Saturday, March 09, 2013

Nikita: Reunion

The weekend!  Nikita airs Friday nights on The CW.

The latest episode is "Reunion."

This was a strong episode and it worked as a stand-alone and also in advancing the larger storyline.

Remember they got Ari last time?  The Russian spy who heads Gogol?  Or headed it.  Amanda's lover who helped all those years when she worked in Division.  But at the start of the last episode, she turned on him.  So Division grabbed him and he wouldn't tell them about a terrorist attack unless he had major money.

Which Division didn't have.

So what Nikita did was promise to save his son.

So that was this episode.  She and Alex go to Geneva right after Amanda and her goons try to grab him.

The German is what I'm calling the German guy that Ari had hired as his son Stefan's bodyguard.

While Alex and Nikita are trying to grab Stefan, Devon Sawa's beating up Ari because he wants Ari to tell him about his life before Amanda 'wiped' his memory.

Sawa knows that he was a soldier.  Ari tells him a story but when Michael arrives, Ari said he made up the entire thing to stall for time until someone could arrive.

Sawa hits Ari.

Knocks him out.

At this point, Alex and Nikita had grabbed Stefan, the German had showed up in time to grab Nikita and Amanda.  Both tried to convince him to trust them.  Nikita finally got him to call Division and speak to Ari.  But only for 90 seconds because the call could be traced otherwise.

Sawa knocked Ari out, remember?  Well they're not able to bring Ari around in time.  Michael's furious and tells Sawa he's dead if anything happens to Nikita.

Alex calls The German (he set that up by leaving Nikita's com ontop of a cell phone).  She says she has Stefan (she's lying -- and she's lying because she's trying to save Nikita).  The German leaves to get Alex.

Nikita and Amanda are tied up in chairs.  Nikita manages to set the place on fire, hoping that will bring help.

It brings the fire dept.  Amanda gets them to take her to the police station so she can make her statement.  (The police assume Amanda and Nikita, tied to chairs in a burning warehouse, were the victims of some devious man.)

Nikita swipes an ambulance.

Alex and The German end up in a stand-off until Ari calls The German.  Then The German and Alex (and Nikita) start working together.

Nikita's en route to where Alex and The German are headed to get Stefan.

Right after they kill 2 people and grab Stefan, they're descended on.  Alex tells The German to get Stefan out and she'll provide fire cover.

They make it out to Nikita and leave in the ambulance.


Alex called the police. They arrive as her clip is out.

They arrest the bad gusy and they arrest her.

Now that Nikita's saved Stefan, they're ready to get Alex.

But Alex is being transported when flashing lights stop the transport.  It's Amanda who shoots everyone except Alex and drives off with Alex.

She says she's not leaving empty handed after all.

It was a roller coaster episode and I can't wait for next week.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, March 8, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue,  protests continue across Iraq, Nouri's forces fire on protesters in Mosul killing 3 and wounding more, on International Women's Day Barack Obama decides to insult Iraqi women by giving Brett McGurk a job, and more.

It is Friday.  Since December 21st, Friday has meant protests.  The protests are over a number of issues but the final straw was Nouri targeting another Sunni and member of Iraqiya.   Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported:

Iraq's Finance Minister Rafei al-Essawi said Thursday that "a militia force" raided his house, headquarters and ministry in Baghdad and kidnapped 150 people, and he holds the nation's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, responsible for their safety.  Members of the al-Essawi's staff and guards were among those kidnapped from the ministry Thursday, the finance minister said. He also said that his computers and documents were searched at his house and headquarters. He said the head of security was arrested Wednesday at a Baghdad checkpoint for unknown reasons and that now the compound has no security.
 The issues are numerous.  Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) has summed up the primary issues as follows:

- End of Sectarian Shia rule
- the re-writing of the Iraqi constitution (drafted by the Americans and Iranians)
- the end to arbitrary killings and detention, rape and torture of all detainees on basis of sect alone and their release
- the end of discriminatory policies in employment, education, etc based on sect
- the provision of government services to all
- the end of corruption
- no division between Shias and Sunnis, a one Islam for all Iraqi Muslims and a one Iraq for all Iraqis.

On the torture, Jane Arraf filed a report for Al Jazeera this week which included:

Amnesty International and other groups say much of the torture stems from an almost sole reliance on confessions to obtain convictions. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent in investigative training by the United States and other countries, cases rarely rely on forensic evidence. The use of secret informers, lack of legal representation, and widespread corruption also stack the deck against those accused.
In Aref's office, stacks of hand-written statements from prisoners tell the same stories that human rights groups say is prevalent among those facing terrorism charges.
"They began using my wife and children. They threatened to rape my wife in front of me if I didn't confess," read one statement. The prisoner said even after he was sentenced to death, his wife and young children were held for five months without any charges laid.
Another prisoner titles a statement signed on May, 27 2012 "after 1,825 days of injustice". He named the police officers allegedly involved in torturing him and asked, "Is there anybody who can support me and remove this injustice from me and my people?"
Fallujah, where anti-government protests started in December against the broad anti-terrorism law many are imprisoned under, has borne much of the brunt of mass arrests.  The law, known as Article 4, allows the death penalty for a wide range of offences broadly categorised as terrorism.

Article IV currently allows innocents to be arrested.  If you are the relative of a suspected terrorist, you can be arrested merely for that 'crime.'  This is why so many women are in Iraq prisons.  Protesters are calling for  Article IV to be abolished and some sympathetic members of Parliament are offering that it can be modified. 

Protesters might also be bothered to be living in an oil rich country that offers no jobs.  The Iraq Times notes Iraq is ranked the ninth worst country globally on unemployment and third in the Arab world.

Iraqis continue to march and rally in March.  And they continue to be targeted by prime minister and thug Nouri al-Maliki.   Kitabat reports Nouri's forces killed two more protesters.  The two protesters killed were in Mosul with four more left injured.   Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) counts only one dead but the article has other counting problems we'll get to it in a moment.  All Iraq News reports, "Two demonstrators were killed and three others injured" but notes a security source states the number may rise.  Dar Addustour also reports two dead and they note it was the federal police -- a point that AP seems unclear on -- that did the firing.  This was not local police, this was the federal police -- under Nouri's command because they're under the direct command of the Ministry of the Interior and, in a power grab, Nouri's refused to nominate anyone to be Minister of the Interior.  Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch) notes of Nouri:

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s response to all this has been to grab as much authority as he can, circumventing agreements that would parcel out power in a nominally fair way, that, in practice, paralyses the state machinery. The government in the Green Zone, the great fortress it inherited from the Americans, is not shy about its sectarian allegiance. Shia banners and posters of Imam Ali and Imam Hussein decorate checkpoints and block-houses in the Green Zone and much of the rest of Baghdad, including prisons and police stations.
Mr Maliki’s efforts to monopolise power – though less effective than his critics allege – have alienated powerful Shia individuals, parties and religious institutions. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the pre-eminent Shia religious leader of immense influence, whom the Americans at the height of their power found they could not defy, will no longer see the Prime Minister’s emissaries. The marji’iyyah – the small group of men at the top of the Shia religious hierarchy – have come to see the Prime Minister as a provoker of crises that discredit Shi’ism and may break up the country. Iran, the only other large Shia-controlled state, with strong but not overwhelming influence in Iraq, says privately that it is unhappy with Mr Maliki, but does not want a political explosion in the country while it is facing ever-mounting pressure over Syria, its other Arab ally, and its economy is buckling under the impact of sanctions.

The death toll increased as the day continued.   National Iraqi News Agency reports that the death toll increased to 3 and the number injured is five.  Protests continued after an another four were injured when Nouri's forces again fired, National Iraqi News Agency reports, but from the first attack, the death toll is now 3 and the number left injured is five.  In this video, a protester shows shells from the bullets fired on the protesters as ambulances are loaded.  Alsumaria notes that there were four ambulances and that the police were refusing to allow them to provide assistance and that the federal police -- Nouri's thugs -- attacked one of the paramedics who is described as having been "severely beaten." 

Responses to the attack?   Alsumaria reports cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr is calling for an investigation into this assault on the Iraqi people.  Al Mada reports that the Kurdistan Alliance is calling for an investigation and for the perpetrators to be punished.   All Iraq News notes that Mosul has been placed on curfew.   Ahmed al-Saddy's Facebook page carries the announcement that there will be a strike at the University of Mosul March 10th (Sunday) as a result of the attacks on the protesters.   Alsumaria reports the immediate reaction also includes Ezz al-Din al-Dawla resigning as Minister of Agriculture as a result of the killing of protesters in Mosul and he stated that the voices that sent him to Baghdad are not being represented by the government.  Last Friday another member of Nouri's Cabinet resigned:

Of all the protests across Iraq, Ramadi received the most attention due to a high profile speaker.  Alsumaria notes  Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi attended and, in his speech, resigned his office.  Hamdi Alkhshali (CNN) adds, "The finance minister resigned because the government has not met the demands of the demonstrators to end the marginalization, spokesman Aysar Ali told CNN."
Zaid Sabah (Bloomberg News) quotes al-Issawi telling the protesters, "I am with you, I am your son.  I will not return to this government."  Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) quote al-Issawi telling the crowd, "I am presenting my resignation in front of you. I do not care about a government that does not respect the Iraqi blood and its people." Sabah notes the protesters chanted back, "We are with you! We are with you!"
al-Issawi tells Reuters, "More than 70 days of demonstrations and this government hasn't fulfilled our people's demands.  It doesn't honor me to be part of a sectarian government.  I decided to stay with my people."  Alsumaria notes that Nouri al-Maliki has declared he will not accept the resignation until a legal and financial investigation is completed.

So now there are two resignations from Nouri's Cabient.  Will it make any difference?  Will it force him to take accountability for what happened or even to provide answers?  Not likely.  He's still not answered for the January 25th massacre and this brings us back to Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) who references the massacre and the five dead.  Five?  Five the day of.  As Human Rights Watch explained February 14th:

Iraqi authorities should complete promised investigations into the army killings of nine protesters in Fallujah on January 25, 2013, and make the results public. The authorities need to ensure that there will be independent investigations into the deaths, in addition to the promised inquiries by a parliamentary committee and the Defense Ministry, and that if there is evidence of unlawful killing, those responsible are prosecuted.'

Nouri never found answers, never pretended to.  He probably thinks he'll be able to escape blame on this one as well.

And it's not like warnings have been sounded about the way the federal police behaved in Mosul.   Let's drop back to Wednesday's snapshot:

NINA also notes that Nineveh Province Governor Atheel Nujaifi has "warned the security forces in Nineveh, specifically the Federal Police, which oversees the protection of Ahrar Square not to encroach upon the demonstrators."  He is calling out the continued targeting of protesters by Nouri's national force and the warrantless arrests of them.

That is only the most recent example of al-Nujaifi calling on Nouri's forces to stop harassing and harming the Mosul protesters.  Iraqi Spring MC notes that the people of Adahmiya faced teams of Nouri's forces who attempted to prevent them from protesting or even having  Friday morning prayers.  Kitabat adds that Nouri's forces have turned the city into a "huge prison" and that two mosques had to cancel the morning prayers as a result of the military siege the city is under.  Kitabat also notes that Friday prayers at Baghdad's Abu Hanifa mosque were also cancelled as a result of the military being sent to encircle the area.  Dar Addustour notes "hundreds of thousands" turned in Falluja and Ramadi and thousands in Kirkuk, Tikrit, Baghdad and Samarra.  AP notes that Falluja and Ramadi protesters again blocked the highway between Baghdad and Jordan.   Iraqi Spring MC Tweets about the security forces in Ramadi attempting to provoke the demonstrators and that Nouri's forces arrested 7 protesters in Falluja.

Bradley Manning is the US whistle blower who blew the whistle on what was actually going on in Iraq and Afghanistan behind the press spin and the carefully tested wording, he saw the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism actions and was disgusted by how Iraqis were made to suffer.  In June, he is set to face a military court-martial.  He should be set free but US President Barack Obama would rather punish whistle blowers.  Naomi Spencer (WSWS) points out, "Organizations that orbit the Obama administration-- including the International Socialist Organization, which has published a handful of articles about the case -- have likewise avoided uttering the name of Manning’s oppressor: the Democratic administration of Barack Obama. The most recent report in the Socialist Worker, the ISO’s publication, was a reprint of a February 22 Belfast Telegraph op-ed which made no mention of Obama."  Nathan Fuller (Dissident Voice) goes over some of the information Bradley had access to:

On 2 March 2010, Bradley was ordered to investigate the Iraqi Federal Police’s detention of 15 individuals for distributing “anti-Iraqi literature.” He quickly realized that “none of the individuals had previous ties to anti-Iraqi actions or suspected terrorist militia groups.”
In fact, the literature these academics were distributing was “merely a scholarly critique” of the “corruption within the cabinet of [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri] al-Maliki’s government and the financial impact of his corruption on the Iraqi people.”
Bradley brought this to the attention of his superiors, but they told him to “drop it” and help the Iraqi police find more of these dissidents to detain.
I knew if I continued to assist the Baghdad Federal Police in identifying the political opponents of Prime Minister al-Maliki, those people would be arrested and in the custody of the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police and very likely tortured and not seen again for a very long time—if ever.
Instead of assisting the … Baghdad Federal Police, I decided to take the information and expose it to [WikiLeaks], before the upcoming 7 March 2010 election, hoping they could generate some immediate press on the issue and prevent this unit of the Federal Police from continuing to crack down on political opponents of al-Maliki.
WikiLeaks has yet to publish those files.

Nouri continues to use the police to target political enemies.  He has his forces follow protesters home from protests to document where they live, he has the forces videotape the protests, he intimidates and bullies because that's all he's ever had to offer and, somehow, this struck two administration -- Bush's and Barack's -- as leadership.

Iraqiya is the political slate that came in first in the March 2010 elections.  Ayad Allawi is the leader.  Prominent members would include Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.  Second place in the 2010 election went to Nouri al-Maliki's political slate State of Law.  Coming in second meant Nouri didn't get a crack at a second term as prime minister.  But Nouri had the White House backing and they brokered The Erbil Agreement which went around the Constitution to give Barack a second term.

National Iraqi News Agency reports that last night the Free Iraqiya Alliance in Shirqat district was bombed.  All Iraq News quotes MP Qutayba al-Juburi with the Iraqiya Hurra Coalition stating, "This coward attack will encourage us to expose the criminal acts and gangsters' methods practiced by the enemies of the Iraqi people.  The people will judge these criminals whose names will be written in history pages of shame and disgrace."  Alsumaria adds that a Baquba roadside bombing left three people injured.  All Iraq News reports a Tikrit IED exploded killed a cab driver while injuring four others.  Big Pond News notes, "In the city of Mosul gunmen killed an army officer, his wife and child in an attack on their h

AP notes that the Parliament has passed a $118.6 billion.  MP Ruz Mahdi tells All Iraq News that ignoring the Kurdistan people (who opposed the budget).   In addition, Iraqiya MP Arshad Salhi tells Alsumaria that the Kurdistan Alliance also has the option of appealing the budget to the Federal Court.

Today was International Women's Day.  From yesterday's snapshot:

Tomorrow (March 8th) is International Women's Day


This year's theme is "Gaining Momentum."  Alsumaria reports that Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq, gave a speech today in honor of International Women's Day at the Rashid Hotel in Baghdad.  Whatever the intent, the speech wasn't about Iraqi women.  He denounced the protesters (protests have been going on since December calling out his leadership, among other things).  He denounced the Parliament (dubbing ti "complacent") and he verbally attacked neighbors, pointing to Arab Spring countries and insisting that Iraq didn't want to end up suffering as those countries were -- in his words --  ""  [***SHOUND END PARAGRAHPH***] suffering now as wives, mothers, sisters, girls, workers, home makers" -- they suffer as the country suffers.  One woman they write of saw her husband killed in the sectarian violence, saw her daughter killed in a bombing and now, despite advanced age and illness, she is left to raise her grandchildren. Attorney Dina Abdel al-Ghafir speaks of the brutality and injustice Iraqi women face and notes that some of it is due to what has been put on the books and what is tolerated such as the so-called 'honor' killings -- where a woman is killed for actions that supposedly disgraced the family.

That's Nouri's idea of giving a speech to note the occasion of International Women's Day.

Mahmoud Raouf and Inez Tareq (Al Mada -- Tareq took the photo for the story) report Iraqi women suffer "as wives, mothers, sisters, girls, workers, home makers" -- they suffer as the country suffers.  One woman they write of saw her husband killed in the sectarian violence, saw her daughter killed in a bombing and now, despite advanced age and illness, she is left to raise her grandchildren. Attorney Dina Abdel al-Ghafir speaks of the brutality and injustice Iraqi women face and notes that some of it is due to what has been put on the books and what is tolerated such as the so-called 'honor' killings -- where a woman is killed for actions that supposedly disgraced the family.

"[***SHOULD END PARAGRAPH***]" is where that paragraph should have ended.  All that follows is in the Al Mada paragraph (as it should be).  When making changes in the editing (me saying, "Move the third paragraph to the end, change the sentence . . .") things can get confusing and I'll take responsibility for that error.  Nouri used his speech to attack, he said nothing about women.

For International Women's Day, Tell Me More's Michel Martin (NPR -- link is audio and text) spoke with Iraq's Iqbal al-Juboori.  Excerpt.

IQBAL AL-JUBPPRO:   And then when the 2003 war happened, because I'm living in Bagdad and I was part of the conflict, my house was attacked in 2005. And my brother was taken by forces that were wearing government clothes, military clothes. They were not accompanied by any U.S. coalition forces. It was not only targeting my brother, but they took approximately 11 men from the neighborhood.  And up till this day we don't know what happened to him. And he left four children, four daughters, and a wife. And...
MICHEL MARTIN: You haven't seen him since?
AL-JUBOORI: I haven't seen him. We don't know where he is. Neither he or the 11 men that were taken. And this is like a similar story that you'll hear everywhere in Iraq. It's not only me. And then after one year of this, in 2006, five armed men came to my house. We were only females in that house. And they said we'll give you 24 hours to leave the house, and if not, then we're going to kill every one of you.
MARTIN: Why? I mean what was the stated reason? They wanted the house or...
AL-JUBOORI: There was no stated - there were no stated reasons. You are Sunnis. You leave the house. That's it. And immediately I took my family and we left the neighborhood and we went to another safer place, but all that feeling inside you, like, bitterness, being violated and just was translated through my work. I feel very passionate about it, because nobody deserves to be faced with such an issue - the trauma, the stress.
MARTIN: At this point in the - there were just you, your sister, their four children?
AL-JUBOORI: It was only me and my mother, my sister-in-law, and four girls. The youngest is five years old. She has diabetes right now. She was sleeping in his - my brother's - arm when they took him away and she never got over it. I'm a grown up. I can translate that. I can deal with it better than a child who doesn't understand why.

Shaun Waterman (Washington Times) reports that the Pentagon is examing allegations made this week of abuse in Iraq, "Earlier this week, the British Guardian newspaper and the BBC’s Arabic language news channel alleged that the United States sent a veteran of controversial U.S. counter-insurgency efforts in Central America during the 1980s to oversee Iraqi police units involved in some of the worst acts of sectarian violence and torture during Iraq’s bloody insurgency."  All around the world, media is covering the details unearthed in the Guardian report by Mona Mahmood, Maggie O'Kane, Chavala Madlena and Teresa Smith -- all around the world except in the US.  For example,  The Muslin News carries Al-Akhbar's "Pentagon used 'dirty wars' tactics in Iraq."  From the article:

In Iraq, Steele and special adviser to Petraeus Colonel James Coffman worked to establish a ring of detention centers in areas with high levels of “Sunni insurgency”. In an interview with US military paper Stars and Stripes Coffman described himself as the “eyes and ears” of Patraeus, who was General at the time.
In the documentary, Iraqi General Mundadher al-Samari, who aided Steele and Coffman in setting up the special police commandos said: "I never saw [Steele and Coffman] apart in the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centres. They knew everything that was going on there ... the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture."

John Glaser ( via Global Research) notes:

“The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the ‘dirty wars’ in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents,” The Guardian reports. “These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war.”
After a 15-month investigation, The Guardian and the BBC Arabic has published its findings about the torture and atrocities organized and committed by US officials reporting directly to the highest echelons of the US government, including General David Petraeus.
“I remember a 14-year-old who was tied to one of the library’s columns,” said General Muntadher al-Samari, one of the Bush administration’s Iraqi proxies who helped run the torture centers. “And he was tied up, with his legs above his head. Tied up. His whole body was blue because of the impact of the cables with which he had been beaten.”

In potential trouble for Iraq, Laura Rozen (Back Channel) reports:

Brett McGurk, President Obama’s former nominee for Iraq ambassador, will likely be tapped as the next State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, current and former US officials tell the Back Channel. The State Department plans to fuse the two offices, officials say.
McGurk has been serving as a senior Iraq advisor at the State Department since withdrawing from consideration to be US ambassador to Iraq last summer. McGurk did not immediately respond to a request for guidance from the Back Channel.
The sexism of the White House has been well documented but it's still appalling.  On International Women's Day, they leak to Rozen that Brett McGurk will be the new Dept. Asst. Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran?

Racy e-mails weren't the problem.  Democratic Senators did not tell the White House, when Barack nominated can't-keep-it-in-his-pants McGurk for US Ambassador to Iraq.  The problem was he was of no help to Iraqi women.  He was a hinderence.  They could have no contact with him or the Embassy if he was ambassador.  Because he went to Iraq married and began an affair with a married woman resulting in two divorces.  The US put thugs in charge to ensure that Iraq became more conservative and now, when Iraqi women are suffering so much, they want to name someone to a post that Iraqi women can't interact with -- unless they want to risk becoming the target of an 'honor' killing.

McGurk was a lousy choice for ambassador, he's a lousy choice for this post as well.  And that this insult to Iraqi women would come on International Women's Day makes it all the more insulting.

March 6th, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction released a report and we noted one of the most important things about the report:


That's important because Bowen doesn't believe the office should be closed.  It's important because the White House -- which is spending billions in Iraq still, via the State Dept -- does not want the SIGIR to remain open.  The State Dept refused to brief SIGIR on what they would be doing with regards to the billions.  The most recent training of Iraqi police is a failed effort and that's a failed State Dept effort.  That failure includes handing over the training building that US dollars built -- the highly secure, highly costly building.  That includes putting billions into a program that Iraqis did not want.

Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported the next day:

Congress is expected to extend the operations of a watchdog office tasked with carrying out criminal inquiries of wartime contracting in Iraq, giving investigators more time to wrap up cases.
The move to fund the office, which otherwise would have had to shut down this spring, follows a Washington Post article that raised questions about the viability of dozens of criminal investigations of wartime contracting.

And while that's a needed step with regard to one office, it doesn't address the larger problem of the administration resisting oversight.  the snapshot for December 7, 2011:

 Subcommittee Chair Jason Chaffetz:  Before recognizing Ranking Member [John] 
Tierney, I'd like to note that the Defense Dept, State Dept, USAID and SIGIR will not 
have IGs in January.  In May of this year, I wrote the President asking him to move 
without delay to appoint replacements.  That letter was signed by Senators [Joe] 
Lieberman, [Susan] Collins, [Claire] McCaskill and [Rob] Portman, as well as [House 
Oversight Committee] Chairman [Darrell] Issa and Ranking Member [Elijah] Cummings
 and Ranking Member Tierney.  I'd like to place a copy of htis record into the record.  
Without objection, so ordered.  To my knowledge, the President has yet to nominate 
any of these replacements, nor has he responded to this letter.  I find that totally 
unacceptable.  This is a massive, massive effort.  It's going to take some leadership
 from the White House.  These jobs cannot and will not be done if the president fails 
to make these appointments.  Upon taking office, President Obama promised that his
administration would be "the most open and transparent in history." You cannot 

achieve transparency without inspectors general.  Again, I urge President Obama and 
the Senate to nominate and confirm inspectors general to fill these vacancies  and
 without delay.

The IGs are important positions and you can't have true oversight without them -- that also means you can't have true oversight with an 'acting' IG. 

Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee.  Her office issued the following today:

Friday, March 08, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office

Senator Murray’s Statement on Army Review of Behavorial Health Diagnoses and Treatment Since 2001
(Washington, D.C.) - Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray issued the following statement on the Army Task Force on Behavorial Health’s Corrective Action Plan that was released after the Task Force did a comprehensive, Army-wide study on mental health diagnoses going back to 2001. The report found significant problems associated with the Army’s efforts to diagnose, evaluate and therefore properly treat soldiers with behavorial health conditions including PTSD. The study’s findings come at a time when the suicide rate among active duty service members is outpacing combat deaths.
Senator Murray asked the Army to initiate the review after hundreds of servicemembers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in her home state had their PTSD and other behavioral health diagnoses overturned by a team of forensic psychiatrists only to have those diagnoses restored after their stories surfaced and Murray asked for their cases to be reviewed. The episode allowed Senator Murray to continue to push the Army and the Pentagon on the lack of any uniform approach to properly diagnosing and treating behavioral health conditions in the military.
“I am pleased that the Army completed this review and has vowed to make fixes over the next year, though I am disappointed it has taken more than a decade of war to get to this point. Many of the 24 findings and 47 recommendations in this report are not new. Creating a universal electronic health record, providing better rural health access, and standardizing the way diagnoses are made for instance have been lingering problems for far too long. Our servicemembers and their families deserve better.
“The sheer number of changes this report recommends is indicative of the size and scope of the problem. This report lays out shortcomings in diagnosing, identifying, and providing standardized care for PTSD and a wide range of behavioral health issues. It also focuses on the painfully long delays that have plagued a joint disability system that many servicemembers and their families have given up on. And, according to those who led this review and are tasked with implementing these changes, this isn’t an issue of not having the resources to make changes. Instead, it is simply a matter of problems that have been allowed to persist while far too many soldiers fell through the cracks. That is unacceptable.
“I’ve made clear to Army Secretary McHugh that I want the most aggressive solutions to these problems, not just what checks a box so they can say they fixed the problem. If we continue to simply react to these problems as they arise we’ll never succeed in fully enacting the systematic changes that are necessary. The only way to truly make headway on reversing the troubling trends we have seen, including the fact that suicide deaths continue to outpace combat deaths, is to change the culture associated with identifying and treating behavioral health conditions.
“This report came about because servicemembers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state were left to fend for themselves in a system that was broken and penalized them for having PTSD. At JBLM, hundreds of servicemembers saw their PTSD diagnoses reversed or changed, and it became abundantly clear that the DoD had no uniform system for diagnosing or treating these invisible wounds. My commitment to those servicemembers and their families at JBLM continues to be that I’ll do everything possible to ensure that military families like theirs never have to go through what they did in Washington state or elsewhere. And that is exactly why I pushed for this study and why I will continue to push Secretary Hagel and Secretary McHugh to make the changes needed to properly diagnose and treat all servicemembers.
“I believe that the Army wants to do the right thing by the soldiers who have sacrificed so much for us, and that the corrective action they are taking now is not solely the result of political pressure. Though there are places where the action plan could go further, I believe this plan is a good starting point to make real changes for our soldiers. I intend to get regular updates on the progress the Army makes in implementing the solutions in this study and will hold them to their word on completing these recommendations in a timely fashion.”

Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct
Twitter: @mmcalvanah

zaid sabah

qassim abdul-zahra

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Barack and labor

Thursday, almost the weekend.  It was pizza night and I don't know if I ate too much or what but I'm about to fall over.  I used to wait at Elaine's office until group was over.  (She has her veterans group on Thursday night.)  Now that we have our daughter, I'm here at home with our daughter and she's in bed shortly before Elaine gets here.  But I'm about to get into bed myself.  I'm sleepy.

I will take a second to note Shamus Cooke who has a piece demonstrating he's on to Barack

Obama has continued this rightwards trajectory, while portraying himself brilliantly as the “lesser evil” compared with the more honest anti-union rhetoric of the Republicans. He fulfilled none of his promises to labor in 2008, and essentially ignored all labor issues in his 2012 campaign. Labor leaders misinterpreted Obama as playing “hard to get,” when in fact the Democratic Party had already moved on.
To prove his fidelity to his new crush, Wall Street, Obama has made it a pet project to target the most powerful union in the country — the teachers’ union — for destruction. Obama’s innocent-sounding Race to the Top education reform is in actuality an anti-union dismembering of public education, with its promotion of charter schools and its mass closings of public high schools that Obama labels as “failing.” Bush, Jr.’s anti-union No Child Left Behind looks innocent compared to Obama’s education “reform.”
In fact, Obama has overseen the worst environment for organized labor since Ronald Reagan. But the problem is bigger than Obama. It’s the entire Democratic Party. For example, Democratic governors across the United States continue to work in tandem with Republicans in weakening public employee unions — the last bastion of real strength in the labor movement.
The Democrats have chosen to blame labor unions for the economic crisis and the consequent budget deficits affecting the states. These deficits have been used to attack the wages, health care, and pensions of public employees on a state-by-state basis, fundamentally weakening these unions while skewing the labor market in favor of the employers.

So think about that and I'm going to sleep.

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

Thursday, March 7, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, exploding phone charges leave 10 children injured, the American press decides to ignore reports of War Crimes, the Pentagon shows a little interest, however, International Women's Day is tomorrow, Nouri celebrates it today by attacking various groups verbally, and more.

Tomorrow (March 8th) is International Women's Day


This year's theme is "Gaining Momentum."  Alsumaria reports that Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq, gave a speech today in honor of International Women's Day at the Rashid Hotel in Baghdad.  Whatever the intent, the speech wasn't about Iraqi women.  He denounced the protesters (protests have been going on since December calling out his leadership, among other things).  He denounced the Parliament (dubbing ti "complacent") and he verbally attacked neighbors, pointing to Arab Spring countries and insisting that Iraq didn't want to end up suffering as those countries were -- in his words --  ""  "suffering now as wives, mothers, sisters, girls, workers, home makers" -- they suffer as the country suffers.  One woman they write of saw her husband killed in the sectarian violence, saw her daughter killed in a bombing and now, despite advanced age and illness, she is left to raise her grandchildren. Attorney Dina Abdel al-Ghafir speaks of the brutality and injustice Iraqi women face and notes that some of it is due to what has been put on the books and what is tolerated such as the so-called 'honor' killings -- where a woman is killed for actions that supposedly disgraced the family.

That's Nouri's idea of giving a speech to note the occasion of International Women's Day.

Mahmoud Raouf and Inez Tareq (Al Mada -- Tareq took the photo for the story) report Iraqi women suffer "as wives, mothers, sisters, girls, workers, home makers" -- they suffer as the country suffers.  One woman they write of saw her husband killed in the sectarian violence, saw her daughter killed in a bombing and now, despite advanced age and illness, she is left to raise her grandchildren. Attorney Dina Abdel al-Ghafir speaks of the brutality and injustice Iraqi women face and notes that some of it is due to what has been put on the books and what is tolerated such as the so-called 'honor' killings -- where a woman is killed for actions that supposedly disgraced the family.

At the end of last month, Haifa Zangana (Guardian) wrote about the state of Iraqi women:

The plight of women detainees was the starting point for the mass protests that have spread through many Iraqi provinces since 25 December 2012. Their treatment by the security forces has been a bleeding wound – and one shrouded in secrecy, especially since 2003. Women have been routinely detained as hostages – a tactic to force their male loved ones to surrender to security forces, or confess to crimes ascribed to them. Banners and placards carried by hundreds of thousands of protesters portray images of women behind bars pleading for justice.

[. . .]

No wonder, ten years after the invasion, the Iraqi authorities are accused by US-based Human Rights Watch of "violating with impunity the rights of Iraq's most vulnerable citizens, especially women and detainees". HRW's account is echoed by a report by the Iraqi parliament's own human rights and women, family and children's committees, which found that there are 1,030 women detainees suffering from widespread abuse, including threats of rape.
Responding to these findings, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki threatened to "arrest those members of parliament who had discussed the violence against women detainees". Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani has acknowledged that there are 13,000 prisoners in custody accused of terror offences, but he only mentioned women detainees in passing:
"We transferred all women prisoners to prisons in their home provinces."
Al-Shahristani's statement is one in a long list of contradictory and misleading statements by the regime's most senior officials – from al-Maliki speaking of "not more than a handful of women terrorists", to his contradictory promise that he will pardon all "women detainees who have been arrested without a judicial order or in lieu of a crime committed by some of their male relatives". That assurance was followed by parading nine women, cloaked in black from head to toe, on the official state TV channel, al-Iraqiya, as a gesture of the regime's "good will".
Protesters and Iraqi human rights organizations estimate that there are as many as 5,000 female detainees. The truth is leaking out, drip by drip. A few weeks ago, 168 women detainees were released and there were promises of another 32 waiting to be released. No one accused of torture, rape or abuse has yet been brought to justice.

On HUFFPOST LIVE yesterday, Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani spoke with four guests: Yifat Susskind of MADRE, UK human rights lawyer Jessica Crosi, Meeting Resistance director Steve Connors (he and Molly Bingham directed the documentary) and Rudaw correspondent Namo Abdulla.  Modarressy-Tehrani noted Haifa's piece for the Guardian and attempted to address many topics covered in the article.  Excerpt.

Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani:  I mean supposedly when al-Maliki came in, he installed a Women's Affairs Minister, Abithal Alzidi.  But she seems to actually be sort of the worst of all when it comes to sort of pushing forward for greater women's rights in Iraq.

Namo Abdulla:  I agree on that point, Caroline.  And I thank you so much for having this show at this time.  It's very timely.  Actually, two days ago, we just had a report issued by the Kurdish [Regional] Government about violence against women in that region.  I mean, it's very difficult to get statistics about the rate of violence happening against women in Iraq but in Kurdistan which is [safer? -- feed cuts out] you can get it.  Because that region is also considered to be more socially progressive, I think we have multiply that by two or more to get an accurate picture of how Iraq looks like for women.   But the government [KRG], it's a government body so it also may not publish -- [phone ringing] sorry -- so this is a government body and it says

[. . . we're editing out the phone issue -- it was Steve Connors' cell phone.]

Naom Abdulla:  This government agency says that only in 2012, 3375 cases of sexual harassment have been filed to this government agency.  That's more than 10 cases a day.   And it also says that 47 people have been murdered.  43 women committed suicide.  Most of them burned themselves to death.  Only in four provinces of Iraq which is the safest part of Iraq.  So basically this is the situation there.  And, uh, I wanted to go back to Jessica.  Jessica raised the point, she said that I don't think under Saddam Hussein there was any human rights.  And we all agree, of course, Saddam Hussein was an evil, right?  He was probably one of the worst evils in the history of human beings.  But objectively speaking, women had more rights before 2003 or before 1991 than after 2003.  And I was recently looking at some historical records, Caroline, which is very interesting and they really astonished me.  I want to share it with you.  For example, UNESCO says as of 1987, 75% of Iraqi women were literate, they could read and write.  By 2001, this number dropped to less than 25%

Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani:  I mean that and itself, I think, it's a -- it's a really stark point and I think it just shows how people who were against the war, this is exactly the sort of thing that they were talking about.   (A) Whether or not we had jurisdiction to go there in the first place, which is a whole other conversation.  But (B) the notion of having no plan, a lack of a robust plan for afterwards.  And, in fact, I want to sort of bring you in here now and just ask when it comes to this situation for Iraqi women specifically, you know, who's to blame?  David Wood on HuffPost wrote this piece, "Iraq Reconstruction Cost U.S. $60 Billion, Left Behind Corruption And Waste."  And given what we've just been talking about, would you agree?

Yifat Susskind: Yeah, absolutely.  I mean, there's no question that the US bears tremendous culpability for  -- no exxageration to say -- the destruction of an entire country.  And I think everyone recognizes that the invasion itself was in violation of the UN Charter, completely that the occupation was illegal and, even as an occupier, the US did not meet it's obligations under international law.  For example, to protect Steve's translator from the types of abuses that she faced so quickly after the invasion, right?  As the occupying power, you're responsible to protect everyone's human rights in the territory that you occupy.  We know that in real life that rarely occurs.  But the difference here is that the US went to war in Iraq and waged this occupation under the banner of human rights --

Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani:  Right.  Exactly.

Yifat Susskind:  -- and under the banner of making the situation better for people suffering under the regime of Saddam Hussein and in particular for women

Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani:  Well that's, that's --

Yifat Susskind:  -- and I think that that's --

Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani:  Sorry to interrupt but that's one of the things, obviously, with this Human Rights Watch report, one of the things that they were specifically talking about were the female detainees.  And it's something that we've sort of skirted around -- and the conversation  I wanted to get to right now.  You know, women have routinely been detained as hostages and the protesters in Iraqi human rights organization estimate that there are as many as 5,000 female detainees in Iraq at the moment and these are women who have been taken hostage when their sons, their husbands, their uncles, the male members of their family who are considered by the government to be terrorists are not able to be found for whatever reason.  And obviously we had the breaking story today from the Guardian about the Pentagon's link to Iraqi torture centers with Col  James Steele sort of being very much at the helm of that.  So is this a case of we went in and now they are basically practicing what we were preaching?  You know, detention, torture seemingly was common place if you read -- if you read the Guardian article.  So, you know, what do you think to that?  Did we just sort of tee this up for female detention to just be happening now?

Yifat Susskind:   Well we didn't just tee this up.  I mean, this is US policy that's being carried forward by the Iraqi government.  It's a -- The Iraqi government, of course, bears responsibility for its actions today but, you know, the Guardian article -- which is presented as an exclusive, as though this is just coming out -- is information that MADRE and other human rights organizations reported on.  We reported on it specifically from the perspective of Iraqi women in 2006 and 2007.  And it was a policy known as the Salvador option, this decision by Steele and [then Gen David] Petraeus and others who were involved -- Steele in particular -- in the US-sponsored wars in Central America -- to use those same tactics of arming and training and funding very repressive militias to carry forward the work of the United States on the ground in those countries and to do that in Iraq by arming and training the Shia militias that, from a human rights perspective, really weren't very different, certainly from their social vision and social agenda for Iraq, not so different from the Sunni militias that were the resistance or the terrorists or whatever your perspective may be.  Politically, they were different in that they were willing to cooperate with the United States and, therefore, they received the support -- regardless of the fact that, yes, they were implicated in torture, in assassinations.  The political parties affiliated with these militias which controlled the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Health.  You know, one of the reasons why we don't have statistics about gender-based violence as you were talking about earlier is because -- and this is not the only reason because this is a problem in many places -- but one of the reasons is that the Ministry of Health has been controlled for a long time by these same, repressive political forces --

Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani:  Right.

Yifat Susskind:  -- such that, you know, women -- to try to get statistics in Baghdad of women who are murdered by their families, go into the Baghdad morgue and make friends with mortuary workers and talk to them about, "Well how many women's bodies that were unclaimed were brought in today?" And making efforts to extrapolate figures that way because there really are no statistics out there, as you were saying, and the violence is, according to women there, epidemic in a way that wasn't the case even under the very brutal regime of Saddam Hussein.

The Guardian report being noted above is the one written by Mona Mahmood, Maggie O'Kane, Chavala Madlena and Teresa Smith and here's an excerpt

The allegations made by US and Iraqi witnesses in the Guardian/BBC documentary, implicate US advisers for the first time in the human rights abuses committed by the commandos. It is also the first time that Petraeus – who last November was forced to resign as director of the CIA after a sex scandal – has been linked through an adviser to this abuse.
Coffman reported to Petraeus and described himself in an interview with the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes as Petraeus's "eyes and ears out on the ground" in Iraq.

The report is getting plenty of coverage around the world.  For example, The Voice of Russia notes, "General David Petraeus, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and other high-ranking US colonels were linked to sectarian police commando units in Iraq that operated secret detention and torture centers to get information from insurgents, according a new 15-month investigation published by the Guardian and BBC Arabic."  Iran's Press TV notes this morning, "Sectarian commando units, operating under direct supervision of American Special Forces veterans, who were involved in the so-called US counter-insurgency efforts against opponents of some of the most brutal Washington-backed dictatorships in Central America, 'conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country’s descent into full-scale civil war,' The Guardian reports Thursday." Gulf News explains, "One of the American figures implemented is Colonel James Steele, who was taked with organising Iraqi paramilitaries in an attempt to quell Sunni insurgency. Membership was drawn from Shiite militias like the Badr brigades, the former military arm of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which was tied to the clerical Al Hakim family.  A second official implicated in the investigation was Colonel James H Coffman, who worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding."   Prensa Latina emphasizes, "Al Samari recalled a specific case in which a 14-year-old child was tied to one of the columns of a book store, with his head between the legs. His body was completely blue, due to the bruises out of the beating he was given, Samari said."  India's leading newspaper, The Hindu, runs a syndicated version of the Guardian article.  Turkey's Hurriyet covers it here. We could go on and on.

The story has the attention of the world's media . . . except in the United States.  As noted this morning, broadcast network TV watchers in the US weren't informed of the story by what passes for news programs in the country -- not on  CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, not on  ABC World News with Diane Sawyer, not on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and not on PBS' The NewsHour.

But let's not pretend that it's just broadcast networks.  At The Nation's website, six articles are given heavy play at the top with and 22 more ones are played out on the site's 'front page.'   28 articles and not one is about the revelations of the Guardian's report.  The Progressive can't find time or space for it either.

A US blackout on the article appears to exist leaving many Americans unaware of what happened.  For instance, Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) offers today:

If there were any lingering doubts about whether the former US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, should be indicted before a criminal court, evidence that he asked a veteran of American dirty wars in central America to help set up vicious sectarian militias in Iraq should end them once and for all.
A Guardian investigation reports that Colonel James Steele, a special forces veteran, was nominated by Rumsfeld to help organise paramilitaries to quell a growing Sunni insurgency in Iraq. Steele reported directly to Rumsfeld. The paramilitary groups were drawn from Shia militia and set up detention centres where Iraqis were tortured.

If most Americans hear that there was a call to hold Rumsfeld accountable, they wouldn't know what this was over.  B-b-but surely Last Journalist Standing Amy Goodman devoted significant time to the issue, right?

Here is Goody's coverage in full:

The Guardian of London has revealed new details on the Bush administration’s support for sectarian militias in its bid to defeat the Iraqi resistance after the 2003 invasion. The Guardian reports a key U.S. Army colonel behind the effort, James Steele, had firsthand knowledge of brutal torture carried out by Iraqi surrogates but did nothing to stop it. Speaking to The Guardian, an Iraqi general said Steele was unfazed when the torture of a young prisoner interrupted his lunch.
Munthader al-Samari: "One of the detainees was screaming. By chance, James Steele was there outside washing his hands. He opened the door and saw the detainee. He was hanging by his legs upside down. James Steele didn’t react at all when he saw this man. It was just normal. He closed the door and came back to his seat in the advisers room."
Steele served as then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s liaison with Iraq’s Special Police Commandos. His stint in Iraq came 20 years after overseeing the U.S. special operations forces that trained government death squads in El Salvador.

That's the tenth out of twelve headlinesDemocracy Now! is an hour long and that's all Goody could spare,  There was a film to promote and other things passed off as 'news' on Goody's government-backed 'report.'

But remember, Goody cares about Bradley Manning --she says.  But she won't cover these revelations -- that Bradley's responsible for.    Deutsche Presse-Agentur points out:

The report said Steele was previously involved in El Salvador as head of a U.S. team of special military advisers that trained units of the Central American country's security forces in counterinsurgency.
The impact of the U.S. backing of the paramilitary forces was that it unleashed a sectarian militia that terrorized the Sunni community and helped stoke a civil war that claimed tens of thousands of lives.
The Guardian/BBC Arabic investigation was sparked by the release of classified U.S. military logs on the website WikiLeaks. Those documents, released by Private Bradley Manning, detailed hundreds of incidents where U.S. soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centers run by the police commandos across Iraq.

Bradley's court-martial is supposed to start in June.  Victoria A. Bronworth (The Advocate) weighs in noting:

What many legal scholars have questioned as Manning approaches the end of his third year in detention is why he was charged under the Espionage Act at all—a rarity in American jurisprudence. President Obama has revived the Espionage Act and has prosecuted more people under it than every other president combined since the 1917 law was enacted. Among those prosecuted by Obama was John Kiriakou, the former CIA agent who exposed water-boarding and other "enhanced interrogation" techniques.
President Obama, who pledged as a candidate to protect whistle blowers because they were both courageous and patriotic, has cracked down hard on whistle blowers. Manning in particular has suffered under Obama’s enforcement; he has been treated more like the enemy combatants in Guantanamo than an American citizen and soldier.
Manning has been denied many elements of due process throughout his detention and preparation for trial. During the period of solitary confinement even Red Cross International, which petitioned to check on his well-being, was denied access to him, as were several Democratic members of Congress who asked to see him. The documents related to his trial have been kept secret, even though they should be a matter of public record. Manning has been described as depressed and for a significant period of time was on suicide watch.
Except for the Nobel Peace Prize nomination, Manning seems to be a forgotten American hero.

The Washington Blade notes, "Pink News reported a group of Icelandic parliamentarians, the Pirates of the EU, members of the Swedish Pirate Party and a former Tunisian government minister nominated Bradley Manning."
As Betty pointed out last night, Barack could call off the hounds at any time and she also offered, "I really think if he got the Nobel Peace Prize this year it would put a lot of pressure on Barack to pardon him or drop the case altogether."   Brandon Muncy (Daily Athenaeum) explains what's going on this way:

Imagine spending more than 1,000 days and nights imprisoned, mostly in solitary confinement.
Imagine that most of the human contact you had was with the individuals who stripped you naked at night and did not return your clothes until the next morning.
Imagine you had not even been convicted of a crime, yet these were the conditions you faced every day and night for nearly three years while you awaited trial.
Imagine that the so-called "crimes" you committed were for simply telling people the truth about their government.
This has been the reality for Bradley Manning, the man who recently pleaded guilty to 10-22 criminal counts levied against him in the investigation of the WikiLeaks scandal, as he awaits his day in court, tentatively scheduled for June 2013.

Here's another imagine: Imagine you were the one who discovered the way the Iraqis were being treated -- after Saddam Hussein had been driven from power.  Imagine these were your words:

I felt we were risking so much for people who seemed unwilling to cooperate with us, leading to frustration and hatred on both sides. I began to become depressed at the situation we found ourselves mired in year after year. In attempting counterinsurgency operations, we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists.  I wanted the public to know that not everyone living in Iraq were targets to be neutralized.

Would you have stayed silent?  Or would you have leaked?

Those were Bradley's words last Thursday to the military court.  He wanted the public to know.  At what time is appreciation for that shown by supporters who will actually take the time to address the very offenses which took place in Iraq and so shocked Bradley that he would risk himself to get the word out on what had been done and was being done?

Mona Mahmood, Maggie O'Kane, Chavala Madlena, Teresa Smith, Ben Ferguson, Patrick Farrelly, Guy Grandjean, Josh Strauss, Roisin Glynn, Irene Basque, Marcus Morgan, Jake Zervudachi and Joshua Boswell (Guardian) note:

The investigation was sparked over a year ago by millions of classified US military documents dumped onto the internet and their mysterious references to US soldiers ordered to ignore torture. Private Bradley Manning, 25, is facing a 20-year sentence, accused of leaking military secrets.
Steele's contribution was pivotal. He was the covert US figure behind the intelligence gathering of the new commando units. The aim: to halt a nascent Sunni insurgency in its tracks by extracting information from detainees.
It was a role made for Steele. The veteran had made his name in El Salvador almost 20 years earlier as head of a US group of special forces advisers who were training and funding the Salvadoran military to fight the FNLM guerrilla insurgency. These government units developed a fearsome international reputation for their death squad activities. Steele's own biography describes his work there as the "training of the best counterinsurgency force" in El Salvador.
Of his El Salvador experience in 1986, Steele told Dr Max Manwaring, the author of El Salvador at War: An Oral History: "When I arrived here there was a tendency to focus on technical indicators … but in an insurgency the focus has to be on human aspects. That means getting people to talk to you."
But the arming of one side of the conflict by the US hastened the country's descent into a civil war in which 75,000 people died and 1 million out of a population of 6 million became refugees.

Though the US press ignored the big news yesterday, the Defense Dept did catch it.  Ewen MacAskill and Mona Mahmood (Guardian) report, "The Pentagon is investigating allegations linking the US military to human rights abuses in Iraq by police commando units who operated a network of detention and torture centres."  Ben Emmerson (Guardian) observes today, "The investigation by the Guardian and the BBC into direct Pentagon involvement in the systematic torture of Sunni insurgents in Iraq is a bloody reminder of the catastrophe that the 2003 invasion wreaked on the people of Iraq. It also a key reason behind the decade of sectarian violence the war has left in its wake."

Last night, Trina noted that the Archbishop of Kirkuk, Luis Sacko had been named Iraq's new Patriarch.  She offered, "I hope this is the start of a better time for them [Iraqi Christians] and that the attacks are in the past.  October 31, 2010 was the worst attack when Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was attacked and over 50 worshipers were killed.   But that was only the most infamous attack.  Like other religious minorities in Iraq, the Christian population has just been targeted over and over.  The Jewish population?  You can count it on one hand and have fingers left over.  The Jewish population has been run out of the country.  I want the Iraqi Christians to be safe so I will not say, "I hope they are not run out of their own country."  I would prefer that to them being killed in Iraq."  Aid to the Church in Need notes today that Sako has already had to issue a call for Iraqis not to flee the country.

Violence?  Saturday, March 2nd included this news, "All Iraq News reports [. . .]  that Baghdad is warning that there is a new weapon, explosive mobile phone chargers."   Today All Iraq News reports today that ten children (ages ten to twelve)  were injured by "improvised explosive charges of cell phones" in Baghdad -- nine lost fingers and one was left with a face injury.  The phone charges are left -- with bombs in them -- on the streets.  Children pick them up and, as they're touched, they explode.

Alsumaria reports an armed attack in Kirkuk has claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured,  and a Mosul car bombing left three soldiers injured.  National Iraqi News Agency adds another Kirkuk attack left 2 Sahwa dead and a third injured,  a Mosul home invasion in which 1 Iraqi soldier was killed and his wife was left injured, a home invasion of an officer with the Baquba Sahwa left the officer dead, a Baquba roadside bombing left two police officers injured, an armed attack on a Baghdad police station left 1 police officer dead and three civilians wounded,  that 1 police officers corpse was found in Tirkit, and 5 corpses were found in Hilla (like the corpse in Tirkit, the Hilla corpses were of people shot dead).

the washington blade
democracy now
amy goodman