Saturday, June 1, 2013

About WSWS . . .

C.I. filling in for Ann.  During her pregnancy, I told her I'd fill in any time she needed.  And I did at least once then.  So we often talked about topics that could be posts and now that she's off for two weeks (this is the end of week one) and I'm filling in, I want to grab one of those topics.

What's our problem with WSWS?

That is World Socialist Web Site.

We have periods where we highlight them and we have periods where we don't.  What's up.

Let's start with Iraq because, at The Common Ills, that's the main topic.

WSWS does a lousy job with Iraq.  That includes their failure to cover or acknowledge that US troops remain in Iraq but I'm mainly talking about the crazy woman in England who's responsible for writing their Iraq crap which is always the textual equivalent of going down on Nouri.

Nouri al-Maliki is a thug.  He's gone after Iraq's LGBT community, he's been caught repeatedly running secret prisons and much more.

But the spit polish his knob at WSWS.

"Violence continues, WSWS continues to cover for Nouri" went up this month and has been hugely popular in terms of e-mails.  People were glad to see WSWS called out for their glorification of thug Nouri.

Other than that, what are our problems?

The rank sexism in the arts coverage.

We'll be calling out a woman who has a piece up today, Ava and I will be, in the arts coverage.  We'd already planned to when we saw an idiot male of the Water Cooler Set pimp a lie about Arrested Development.  Joanne Laurier pimps it at WSWS today.  Since we were already calling it out, we'll call her out as well.  What idiots.

When you make a mistake like that, you shouldn't be doing art coverage.

Ava and I, on Memorial Day, were laughing about the lie with a friend who used to be in TV but is now a movie director.  And he found it hilarious and we were supplying two people that demonstrated it was a lie: Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray.  They did TV and they did it their way -- doing it their way exposes the lie idiots pimp today.

But, as a general rule, Joanne Laurier has never stood out to me before today.  I haven't considered her part of the toxic pool.  And, in fairness, it's not just WSWS, it's also Dissident Voice, the US Socialist Worker and many more.

We even acknowledged this pool when we did a parody of Socialist Worker at Third.

If you've not noticed it, this is how it works.

Every years, the US film industry releases hundreds and hundreds of films.  Many traffic in sexism.  More than a few traffic in racism (usually xenophobia).  And so political outlets doing reviews are surely going after these violent films, right?

Wrong.  They go after Sex and the City and Sex and the City II.  I didn't see either film, I didn't want to, I never wanted Sarah Jessica Parker in anything.  But I didn't go after the films.  I didn't go out of my way to attack them.

This is what gets attacked time and again. If the film is about women or has women behind the camera, the toxic pool of sexism on the left tries to kill.

We saw it this year again.  Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty is a great film.  Dexter Filkins invented a scene (or a moment) that is not in the film.  It's not in the script.  It was never shot.  But he used that invented moment to argue the film embraced torture and promoted it.

And everyone who didn't see the film kept repeating it.  It's a lie.  In one piece refuting the lie, Ava and I even quoted from the shooting script to demonstrate that it never happens in the film.

But that lie has been accepted as truth.

You had sexist pigs Michael Ratner and Michael Smith -- who can't say one damn word about Iraq -- go on for over ten minutes attacking a film that they admitted they'd never seen.  That was especially offensive when the two pigs were supposed to be covering the abuse and rape of Iraqi girls and women in Iraqi prisons.  But they shoved that topic aside to instead rip apart a film directed by a woman -- by the only woman who ever won an Academy Award for Best Director (feature film).

I know Kathryn and I like Kathryn.  And she's not pro-torture.

The Hurt Locker got attacked by asses earlier.

I'm going to be honest here, the sleeze that is Harvey and Michael is behind the attacks on Kathryn.

They've turned the Academy Awards into a blood sport and they pay off key individuals to attack.  They paid off two Iraq War veterans to attack The Hurt Locker.  Those two veterans who were paid?  They didn't tell their colleagues (who joined in the dog pile -- these are Iraq Veterans Against the War types) that they were getting paid.  They tried to destroy that film.  They tried to destroy Stop-Loss before that.

If a film is directed by a woman, watch out.

In the last ten or so years, you've seen war from Clint Eastwood and from Mel Gibson and from any number of men and it didn't inspire the hatred that Kathryn did.

At one point, when Ava and I were defending Kathryn in piece after piece, Mike asked if it was okay to go after Argo?

No.  He wanted to know if he could throw it to the wolves to save Kathryn?

Ava and I had already talked about that.  We are friends with Ben and as much as we were disgusted with the way Kathryn's film was distorted and attacked, we didn't see any gain in making Ben the new scapegoat.  He directed a film based on a true story.

Since you have actors and a director, you have a point of view.  The film's point of view is a centrist.  It's not liberal, it's not left, it's not radical left.

And that's fine.

That's one movie to make.  There are others that can be made.

I thought Ben's directing was amazing.

But of the two films, Argo was the more 'conservative' and, for radical-left, the more offensive.

But you didn't have Michael Ratner and Michael Smith -- or later, Michael Ratner, Michael Smith and Heidi Boghosian -- ripping apart Argo.  When they did criticize it, they did so mutely.  They basically called Kathryn a whore but they didn't personalize it with Ben's film.

By the same token, WSWS went after Kathryn with a vengeance.  They most recently had news of the film's scrip.  Kathryn is not Mark Boal.  I have no idea why you would go after her for 'crimes' you feel Boal committed while researching his script.

I also marvel at the stupidity of the radical left in this case.  Flattery was used to get access.

And that's poof, the radical left insists, that Bigelow is in bed with the CIA and must love them.

Did no one see The China Syndrome with Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas and Jack Lemmon?  Do you know the flattery that had to be offered and the lies spun in order to film inside a facility?
They insisted the film they were shooting wasn't an anti-nuclear film.

So don't ever say, "Well the filmmaker told ____ this so that must be what they were really thinking."  No, a filmmaker will tell any lie to get a film made.

Harvey and his less trashy brother have money to toss around -- mainly because they never pay directors or actors what they're promised.  And they use that money each year to try to destroy competitors at award season. 

Ben wasn't destroyed.  Argo wasn't for them.  Why wasn't he savaged?  You had Hispanic leaders going on the radio for months talking about how, for example, Ben's character was Latino in real life and why wasn't he Latino in the film? 

That's a pretty serious charge considering the industry's long tradition of 'blackface.'  But the issue didn't get traction because money wasn't seeding it.

Ben works for Harvey all the time, usually at cut-rate prices.  The brothers weren't going to go after Ben.  And without seed money, the radical left couldn't discover on their own that Argo had issue of whiteface and issues of whitewashing the US' dirty role in Iran.

But seed money was there for attacks against Kathryn who's never worked with the brothers.

I used to like Debra Sweet.  And then she called a protest on Kathryn's film.  And I was surprised as I read the e-mail with the details but I was going to note it, The Common Ills doesn't exist to gate keep for my friends. So I was going to provide the details of the protest but there in the e-mail was the fact that Debra hadn't seen the film.

I don't support censorship, I don't support attacks on the arts.  I don't support attacking anything you haven't seen.  If you didn't read the book you can say, and I have many times, it doesn't speak to me or it doesn't interest me.  But if I'm going to organize a protest of a film, I damn well better have seen the film.  I was with Martin Scorsese back in August of 1988 -- "with" means we were in the car together, not I was having sex with -- and we passed a theater that hadn't opened yet and there was a crowd of people with signs.  They were denouncing The Last Temptation of Christ.

Now that is a complex film, real art, and you can complex reactions to it.  I love the film but I know people who don't.  And it's art and reaction will vary.

But here's the thing, those people protesting -- and apparently they did that throughout the country -- had never seen the film. 

And I remember remarking on that and discussing that with Martin (who had many wise words on the subject which hopefully he'll put down on paper in a few years when he writes a book about directing that I know he has in him and that I know will be the template for other directors in future generations) and thinking, "Who are you people?"

I didn't mean "Christians."  I meant people who have not seen a film but will go to the trouble of making a protest sign, taking it to the theater and marching around to denounce this film you've never seen.

I can't imagine anything more stupid and more anti-art.

I was offended -- I had physical reaction -- to it in 1988 and I had it when I read that e-mail.  How Debra Sweet could be so stupid and so anti-art to organize a protest of a film she hasn't seen?

WSWS didn't do one article attacking the film, they did many.

And they don't understand art.  It's beyond them.

That's the case with reactionaries across the political spectrum. 

That's how Tina Fey screwed herself out of an Emmy.  Fall 2009, she should have swept the Emmys.  It was the first post-Sarah Palin impression that Tina would be competing in.

But she wasn't going to win Best Actress in a Comedy.  And Ava and I pointed that out months ahead of the ceremonies.

How come?  Because Tina Fey started talking to the press about how much she hated Sarah Palin and hated performing her.

That's not art. That's not acting.

If you're an actor and you're playing Sea Salt, you may hate Sea Salt before you start playing the role, but you will respect Sea Salt at the end.  You can't play a role without identifying with it unless you're a hack.

And that's what Tina Fey confessed to, that she was just a hack.

So she was not going to get Best Actress.  A lot of people were surprised Toni Collette won but it wasn't surprising if you grasped how offensive Tina's remarks were.

And offensive on the basis of art. 

To play Hanibal Lecter, Anthony Hopkins had to find a place in the role he could identify with.  Hanibal killed people and ate them and you've never heard Anthony say, "I hate that part and I don't like playing it.  I wish that part would just go away."

Actors don't say that.  Hacks do. Sketch comedy hacks trying to pass themselves off as real actors make comments like Tina Fey did.

Tina's a reactionary.  People don't get that about her.  They also wrongly think 'she's one of us.'  A dear friend is someone I wish would die.  I'm serious I can only bite my tongue for so damn long.  And this friend has become a real idiot.  Two weeks ago she was praising Tina Fey in public. 

Like many, she thinks Tina is on 'our side' politically.

Tina is a right-winger who (still) loves Christian music.  Right-winging became out of touch and she moved with the currents to re-style herself as a lefty.

But she's not a lefty.  She can mouth sentiments of support for feminism but look at her work and how women are portrayed in it.  She's a reactionary.

Reactionary's never get anywhere in the world of art.  They can do parody and they do sketch, that's all they can handle.

And when it comes to reviewing art, it's the exact same.

Until you're honest enough and love art enough to praise someone you personally despise, you're not qualified to comment on art.  And WSWS is the worst reactionary.  Last year, they praised one racist script because it was written by a Socialist -- it was an awful script.  Already the bad movie -- that made money -- is a distant memory.  It has no lasting effect.  Because it wasn't art, it was nothing but the rants of a reactionary.

Art transforms.  They don't know art.

And that's 'our problem' with WSWS.  We highlight it on other topics and they have many talented writers writing for it.

But they can't handle art.  Art opinions can't be back channeled through the Iron Curtain.  This was established in the last century when many Socialist and Communists created great works of art in this country -- including Waiting For Lefty and Golden Boy -- but these works and these artists were often attacked based on party lines from Moscow.  When you don't have the independence to break with the ranks, you don't have the independence needed to create art (or to review it).

Here's yesterday's "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, May 31, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue, May ends with a huge death toll, the British people struggle with how many have died in Iraq, Senator Patty Murray raises the issue of rape and assault in the military, we explore Amnesty International's new report on Iraq, and more.

Let's start in the US and start with Congress.  Senator Patty Murray sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Before this year, when she became the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, she was the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  She's the subject of a profile -- Jamelle Bouie and Patrkick Caldwell's "Patty Murray In 19 Takes" for The American Prospect -- that's good for votes so there's probably not much reason to dispute the article.  But I do question the assertion that "she lacks any major legislation to her name."  That really undercuts the work she's done over the years and specifically with regards to veterans.  The Vow To Hire Heroes Act is major legislation and it took Murray's S. 951 (Hiring Heroes Act) and paired it with House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller's J.R. 2433 (Veterans Opportunity to Work Act).  The American Progress writers ignoring this is really unfortunate because it goes to the central points they are trying to make in the article -- she gets things done (they repeatedly quote people calling her a "workhorse").  In this case, Murray and Miller got things done.  She's a Democrat, he's a Republican.  They had related bills.  Hers easily passed in the Senate (I believe it was 95 votes in favor and zero opposed).  His bill was popular in the House.  They worked together and, as a result, major legislation was passed.  I think that both she and Miller have much to be proud of with regards to that.  I also fault the article for failing to note the work she has done on veterans issues which includes shining a light on issues when no one else was.  If you're a veteran who pays even a little attention to Congress, you usually know her for some issue.  If we're speaking to seriously wounded veterans, for example, they generally will note Senator Murray's efforts to help veterans start families.  She's led on that issue -- veterans whose injuries mean conception will require medical assistance -- and on many others.

Murray, before she was Committee Chair on the Veterans Affairs Committee, was often the only one on the Committee who would address issues like rape and assault.  This should not be an issue that only women can raise.  One of the many reasons to be proud of former US House Rep John Hall is that he led on this issue -- and made a real difference on it -- when he was in the House.  Currently, in the Senate, Senator Richard Blumenthal is a strong voice on the issue and is one of several former prosecutors in the Senate who are strong voices on this issue -- two others are Senator Claire McCaskill and Senator Kelly Ayotte.  And Senators Murray and Kelly Ayotte have teamed up to co-sponsor the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act (Legislation, Summary, Cosponsors).  The two senators explained their bill in a column for POLITICO earlier this month:

Our bill, the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act, would attack this crisis on multiple fronts. It would empower victims with special military lawyers to help guide them through the legal process. It would prohibit sexual contact between instructors and trainees during basic training and ensure the National Guard and Reserves have improved access to sexual assault response coordinators. Our bill would also take steps to make certain sexual assault cases are referred to the general court-martial level when sexual assault charges are filed -- or to the next superior competent authority when there is a conflict of interest within the chain of command.
Our legislation has gained support from members of both parties, and we welcome additional proposals that will turn "zero tolerance" rhetoric into "zero tolerance" policy and practice.
Make no mistake, our nation continues to have the best military in the world, largely because of the character of the brave men and women who selflessly serve. The vast majority of our service members are exceptional citizens who serve with unparalleled honor, dignity and distinction. We owe them nothing less than to take meaningful action to rid our military of the scourge of sexual assault.

This morning in Seattle, Washington, Senator Murray joined with Dr. Joyce Wipf (Professor of Medicine and Director of VA Puget Sound's Women's Program), Bridget Cantrell (PTSD and MSA expert), Jackie McLean (Director of King County Department of Community and Human Services), Charles Swift (former Navy JAG, MSA advocate) and some survivors of assault  to discuss the proposed legislation.

One of the survivors is former Marine Angela Arellano.  Dana Rebik (Q13 Fox News)  reports she was assaulted while serving in Japan, 'I had gone with a group of friends to watch a football game and after the game one of the senior Marines, an NCO, raped me."  Patricia Murphy (NWPR -- link is audio and text) quotes Angela explaining what happened after she reported the rape, "I received two weeks barracks restriction, two weeks extra duty and two months reduced pay.  And the most that he got for what he did was they transferred him off our base to another base in Okinawa."  Elisa Jaffe (KOMO News) quotes Angela stating, "I was accused of smearing a good Marine's name, I was accused of being a slut, I was called a whore, and this was by investigators."  Senator Murray adds, "We have to ask why any victim would trust the system as it currently exists to protect them.  We have literally given our victims nowhere to turn and we need a cultural overhaul."  Adam Ashton (Olympian) adds:

Former Army Spc. Nichole Bowen of Seattle, 34, said she kept quiet about the persistent sexual harassment she felt during her deployment to Iraq in 2003. She said she was propositioned almost every day.
“Every day on the deployment was a rape threat,” she said.
Both she and Arellano said the effects of the unwanted sexual contact haunt them years later.

Read more here:

Tim Haeck (My Northwest) quotes Senator Murray explaining, "It is absolutely unconscionable to me that a fellow servicemember, the person you rely on to have your back, would commit such a terrible crime against one of their fellow servicemembers."  Senator Murray's office notes:

Senator Murray’s legislation to reduce sexual assaults within the military and provide greater resources to the victims of this crime, the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013: Legislation, Summary, Cosponsors
Follow the conversation on Twitter with @PattyMurray & #CombatMSA

“The services have struggled for decades with pervasive sexual assault in the ranks. SWAN has been at the forefront of demanding institutional changes that would help improve this crisis and transform military culture. The Combating Military Sexual Assault Act introduced today by Senator Patty Murray and Senator Kelly Ayotte contains many provisions that will give the military the tools it needs to combat this widespread problem. Common-sense solutions like providing victims with their own designated lawyers, criminalizing sexual relationships between basic training instructors and students, and making sure that our National Guard troops have access to the same resources that active duty service members have are critical in making sure that survivors are supported and that offenders will be better prosecuted."
-Anu Bhagwati, Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) Executive Director 
“The 380,000 member Military Officers Association of America strongly endorses the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013. Preventing sexual assault is a duty of everyone in the chain of command.  This legislation will increase support for sexual assault victims and strengthen policies and procedures for such cases in our nation’s Armed Forces.”
-MOAA national President, VADM Norb Ryan, USN-ret. 
“The Association of the United States Navy strongly support the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act. The number of sexual assault cases is unacceptable and reflects the need for immediate action as the Department of Defense has reported.  This bill will help set in place the right oversight and stronger processes needed to protect our Sailors, men and women.”
-AUSN Executive Director, RADM Casey Coane, USN-ret.
"In light of the Pentagon's announcement that an estimated 26,000 cases of sexual assault occurred in the military in 2012 alone, the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013 is a necessary step to protect victims and hold perpetrators accountable. The effects in our culture of victim-blaming, cover-up and misogyny goes far beyond individual cases of criminal justice to be pervasive throughout the military. Survivors of military rape should have all the means they need to recover from their trauma, and the CMSA's provisions will help ensure these resources are available. NOW is glad to support Sens. Murray & Ayotte's legislation in the hope that it will improve the lives of the millions of female (and male) members of the military.”
 -Terry O’Neill, National Organization for Women President
“The special victims counsels have helped...typically it's 30 percent, as I mentioned, of our victims who won't -- continue through prosecution, even after making an unrestricted report. So far, the 265 assigned special victims counsels, two have done that. That's a great trend. We must now continue it. One of the other problems we have is that we have never had people who make restricted reports initially change from a restricted to unrestricted at a very high rate so that we can investigate and potentially prosecute those cases. About 17 percent of our reportees in the past have changed from a restricted mode to an unrestricted. Of the victims who have special victims counsel assigned, that number is tracking at 55 percent right now. And it's rising slowly as confidence grows. We have to continue that trend.”
-General Mark Welsh, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, 5/8/13

Turning to Iraq, last week, Amnesty International released their State of the World report which noted the protests in Iraq which have been ongoing since December 21st:

In December, tens of thousands of mostly Sunni Iraqis began holding peaceful daily anti-government protests against the abuse of detainees.  The unrest was triggered by the detention of several bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafi'e al-Issawi, a senior Sunni political leader, and by allegations of sexual and other abuse of women detainees.

Iraqi Spring MC offers video footage of RamadiNational Iraqi News Agency reports, "Tens of thousands of citizens flocked to sit-in squares in Falluja, Ramadi before noon today to participate in the Friday prayers named by sitters/ Our movement path convince your Militias/."  Alsumaria reports Salahuddin Province saw big turn out in Tikrit, Samarra and Baiji (and look at the crowd in the photo Alsumaria has up). The protesters called out the bombings and shootings that have claimed lives across Iraq and they vowed that they would continue demonstrating until the Iraqi people are heard by the government.  Iraqi Spring MC reported that SWAT forces surrounded Ramadi protesters (this was around 9:10 a.m. EST).  Alsumaria reports that the tribal clans then arrived with their forces.  The goal of SWAT was to arrest protest leaders such as Mohammed Abu Risha and Ali Hatem al-Suleiman.  The tribal clans then provided the leaders with a safe way out of the square and, after this took place, SWAT withdrew.

Nouri may have closed Baghdad to some vehicle traffic but he couldn't stop those in Baghdad from gathering.  This Iraqi Spring MC photo shows (it's al-A'mirya in western Baghdad) the prep for the sit-in.  Kitabat features a photo of the large turnout in al-A'mirya.

On this last day of May, violence continued in Iraq.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 873 violent deaths so far this month.  ABC News Radio observes, "The international community is deeply concerned that the recent spate of violent episodes in Iraq triggered by simmering sectarian tensions could explode into a full-blown civil war."  Martin Kobler is United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's Special Representative to Iraq.  Press TV quotes him stating, "I am seriously concerned.  This can get worse, and that's why I strongly advocate that this bloodletting is stopped and the situation does not deteriorate."  Iraq was discussed today on Here and Now (NPR) by guest host Meghna Chakrabarti and the BBC's Rami Ruhayem. Excerpt.

Meghna Chakrabarti:  More than 1,000 people have been killed there in the past two months making it the deadliest period in Iraq since 2008 when the US ended it's so-called surge of troops there.  The current blood shed is so bad the UN Special Representative to Iraq sounded a dire alarm.  Martin Kobler told reporters in Baghdad that, "Systemic violence is ready to explode at any moment if all Iraqi leaders do not engage immediately to pull the country out of this mayhem."  Rami Ruhayem is with the BBC's Arabic service.  He's in Baghdad and, Rami, can you tell us, are there pockets where the violence is occurring or is it just all over the country?

Rami Ruhayem:  Well there is one exception -- it's the Kurdish north, probably the most secure area in the country.  We very rarely hear of anything happening over there.  Other than that, it's mostly all over the country.  Baghdad?  Very hard hit in many cases.  Mosul, Ramadi, Anbar, the western provinces, also, of course, many Shi'ite areas.  Probably the south is a little bit more secure than other areas of the country but the only place where we do not see bombs or assassinations is probably the Kurdish north.

Meghna Chakrabarti: Mmm.  And as you mentioned assassination attempts in Anbar Province  on the governor there -- he escaped that -- car bombs in Baghdad, roadside bombs, do you have a sense as to why this is all happening now? 

Rami Ruhayem:  Well it's not just happening right now.  It's been happening for the past ten years actually -- ever snce the United States and Britain invaded and knocked Saddam Hussein out of power.  So it's not really new.  And, obviously, every time something big happens, observers and everybody tries to link it to the latest political development -- rather inside Iraq or the neighborhood.   For example, elections or what's going on in Syria.  But this kind of violence hasn't really stopped for the last ten years.

Meghna Chakrabarti:  So, Rami, this doesn't seem like an unusual uptick in violence?  I mean, a thousand people dead in two months?  I take your point that Iraq has been ground down by violence and warfare for a decade now, but this isn't out of the ordinary?

Rami Ruhayem:  Well possibly.  The last week, not just the last month, but the last week has seen probably what you could call an uptick. But it's very difficult to measure whether violence is going up or down in Iraq because you see sudden outbursts within  a week or a month or even  several weeks or several months and you see a picture of relative security but yes we have seen quite a lot of attacks  during the past week and, of course, rumors.  Maybe this is the new thing?  We've heard rumors of sectarian killings and that would be new because we haven't seen that since 2006, 2007.

Meghna Chakrabarti:  Well tell me more about that.  There seems to be an even greater rising of Sunni - Shia tension in Iraq.  So is there any evidence that those rumors of sectarian violence -- that there's substance to those rumors?

Rami Ruhayem:  The rumor, of course, was that in Sunni areas of Baghdad there are basically checkpoints manned by irregular militias seeking revenge for attacks or car bombs in Shia areas.  So that's the rumor.  We haven't seen any evidence of that.  The government says we haven't seen any such thing and has urged people to call if they see any irregular checkpoints.  No proof yet but rumors are enough to scare people.

Diane Rehm also touched on Iraq in the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today with her guests Nadia Bilbassy (Middle East Broadcast Center), Nathan Guttman (Jewish Daily Forward) and Mark Landler (New York Times). 

Diane Rehm:  And lots of violence going on in Iraq this week as well, Nathan. 

Nathan Guttman: Definitely. The think the numbers are -- we've seen more than a 1,000 people killed in violent attacks since April, which is critical to the numbers we've seen during the Iraq war. And the concern is that the sectarian violence is getting out of hand. To a certain extent, some people think it's a spillover of the Syrian situation where Sunnis and Shiites are on opposing sides. And this is reigniting the old sectarian tension in Iraq. 

Mark Landler: Yeah, there's sort of both a domestic element in Iraq and potentially a regional element. The domestic element is that Sunnis -- minority Sunnis feel that the Shiite government is persecuting some of their leading political figures. And there's a lot of anger among Sunnis. That's a long-running chronic issue in Iraq.  The regional element, which troubles a lot of people -- Ryan Crocker's talked about this, the former U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad -- is that you now see an alliance forming between al-Qaida and Iraq. And Jabhat al-Nusra, which is the -- you know, the more extremist group in Syria. And so you could see the tensions that are inflamed in Syria spilling over and in a sense making this domestic -- this preexisting domestic issue far more explosive. And that troubles a lot of people. 

Diane Rehm:  Is Iraq heading back toward civil war? 

Mark Landler:  Well, let me quote Ryan Crocker because he knows more about it then I do. He doesn't think so. He thinks this is manageable, as bad as it is. And he doesn't think it has to go in that direction. But, you know, it raises an interesting question for Americans. The criticism of President Obama was that he got out of Iraq leaving very little, if any residual force behind and sort of left the Iraqis to their own devices.   So the question now is, what is our role? The Iraqis desperately want trade and economic ties with the United States. Can we play any sort of a constructive role in heading off that worse-case scenario? 

Nadia Bilbassy:  I think the UN spokesperson in Baghdad won already that the country is heading towards a broader conflict if the political leadership do not act. The problem for -- as Mark said, basically the power sharing agreement that happened after the election never really fully implemented. There is always a suspicion between the Sunnis who dominated the country political life during Saddam Hussein and the majority Shiites.

Today's violence?    Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports a Baghdad bombing has claimed 4 lives and left eleven people injured while a Falluja armed attack left 3 police officers dead and two more injured. National Iraqi News Agency reports a Muqdadiya bombing claimed 2 lives and left six more people injured, a Sharqat bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa and left another and one police officer injured, and a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured.  The Muqdadiya bombing targeted a mosque.  Alsumaria notes that six other mosques in Diyala Province have been targeted with bombings over the last two months.

Jason Ditz ( offers this look at the month's violence:’s own daily round-ups from Margaret Griffis tracked Iraq violence counts, and came up with 1,077 dead in the month of May, and 2,258 others wounded. Such a level has not been seen since the last sectarian civil war in Iraq in early 2008.
Perhaps most troubling is that the toll wasn’t a straight line throughout the month, and that much of the violence came in the second half of May. 

Over a thousand in May?  That's certainly a surprise to some people.  Alex Thomson (Channel 4) reports on new poll of the British that asked them how many people died in Iraq.  Here's a summary of the polling results:

  • Two-thirds (66 per cent) of the public estimate that 20,000 or fewer civilians and combatants have died as a consequence of the war in Iraq since 2003.
  • One in 10 (10 per cent) think that between 100,000 and 500,000 have died and one in 20 (6 per cent) think that more than 500,000 have died.
  • According to public estimates, the mean number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion is 189,530.
  • Women in Britain are more likely to underestimate the number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion than men. Half (53 per cent) of women think 5,000 or fewer deaths have occurred since the invasion compared to one-third (35 per cent) of men.
Perhaps that last figure is the most startling – a majority of women and more than a third of men polled say fewer than 5,000 deaths have occurred.

Thursday, May 23rd, I dictated (the Iraq snapshots are dictated), "Amnesty International's State of the World report was released today.  We will cover it tomorrow."  We did not cover it the next day.  A number of things, including the Associated Press' Matthew Lee's strong questioning of the State Dept, grabbed my focus.  My apologies.  In the Iraq section, the opening includes this -- remember this is the description of a government the US props up, funds and arms:

Thousands of people were detained; hundreds were sentenced to death or prison terms, many after unfair trials and on terrorism-related charges.  Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife and were committed with impunity.  At least 129 people were executed, including at least three women.  Armed groups opposed to the government continued to commit gross human rights abuses, killing hundreds of civilians in suicide and other bomb attacks.  Harassment, intimidation and violence against journalists and media workers continued to be reported.

After I missed noting the report last Friday, a number of e-mails speculated I was ignoring the report because of current problems with Amnesty.  When possible, the last four years, we've noted Amnesty UK because a friend with the UK chapter is someone I speak to regularly so it's very easy, in the course of our conversation, for me to get a heads up about Iraq.  But we haven't dropped Amnesty International's US chapter.  I understand why people would wonder and I heard the radio report this week about the woman in charge of Amnesty US -- thing is, she stepped down from that post back in January.  When you make a dumb mistake like that, SF, you make it very easy for every thing else you say to be dismissed.  Once upon a time, we could pick and choose with regards to Iraq.  That's not possible anymore.  We'll even note Commentary and other conservative sources -- with links -- these days.  Yes, it's usually to disagree with them but once upon a time, we didn't note them at all.

Amnesty International has never been the ideal that so many wished it had become.  The outrage being expressed currently is, to me, laughable.  Francis A. Boyle can and has written and talked about Amnesty.  His criticism has been serious criticism.  A lot of what's going on right now isn't serious.  It's conjecture and it's Hillary hatred (the woman who stepped down in January had worked under Hillary Clinton).  I don't mind conjecture.  I do mind it when conjecture is presented as established fact.  A number of voices on the radical left give the radical left a bad name by repeatedly insisting conjecture is fact.  They are largely attacking Amnesty because of Bradley Manning.  I consider Bradley a political prisoner.  Amnesty currently has not made that call.  Is that fair?  Actually, by Amnesty standards, it is.  By the standards in the 70s, they're being true to their guidelines.  Amnesty has not spoken to Bradley and cannot speak to him.  His attorney is an ego maniac -- yeah, I said it -- who doesn't know what he's doing and that has impacted the coverage.  (He refused to give interviews -- I was at his little presentation when he bragged about that.  What an idiot.  When your client can't speak to the world, when he's gagged, you do every interview you can to humanize him.)  How is Amnesty supposed to determine he's a political prisoner?

If they declare him one and he reveals something different in his testimony at the court-martial, they'll look too eager to label people "political prisoners."  Bradley is one person.  Amnesty's ability to shine a light on those in need is a great power -- it's why some of his supporters are attacking Amnesty for not labeling him a political prisoner.  But that ability is lessened when a non-political prisoner is wrongly labeled by them.

They've been unable to interview him, his attorney is a joke (civilian attorney), what's been presented to the court as the foundation of an argument created an uproar among his supporters but could have laid the groundwork for declaring him a political prisoner (but were Amnesty to now do so on the basis of gender issues, they would be attacked for that by some of Bradley's supporters).  He gave a statement in court.  That's all anyone has to go by.

And it appears he's going to plead guilty in some form or manner to partial or full charges.

If you think back to 'reporter' Sarah Olson, it's actually similar.  We supported Lt Ehren Watada (the first officer to publicly refuse to serve in the Iraq War).  Olson was among the journalists who interviewed him.  The military wanted to call her as a witness for the prosecution.

And Sarah distracted from the story from that moment on.  And all of her supporters were as loud as they were stupid.  We didn't support Sarah.  We couldn't.  I noted repeatedly that if she would say, "I'm not going to testify," we could support her.  We supported Judith Miller's right to refuse to answer questions about her sources.  If Sarah had refused, I would have led every snapshot addressing the issues involved.  But regardless of the outlet and the interviewer, she refused to say what she was going to do.  And she was all over the place getting publicity.  In the meantime, Ehren had stated what he was going to do.  And his story was lost as Sarah sucked up all the media oxygen.  (And then, in the end, when Ehren saved her cry baby ass, she 'rewarded' him by giving an interview shortly after where she trashed him.)

I can't defend her if she can't discuss her "strategy" (her term).  By the same token, Amnesty can't call Bradley a political prisoner.  Is he going to plead guilty in part or in full?  No one knows (but it looks that way).  Bradley needs to do what he thinks is right and we've stated that all along.  That mean if he gets offered a deal that works, he should grab it if he can live with it.  But he could issue statements through his attorney that would assist Amnesty in labeling him a political prisoner.  That's not happened.  (Monday on NPR's Here and Now, Slate's Emily Bazelon will be a guest to discuss the issues involved in Bradley's court-martial.)

I wish Amnesty would declare Lynne Stewart a political prisoner and I've lobbied for that to friends with Amnesty.  We don't always get what we want.  I haven't attacked them for not labeling Lynne a political prisoner (and I label Lynne one hear whenever I write about her).  Amnesty International is an organization, it's not pizza delivery -- you can't just place an order and expect to get what you want.

Does Amnesty have value?  Yes.  And if you doubt it, let's drop back to yesterday's snapshot:

The US State Dept today issued "Country Reports on Terrorism 2012."  The annual report focuses on terrorism or 'terrorism' around the world.  The Iraq section includes these claims:

We then included some of the claims and then I noted:

We're not going to spend a lot of time on the above because, first of all, it's almost June 2013.  Iraq's far too fluid for a look at 2012 violence to offer a great deal of insight.  Second of all, it's a dishonest report.  When you're praising the ability to 'secure' the Arab League Summit and you're not noting that Baghdad shut down the week before the Summit? You're not being honest.  If you can shut down Baghdad for the week before and the week of a Summit, it's not a surprise that there's no violence in Baghdad.  Was it worth it to the Iraqi people?  Was it worth it to them for all that money for security (and painting and prettying Baghdad) and for the inconvenience of the city shutting down for two weeks?  Probably not.  But that's not even considered in the report which fails to note any of the details of the Arab League Summit -- which was a huge failure and avoided by the leaders of all the major countries in the region.  So we'll note the ridiculous claims but we're not going to focus on them.  And the 'international' meet-ups in Baghdad continue to be a laugh.

If Amnesty is nothing but a cheap megaphone of the State Dept, then surely this report that they released Thursday of last week will track with the State Dept report released this week, right?

So let's see what it says about the Arab League Summit:

In March, the League of Arab States held its summit meeting in Baghdad for the first time since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.  Prior to the meeting, the security forces carried out mass arrests in Baghdad, apparently as a "preventive" measure.

I'd forgotten about that, the mass arrests.  I don't just mean that it slipped my mind when I was dictating the snapshot yesterday, I mean, until I read the Amnesty report today, I had forgotten about it.  Amnesty didn't forget and they didn't was on the way the State Dept did.  Know what else they noted:

Young people, particularly those seen locally as nonconformists, were subject to a campaign of intimidation after flyers and signs targeting them appeared in the Baghdad neighbourhoods of Sadr City, al-Hababiya and Hay al-'Amal in February. Those targeted included youths suspected of homosexual conduct and those seen as pursuing an alternative lifestyle because of their distinctive hairstyles, clothes or musical tastes.

You know who didn't note that in their recent report?  The US State Dept.

There's no better example of terrorism than groups who are targeted because of who they are.  That's the Jews during WWII, it's the Armenians during the Turkish genocide, it's gays and lesbians (or people suspected of being gay or lesbian) in oppressive societies.

"B-b-b-but, that's your definition of terrorism and the State Dept was focusing on the Iraqi government."  No.  Read through all of what they wrote and the lists of violence they compiled.  It's 'terrorism' when they don't have to take a stand.  Also grasp that the targeting was done by the government. The Ministry of the Interior, specifically.  (That's the police ministry, by the way.)  They had put out a paper about the Emo, demonizing them.   March 5th, we noted:

In the meantime, the attack on Emo youth or suspected Emo youth in Iraq continues. Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that those with longish hair, suspected of being Emo are being threatened and killed. Grace notes that there are lists of Emo youth (or accused of being Emo youth) publicly displayed in Sadr City, Shula and Kadhimiya with the promise that, one by one, each will be killed. An unnamed official in the Sadr City municipal court states that people have, on their cell phones, the names of young people to "liquidate" because they are Emo. This is beyond insanity and what happens when the US government turns a country over to thugs. And where is Nouri calling this out? Oh, that's right, he's not a leader. Well where's the United Nations? A segment of Iraqi youth is being targeted for "liquidation." That's pretty disturbing. Note the silence.

Four days later, March 9, 2012, Dan Littauer (Gay Star News) reported:

The report from the local LGBTQ activist indicates that Jaish Al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) are at least partially responsible for the murders.
An anonymous official in Sadr city’s municipal council affirmed that some people are recruited by extremist armed militias who carry lists stored in their phones with the names of emo youths and LGBTQ people to be murdered.
It has also emerged that some officials are actually behind the killings.
Colonel Mushtaq Taleb Muhammadawi, director of the community police of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, stated on 6 February that they had observed the so-called Satanists and emos. He added that the police have an official approval to eliminate emo people because of their ‘notorious effects’ on the community.
The colonel declared to Iraq News Network that: ‘Research and reports on the emo phenomenon has been conducted and shared with the Ministry of Interior which officially approves the measures to eliminate them.
‘The Ministries of Education and Interior are taking this issue seriously and we have an action plan to “eradicate them”. I will be leading the project myself and we have the necessary permits to access all schools in the capital,’ added the colonel, thus possibly indicating at the very least Iraqi state complicity with the massacres.

The Ministry of the Interior tried to deny involvement but got caught in their lie by Al Mada which printed the handout the ministry passed out during school presentations calling for death of the Emo. Scott Lang's wrote a column for the Guardian that addressed this:

Iraq's brutal interior ministry issued two statements in February. The first announced official approval to "eliminate" the "satanists". The second, on 29 February, proclaimed a "campaign" to start with a crackdown on stores selling emo fashion. The loaded language suggests, at a minimum, that the ministry incited violence. It's highly possible that some police, in a force riddled with militia members, participated in the murders.

That's not terrorism?  If you don't think that's terrorism, I think there's something seriously wrong with you.  Children were targeted for death and other children were encouraged to kill them -- encouraged by the Ministry of the Interior.  Shame on the US State Dept for turning a blind eye to it in their supposed 2012 report.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  Amnesty's far from perfect and I agree with Francis A. Boyle's criticism of Amnesty (which is much harsher than "they didn't label my hero a political prisoner!).  But to call them just a mouth for western government's foreign policy is selling them short. 

the guardian
scott long



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