Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This and that

Tuesday. How are your plans for Thanksgiving going? Elaine and I catch our flight tomorrow morning (to C.I.'s). I will blog. It may be late. I will also blog Thursday even if there is no snapshot. I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving planned. If you don't, take some time to realize that life is sucky sometimes and that doesn't change the power of you. It's just something you're going to get through and look back on years from now thinking, "Wow, that was really sh**ty, thank goodness I got through."

Barack got heckled today. This POLITICO story tells you that . . . but forgets to tell you who heckled, why or to quote them.

Guess that would be too much trouble, huh? Actual reporting?

A number of e-mails ask if I'm really done with Chuck?

Yep. Sorry. I was thinking, "It'll be on Netflix when the season's over." Now I'm really not even interested.

NBC soured me on the show. They destroyed it for a lot of people.

In 2011, I am not thankful for NBC.

Now I have to go pack.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, "partial immunity" supposedly is being offered US 'trainers,' the Turkish military continues bombing northern Iraq, the UK judicial system agrees torture is an issue to explore, Bradley Manning's defense team draws up a witness list while supporters prepare for demonstrations, and more.
In news of the continuing war and occupation, Al Mada reports that State of Law's MP Haider al-Abadi declared on Monday that there is an agreement to give US 'trainers' (in aviation and counter-terrorism) "partial immunity." al-Abadi also sites concerns that there will be an attempted coup by former Ba'athists and that Iraq does not have the capabilities currently to stop such an effort. al-Abadi is identifed in the article as a "prominent" law maker in State of Law. State of Law is the political slate Nouri al-Maliki put together for the 2010 elections. Alsumaria TV adds, "Iraqi Security and Defense Parliamentary Committee assured, on Sunday, that Iraqi Air Force needs 5 years to become ready to protect Iraqi air space. Iraqi government should agree with countries positioned in Kuwait over defense matters, the committee said, warning from current and potential threats against Iraq."

In related news, Dar Addustour notes that the Parliament was scheduled to hold the first reading of a law that would ban the Ba'ath party. Yes, the proposal does seem redundant since the Ba'ath party is already outlawed in Iraq. Reidar Visser (Iraq and Gulf Analysis) states the bill also bans those advocating or embracing "terrorism, racism, takfir (labelling others as unbelievers) and sectarian cleansing -- though it falls short of defining those ideologies it is seeking to outlaw other than the Baath" and Visser emphasizes one area:
Perhaps the most important and potentially controversial aspect of the bill is the creation of a committee that will oversee the law and hand over potential cases to the prosecution. This committee will be headed by the minister of state for parliamentary affairs, with members from the ministries of justice and human rights, the head of the consultative state assembly and two judges. As is well known, the minister of state for parliamentary affairs and the ministries of human rights and justices (which also administers the consultative state assembly) are all dominated by members of the grand Shiite alliance to which Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki owes his second term. Of course, this all comes at a time when there is already evidence that vague accusations of Baathism are being used to settle political scores.
Let's move over to the many conflicts between Iraq and its northern neighbor Turkey. Saturday Al Rafidayn reported that, starting Sunday, Turkish planes will no longer be able to land at Iraqi airports in response to the refusal to allow Iraqi planes to land at Turkish airports -- these are commercial flights. Turkey has refused to allow Iraqi planes to land because Iraqi allegedly owes money. KUNA explained, "The Iraqi move followed Turkish authorities' ban of Iraqi airplanes from landing in Istanbul airport because of what Ankara claimed was Iraq's Oil Marketing Company's (Somo) unpaid debt of USD five million."
Today Iraq shut off all of their airports to Turkish flights in retaliation for Turkey having already done the same to them. Mohammed Tawfeeq and Ivan Watson (CNN) reported Sunday that Iraq was willing to reverse its decision if Turkey was but that Turkey states that Iraq owes them $3 million. Today's Zaman added, "Turkey may seize planes owned by the Iraqi government as soon as they land in a Turkish airport due to the State Oil Marketing Corporation's (SOMO) failure to repay its nearly $3 million debt to Turkish businesses, Turkish diplomatic sources have told Today's Zaman." Today, Steve Bryant (Bloomberg News) reports that Iraq is allowing Turkey to land (commercial flights) at Iraqi airport for a week while the two countries try to iron out their dispute over Iraq supposedly owing Turkey millions (which led Turkey to deny Iraqi planes the right to land at Turkish airports). Hurriyet Daily News notes this is a "temporary measure" ("according to a statement by the Turkish Economy Ministry") and that the disupted amount has now risen to $20 million (that's what Turkey claims Iraq owes).
Reuters notes that Turkish military planes bombed northern Iraq again last night in the lastest wave of attacks which began August 17th. Press TV adds, "Turkey has deployed a massive military convoy in a southeastern district that borders with Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, Press TV reports. Turkish sources said the military convoy is comprised of about 200 military vehicles, including those that are resistant to mine blasts, Press TV's Ankara correspondent reported." The government of Turkey maintains the bombings are to 'root out' or kill the PKK.
The PKK is one of many Kurdish groups which supports and fights for a Kurdish homeland. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described them in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has been a concern to Turkey because they fear that if it ever moves from semi-autonomous to fully independent -- such as if Iraq was to break up into three regions -- then that would encourage the Kurdish population in Turkey. For that reason, Turkey is overly interested in all things Iraq. So much so that they signed an agreement with the US government in 2007 to share intelligence which the Turkish military has been using when launching bomb raids. However, this has not prevented the loss of civilian life in northern Iraq. Aaron Hess noted, "The Turkish establishment sees growing Kurdish power in Iraq as one step down the road to a mass separatist movement of Kurds within Turkey itself, fighting to unify a greater Kurdistan. In late October 2007, Turkey's daily newspaper Hurriyet accused the prime minister of the KRG, Massoud Barzani, of turning the 'Kurdish dream' into a 'Turkish nightmare'."
TR Defense notes, "Firat news agency reported that five Turkish war planes had been flying over Iraq's Qandil mountains but said it had not received any information about bombing in the area." Noel Brinkerhoff (AllGov) notes that while the US government plans to use Kuwait as a staging platform for Iraq, it's also supplying Turkey with drones. Hevidar Ahmed (Rudaw) adds, "Kurdish President Massoud Barzani turned down Ankara's request that Iraqi Kurdistan help fight and gather intelligence on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) but is working on brokering a lasting ceasefire between Turkey and the rebel group, Fuad Hussein, Barzani's chief of staff, told Rudaw in an interview." Meanwhile the Telegraph of London explains that Turkey's efforts currently were focused upon arresting over 70 people in raids throughout the country -- those arrested included attorneys, 5 "BDP [Krudish Peace and Democratic Party] parliamentarians and two prominent intellectuals." As Kurd Net points out, "Turkey refuses to recognize its Kurdish population as a distinct minority. It has allowed some cultural rights such as limited broadcasts in the Kurdish language and private Kurdish language courses with the prodding of the European Union, but Kurdish politicians say the measures fall short of their expectations." Saturday, BBC's Newhour carried a segment broadcast from Turkey. Excerpt:

Robin Lustig: Turkey's been in the business of buying and selling for centuries. I'm in the heart of old Istanbul at the moment, in the spice market, surrounded by the colors, the smells of every spice you could imagine. There's a wonderful smell of coffee wafting on the evening air. These days, though, Turkey is selling something a little bit different. It's selling the idea of Turkish democracy, democracy in a Muslim country.

[chanting is heard]

Robin Lustig: These people are making full use of their democratic freedoms. They're Kurds, they're protesting, noisily, outside the court house, chanting for the release of a young Kurdish student who they say is being held in jail on trumped up charges. Kurds here in Turkey say the country's democratic system is deeply flawed, it fails to protect minority rights.

Robin Lustig: I've come now just a few steps away from the court house and I'm down by the Bosphorus, the strip of water that divides Europe from Asia. And with me here is one of Turkey's best known television stars Banu Guven. She's been telling me that she now has her own reasons for doubting Turkey's democratic credentials.

Banu Guven: I used to work for NTV and I had to quit because a week before the elections here, I was going to host one of the most prominent Kurdish politicians but just three or four days before, the director told me that we couldn't do it. A week before the elections, the government and the prime minister didn't want media to host Kurdish candidates.

Robin Lustig: In many parts of the world now, particularly in the Arab world, people are looking at Turkey as an example of a sort-of model of an Islamic democracy.

Banu Guven: We'd like to be a model for democracy, but we are not any kind of a model to anyone.

For text, you can refer to Robin Lustig's report here and here (the latter includes audio link and notes it's only good for the next seven days). It's really important for a number of players -- including the US government -- that Turkey be seen as a model.

Reuters notes that 1 corpse (government employee) was discovered in Kirkuk, a Baghdad bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left one other person injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured four Iraqi soldiers and a Mosul suicide bomber was shot dead by police.
Today Drew Brooks (Fayettville Observer) reports, "At the time James [Robinson] and I left for Kuwait/Iraq, there were 12 American bases and about 34,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Nearly three weeks later, there are seven open U.S. bases and less than 20,000 troops . . ." Are we supposed to believe that? I'm sure many will.
But presumably, if you're the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs of Staff and you testify before Congress, you know something about that which you testify to. So last Tuesday, when the Chair of the Joint-Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee and was asked, by Senator Kay Hagan, about the troops that would remain in Iraq, under DoD, after January 1st, he knew what he was talking about. You can refer to the November 16th "Iraq snapshot" for the full exchange between the two but we want to zoom in on Dempsey explaining the US military will have ten bases ("enduring," he stated, bases) in Iraq after January 1st.
General Martin Dempsey: Senator, are you talking about getting from 24,000, the existing force now and having it retrograde through Kuwait?

Senator Kay Hagan: The ones that will remain over there.

General Martin Dempsey: The ones that will remain --

Senator Kay Hagan: Their protection.

General Martin Dempsey: Yes, Senator. Well, they will have -- First and foremost, we've got ten Offices of Security Cooperation in Iraq bases. And their activities will largely be conducted on these bases because their activities are fundamentally oriented on delivering the foreign military sales. So F-16s get delivered, there's a team there to help new equipment training and-and helping Iraq understand how to use them to establish air sovereignty. Or there's a 141 M1 Tanks right now, generally located at a tank gunnery range in Besmaya, east of Baghdad and the team supporting that training stays on Besmaya so this isn't about us moving around the country very much at all. This is about our exposure being limited to 10 enduring, if you will, Offices of Security Cooperation base camps. And doing the job of educating and training and equipping on those ten bases. Host nation is always responsible for the outer parameter. We'll have contracted security on the inner parameter. And these young men and women will always have responsibility for their own self-defense.
It's strange that a US general can do the inventory but our supposed independent and free press somehow misses the "ten Offices of Security Cooperation in Iraq bases" the US will be operating.
In addition AFP reports on conflict in the turning over of a base:
Iraqi civilian and military officials on Thursday held a handover ceremony for the Hurriyah base, which includes the airport in Kirkuk, the capital of the ethnically mixed, oil-rich province of the same name, which the autonomous Kurdistan region wants to incorporate against Baghdad's wishes.
The US military said that as far as it is concerned, the base was not officially turned over to Iraq. But nevertheless the ceremony quickly drew condemnation from Kurdish politicians, who said the provincial council had voted earlier in the week for the base to become a civilian airport, and thus to be controlled by local police instead.
The dispute over the base "is a clear sign that Kirkuk will be an area of real problems between the Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen," said Hamid Fadhel, a professor of politics at Baghdad University.
In England, Rachael Brown (Australia's ABC) reports, "A British court has ruled in favor of a group of more than 100 Iraqis who have demanded a new public inquiry into allegations that British soldiers tortured Iraqi civilians." The Telegraph of London terms it "a landmark Court of Appeal battle" and notes, "Some 128 Iraqis complain that ill treatment occured between March 2033 and December 2008 in British-controlled detention facilities in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq." Ian Cobain and Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) observe, "The decision could pae the way for a full public inquiry into the British military's detention and interrogation practices in south-eastern Iraq during the five years that troops were based there." Kim Sengupta (Independent of London) quotes Judge Maurice Kay, Judge Jeremy Sullivan and Judge Christopher Pitchford writing in their opinion rejecting the Royal Military Police investigation underweigh as the sole avenue, "We are of the view that the practical independence of the investigation is, at least as a matter or reasonable perception, substancially compromised."
Moving to the US and the latest on Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning has been at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key, for months. In March, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. David E. Coombs is Bradley's attorney and he provided a walk through on Article 104. Yesterday it was learned that his Article 32 hearing was scheduled to start on December 16th. Ed Pilkington (Guardian) reports today, "The defence team [. . .] is planning to call 50 witnesses at next month's military hearing, promising to turn the proceedings into a detailed legal battle over the merits of the prosecution case against him."
AFP notes, "His conditions in detention, which have included solitary confinement, have drawn the attention of Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union, among others."
Protest his Pretrial Hearing Saturday, Dec 17th (Bradley's Birthday Day) at 12pm noon at Fort Meade, MD outside Washington D.C.! (Solidarity actions taking place around the world.)
After 560 days of pretrial confinement, including 250 days spent in solitary conditions, the Military has finally announced that PFC Bradley Manning's Pretrial Hearing will begin on December 16th in the Washington D.C. area.
PFC Bradley Manning is accused of uncovering the facts behind a system of foreign policy that routinely hides abuse from public scrutiny. "If convicted of all charges, Manning would face a maximum punishment… of confinement for life" the U.S. Army reports.

If he is the source of the WikiLeaks revelations, he is the most significant whistle-blower in a generation. According to journalists, his alleged actions helped motivate the democratic Arab Spring movements, shed light on secret corporate influence on our foreign policies of the sort #OccupyWallStreet opposes, and most recently contributed to the Obama Administration agreeing to withdraw all U.S.troops from the failed occupation in Iraq.

Bradley Manning, who turns 24 on the date of our protest, is a young soldier from a working-class background who believed that people should know the truth, "no matter who they are… because without information you cannot make informed decisions as a public."
He now faces opposition from embarrassed politicians and military officials, and potential life in prison on a poorly defined military charge of "Aiding the enemy through indirect means." If words attributed to Bradley Manning are accurate, it appears that he was motivated only by a desire to expose questionable and illegal actions by our leaders. This information had been concealed -- not to protect us -- but in order to avoid accountability. According to several who served in the same unit as Manning, this information had already been made available to Iraqi Army recruits -- but not the American public. It is absurd for our government to suggest that the American people is somehow "the enemy."
As founding father Patrick Henry wrote, "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."
Bradley's pretrial hearing date has been announced, and this is the time to take our support of Bradley into the streets. Bradley Manning was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last month, and topped the UK Guardian's Readers Poll. Now the world watches the proceedings of this case while judging our country as a whole.
Previous protests outside of a Quantico brig where Manning was being held were successful in ending the mistreatment he had endured there. December 17th will be our International Day of Solidarity with the largest protest taking place outside the gates of Fort Meade! View logistics/RSVP here.
For people outside of the DC and Baltimore area, we welcome creative solidarity actions. Visit events.bradleymanning.org to register your event.
Please share this announcement with friends and connections via e-mail, facebook, and twitter.

The Bradley Manning Support Network

Help us give Bradley a fighting chance in the upcoming proceedings, inside and out of the military courtroom at Fort Meade, Maryland.
donate today.

Last, we'll note this from Sarah Lipton-Lubert's "The Shaheen Amendment Promises Basic Fairness for Servicewomen. Now Let's Get a Vote!" (ACLU Blog of Rights):

Today, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen took a historic stand for military women. Now it's our turn to stand with her.

More than 400,000 women serve in the armed forces and put their lives at risk to preserve our rights and safeguard our freedom. Yet these women are denied access to the same care available to the civilians they protect. If you're a woman putting your life on the line for your country in the U.S. military, your health insurance won't cover abortion care even if you're a victim of sexual assault.