Thursday, September 19, 2013

War and spying

I streamed this at Antiwar.com, John Stossel and Thadeus Russell talking about how progressives go to war.

It's worth watching.

Russell was briefly cheered by the BuzzFlash left during the '00s. I'm sure these same Democratic Party organs wouldn't give him a link, let alone a shout out, today.



  • Just heard an lawyer say that Obama has pursued same objectives as Bush but has "been smarter about it."


  • But how many lawyers voted for Obama and will vote for Hillary?


  • Probably all of them.  I hear crap like that all the time in the Black community.  I don't know that Thaddeus Russell would since he's White.  But if you're Black, there are certain very foolish other Blacks who seem to think Barack is their brother/father/son and will think you must agree with that, so they'll start gas bagging about him and they're just in love with him.  This is not and has never been all of the Black community.  But it is a very vocal part.


    I have no idea how failed their own lives are that they need to project onto this corporatist war hawk. 

    Anyway, here's an article from TechDirt about the illegal spying:




    We mentioned in our post about the newly declassified FISC ruling, explaining the secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act that allows for bulk data collection of all phone records, that the FISC notes (in its own support) that telcos like Verizon and AT&T have chosen to never challenge the bulk collection orders:
    To date, no holder of records who has received an Order to produce bulk telephony metadata has challenged the legality of such an Order. Indeed, no recipient of any Section 215 Order has challenged the legality of such an Order, despite the explicit statutory mechanism for doing so.
    This is hardly a surprise. We'd already pointed out that, while the internet companies had been very vocal about the NSA surveillance efforts, there had been a deafening silence from the likes of Verizon and AT&T. In fact, it later came out that the telcos actually volunteered to share this information, and when the tech companies reached out to get them to sign onto a letter asking the government to be more transparent, AT&T and Verizon refused to sign on.


    Use the link for the full article which includes a Verizon honcho making an idiot and an ass of himself.



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


    Tuesday, September 18, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the Iraqi ambassador to the US does a Twitter hang, one topic dominates after the conversation ends, Nouri al-Maliki asks the Iraqi people to help him hurt them, empty chatter about improving public services returns, the KRG gears up for provincial elections, trying to sell war on Syria hurts President Barack Obama and US House Rep Debbie Wasserman Schults, and more.


    Lukman Faily is the Iraqi Ambassador to the United States.  Today he used Twitter to take questions and provide answers.  Some were fairly basic questions about Faily himself, having to do with his experiences and his plans.  Sara Miller asked one of those.



    1. How many countries have you lived in? Do you have a favorite?


    1. . I've lived in 5 countries. Iraq is home; Japan is close to my heart and I hope US is closer

    Cecily Hilleary wondered if he might take part in competitions while in the United States, specifically in marathons.


    1. A light question: Will you be running in any US marathons while you're here? Registration for 2014 Boston is open!



    1. . yes, certainly will join. I was told the Boston will open in October. I'm staying away from MarineCorp marathon!


    Other questions were more to do with the relationship of the US and Iraq such as the following two exchanges.



    Why is Iraq still requesting help and aid of the US?
    Retweeted by
    Expand

    1. . Iraq is not asking for foreign aid but for political, security cooperation as a strategic partner to the US



    1. Mr Lukman, any news about future weapon deals with the US, including possibly Apaches or UAVs etc?


    1. . we're in process of purchasing $10b in US military equip. We're natural allies; military cooperation part of that


    It's a shame Faily wasn't asked to define exactly what sort of security cooperation in Iraq that Nouri's government is seeking from the US government.  In the weapons exchange, one of the first signs that the Twitter hang was not all lollypops took place as Shirin Nariman Tweeted a question.




    1. is this purchases aims to be used to supress more and also killing Iranian dissidents


    She received no answer to her question.  This would become a pattern throughout the Twitter exchange especially with regards to the topic of Camp Ashraf.

    However, claims that the ambassador "ducked" questions about Camp Ashraf are untrue.  He responded to two questions on the Ashraf community.



    1. What is the current state of the investigation into the massacre ?


    . we await Prime Minister's special committee results to be released once full investigation completed
    View conversation


    1. . we are awaiting the PM's special investigative committee on the event
    2. . we condemn murder of Ashraf residents. In constant negotiation w/special envoy for resettlement outside of Iraq


    Let's define the Camp Ashraf community for those who may not be familiar with it.  As of this month, Camp Ashraf is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.

    The idea that Nouri can investigate the attack is ludicrous.  Not only have we mocked the idea, the United Nations has insisted that an independent investigation is needed.

    Ambassador Faily Lukman did briefly address the Ashraf community.  If you've read the entire Twitter conversation, you know he spent more time on that issue than any other.

    But he also ignored questions on Camp Ashraf (as he did when the woman asked about whether US-acquired weapons would be used to suppress the Iraqi people -- a serious question which should have been answered).  We've used Lukman Fairly's Twitter feed for the above exchanges and not the Twitter feed for the conversation itself.  You have to page down and page down and page down repeatedly through one message after another about the Ashraf community.  A few examples.


      1. Can you give us an idea of when that investigation might be complete--and at what stage it is now?
    1. If Iraq cannot protect Iranian dissidents, should you hand over the security to Bluehelmets?
    2. Latest News indicates: hostages R under torture in solidarity confinement!This is CrimeAgainstHumanity ,
    3. Why 2 weeks ago iraqi forces attacked unarmed Geneva protected & massacred 52 residents & took 7 hostages?
    4. Why does Iraq prevent the security action 4refugees? hostages! @alorabiee
    5. Unami informed that Iraqi gov preventing the transfer of helmet,safety vests:Why do you want them unprotected @Alorabiee
    6. What is the current state of the investigation into the massacre ?
    7. Mr. this was the 5th massacre in . Can you guarantee it was the last one? How?

    and:



    1. 9/1,Al-Maleki's Golden 4ces attacked ,Commited crime against Humanity Executed 52Reffugees!Y?
    2. Why 6 women,1 man from massacre R under interrogation by forces in Al-Hout Prison?
    3. When will 7 under interrogation by forces in Al-Hout Prison be free?


    Every hour since the conversation ended (the ambassador spent the afternoon at the Brookings Institution), people have Tweeted.  They've noted that reporters are prevented by the Iraqi government from entering Camp Hurriya, how the UN is prevented, why there are no barrier walls around the compound to protect the Ashraf community, etc.

    The Ashraf community.  We noted some time ago that we would continue to use Ashraf.  That is how the community is known and part of the move to the new compound was about stripping them of their international recognition.  You'll notice that the Ashraf supporters today are doing the same.  Good for them.  Trying to create awareness around Camp Hurriya would be wasting time.  They are known for what took place at their original base in Iraq and they are, and remain, the Ashraf community.

    The US government has a legal obligation to protect the Ashraf community.  Their well being is and remains a serious issue.  We have treated it as such for years now and been attacked for doing just that.  So let me repeat: Ashraf was not "ducked."  Two questions on it were answered.  Since the event ended, there has been a major effort to continue Tweeting about the issue which is fine, it's an important issue.  But if you say someone "ducked" an issue, they need to have ignored it.  Go through the actual Twitter conversation -- not the hours of Tweeting that has taken place since -- and you will see the ambassador responded to two questions on the topic and, in doing so, spent more time on that topic than on any other in the conversation.


    Dropping back to Monday's snapshot:



    While they call for action, Iraq's Ambassador to the US is attempting to keep Iraq on the American   radar.  The Associated Press' Lara Jakes Tweets:



    1. CORRECTION: Twitter Q&A with Ambo to US is at 11a ET on WEDNESDAY

    2. Hamdulilah: Ambo to US won't let drop off the DC FP radar. Twitter Q&A with him baccher, 11a ET. Ahlan wah Salen!



    Also planning to speak on Wednesday is Osama al-Nujaifi.  NINA explains:


    Media Bureau of the Speaker of Parliament announced that Speaker Usama al-Nijaifi, plans to hold a press conference on Wednesday, Sep. 18, at the Parliament building. [. . .]  Political source sources said that in the press conference, Nijaifi will talk about his visits to each of Ankara and Tehran.



     Wednesday has become the day for political speeches in Iraq.  Haider Najm (Niqash) reports:



    Did he really say that? In mid-August the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki decided to start giving a weekly, televised address to the nation. The idea is apparently modelled on the way the US president works. And al-Maliki’s most recent speech was all about his ideas to solve the Syrian crisis next door.


    Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi did speak today.  KUNA reports on his press conference:


    The trip to Ankara last week aimed primarily to smooth over bilateral relations between Iraq and Turkey which suffered alienation over the past few months, said the house speaker, who revealed that high-placed officials from both countries were poised to exchange visits, chiefly among them being the Turkish house speaker who is due to visit Iraq at a later date.
    Furthermore, he told reporters at the press conference that his visit to Iran likewise meant to strengthen ties with that country, noting that his visits to Iran and Turkey had also the overarching objective to create regional understanding among his country, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Jordan, along with Turkey and Iran toward dealing with the looming problem of sectarianism and ethnic strife.
    He warned that the sectarian scourge, in evidence in his country, could spill over adversely to the rest of the region if the whole region did not get together to root it out conjointly.


    All Iraq News adds that al-Nujaifi declared Turkey's Speaker of Parliament, Cemil Cicek, will visit Iraq next week, and that he stated, "We reached agreement with Turkey regarding resuming normal relations and exchanging relations with Turkey."  In addition, All Iraq News notes, "The Speaker, Osama al-Nijaifi, assured that he will visit Jordan soon to discuss preserving the rights of the Iraqi community in Jordan."

    Nouri al-Maliki spoke today as well in his weekly address.  AP notes he spoke of his counter-insurgency campaign and asked the people to help with that.  But counter-insurgency is war on the native population and Nouri's 'answer' is only dividing the country further thereby increasing the violencce.  All Iraq News notes that Sadr bloc MP Hussein al-Mansouri issued a statement today declaring, "Maliki does not allow any security official to attend the parliament sessions for investigations over the disturbed security performance which makes it impossible to investigate Maliki.  Maliki does not recognize the representatives of the Iraqi people and behave as a dictator.  The political blocs to support the security forces in fighting terrorism to make the performance of the Intelligence system successful."
    Again, Nouri's ways are not working.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Baghdad bombing took place today in front of the Ministry of Education and 2 people were killed with another six injured,  a Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured, a highway bombing left military Col Mohammad Qasim injured, and a Tuz Khurmatu suicide car bomber claimed the life of 1 child and left twenty-five other people injuredAlsumaria notes that in Nineveh Province, the police chief survived an attack on his convoy but 1 of his bodyguards was killed and two more injured in the bombing. Pakistan's The News International adds, "In Mosul, also in northern Iraq, four soldiers were wounded in another explosion."  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 650 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.


    Since December 21st, protests have been ongoing in Iraq.  At issue are the lack of basic public services (such as electricity, potable water, etc.), the disappearance of many in the Iraqi 'justice' system, the rape of women held in Iraqi prisons and detention centers, the lack of jobs, the targeting of Sunnis and much more.  But on that first one?  Construction Week notes, "Iraq plans to spend in the region of $1.5bn (IQD 1,744.6bn) on water and sewage projects over the next two to three years, according to the country’s municipal affairs minister."  Long overdue but don't rejoice yet.  WaterTech e-News Daily adds, "The Sept. 18 story quoted Municipalities and Public Works Minister Adil Mhoder, who stated, “We will ask companies to bid for them in 2014. By the end of 2013, these projects will have passed the planning phase and will be needing implementation."  Nouri has been prime minister of Iraq since 2006.  It has a huge, billion dollar budget and he's spent none of that on the public services.  The new reports only indicate that he's prepared to jawbone about it.  Whether or not any real construction gets started in 2014 is debatable and, don't forget, he wants to have a third term as prime minister and parliamentary elections are supposed to take place next year.  Also don't forget that he makes public services promises before each parlimentary election.  In his speech today, Nouri also declared the government was willing to meet the demands of the protesters.  He's sung that song before.  Alsumaria notes he last sang it August 31st.  And yet nothing has changed.

    All Iraq News notes that Change (or Goran) MP Bayazid Hassan states they will not allow a forgery of the provincial election results to take place.  The CIA-backed Goran is seen as an 'independent' party in the Kurdistan Regional Government where the KDP (led by KRG President Massoud Barzani) and the PUK (led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani) are the two dominant parties. You know it's election time when Goran starts introducing "fraud" and "forgery" into the dialogue.  What elections?

    Iraq has 18 provinces. 14 of them have voted in provincial elections this fall, four have not.  Because Nouri has failed to implement Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, Kirkuk has not held elections.  That leaves three provinces.

    4 Hoteliers explains:

    The Kurdistan Region is a federated region in Northern Iraq counsisting of three main governorates: Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, and Duhok.
    In contrast to other parts of Iraq, the Kurdistan region has remained peaceful for the most part of the last decade and as a result there has been an upsurge in economic activity in the region, and the demand for all types of goods and services is on the rise.

    Those three provinces do not vote in provincial elections with the rest of Iraq.  Kamal Chomani (World Bulletin) reports:

    Next Saturday (September 21) the Kurdistani people in Iraqi Kurdistan will go to the ballot box to elect 111 nominees to represent them in the next Parliament. Next Saturday will either become a turning point in Kurdistan’s history towards radical reforms in the political system or bring disappointment to the people.
    Whereas the two ruling parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by the Kurdistan Region’s Masoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani, have been preoccupied with their history to attract the voters by focusing on the developments which the Kurdistan Region has enjoyed over the past four years, the opposition parties— the Gorran Movement led by Nawshirwan Mustafa, Islamic Union led by Muhammad Faraj and Islamic Group led by Ali Bapir— are focusing on a better future for all including: equality, the rule of law, the revelation of hundreds of corruption documents, transparency in oil income, combatting family rule, the various failures in the 22 year administration of the KDP and PUK, and the atrocities which the two ruling parties have committed against Kurdistan’s people.


    Armando Cordoba (Rudaw) writes:

    Those who believe that the accusations of election irregularities are baseless and a last-ditch effort by political parties to gain against the KDP should consider the independent reports of the 2009 elections, which were overseen by the UN mission in Iraq and nearly 40,000 other international and Iraqi monitors.
    A report by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) cited “anecdotal cases of serious voting irregularities. Independent monitors like Jabar Amin, from the Swedish Green Party, reported many people voting more than once. He said the ink used to fingerprint voters, to avoid double-voting, had been easily washable.
    There were also allegations of observers being shut out of polling stations for “at least half the day,” in Duhok and Sulaimani, according to a report from the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR).
    There were 415 claims filed about voting issues with the Independent High Electoral Commission But they were dismissed on grounds they were improperly filed. But just because someone filled out the wrong box or the wrong form does not delegitimize the claim. 

    But just because someone made a claim of irregularities doesn't mean they took place either. Claims that are not verified are merely assertions.  Naturally, there are more claims of irregularities when the other provinces vote (because there are more people in the 14 other provinces -- again Kirkuk did not vote).  And anecdotal evidence is also known as "talk."  I don't know that there were or were not abuses in the 2009 KRG vote but neither does anyone making assertions based on unexamined claims.

    Hiwa Osman (Rudaw) writes about verifiable problems with the upcoming vote:


    The vote may be truly free: Everyone is free to run, to say whatever they want and vote for whoever they want. But this is not enough, and far from fair.
    An absence of laws that regulate political activities in Kurdistan and in Iraq prevents any party outside the current political spectrum from stepping into parliament. It also allows the entrenched large parties to do or say as they please.
    During campaigning and the elections themselves their respect for rules and regulations set out by the electoral commission becomes a matter of goodwill, an act of philanthropy. That is because there is no strong rule of law that makes it illegal for people in government to abuse their positions or powers.
    In the absence of a regulatory framework, government officials have been free to campaign during office hours and use government facilities without any questions or objections from the election regulators. The regulators themselves have historically been weak to enforce regulations, because have mostly been political appointees.
    Another thing that makes the elections unfair is the non-existence of a population census providing a clear picture of voter data, or the work of the electoral bodies regulating the vote.

    In other KRG news, Patrick Osgood and Rawaz Tahir (Iraq Oil Report) explain, "The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has signed a domestic gas sales agreement that will reduce its multi-billion-dollar annual diesel tab and give other oil companies operating in Kurdistan an idea of the pricing level for locally consumed gas."  AFP adds, "But it has drawn the ire of Baghdad for making moves towards setting up an oil export pipeline, ferrying crude across the border to Turkey and signing contracts with foreign energy firms without the expressed consent of the federal oil ministry. The two sides are also locked in dispute over a swathe of territory in north Iraq."
    In the United States, President Barack Obama is locked in a battle with the American people.  He wants to attack Syria while the majority of Americans don't want an attack to take place.  ABC News Radio reports, " Barack Obama’s job approval rating flattened at an even 47-47 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, his lowest in more than a year, with more than half of Americans disapproving of his handling of the situation with Syria."  The poll found opposition to missile strikes on Syria (six out of ten opposed strikes). Barack's not the only one suffering from the push for war on Syria.  US House Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultz has a new image as a professional liar as a result of her claims while she tried to sell war on Syria.  Craig Kopp (WSUF -- link is audio and text) speaks with PolitiFact's Angie Holan about how Debbie earned her "Pants On Fire" rating for her recent lies.
    Debbie can't stop selling war.  But Deutsche Welle speaks with the Chair of the United Nations Commission of Inquiry for Syria Paulo Sergio Pinheiro who states:
     First, there is no military solution for the crisis. It is an illusion to think that the government or the rebel groups will be victorious. It is very important also to stop providing arms to all the parties. The best recipe for continuing this war is to carry on providing resources and delivering weapons to the different parties. We have said this very clearly. This is unacceptable, because most of these arms will be used to commit war crimes, to kill more Syrians, to create more refugees, more internally displaced people, and the only way to stop this is negotiation. It is also very important that the countries that are influential in the region and internationally build some mutual trust, that they follow the example of the Russian Federation and the United States. They seemed so far from each other but have now reached an agreement. This agreement demonstrated that it is possible to move towards a political solution.
    Barack's desired attack is not a political solution and as Ruth observed Monday:

    There are many questions we need to be asking.
    The most basic is how does bombing anyone make things peaceful? I am not a War Hawk but we can use logic to understand their point of view.  (And they could use logic to understand our point of view.) Using logic, we would argue a bomb campaign can help if it is followed up by troops on the ground.  You bomb to scare, to penalize, and you use troops on the ground to seize any opportunity bombing might result in.  I do not agree with that, but I do understand how someone could make that case. The case US President Barack Obama wants to make for bombing Syria is that it will be a 'precise' and 'surgical' strike, there will be no boots on the ground. Then, using logic, how does a strike help? I really do not get it.  Sorry. All you are doing is terrorizing a people.  And adding to the suffering of the Syrian people is no way to  provide them with assistance.
    Christopher Blakely (Policy Mic) tracks the US government's long involvement in Syria.
    The public by a 15-point margin is more apt to say Obama’s performance on Syria has weakened rather than strengthened U.S. global leadership, and six in 10 continue to oppose the missile strikes he urged. At the same time, the survey finds vast support, 79 percent, for the Russian-backed plan to junk Syria’s chemical weapons, even amid skepticism Syria will cooperate.  And Norman Solomon (normansolomon.com) notes the public opposition to providing arms to the so-called 'rebels':
    Top officials in Washington are happy that American “lethal aid” has begun to flow into Syria, and they act as though such arms shipments are unstoppable. In a similar way, just a few short weeks ago, they -- and the conventional wisdom -- insisted that U.S. missile strikes on Syria were imminent and inevitable.
    But public opinion, when activated, can screw up the best-laid plans of war-makers. And political conditions are now ripe for cutting off the flow of weaponry to Syria -- again giving new meaning to the adage that “when the people lead, the leaders will follow.”
    Contrary to what many assume, the latest polls show that a large majority of Americans are opposed to the U.S. government sending weapons to Syria. For instance, in a CNN/ORC survey taken September 6-8, a whopping 85 percent of people nationwide answered “not either side” when asked whether the United States “should take the side of the Syrian government, or take the side of the Syrian rebels, or not take either side.”





     


     

     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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