Thursday, June 2, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Adam Kokesh prepares for the Dance Party this Saturday at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Iraqi government releases false totals for May (and the press doesn't say a word), the continued effects of Nancy Pelosi's decision to sell out the peace movement, and more.
We'll open with this from Feminist Majority:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2011
Contact: Francesca Tarant
Statement by Eleanor Smeal, Publisher of Ms. and President of the Feminist Majority: Jill Abramson Reaches the Pinnacle of the New York Times
The selection of Jill Abramson, an accomplished feminist, as executive editor of The New York Times, which is not only the most influential newspaper in the United States, but also the premier online news platform, smashes a barrier to women's achievement in print and digital media.
This is all the more important because it comes at a time when women's rights are under attack in Congress and state legislatures. Additionally, women are still only one-third of executive editors and one-fifth of presidents, publishers and CEOs of major U.S. newspapers. Globally, women hold only 27 percent of top news management positions. Hopefully the elevation of Jill Abramson to the pinnacle of The New York times will spur the advancement of women in management throughout the industry.
No matter what happens, Iraq War veteran Adam Kokesh's DC event opens tomorrow's snapshot. The host of RT's Adam vs. the Man was among those assaulted by DC Parks Police over the weekend discusses his Dance Party this Saturday at Thomas Jefferson's Memorial starting at noon on yesterday's broadcast (airs Mondays through Fridays at 7:00 pm EST). You can refer to Adam's program and to this Facebook page for more on the event. And while Adam's hosting the DC Dance Party, soldiarty Dance Parties are springing up around the country to be held at the same time for those who are unable to attend the event in DC. Excuse me, all over the country and at places around the world. Ontario has announced their Solidarity Dance Party and so has Paris. There's also a video contest taking place here (winner to be determined by noon tomorrow based upon which video has the most views). Adam noted on yesterday's broadcast, "We just decided that Friday night, at 8:00 pm, for those of you in DC or who are coming to DC for this event, we are going to be meeting for a pre-party at 8:00 pm at Dupont Circle and it will be a chance for you to meet, maybe some fellow dancers, hang out, get to know them, in a slightly more relaxed environment than what we might see at the Jefferson Memorial on Saturday."
"I think we all can agree that this is one of the most important hearings that we'll have in this Congress," noted House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller yesterday morning. Noting that the unemployment rate for today's veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars (young veterans) is "as high as 13.1%," and went on to make remarks that left me confused. What does Miller mean when he proclaims "there are legal protections for Guardsmen and Reservists who left work to fight for our country. By law, they are entitled to have or back to their jobs when they come home. We need to be aggressive in enforcement of this law"?
Yes, it is illegal to fire someone because they're serving in the Guard. But what is this "we need to be aggressive in enforcement of this law"? Congress makes laws, it doesn't enforce them. And on the enforcement side here, it doesn't exist. Disclosure, I'm covering legal expenses for a friend in my state who is suing to get his job back (it was 'filled' while he was overseas). There's no, "Quick, call San Francisco PD and get an officer out here to arrest someone!" There will be no prison time at the end for the employers. My friend will get his job back and he'll get some sort of cash settlement. But there's no enforcement of this law. That's a joke and it's insulting to pretend that there is. The branch addressing this is the judicial branch.
If Chair Miller would like to legislate some new and more strict laws, that would be great. But as they exist currently, let's stop pretending that these laws are "enforced." They're not. That's why so many Guard members and Reservists are having to turn to the courts. This is not a minor point and it enraged me yesterday so I held off on this hearing thinking I'd be more laid back on the issue today. I'm not. If Chair Miller was just trying to offer some meaningless but pleasing words, he needs to be aware that people aren't stupid enough to applaud those words. But if he comes up with an actual plan -- he says he's hoping to "introduce a new jobs bill for veterans," great. We'll note it, we'll review it here. But if the bill has nothing on protecting the jobs of those called up (or it has toothless and meaingless words), we'll note that as well. This is becoming one of the biggest employment issues for Reservists and Guard members. And prior to recently, I would note, scanning the papers across the country, at least one regional story each month on a veteran going through this. But until a friend of mine faced this problem recently, I didn't realize how widespread it was. I think many people are as ignorant of that as I was. It's not getting the attention it deserves.
Ranking Member Bob Filner noted in his opening remarks (oral, not the prepared, written remarks), "I would associate myself with your [Chair Miller] comments except for one statement. You -- you start off with the mantra that we have to reduce taxes on small business which I would agree with and cut spending. And then you go on to say how we need more training and this and that. Seems to me we have to increase spending in these areas and I'm not afraid to come out and say it. We've got to increase our spending in these areas. If we're going to put people back to work, it's going to take some investment."
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Thanks to each of you for your testimony. I think we've heard a common thread among a lot of what you had to say. There are a lot of programs out there and a lot of information out there, a lot of ways that people can get to it but nobody knows it's there. How do we do it? I mean that's -- we've already got the programs in place, the websites are out there, VA's got it, SHRM's got it. Who wants to start? And I'd be glad to hear from anyone of you on a simple way to fix our problem.
Hank Jackson: I'll -- I'll take that simply because SHRM, as a human resource association, sort of takes its on as one of our responsibilities. I truly believe that education is what's sorely lacking. When we go to our members -- we surveyed our members last year -- 53% of our members indicated that they were actually attempting to hire veterans but were not sure about how to go about it, how to target veterans. We believe that through the programs with the Dept of Labor Vets, that we are developing a tool kit for veterans and employers that we hope to roll out sometimes before the end of the year in conjunction with the Dept of Labor. We believe that our members are truly committed to this cause. It's a matter of giving them a succinct place to go to address this issue.
Richard Hobbie: Mr. Chairman, I agree with Mr. Jackson that partnerships with employers and federal, state and local agencies is extremely important and, of course, we've made great progress on that in the last four years with our partnership with DirectEmployers Association and we continue to make progress.
Jolene Jefferies: And I can just say, I kicked off -- we did a, DirectEmployers Association hiring and retaining veterans web in our education series and that has been keeping me incredibly busy. There's definitely a strong interest in this. And to Mr. Jackson's point, there's a lot of turnover in these human resource departments and it does require continuous communication and education. And we just can't stop that effort. It's got to be an ongoing initiative. So in that spirit, we're providing this education series, recording it, and it's open to the public, does not cost anything and we've had state work force agencies, LVERs [Local Veterans Employment Representatives], DVOP [Disabled Veterans Outreach Program], the VA, the OFCCP [Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs] employers all demanding this training so there is a huge need for that.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Finally, Mr. Schmiegel.
Kevin Schmiegel: Thank you, sir. I'd like to make two points. The first point which is one of the principles we talked about is that the effort has to be focused on the local community. In my last assignment as a Marine, I was the head of Assignment Monitors. I managed 60 human resource specialist in the Marine Corps that assigned 170,000 Marines worldwide. One of our other primary responsibilities was to retain Marines. We only retain about 1 out of every four Marines so when we were doing our interviews to talk to those Marines about their decision to leave, we often asked them what they were going to do next. They never talked about what they were going to do next, they always talked about where they were going. The fact is, veterans and their families are returning to local communities every day. So the second point, which talks to the local community, is efforts have to be better coordinated between the public and private sector in those local communities. Our approach is simple, we're going to do a hundred events, a hundred hiring fairs in those local communities using the local Chambers of Commerce and the relationships that we have formed nationally with the Dept of Labor Vets and with the employer support of the Guard and Reserve and Ray Jefferson's state directors [Jefferson is the Assistant Secretary for the Department of Labor Veterans Emplyment and Training] and Ron Young's -- Ron Young's team of state directors [Young is the Executive Direcot of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve] in the Guard and Reserve are going to get together in those local communities and execute events. If we focus on local communities and we better coordinate private and public sector efforts, we will be more successful.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: I salute the Chamber on the 100 jobs fairs you're talking about holding but I think you just hit on part of your problem. If they're all returning to their own home communities, you have tens of thousands of communities which we need to be penetrating and be able to communicate with. So how do we solve that problem? They all want to go home -- and I certainly understand that -- so I mean we've got small cities of several thousand to large cities of millions. Sir?
Kevin Schmiegel: I think there has to be several different models, several different approaches to this. So we've conducted what Ray and I refer to as mega-hiring fairs in cities like Chicago, in cities like New York, in cities like Los Angeles, that model may have over a hundred, a hundred-and-fifty employers and a couple of thousand veterans and their spouses attend. We generally have high level speakers, we have transitional workshops to offer in conjunction with that. When we go to smaller areas -- We'll be in, we'll be in Great Falls, Montana on August 13th, the model is different. You have to focus on fewer number of employees and you have to also take into account that neighboring states from Montana may have significantly lower rates of unemployment than Great Falls. So you may ask a big employer like Haliburton, who has a significant number of jobs in the eastern portion of the state and in the neighboring state, to offer jobs to veterans and their families to relocate either in Montana or in a neighboring state. So I think the answer to the question is the model is different. You have to start somewhere. A hundred is a very aggressive number. The US Chamber of Commerce has over 17,000 local Chambers of Commerce affiliated with us. Next year, if this campaign is successful, we hope that the 100 becomes 500. And the year after that, we hope the 500 becomes 1,000. Thank you.
Commitee Chair Jeff Miller: Thank you. Mr. Filner?
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I thank you all for your testimony and your efforts. This is obviously a Congressional hearing and we have oversight of the VA. I haven't heard any suggestions on what we ought to be doing or what the VA ought to be doing. Looks like the only guy who's doing anything in government is Mr. Jefferson over here -- I mean, from the testimony -- I know you're false modest. But what are we all doing here? I mean this ought to be a top priority for everybody. And I can imagine -- you guys are the experts -- but if I just thought about it for a few seconds I could think of what the VA could be doing. I mean, why isn't every regional office, for example, putting out a list of veterans and their specialties and what they're seeking jobs as? You guys all said we have trouble linking up with who the veterans are. Well the VA knows every veteran. Let's just put out a list of everybody who's looking for a job. I mean, it just doesn't seem difficult. We hear about the transition of skills in the military being hard to translate. We could deem anybody who's in electronics or a medic or a truck driver -- I mean, we can give them a certificate that says "For the purposes of hiring, this serves as" you know "what ever entry level." And people can be trained further. But they have incredible skills. We've been working on this civilian certification for, I don't know, decades. Nobody can seem to solve it. We've got guys truck driving all over Iraq or Afghanistan, they come home and they find out they have to take a six month course to get a commercial driving license. They say, "Hey, what do I need that for?" And they get discouraged. They're truck drivers. They know how to do it and they do it under the most difficult conditions you can imagine. Let them have a certificate that starts with a job. Or electronics people or medics. I mean, I've watched these medics. They have incredible -- they do things that no civilian would ever think of doing and yet they've got to go through some other certification, masters and go to this college and that college. Come on. They have the training. And we could just do it. I'd like you to give us some suggestions in either law, regulation, just executive order that we can help you do the kind of things you're doing every day. You are out there. We ought to be helping you in every way we can and the VA's job is to do that. Give us one thing we could do, if each of you could do that.
Jolene Jefferies: I think for starters, what would really help employers and we don't need a list of names necessarily but even just a simple heat map, for instance, that shows what the talent pools of veterans are, what their skills are, and where, in terms of geography, where can we find certain veterans with specific skills. And that way, we can at least hone down our recruiting strategy --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Done. Let's do it. Anybody from the VA here? Where's Ms. Fanning? [VA's Ruth Fanning] Afraid to raise her hand? Whatever -- she say heat map? [Pointing to VA staff] Whatever a heat map is, let's do it. I can imagine what it is, but I'm sure it's easy.
This continued with Filner handing out assignements but only Jefferies had an answer ready on what she needed. She had to be asked, she did not require prompting (not true of others). There's another hearing, one we attended today, that I'll try to note tomorrow. There's no room in the snapshot for it today.
Among the many things we need to cover today is violence. It's June 2nd, the month of May is over, so let's look back. May 1st, 4 were reported dead and 17 injured. May 2nd, 4 dead and 21 injured. May 3rd, 15 dead and 40 injured. May 4th, 8 dead and 7 injured. May 5th, 30 dead and 90 injured. May 6th, 3 dead and 7 injured. May 7th, 9 dead and 18 injured. May 8th, 17 dead and 11 injured. May 9th, 4 dead and 19 injured. May 10th, 2 dead and 8 injured. May 11th, 2 dead and 16 injured. May 12th, 7 dead. May 13th, 3 injured. May 15th, 8 dead and 19 injured. May 16th, 14 dead and 16 injured. May 17th, 25 dead and 7 injured. May 18th, 6 dead and 2 injured. May 19th, 37 dead and 102 injured. May 20th, 7 dead and 14 injured. May 22nd, 23 dead and 47 injured. May 23rd, 13 and 10. May 25th, 5 dead and 30 injured. May 26th, 26 dead and 12 injured. May 27th, 2 dead (we're not counting the young boy killed by his cousin when they were playing with guns -- though that death was certainly at the very least 'inspired by the Iraq War'). May 28th, 5 dead. May 29th, 2 dead and 10 injured. May 30th, 4 dead and 6 injured. May 31st, 2 dead and 3 injured. Check my math, that should add up to 284 deaths and 535 wounded. Iraqi Body Count -- which does a far better job of tracking than I do -- notes 353 reported deaths.
Xinhua announces that "May's death toll was the lowest since December 2010, when the authorities announced the death of 151 Iraqis." That might be true . . . if the figures Xinhua uses were accurate. They announce, using figures by the Ministry of Interior, Defense and Health, only 171 deaths in Iraq (excluding US soldiers -- we didn't count them yet either). That would be a lie. LIE. Reuters runs with the same FALSE figures because, despite reporting daily deaths and injuries, it's just too hard for the little guys and gals to keep track of what they report -- or, more honestly, they're as sick of their reporting as so many others are.
Did violence decrease in May? No. Drop back to the May 2nd snapshot and you'll see we counted 262 deaths and 598 injured for the month of April. 284 deaths for the month of May would be an increase. And Iraqi Body Count (refer to the snapshot) found 283 were killed in April and they find 353 for the month of May.
It's a two syllable word and that may be more than many US reporters can manage but it is, indeed, an "increase" from the month of April. And just because three government ministries tell you otherwise doesn't make a lie true. In fact, it's past time for the press that refuses to keep their own count to stop repeating what they know each month is a lie. Each month they run with the lies. It's not a mistake, it's not an error. It's deliberate and it should have stopped long ago.
John Drake is a consultent with AKE and we'll note his Tweets on weekly violence for the month of May.
John Drake's Twitter feed May 9th:
John Drake's Twitter feed May 16th:
That was not a complete count (and he didn't pretend it was) but his totals? 228 dead and 722 injured. Supposedly reputable news outlets are really going to pretend that the Iraqi government figure of 171 deaths for the month of May is accurate? Really?
Since March 2010, a wave of assassinations and assassination attempts have swept Iraq and the last three months have only seen an increase. May 26th saw the assassination of Ahmed Chalabi's boy pal Ali al-Lami. Responding like a grieving lover, Nouri al-Maliki went on a rampage to find someone to blame for the death of his beloved. But many others died and they got no interest from Nouri. Ayad Ali Akbar of the Ministry of Defense was assassinated in Baghdad May 23rd. And the most high profile assassination attempt was probably the May 30th one that Nineweh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi survived -- he is the brother of Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of Parliament. But there was no agonizing cry from Nouri and State of Law over any deaths except for Thug Boi Pin Up Ali al-Lami.
And the wave continues today as Aswat al-Iraq reports that Sheikh Hameed Ahmed was assassinated in Falluja. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "At least five people were killed and 27 others wounded, including 17 policemen, in a series of coordinated explosions late Thursday that struck the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, police said." Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured four, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured two people, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured five people, a second one injured four people and a third one left two people injured.
The Great Iraqi Revolution notes that this Friday's protests will be entitled "Tahrir's Detainee Friday." Jacques Clement (AFP) observes, " Iraq risks a return to massive street protests when a 100-day deadline for progress expires next week, experts say, with no core issues having been addressed and a summer heatwave coming." The 100 Days was devised by Nouri al-Maliki (and popularized by Moqtada al-Sadr) in an attempt to defuse the protests. While activists are gearing up for next week (two Friday's from now), protests will be taking place tomorrow. And the title for this coming's Friday's protest, Great Iraqi Revolution explains, was chosen to stand loyal with those who have been wrongly arrested and held in secret prisons. There has been a steady crackdown on protesters but Friday and Saturday Nouri al-Maliki's goons took it up another level.
Today the pattern of attacking protest is called out by not one but two major human rights organizations. Human Rights Watch issues the following:
(Tunis) - Iraqi authorities have detained, interrogated, and beaten several protest organizers in Baghdad in recent days, Human Rights Watch said today. Iraqi authorities should stop the attacks and charge or release those being held, Human Rights Watch said.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, a protest organizer, Isma'il Abdullah, was abducted, stabbed, and beaten on May 27, 2011. The Kurdistan government should make sure its promised investigation of the episode is thorough, fair, and transparent, and leads to the prosecution of those responsible, Human Rights Watch said.
"Authorities in Baghdad and in Iraqi-Kurdistan are keeping their citizens from demonstrating peacefully," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Iraq needs to make sure that security forces and pro-government gangs stop targeting protest organizers, activists, and journalists."
Several activists in the capital told Human Rights Watch that they believed that the increased security at Baghdad's Tahrir Square and the recent arrests were an attempt to head off reinvigoration of public protests, amid efforts by various small protest groups to work together. They said that neighborhood officials had warned them that security forces had made increased inquiries into the activists' whereabouts and activities over the past two weeks.
On May 28, soldiers in four Humvees and two other unmarked vehicles approached the offices of the human rights group Where Are My Rights in Baghdad's Bab al Mu'adham neighborhood, as members met with fellow protest organizers from the February 25 Group. Members of both groups told Human Rights Watch that soldiers raided the building with guns drawn, took away 13 activists in handcuffs and blindfolds, and confiscated mobile phones, computers and documents.
One detained activist who was released on May 29 told Human Rights Watch that during the raid a commanding officer introduced himself as "from Brigade 43"of the army's 11th Division and said another officer was "from Baghdad Operation Command."
"They did not show any arrest warrants and did not tell us why we were being arrested," this activist said:
A female activist complained and asked to see warrants, and they told her to "shut up and get in the car." They blindfolded and handcuffed us, and while they were doing this, they asked, "Why are you having these meetings? Do you really think you can bring down the government?" And they asked who was supporting us.
The activist said that the army took the people it arrested to a detention facility at Division 11 headquarters, where they were interrogated both as a group and individually. "Once we were there, they hit us with their hands in the face, neck, chest, and arms while we were still blindfolded," the activist said. "They kicked us everywhere they could reach. They did not use batons on me, and they talked to each other about not leaving marks or bruises on us."
The released activist and several members of both organizations said security forces are still holding nine of the activists and have released four without any charges. "I asked what crimes we had committed, and asked again about arrest warrants," said the released activist. "They never answered either question."
On May 27, men in civilian clothing detained four student protesters - Jihad Jalil, Ali al-Jaf, Mouyed Faisal, and Ahmed Al-Baghdadi - near a peaceful protest at Baghdad's Tahrir Square, witnesses said. "When [the protesters] started to struggle, uniformed security forces joined in to help the abductors," one witness told Human Rights Watch. "I saw Jihad [one of the protesters] dragged across the ground. A soldier pointed an AK-47 against Jihad's head and cocked it, threatening to shoot him if he moved. People started panicking and running."
In the confusion that followed, some witnesses said they saw security forces push the four protesters into an ambulance that sped away, though others were not sure what happened to them. Members of two of the students' families told Human Rights Watch that authorities would not tell them where they had been taken, despite multiple inquiries. The brother of one said, "We talked to officials from the Interior Ministry, the 11th Division, the Baghdad Brigade, and other prisons. They all say they do not have him and don't know anything about him."
Human Rights Watch received no response from a government spokesman to requests for information about the four protesters' whereabouts. On May 31, state-run Iraqiya TV broadcast a Baghdad Operation Command statement saying security forces had arrested the students for carrying forged IDs and not for participating in protests.
One of the detained students, a frequent protest organizer, had been chased by unknown assailants 10 days earlier and had been afraid to sleep at home since, a family member told Human Rights Watch, "He called us a few times, but would not tell us where he was staying, because he was convinced that security forces were after him and would come arrest him if they were tapping the phone line."
According to witnesses and media reports, there was a significantly larger presence of government security forces on May 27 than at other weekly Friday demonstrations that have taken place since February 25 over the chronic lack of basic services and perceived widespread corruption.
In the Kurdistan attack, in Sulaimaniya, a group of eight armed masked men, some in military clothes, grabbed Abdullah, 28, an organizer and frequent speaker at Sulaimaniya protests, as he was buying a phone card at about 12:05 a.m. on May 27, and whisked him away in an unmarked Nissan patrol car. Abdullah told Human Rights Watch that after they drove for a half-hour, the men pulled him out of the vehicle into a field, where they covered his head, stabbed his arm, and pounded him with their fists and butts of their pistols and rifles.
During the beating, he said, when one of the assailants suggested they kill him, others said they "needed an order from above." One assailant left to make a phone call and when he returned, he told the others "not to kill me but to do something very bad to my face." They removed the cover from his head and one of the gang "beat my face with the Kalashnikov many times until my nose was broken."
At about 2 a.m., he said, they dumped him on the outskirt of the city. Before they left, he said, "they threatened me to never participate in any protests and I should be thrilled that they didn't kill me this time."
Abdullah said that after he filed a police complaint the following day, government and security officials called him and promised to investigate.
On May 29, Hakim Qadir Hamajan, director of Sulaimaniya's security forces, told Human Rights Watch, "We condemn all such acts of violence. The investigation is ongoing, and no information can be released yet, but we are working to find whoever is responsible and bring them before the courts to be prosecuted."
Abdullah had gone into hiding in mid-April after receiving threatening phone calls and text messages because of his protest involvement. He said he had re-emerged six weeks later because he believed he was no longer at risk after hearing that officials and opposition parties would be discussing Kurdistan's political crisis.
Iraqi authorities have taken several steps to eliminate protests in the capital from public view. On April 13, officials issued new regulations barring street protests and allowing them only at three soccer stadiums.
In late February, Iraqi police allowed dozens of assailants to beat and stab peaceful protesters in Baghdad. In the early hours of February 21, dozens of men, some wielding knives and clubs, attacked about 50 protesters who had set up two tents in Tahrir Square. During nationwide February 25 protests, security forces killed at least 12 protesters across the country and injured more than 100. On that day, Human Rights Watch observed Baghdad security forces beating unarmed journalists and protesters, smashing cameras, and confiscating memory cards.
Security forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and its ruling parties have used repressive measures against journalists and demonstrators since the start of the daily protests in Sulaimaniya on February 17 seeking an end to widespread corruption and greater civil and political rights. On March 6, masked men attacked demonstrators and set their tents on fire in Sulaimaniya. On April 18, security forces seized control of Sara Square, the center of Sulaimaniya's protests, and have prevented further demonstrations.
On April 27, the KRG issued a 19-page report of its investigation into the violence during the previous 60 days of demonstrations. It concluded that violence was committed by both security forces and protesters, and that "the police and security forces were poorly trained in handling it appropriately."
Iraq's constitution guarantees "freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration." As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iraq is obligated to protect the right to life and security of the person, and the right to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.
Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to end their clampdown on peaceful protests following the arrest of 15 pro-reform activists in Baghdad in recent days.
Four protesters were arrested by plain-clothed security forces last Friday morning during a peaceful demonstration in Baghdad's Tahrir Square. They are still being held and are reported to be facing trial on charges of possessing fake ID cards.
Eleven other activists were arrested when security forces raided the Baghdad headquarters of 'Ayna Haqqi' (Where is my right), a local NGO, on Saturday. Four were later released but the others, including the NGO's secretary-general, Ahmed Mohammad Ahmed, are still being held, apparently because they are suspected of involvement in organizing demonstrations in Tahrir Square.
"These arrests provide further evidence of the Iraqi authorities' intolerance of peaceful dissent and are very worrying," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.
"If they are being held solely for their peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression or assembly they must be released immediately and unconditionally."
"Rather than clamping down on protests, the Iraqi authorities should be upholding and protecting the right of Iraqis to engage in peaceful protests in support of calls for political and economic reform. Iraqis should be free to express their opinions without fear of arrest or harassment by the security forces."
All 11 detainees are currently held at al-Muthanna Prison in Baghdad. They have been denied access to their families and lawyers, raising fears that they could be subject to torture or other ill-treatment.
"The Iraqi authorities must ensure that these detainees are protected against such abuse, including by being allowed immediate access to their lawyers and families," said Malcolm Smart.
Protests first erupted in Iraq in mid-2010 over the federal government's failure to provide basic services such as water and electricity. They then gathered momentum, inspired by the popular protests in Tunisia and Egypt, and culminated in a "Day of Rage" on 25 February, when tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in cities across Iraq.
The Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional governments responded by issuing regulations giving the authorities virtually unlimited discretion to determine who can demonstrate, but many Iraqis have continued to protest in defiance of official restrictions.
Published last month, Amnesty International's report Days of Rage: Protests and Repression in Iraq describes how Iraqi and Kurdish forces have shot and killed protesters, including three teenage boys, and threatened, detained and tortured political activists, and targeted journalists covering the protests.
If you're wondering what the US State Dept added and thinking you must have missed their 2:00 AM press release earlier this morning, take a breath, relax, you didn't miss it. The State Dept has no statement on it. And the White House? Barack will give mealy mouthed speeches about 'supporting' protests and protesters in the 'Arab Spring' while repeatedly and intentionally ignoring the human rights abuses in Iraq carried out by the US installed puppet government. John Glaser (Antiwar.com) observes, "The consequences protestors have faced elsewhere could be vastly more calamitous in Iraq. Hence the very reason Iraq should be constantly in the headlines. The media are having a tough enough time keeping U.S. support for Arab dictatorships on the down low. With[out] the suppression of Iraqi democracy on the front pages, it'd be too difficult to avoid making U.S. imperialism a primary inquiry in the news on the Arab Spring. But suppressing Iraqi democracy is precisely what Operation Iraqi Freedom has brought." At The National Interest, Teg Glaen Carpenter sketches out realities of Iraq:
Aside from periodic elections with competing parties, the new Iraq is beginning to resemble the old Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Maliki's bureaucrats routinely harass both foreign and domestic media outlets that dare to expose his administration's abuses.
Disturbing evidence of such repression has been building for at least the past two years, but matters escalated dramatically in February with the regime's shocking brutality. As with many other countries in the Middle East, demonstrations broke out in Iraq demanding, among other things, an end to the Maliki government's rampant corruption. Those demonstrations culminated with a "Day of Rage." Although the demonstrations even on that day were mostly peaceful, security forces killed at least twenty-nine participants.
They also rounded up dozens of journalists, writers, photographers, and intellectuals who had been involved in organizing the rallies. The Aldiyar Television station, which had telecast footage of the demonstrations, reported that security forces arrested seven employees, including a director and an anchorman, and closed the studio.
One of the many other journalists arrested in Baghdad was Hadi al-Mahdi, who told Washington Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen what happened after soldiers detained him and several colleagues while they were sitting at an outdoor cafe. The soldiers loaded al-Mahdi and the others into Humvees and drove them to a side street, where they beat them severely. Then they took them to a former defense ministry building that now houses a unit of the army's increasingly feared intelligence unit. Mahdi was taken to a room alone, where he was beaten again with clubs, boots and fists. Not satisfied with such garden-variety brutality, they took his shoes off, wet his feet, and administered electric shocks.
This is the new Iraqi democracy for which the United States has spent more than $800 billion and sacrificed some 4,500 American lives. It is an Iraq in which regime opponents are arrested and tortured, in which more than a third of the terrorized Christian community has fled, and in which religious zealots are forcing more and more women back under the veil.
Meanwhile Bloomberg News and the San Francisco Chronicle report, "The U.S. is failing to meet "key milestones" leading up to the planned handover of responsibilities in Iraq from the U.S. military to the State Department on Oct. 1, according to a report being issued tomorrow by State Department's Inspector General." They're not meeting the needed deadlines (US government isn't). It's not as if the White House isn't pushing to extend the SOFA. The real surprise is the Iraq benchmarks. Remember those? Barack should have no say in extending or not extending the US presence in Iraq -- via DoD or state Dept. Why?
Because continued monies given to Iraq by the US tax payer were dependent upon the benchmarks. The (Bush) White House wrote the benchmarks. But it was the (Democratically-controlled) Congressthat insisted on them.
Back then, you may remember, Democrats in Congress pretended to want the Iraq War over and want it over immediately. So they gave a lot of "Mr. President . . ." speeches including noting that there was no progress. The White House would insist there was. The benchmarks were supposed to provide the Congress and the American people with a means to measure what was taking place in Iraq.
The GAO hasn't bothered to examine the benchmarks since 2008. However, it should also be noted that the GAO is an arm of Congress and only researches and studies what it's instructed to by Congress. How interesting that Congress lost interest in measuring 'progress' in Iraq as soon as they believed a Democrat would win the 2008 elections.
The benchmarks were not only signed off on by the White House and the US Congress, they were also signed off on by Nouri al-Maliki. As Barack attempts to extend the US military presence in Iraq, as Democratic House Rep Adam Smith insists he's okay (and he says other Dems are as well) with 10 to 20,000 US troops remaining in Iraq, the American tax payer should be pointing out that the benchmarks were supposed to be met and that the Congress said if they weren't met the funding for the Iraq War stopped.
What were the Iraq benchmarks? Not what was the list and how much partial success did they meet, what were they really?
They were Nancy Pelosi's sell out of the peace movement. Nancy Pelosi flipping the middle finger at all Americans and thinking everyone was too stupid to ever catch on. In 2006, the Democrats had control of which house of Congress? None. Republicans had control of both houses. Give us a house, Nancy said in the lead up to the 2006 mid-term elections, and we'll end the Iraq War. With control of just one house, we'll have the power to end the war.
And Americans believed the lie. They turned out, they showed up to vote and they gave the Democrats control of both houses of Congress. When Democrats got control of the House, Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House -- the most powerful position in the House. Instead of using her position to end the Iraq War, she used it to continue it. That's not an assertion that can be questioned at this point. It is fact. Her actions, her sellout of the peace movement, allowed the Iraq War to continue.
May 22, 2007, CNN reported, "Speaker Nancy Pelosi will present a plan to House Democrats for a war funding bill that won't include a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq but will feature benchmarks with consequences, according to Democratic leadership aides. [. . .] They said Democrats won't give up on a deadline for pulling troops out of Iraq, hoping to write language into defense appropriations and defense authorization bills over the summer. Some prominent antiwar Democrats denounced the compromise, and even Pelosi said she was unsure of her vote." The two-faced Pelosi had been quoted shortly before (May 11, 2007) by Jonathan Weisman (Washington Post) insisting, "He has grown accustomed to the free hand on Iraq he had before January 4. Those days are over."
No, what was over was the peace movement. Nancy Pelois either lied flat out or she's too damn ignorant to know what she was being sold.
She failed Americans. She failed Iraqis. She failed Iraqis not only by continuing the illegal war, Nancy Pelosi failed them by refusing to uphold the benchmarks she insisted on (as Speaker she could have killed them). We see the results of Nancy Pelosi's 'leadership' in Iraq today. Al Rafidayn reports on a bill that Nouri pushed through his Cabinet (and which he wants the Parliament to turn into a law). The bill calls for prison sentences for those who were Ba'athists prior to the start of the Iraq War. Prior to the start of the Iraq War, many Iraqis were Ba'athists. Whether they were Sunni, Shi'ite or what have you. It was a political party in Iraq and part of a political movement in the Arab world. Dar Addustour reports that Nouri's Cabinet claims this proposal is just to prevent Ba'athist from taking control of the country again. Dar Addustour notes it's a five-year prison sentence for those who were 'just' members but ten years for those promoted the party as well.
"Wait! What does that have to do with Nancy?" The 18 benchmarks? One of the benchmarks was de-de-Ba'athification. One conclusion the Iraq Inquiry will offer is that Paul Bremer's decision to institute de-Ba'athification -- purging the government and military of Ba'athists -- after the US invaded Iraq did more than anything else to increase the conflict. Government officials and military officials were all in agreement on that in their testimonies to the London-based Inquiry led by John Chilcot. And one of the benchmarks was to do away with this policy and to find reconciliation.
It never took place. It never took place. And the law Nancy pushed through said if the benchmarks weren't met, the funding was cut. Nancy didn't her job and Iraqis suffer to this day.
Yesterday, Iraqiya pulled out of the government/went on strike/however you want to word it. Reading this morning's US papers, it's amazing to find no coverage of this. Especially from outlets such as the New York Times which has obsessed in print repeatedly over Moqtada al-Sadr's threat to pull his small bloc out of the government. Moqtada has 39 seats in Parliament (40 if you're genereous). Iraqiya has how many?
Well it won the most seats of any competing slate and that number is 91. Iraqiya has seen a splintering with a small number of members spinning off into White Iraqiya. Whether they would followthe decision or not is an actual news story. (My guess is they would not.) But even without them, Iraqiya still controls far more seats than Moqtada.
Should Iraqiya and it's splinter stick together on this issue, they could force Nouri to give into other major blocs (such as al-Hakim's) and could force him to court MPs representing the religious minorities because he would need every vote possible to pass legislation.
That's a news story.
And Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya, did not just suddenly wake up yesterday and decide, "I feel like departing the government today." This threat has been floated for months now. It was made implicit early in May with Allawi speaking of it freely. Last week, the Arab media was filled with various columns and reports attempting to assess how serious Allawi was and what the chances were that Iraqiya would walk?
So there's no excuse for the New York Times of "We were taken by surprise!"
There silence on the issue also demonstrates that they're really not interested in whether people leave Nouri's government, they're just interested in All Things Moqtada. Repeating, Iraqiya has far more seats in Parliament than does Moqtada's bloc. The bloc the Times can't shut up about.
Why did Iraqiya walk? The Erbil Agreement not being implemented and, yes, that's a hard news story as well. Dar Addustour obviously agrees. Alsumaria TV notes, "State of Law Coalition senior official Kamal Al Saidi accused Al Iraqiya List of trying to sap the political regime and complicate the situation in Iraq. Some of Al Iraqiya's demands are alarming and unconstitutional mainly regarding the demand to cancel the Justice and Accountability Commission, Al Saidi argued."
So what today really reveals about the US press is that we have a lot of people fascinated with Moqtada, a lot of fans, just not a whole lot of reporters.