Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The military crime scandals never end

Ann is off for this week and next having just delivered her baby last Friday.  I'm C.I. and I'll be filling in during at least some of this time.

Today, the Justice Dept announced that 30-year-old Anthony K. Mastrogiovanni had "pleaded guilty today to the sexual exploitation of minors to produce child pornography." The press release notes:

According to filed court documents and proceedings, between 2006 and 2012, Mastrogiovanni was a U.S. Navy reservist who sexually exploited more than 30 male juveniles, ranging from 9 to 16 years of age, in Maryland and Louisiana to produce child pornography.  During that time period, Mastrogiovanni met and befriended his victims through his involvement in civic organizations or his military affiliation.  Mastrogiovanni captured sexually explicit video of the victims on cameras hidden in his residences in Louisiana and Maryland.

Mastrogiovanni has been in federal custody since he was arrested by inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Las Vegas on July 19, 2012.  A search of his Las Vegas hotel room recovered external hard drives containing over 30,000 images of child pornography, including video of his juvenile victims.  That same day, federal agents searched Mastrogiovanni’s apartment in Crofton where they discovered a hidden video camera and video transmitting equipment as well as digital media containing additional child pornography. 

He used the military to meet his victims.  How did the military miss that?

Where is the oversight?

Karisa King and Gary Martin (San Antonio Express-News) have a very depressing report when you think about it.

* Senators Barbara Boxer and Kirsten Gillibrand have a bill (Military Justice Improvement Act) to prevent military commanders from overturning verdicts (to allow those convicted or rape and/or assault to be stuck with those convictions the way they would in the civilian world)

* US House Rep Jackie Speier has a bill (reintroduced) to create an independent oversight office to handle investigations and prosecutions of assault and rape.

* Senator Amy Klobuchar has a bill to keep convicted sex offenders from entering the military

* Senator Klobuchar and Senator Claire McCaskill have a bill to establish standards for those over the assault prevention programs.

* US House Rep Niki Tsongas and US House Rep Mike Turner have a bill where if you're convicted of rape or assault you end up kicked out of the service.

Not mentioned in the article, but there's also Senator Patty Murray and Senator Kelly Ayotte's "Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013" which covers many areas.

Altogether, that's six major bills addressing assault and rape.

And I say that's depressing?


Because few bills will ever get the attention the need to pass.  Second, it's appalling how little work's been done on this issue.

Last week, we were covering this issue:

Also weighing in today is Senator John Cornyn (Longview News-Journal) who notes, "In response to the scandal at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, I placed a temporary hold on the nomination of the current Air Force Chief of Staff until I received a personal commitment from him to fully and aggressively address the issue. I also co-sponsored legislation, passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, designed to crack down on offenders, protect victims and prevent future abuses from occurring. Among the policy prescriptions in this legislation are a prohibition on allowing felony sex offenders to join the military and mandatory discharges of service members convicted of sexual assault while serving in the military."
[. . .]

It is equally appalling that Senator John Cornyn is writing that he helped put into the NDAA that those convicted of rape or assault while in the military must be discharged.  Again, that's should never have been an issue.  You're convicted of a serious crime, you're discharged -- no questions.  This is one of the ways that the crime has become a crisis in today's military -- a refusal to face reality, an urge to cover up.

What was done in the last years by the Pentagon?  Anything?  Clearly not or it would have, for example, made it a policy that if you're convicted of rape, you're tossed out of the service.

There are six bills (there are actually more than that) that are attempting to address various elements in the current structure which are encouraging assault and rape and these six bills have to compete with each other a swell as with all the other bills before Congress.

Here's the "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, May 29, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, another protest organizer is killed in Iraq, the number of Iraqis killed this month in violence passes 800, were Moqtada's remarks earlier this week a "final warning" to Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraq Inquiry continues to stall the release of a report, US Senator Patty Murray with survivors and advocates of assault and rape in the military, tomorrow is a national call-in day for Lynne Stewart, and more.

Let's start in the US.  There is an epidemic of assault and rape going on within the US military.  Despite a great deal of talk by Pentagon leaders, the Defense Dept has demonstrated it cannot address the issue by itself -- if at all.  Senator Patty Murray sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee where she has long addressed the issue and called for accountability.   Her office notes today:

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834

MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT: SEATTLE: FRIDAY: Murray to Meet with Survivors of Military Sexual Assault, Discuss Her Bill to Protect Victims

Of the estimated 26,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2012, only 3,374 were reported
Murray bill would provide greater victim resources while improving current prevention programs

(Washington, D.C.) – Friday, May 31st, 2013, U.S. Senator Patty Murray will meet with survivors of military sexual assault and advocates in Seattle.  Last month, Senator Murray introduced the Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013, which would reduce sexual assaults within the military and address a number of gaps within current law and policy. One provision in Senator Murray’s bill would provide victims with a dedicated counsel to guide them through the difficult process of reporting sexual assault. According to DoD estimates, there were about 19,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2010 alone. Of these, 3,192 were reported, leaving thousands of victims to face the aftermath alone as their assailants escape justice. That number rose to 26,000 cases in 2012 with less than 3,400 of those cases being reported. Murray will use the stories she hears Friday to continue fighting for victims of military sexual assault in Washington, D.C.  More about Senator Murray’s bill HERE.

WHO:          U.S. Senator Patty Murray
         Survivors of military sexual assault
         Charles Swift, former Navy JAG, MSA advocate
         Dr. Joyce Wipf, Professor of Medicine and Director of VA Puget Sound’s Women's Program
         Bridget Cantrell, PTSD & MSA expert
         Jackie McLean, Director, King County Department of Community & Human Services
WHAT:        Senator Murray will meet with survivors of military sexual assault, discuss ways her legislation will protect victims
WHEN:        Friday, May 31st, 2013
          10:00 AM PT
WHERE:    UW Medicine at South Lake Union
         850 Republican Street, Conference Room C359
                     Seattle, WA 98109
Kathryn Robertson
Deputy Press Secretary 
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

Monday, Ruth did another one of her outstanding "Ruth's Report"s and in this one she covered two radio documentaries on issues veterans and service members face.  Among the details she noted from Free Speech Radio News' Memorial Day documentary:  "Ms. [Alice] Ollstein noted that there were 3400 assault charges filed last year and that only 1300 were investigated while over 360 were just tossed out.  Of the 3400 complaints, only 600 went to a court-martial and, from that number, only 238 were convicted." Ruth also noted  Iraq War veteran and rape survivors advocate Sarah Plummer explaining how coming forward to report your rape can be used against you.

Sarah Plummer : Fear of retaliation -- both formal and informal -- what happens within the system.  I know for instance I did report my rape I was told by my command, "Oh it's a modern military, these counseling services are available, go ahead, you're not suicidal, you're not homicidal, you're not on any drugs go get counseling."  I did and was then later medically disqualified from continuing in flight school because I had sought counseling -- even though I was not having any problems.  I had to work years later to try to get a waiver for that which I did, but at that point had already gone on with my career.  Some people, especially with pilots, would say, "Oh, that ruined my career."  I mean, most people who want to be pilots to be their whole lives. So to be told you can't because of something somebody did to me and I sought the appropriate after action yet was punished?

This is not a minor issue. Sunday, at Third, in "Now they wonder?," we noted:

Today Mark Sappenfield and The Christian Science Monitor want to wonder, "How can Chuck Hagel fix military sexual assault epidemic?" Today they wonder? Today? Where were they back in January? From January 4th's "And people are pushing for Chuck Hagel?":

I'm not sure what they think a Secretary of Defense does. (The Foreign Policy in Focus pieces were written by two different people. We're being kind and not naming them.) The Secretary of Defense does not have sleep overs with the Israeli prime minister. The Secretary of Defense does not engage in heavy petting with the Israeli defense minister. 
When you hear about rates of suicide in the military?  That's something that the Secretary is supposed to address.  The same with assault and rape in the ranks.

It was an issue this community could and did raise.  Isaiah even did a comic.

But the press didn't want to treat it as a serious issue back then.  It should have been one of the two issues that Hagel was most pressed on and most reported on (the other being the suicide crisis and how he would address that).  We noted in the Third piece that we hope Hagel's up for it but it's a little late to be asking that question.  Are the press going be attending Friday's event or will they wait until the next assault and rape scandal to act shocked?  Either you treat the issue seriously or you don't.  And nothing's going to change until it's treated seriously.

Turning to the topic of Iraq and someone who provides unintended laughs.  Press TV  interviewed a parrot today.  The parrot was George Washington University's Nabil Mikhail who hasn't made such a fool of himself since he went on Press TV to talk about the 'film' that wasn't a film (the anti-Islamic YouTube video of last fall) and its large cast and so mcuh more.  It was a video, there was never a movie.  But gas bags fear silence and must fill all sapce with chatter.  Today Nabil Mikhail went on Press TV to utter the phrase he'd been taught for nearly a decade "counter-terrorism."  Mihail insisted, "Iraq needs a counter-terrorism strategy."  Someone give Polly her cracker and put her back in her cage.

Iraq has a counter-terrorism strategy.  As Tim Arango (New York Times) reported in September another "unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism" -- and this was done "at the request of the Iraqi government."  As we've repeatedly noted (such as here), this unit has trained Iraq's new SWAT forces.  How do we know that?  Stream any Alsumaria report on this issue and listen to the Arabic speaker say "SWAT."  SWAT is an American acronym for Special Weapons And Tactics.  Those four terms would not be used in Arabic and would not form the acronym SWAT.  After saying "SWAT," Iraqi anchors usually then begin referring to them with an Arabic phrase which translates as "rapid response teams."  SWAT not only fails the Arabic test, it's not native to Iraq.  It was introduced by outsiders.  So Nouri's recently created SWAT teams -- with the American name -- are the result of the US units counterterrorism training.

Have they done any good?

Nope.  And they won't.

The parrot knew all the phrases but lacked the ability to process.  At one point he even claimed "that there are no suicide attacks" these days and that this is due to the fact that "the terrorist know these neighborhoods well."  The 'terrorists' are Iraqis.  Of course they know the neighborhoods, but how uninformed must you be to not know that suicide attacks continue.  They're not often stressed as such -- it won't make a headline crawl at the bottom of a screen -- but they continue and have never ceased.  Just this week, there was the suicide tank bombing, to note just one example.

While most people are grasping that the violence stems from the continued repression of the Iraqi people, the parrot wants to pretend that what the country needs is more repression.

What an idiot.

The police training program the State Dept planned to oversee in Iraq failed and it failed primarily because there was no "buy-in" on the Iraqi side (as former US House Rep Gary Ackerman warned would end up happening).  There's no buy-in in Iraq of the government.

It's run by a man, Nouri al-Maliki, that Iraqis showed up in the 2010 elections to get out of office.  That's why 'sure thing' Nouri who abused his office, had many of his rivals purged from the list of candidates and tried to scare the Iraqi people into voting for him, saw his State of Law get bested by Iraqiya.  The Ayad Allawi headed political slate was where Iraq wanted to go.  Nouri was the bloody past, the divisions, the hatred and so much more that the last years had stood for.  Iraqiya was a way forward, an Iraq without sectarian warfare, where Shi'ite Allawi and Sunni Osama al-Nujaifi could be in the same political group and work together, where Iraqi women could reclaim the role the illegal US invasion and all that happened after stripped them of.  It was about forming a national identity, not having an identity thrust on them by foreign occupiers.

And as this was blossoming and taking root, US President Barack Obama (based on the crackpot advice of Samantha Power among others) didn't stand up for democracy, didn't stand up for the people or the sanctity of the ballot box.  Instead, he backed Nouri al-Maliki who refused to step down as prime minister and would refuse to do so for over eight months.  Not only did Barack back the thug -- who had already been repeatedly caught running secret prisons where torture took place --  he had US officials broker The Erbil Agreement, a contract, which went around the Iraqi Constitution and gave Nouri a second term.  (To get that second term, Nouri had to promise, in the contract, to give the political blocs various things.  Nouri never honored that contract but let's leave that aspect out of it today.)

So Iraqis are supposedly free in 2010 and able to do what they want, to express their voice and their dreams.  And there's this marvelous new gift of 'democracy' that's supposedly been given.  But in 2010, when they vote in a way that the White House doesn't like, they quickly find that their votes don't matter.  Isn't that what the US said happened under Saddam Hussein?

When a people vote out a leader and the leader remains in power, what message does that send?

Samantha Power is a deeply stupid woman.  She's one who never grasped the lessons of her own country (or how to bathe properly, hence the odors) but wants to speak as if she's an expert on Ireland and then wants to apply Ireland to Iraq.  Iraq was never Ireland and will never become Ireland (or vice versa). The traditions and cultures of each country are completely different and are often rooted in the lands themselves -- climate, proximity, etc.  But Samantha Power has never known a sweeping generalization she couldn't stretch to the breaking point and she made these ridiculous (and honestly offensive) comparisons between Ireland and Irish leaders and Iraq and Iraqi leaders.

What the White House did was trample democracy in Iraq.  It didn't have to be that way.  Gen Ray Odierno saw what was coming before the election and warned about it.  But the idiot Chris Hill, the US Ambassador to Iraq who would be fired from his job -- but fired too late, had the ear of the White House and worked to marginalize Odierno.  By the time then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could get the White House to listen to Odierno, the elections had taken place and eight month political stalemate had begun.  (To his credit, Barack did sack Chris Hill.)

If I invite you over to my home and tell you that you're going to be tasting the best cake ever and you show up and I never serve that cake, maybe toss out some dry crackers your way instead, you're going to feel cheated and wronged.  And that's exactly how the Iraqi people felt.  Go back to the press of November 2010 when the stalemate ended and Nouri became prime minister and listen to the Iraqis -- in western press because they still cover Iraq then -- telling reporters that they didn't know why they voted, telling reporters that despite their votes, things remained the same.

The White House trampled on democracy.  The Erbil Agreement spat on democracy and on the Iraqi Constitution -- the latter of which is most damning because the Constitution exists for a reason and if the US is going to go around it, why is it there?  It mandates, for example, that Nouri appear before Parliament when they want to question him.  But he's refused to do that over and over in his second term.  Why should he show respect for the Constitution when going around it got him a second term?

The damage that was done is immeasurable and that's why we called it out as it was happening, it's why the topic saddens me like few others.  The US government destroyed the country of Iraq and 'democracy' was the last promise to the Iraqi people that the US government hadn't broken.  But by overturning the results of a fair and free election, the US government broke that promise to.

So George Washington University parrots need to get it through their thick skulls that when you take away people's belief that they can change their government and that their votes actually matter, you don't leave them with a lot of processes or avenues.  That's especially true in the post-invasion Iraq where the US government rushed to overturn many of Saddam Hussein's laws but kept the ones attacking unions.  And Nouri's attacks on the unions are infamous.  So the ballot box doesn't matter, collective bargaining is attacked by the government, what is left?


When Iraqis took to the streets in 2011 -- protesting the 'disappeared' loved ones in Iraq's 'legal' system, protesting corruption, the lack of public services, the lack of jobs, the failure of Nouri al-Maliki to implement the power-sharing (Erbil Agreement), etc -- what happened?  He turned his forces on them and on the press.

Dropping back to the February 28th Iraqi snapshot:

Over the weekend, a number of journalists were detained during and after their coverage of the mass demonstrations that took place in central Baghdad's al-Tahrir Square. Simone Vecchiator (International Press Institute) notes:
["]During a news conference held on Sunday, four journalists -- Hussam Saraie of Al-Sabah Al-Jadid newspaper, Ali Abdul Sada of the Al-Mada daily, Ali al-Mussawi of Sabah newspaper and Hadi al-Mehdi of Demozee radio -- reported being handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened by security forces. They also claimed they were held in custody for nine hours and forced to sign a document, the contents of which were not revealed to them.
Aswat al Iraq news agency reported that the journalists will file a court case against the executive authority in response to the alleged violations of their civil rights.
This episode is the latest in a series of repressive measures adopted by security forces in order to stifle media reports about the current political and social

NPR's Kelly McEvers would interview Hadi for Morning Edition after he had been released and she noted he had been "beaten in the leg, eyes, and head." He explained that he was accused of attempting to "topple" Nouri al-Maliki's government -- accused by the soldiers under Nouri al-Maliki, the soldiers who beat him.  Excerpt:

Hadi al-Mahdi: I replied, I told the guy who was investigating me, I'm pretty sure that your brother is unemployed and the street in your area is unpaved and you know that this political regime is a very corrupt one.

Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was later put in a room with what he says were about 200 detainees, some of them journalists and intellectuals, many of them young protesters.

Hadi al-Mahdi: I started hearing voices of other people.  So, for instance, one guy was crying, another was saying, "Where's my brother?" And a third one was saying, "For the sake of God, help me."

Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was shown lists of names and asked to reveal people's addresses.  He was forced to sign documents while blindfolded.  Eventually he was released.  Mahdi says the experience was worse than the times he was detained under Saddam Hussein.  He says the regime that's taken Sadam's place is no improvement on the past. This, he says, should serve as a cautionary tale for other Arab countries trying to oust dictators. 

Hadi al-Mahdi: They toppled the regime, but they brought the worst -- they brought a bunch of thieves, thugs, killers and corrupt people, stealers.

Yesterday, on Air Force One, White House spokesperson Jay Carney addressed the press and declared of Iraq, "We have an important and ongoing relationship with the government of Iraq and the Iraqi people.  We engage with the government on issues all the time.  And it’s something that we continue to monitor and continue to provide advice on both with Iraq and with countries in the region.  This is a matter that I know, from having worked with him on it, the Vice President remains concerned about and focused on."

Did you?  Did you have meaningful dialogue with Nouri?  Like you had with him when he was attacking the protesters in 2011 or the Emo kids in 2011?  As he terrorized the country did you really think your 'meaningful dialogue' meant one damn thing?  Because looking at it now, all you did was humor the tyrant.  He still won't follow the Constitution.  And  Tuesday, April 23rd his federal forces massacred a sit-in in Hawija.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.UNICEF informed the world that 8 of the dead were children and twelve more children were left injured.  That was last month.

Today the BRussells Tribunal offers an Al Rafidayn interview with the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq's Sheikh Mohammed Bashar al-Faidhi.  February 25th refers to the kick off of the 2011 protests in Iraq.

What is your personal impression of the interesting momentum that Iraq is going through?

In the beginning, Bissmillah Al Rahman Al Raheem.  
We had a previous meeting during which we discussed our expectations of the revolution starting for a second time.  
It is possible that this revolution continues and it is also possible that it will not.  
But in any case in a future instant/moment, the revolution will continue.  
Based on our experience of the Iraqi People and on the first time on 25th February, the revolution was a trial run and when it was suppressed, the revolution was cut off at the time, but we knew that the idea of the revolution had remained in the psyche and conscious of the Iraqi People and that it is the sole means left for it to rid itself of this oppression.  
This second stage came, according to observers, and we too had people who followed the revolution’s activities in the interior, assurances that the people are living in a revolution of rage and that their insistence on continuing this time is greater than the previous time.  
In any case, we are watching the scene and we will make our own statements and comments about it as far as we are capable and as I said, it may well continue and it may not, but in any case it is a station (stage) not only important for us but it is also an advanced stage as far as the final target that we all wish for.

How much surprised were you with the suddenly change in January?

As far as I am concerned there is nothing there that causes surprise, because our reading of the scene and our public statements in the media has always been that this instant is coming and we have said more than once that the revolution that was put a stop previously was not ended and even  if you remember the expression I used  during my previous meeting with you, that it was “like the embers under the ash”, and this is an Arab trait that expresses the existence of rage and fury that is hidden (protected)- it exists but it is protected.
It is like a volcano that exists in America!   So, as far as we were concerned it was not a cause for amazement or surprise; on the contrary it is expected and we expect even more.   Yesterday, I also had a meeting with foreign press and I said to them that I predict a “tsunami” for Iraq, with all that this word entails.

Demonstrations have been ongoing since December 21st.  Despite calls from various political leaders for Nouri to heed the protesters demands, he has not done so.  As the editorial board of Gulf News notes today:

 So far, those demonstrating in the west of the country have done so largely peacefully, but their continued hopelessness in getting the government’s ear is bound to lead to further tensions. The responsibility for that, as well as the eventuality of Iraq’s splitting — as has been demanded — rests on the shoulders of Al Maliki and his government. The people of Iraq, and history, will never forgive them for it.

Nouri should be listening to them.  Instead he is attacking them verbally and physically and encouraging others to do the same.   Sunday, All Iraq News reported Nouri's SWAT forces raided the home of Anbar protesters spokesperson Sa'eed al-Lafi.  National Iraqi News Agency added that they also raided the home of protest spokesperson Qusay al-Zain in Ramadi.  Kitabat reported that after their failure to find al-Zain at his home, SWAT forces then raided a mosque that al-Zain prayed at.  They terrorized the people inside and nabbed one of al-Zain's bodyguards but al-Zain wasn't present.  Alsumaria noted there was a bounty on al-Lafi.  Al Mada reported that supporters say al-Lafi is being accused of crimes with no proof.   And today?  Iraqi Spring MC reports that Nouri's SWAT forces have arrested Sheikh Farhan al-Alwani, a Falluja preacher.  In adition, Nouri's forces arrested Sheikh Awil Fahdawi in the al-Amiriya section of BaghdadIraqi Spring MC notes that the outrage on that arrest was so intense and protests in the street so immediate that the authorities announced they will be releasing Sheikh Awil Fahdawi.  In the worst attack on those taking part in the ongoing protests, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jason Hanna (CNN -- link is text and video) report:

Gunmen fatally shot Sunni activist Sheikh Hassan al-Jabouri with pistols equipped with silencers in central Mosul, a predominantly Sunni city, police said. No suspects have been announced.
Al-Jabouri was active in demonstrations demanding that the Shiite-led government stop what protesters call second-class treatment of Iraq's Sunni community. Since December, tens of thousands of such demonstrators have taken to the streets across Iraq.

The US government currently wants war in Syria, ground troops in Syria.  Why?  So they can hold hands with the tyrant they install?  That's all they do with Nouri.

The US government is ineffectual and unable and unwilling to help the Iraqi people.  They can't help journalist Hadi al-Mahdi now.  His 'mistake' was in beliving the US government lies.  He believed that Iraq was going to be different and that there would be freedom and that the press was one of the most important resources for a free Iraq.  The US government did nothing, the White House did nothing, to help him.  But they continued to provide Nouri with support and arms.   Hadi al-Mahdi was assassinated in his own Baghdad home September 8, 2011.  Like every other murder of a journalist in Iraq, Nouri's never been able to locate the killers.  Now let one of his soldiers get killed and he starts terrorizing an entire province, sending in helicopters and the SWAT teams and threatening collective punishment on all the residents of the province.  But Hadi's killer/killers runs/run free.

Earlier this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists' 2013 Impunity Index:


Iraq has the world’s worst record on impunity. No convictions have been obtained in 93 journalist slayings in the past decade. The vast majority of the victims, 95 percent, were local journalists. They include freelance cameraman Tahrir Kadhim Jawad, who was killed on assignment outside Baghdad in 2010 when a bomb attached to his car exploded. Jawad was a “courageous cameraman” known for getting footage “where others had failed,” Mohammad al-Jamili, Baghdad bureau chief for the U.S. government-funded outlet Al-Hurra, said at the time. Police opened an investigation but made no arrests.
Impunity Index Rating: 2.818 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants
Last year: Ranked 1st with a rating of 2.906

And this is the government that the White House backs?

And this is the government who just needs to 'get tough' according to the parrot on Press TV?

You've taken away the ballot box, you've attacked the right to assemble, you've allowed murders of journalists to go unpunished and you attack the unions.

In that situation, what are a people to do other than rise up in violence?  What other avenues or opportunities have you left them?

But as Iraq veers ever closer to a complete breakdown, an idiot at George Washington University wants to insist that the answer is more oppression?  He also feels that Iraq needs to implement an anonymous tips phone line.  Really?  Because there aren't enough innocents locked away without charges in Iraq already?  What an idiot.

On the issue of the attack on the unions, US Labor Against the War notes:

In response to strikes in the oil sector, the Iraq government filed a criminal complaint against Federation of Oil Unions President Hassan Juma'a Awad, and has taken disciplinary actions against many others. If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison and stiff fines. Stand with Iraqi workers against a corrupt authoritarian government and greedy multinational oil companies. Demand the charges be dropped, repression of unions and labor activists cease, and that internationally recognized labor rights be respected, including the right to organize, bargain and strike in the union of choice without government interference.

Please  sign, like, share, forward
Twitter: Demand Iraq drop charges against oil union leader, end persecution of labor activists. Sign the petition:
Please Share Widely

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 789 violent deaths so far this month.  With three days left to count and only 11 deaths needed to hit 800, hitting 800 was pretty much a sure thing.  And it happened today with at least 44 reported deaths.  The assassination of Sheikh Hassan al-Jabouri in Mosul today was only one in a series of violent events across Iraq.   Alsumaria reports 1 police officer was shot dead today in Mosul.  BBC News notes that 3 Baghdad bombings left 25 people dead and fifty-five injured.  Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jason Hanna (CNN) add that a Mosul suicide car bomber claimed the lives of 2 people with seven more injured, the federal forces in Mosul shot dead 4 people,  and that three corpses were pulled from the Tigris today -- signs of torture and they had been hanged to death.   National Iraqi News Agency reports that a bombing in Hibhib today has claimed 7 lives and left thirteen injured, and a home invasion in Abu Ghraib left 1 military officer dead.

Abu Ghraib wasn't only the location of a home invasion today, it was also, Alsumaria reports, where a Sunni male and a Shi'ite female married and declared their love a protest against sectarianism.  Kitabat calls them Iraq's Romeo and Juliet -- let's hope not, that didn't end pretty.  While the young couple tried to appeal to the Iraqi spirit, National Iraqi News Agency reports State of Law MP Hassan Sinead is screaming that terrorists and Ba'athists are terrorizing Iraq and doing so with the aid of Jordan and Turkey.  When everything is falling apart, always count on Nouri and his State of Law to make them worse.  Al Mada reports Nouri's insisting that the satellite channels are responsible for the violence.

Monday, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr issued some remarks.  Ali Abedl Sadah (Al-Monitor) weighs in today and sees this as Moqtada's "final warning to the government:"

However, Sadr’s statement clearly indicated that Maliki wants to engage in an internal war in the country. He said, "We have learned that the prime minister wants to declare the start of a sectarian war in Iraq."
Sadr called on the government to "unite [political forces], but not through banquets and economic forums attended by Israelis, but purely national meetings which I have called for and accepted to attend."
Sadr concluded his statement and calls for the people and government by saying: "This is the last call I make to the people on one hand, and the government on the other hand. Forewarned is forearmed. Oh God, I have warned."
Sadr's position coincided with security developments that followed a series of bombings. Armed men deployed in towns in central Baghdad and its suburbs. Eyewitnesses and security sources provided conflicting accounts regarding the identity of the gunmen, but some stated that they belong to the Asaib Ahl al-Haq.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq is an insurgent group that defected from the Sadrist current about five years ago. Last year, Qais al-Khazali, the group’s leader, expressed [favorable] positions toward the prime minister and declared that [his group] was defending the Shiites in Iraq. This raised the concerns of Sunni parties in the government.
In his statement, Sadr gave Maliki an ultimatum, calling on him to withdraw the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militants from the streets of Baghdad within 24 hours.
In England, a government inquiry's report on Iraq has long been due.  Peter Oborne (Telegraph of London) explains today:

Almost four years have passed since Sir John Chilcot called a press conference to launch his inquiry into Britain’s role in the Iraq War. He grimly acknowledged that “there have been inquiries which have taken very long periods of time: they are being held on a quite different basis from ours”. Sir John insisted that he was “determined to avoid… a long, drawn-out inquiry”. His would all be over within “a year and a half, maybe a bit more” – in other words, by the summer of 2011.
Sad to report, Sir John’s inquiry was (apparently) still at work in the summer of 2011. Then 2012 came and went. Earlier this year, there was a buzz around Whitehall that Sir John was due to announce his findings this summer, but this hope has also vanished. Eyes are now starting to turn, in the words of one senior figure very close to the inquiry, towards “the end of this year and maybe 2014”.
Comparisons are being made privately to the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday, which was published an unfeasible 12 years after being commissioned, and an outrageous 38 years after the events it investigated. Furthermore, just the faintest stench is starting to surround Sir John’s inquiry: there is talk of documents being withheld, perhaps because too many senior reputations are at stake.

Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) reported last week:

In February, I made a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request to the Cabinet Office concerning the Inquiry, specifically the statement in chairman John Chilcot’s July 2012 letter to David Cameron that the Inquiry would not “publish further information piecemeal and in advance of its report”, ie that it had decided to sit on large numbers of documents that it had been given permission to publish. My request asked the Cabinet Office what those documents were.
As I have previously documented on this site, the government has constantly used the Inquiry to to kick the issue of Iraq into the long grass, hiding behind the eventual publication of the Inquiry’s long overdue report. Also in February, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas asked Cameron to identify those documents whose declassification remained in dispute, including the dates of the declassification requests. Referring to Chilcot’s letter, Cameron said that he did not intend to undermine Chilcot’s intention “by publishing details of the incomplete declassification process.”
Unsurprisingly therefore, the Cabinet Office used an FOI exemption to block my request.

Attorney Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner.  She's also a very brave woman and a very caring woman.  The Bully Boy Bush administration used 9-11 to scare the country into war with Iraq and did so by falsely linking Iraq to the 9-11 attacks.  The same administration scared up a conviction against Lynne -- who broke no law, there is no law that she broke -- by using 9-11 as a scare tactic, by falsely linking her (and her client) to 9-11.  There's no connection there.  There was never a connection.  But they played the same game with a bunch of jurors that they did with the American people.  They fooled a jury the same way they fooled a large number of Americans.

 Under Barack Obama, things did not get better for Lynne.  In fact, they got worse as Lynne, who'd been receiving treatments for her cancer, was suddenly thrown in prison even though her appeal hadn't been decided.  As bad as Bush, Ashcroft and Gonzalez were, they didn't throw Lynne in prison while she was appealing.  And it's under Barack that her sentence goes from 28 months to 10 years.

Lynne is a lawyer.  She took on the clients who needed her and she fought to give them the best defense she could.  Anyone who faults that doesn't understand the American judicial system.  Which is why I have never been surprised to encounter conservative attorneys or judges who get that Lynne was made an example of by the government in an attempt to scare defense attorneys.  Even people on the right grasp that.  The attack on Lynne was an attack on the principles of defense that are part of the America legal system -- and that attack came from the government that acts as prosecutor.  They wanted to intimidate and they wanted to tip the scales.

Lynne's cancer has returned.  She's over seventy-years-old.  She's never been accused of being violent to anyone.  She's never been accused of breaking any law.  (She released a press release to Reuters in violation of an agreement the Justice Dept had her sign.  She did that when Bill Clinton was President.  Bill and Attorney General Janet Reno were aware of it.  They didn't consider it a crime.  They didn't let her see her client until they had her sign another agreement, but that was it.  And, it should be argued that when the Clinton administration had her sign another agreement, that was the 'judgment' on the press release.  Meaning what Ashcroft and Bush put her through was double jeopardy.)   Lynne has released the following message:

May 28th, 2013
Dear Friends and Supporters:
One month ago I made a request for compassionate release which was honored by the warden at Carswell Federal Medical Center.  Today the papers are still on a desk in Washington, D.C. even though the terminal cancer that I have contracted requires expeditious action.
Although I requested immediate action by the  Bureau of Prisons, I find it necessary to again request immediate action from you, my  friends, comrades and supporters  to call the three numbers listed below on Thursday, May 30 and request action on my behalf.
This could result in my being able to access medical treatment at Sloan Kettering so that I can face the rest of my life with dignity surrounded by those I love and who love me.
Please do this.
Yours truly
Lynne Stewart  FMS CARSWELL-53504-054 & Ralph Poynter
Lynne Stewart Defense Organization


Attorney General  Eric Holder -  1 202 514 2001
White House President Obama – 1 202 456 1414
B.O.P. – Director  Charles Samuels – 1 202.307.3250

That's tomorrow.  Please make time for Lynne who's always made time for everyone else and call to ask that she be allowed to live out the remaining days surrounded by her family.







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