Saturday, March 16, 2013

Talking Iraq Roundtable

C.I.: This is an Iraq roundtable.  From time to time, over the years, we've done these on Iraq and on Afghanistan.  This roundtable will go up at all the sites of the people participating.  It was last minute.  Here's who is participating:  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim and Ava;  Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts; Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. and
I'm C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review.  A few basics.  Ava is taking notes.  When I'm not speaking, I'll be helping her there.  We thank her for the note taking.  Her stipulation for participation was she didn't want to speak.  That's more than fine.

 From Samarra من سامراء

C.I. (Con't): We're using as an illustration a photograph of brave Iraqis in Samarra holding a message for the world -- and this photo belongs to Iraqi Spring MC. They are the official voice for the Iraqi Spring.  The message is four sentences: "Obama, If you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us? Wake Up, this is an IRAQI REVOLUTION Not a Sectarian One! Iraqis Did not Vote for an Iranian Dictatorship Women Rights in Democratic Iraq Are NON-EXISTENT!"

Marcia: What I found interesting was that the sign was in English -- and I was briefly puzzled, but then Ava told me --

Ava: To get the message out in the US, you pretty much have to put it in English.  We're not France or Germany in that we can claim to speak multiple languages in large numbers.

Marcia: And of everyone participating in this, C.I.'s the only one who reads and speaks Arabic.  Let me clear that up, we don't read it and we don't speak it.  Rebecca, Elaine, Ann, Ruth, Ava and Wally speak more than one language.  And for a group our size, that may be out of the norm -- we should probably, to be fully representative of America, have fewer who speak more than just English.  But that was smart of the protesters to realize that and I really love that we'll all be reposting this roundtable at our sites and the thing that even the casual observer will see is this massive protest in Samarra and the sign they're holding.

Ann: I think it was also smart to put Barack Obama into the sign.  It's smart because he does have a responsibility but it's also smart because it grabs Americans and plays on the reality that we are responsible -- along with England and Australia -- for the illegal war.  I think it's smart and great that it gets Barack's name up there right at the start.

C.I.: You're saying, Ann, that there is guilt to be shared in America and that it plays to that guilt.

Ann: Right.  It pulls you in.  As an American, I read it and know my country started this continuing crime against the Iraqi people and by bringing in the American leader and basically saying, "What are you going to do?" -- it kicks the responsibility over to where it belongs. 

 Ruth: I agree and I am also impressed with the size of the turnout.  This has been going on for months now, correct?

C.I.: Yes, since December 21st.  Prior to that, in December, Moqtada al-Sadr, cleric and movement leader, had been insulted by Nouri al-Maliki, thug and prime minister.  This had led his followers to take to the streets in large numbers.  But in terms of ongoing protests, it's December 21st.

Ruth: And they have grown.  They are sizable and this despite the fact that these protesters are targeted by Nouri's forces.

Cedric:  January 25th, they were assaulted in Falluja and nine were killed.  March 8th, 3 were killed in the attack in Mosul. And they were attacked by Nouri's forces.  It's really amazing that we're sending Nouri weapons, we're spending billions of US dollars to prop up his government and he's attacking his own people.

Kat: It really is pathetic.  And we were forewarned.  What did Joe Biden say?

C.I.: When he was still in the Senate?

Kat: Uh-huh.

C.I.: April 10, 2008 he noted that the US was being asked "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and, among other things, "We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist."

Kat: And now he's vice president.  And I'd just love an interviewer to read those comments back to him and ask him what the hell he thinks the US is doing in Iraq today?  And I'm sick of liars like R. Jeffrey Smith -- in fact, since 2008, the so-called Center for Public Integrity has been one big joke.

Jim: I agree with you about the laughable Center for Public Integrity.  What did Smith do?

Kat: Wrote an idiotic article.  To believe his garbage and others, you have to be monumentally stupid and believe the US stopped spending money in Iraq under Bush.  It didn't stop spending in 2011.  It still spends.  And we've got no real oversight of that money so you'd think a real reporter would be noting that.  R. Jeffrey Smith is just another partisan whore, he's not a reporter.

Trina: Like Kat, I'm sick of all that crud.  I'm sick of these jerks and asses who think they can write their anti-Bush rhetoric and pretend like they did something.

Ava: Jumping in again even though I said I wouldn't.  Trina, you're not saying you're pro-Bush, clarify that because some reader will misunderstand.

Trina: Thank you.  No, I'm not pro-Bush.  But I'm sick of these writer who write their partisan whoring.  There's a lot to blame Barack on -- and not just voting on all the funding as a senator.  There's a lot to blame him on as president.  It's when he's president that Nouri loses the vote but Barack forces him off on Iraqis -- via The Erbil Agreement -- as a prime minister for another term.  It is under Barack, not Bully Boy Bush, that Iraq's Emo youth and LGBT community is targeted with death in such ghastly and public ways that it actually gets serious media attention.  And the White House response?  Never to speak of it.

Marcia: I see something like that and just wonder how anyone can get away with that.  Barack has been so awful for human rights around the world.  And with Iraq wanting those F-16s next year -- over 30 in all -- I'd say the White House could do a lot to improve human rights in Iraq by setting serious conditions before the delivery of even one jet.

C.I.: Last week, Ruth wrote "Brett McGurk spits in Iraqi women's faces,"  Rebecca, any thoughts?

Rebecca: Brett McGurk was Barack's third nominee to be US Ambassador to Iraq in Barack's first term.  He didn't become the ambassador.  Turned out, he had an inappropriate relationship with a reporter, Gina Chon, while he was in Iraq during the Bush years.  In Iraq, there is such a thing as 'honor' killings.  That's where someone thinks I've brought disgrace to our family so a family member kills me.  Brett McGurk is now known in Iraq as the adulterer.  As the American who came to Iraq and didn't respect the sanctity of marriage.  To be clear, I've divorced multiple times.  I'm not talking here about my own values.  I'm talking about Iraq.  Which would have been the host country if McGurk had been confirmed as ambassador.  Now it's being reported that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran will be McGurk.  As you've pointed out, there's no way he goes to Iraq and women are comfortable around him.  They have a private meeting with him and it's "Slut! You've disgraced the family!"  And the woman could be killed just for meeting -- or being thought to have met -- with Brett McGurk.  Why would you want to select anyone for a post if you knew that half the country would be unable to interact with the person?

Isaiah: What McGurk has going for him in Barack's mind is that McGurk and Nouri are tight.  Iraqiya lodged a complaint when the administration first announced McGurk was the nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq.  This time around, I think if they were to launch a campaign like, "Keep Iraqi women safe, Keep Brett McGurk out of Iraq," it would be enough to kill his chances of being the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran.

C.I.: Isaiah, why do you feel that Barack sees the close relationship McGurk and Nouri have as a good thing?

Isaiah: Because Barack's primary goal is to preserve Nouri as prime minister.

Wally: Right, they're not even -- the administration -- saying anything about Nouri's decision to run for a third term.  That's not announced but it's known by the fact that the law Parliament just passed limiting the prime minister to two terms is one Nouri keeps appealing to the federal court.

Stan: And as Wally knows, it also -- that law -- covers the president of Iraq and the Speaker of Parliment.  All three are limited to two terms.  The Constitution already limited the president.

Wally: Right.  What we see under Barack is a disregard for the safety and comfort of the Iraqi people.  He just wants to keep the puppet installed and he will -- and he has -- overlook anything in order to keep Nouri in power.

Stan: I feel very sorry for the Iraqi people.

Wally: Support.

Stan: They went to the polls in 2010 and their voters were tossed aside because Barack had to have Nouri get a second term.  Can you imagine that? Some pushy foreigners invade your country, tear it apart and tell you, 'hey, we brought you democracy!'  Then you go to vote in the elections, you risk violence, and what happens is that your vote gets tossed aside because those same damn foreigners who invaded now refuse to let your country's voice be heard.  How could you even use the term democracy after that except as a punch line to a bad joke?

C.I.: Strong points all.  Stan, last week you wrote about counter-insurgency in  "What the US government did in Iraq," Did you want to talk about that?

Stan: Well you and Ava covered the documentary  James Steele: America's Myster Man In Iraq   in "TV: The War Crimes Documentary" and I think that really captures it.  My point in writing that post was really just to be on record calling out counter-insurgency.  And I think if people really gave a damn about political prisoner and whistle blower Bradley Manning, they would talk about the realities of counter-insurgency.  That doesn't happen and so I wanted to be on record and I also wanted to back up you and Elaine who have covered this topic for years.

C.I.: I agree with you, Stan, it is important to be on the record opposing counter-insurgency.  It amazes me that we think a 'debate' is on whether it's effective or not and not on how outrageous war on a native people itself is.  Mike, Elaine and Betty haven't spoken yet.  So, as we wind down, I want to toss to them.  What is the story that stands out most to you with regards to the Iraq War?  Betty, would you like to go first?

Betty: I certainly would.  I'll go with  the March 12, 2006, gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi.  To me that really was one of the biggest stories.  Also one of the most telling.  For any who don't know, Abeer was a young teenager.  14-years-old.  And American soldiers, with Steven D. Green as ringleader, plotted to rape her.  They entered her family home, the gang-rape began with two soldiers -- one holding Abeer down while the other had his turn at rape -- and Green went into the other room with the parents and Abeer's five-year-old sister.  Abeer was being raped and could hear the gun shots -- and probably the screams -- of her parents and her baby sister as she was being raped.  And how awful that she's being gang-raped but she also knows that she's going to die.  At that moment, she knows.  "I must get out of this"?  That line from Tori Amos' "Me and A Gun."  Where the woman is getting raped and she's thinking about bisquits and anything else to try to leave her body during this horrific crime and she's telling herself "I must get out of this."  But before the gang-rape was over, Abeer knew she wouldn't.  She heard the gun shots and I'm sure there were screams and cries and that she heard those as well. 

Mike: Right.  She hears all of that, like Betty said.  And I agree, there were screams and cries.  Steven D. Green is shooting the little five-year-old girl, the mother and the father.  I would assume that the father being the strongest that he shoots him first.  And that has the mother and daughter screaming and crying.  And Abeer hears that gun shot and the cries and screams.  Then another gun shot.  Then a third.  And nothing.  And then Steven D. Green's in the room and the other two US soldiers step away and Green begins raping Abeer.  And she knows this man raping her is the man who just killed her parents and her kid sister.  And she knows he's going to kill her.  And he does.  Then, to try to hide their War Crimes, they set her body on fire.  It's just disgusting.  And it's really like the story of the illegal war.  America was going to 'help.' And Green was stationed in the corner of Abeer's block to provide security, to 'help.'  And instead, he starts lusting after this 14-year-old girl, staring at her, he can't keep his hands to himself and she complains to her parents and they get a relative who'll take Abeer in.  But the night before she leaves, Green and company break into her house and that's that.

Elaine: I'm going to agree with Betty and Mike.  I think it was telling.  I think Mike's right about how it is basically a metaphor for the US actions in Iraq.   I agree with Betty's logical conclusion that Abeer heard screams and cries while she was being raped -- and gun shots.  But what I'd point out was that we saw the reaction to Abeer.

C.I.: Which was?

Elaine: Silence.  Jane Fonda gave a great speech about her.  But Women's Media Center, which Fonda's a part of, could have amplified the speech, could have given the story life.  They ignored it.  So many other outlets did as well.  There were several military trials of the soldiers involved.  Steven D. Green, the ringleader, had a civilian trial because he'd already left the military.  There was no rush to cover it.  This is after the others have confessed their crimes.  Green is the last one tried.  The Nation wasn't interested, Democracy Now! didn't give a damn.  That's just to name a few.  My point being that the War Crimes -- and that's what was done to Abeer and her family, War Crimes -- were ignored by the bulk of the media.  This let us know how unimportant Iraq was to so many in the press -- no matter how often they used it during a pledge cycle to beg for more money.

C.I.: Okay.  If I missed anyone, now's your chance to say so?  No one.  Okay, I promised Jim he could wrap it up.

Jim: The big takeaway for me with Iraq isn't that the US screwed things up in 2003.  It's that the US continues to screw things up.  The US government has prevented the 2010 election results from being honored, to give one example.  And there's been too much appeasing Nouri.  I want everyone reading this to get that we have called out the appeasement of Nouri al-Maliki. If he gets a third term, as he wants, he's in for life.  He moves from Little Saddam to Big Saddam.  I want people to realize that and realize that it was called out in real time.  The US puppets don't turn into tyrants over time.  They're selected to be installed because they already are tyrants.  And 20 years from now when President Lady GaGa is saying we have to invade Iraq to save the Iraqis from Nouri al-Maliki, I want people to remember that everyone didn't stick their heads in the sand and play dumb in real time.

C.I.: Alright.  Thank you, Jim.  This is a rush transcript and we thank everyone who participated.  Most of all, we thank the Iraqi people for their courage and strength to go on day after day, even after repeatedly facing the wrath of the US government.

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

Friday, March 15, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, even Thug Nouri can't stop the ongoing protests in Iraq, Iraqis continue to suffer, Victoria Nuland is not an uninterested party in the Iraq War, John Stauber returns to tell truth, Iraq Veterans Against the War organizes an event, and more.

From yesterday's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: Yes, can we go to Iraq?

MS. NULAND: We can.
QUESTION: Yes, of course there was a lot of explosions today (inaudible), but on the eve of the war, the Costs of War project by Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University issued an assessment that the war cost $2 trillion – quite staggering – and could conceivably cost $6 billion, with, like, 123,000 civilian Iraqis dead and many, many others.
So I wanted to ask you what – on the 10th anniversary, what are the lessons learned for U.S. foreign policy and indeed, the implications?
MS. NULAND: I think we’ll have more to say as we get closer to the 10th anniversary. But the path to the relationship that the U.S. and Iraq have today has obviously been challenging, but through our sustained efforts, we’ve now forged a strategically important bilateral relationship, one that continues to be a top priority for us, a top priority for Iraq. The challenges are complex. They remain.
But as compared to where we were in the Saddam era, we now have a bilateral security agreement, we have deep economic interests and ties, we have a security relationship, we have a political relationship. Both countries have made enormous sacrifices to get us where we are and to start this new chapter, but we’re committed to Iraq for the long term and we’re committed to its prosperity, its unity and integrity, and to its ability to be a strong democracy in the region.
QUESTION: The Syrian-Iraqi border is becoming a lawless frontier, and in fact, the U.S. is probably aiding the government in trying to control some of the al-Qaida elements that control actually both sides of this frontier. And at the same time, there is a possible breakaway by the KRG, they’re threatening, and so on. I wonder what you’re doing, or if you could share with us some of the things that you are doing, one, to convince the KRG to remain confederated with Iraq, and second, to help the Iraqis control their border?
MS. NULAND: First, with regard to our contacts with the KRG, you know that we maintain a broad and deep relationship with them. We are in constant contact with them, as we are with all of the major leaders and groups in Iraq. And our message to all of them is the same, that the Iraqi constitution calls for a unified country where the groups can coexist, can make political compromises with each other, that there’s a lot of work undone. And we are encouraging all sides to continue the dialogue about how Iraq can move forward, and particularly in the area of completing its work on energy, et cetera, so that all Iraqis can benefit from that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.

UPI turns the above into Iraq being called "better off" by "a U.S. State Department spokeswoman said."

But that's not accurate.  As we noted back in November 2004 when explaining why NPR shouldn't have brought Robert Kagan on to 'analyze' then-Senator John Kerry's run for president on the Democratic Party's ticket:

What is Kagan's conflict of interest appearance? (An issue NPR has still not addressed.) It's not that he writes an op-ed for The Washington Post. Dvorkin does toss out the "hawk" issue but without ever addressing it. But he also doesn't address a very important fact: who is Robert Kagan married to?

He's married to Victoria Nuland. For all I know, she's a wonderful person. But that's not the issue. The issue is who Ms. Nuland works for. Want to take a guess on that?

Did you guess Dick Cheney? If you did, you may be more informed than Dvorkin or Montagne because possibly they are unaware of that fact. Possibly, they haven't done the basic work required -- Montagne to know about the "guest" she is introducing; Dvorkin to address the issue of Kagan as a commentator/interpreter of John Kerry's remarks.

Michele Norris' husband worked for the Kerry campaign. (Warning: we're going down a very basic road here. But apparently, it's not one that NPR can navigate by themselves so let's move slowly to allow them to keep up.) Since Norris' husband is involved with attempting to get what we will call "team A" into the White House, Norris has the appearance of a conflict of interest and her reporting duties can not include commenting or covering the campaigns. That's a simple path to follow whether you agree with it or not.

But with Kagan, the path has a huge u-turn and veers off to God knows where. Kagan's wife works as Cheney's deputy national security adviser. That's Ms. Nuland' s title. So in effect, Ms. Nuland's employed by "team B" -- she's apparently not working on team B's campaign, but she works for team B. Potentially, Kagan has a vested interest in the outcome of the 2004 election.

Robert Kagan is a neocon.  He's the husband of the woman who was Dick Cheney's deputy national security adviser.   Victoria Nuland is a neocon. While she's a State Dept spokesperson -- proving that failure is the only thing DC rewards -- Nuland also was part of the team plotting the Iraq War.  So when UPI bills her just as State Dept spokesperson, that's really not accurate.  Many years ago, Jebediah Reed did an article for Radar about who made money by supporting the Iraq War and The Nation's Jonathan Schell pointed out, "There doesn't seem to be a rush to find the people who were right about Iraq and install them in the mainstream media."  It's really telling how welcoming the 'peace' candidate of 2008 has been to neocons (Robert Kagan's an adviser and his language often pops up in Barack's speeches, such as his 2012 State of the Union speech).

Here we've noted that we could have really become something in the '00s on the left.  Instead, we became the photographic negative image of all we loathed about the right in the nineties.  (We most recently pointed that out here.)  John Stauber, one of the real truth tellers, returns today with a piece at CounterPunch that should shame so many of the faux left:

Think hard.  Think about fundamental, radical, democratic, social and economic change, who might bring it about and how.  Ask yourself if the the rich elite, the 1%, are going to fund that.   Leave The Nation and Mother Jones on the shelf;  turn off Ed Schultz, Rachel Madow and Chris Hayes;  don’t open that barrage of email missives from Alternet, Media Matters, MoveOn, and the other think tanks;  and get your head out of the liberal blogosphere for a couple days.  Clear your mind and consider this:
The self-labeled Progressive Movement that has arisen over the past decade is primarily one big propaganda campaign serving the political interests of the the Democratic Party’s richest one-percent who created it.  The funders and owners of the Progressive Movement get richer and richer off Wall Street and the corporate system.  But they happen to be Democrats, cultural and social liberals who can’t stomach Republican policies, and so after bruising electoral defeats a decade ago they decided to buy a movement, one just like the Republicans, a copy.

His analysis of Occupy will have many crying -- and a few names (especially two attorneys who host a radio show and whored for Occupy) on the left cr**ping their pants.    We'll note the section on the Iraq War:

After the 2004 flop of the Kerry/Edwards campaign, luck shone on the Democrats.  The over-reach of the neoconservatives, the failure to find those weapons of mass deception (sic),  the endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, turned American public opinion,  especially among the young, against the Republicans.  Growing anti-war sentiment, which had little to do with the organized anti-war movement, delivered to the Democrats what Governor Mario Cuomo called “The Gift.”  The horrific Iraq war, he explained to a Democracy Alliance gathering, was the gift that allowed the Democrats to take control of the US Congress.
It was at this point in early 2007 that the truly dark and cynical agenda of the professional Progressive Movement and the Democratic Party revealed itself.  Under Pelosi the Democrats could have cut off funding for Bush’s unpopular wars and foreign policy.  Instead,  with PR cover provided by MoveOn and their lobbyist Tom Matzzie, the Democratic Congress gave George Bush all the money he wanted to continue his wars.  For the previous five years MoveOn had branded itself as the leader of the anti-war movement, building lists of millions of liberals, raising millions of dollars, and establishing itself in the eyes of the corporate media as leaders of the US peace movement.  Now they helped the Democrats fund the war,  both betting that the same public opposition to the wars that helped them win control of the House in 2006 could win the Presidency in 2008.

We didn't get change because change was never defined.  They offered a ink blot that people could project onto. Change means end the war to you?  Oh, sure then, that's what it means?  Strengthening labor unions?  Oh, sure that's exactly what it means!  And to go with the ink blot campaign, a cypher candidate. 

One who has no appreciation for democracy.  The Iraqi people went to the polls in March 2010 and Nouri and his State of Law came in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.  Instead of urging Nouri to step down, Barack Obama backed him for a second term he hadn't earned.  For eight months, the political system was paralyzed because Nouri would not step aside.  Then Barack had officials work on the US-brokered Erbil Agreement which circumvented the Constitution and the will of the people to award Nouri a second term.

Yasmine Bahrani (McClatchy Newspapers) offers a take on the illegal war:
The most common excuse given is that there was bad intelligence. Recently on a documentary called "Hubris: The Selling of the Iraq War" was shown on MSNBC, a major planner of the war, Colin Powell's chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson, said there had been a hoax Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. We wonder whether his "stuff happens" explanation is acceptable.
Personally I was opposed to the war not because I had any inside information but because I worried about my relatives in Iraq. Most of them told me they were glad to be rid of Saddam Hussein, and soon after the invasion, I tried to give the new Iraq a chance. However 10 years on, those same relatives, who were comfortable before the war, still don't have electricity, water or security. Car bombs explode fairly regularly and kill innocents at markets, schools and other civilian locations. Human Rights Watch charges that the regime is violating the rights of vulnerable citizens, especially women and Christians.
They agree life under Saddam Hussein was difficult, but it has become more difficult under Nouri al-Maliki. On the anniversary, the Iraqi people I know are asking why their choice must be limited to the two evils of tyranny and chaos.

Read more here:

Iraqi's have suffered under Little Saddam and, these days, they're beginning to ask questions of Barack.

Obama, If you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us?

Wake Up, this is an IRAQI REVOLUTION Not a Sectarian One!

Iraqis Did not Vote for an Iranian Dictatorship

Women Rights in Democratic Iraq Are NON-EXISTENT!

The above is what was written on a large sign protesters in Samarra carried in today's demonstration.

When will Barack hear the voices of the Iraqis, crying out for freedom?  As he continues to arm Little Saddam (Nouri al-Maliki), as plans continue to provide Nouri with F-16s, it's really past time Americans said "NO!" to supporting authoritarian regimes.  Protesters have been shot dead for the 'crime' of protesting.  But still the protests continue.  At what point does the US President recognize the suffering and stop playing footsie with Nouri al-Maliki?

Who knows but the protesters got a little more support today with photographic evidence of Abu Ghraib -- now back under Iraqi management.  In this photo, is that guard carrying an actual rubber hose?  That's what it appears.  There are several photos Iraq Revolution has posted of Abu Ghraib.  Is that supposed to pass for morning prayers?  The US Gulag at Guantanamo Bay doesn't even (publicly) allow the prisoners to be forced into that mockery and desecration of morning prayers as evidenced by this Reuters photo by Deborah Gembara.  Why do they protest?  Maybe one answer is found in Mustafa al-Kadhimi's report for Al Monitor:

It was not easy for Bashir Ali, 55, to recall what he lived through when he was in the prisons of Saddam Hussein’s regime during the 1980s. He could not hold back his tears when he recalled being raped to force him to confess for plotting against the regime and for belonging to the Islamic Dawa party. But when he compares Iraq back then to what it is today, what he says is surprising: “Ten years after Saddam Hussein’s regime has ended, what we have is not better.”
Ali, a Shiite from southern Iraq, is an unusual witness because he does not look at things from the perspective of his personal tragedy. He said, “Today, there are no public services, no security, and Iraq is on the brink of civil war. We are almost at an impasse. Yes Saddam was unjust, but his reign provided security and public services. The regime that succeeded him has betrayed our dream in having security and stability.”

Today's protests were noted on Twitter:

WOW. Massive protests in #Samara, #Iraq, against Maliki's regime and corruption. Dozens thousands of protesters! …

In Baghdad efforts were once again made  to stop the citizens from exercising their rights to protest -- and, as Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) has previously pointed out -- to stop them from exercising their rights to worship.  Alsumaria notes efforts to prevent worshippers from reaching mosques.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) adds that federal police "used batons and water hoses" in an attempt to prevent Sunnis "from reaching a prominent mosque in northern Baghdad."   Iraqi Spring MC notes that worshipers were prevented from utilizing Ramadan Bridge to enter Adhamiya.  AP notes at least five protesters wounded on the bridge and quotes Abdul-Rahman al-Azzawi stating, "We were showed with water and the policemen started to beat us.  I do not know the reason behind this savage attack.  We were only going to a mosque, not to al-Maliki's office in the Green Zone."  Al Jazeera adds:

Iraqi security forces had prevented worshippers from holding Friday prayers at the mosque last week as well, a development that reflects heightened sectarian tensions nearly a decade after the US invasion of Iraq.
Abdul-Rahman al-Azzawi was among of a group of people who tried to cross the 14th of Ramadan bridge when they were met by security forces.
"We were showered with water and the policemen started to beat us,'' he said.
"I do not know the reason behind this savage attack. We were only going to a mosque, not to al-Maliki's office in the Green Zone,'' referring to the heavily secured quarter in the center of Baghdad where many officials have their offices.

Despite these efforts, National Iraqi News Agency reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and Iraqiya MPs Salman Jumaili and Dhafi al-Aani took part in worship at Abu Hanifa Mosque in Adhamiya. Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi demanded that federal forces open a road to allow the protesters to enter.   Iraqi Spring MC offers a photo of others who made it to the mosque in Adhmiya.

National Iraqi News Agency reports the Ramadi protesters today arrested a man who was attempting to burn protesters cars and they "handed him over to Aljazeerah police station in Ramadi."  They note that, unlike some of the federal forces, they did not torture the man, simply placed him under arrest.  Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) reports from Ramadi:

Along both shoulders of the road, the tribal leaders have erected more than 100 canvas tents, where they display posters with their 17 demands, all couched as fitting within current legal order. There s a threat, however, of other means: A hand-painted banner at a political rally that followed a recent religious servicesummed up the mood best: “Beware the patient man, if he gets angry.”

Read more here:

Protests also took place in Jalawlaa, Baquba, Falluja, Samarra, Baiji and Kirkuk.  On Kirkuk, Sunday, National Iraqi News Agency reported  "the General Coordinator of the popular committees overseeing the sit-ins of Kirkuk Bunyyan Sabbar al-Obeidi was killed today."  Of Sunday's assassination of Bunyan-Obeidi, Alsumaria noted the activist was killed by unknown assailants in a civilian car who began shooting as they passed.  AFP added, "Obeidi’s death comes two days after activists said security forces fired on a demonstration in Mosul, another north Iraq city" --  3 protesters died in Mosul assault last Friday.  At the demonstration in Kirkuk today, protesters held a symbolic funeral for Bunyan-Obeidi and you can see them carrying a coffin in this Iraqi Spring MC video.  Earlier this week, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (Guardian) reflected on the protests:

Every Friday, thousands of peaceful demonstrators have poured into the streets of Ramadi, Mosul and Falluja mimicking the Arab spring protests elsewhere in the region.
In Mosul and Falluja, tent cities have sprung up in public squares. Some have even demonstrated in Sunni areas of Baghdad, braving the draconian Friday security measures imposed on them.
But perhaps more remarkable is the scene inside the tent. Among the tribal sheikhs and activists around Abu Saleh are former enemies and victims, men who feared him and men who hunted him on behalf of the Americans. Sensing an opportunity, Sunni factions have put aside their differences to mount a common front against Baghdad.

Moving over to violence, Yang Yi (Xinhua) reports, "A female Iraqi candidate for the upcoming provincial elections and her husband have been killed in the northern part of the country, police said Friday. Unidentified gunmen killed Kamisa Ahmed Al-Bachari and her husband late Thursday evening when they were returning from a wedding party in Al Arish village, south of Mosul, about 400 km north of Iraq's capital Baghdad, a local police source told Xinhua."  National Iraq News Agency adds that an armed attack on a Tal Afar checkpoint resulted in the deaths of 2 police officers. Alsumaria notes three police officers were injured in a Baghdad mortar attack, 1 police officer shot dead on the streets of Mosul (gun had a silencer on it),  and, dropping back to last night, an attack on a mosque to the south of Falluja left Iman Jbeil Majid al-Issawi deadMu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports an armed attack in Al Rayash in which 8 Iraqi soldiers were killed.  AFP notes a home invasion outside Baquba which claimed the lives of Khalil al-Anjili and 1 son with 2 more killed outside the home -- resulting of 17 Sahwa killed so far this month.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 158 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.

Yesterday saw an attack on the Ministry of Justice.  Adam Schreck (AP) notes Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is calling for an investigation into the attack and stating, "This blatant security violation targeting an important government building in the middle of the capital only shows the weakness of the security forces (and) their limited capabilities,"

Alsumaria reports that Dhi Qar Province announced yesterday their figures for 2012 marriages which included 360 underage marriage.  And when Iraq talks underage marriage, they're referring, as in this article, to girls as young as ten-years-old.

Do not mistakenly picture two little ten-year-olds holding hands, looking like the "Love is . . ." comic strip.  While the  wife may be as young as ten, the husband is generally in his fifties.

These are the figures for one province only.  It's appalling.  It's not a joke, it's not a meet-cute story to be shared years from now.  It is abuse plain and simple.  That's why the United Nations Population Fund has their End Child Marriage initiative.  They note:

Child marriage is a grave threat to the lives and prospects of young girls. It violates their rights, denies them of their childhood, disrupts their education, jeopardizes their health, and limits their opportunities.

The campaign, Too Young to Wed, which launches on the first International Day of the Girl Child, calls attention to this egregious human rights violation. Beyond providing new data and co-sponsoring a high-level panel on this issue, UNFPA is working with governments and partners at all levels of society to deliver comprehensive programmes addressing the needs of vulnerable and married girls.

Start here by getting the facts, watching the videos, viewing the multimedia exhibit and sharing what you know with friends and colleagues.

Child marriage is not cute.  Children need to be children, they don't need to be married off to adults. They don't need to have their learning and their lives stunted or taken away from them.  Extreme poverty is at the root of many child marriages in Iraq.  

And child marriage is only one of the many ways in which females suffer in Iraq.

The International Committee of the Red Cross notes:

ICRC assists female breadwinners who face severe hardship because their husbands have been killed, arrested, disabled by war injuries, or are missing. It helps them to register with the Iraq's welfare system and offers them grants to start small businesses and become financially independent. In 2012:
  • 810 female breadwinners, among them 202 with physical disabilities, representing more than 4,300 beneficiaries, received an ICRC grant;
  • with the support of local NGOs and the ICRC, almost 4,000 female breadwinners (with close to 16,000 dependents) were helped to apply for social assistance. They also received cash payments from the ICRC to offset costs.
The ICRC continued its dialogue with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the authorities concerned to improve the living conditions of female breadwinners.

The Organisation of Women's Freedom in Iraq's Yanar Mohammed pointed out this month, "Iraqi women have witnessed all kinds of crimes and grievances which accompany all wars; first of which is the loss of 10% of the Iraqi female population’s husbands and fathers, leaving more than 3 million women and girls with no source of income or protection, thereby turning them into a helpless population which is deprived of all components of human dignity. In result, 3 million widows and female orphans of war are currently vulnerable to being exploited by the human beasts which were raised inside the green zone to enjoy the riches of Iraq, while depriving the 99% of resources and making sure to trample upon the human dignity of a female population who became victims of trafficking, sexual exploitation, polygamy, and religious pleasure marriages."

You can't talk about the Iraq War without acknowledging what was done to Iraqi women.  As Sami Ramadani (Guardian) observed yesterday, "Women and children pay the highest price.  Women's rights, and human rights in general, are daily suppressed."  The link there goes to Haifa Zangana (Guardian) column from last month 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.

Peter Beaumont (Guardian) reports on the Iraqi women who end up imprisoned:

Sabah Hassan Hussein is still not certain which powerful person or interest she offended. An Iraqi journalist and human rights activist, she says she had been investigating the serious abuse of female prisoners in Tikrit. Although she had not published her allegations she did raise them with Iraqi ministries.
Last year, in events she believes may be connected, Hussein found herself incarcerated in the same jail and suffering similar abuse to the other women.
Tricked into visiting an army barracks in Baghdad, she was arrested and transferred to Tikrit on a trumped-up charge involving the murder of the brother of an Iraqi MP and one of her colleagues who had been kidnapped and killed.The 12-month ordeal that followed, by her account, involved physical and psychological abuse, and included sexual assault.
She says she finally cracked when she was told her 20-year-old daughter, who was brought to speak to her in Tikrit, would be raped if she did not "confess".

On this week's Making Contact, Iraq is explored.  Excerpt.

Yanar Mohammed:  We have turned in the last ten years into a new police state. [. . .]  [W]hat happened in Iraq is that the US administration wanted to empower only those who are on the right [wing] side of the political formula.  And on the right side, it was mostly the Islamists.  And when they dealt with the political groups who are on the ground, they dealt with them in what is understood as the rule of the jungle: Whoever has the biggest militias, whoever has the better ability to kill, those were the ones who are in the Parliament now.  You do not see the political parties that are progressive in Iraq that have a history, have a big membership, you don't see them having any seats.  If we were to go back to 2003 and if there was a political will to allow the times to happen in Iraq all of the political groups should have been empowered in the same way -- and especially the working class groups and the women.  To cut a long story short, they did not want Iraq to become a modern state.  They wanted to become another Saudi Arabia in the region.  Saudi Arabia which is lying on top of a big field of oil which where the state has one function to pull the tabs of oil and to open them in full to the foreign companies.

Of course, Iraqi women have had some 'success' under Nouri's leadership.    Let's drop back to the November 12th snapshot:

Staying with violence, as noted in the October 15th snapshot, Iraq had already executed 119 people in 2012.  Time to add more to that total.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported last night that 10 more people were executed on Sunday ("nine Iraqis and one Egyptian").  Tawfeeq notes the Ministry of Justice's statement on the executions includes, "The Iraqi Justice Ministry carried out the executions by hanging 10 inmates after it was approved by the presidential council."  And, not noted in the report, that number's only going to climb.  A number of Saudi prisoners have been moved into Baghdad over the last weeks in anticipation of the prisoners being executed.  Hou Qiang (Xinhua) observes, "Increasing executions in Iraq sparked calls by the UN mission in the country, the European Union and human rights groups on Baghdad to abolish the capital punishment, criticizing the lack of transparency in the proceedings of the country's courts."

Yes, in Nouri's Iraq, women are executed and put on death row.  Other rights may have withered but Nouri -- like most misogynsts -- will always support the right to proclaim a woman guilty of some crime or 'crime.'

From Amnesty International's new report  [PDF format warning] "Iraq: A Decade of Abuses:"

Men comprise the great majority of prisoners sentenced to death and executed in Iraq but at least 14 women have been executed since executions resumed.  The authorities have reported carrying out 129 executions in 2012, including five executions of women.
The number of women currently on death row is unknown to Amnesty International.  In October 2012, the HHRO reported that at least 18 women were on death row there when they visited the Women's Prison in Baghdad.
Some women prisoners have been on death row for several years, including Wassan Talib, who was sentenced to death in August 2006 after the Central Criminal Court convicted her of murdering members of the security forces, and Samar Sa'ad 'Abdullah, sentenced in August 2005 after she was convicted of murdering several relatives despite her allegations that she was forced to confess under torture in pre-trial detention.

They're represented in mulitples on death row but there's only one woman in Nouri's Cabinet -- and he only named a woman to the post after women publicly rebuked him in January 2011 -- including women in Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's family.

In the United States, next week will see a major event from Iraq Veterans Against the War:


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Another screw up

Thursday.  More Pope Francis news today.  Professor Michel Chossuovsky (Global Research) reports:

In 1973, he had been appointed “Provincial” of Argentina for the Society of Jesus.
In this capacity, Bergoglio was the highest ranking Jesuit in Argentina during the military dictatorship led by General Jorge Videla (1976-1983).
He later became bishop and archbishop of Buenos Aires. Pope John Paul II elevated him to the title of cardinal in 2001
When the military junta relinquished power in 1983, the duly elected president Raúl Alfonsín set up a Truth Commission pertaining to the crimes underlying the “Dirty War” (La Guerra Sucia).
The military junta had been supported covertly by Washington.

And  Kurt Nimmo offers:

Biographer, Sergio Rubin, described Bergoglio’s behavior not so much as complicity as pragmatism. “Rubin said failing to challenge the dictators was simply pragmatic at a time when so many people were getting killed, and attributed Bergoglio’s later reluctance to share his side of the story as a reflection of his humility,” the Associated Press reported on Wednesday after the 76-year old “austere Jesuit intellectual” was elected pontiff.
Moreover, a human rights lawyer, Myriam Bregman, tried to bring Bergoglio to court for the role he allegedly played in the betrayal of two Jesuit priests kidnapped and handed over to an Argentine death squad. The priests were instructed “to leave their pastoral work” following divisions within the Society of Jesus, a Catholic order controlled by the Argentine elite. The Jesuits made the fatal mistake of criticizing the Catholic Church and its close relationship to the military junta (see Michel Chossudovsky‘s article on Pope Francis and the connection to Operation Condor and the Dirty War).
“Bergoglio twice invoked his right under Argentine law to refuse to appear in open court, and when he eventually did testify in 2010, his answers were evasive,” El Mundo reported in November, 2010.

Can you believe this?

It makes you wonder who vetted this man?  Jay Carney and the White House?  This is really shaping up to be a huge screw up.  In fact, we may have entered Harriet Miers territory.

All those days of waiting for the white plume of smoke to show and what were the cardinals doing?  Smoking weed?  It doesn't sound like they were doing their job, not seriously. 

I really think he's becoming an embarrassment and I imagine things will only get worse within the MSM when it begins to seriously cover this.

If you're a Catholic, join me in laughing at how the Church has screwed up again. 

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

Thursday, March 14, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Baghdad was slammed with bombings today, Nouri continues to try to trick the protesters, turns out the US Dept of Veterans Affairs doesn't care if a veteran's contemplating suicide, and more.

Chair Mike Coffman: Dr. Coughlin, on October 23rd, this Subcommittee asked VA how many veterans have self-identified as suicidal and later committed suicide in the follow up study of the national cohort of Gulf War and Gulf Era veterans? On February 19th, VA responded stating, "VA has no evidence to date that any veteran in the study has committed suicide."  Are these the same results you saw in your study?

Dr. Steven Coughlin: Yes, fortunately we did not lose any of the research participants.  As I mentioned in my testimony, my efforts to identify mental health professionals, get involved with the study as co-investigators, place these call backs to vulnerable research participants were initially blocked by my supervisors and that's why I contacted the IRB in writing and also the VA Office of Inspector General.  After a delay of two or three months, we were able to start the call back process and a team of mental health professionals at the Washington DC VA Medical Center did a fantastic job of reaching out to the veteran.  We had vets who had been told by their local VA clinic or hospital that they were not eligible for free health care but, when they called the toll free number and reached somebody in VBA or the VA central office, they were told the opposite.  So the social workers, they were able to sort this out and get them into health care.  These were vulnerable veterans, men and women who major depression or other medical and psychiatric conditions and they needed assistance to get into health care to save their lives.

Yesterday afternoon, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on Gulf War Illness and other issues.  US House Rep Mike Coffman is the Subcommittee Chair,  US House Rep Ann Kirkipatrick is the Ranking Member.  Dr. Steve Coughlin is a whistle blower.  His statements are beyond our scope or space -- in his opening statements, he was interrupted at one point by Coffman who noted he was now over ten minutes with his opening remarks (the limit is five minutes).  But strong coverage of Coughlin's remarks can be found in reports by Steve Vogel (Washington Post), Rebecca Ruiz (Forbes), Patricia Kime (Navy Times), Bryant Jordan ( and Kevin Freking (AP).

Some background on whistle blower Steven Coughlin.  Dr. Coughlin left the VA in December.  Prior to that, he was a senior epidemiologist with over 25 years of experience whose past also included a stint at the Center for Disease Control.  He resigned in December "because of serious ethical concerns."  His work was with the VA's Office of Public Health which conducts studies on veterans and what he found was "if the studies produce results that do not support the Office of Public Health's unwritten policy, they don't release them.  This applies to data regarding adverse health consequences of environmental exposures such as burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan and toxic exposures in the Gulf War.  On the rare occasions when embarrassing study results are released, data are manipulated to make them unintelligible."

In other words, you shouldn't trust VA's past studies on burn pits.

Under the leadership of Senator Byron Dorgan, the  Democratic Policy Committee did important work via a series of public hearings on the burn pits that helped the country and the government understand what burn pits were and what they did to veterans.  Senator Evan Bayh was among those serving on that Committee and he was the first to introduce a bill for a national burn pit registry.  It did not make it through while Bayh and Dorgan were still in the Senate.  If was picked back up and with the help of many and leadership from Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Patty Murray and Ranking Member Richard Burr and House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller and Ranking Member Mike Michaud, it made it through in the final days of 2012.

At a November 12, 2010 DPC hearing, Chair Byron Dorgan went over the burn pit basics.

Chair Byron Dorgan:  Today we're going to have a discussion and have a hearing on how, as early as 2002, US military installations in Iraq and Afghanistan began relying on open-air burn pits -- disposing of waste materials in a very dangerous manner. And those burn pits included materials such as hazardous waste, medical waste, virtually all of the waste without segregation of the waste, put in burn pits. We'll hear how there were dire health warnings by Air Force officials about the dangers of burn pit smoke, the toxicity of that smoke, the danger for human health. We'll hear how the Department of Defense regulations in place said that burn pits should be used only in short-term emergency situations -- regulations that have now been codified. And we will hear how, despite all the warnings and all the regulations, the Army and the contractor in charge of this waste disposal, Kellogg Brown & Root, made frequent and unnecessary use of these burn pits and exposed thousands of US troops to toxic smoke.

None of the DoD regulations were followed.

Burn pits is one of the issues we follow.  Another is suicide.

Dr. Steven Coughlin:  I wish to close with a subject of particular importance to me.  Almost 2,000 research participants from a National Health Study of a New Generation of US Veterans self-reported that they had thoughts in the previous two weeks that they would be better off dead.  However, only a small percentage of those veterans, roughly 5%, ever received a callback from a studied clinician.  Some of those veterans are now homeless or deceased.  I was unsuccessful in getting senior Office of Public Health officials to address this problem in the New Generation study.  I was successful in incorporating these callbacks in the Gulf War survey and they have saved lives. but only after my supervisors threatened to remove me from the study and attempted disciplinary action against me when I appealed the refusal for callbacks to a higher authority.

The VA has many issues and many problems.  It's biggest crisis is the number of suicides.  VA hasn't wanted to track that.  Senator Patty Murray led the effort to get them to do so.  The VA, please understand what the doctor testified too, conducted a survey of veterans of today's wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) and one of the questions clearly was about suicide.  In response to that question -- either by checking off a provided choice or via their own words in an open response -- 5% of the study group stated "that they would be better off dead."  This wasn't a, "Have you ever in your life felt you'd be better off dead?"  Instead, the time frame of the last two weeks was inserted. 

When military and veterans suicides are at a crisis level, the idea that the VA would get these responses but refuse to follow up by calling the 5% back is not just appalling, it's negligence.  And, in fact, this is a medical survey and its overseen by doctors.  That makes it even worse, that makes it medical malpractice.  In order to help the veterans, a callback should always be done.

But if help is just too 'noble' a reason for you, the VA better damn well grasp that any veteran participating in such a survey who did not receive a callback has a group of loved ones who can sue and would most likely win in a court of law.  The law is on their side.  Even more importantly, public opinion would be on their side. 

While it is the right thing, the needed thing to do, a callback is also a cover-your-ass move to prevent a lawsuit.  Who's in charge at the VA?  Is anyone in management doing their job?

"We must recognize and be prepared to address the consequences of that service and bring to bear our best efforts to ensure that they are thoroughly prepared to serve and when they return home we commit to making them whole again."  I'd love to say that was a statement from the VA officials attending the hearing.  However, that's more common sense than all the officials combined had.  Those are the words of Ranking Member Ann Kirkpatrick and the VA needs to take those words to heart.

The first panel was Dr. Lea Steele (Baylor University), Dr. Coughlin, Gulf War veteran Anthony Hardie, and the Chair of the Board of Directors of Huntington Hospital Dr. Bernard Rosof.  The second panel was VA officials: Dr. Victoria Davey, Dr. Maureen McCarthy, Dr. Stephen Hunt, Dr. Gavin West and Tom Murphy.

Chair Mike Coffman:  Dr. Coughlan, your written testimony stated that "On the rare occasions when embarrassing study results are released, data are manipulated to make them unintelligible."  Please explain and cite an example.

Dr. Steven Coughlin:  [. . .  microphone not on] examples can be cited.  The best example that comes to mind is we set out to analyze data from the National Health Study for a new generation of veterans looking at self-reported exposure to burn pits, oil well fire smoke, other inhalation hazards in relation to physician diagnosed asthma and bronchitis.  The initial exposure analyses which were produced by the writing group and statistician showed that a sizable percentage of the deployed veterans had been exposed to burn pit smoke and burn pit fumes were associated with asthma and chronic bronchitis.  Then in a later iteration of the tabulated results, those results were set aside or discarded and the focus was instead on deployment -- deployment status in relation to asthma and bronchitis.  Well those 30,000 deployed vets and those 30,000 non-deployed vets included veterans who served on ships in the Indian Ocean or Philippines or in Germany in hospitals.  In other words, people who were deployed OAF and OIF and served in the war on terror but were never in Iraq or Afghanistan on the ground and had no potential exposure to burn pits.  So the way that the refined results were tabulated, it obscured rather than highlighted the associations of interest.  And I could elaborate if you would like.

Chair Mike Coffman: Okay,   Mr. Hardie, can you explain in your opinion why the research advisory committee believes that -- why the research advisory committee in their latest Institute of Medicine report is flawed?

Anthony Hardie: Yes, thank you for that question.  First, I want to recognize that I believe the researchers -- distinguished researchers like the gentleman sitting next to me were well intentioned.  However, VA staff issued a scope of work and committee charts that radically diverged from the law that effectively prevented -- and also effectively prevented what the committee could consider.  I believe that these helped to prevent the IOM Committee from meeting the expectations of the law.  VA staff directed the panel to do a literature review rather than, as the law directed, focusing on physicians experienced in treating Gulf War Illness.  VA staff knew little such literature exists because of VA's two decades of failures to develop treatments have helped to ensure that fact.  Additionally, most of the presenters to the panel focused on psychosomatic issues, stress as cause and things like relaxation therapies as treatments.  Ill Gulf War veterans who called in to listen to that meeting were naturally outraged.  VA staff were among the presenters to that committee including at least one sitting here today.  VA staff muddied the waters by instructing IOM to include not 91 Gulf War veterans as the law directs but many others.  And, finally, all of this involvement by VA staff is a far cry from the previous claims that these panels operate independent of bias and influence from the contracting agency.

Chair Mike Coffman:  Thank you, Mr. Hardie.  Dr. Rosof, the law requires that VA's agreement with the Institute of Medicine was to "Convene a group of medical professionals who are experienced in treating individuals who served.  in the southwest Asia theater of operations of the Persian Gulf War during 1990 or 1991 and who have been diagnosed with Chronic Multiple System illness or another health condition related to service."  Of the members of your committee, how many have experience in medically treating Gulf War veterans?

Dr. Bernard Rosof: [. . . mike not on] members of my committee who had experience but all of the members of the committee had experience in dealing with Chronic Multiple System illness -- some directly with the veterans who served in those theaters of war.  In addition there are members of the Committee including myself that have been on other IOM committees that have dealt with the issues of Gulf War chronic multi-system illness or illnesses of that sort.  So there were -- There was considerable expertise sitting around the table in addition to methodological expertise to evaluate the literature on best treatments.

We're not interested in the second panel.  The lies weren't even believable.  Five speakers at one VA conference on Gulf War Illness and they all say that it's a psychiatric disorder, even though for the last eleven years the VA has (in writing) recognized that Gulf War Illness is a physical condition?  And Stephen Hunt thinks he can spin and eat up the time pretending a slide shown at that conference stating that Gulf War Illness was all in the head was somehow to provide people with a sense of how things have changed?  I don't like liars.  The VA has played cheaply with people's lives and that's offensive.  Let's stay with burn pits.  Over the weekend, Jeff Glor (CBS Evening News -- link is video and text) reported on burn pits.  Excerpt.

Jeff Glor:  LeRoy Torres was a Texas state trooper and a captain in the Army Reserves when he deployed for a year-long combat tour to Iraq in 2007.

Rosie Lopez-Torres:  The minute he got back, he was hospitalized.  Right when he got back, it was like, "Okay, it's the Iraqi crud."  That's what he kept hearing.  After a few weeks, he started having these breathing attacks and it was the scariest moment ever for us.

Jeff Glor:  LeRoy's wife Rosie says her husband's health issues resulted from exposure to open-air burn pits which the US military used in Iraq and Afghanistan to torch everything from batteries to body parts.  The Dept of Veterans Affairs acknowledged Balad, where Torres was based, disposed of "several hundred tons per day" 

LeRoy Torres: It was very close to the burn pits -- where I was housed at.  But we didn't think nothing of it.

Jeff Glor:  Today, at age 40, LeRoy is barely able to leave bed most days.  His doctors have diagnosed him with a lung disease, constrictive bronchiolitis.  He has a lesion on his brain and cysts in his spleen and groin.

LeRoy Torres:  Sometimes the headaches will last three hours. Sometimes I've had  it where I've had a headache for eight days -- eight days straight.  It's unexplainable. 

Rosie Lopez-Torres:  I remember one night thinking, "Who am I holding?  Like what happened to the man that I married?"  It was at that moment that I thought, "This is it.  I'm going to have to be his advocate."

Jeff Glor:  Rosie launched a website where those exposed to burn pits can register.  She also lobbied Congress to take action.  In January, President Obama signed a law giving the Secretary of Veterans Affairs one year to create a national registry to track potential burn pit victims.

Jeff Glor:  If it wasn't for Rosie Torres, would this law be in existence?

Dr. Anthony Szema: I don't think so?

Rosie Lopez-Torres has shared her family's story many times in an attempt to get the word out and raise awareness.  In January of last year, she wrote about the experience:

For thousands of reservists the story goes like this, the soldier returns from war and immediately the effects of toxic exposure surface like the invisible wounds that they are. The soldier begins seeking treatment at various healthcare facilities only to discover that neither DOD nor VA is acknowledging toxic exposure from particulate matter or burn pits. The only option left if you happen to be blessed with the luxury of private insurance is to seek specialized healthcare in the private sector. Desperately seeking answers to the question of why this once active and healthy soldier can no longer function at the capacity that he/she once did. Why the once healthy father/mother, husband, wife, daughter, son can no longer breathe, why the diagnosis of cancer, why the white matter and the lesions in the brain, the fertility issues, the fatigue, the parasitic infections, the list goes on and on. The family spends their life savings traveling to access specialized healthcare from the physicians they call their heroes. The only healthcare providers brave enough to stand behind the truth of how toxic chemicals affect the body.

The family exhausts all of their finances to gain answers, the soldier can no longer work due to multiple diagnosis and symptoms immediately forcing the once successful career person to give up their life-long dreams. The reservists files an LOD which can take up to two years, the veteran files a claim with the VA which will never grant a rating compensation because there is no category for toxic exposures. All of this forces the family into an abyss of darkness, mental stress, financial stress, and denial of acceptance to their new way of life. The once productive, healthy, and functioning military family is suddenly falling apart at the seams. The gap between VA and DOD for the reservist component of the military service members wounded must be bridged by identifying the needs of those affected immediately. Too many people are losing their homes, their life savings, and their hope, hope in a system that once promised to care for them once they returned.

A friend covered a Senate Veterans Affairs hearing that took place yesterday and was full of praise for Allison Hickey.  I don't like liars.  Hickey's damn lucky that people are so uninformed (that includes my friend) and that I wasn't present so I can't cover it.  If I were, I'd go into her little lie to the Committee that Agent Orange has caused backlogs.  I'd point out her lie to the committee in the previous Congress that the VA had no Agent Orange backlog.  Hickey can be very impressive . . . if you're new to her.  If you've seen her lie once though . . .  I wasn't at that hearing, yesterday morning I was at the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel and we covered the first two panels in yesterday's snapshotKat covered the third panel in last night's "Senate hearing on assault and rape"

Today Baghdad was slammed with a series of bombings today.  Reuters counts at least 25 dead and at least fifty injured. Alsumaria counts 26 dead and fifty-six injured.  Al Arabiya says at least one was a car bomb and that "blasts went off near the foreign ministry, culture ministry and an office of the communications ministry in the Allawi neighbourhood in the centre of the capital."  Adam Schreck, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) add that in addition to a car bomb, it is thought that a suicide bombing also took place.  BBC News reveals, "Reports say least three explosions, including two car bombs and a suicide blast, went off near a building currently housing the justice ministry. A police officer, who was among the security forces sent to clear the building, said about six gunmen wearing police uniforms were still inside the building."  RT elaborates, "Reports said a group of militants wearing police uniforms attempted to storm the Justice ministry building after a series of explosions, including at least two car bombs and a suicide bombing, rocked the area surrounding the ministry."  Norman Hermant (Australia's ABC) notes, "An official in Baghdad's security command centre said three fighters were killed inside the justice ministry building, but ministry spokesman Haidar al-Saadi said the clashes had occurred outside.  An interior ministry official, however, said two fighters were killed in clashes while two others were suicide bombers who blew themselves up, one of whom did so near the justice minister's office."  Employees inside the Ministry of Justice during the attack tell All Iraq News that assailants entered the ground floor and began firing at workers and that "The ground floor of the ministry building is almost completely destroyed and there is blood on the floor."

Yan Yi (Xinhua) counts "at least three explosions."  Yang Yi elaborates with two car bombs and a suicide bomber  and that 1 bomb "was close to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and another near the Ministry of Justice in the nearby a- Salhiyah area, while the third detonated near the building of the communications institute in Alawi area, the [Ministry of Interior] source added.Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) counts four bombings and notes, "Black smoke filled the sky as fires raged for nearly two hours and frantic Iraqis shouted out for their loved ones. One woman screamed, 'My son!'"  Reuters has a photo by Saad Shalash of an Iraqi Red Crescent ambulance carrying victims of the blast.

Alsumaria quotes Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi stating that today's attack on the Ministry of Justice demonstrates the lack of planning and the weakness of the security services.  The US Embassy in Baghdad issued the following statement:

Office of the Spokesman

The U.S. Mission in Iraq Condemns the March 14 Terrorist Attacks on the Ministry of Justice in Baghdad
The U.S. Mission in Iraq condemns in the strongest terms the terrorist attacks today on the Iraqi Ministry of Justice in Baghdad. Our condolences go out to the families of the victims of these attacks, and we hope for the speedy recovery of those injured. The United States will continue to work with the Government of Iraq to combat those who would perpetrate such atrocious and senseless crimes.

Other violence today?  The National Iraqi News Agency notes that a sticky bomb was used to target Hassan al-Daraji (former Governor of Salahuddin Province and a candidate in the local elections which are supposed to take place next month) resulting in the death of his driver and of three people who were in the car with him, 2 people were shot dead in the center of Falluja, a Ramadi roadside bombing left five people injured (three are police officers), and, in Baghdad, assailants shot up the car of a brigadier with the Ministry of the Interior leaving one bodyguard and the driver injured All Iraq News adds a Mosul bombing has injured a member of the federal police and that "the mayor of Muqdadiya District and the Head of the Orphan Charity Foundation, Mohamed Saed al-Kahim, have survived an assassination attempt when an (RBG) rocket targeted their vehicle to the north of Baquba city."

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued the following today:

Baghdad, 14 March 2013 – The United Nations marked the International Women’s Day through a series of activities across Iraq under the theme of ‘Time for Peace, Stop Violence against Women’.
In Baghdad, the State Minister for Women's Affairs, Ms. Ibtihal al-Zaidi, and former and current women members of parliament involved in the ‘Women for Lasting Peace Initiative’ met with UN officials and leaders from the whole political spectrum – including Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, chairman of the National Alliance Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister's Office Hamed Khalif Ahmed – for a roundtable discussion at the UN headquarters on 11 March.
“In the current political climate, it is a strong statement to see women of different political convictions overcoming their differences to speak with one voice to promote a peaceful solution to respond to the protracted political crisis,” remarked the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. Gyorgy Busztin, after the event, which also included live music and an exhibition of paintings by young artists.
Mr. Busztin commended the Government of Iraq for endorsing the National Strategy to Eliminate Violence against Women. He also welcomed the launch, on 12 March, of a Violence against Women Data Gathering and Monitoring System, which marked the successful conclusion of a joint effort by different ministries and non-governmental organizations, with the technical support of the United Nations, to establish a system to provide data to promote evidence-based planning to eradicate violence against women.
“Measurement will help us show the range of problems that women face in Iraq,” said Ms. Frances Guy, UN Women Representative for Iraq. “As government services meet the identified needs, we will be able to measure progress.”

Nice words but the reality is women continue to suffer in Iraq.  They weren't even a member of Nouri's Cabinet until massive uproar in January 2011.  The suffering really can't be prettied up.  Sami Ramadani shares his thought on the pain of the last ten years at the Guardian:

We haven't even counted the dead yet, let alone the injured, displaced and traumatised. Countless thousands are still missing. Of the more than 4 million refugees, at least a million are yet to go back to their homeland, and there still about a million internal refugees. On an almost daily basis, explosions and shootings continue to kill the innocent.

The US and UK still refuse to accept the harmful consequences of radioactive depleted uranium munitions, and the US denies that it used chemical weapons in Falluja – but Iraqis see the evidence: the poisoned environment, the cancer and deformities. Lack of electricity, clean water and other essential services continues to hit millions of impoverished and unemployed people, in one of the richest countries on the planet. Women and children pay the highest price. Women's rights, and human rights in general, are daily suppressed.
And what of democracy, supposedly the point of it all? The US-led occupying authorities nurtured a "political process" and a constitution designed to sow sectarian and ethnic discord. Having failed to crush the resistance to direct occupation, they resorted to divide-and-rule to keep their foothold in Iraq. Using torture, sectarian death squads and billions of dollars, the occupation has succeeded in weakening the social fabric and elevating a corrupt ruling class that gets richer by the day, salivating at the prospect of acquiring a bigger share of Iraq's natural resources, which are mostly mortgaged to foreign oil companies and construction firms.

Surveying the tragedy, Jonathan Schell (The Nation) observes of the illegal war:

Is there any benefit to be found in this record? Only if, it seems, by drawing lessons from the disaster, we can avoid future misadventures of a like kind. One lesson that may be on its way to acceptance is that in our postcolonial era, “COIN” (counterinsurgency) warfare is a fool’s game. A related lesson is that neither the United States nor any other country can “build” other peoples’ nations. Those peoples have to do that by themselves, or fail by themselves. But these lessons are hardly new; they were taught at terrible cost a half-century ago by the Vietnam War. They were then unlearned in preparation for the “regime change” wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

There is no democracy in Iraq.   Reuters notes, "Iraq's power-sharing government has been all but paralyzed since U.S. troops left more than a year ago and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'ite, is facing protests in the country's Sunni heartland, which shares a porous border with Syria."   Alsumaria reports that Nouri al-Maliki, chief thug and prime minister or Iraq, declared yesterday his desire to meet the demands of the protesters.  Really?  Because the protests have been going on since December and Nouri and his State of Law have refused to meet the demands thus far.  In fact, March 1st, at the Ramadi protest,  Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi resigned.  al-Issawi told Kitabat that he resigned because there had been over 70 days of protest and the government had still not responded to the protesters.  He noted that a government is supposed to be responsive to the people, not ignore them.  He told Alsumaria that Article IV -- which has been used to punish so many Sunnis -- is no longer going to work and that the government refused to listen to the protesters or to take accountability for the eleven shot dead in Falluja by Nouri's forces January 25th.   He feels the solution to the crises facing Iraq can be found in the sit-ins taking place.

Some fools and suck-ups will point to Nouri's for-show release of prisoners -- ignoring the fact that a list of those released has not been produced and that, most importantly, you're not meeting the demands of the protests if every day you're ordering mass arrests.   38 arrested in Wasit Province alone today.  You're not addressing the issue of the imprisoned with a few token releases as every day you continue your mass -- and ridiculous -- arrests.  Iraq needs to be publicly rebuked globally for arresting the wives, spouses, children of suspects.  You don't arrest people for who they're related to.  That's ridiculous and it's offensive. Article IV  of the Constitution is a problem as well because it adds to innocents arrested by allowing you to be arrested merely for being related to a suspect -- you can be the mother of someone suspected of a crime and be arrested because you're the mother (or father, brother, sister, child, grandparent, etc). And one of the demands of the protesters is for Article IV to be dropped.  That's not a new demand, it's been a demand for months now.  And the protesters are more than aware that the mass arrests continue.  This morning, Iraqi Spring MC has even Tweeted about 71 Diyala prisoners being transferred to a Baghdad prison.

Nouri's done nothing to meet the demands of the protesters.  He's pulling his usual stall, stall, try to exhaust your opponent m.o. that he always utilizes.  Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) observes:

Iraq’s Sunnis have gotten the short end of the stick from Maliki, who is theoretically the head of a "power-sharing" government designed to address sectarian grievances, but in practice has been running the country by fiat since the US departure from Iraq at the end of 2011. A growing protest movement among the Sunni population, particularly in Anbar, where the fiercest engagements of the US war in Iraq were fought, has been volatile.  In January, government troops killed five protesters in Fallujah, the town that US infantry and Marines tried to “pacify,” twice.

National Iraqi News Agency quotes a police source stating, "Unidentified gunmen kidnapped on Thursday 14, March, the tribal Sheikh Qais al-Janabi and his son, who is a candidate for the next local elections, Abdul Karim Qais and five of their relatives.  The gunmen forced the seven people, at gunpoint, to get out of their car in the Siniah area of Baiji, north of Tikrit, and were taken to an unknown destination."

The tribal leader is linked to the ongoing protests.  As this Facebook post makes clear, the protesters believe this was done by a government militia and is part of Nouri's continued crackdown and targeting of the protesters.   Why might they think that?  Well there's Nouri's history of targeting the protesters.  There's the fact that, remember the photo from Iraqi Spring Media Center, his federal forces have been videotaping the protesters and following them to their homes in an attempt to intimidate them.   There's also the fact, as Yang Yi (Xinhua) reports, that the kidnappers have a demand,  "Later in the day, the kidnappers phoned Qais family and told them to write a statement calling for the people not to participate in the invalid elections and publish it on local television."

Al Mada reports that a spokesperson for the demonstrators has called out Nouri's puppet Saadoun al-Dulaimi, stating al-Dulaimi is using the military against the protesters.  Saadoun al-Dulaimi is the 'acting' Minister of Defense.  There's no such position in the Iraqi Constitution.  The Constitution mandates that the Prime Minister-Designate name a full Cabinet and do so within thirty days or another Prime Minister-Designate is named and he or she has 30 days to name a full Cabinet.  Nouri's second term has nothing to do with the Constitution.  Having lost the popular vote, he had no claim on a second term.  But Barack Obama wanted the US-installed puppet to remain in charge so the US brokered The Erbil Agreement which circumvented the Constitution and gave Nouri a second term as prime minister.

The National Iraqi News Agency reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani declared today that the Kurds will either be partners in Iraq or they will take the measures they see necessary.  Barzani's referring to Nouri's refusal to honor agreements, "He stressed that the cause of the political crises that took place is not to abide by the constitution, noting that the solution to this crisis is the implementation of the Arbil Agreement 2010, which he described as 'a road map to end the crisis'."

For those who forgot or never knew, after Nouri's State of Law came in second place to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya in the March 2010 elections, Nouri refused to allow the Constitutional process to begin.  The minute it began, he wasn't prime minister.  So he refused to step down, he refused to abdicate.  He held the country hostage.  He was only able to get away with that because both the White House and the Iranian government were backing him.  For eight months, he held the country hostage.  The press tended to play down the significance of the political stalemate.  They tried to act it was normal.  Or argue that it was only a few votes more.  You only one more vote than the other candidate to win an election.  A win is a win.

After 8 months when Parliament couldn't meet, when the government had been at a standstill, the US approached the various leaders of the political blocs and told them (a) Nouri could hold out for another 8 months so (b) be mature and put Iraq's interests ahead of everything else and (c) agree to give Nouri a second term and (d) in exchange, it will be put in writing and you can get promises from Nouri in writing about things you want.  For the KRG, that included the implementation of Article 140.

Right there you see the problem with Nouri as a leader.  The Kurds were bargaining with him in November 2010 to implement Article 140.

They shouldn't have.

Nouri took an oath to uphold the Constitution.  He became prime minister in 2006.  The Constitution declares that Article 140 has to be implemented.  It even had a timeline, by the end of 2007.  Nouri refused to do it.

There never should have been a negotiation with Nouri to get him to follow the Constitution.  If he can't follow it, he can't be prime minister.

So everyone threw in a demand or two.  It was all written up, the US government assured the political leaders that this was a binding contract and that, most important, the US government would stand behind this contract.  The leaders signed off.

Nouri used it to get his second term.  The Parliament finally held their first meeting.  Iraqiya demanded Nouri name Ayad Allawi to head an independent national security council -- one of the legal clauses in the contract.  Nouri said he couldn't.  Not yet.  It was too soon.  The bulk of Iraqiya walked out of Parliament.  The US cajoled them and got them back inside.  Nouri's going to follow the contract, just give it time.  It's the first day.

He never followed the contract.  To this day.

And all those promises from the White House?  Never followed up on.  It's why the US' image is so poor in Iraq today.  The changing from Bush to Barack gave the US image a lift in Iraq.  There was hope among Iraqis that President Barack Obama would be different.  But all he's done is disappoint.   Barzani was speaking at the Kurdish Genocide International Conference in Erbil.  All Iraq News notes, "The Confence was held on the 25th Anniversary of bombing Halabcha city by the chemical weapons in the 1980s by the former regime."  Al Jazeera, the Christian Science Monitor and PRI's Jane Arraf Tweets of the conference:

  1. 's PM sends ground-breaking message to conference on genocide, condemning massacres of Anfal campaign.
  2. Barzani to Erbil conference - facing serious crisis throughout country, tired of Baghdad's broken promises.


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