the military's assertion?  Possibly.
 
That's disturbing.  More disturbing would be that there was no verbal follow up to a statement like that on a form. 
 
To be clear, that statement is perfectly 'normal.'  At different points in their lives, many Americans will consider suicide.  Maybe for a few seconds each time they do, maybe in an elaborate fantasy that has actually deals with something other than suicide.
 
The statement is not 'troubling.'  For a number of reasons.  One, it is an opening to discuss a serious issue and, two, it demonstrates that the person being assessed has some comfort level discussing the issue.  Someone being admitted who was planning to kill themselves and wanting to kill themselves once admitted to a facility, most likely would be close-lipped about any sucidal thoughts.
 
The narrative that the military prosecutor presented to the military court is that Bradley arrived back in the US and wrote during the intake assessment that he was "always planning and never acting" upon.  "Planning" should have resulted in Bradley being asked to define "planning."  Is that thinking, is that an abstract, is that an elaborate plan?  If you were to take your own life, how would you do it?  A whole string of questions were prompted by "always planning and never acting."
 
Where were those questions?
 
Was someone too uncomfortable to ask?  Was a medical professional not present at intake?  That seems strange considering the high-profile nature of Bradley's case even then; however, I would assume the military would train those working at Quantico or any other brig on suicide.
 
What it appears is that, at best, Bradley suffered because the military is not training those required to do supervision on issues like suicide.  
 
 
 
Yesterday, the Defense Dept released the US Army's suicide numbers for last month: "20 potential suicides: five have been confirmed as suicides, and 15 remain under investigation" which is an increase of five from September's numbers.   DoD notes that 2011 resulted in 165 deaths confirmed as suicides and that 2012 has seen 105 confirmed and 61 which are still being investigated.  So if all under investigation currently were to be ruled suicide, October will be the month that 2012 surpassed 2011 for number of army members taking their own lives (166 is the number of suicides if the 61 under investigation end up determined to be suicides).  With two months of data remaining for the calendar year, it is likely 2012 will see an increase in the number of suicides.
 
 
Quantico brig would be a natural location for potentially at-risk persons.  Those working at Quantico should have a minimum level of training.  That minimum level should have included staff providing direct supervision -- eyes on -- of Bradley being alarmed over what public nudity might do to the mental well being of a supposed suicide risk.
 
There was nothing healthy about what was done to Bradley.  If the military's narrative, as presented by the prosecution, is correct, then the Defense Dept is the cause of suicides.  It's not merely failing to provide assistance, it's creating an unhealthy environment that encourages and assists suicides via its own ignorance and negligence.
 
This is not an abstract.  There is a suicide crisis in the military today.
 
Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  This week, she proposed that the Defense Authorization Bill be expanded so that it will "require DoD to create a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program."
 
 
Senator Patty Murray:  Time and time again, we've lost servicemembers and veterans to suicide.  But while the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs have taken important steps towards addressing this crisis, we know more must be done.  We know that any solution depends upon reducing wait times and improving access to mental health care; ensuring proper diagnosis; and achieving true coordination of care and information between the Departments.  This amendment would require a comprehensive, standardized suicide prevention program across the DoD.  It would require the use of the best medical practices, in suicide prevention and behavioral health programs to address serious gaps in the current programs.
 
Murray's remarks appear in full in the November 28th snapshot.  I strongly support Murray's proposal.  Not only that, I hope attorneys around the country start thinking class-action lawsuit against DoD.  A huge number of veterans and servicemembers have taken their own lives.  They've often done so because the help they needed was not present and the people who should have seen the risks weren't trained to see the risks.
 
If the military is going to stand by the assertion that what Bradley experienced -- the 'diagnosis' and the 'treatment' -- was standard and humane military treatment, then it's really time for lawyers to start filing law suits against the DoD and the VA regarding suicides.
 
 
 
Today's testimony was Bradley's second day of testimony.  Yesterday, Courtney Kube (NBC News) reported, Bradley testified that he was taken into military custody May 27, 2010 and then to Kuwait's Camp Arifjan where he was held in a tiny cell "with no air conditioning" for several weeks and, "I was a mess, I totally started to fall apart."  Raf Sanchez (Telegraph of London) adds:

Wearing his dress blues uniform, Pfc Manning talked quickly and often smiled nervously as his lawyers argued that his pre-trial imprisonment was illegal and should lead to all charges being dismissed.
His testimony began with his imprisonment in Kuwait in May 2010, where was held in a "cage-like cell" that his guards would ransack up to three times a day in search of contraband.
"I remember thinking I'm going to die. I'm stuck here in this cage and I don't know what's going to happen," he said.


AFP reminds, "A UN rapporteur on torture concluded Manning was subjected to cruel and inhumane treatment at the Quantico brig." He would be move to Quantico in Virginia. Bradley wasn't the only one offering testimony at his pre-trial this week.   RT notes that the navy doctor who the government had charged with evaluating Bradley testified Wednesday.  Capt William Hoctor stated, "I had been a senior medical officer for 24 years at the time, and I had never experienced anything like this.  It was clear to me they had made up their mind on a certain cause of action, and my recommendations had no impact."  Larry Shaughnessy (CNN) adds, "But Capt. William Hocter said his regular recommendations to ease Manning's heightened confinement status within weeks of his arrival in Virginia were not acted upon by commanders."  BBC News continues, "Pte Manning's glasses were confiscated, he had to request toilet paper and was forced to remove his underwear at night."  Hoctor felt frustrated and stymied.  John Bailey (NBC News) quotes the doctor testifying,  "It was clear to me that they had made up their mind on a certain course of actions and my recommendations didn't really matter."  Ed Pilkington (Guardian) explains, "Three Quantico forensic psychiatrists who gave evidence to the court this week agreed that within days of arriving at the marine base Manning had recovered his mental health and was no longer a risk to himself. They consistently recommended that the soldier be put on a much looser regime. But the authorities would not listen."  Again, this was not acceptable treatment.  It doesn't even qualify as acceptable supervision.


Julie Tate (Washington Post) reports, "At one point in spring 2011, Manning testified that he told his guards he could kill himself with his underwear if he wanted to do so. He said he was forced to sleep naked under a suicide smock for nearly two months after the incident. On one occasion, he said, he was forced to stand naked in front of his cell during morning attendance."  Sky News adds, "David Coombs, defending, revealed on Wednesday that the chief legal officer at Quantico at the time, Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Greer, made light of the underwear episode in an email, composing a rhyme in the style of the popular Dr Seuss books. The message said: 'I can wear them in a box. I can wear them with a fox. I can wear them in the day. I can wear them so I say. But I can't wear them at night. My comments gave the staff a fright'."



Along with verbal testimony, the pre-trial also explored digital evidence.  Ray McGovern (CounterPunch) reports, "According to the e-mail evidence, the controversy over the rough handling of Manning prompted Quantico commander, Marine Col. Daniel Choike, to complain bitterly that not one Army officer was in the chain of blame. Choike's lament prompted an e-mail reply from his commander, Lt. Gen. George Flynn, offering assurances that Choike and Quantico would not be left  'holding the bag'."

Luis Martinez (ABC News) reports, that the judge is expected to release a decision on "a potential plea deal" in the next month.  Shashank Bengali (Los Angeles Times) elaborates:

The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, accepted terms Thursday under which Manning could plead guilty to a series of lesser counts of providing classified information to WikiLeaks, including a battlefield video file, dozens of war logs, and other classified material.
Manning could enter the plea — which includes a maximum of 16 years in prison — as soon as next month. It wasn't immediately clear whether prosecutors would continue to pursue the more serious charges, which experts have said will be harder to prove.
Let's move to Martin Kobler's testimony.  As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Kobler, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy in Iraq, addressed the UN Security Council in New York yesterday.  We included a part of his testimony yesterday with the plan being for the rest to be included today.  Won't be happening.  There's not enough space.  The intake issue (Bradley's) is not a minor issue and it directly effects (and reflects) the way Bradley was treated while going to the larger issue of the military's mishandling of potential suicides.  So we'll do some of the testimony today and wrap up in Monday's snapshot.
 
 
 
Marin Kobler:  During Iraq's busy electoral calendar ahead, the stakes will be high, not only for Iraq's political leaders competing for electoral support, but also for the consolidation of Iraq's transition.  The elections must be conducted credibly.  Working with the new Board of Commissioners, UNAMI will continue to coordinate United Nations support for the development of a sustainable, self-reliant and professional Independent High Electoral Commission.  UNAMI also continues to faciliate political dialogue between representatives of all components in the disputed areas.  UNAMI is working to facilitate consensus among the components of Kirkuk in view of the provincial council elections in the governorate. It has established an informal forum for dialogue with the political representatives of Kirkuk's components, with proposals in each of the following four main areas: power-sharing, determining the date of elections, security arrangements, and the review of the voter registry.  So far, there has been no agreement on conducting the elections for Kirkuk provincial council which have not taken place since 2005 due to differences on the voter registry.  Elections in Kirkuk could be a stabilizing factor throughout the governorate. 
 
That Kirkuk has not had elections since 2005 is damning, no matter how Kobler tries to dress it up or how he ignores Article 140 -- and he did ignore Article 140, never once mentioning the article of the Constitution specifically dealing with Kirkuk.
 
 
Martin Kobler:  Whilst relations between Baghdad and Erbil have deteriorated in some ways during Iraq's political stalemate, as highlighted in the Secretary-General's report, there is also some cause for optimism. 
 
 
Optimism, seen by Kobler yesterday on the dispute between Baghdad and Erbil.  Today, Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports:
 
The talks in Baghdad between Iraqi and Kurdish military commanders brokered by a three-star American general broke down on Thursday, two days after the prime minister announced both sides had agreed on pulling back forces in part of the disputed areas. Officials on Friday said there were no new talks scheduled.
Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani, who has described deployment of Iraqi forces as a plot against the Kurds, accused the Iraqi prime minister of reneging on the agreement and vowed that Kurdish forces would deter Baghdad's "militarism."
 
 
The previously mentioned Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution explained how Kirkuk and other disputed areas would be resolved.  The Kurdish Regional Government was set up after the start of the first Gulf War and is a semi-autonomous region of three provinces.  Iraq is also made up of the centeral-government out of Baghdad.  Oil-rich Kirkuk is one of the areas that both claim they have the right to.  The 2005 Constitution explained that the disputed regions would be resolved by a census and referendum. 
 
It also stated that this would be done no later than the end of 2007.  Nouri al-Maliki was installed as prime minister in the spring of 2006 (installed by the Bush White House which objected to Parliament's choice of Ibrahim al-Jaafari).  Nouri has repeatedly refused to implement Article 140.  Then, in the last months, he has sent forces (Tigris Operation Command) into the disputed areas.  The Kurds, among others, see this as an attempt on Nouri's part to seize these areas.
 
 
 
Dr. Martin Kobler:  In particular, the agreement reached to resume official oil exports from the Kurdistan region and the steps to adopt a hydrocarbons use and management framework deserve encouragement and support.  Legislation on the management of hydrocarbons and revenue-sharing has been blocked for a number of years.  It has become a major source of tension between the central and Kurdistan Regional governments as well as to the overall socioeconomic progress.  The approval of such legislation would signficantly advance the resolution of the question of the disputed internal boundaries, since a large number of unexplored oilfields lie within these areas.  It would  also contribute significantly to improving relations between Baghdad and Erbil.  UNAMI is also strengthening its efforts to support Iraq's legislative agenda, as mandated by the Iraqi Constitution. 
 
 
In 2007, with Democrats just put in control of both houses of the US Congress, they were demanding that Bully Boy Bush stop insisting 'progress' was taking place in Iraq without backing it up.  They wanted metrics by which to measure progress.  The Bush White House proposed -- and Nouri al-Maliki signed off on -- a series of benchmarks.  Iraq would quickly accomplish these benchmarks and that would demonstrate progress.  Failure to do so, Democrats promised (empty promises, it turned out) would mean defunding.
 
One of those benchmarks?  The hydrocarbons law.  It takes a lot of gall for Kobler to speak of 'progress' on that issue when there has been none.  Here is the only defintion of progress on the hydrocarbons law: Passing a hydrocarbons law.
 
Kobler, in his speech, wanted to talk about the Arab League Summit (a failure he attempted to spin) and about Iraq's neighbors.  But he left out what the Iraq Times had already reported this week: A move to host, in Baghdad, another Arab summit.  Why didn't that result in a wave of Happy Talk from Kobler?
 
He didn't mention it because the point of the meet-up would be to discuss the constitutions of various regional countries -- including the sense that Iraq lives under shame because it has a Constitution that was written by Americans, the British and Iranians.  Hoyshar Zebari, whom Kobler mentions elsewhere in his speech, is set to preside over the meet-up.
 
How will that play?  A summit in Baghdad decrying the Iraqi Constitution as a tool of occupation.  Think that might prompt Nouri to give up even the pretense of honoring it?
 
World observers should be nervous, to say the least, but Kobler didn't manage to include it in his presentation.
 
Martin Kobler:  In addition to the hydrocarbons legislation, we are continuing to provide technical advice and assistance on the establishement of the Federation Council, the reform of the judicial system, and the adoption of laws on minority communities and political parties.  At the regional level, Iraq continues its re-emergence onto the international stage.  Earlier this year, Iraq demonstrated renewed commitment to meeting its remaining obligations under Chapter VII of the Charter and to improving its bilateral relations with Kuwait.  Progress will, however, depend upon the restoration of confidence between both sides.  Over the past few months, I stepped up my engagement with Iraq and Kuwait to see how the United Nations could best facilitate the resolution of outstanding issuse in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the Security Council.  And, in this context, I recently held high-level meetings in Iraq and Kuwait in which I was encouraged by the strong commitment that both Prime Minister al-Maliki and the Amir of Kuwait expressed by normalizing relations between their two countries.  I very much hope that they will now be able to move quickly.  They can count on the UN in this regard.  I am happy to report to the Council today that I spoke to Foreign Minister [Hoshyard] Zaebari this morning.  He informed me that, first, his government had nominated the names for the technical team of the border maintenance project today and, second,  the government would start immediately to update the list of farmers entitled to compensation.  A meeting with the farmers will take place as soon as possible.  I welcome those steps and call on the Government of Iraq to initiate work on the border mainenance project without further delay.  I also appeal to the government of Iraq to continue to demonstrate the goodwill necessary to fulfil Iraq's other outstanding obligations, in particular with regard to missing persons and property.  The commitment of Iraq to fulfil those obliations will be conducive to the normalization of relations between the two countries.  And I equally call on the government of Kuwait to continue to act in a spirit of flexibility and reciprocity, as reflected earlier this year by the important reciprocal visits of the Amir in Baghdad and the Prime Minister in Kuwait.  On a different note, I remain fully committed to continue to work with both governments to resolve bilateral issues, at their request.  I am hopeful that the agreement between Kuwait and Iraq for the cancelation of pending lawsuits against Iraqi Airways and on navigational rights in the Khor Abdullah waterway will facilitate improved relations between the two neighbors. 
 
 
Let's be honest, Kuwait's government's more than happy with what Iraq's done thus far and regularly calls for Chapter 7 to be lifted. 
 
Martin Kobler:  Iraq, Mr. President,  is a rich country -- in both natural and human resources.  But I am concerned by the investment climate, the impact of Iraq's red tape and the role of the public sector.  Iraq's state apparatus continues to be affected by corruption and capacity shortfalls, which undermine governance and limit the delivery of services.  This is exacerbating discontent, in a context where natural resources are abundant and the public's expectations for better standards of living remain partly unfulfilled.  In support of Iraq's efforts to build its institutions to provide good governance and the rule of law, UNAMI and its partners in the United Nations country team intend to increase their efforts to strengthen the independence and capacity of state institution, including the Federal Supreme Court, the Independent High Commission for Human Rights and the Ministry of Human Rights.  UNAMI and the country team continue their efforts to strengthen the High Commission for Human Rights, which has yet to become fully operational, as well as the Ministry of Human Rights and civil society organizations.  Those are the key partners in monitoring the implementation of the National Action Plan on Human Rights -- a milestone document that represents the government's commitment to implement recommendations from the universal periodic review process under the auspices of the Human Rights Council. 
 
 
But this week, before Kobler spoke (granted he just read aloud from prepared remarks to which he added "Mr. President" and changed "that" to "this"), a fight broke out in the halls of Parliament between Iraqiya and State of Law with State of Law denying women were being tortured in Iraqi prisons.  Why wasn't this noted in the report?
 
Martin Kobler:  To date, this year, 123 people have been executed in Iraq.  53 of them since July.  The latest executions were carried out on 11 November, when 11 convicts were executed, including one Egyptian.  I continue to reiterate the Secretary-General's call in his report for the government of Iraq to consider a moratorium on all executions, in accordance with the relevant General Assembly resolutions.  As I indicated to the Council in my last briefing, UNAMI will continue its close partnership with the country team, with a particular focus on three key areas with important political, developmental and governance implications, namely, youth, women and the environment.  Youth is a critical, but neglected, demographic in Iraq.  The National Development Plan and the current development assistance framwork highlight the importance of investing in youth.  Despite that, indicators point to high education dropout rates, while Iraqi youths continue to suffer from an unemployment rate of almost 20% and low levels of civic participation and engagement.  To address those worrying trends, I have established a youth advisory group and appointed two young Iraqi youth ambassadors to strengthen United Nations advocacy, including through social and media outreach activities.  To generate and mobilize the government's commitment, we are also promoting youth-orientated initiatives, including a youth parliament and a national human development report on youth for 2012, led by the United Nations Population Fund and the United Nations Development Programme, which has included a consultation process with 1800 youths in all governorates.  We will also sustain our efforts to promote gender mainstreaming and the empowerment of women.  For example, we are supporting access to justice for women, as well as training police officers to provide legal assistance to women survivors of gender-based violence. 
 
 
And that was Kobler's full remarks on women.  That may surprise some since there was a time when he couldn't shut up about Iraqi women when appearing before the Security Council.  But as we pointed out then that meeting (presided over by US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice) was all about ignoring the attack on Iraq's LGBTs and Emo youth.  For one report, suddenly women mattered.  For one report. suddenly Kobler was talking non-stop about women. 
 
It was only because the alternative would require him to speak of gays and he apparently finds that 'icky.'  Fortunately for him, Susan Rice found the topic 'icky' as well and had no statements to make during the meeting she presided over at the press conference she held after.  Even though the targeting and the murders were being reported by all outlets -- including Rolling Stone -- it wasn't something Kobler or Rice wanted to speak of.
 
Kobler did have a tiny note in his written paper acknowledging that something was taking place.  What, he wasn't sure of.  But he would provide details in his next report to the Security Council. 
 
Martin Kobler, we're still waiting for you to supply those details.
 
 
We noted in real time that Kobler wouldn't be talking about women except it let him avoid talking about the LGBT community (see the  the April 10th snapshot and the April 11th snapshot):
 
 
We got a little talk about women in this presenation.  That is new.  Previous presentations to the Security Council by the Special Envoy to Iraq frequently left women out.  But apparently, something more "gross" and "disgusting" than women has been found by the office of Special Envoy: Iraq's LGBTs.
It was really disgusting to hear Kobler prattle on about violence and minorities and never once note the attacks on Iraq's LGBT community.  It was disgusting.
It was disgusting that Susan Rice never bothered to raise the issue. As evidenced by this White House announcement, the administration is aware that this is LGBT Pride Month.  Somehow the memo didn't reach Susie Rice. If the US LGBT community has any sense of community with those LGBTs living in other countries where their lives are threatened for who they are, US LGBTs would insist that the White House start proving they give a damn about LGBT rights. 
These photo ops and press releases are bull f**king s**t if in hearing after hearing, the administration refuses to address threats to LGBTs.  Susan Rice presided over the Security Council hearing today.  She had it in her power to set the agenda.  She was happy to slam that hammer down repeatedly announcing "So ordered" after she'd issued an edict.  But she wasn't happy or willing to use that power to address the plight of Iraq's LGBT community.  Since the start of this year, many have been killed.  This isn't a secret, it's well reported, and we've certainly covered it here. 
Martin Kobler and Susan Rice and the United Nations and the White House enable those killings by refusing to address the murders in what they call a hearing on the "the situation in Iraq."  There's no excuse for that.  Shame on them for their non-actions and their silence.
 
 
Martin Kobler only wanted to talk about Iraqi women at any length when it allowed him to avoid the hunting and killing of Iraqis thought to be gay.  With that not in the news, he was yet again happy to ignore Iraqi women.
 
That doesn't present a good image of the United Nations to the world.  While the UN's slogan is "Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world," as Kat noted last night, Martin Kobler presenation said, "Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world -- if you're a man."
 
We'll wrap up with Kobler's presentation on Monday and hopefully get in the Congressional hearing there was never space or time for. 
 
 
Nouri's former spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh is back in the news.   Today All Iraq News reports that he's accusing Nouri's Media Affairs Office Ali al-Moussawi of a media lynching as Nouri attempts to weasel out of the corruption charges regarding the $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia on al-Dabbagh.  In a written statement to the news outlet, al-Dabbagh alludes to information about Nouri's inner circle that he could reveal.  al-Dabbagh has twice publicly denied any involvement in the arms deal.  Al Mada notes that in his written statement, he cited his six years of being a spokesperson for the Iraqi government as proof of his integrity.  Kitabat quotes it in full and that includes insisting that his image is being distorted and that his reputation is unfairly maligned.  As a result, he insists, he can no longer do his job.  That might have carried more weight had he issued it when he was still in Iraq and before he reportedly fled the country.


October 9th, with much fanfare, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  After taking his bows on the world stage and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off.  The scandal, however, refuses to go away. The Iraq Times states Nouri's offering up Ali al-Dabbagh and others to protect the truly corrupt.  Meanwhile, All Iraq News notes National Alliance member and one-time MP Wael Abdul Latif is calling for Nouri to quickly bring charges against those involved in the corruption.  (The arms deal is now treated by the Iraqi press as corrupt and not allegedly corrupt, FYI.)   Latif remains a major player in the National Alliance and the National Alliance has backed Nouri during his second term.  With his current hold on power reportedly tenous and having already lost the support of Moqtada al-Sadr, Nouri really can't afford to tick off the National Alliance as well.  Kitabat reports MP Maha al-Douri, of Moqtada's bloc in Parliament, is saying Nouri's on a list of officials bribed by Russia for the deal.  The outlet also notes rumors that al-Dabbagh is leaving the UAE for Bulgaria.

From yesterday's snapshot:

Adding to the view of Nouri as an incompetent on the world stage are the issues emerging over another big contract.  Dar Addustour reports that Rotana Arabia, a cell phone company, signed a contract with Iraq woth as much as $30 million.  The contract was brokered by Saadoun al-Dulaimi who is the Minister of Culture.  Nouri's calling for the contract to be cancelled, citing corruption.  He wants the Ministry to cancel the contract.  Not the Minister.  He can't ask Minister of Culture Saadoun al-Dulaimi to do anything because no one can find him and he's reportedly fled the country. 

Today All Iraq News reports that the Ministry of Culture is insisting there is no final contract with the cell phone service provider.

Yesterday, violence broke out across Iraq . . .  including in the halls of Parliament:


All Iraq News reports an "altercation" took place in Parliament today between several deputies and led Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi to immediately adjourn the session and postpone the next session until Saturday.  Thrown fists have not been uncommon in the Iraqi Parliament in the last seven years but it has been some time since there were any reports of physical violence among MPs.  Whatever happened, All Iraq News notes it took place in the hallway.  Alsumaria also terms it an "altercation" and notes that prior to that, the Parliament had read six bills and was discussing the allegations of torture in Iraqi prisons and detention centers.  


Al Mada reports today that the fight was between State of Law (Nouri al-Maliki's political slate) and Iraqiya (led by Ayad Allawi) and that it was over the issue of what is happening to Iraqi women in prisons and detention centers as well as an allegation that State of Law had attempted to bury the report and refusing to allow Parliament's Committee on Women to issue the report on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (November 25th).  Dar Addustour notes that the Committee report is said to have found that women are being arrested without judicial warrants and that, while in prison, women are being tortured to force confessions against their husbands.  The Ministry of the Interior denies the charges.  Who's in charge of that Ministry?  That's right Nouri al-Maliki.  Because he refused to nominate anyone to head it.
 
As  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed in July, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."  The Iraq Times notes that Parliament's Commission on Human Rights has declared that Nouri's government is responsible for any torture of detainees or prisoners.
 
 
 iraq
cnn
 
afp
cnn

Thursday, November 29, 2012

2 women, 2 men

Today on NPR's Tell Me More, the guests were Sudeep Reddy, Mary Harper, Erik Evans and Siedah Garrett.

No offense to Seidah but she had no reason to be on the show.  Her segment was about the 30th anniversary of Thriller.  She has nothing to do with Thriller.  She worked on the next Michael Jackson album Bad.

That's a bit like bringing on Michael Beck to discuss the movie Grease because he co-starred with Olivia Newton-John in her follow up film Xanadu.


Seidah can offer reflections on Michael and should.  But she's not the person to bring on for a dicussion of Thriller.

Also, it's not as though it's 100 years ago.  Quincy Jones is still alive (producer), Eddie Van Halen is still alive (lead guitar on "Beat It") . . . In fact, I believe, besides Michael, only Vincent Price (does rap on "Thriller") has passed away.

So the segment was uninformative and a waste of time.

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


Thursday, November 29, 2012.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's management skills take
another hit, more death sentence are handed out by the government, Nouri's disprespect for the Constitution is noted, Nouri claims his own commanders are shutting him out of the process, a fight breaks out in the halls of Parliament, Martin Kobler testifies to the UN Security Council, and more.
 
Today Martin Kobler addressed the United Nations Security Council in New York.  Kobler is the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy in Iraq and heads United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).  As usual when we note the report on Iraq to the Security Council, we do it in two snapshots.  It was a presentation that lasted over 20 minutes.  It is important enough -- how the UN officially views Iraq for public consumption -- to be included in full.  So we spread it out over two snapshots.
 
Martin Kobler:  Mr. President, as 2012 draws to a close, it is pertinent to take stock of progress Iraq has made during the last twelve months.  During that time, Iraq has made committed efforts to enforce law and order following the withdrawal of United States forces.  Reclaiming its rightful place at the diplomatic table, it successfully hosted the 23rd Arab Summit in Baghdad in April, and, in May, it hosted talks between Iran and the permanent members of the [Security] Council plus Germany.  In terms of strengthening state institutions, the Human Rights Commission was established in April  and a new board of Commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission was elected in September.   The latter resulted in an agreement on the date for government council elections in April next year.  This progress, however, is in danger by two factors.  First, the stalemate between Iraq's political leaders and, second, developments in the region.  Mr. President, I regret to report to the Council that estranged relations between Iraq's political leaders have endured throughout the year.   One manifestation of this is the Arab-Kurdish rift.  The lack of trust stems from a number of pending issues of contention, including power-sharing, security and tense relations between the central government and the region of Kurdistan.  The resulting political deadlock is preventing the progress and reform necessary to consolidate Iraq's transition.  Attempts to defuse the stalemate have most recently focused on a package of political reforms which appears stalled.  The government of Iraq's decision to establish the Tigris Command Operations Command responsible for overall security in Kirkuk, Salahuddin and the Diyala Govern-ates has been highly criticized by members of the Kurdistan Regional Government.  A military stand-off ensued, incorporating the armed forces of the respective governments.  The militarization of the situation has resulted in the regrettable death of one civilian.  I should like to take this opportunity to call on the parties to exercise all due restraint at this time of increased tensions.  I count on the leadership of the politicians of Iraq to resolve their differences through political dialog in accordance with the Constitution.  In that regard, I welcome the recent efforts of Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and I also welcome the convening of a meeting between the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga at the technical level earlier this week in Baghdad.  It is a step in the right direction.  And I do encourage both sides to keep the door open -- of dialog open -- and implement the understandings reached.  UNAMI stands ready to implement any possible agreement reached that would de-escalate the situation and promote confidence among the various communities.  Over the past few days, Mr. President, dozens of Iraqi security personnel and civilians -- including worshipers -- have been killed and many other dozens injured in Baghdad, Kirkuk, Karbala and Falluja.  Extremists use the political differences of the leaders to ignite either sectarian or ethnic violence and tensions in Iraq.  Immediate resolutions and compromise by all political leaders should be the response to these attempts.  The tense political standoff is thus testing Iraq's internal fault-lines.  August and September were the deadliest months in the last two years.  A particular atrocious series of attacks on October 27th targeted pilgrims during holy Eid al-Adha observance.  Left unaddressed, the political impasse will leave Iraq vulnerable to the sectarists of Iraq's ability, mainly from the spillover of violence in the wider region.  Mr. President, Iraq finds itself in an increasingly unstable region environment generated by the Syrian Civil War.  The Syrian conflict has exposed a complex web on interconnected and conflicting interests that threatens to engulf the region in violent conflict.  With no immediate solution to the crisis in sight, there are real risks of spillover, violence and destabilization.  At the domestic level, the conflict across Iraq's borders has had a significant humanitarian impact on Iraq.  The crisis also impacts on Iraq's relations with her neighbors. Iraq's relationship with Turkey has also grown increasingly tense in recent months with an escalation in the rhetoric exchanged on both sides. The divergent positions between Iraq and other states in the region on how to address the Syrian crisis have also further strained their relations.  Within this challenging context, however, it is possible to identify opportunities for UNAMI to continue to assist Iraq's transition process. Indeed, not withstanding the lack of progress between Iraq's political leaders, in resolving their differences, Iraq's expectations on UNAMI continues to grow.  UNAMI's assistance, pursuant to its Council mandate, is focusing on two priority tracks:  First, advancing national reconciliation and dialog and, second, tackling regional issues.  Since my last briefing to the Council, UNAMI has continued to encourage political leaders to engage in inclusive dialog to resolve their differences in the spirit and framework of the Constitution.  I've continued to conduct frequent visits to Erbil and Sulamaniyah to promote such a dialog.  I've also conducted intensive discussions both in Baghdad and in Kirkuk focusing on the holding of the long overdue governate council elections in Kirkuk.  UNAMI's support to the Council of Representatives on the basis of sustained facilitation and technical advice contributed to the selection of the IHEC's new board of commissioners in September -- a proficient and a genuinely and truly independent IHEC board is essential at this juncture as Iraq prepares for nationwide governor council elections on 20th of April next year and legislative elections in 2014.
 
 
Factually, we should note that the Arab League Summit was March 29th and not in April. and that it was a failure as judged by who attended. From that day's snapshot:
 
Who were the notable no-shows?  Hamza Hendawi and Lara Jakes (AP) report that the no-shows included rulers from "Saudi Arabia, Qatar and most other Gulf countries, as well as Morocco and Jordan -- all of them headed by Sunni monarchs who deeply distrust the close ties between Baghdad's Shiite-dominated government and their top regional rival, Iran." The Belfast Telegraph notes, "The only ruler from the Gulf to attend was the Emir of Kuwait, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah."
 
 
With regards to IHEC . . .
 
I like Chris Hedges.  He is someone who tries to tell his truth and I'm always willing to consider what he says.  So let's drop back to election night in the US.  There's Hedges on a really bad program that he really shouldn't have been on but was.  Ava and I debated whether or not to cover this in real time but decided not to.  Hedges offered his belief that the world itself was in danger and that the world was being destroyed, to the point that it would be uninhabitable.  He said that in the face of that, other issues were less important.  Other issues identified by him?  He immediately went to women's rights.  Isn't that the knee jerk for lefty males every time?
 
 
And Ava and I were watching and giving him consideration because it is true that planet going down in flames might trump other things.  However, Chris Hedges then remained silent as a dumb ass with a stupid organization then piped in that he agreed and, by the way, what was really important and what needed to be focused on was all the enthusiasm it was building among people of color.
 
We waited for Hedges to object.
 
There was no objection and we felt Punk'd.
 
You want us to set aside women's rights -- the basic rights of over half the planet and a group that represents every race and ethnicity known to humankind -- and yet you're okay with some crap about the 'importance' of happy thoughts  for a certain segment of people?  That trumps whether or not human life can be supported by the planet?  An abstract feeling trumps the basic legal rights of over half the population?
 
Does Heges believe that happy thoughts trump the survival of the planet?  I doubt it.  But he wasn't willing to object.  These conversations happen over and over.  In the US, it's usually a bunch of male Democrats saying the party could get more votes if they dropped their support for abortion.  (That would of course drive women voters away but the 'brains' making that proposal don't consider women 'real voters' anyway.)  On the left (I'll let the right talk about itself), in the abstract, the disabled and challenged are treated with respect, men of color are treated with respect, men of certain ethnicites are treated with respect, all these groupings get respect and no one's asking that their rights be ignored or chipped away at.  But time and again, women -- who don't even make up half the Senate in our 'advanced' United States -- are asked to sacrifice.  It's past time for the left to get honest about what it really thinks about women and how little women are valued.  These continual attacks on women, these continual slights would not repeatedly happen were women not so devalued.  And hats off to Ruth for her great catch last night where she noted George Mitrovich reduced a strong Senator to arm candy because of his own sexism and that he did so while trying to pretend he's appalled by sexism.  to decry sexism. Let's also note that his crap appeared at The Huffington Post.  Time and again, certain women sell all women out so that they can advance on their own.  (The term is "queen bee.")
 
 
And time and again, women have to sacrifice and we're so damn sick of it.  Women's rights, their basic rights, Hedges was willing to toss aside for survival of the planet but not a feel-good mood about an election.  That was important and valid.  But the right to self-determination, to control one's own body, to own property, etc, these were unimportant.
 
What does this have to do with the above?
 
Kobler's bragging and boasting about IHEC -- Independent High Electoral Commission -- was embarrassing.
 
There is only one woman on the Commission.  The law requires women to be a third of the Commission.  The woman was added days after the others and probably wouldn't have been if even the Iraqi judges weren't publicly calling out the lack of women on the Commission.
 
Time and again, women are made to wait.  We're made to wait by Chris Hedges because it's all about survival, we're made to wait some other reason at some other time.  If Iraq, as it stands currently, cannot follow the law and cannot appoint three women to IHEC (appoint, not elect, what a joke that was from Kobler), then exactly when the hell will the law be followed?
 
 
Nouri al-Maliki has one female minister in his Cabinet.  All the rest -- even the so-called 'acting' ministers -- are men.  Women continues to be eliminated from positions of power, women continue to not be seated at the table.  Iraq's female politicians -- especially female members of Iraqiya -- loudly and publicly decried the IHEC board for not having the three women required by law.  But Kobler can't even note that.  Kobler happy stamps it and we're all supposed to accept that?
 
At what point is Nouri's government held accountable for its failure to follow the law?  At what point does the United Nations finally find the guts to call out the disenfranchisement of women?  Oh, yes, women were mentioned -- much later in the speech -- and we'll get to that tomorrow.  As their own little island.  As though they're not also Iraqis, as though Iraq is not also their country, as though they don't have a right to participate and as though 'success' in Iraq can be judged without considering what's happened to Iraq women.
 
How very sad.
 
 
Today Iraq was slammed with multiple bombings and shootings leading Antiwar.com to dub it a "bloodbath."  Margaret Gtiffis (Antiwar.com) counts 54 dead and 237 injured in the day's cycle of violence.  RT notes, "Two roadside bombs in the city of Hilla blew up a group of Shiite pilgrims, leaving at least 26 people dead and several dozen wounded. The bombs struck a commercial area of the city during a busy period.  Another attack happened in the shrine city of Karbala, 90 kilometers to the south of Baghdad. A car bomb killed 6 civilians and wounded 20, some of them police officers.­"  And RT has three Reuters photos of the aftermath of those two bombings.  Today's violence continues the week's trend of attacks.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes, "Attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday left at least 38 people dead and more than 130 wounded."

In Hilla, AFP notes, "Iraqi security forces cordoned off the area of the blasts and set up checkpoints in the city to search cars, an AFP correspondent said, adding that shops near the site were shuttered after the attack."  Ali al-Rubaie (Reuters) quotes teacher Ihsan al-Khalidi explaining, "We started to stop civilian cars asking them to take the wounded to hospital since there were not enough ambulances to transfer them."   Sinan Salaheddin (AP) provides these details on the Hilla aftermath, "Twisted and charred remains of vehicles were seen outside damaged shops as shop owners collected their strewn merchandise from the bloodstained pavement, littered with debris."  On the Karbala attack, Al Jazeera explains,  "In the shrine city of Karbala, a car bomb killed four and left another 16 people wounded. The bomber parked the vehicle near the entrance of the Imam Abbas shrine. Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghad, said the holy site made for a 'very daring' attack in Karbala."  Xinhua adds, "Iraqi security forces blocked the roads to central Karbala which leads to the shrine of Imam Hussein, one of the 12 most Shiite revered Imams."   Al Bawaba notes that Shi'ites were the targets in the attacks on those two cities while other bombs today were targeting security forces.


The above is getting most of the focus from the western media; however, those are not the only attacks carried out in Iraq today. All Iraq News notes a Falluja suicide car bombing targeting a checkpoint which left 2 security forces dead (five more injured and two civilians injured as well).  Xinhua has the attacker on foot in an explosive vest.  Alsumaria adds that a double bombing in Kirkuk's Hawija left one Iraqi soldier injured and  1 person was shot dead outside his Baghdad home (machine gun).   All Iraq News notes a bombing just outside Baghdad targeting a Sahwa restaurant which left 2 people dead and eleven injured.  Among the other violence Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) notes is, "Gunmen blew up two homes in Kirkuk.  One belonged to a doctor, the other to a businessman."

In addition, the Voice of Russia notes that Turkish warplanes bombed northern Iraq: "A fleet of F-16 bombers with Turkey's Second Tactical Air Force based in southeastern Diyarbakir province raided Iraq's Avashin, Zap, Haftanin and Metina regions, Dogan news agency reports."  The war planes were targeting the PKK.  Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described the PKK in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." Trend News Agency adds, "The conflict between Turkey and the PKK has lasted for over 25 years." 
 
 
On the continued violence, Duraid Adnan (New York Times) wisely observes, "Each time a period of calm sets in, it is shattered by more violence." 
 
 
 Violence didn't just happen out in the streets of Iraq and during home invasions today. 

All Iraq News reports an "altercation" took place in Parliament today between several deputies and led Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi to immediately adjourn the session and postpone the next session until Saturday.  Thrown fists have not been uncommon in the Iraqi Parliament in the last seven years but it has been some time since there were any reports of physical violence among MPs.  Whatever happened, All Iraq News notes it took place in the hallway.  Alsumaria also terms it an "altercation" and notes that prior to that, the Parliament had read six bills and was discussing the allegations of torture in Iraqi prisons and detention centers.  Though no one has yet to take responsibility for the altercation, you can be sure State of Law will insist it was caused by 'Ba'athists' who've been hiding out in Syria (since that is the group they tend to blame for everything).

The Ministry of the Interior (headed by Nouri since he never nominated anyone to be Minister of Interior -- in violation of the Constitution) issued a statement today.  Dar Addustour reports that statement strongly denies that any women are being held illegally or tortured in detention centers.  That is the wording of the statement.  I point that out because the accusation is women are being tortured in detention centers and prisons and the statement issued only covers detention centers.  Kitabat notes that before the altercation, the Parliament was discussing the denial by the Ministry of the Interior.  Lending credence to the belief that the altercation was about women prisoners being tortured, Alsumaria reports that the National Alliance is up in arms and saying that what happened today is Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's fault as a result of his 'bias' by allowing this issue to be addressed. 

Nouri had hoped for a different image to be projected today.  All Iraq News notes that the prime minister visited the International Book Fair in Baghdad today and posed for photos.  Not only did the bombings and shootings and whatever happened in the hallways of Parliament overwhelm that photo op, the Russian arms deal just will not go away.

October 9th, with much fanfare, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  After taking his bows on the world stage and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off.  It's not going away.

The deal has been rife with rumors of corruption from the moment that it was announced.  Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh has twice had to publicly issue statements insisting he was not involved in the deal.  In addition, there are allegations that Nouri's son received a kickback from the deal.

Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) notes that al-Dabbagh has left Baghdad and arrived in the UAE and that someone is whispering Russian President Vladimir Putin personally provided Nouri with proof that al-Dabbagh was involved in backroom deals to benefit from the contract.  If the point of that rumor is to create sympathy for Nouri, it doesn't.  It just makes him look incompetent if it's true.  True or not, it's very hard to believe that Putin (or any leader) would provide evidence of corruption knowing it would tank a multi-billion dollar deal.


Al Rafidayn notes that Parliament's Integrity Commission is said to have the names of 14 officials who were to profit from the corrupt deal.  Kitabat explains one of the names is Ali al-Dabbagh and the Parliament was attempting to call on him to appear before them.  That's now in doubt since he's fled to the UAE.   Kitabat notes the other names are said to be those who accompanied Nouri to Russia.


Adding to the view of Nouri as an incompetent on the world stage are the issues emerging over another big contract.  Dar Addustour reports that Rotana Arabia, a cell phone company, signed a contract with Iraq woth as much as $30 million.  The contract was brokered by Saadoun al-Dulaimi who is the Minister of Culture.  Nouri's calling for the contract to be cancelled, citing corruption.  He wants the Ministry to cancel the contract.  Not the Minister.  He can't ask Minister of Culture Saadoun al-Dulaimi to do anything because no one can find him and he's reportedly fled the country. 
 

 
Tensions continue between the KRG and the Baghdad-based central government over Nouri sending in the Tigris Operation Command forces into disputed regions, as Martin Kobler noted today when addressing the UN Security Council.  In an interesting development, Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports Nouri is said to be angry because his generals are not providing him with details and summeries of the ongoing negotiations with the Kurdish Peshmerga officials.  If Nouri is really being kept out of the loop, that says a great deal about how much his power has faded in the last weeks.  Even more surprising since the Peshmerga has published the main points the two sides agreed upon:
 
1. Forming an operational mechanism, principles of cooperation and joint committees in the disputed regions. The joint operations in the disputed regions of Kurdistan will remain unchanged but the mechanism of operation will be revitalized between the federal forces and the forces of the Kurdistan Region.
2. The meetings of all the joint operations committees will be rescheduled to once a month. This will be increased if deemed necessary, especially for meetings of the SAC.
3. The location of the meetings and coordination for the meetings will be organized by the command of the Iraqi Armed Forces who will work as a coordinator for the work of the committees, especially the SAC.
4. A follow-up procedure will be conducted for the work and the decisions of the joint committees and punitive measures will be taken against any defaulting party or individual.
5. Any party or individual will be punished in case of reporting misleading information to their superiors in order to create problems and crisis at any level.
6. The SAC must be immediately informed about any problems that arise in the disputed areas in order to immediately work on solving them.
7. The agreements must be honored and the commanders, officials and individuals who violate the terms of the agreements will be punished.
8. Forming a quick mechanism to pull out all the forces of both sides that were mobilized to the region after Nov. 16, 2012. Pulling out these forces must be transparent, truthful and supervised by the supreme committee members after the consent of the SMC.
9. Reconsidering the decision of forming operations command in the region, especially the Tigris Operations Command, and giving back the authority of security in Kirkuk to the police, Asayish and internal forces.
 
Alsumaria reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani met today with a Kurdish deglation that had been engaged with negotiations over the Operation Tigris forces and they told him that Nouri al-Maliki will not agree to withdraw the forces.
 
To explain what's going on, Nouri al-Maliki was installed by the US in 2006 as prime minister of Iraq.  (The Parliament's choice had been Ibrahim al-Jaafari whom the Bush White House felt was too close to Iran.)  The 2005 Constitution of Iraq called for Article 140 to be implemented by the end of 2007.  Article 140 outlines how disputed regions will be resolved: census and referendum.  Kirkuk is the most well known disputed area because it is oil-rich.  The Kurds claim it as does the central-government out of Baghdad.  How do you resolve the dispute?
 
You implement Article 140.  Nouri refused to do so throughout his first term.  To get a second term after his political slate came in second in the March 2010 elections, the US government brokered a contract known as the Erbil Agreement.  If Nouri made certain concessions (including that he would finally implement Article 140 -- implementation that he's required to do -- this isn't optional, this is Iraq's Constitution), then he could have a second term as prime minister despite the results of the election. 
 
That should have settled it.  It didn't.  All this time later, he's still not implemented Article 140.  But he has now sent in security forces he controls into these disputed areas.  The Kurds see this as an attempt by Nouri to grab the areas for Baghdad in violation of the Iraqi Constitution.
 
And that's only one of the Constitutional issues Nouri's in violation of.  The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is the political party of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.  PUK's Adnan Mufti tells Rudaw:
 
 
As the president of Iraq, Jalal Talabani is responsible for overseeing the constitution. He will warn anybody who violates the constitution. On Nov. 19, Ali Ghedan, the commander of the Iraqi infantry units, sent a letter to certain units and ordered their mobilization. Talabani, acting in his constitutional powers, sent a letter to Ghedan right away. Talabani told Ghedan that his orders were unconstitutional, because Article 67 says the army is not allowed to interfere in political matters.
Talabani also told Ghedan that he had been unconstitutionally appointed to command the infantry units, because the commanders of all of such units have to be appointed by parliament. In the case of Ghedan, this was not done. Therefore, Ghedan does not hold any constitutional powers. Talabani asked Ghedan to annul his orders right away, otherwise he would be taken to court.
 
 
 
Under the Iraqi Constituion, Prime Minister Maliki is the Commander in Chief and enjoys the right to create and deploy such a force, of course.  The Constitution also requires him, via Article 61, to get the approval of parliament for the appointment of any high-ranking military commanders, such as Lieutenant General Abdul-amir Zaidi.  I doubt anyone in Iraq can remember the last time Maliki sought parliamentary approval for such appointments, of course.  Perhaps referring to the Constitution has become passe and quaint, as Prime Minister ignores more provisions of Iraq's highest law than I can adequately list here.  I'll still go ahead and cite a few of Mr. Maliki's constitutional transgressions, perhaps out of nostalgia for the document: Refusing provinces their constitutional right to become regions (Article 119), denying Kurdistan's right to exploit new oil fields in its Region (Articles 112 and 115), failing to create a Federacy Council (Articles 48 and 65), compromising the independence of Iraq's High Commission for Human Rights, Independent Electoral Commission, and Commission on Public Integrity (Article 102), and reneging on promise after promise to finally allow a census and referendum to settle the fate of the disputed territories (Article 140). 
Haider Hassan Jalil Rahim, an MP from Mr. Maliki's ironically named State of Law Coalition, seems to think that the likes of the Dijla forces should even occupy Kurdistan and to hell with the federal system that was agreed to in 2005.  Recently he told Rudaw that "The government should impose its prestige and authority over the entire Iraqi territory, but the conflict will not reach that stage of intensity."  Iraq's Constitution requires that the Kurdistan Region's Parliament give its permission before any Iraqi federal army units enter its territory, but I won't even bother to look up the number of the article in question.  The country seems to be quickly moving past the stage of promises on a piece of paper actually mattering, you see.  Instead, Iraq increasingly slides back to the old pattern of confrontation between a leader in Baghdad's personal army units and the Kurds' peshmerga, all amred to the teeth.  Although the conflict may "not reach that stage of intensity" this month, the pressure seems to build every year.  With American military forces now out of the country, the chances of an unfortunate explosion between the Kurds and Mr. Maliki's Republican Guards (whatever he actually calls each unit) grow everyday.
 
 
 
 
 
In related news, a political rival of Nouri's visited the KRG.   Al Mada reports that the head of the Supreme Council, Adel Abdul-Mahdi al-Muntafiki, went to Erbil yesterday and met with Massoud Barzani to discuss how to resolve the issues and how to achieve constructive dialogue between all parties.  He is a former vice president.  He and Tareq al-Hashemi became the vice presidents of Iraq in 2005 and Adel continued in that role until the protests of 2011 against government corruption, lack of jobs, lack of basic public services and more.  After Nouri stalled for his infamous '100 days' (promising to solve the issue if Iraqis would give him 100 days and then, at the end of those 100 days, doing nothing), Adel announced he was stepping down as vice president in protest of the ongoing corruption.    Tareq al-Hashemi remains a Vice President.  He's currently in Qatar, having left Turkey recently.  As soon as the bulk of US forces left Iraq in December 2011, Nouri targeted Sunnis and members of his political rival group Iraqiya.  He declared Tareq, the vice president of the country, to be a terrorist.  Even before the for-show trial took place, the Baghdad judges Nouri controls had already held a press conference to announce Tareq was guilty.  That's not how it works under the Iraqi Constitution, no.  That is how it works under Nouri's oppresive thumb.  Tareq was found guilty in absentia. 
 
He is the only known sitting vice president of a country to be convicted of terrorism.  He is also the only known sitting vice president of a country to be sentenced to execution (three sentences).   Today AFP reports, "Four of fugitive Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's bodyguards were sentenced to death on Thursday for killing a civil defense officer and his wife, judicial spokesman Abdelsattar Bayraqdar said." Xinhua quotes Abdul-Sattar al-Biraqdar, Supreme Judicial Council spokesperson, stating, "The Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) on Thursday issued verdicts of penalties by hanging against four bodyguards of Hashimi for their involvement in the killing of an Iraqi civil defense major and his wife along with wounding their son in al- Jamia district (in western Baghdad) in 2011."
 

In the US, Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Yesterday her office issued the following:


Committee on Veterans' Affairs
United States Senate
112th Congress, Second Session
Hearing Schedule
Update: November 28, 2012
Wednesday December 12, 2012 10:00am
SR-418
Hearing: Nomination of Keith Kelly to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans' Employment and Training.
Matthew T. Lawrence
Chief Clerk / System Administrator
Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs
202-224-9126

 
 
 
 
 
 
The plan for tomorrow's snapshot is to finish up Kobler's speech to the Security Council (with more criticism than what we offered today) and to cover a Wednesday Congressional hearing that there's not room for today (and that I wasn't willing to cover yesterday -- associating it with the morning vomitting made me unwilling to cover it Thursday, sorry -- that's not a reflection on the hearing).
 
 
 
 
afp
cnn

Blog Archive