Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Bradley Manning

Tuesday.  Reminder: Friday is all new Nikita on The CW.  We've got like 7 weeks in a row of new episodes every Friday as we lead up to the season finale.

That will be in May.  In June, whistle blower Bradley Manning is expected to go on trial.  Norman Solomon notes a development there:

During the last week of March, more than 30,000 people signed a petition urging the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award the Nobel Peace Prize to Bradley Manning. While the numbers continue to mount on the petition website, so do the comments from individual signers.
Thousands have already written personal notes to explain their support for the petition. I hope the Nobel committee reads the comments carefully when the petition arrives in Oslo later this spring.
As a U.S. Army private — seeing massive evidence of official deception, human rights abuses and flagrant killing of civilians — Bradley Manning did not just follow orders. Instead, he became a whistleblower, supplying vast troves of documents to WikiLeaks, exposing duplicity that had enormous impacts from Iraq and Afghanistan to Egypt and Tunisia.
Manning, now 25 years old, could be in prison for the rest of his life. But while the U.S. government tries to crush him, it’s clear that many Americans love him — and would be thrilled to see him win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Did you sign the petition?  I signed it tonight.  I should have signed it sooner.  Maybe you've been meaning to as well?

It's just I say I'll do it and I'm online and then my daughter needs something so I get offline.  I tell myself that I'll do it the next day.  Something else comes up and the day after the next day.

So when I read Norman Solomon's column tonight, I made a point to use the link and sign.  And if you're as bad as me about meaning to but forgetting, I'd urge you to use the link and go do sign it.

I'm going to leave it at that tonight in the hopes that those who forgot will do like I did and sign already.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Tuesday, April 2, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, a brutal attack takes place on 4 Baghdad news, rumors float that State of Law is trying to strong arm people into voting for it in the April 20th elections, Joan Wile and the Raging Grannies get ready for an action, and more.

When multiple newspapers are attacked in one city, it's usually considered news.  And journalistic organizations are usually up in arms.  Unless it's Iraq apparently.  At which point Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists forget to speak up. 

This morning,  Alsumaria, citing a police source, reported an attack on the headquarters of a Baghdad newspaper where four employees were stabbed with knives. [The number is now five.] The assailants demanded and recorded the names of all the paper's employees.  In a later article, the outlet reveals that four daily papers were attacked by "paramilitary" members yesterday.  Journalists are decrying the silence and indifference from the government over the attacks.  The Associated Press' Diaa Hadid Tweets:

  1. Gunmen smash offices of four papers, stab, beat workers & hurl one off roof in most brazen attack against media in this year.

 AFP lists the four newspapers as: "Al-Dustour (The Constitution), Al-Parliament, Al-Mustaqbal (The Future) and Al-Nas (The People)" and quotes the editor-in-chief of Al-Mustaqbal, Ali Darraji, stating, "About 30 men in civilian clothes entered our offices after forcibly removing the door.  They set fire to my car, and they entered the office, broke all the computers and everything around.  All of this happened in about 20 minutes -- when guards outside opened fire to scare them away, they escaped, but they escaped after doing what they wanted to do." 

"Al-Dustour" is the paper we note here as Dar AddustourOn their front page -- go to cached copy if the first link doesn't work -- they note that their attackers claimed to be affiliated with Sarkhi Hassani and that they smashed furniture and attacked the staffThey note the attack took place in broad daylight and that a number of employees were wounded -- some left with serious fractures.   Dar Addustour has many strong journalists and, in addition to reports, we often note their columnist As Sheik (such as January 25th: "Dar Addustour columnist As Sheik notes that the protesters and their demands have been repeatedly ignored and that it appears any pretext for aggravation has been seized upon by the security forces but that there must be no more Iraqi blood spilled at the hands of the military.")  They do long form and contextual journalism and they pride themselves on being independent and not playing favorites.  They are a strong example of what the press in any country should aim for.  Another strongly independent paper is Al MadaMohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling (CNN) report, "Employees of a fifth Baghdad daily newspaper, al-Mada, received threats on Tuesday, the paper's director general told CNN. Mada means 'range' in Arabic."

Many papers and channels have been shut down in the 'free' Iraq.  Al Mada was repeatedly targeted last year by the government.  At one point, the editor and publisher's home was encircled by military tanks on Nouri's orders.   Out of 179 countries in the world, the World Press Freedom Index 2013 ranks Iraq at 150.  Meaning there are 29 countries in which the press is in even more danger.  And that there are 149 countries in which the press is safer.   The report notes of Iraq, "The security situation for journalists continues to be very worrying with three killed in connection with their work in 2012 and seven killed in 2011.  Journalists are constantly obstructed."  Ahmed Rasheed, Patrick Markey and Mark Heinrich (Reuters) note, "Now Iraqis have a choice of 200 print outlets, 60 radio stations and 30 TV channels in Arabic and also in the Turkman, Syriac and Kurdish languages. But while press freedom has improved, many media outlets remain dominated by religious or political party patrons who use them for their own ends. The government has also occasionally threatened to close media outlets it regards as offensive."  They also note 5 journalists killed in 2012.  

This assault on the press takes place exactly one month before the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) kicks off World Press Freedom Day and the Safe to Speak campaign:

It is in this spirit that UNESCO has chosen to celebrate the event with the global theme “Safe to Speak: Securing Freedom of Expression in All Media”. The main event will be jointly organized by UNESCO, the Government of Costa Rica and the United Nations-mandated University for Peace in the city of San José, Costa Rica from 2 to 4 May 2013.

The 2013 celebrations are within the context of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which is co-led by UNESCO. The goal of the Plan is to join the work of various UN agencies and external partners on creating a safer environment for journalists to have a stronger impact on violence against journalists.

The media landscape has evolved over the past two decades, creating new opportunities for exchange and dialogue, and for sharing knowledge and information through new platforms. However, it has yet to be translated into stronger respect for fundamental freedoms – particularly as regards the safety of those doing journalism. While progress has been made over the last 20 years, many old challenges remain strong, and new threats to freedom of expression are emerging in the digital news environment.

The Iraq Times notes that Iraqiya MP Wissal Salim today declared it is the security forces duty to protect the press and that attacks send a negative message with the intent of killing off democracy.  She noted in a press conference today that Iraq can enjoy a democratic era with a free press and freedoms for Iraqis but not if barbaric attacks are to take place on the instruments of democracy which can lead the country forward.

Reuters notes the assailants in Baghdad carried "pistols, knives and steel pipes" and that they were "beating employees and smashing computers."  The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued the following statement:

Baghdad, 2 April 2013 -- The United Nations strongly condemns the attacks that targeted journalists and media facilities in Baghdad on 1 April. “Assaults against media organizations or journalists are unacceptable under any circumstances," the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG) Mr. Kobler said, urging the government of Iraq to ensure that media professionals are protected against all forms of intimidation and violence because of their opinions or thoughts.

UNESCO Director in Iraq, Ms. Louise Haxthausen, expressed her deep concern about the dangerous impact of such incidents on press freedom and freedom of expression, and called for bringing to justice and prosecuting those involved in these attacks. "Freedom of expression is a crucial element for establishing true democracy and building sustainable peace in Iraq," Ms. Haxthausen stated.

Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory condemned the attacks in a statement today.  They note that along with attacking the employees, the thugs also broke desks and burned cars.  The attacks may or may not be linked to cleric Mahmud al-Hasani al-Sarkhi whose people had lodged complaints about press coverage shortly before the attacks began.  As Khalid Waleed (IWPR) reported last year, al-Sarkhi's followers have violently clashed with those of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistanin in the past.

This morning, Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) could report on the story (and AP was the only Western outlet reporting this morning) and Al Jazeera and the Christian Science Monitor's Jane Arraf could Tweet on it:

  1. officials say 4 Baghdad attacked by armed mob linked to Shia cleric al-Sarkhi, self-proclaimed confidante of hidden Mehdi.

But somehow, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists never found the story.  They could and did decry the treatment of a "satirist" in Egypt.  But attacks on daily newspapers?  Not one damn word.  I'm sorry, help me out, it's now Satirists Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Satire?  I didn't realize the two organizations had changed their names and their mission statements.  My bad.

The two were as silent as the US State Dept.  But on the State Dept a friend asks me to note that the State Dept YouTube channel will now carry closed captioned events -- such as press briefings.  I'm told this is a move instituted by Secretary John Kerry in an attempt to be inclusive to all Americans.  So we will applaud that and say thank you.

The United Nations News Centre notes that the "attacks against Iraqi journalists come on the heels of a growing trend of violence across the country, including a series of coordinated, sectarian attacks on several Husseiniyas -- which are places of religious significance for Shia Muslims -- in Baghdad and the northern city of Kirkuk that killed and injured dozens last week.  During a trip to Kirkuk today, Mr. Kobler visited the city's Al-Rasul Al-A’tham Husseiniya and met with cleric Mushin Al-Battat, who was wounded in last-week’s attack."  Martin Kolber is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq.  Among the people he needs to speak up for are candidates in the upcoming April 20th elections.  AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets:

12 Iraq election candidates have been killed; looks at one, and the impact of his death:

The Washington Post's Liz Sly notes the AFP report in this Tweet:

11 candidates in Iraq's provincial elections shot dead so far. The region's model democracy.

On the elections, UNAMI notes:

The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Martin Kobler, today met with the IHEC Board of Commissioners to exchange views on the state of preparedness for the upcoming Governorate Council elections.
The Board of Commissioners assured the UN Envoy that IHEC is technically ready to conduct elections in all 14 governorates at the scheduled date of 20 April 2013.

Mr. Kobler reiterated the United Nations’ support to the country’s electoral body as an independent institution. “I encourage the IHEC to maintain its independence, transparency and credibility, in order to secure the trust of the voters.”
Though UNAMI still appears to have faith in the Independent High Electoral Commission, most Iraqis don't and you can gauge that by the fact that, in the last months, the Iraqi press has stopped referring to it as "Independent" or "High" and most times just bills it as the "Electoral Commission."  That's what happens when you let Nouri stack the commission.  And is this creating a lack of enthusiasm among voters?  Currently, it appears something is.  In the latest report to note the growing apathy, Laith Hammoudi (Institute for War and Peace Reporting) reports:

Although the small cross-section of interviewees means that their views are not necessarily representative, one recurring theme is a strong sense that the political process is going nowhere, and that politicians look after their own interests while Iraq smoulders, if not actively burning at the moment.
“I’ve learned that all that Iraqi politicians care about is their own parties, and their promises are just lies,” Naim said. “If there by some miracle Iraq was to rid itself of all the current political parties, it would become a great country within a few years. But that’s never going to happen as long as we have these people running the country.”
Iraq has had three parliamentary elections since 2003, each resulting in an uneasy modus vivendi between Shia and Sunni Arab parties, plus the autonomy-minded Kurds. The last polls were in 2010, and it took over a year to forge a coalition, once again with Shia politician Nuri al-Maliki as prime minister.

So who might be motivated to vote in the elections? 

Alsumaria reports that Salah al-Obeidi, spokesperson for the Sadr bloc, declared today that pressure is  being put upon police and military recruits to get them to vote for Nouri's State of Law slate.  Wael Grace (Al Mada) notes that Baghdad is campaign postered to death with posters of Nouri, posters of Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqyia) and posted of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.

April 20th, Iraq is set to hold provincial elections in 12 of its 18 provinces.  There are three provinces that make up the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government: Dahuk, Erbil and Sulamaniyah.   They hold their own elections and last did so in July of 2009.  It is anticipated that they will hold elections in their provinces in July of this year.  (Parliamentary elections find the KRG voting at the same time as the rest of Iraq, these are provincial elections taking place this year.)  That brings us to 15 of Iraq's provinces.  Kirkuk is an oil-rich province and it is disputed with both the central government out of Baghdad claiming it as well as the KRG claiming it.  Article 140 details how that will be resolved -- Article 140 of the Constitution.  Nouri was made prime minister in 2006 and he was bound by the Constitution -- which he took an oath to -- to implement Article 140 by the end of 2007 but Nouri never keeps a promise or oath.  Kirkuk brings us to 16.  The other two provinces not voting?
Nouri has decreed -- giving a different reason every other day -- that Anbar and Nineveh will not be voting in the elections.   Al Mada reported yesterday that Parliament is decrying the decision to postpone elections in Anbar and Nineveh (Nouri's said for six months).  That's Parliament objecting, the United Nations objecting, US Secretary of State John Kerry's objecting.  NINA notes Special Envoy Kobler held a press conference in Kirkuk today and declared that Anbar and Nineveh should also be holding their elections April 20th.

The outcry has yet to have any effect on Nouri who pretends that this is about violence or fraud or whatever excuse he's using on any given day.  The reality is that the heart of the protests taking place in Iraq currently are in Anbar and Nineveh Provinces. 
While Nouri upsets Nineveh Province, National Iraqi News Agency notes that Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi met recently with KRG President Massoud Barzani and they addressed not only the problematic security situation the country is experiencing but also the postponing of the elections.  As Dar Addustour noted yesterday, NINA notes today that the Electoral Commission is stating that it will be the one to determine whether or not elections will be held in Anbar and Nineveh on April 20th.  Barzani often communicates with the al-Nujaifi family -- both the Governor and his brother Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  The Nujaifis are members of Iraqiya, the political slate that beat Nouri's State of Law in the March 2010 parliamentary elections.
The KRG has two major political parties: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP -- led by Massoud Barzani) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK -- led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani).  NINA notes the two met today to discuss the elections as well as the security issues.   In the three last years, as numerous calls have come up for Nouri al-Maliki to resign as prime minister, the KDP and the PUK have pretty much stood together.  The wild card has been Goran or Change -- a Kurdish third party -- which has repeatedly noted it doesn't stand with the PUK or the KDP.  Sunday, there was a major shift with All Iraq News reporting that Goran has joined the call for Nouri al-Maliki to step down and quotes Goran MP Mohamed Kiania stating, Maliki has to quit since he is not able to address the deteriorated security and service situations in the country."  Goran has refused to choose sides throughout the various political crises of the last years.  
Repeating, they have insisted over and over that they are not involved in that debate, that they will not choose sides with regards to that topic.  And yet now even Goran is choosing sides.    And they're choosing the side against Nouri.

On the protests,  Al Mada reports thousands turned out in Falluja yesterday to mark the 100th day of protests.  The sit-ins continue and Sheikh Daham al-Dulaimi noted that a march was held to express the joy of the citizens.  They are calling for a free Iraq with bias and they are recording the events to ensure that this movement is documented.  Iraqi Spring MC adds that the people turned out despite the restrictions and the rain.  National Iraqi News adds that FBS Lieutenant Walid al-Khshmani was arrested yesterday for participating in a sit-in in Tikrit.  NINA also notes that Iraqiya MP Wissal Salim states the committees of activists representing the demonstrators are calling for the forces who killed protesters in Falluja and Mosul to be turned over to the judiciary.

Turning to some of today's violence, the National Iraqi News Agency notes that two homes were blown up in Kirkuk, 1 Peshmerga was shot dead in Kirkuk, a Samarra bombing left one police officer dead,  a Samarra armed attack left one police officer injured, 1 person was shot dead on the streets of Mosul,  a Mosul bombing left 1 police officer dead and four more injured, and a Kirkuk bomb has left four police officers injuredAlsumaria adds that an armed attack in Wasit province (to the south of Kut) killed 1 person and left three more injured.
In the United States, an action is planned for tomorrow.   Joan Wile is also the author of Grandmothers Against the War: Getting Off Our Fannies and Standing Up for Peace.  She's is also one of the Raging Grannies and Barack's Drone War is about to be protested by them.

Planning for "No Drone" Resolution To NYC Council To Be Announced

New York City peace grandmothers, along with most of the City's other anti-war groups. will kick off April Days of Action on Wednesday, April 3, with a rally at Rockefeller Plaza, from 5 to 6 p.m. on the west side of 5th Ave. between 49th and 50th Sts.  April Days of Action was created by a group of U.S. activists to launch a series of protests in April to generate a public uprising across the country against the government’s deadly drone policy.
Principal speakers on April 3 include Col. Ann Wright, retired Army officer and diplomat who resigned office on the day of the U.S. attack on Iraq; Nick Mottern, editor of Know Drones, and Bill Gilson, President of Veterans for Peace, New York City Chapter 34.

Among the granny groups planning to participate in the rally will be the Granny Peace Brigade, which will announce their plan to call on the New York City Council to pass a resolution controlling the use of both weaponized and surveillance drones in NYC. "The City Council of Charlottesville Virginia has passed such a resolution and the mayor of Seattle has ordered the city police department to scrap plans it had to roll out drones. It is time for New York City to declare itself drone-safe," state the grannies.
"We must stop preying on other nations with these immoral lethal weapons," said Joan Wile, of Grandmothers Against the War, which is coordinating the protest.  "The war against terrorism cannot be justification for using killer drones that often miss their targets and result in the deaths of children and other innocents.  It is unthinkable that our nation, the so-called beacon of democracy, orders an anonymous person sitting in front of a screen to press a button that launches death and destruction to people thousands of miles away.  We are acting as accuser, prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner. Where is due process? ""There is a tremendous amount of skepticism with the public about drone attacks in other countries. There is concern that innocent people are killed and enemies of the United States are being made," said  Mottern.

There appears to be a ground swell of doubt developing among the public regarding these lethal missiles.  It is hoped that the April 3 rally will encourage citizens to protest the largely secret drone operations.

DATE:  April  3, 2013
TIME:  5 to 6 p.m.
LOCATION:  west side of 5th Ave. between 49 and 50 Sts. (across from Saks)
Endorsers include: Military Families Speak Out; the Granny Peace Brigade; War Resisters League; Pax Christi Metro New York; Grandmothers for Peace International; Raging Grannies; Veterans for Peace Chapter 34 (NYC); Peace Action Manhattan; World Can't Wait; Peace Action of Staten Island; Code Pink NYC, Women for Peace; Peace Action New York State; Institute for Policy Studies-New Internationalism Project; Brooklyn for Peace; Gray Panthers; The LI Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives; Western New York Peace Center.

the associated press
qassim abdul-zahra