Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Scott Neuman doesn't even listen to NPR

C.I.'s Iraq snapshot has now been up for an hour (about an hour and ten minutes, actually) and as I read it, I saw this on the side, on C.I.'s permalinks on the right side:


As you know, in the snapshot, C.I. covers Benghazi.  And she covers what Thomas Pickering -- that's the "Benghazi Review Board [CO]Chair" said today.  The link I copied and posted above goes to the NPR Blog "TheTwo-way," specifically to a post by Scott Neuman.

I groaned as Neuman cited AP covering Meet The Press.  As C.I. points out in today's snapshot, Pickering lied on Meet The Press when he insisted that he had no refused to appear before the committee.


It was a lie.  Pickering refused twice.  First, in February when a date was scheduled, Pickering said it didn't work for him.  That would have been a hearing.  Then House Oversight Committee Chair Darrell Issa's office spoke with Pickering about an informal conversation with the Committee.  Talks went on for that until Pickering made insulting comments about the Committee and the Chair.  So, yeah, he refused. 

Here's what Pickering said today about testifying -- this is C.I.'s transcript:

It's a little more complicated.  Uh, the Chairman [Issa] through staff was in touch with me both by letter and by phone sometime in February.  A date was proposed.  Unfortunately, it was a date when I was out of the country.  We had subsequent communications.  One of them concerned a request to meet informally in which I said I was positive about that but that was not followed up.  Subsequent questions from the Committee staff related to my -- put it this way -- interest and appetite in discussing issues with the Committee.  I said I was deeply concerned that the issue seemed to be and had been so deeply polarized that discussion with the Committee would not seem to be very fruitful or helpful.  However, three days before the hearings in which Deputy Chief of Mission or former Deputy Chief of Mission [Gregory] Hicks appeared, I did make clear to the minority staff on the Committee I was willing to appear.  Later on, a day later, that message was conveyed from the White House, according to the information I have, to Chairman Issa's Committee, the majority, and they were told the majority had rejected the idea and that I could appear some other time.  This is a long and sad history.


So, no, he wasn't refused.  (As for the offer 3 whopping days before?  C.I. demolishes that in the snapshot so go read that.) 

Here's the shocker though.  This went up after the snapshot.

C.I. is not an NPR employee.  Scott Neuman is.

So why is that C.I. knows what Pickering said and Neuman doesn't?

Pickering made those remarks on the first hour of The Diane Rehm Show.

Seems to me that instead of citing an AP article about an NBC TV Sunday appearance, Scott Neuman should have been citing what Pickering said on an NPR program today.

I would have to wonder what Scott Neuman did during the work day that he was unfamiliar with what his own boss provided the country with? 




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


Tuesday, May 14, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Exxon Mobile is said to reach a deal with the KRG, unions and journalists continued to be suppressed in Iraq, the Associated Press reveals more about the US government's attack on their organization and the First Amendment, the IRS scandal gets worse, Dennis Kucinich explains why Benghazi matters, Thomas Pickering reveals that he wasn't really snubbed (despite what he's claimed publicly for the last few days), Pakistan's new leader may mean an end to Barack's Drone War in that country, and more.

Starting with the latest US government assault on the First Amendment in the name of the so-called 'war on terror,' Dylan Byers and Katie Glueck (POLITICO) speak with AP staffers about their reaction to the news that the US Justice Dept had secretly grabbed the news organizations' phone records for April and May 2012.   One person states, "People were outraged and disgusted.  No one was yelling and screaming, but it was like, 'Are you kidding me?'"

The Port Huron Times-Herald editorial board observes, "The seizure of journalists' phone records is an attack on press freedom and the constitutional protection of the public's right to know. The American people must see Obama account for this deplorable action."  Today, AP executive editor Kathleen Carroll appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe (link is video) and spoke about this assault on the First Amendment with hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski and guests journalists Carl Bernstein (of Watergate fame)  Mike Barnicle.  Excerpt.

Kathleen Carroll:  Well obviously, we're distressed that the Justice Dept felt the need to seize our records and not tell us about it and certainly distressed as our CEO said in his protest to the Justice Dept that the scope of the inquiry's so huge.  More than 100 journalists for the AP work at the places whose phone numbers and phone records were seized by the Justice Dept. 

Mike Barnicle:  Kathleen, the origins of the story have to do with a story that the AP broke on a plot in Yemen that originated in Yemen, correct?

Kathleen Carroll: Well, we're not entirely sure about that but that's our best guess, Mike.

Mike Barnicle:  But at the time that that story ran, it ran after the Associated Press cooperated with the government's request to delay the story, is that correct?

Kathleen Carroll: That is correct.

Mike Barnicle:  When did you find out from the Dept of Justice, from the government, that these records were subpoenaed, that the Justice Dept was eavesdropping on reporters?

Kathleen Carroll: We got a very brief e-mail Friday afternoon from the US Attorney of the District of Columbia saying that they had these records of these 20 phone lines.

Mike Barnicle: And did it outline in that notification to you, did it outline the time frame in which they were eavesdropping on reporters? 

Kathleen Carroll: April and May of 2012.

Mike Barnicle:  That vague?

Kathleen Carroll: Yep.

Joe Scarborough: So Kathleen, you say over 100 reporters' phones were -- phone records -- were seized by the government?

Kathleen Carroll:  It's 20 different phone lines, Joe, and they -- the phone lines -- include main numbers.  If you count all the journalists who would be making calls in and out of those phone numbers, it would be more than 100.

Joe Scarborough: And what's so surprising here, Mike, is, of course, other administrations have done this, have made mistakes.  In 2004, the FBI mistakenly did this and apologized for an Indonesian office.  Kathleen, this goes right to the core of the Associated Press mission.  What is the impact of having the phone records of 100 reporters of the Associated Press seized by the government?

Kathleen Carroll:  Well it's clearly distressing to think that -- without our knowledge -- someone is looking at phone calls that we make in the course of daily business and obviously not all of them would be involving this kind of reporting on the story that Mike mentioned, the national security story.  It would be calling police officers to see what's going on on a burning house, it would be calling hospitals,  it would be talking with government officials of every level -- city, state, federal, in the normal course of business.

Joe Scarborough: Well, Kathleen, it would also be talking to whistle blowers, members of the federal government, people and agencies -- sources saying things not only about the administration that the administration wouldn't want, but other government officials.  Do you find this to be a chilling intimidating breach of the Associated Press' constitutional -- You're, you're smiling.  I see Carl smiling here.  If I'm a reporter and I just found out I was chasing a story with sources that were scared to talk to me and now the federal government, the Justice Dept has their phone numbers inside their agencies, that's chilling not only to the Associated Press but to your sources.

Kathleen Carroll:  Well obviously we find this very distressing and I think the CEO put it best in the very strongly worded letter that he sent yesterday to Eric Holder, the Attorney General.  I mean, I've been in this business more than 30 years and our First Amendment lawyers and our lawyers inside the AP, and our CEO, also well known First Amendment Lawyer, none of us have seen anything like this.


Carl Bernstein noted, "This administration has been terrible on this subject from the beginning.  The object of it is to intimidate people who talk to reporters. This was an accident waiting to become a nuclear event and now it's happened.  There's no excuse for it whatsoever.  There's no reason for this investigation especially on this scale."  I know Carl and I want to be clear that he's an investigative journalist.  I've shared the tale before of two would-be screenwriters (news reporters) who wrote a (bad) script and wanted input on it.  I said, "Your main character's an investigative reporter and we never see any drive or passion for that.  There's not even a token reference to Woodward and Bernstein."  To which one of the two (the one who reported for the news section of the New York Times) asked, "Who are Woodard and Bernstein?"  So to be clear, Watergate was the scandal that buried the administration of Richard Nixon (Tricky Dick).  It came to light because of the dogged pursuit of reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.  So just to be clear on who Carl is.  Reporters Without Borders issued a statement calling out the action and they quoted RWB's secretary-general Christophe Deloire stating:



 We share the view of AP president and CEO Gary Pruitt, who called it a 'massive and unprecedented intrusion' in a letter yesterday to US attorney general Eric Holder.  We urge the DOJ to comply immediately with the AP's request for the return or destruction of the seized phone records.
We also think that such a flagrant violation of constitutional guarantees needs to be the subject of a congressional commission of enquiry. We regret to see that the federal government has not ended the practices that prevailed during President George W. Bush’s two terms, when officials sacrificed the protection of private data and, above all, the First Amendment right to be informed. This case has demonstrated the need for a federal shield law that guarantees the protection of journalists’ sources, a principle that 34 of the Union’s states already recognize to varying degrees in their legislation.


WBAP's Ben Ferguson discussed the attack on press freedom with the AP's Interim General Counsel Laura Malone.  The interview will be broadcast tomorrow morning but WBAP has put on some of it on the web late today.

Laura Malone:  They didn't give us any reasoning.  The time frame is April and May 2012.  They gave us a list of the telephone numbers.  We internally matched the telephone numbers to our journalists and that's how we found out what the telephone numbers pertained to.  There were some specific journalists who were named in the notification and they gave us the phone numbers but the rest of it was just a string of numbers that we had to go through.  That's when we discovered that they had the general telephone numbers and the fax numbers of some of our bureaus.  And, again, as I say, the time frame, it simply says from April and May 2012, not limited in any fashion and they don't give a reason why.

Ben Ferguson: For all you know, and I want to clarify this -- my guest Laura Malone, AP Interim General Counsel -- they could have been for months on end or even currently now is there a possibility that the Justice Dept is continuing to do what they told you they were doing in the past?

Laura Malone:  Of course they could be doing this now.  We would have no idea, no way of knowing if they were really on this general exception.  There is a requirement under this set of guidelines that once they do it they have a time under which they have to notify you after the fact. And it's a 45-day notice period but it also can be extended by another 45 days.  So the potential is that they subpeonead these records and as a little as a day or two [later] we got the notice or as much as 90 days before we got the notice.  So could they be doing this currently?  There's no reason to think that they couldn't. 

Ben Ferguson: What do you -- my guest Laura Malone AP Interim General Counsel -- from the Associated Press,  Atorney General Eric Holder has just said that his deputy ultimately authorized the subpeona  to secretly obtain phone records from the Associated Press and he said that he had recused himself early on in the related investigation into leaks of sensitive information that they claim put the American people at risk.

Laura Malone:  Mmm-hmm.  Well there are a couple of different parts of your question.  First of all, under the rules, the Attorney General is supposed to sign off on any kind of subpeona like this.  He is now saying -- and we're hearing the same thing that you're hearing -- that he recused himself and assigned this to his Deputy AG and his name is Jim Cole.  We just, in the last several minutes, got a letter from Mr. Cole in response to our letter and I have to tell you that I have not reviewed it yet.  But we did -- we did just get it and we're reviewing it internally.


As David Jackson (USA Today) observes, "Already facing criticism over the Benghazi attack and Internal Revenue Service problems, President Obama and aides must now deal with news that the Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of journalists who work for the Associated Press."  As Mike observed last night, "Barack Is A Many Scandaled Thing."  Let's move to the IRS since targeting critics of the government is targeting free speech -- Trina covered this in "The IRS as an instrument of intimidation.Lucy Madison (CBS News -- link is text but includes video of Charlie Rose addressing the topic on CBS This Morning) reports on a USA Today column today by IRS' Acting Commissioner Steven Miller .  Madison notes, "CBS News has confirmed that Miller, who replaced former IRS commissioner Douglas Shulman who resigned last year, was informed of the IRS's targeting policy in May 2012.  On July 25, 2012, Miller testified before a House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee, but did not mention the agency's heightened scrutiny for the applications of conservative groups. After learning of the controversial IRS practice, he also wrote at least two letters to Congress explaining the process for reviewing tax-exempt status applications; in neither of those letters did he mention the targeting."

The Inspector General of the Treasury has a report due out on the IRS' targeting.  Several news outlets have advanced copies.  Joseph Tanfani and Richard Simon (Los Angeles Times)  explain, "The report looked at records for 298 organizations that the IRS specialists scrutinized for their level of political activity, determining that 96 were pulled out because they had the words “tea party,” 'patriots,' or '9-12' in their names, while 202 did not. ('9-12' refers to a conservative movement to restore the national unity felt on the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.)" Lindsey Boerma and Steve Chaggaris (CBS News -- link is text and video) state the report pins the blame on "ineffective management."


 Let's move over to Benghazi.  First up, Thomas Pickering hands were all over Iran-Contra, he was the US Ambassador to El Salvador at the time.  So it's very sad to see people who are left or pose as such disgrace our side by defending Thomas Pickering.  He co-chaired the Accountability Review Board on Benghazi -- which sounds impressive but, too bad for the administration, Pickering can't keep his mouth shut.  

Here's one example of an someone embarrassing all of us on the left in her rush to claim a Republican lied, Nicole Belle (Crooks and Liars)

 After the unquestionably tragic (but not entirely unprecedented) events in Benghazi, former ambassador Thomas Pickering was named to chair an accountability panel to investigate the event. Pickering is hardly someone who could be characterized as partisan, having served under presidents of both parties and in multiple "hot" zones, such as El Salvador, Israel and Russia. He has spent his more recent, post-retirement years focusing on national security for different think tanks. So he comes to the task with no political agenda, but an ongoing concern for the importance of the diplomatic corps and the safety and security of American interests in a decidedly bipartisan fashion.



The events?  Four Americans died, Nicole, why can't you name them?  (Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, Chris Stevens and Tyrone Woods.) Or even sketch out the details?  Nicole's hot flash over the fact that Pickering "served" in El Salvador?  Not a left reaction, dear, not at all.  Too many people died, drugs flooded the streets of the US (resulting in more deaths and funneling gang wars).  So maybe next time you learn about someone before you write about them? Iran-Contra?  We don't applaud that on the left.

Here's Nicole later in the post:

 After Issa asserted that Pickering had refused to testify in front of his committee, Pickering breaks his silence and off camera interrupts with a "That's not true." Watch Issa's face as the camera goes wide, revealing Pickering sitting right next to him. Pickering then reveals that he was told his testimony was 'not welcome', leaving Issa sputtering about protocols (how ironic!) and how the minority party could have called Pickering as a witness, proving once again that the goal is not fact finding, but a witch hunt.

No, Nicole, Pickering lied and you ran with his lie.  We'll dissect it and his words today.  He spoke about what happened today at length and he was not refused the right to testify. 


At 82, Pickering was far too old to be put in a position of conducting a review.   The elderly man went through the motions of a review.  It wasn't a real review. It was five questions and Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State, was never questioned.  Which is how you get Diane Rehm asking the dottering fool a direct question about why security requests were turned down and the head of the review giving answers with "apparently" that are scattershot possibilities.  Did you head the review or not?

He had days of publicity from the 'left' about how he wasn't allowed to testify.  It was a lie.

Today, Old Man Pickering appeared on The Diane Rehm Show.

Diane Rehm:  Now you have, I gather, offered to testify before Darrell Issa's committee [House Oversight and Government Reform Committee].  At first, the offer was rejected?  Is that correct?  And now you have been asked to testify?

Thomas Pickering: It's a little more complicated.  Uh, the Chairman [Issa] through staff was in touch with me both by letter and by phone sometime in February.  A date was proposed.  Unfortunately, it was a date when I was out of the country.  We had subsequent communications.  One of them concerned a request to meet informally in which I said I was positive about that but that was not followed up.  Subsequent questions from the Committee staff related to my -- put it this way -- interest and appetite in discussing issues with the Committee.  I said I was deeply concerned that the issue seemed to be and had been so deeply polarized that discussion with the Committee would not seem to be very fruitful or helpful.  However, three days before the hearings in which Deputy Chief of Mission or former Deputy Chief of Mission [Gregory] Hicks appeared, I did make clear to the minority staff on the Committee I was willing to appear.  Later on, a day later, that message was conveyed from the White House, according to the information I have, to Chairman Issa's Committee, the majority, and they were told the majority had rejected the idea and that I could appear some other time.  This is a long and sad history.

No, you're a long and sad liar.  Let's assume what the White House told him was true and dissect his stupidity.

He's in conversation with the office of Committee Chair Issa.  In February, he's offered a chance to testify and he turns it down.  After that, Issa's office asks about informal meetings?  Pickering states he's fine with that and the talks on that continue but then Pickering questions the integrity of the Committee Chair and the Committee's mission.  I'm real sorry but right there, you're shut off.  I don't care if it's Senator Carl Levin or House Rep Issa, you don't insult the Committee in conversations about testifying.  Apparently, at that point, conversations stopped.  The hearing was Wednesday, May 8th. [Community coverage of the hearing includes the  May 8th "Iraq snapshot," and the May 10th snapshotAva reported on it with the  "Crazies on the Committee (Ava)," Kat with "If today were a movie . . .,"  Wally with "Biggest Coward at today's Committee hearing" and Ruth with "An order to stand down" and "Bob Somerby floats in his own toilet" and the roundtable Dona led at Third "Report on Congress."]  Pickering states that Monday, May 6th, in talks he was having with Democrats on the Committee (they're in the minority as a result of the 2012 elections), he declared he'd be willing to testify at Wednesday's hearing.

Stop everything for a second and grasp this.  Wednesday's hearing was about whistle blowing and had already been announced.  Thomas Pickering thinks he can butt into a hearing?  He thinks that just because he wants to testify on Wednesday, everything stops for his tired ass?

Back to the timeline.  On Monday, he tells that to Dems on the Committee.  On Tuesday, the Dems tell the White House.  Which would be sometime after nine a.m.  At some point on Wednesday, the White House calls Issa's office.  Now forget the rudeness of Pickering -- who, by his own recounting of events, has already insulted the Committee and Issa in discussions about an informal appearance -- in failing to call the Chair's office (the office he'd communicated with for weeks) and instead allowing the White House to relay that Pickering wanted to testify.

What's the problem here? Nicole probably doesn't know because she's stuck in an echo chamber which she can't even recognize and mistakes talking points for real life.  We cover Congressional hearings here.  The VA's been called out in the last 12 months by the House and the Senate for what relating to testimony requirements?  Congress is to receive opening remarks (written testimony) a minimum of 24 hours prior to the hearing.  This gives the members of the Committee and its staff time to review basic points.

Pickering could have called Issa on Monday (instead of Democrats) and met the deadline.  But he didn't do that, he wasn't mature enough to do that.  He'd insulted someone and probably knew they weren't too keen on him and he was too much of a coward to make the needed call.  Too bad, so sad.

Even had he called on Monday to Issa's office, there's no guarantee that he could have been on the witness list.  That's not how Congress works.  If I want to speak on an issue, I can contact a committee.  Let's say I love oranges (I don't) and I want to speak about them before the Senate Committee on Agriculture.  I can call them and say, "I'd love to offer some testimony about oranges."  And they would most likely reply, "Well thank you, we'll keep that in mind if we hold a hearing on the topic."  If I called them last Friday and said, "Hey, me again! You've got a hearing Tuesday on reform and my oranges topic is just right for that!" They would probably say, "We appreciate your interest in the hearing and do encourage you to attend; however, we won't be needing your testimony.  This is a markup hearing."

Pickering lied on Meet The Press, no surprise from him and his fans can claim that, at 82, he's losing his memory, that's fine too but I say he's a liar based on those comments and others.  His wild-eyed conspiracy theories (and ongoing derision of the Committee) would make most Committee Chairs fail to call him.  And there's no reason they should.  The 'review' was five questions and failed to even question Hillary.  The review is published.  The questions the Committee is asking go beyond the scope of the review -- a fact that Pickering admits to some media but 'forgets' with others.  Again, he's highly dishonest.  I'm not done with today's broadcast, I'll return to it tomorrow morning.

I don't think former US House Rep Dennis Kucinich had a spine.  I have repeatedly said, he says the right thing but he folds.  He's no longer in Congress so we're left with just his words and I've never questioned Kucinich's ability to analyze a situation with clarity.  On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Kucinich about Benghazi:


WALLACE: Congressman Kucinich, I think it's fair to say you're a liberal Democrat. But I want to ask you, does it bother you that the CIA, as we now know, originally wrote about links to Al Qaeda, originally wrote about having warned the State Department for months about threats in Benghazi and that all of that was taken out and let's put this up on the screen. State Department official Victoria Nuland wrote in pushing back against what the CIA had written, that information "could be abused by members of Congress to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings, so why would we want to feed that either? Concerned." This, Congressman, from the transparent administration of Barack Obama.

FORMER REP. DENNIS KUCINICH, D-OHIO: Well, I didn't need those memos to know that it was wrong for us to intervene in Libya. This is one liberal Democrat who said the intervention was wrong. And what the attack on the consulate brings up, Chris, is the failure of the Benghazi policy from the beginning. And that's why they had to call it a street demonstration instead of an attack because on the eve of an election that brought in a whole new narrative about foreign policy, about dealing with terrorism, and about the consequences that led to four deaths of people who served the United States.

WALLACE: So do you think those talking points were politically scrubbed?

KUCINICH: Of course they were. Come on, are you kidding? You know, this is one of those things that you have to realize, we're in the circumference of an election, and when you get on the eve of an election, everything becomes political. Unfortunately, Americans died and people who believe in America who put their lives on the line, they weren't provided with protection. They weren't provided with a response. They and their families had a right to make sure that they were defended. Look, we went into Benghazi with under the assumption that somehow there was going to be a massacre in Benghazi. So we went there to protect the Libyan people. We couldn't go into Benghazi to protect our own Americans who were serving there? I'm offended by this, and there has to be real answers to the questions that are being raised.


Pew released a poll this week (responses from over the weekend) on Benghazi.  The key figure is independents and the White House knows that.  Only 18% of independents state that there's been too much coverage of Benghazi hearings by the press. Worse, 48% of independents state that the administration has been dishonest on Benghazi.  (16% of Democrats say the administration has been dishonest and 70% of Republicans say the administration has been dishonest.)  Without independents, Barack has no coalition.  That's been established not just in polling but in the way Barack Obama ran for the White House in 2008 and in 2012.  The figure the White House will be watching is the reactions of independents. 

As Cedric noted in "Crusty Lips Obama dishonors the dead," Wally in "THIS JUST IN! OLD CRUST LIPS DISHONORS THE DEAD!," Ruth in "The Client List," Ann in "So many scandals," and Betty in "Old Crusty Lips sure loves to lie," President Barack Obama chose to speak about Benghazi (when asked) at a photo op yesterday.  As Marcia reported, he offered 918 words -- including an accusation that pursuit of the truth was a "dishonor" to the dead.  The dead?  As Marcia pointed out, 918 words and he couldn't include the names Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, Chris Stevens and Tyrone Woods.  As for all three scandals, Stan pointed out "After four years of no accountability, don't act surprised."

What the above demonstrates is the need for more sunlight and for more organizations like WikiLeaksLinda Pearson (Australia's Green Left) notes that, just as Bully Boy Bush and Tony Blair lied to start the Iraq War, so did then-Prime Minister of Australia John Howard.  But thanks to WikiLeaks, Pearson explains, it is now known that the main opposition or 'opposition' party (Labour) wasn't really opposed to Howard's actions:

The Labor Party hoped to gain political advantage by opposing the unpopular war, but did so only on a technicality: the lack of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) authorisation for the invasion.
Instead of demanding a full withdrawal of Australian forces after the war had started, ALP leader Simon Crean said in March 2003: “We've got to be realistic about this, they are there, and what we've got to hope for in the current circumstances is that their task is completed quickly and successfully.”
US diplomatic cables from the US embassy in Canberra published by WikiLeaks show that, for both political parties, their alliance with the United States was their guiding principle.
There may be disagreements over policy and tactics, but commitment to the alliance means both parties will continue to send Australians to fight in US wars.

Joel Brinkley focuses on Iraq today (Morning Call) and notes that many insist on blaming the current crises in Iraq on the British a century ago:


 True enough, but in Iraq right now I blame Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's Shiite prime minister. He is systematically discriminating against Sunnis and Kurds -- having them arrested and killed en masse. Last month, his security forces attacked a Sunni protestors' camp in the town of Hawija, killing at least 20 people and wounding many more. Unprovoked massacres like that are what lit the brewing civil war.
Maliki certainly knew full well that to make Iraq work, he had to be an inclusive prime minister, giving fair treatment to all parties. That was perfectly obvious to everyone in the world who was paying attention. But Maliki refused. Recently he fired his widely respected finance minister, in my view merely because he's Sunni. For that and so much more, Maliki deserves to be thrown out. Is Maliki simply a new, diabolical dictator? By one key measure at least, he's the worst in the world.
You can tell a lot about any government by how it treats the news media. A national leader confident he's serving his people as best he can has little to fear from the media. Occasional criticism is part of what comes from holding office.


He then goes on to note Nouri's latest attack on the press, the April 28th move to revoke broadcasting licenses for Al Jazeera, al-Sharqiya, al-Sharqiya News, Babeliya, Salahuddin, Anwar 2, Taghyeer, Baghdad and Fallujah.  On the subject of the press and Iraq, Gulf Today carries Helena Williams piece for the Independent which notes:

From 2003 to 2009, the Committee to Protect Journalists recorded 140 journalists killed in Iraq, 117 of which were Iraqi. And being caught in crossfire was not the greatest risk -- CPJ research shows that more journalists were murdered in targeted killings in Iraq than in combat.
In 2006, the Iraqi Journalists Union published a report with details about the number of Iraqi journalists killed over the previous three years. According to the report, 69 were killed by militias or unknown armed men, 21 were killed in combat, 17 were shot by American troops and 2 were shot by Iraqi troops. 

[. . .]
According to the CPJ, Iraq continues to have the world’s worst record on impunity, with more than 90 unsolved murders over the past decade and no sign that the authorities are working to solve any of them.



90 unsolved murders.  Earlier this month, Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory noted,  "The government has used military and security forces to limit the work of journalists, especially against foreign journalists, most of who are deprived from entering Iraq and prevent others from covering the protests that took place in some cities."  What made Nouri go after the satellite stations?  What was the 'crime' the stations were committing?  Reporting on the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP has been reporting 53 dead for several days now -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).


 Journalists aren't the only ones persecuted in Iraq.  The list also includes unions.  People's World notes the repression of unions in Iraq:

Gene Bruskin, a former organizer for U.S. unions and co-chair of U.S. Labor Against The War, added that Iraqi union leaders face arrest for standing up to the government there. Union headquarters are trashed and other forms of repression, starting with Saddam's law itself, still exist. 
He backed his comments on May 7 with videos shot during his trip, with another U.S. Labor Against The War leader, to the southern Iraqi port of Basra for a conference of organizations of civil society. The videos are available on USLAW's website. 
U.S. Labor Against The War convinced the AFL-CIO in 2005 to break with U.S. foreign policy for the first time ever and denounce the Iraq War. It has continued to support Iraqi unionists. Bruskin noted that after the U.S. takeover in Iraq, other Hussein-era laws were repealed, but not the labor law. That law bans unionizing in state-owned and controlled industries, including oil, which effectively cover 80 percent of Iraqi workers, he told a group of activists in D.C. 
"We certainly believe the Iraqis will get the best labor law in the Middle East, if we back them up," Bruskin told the D.C. group. 
 Bruskin said, "there's a tremendous amount of hope in the resistance" to anti-worker actions by current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He also said al-Maliki lacks credibility with many Iraqis, since he was "among the self-interested group" of exile leaders "who were put in power because they played ball with the U.S."


US Labor Against the War has been raising attention to the Iraqi government's targeting of Hassan Juamaa Awad.  BRussells Tribunal notes this possible action to take place if Hassan is thrown behind bars:

If Hassan Jumaa Goes to Jail I will Protest at Iraqi Embassy: https://www.facebook.com/events/119474248253495/?fref=ts
Hassan Jumaa Awad is the leader of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions. He is facing up to 3 years in prison for 'overstepping the boundaries of a public official' for 'organising strikes and protests' against Oil privatisation, occupation and attacks on workers' terms and conditions in the oil sector. He is in court in Basra on Sunday May 5th. This protest is in solidarity with him and the thousands of Iraqi workers who are forbidden from organising, have had their unions ruled illegal and are fighting back under an ongoing Occupation. The Iraqi government still bans Unions in the Public Sector - Iraqi Unions want this lifted.
See also:
http://www.brussellstribunal.org/article_view.asp?id=929
http://www.brussellstribunal.org/article_view.asp?id=871


Meanwhile Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports that 11 people are dead and five injured as a result of an attack on eastern Baghad liquor stores.  BBC News adds, "The attackers arrived in four vehicles and restrained policemen at a checkpoint in the eastern district of Zayouna, where the stores are located." The death toll has risen to 12National Iraqi News Agency notes that an armed clash in Mosul has left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and a third injured, a Falluja bombing left two people injured, a Ramadi home invasion has left 2 cousins dead, an armed clash in Tikrit left 2 police officers dead and a third injured, a Mosul car bombing claimed the life of 1 child and left twelve people injured,  and the preacher at Al-Huther mosque (Abdul Rahman al-Samarrai) was shot dead in a Baquba shop.


The Canadian Press reports, "Turkey says its state-run petroleum company has reached a deal with U.S. company Exxon Mobil to explore for oil in northern Iraq." Due to different forms of government, the Canadian Press mistakenly says the US government opposes this.  The US government has no say in this -- as even Icky Vicky Nuland has noted in previous State Dept briefings -- because ExxonMobil is not a state-owned company.  If the deal is close to taking place or has been sealed, it will be a sad day for Nouri al-Maliki who has repeatedly opposed the deal, stomped his feet over it and attempted to get the US government to stop it.  (Again, the US government has no say-so in this deal.  ExxonMobil answers to  its stockholders.)  Dropping back to the November 11, 2011 snapshot:



 
In Iraq, things are heating up over an oil deal. Hassan Hafidh and James Herron (Wall St. Journal) report, "ExxonMobil Corp. could lose its current contract to develop the West Qurna oil field in Iraq if it proceeds with an agreement to explore for oil in the Kurdistan region of the country, an Iraqi official said. The spat highlights the political challenges for foreign companies operating in Iraq" as Nouri's Baghdad-based 'national' government attempts to rewrite the oil law over the objection of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Tom Bergin and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) offer, "Exxon declined to comment, and experts speculated the move could indicate Baghdad and the Kurdish leaders are nearing agreement on new rules for oil companies seeking to tap into Iraq's vast oil reserves." UPI declares, "The breakaway move into Kurdistan, the first by any of the oil majors operating in Iraq under 20-year production contract signed in 2009, could cost Exxon Mobil its stake in the giant West Qurna Phase One mega-oil field in southern Iraq." Salam Faraj (AFP) speaks with Abdelmahdi al-Amidi (in Iraq's Ministry of Oil) declares that the Exxon contract means that Exxon would lose a contract it had previously signed with Baghdad for the West Qurna-1 field.  Faraj sketches out the deal with the KRG beginning last month with Exxon being notified that they had "48 hours to make a decision on investing in an oil field in the region."  Exxon was interested but sought an okay from the Baghdad government only to be denied.




Turning to The Drone War, Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) reports on a new hiccup for Barack's war of choice, Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif is "vowing not to tolerate continued US drone strikes on Pakistan the way his predecessors did."  That vow was in March and Sharif just won the elections to be the new leader of Pakistan.  His position on the drones may have helped him with some votes.  Muhammad Idrees Ahmad (London Review of Books) offers this analysis of the election:

 Youth participation was unprecedented. Critics of the ‘war on terror’ roundly defeated its supporters. Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), which has taken a consistent antiwar position, crushed the ANP in the north-west. The PTI did particularly well in Swat, Dir and the Federally Adminstered Tribal Areas, where most of Pakistan’s counterinsurgency operations and US drone attacks are carried out. Also leery of the war, Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) evicted the PPP from Punjab, Pakistan’s richest, most populous and developed province.

Terrorism may be foremost in the minds of Western observers; Pakistanis are more worried about the economy, education and corruption. Opinion polls showed that people’s biggest concerns are inflation and unemployment, as well as power outages and high energy costs, which have stunted economic growth and caused much misery: 20-hour blackouts are not unknown. Not all Pakistanis are exposed to terrorist violence; everyone has to buy bread.


The Drone War is very unpopular in Pakistan and it's also illegal.  As Andrew Bumcombe (Independent) reported last week, "A Pakistani court has declared that US drone strikes in the country's tribal belt are illegal and has directed the government to move a resolution against the attacks in the United Nations."  Crispin Black (The Week) weighs in noting:

In Pakistan, opposition to armed drones has become mainstream despite the initial reluctance of powerful political and military vested interests to criticise America.  
[. . .]
Even if the drone war is doing the right thing abroad, it leads to moral corruption at home. The militants to be killed are held on a list kept at the White House and prepared by the US intelligence community. President Obama and his advisers select the targets from a 'matrix' – like filling in lottery numbers. This cannot be either right or healthy - more Cosa Nostra than US Constitution.
At the end of last year, Alice K. Ross, Chris Woods and Sarah Leo offered "The Reaper Presidency: Obama's 300th drone strike in Pakistan" (Bureau of Investigative Journalism).  The Bureau notes today that Barack has now ordered 316 strikes, that between 2,541 and 3,533 people have been killed (of which at least 168 were children) and 1,173 to 1,472 people have been injured.  And that's just Barack's part of The Drone War targeting Pakistan.

Harold Koh was a collaborator on The Drone War.  Now that he's returned to academia and left the administration, he thinks he can buy back what he whored out.  He probably can't -- certainly not if he can't be honest.  Last week, Conor Friedersdorf (The Atlantic) dissected a self-justifying and administration-covering speech Koh gave:

If Koh believes all that is what should happen, then he believes the Obama Administration's current approach is deeply wrongheaded, and not just because of its indefensible dearth of transparency. It is not "consistent with due process" to target American citizens. The way Team Obama counts civilian casualties is not "consistent with international humanitarian law standards." Obama can't demonstrate that its strikes were all directed against imminent threats. Being more transparent about any of those things will in fact be discrediting, not redemptive.
Hence the secrecy.
And although he precedes everything with, "as President Obama has indicated he wants to do," Koh knows that Obama could do everything Koh endorses, but has in fact chosen not to do it.  
Most laughable is the notion that Team Obama could "reassure" allies that we'd be cool with China, North Korea, or Iran justifying drone strikes using the same standards that we do. No one is dumb enough to believe that. Koh knows damn well that the president, Congress, and the American people would all go ballistic if China or Iran were to use drones just as the CIA does.
















 the associated press
sameer n. yacoub 
 


 
 

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