Friday, May 24, 2013

How not to inform about Benghazi

Friday.  No more Nikita until next season (and then only six episodes!) so I'm blogging on Friday.

First up, Norman Pollack has another important column -- but there are problems.  First the excerpt:


I am not na├»ve.  Embassies have been centers of intrigue, propaganda disseminators, bases for political intervention in a nation’s internal affairs, intermediaries for the promotion of markets and investments, etc., practices not confined to those representing the US, and hardly confined to recent times.  That said, Benghazi (technically, a consulate), signifies, as so much else under the Obama Administration, a qualitative departure from the customary.  Lines are becoming blurred in the table of organization—the State Department, CIA, Pentagon, White House—all, with some rubbing of elbows, have been pressed in the service of imperialism, less cohesive than POTUS would like, but sufficiently unified as to make US embassies active weapons, stalking horses, outposts (whichever you prefer) in establishing, solidifying, and focusing the power of America’s presence in a global geopolitical strategy of military-economic-ideological dominance, loathe, on Obama’s watch, to be relinquished as the world structure itself is in process of decentralizing.  The US is engaged in a Sisyphean struggle as it slides from the post-World War II state of unilateral hegemonic, into a multipolar context of China’s ascendence, Third World emerging industrialization, and  postcolonial mass aspirations.

So much the need for Benghazis everywhere (along with the vast network of military bases) if America is to remain top dog, or at least think of itself that way—until its fantasies are overtaken by reality, at which time even the militarization of diplomacy can be expected to give way to naked displays of power as such.  We’re almost there.  There is something psychopathological about the current political debate on Benghazi, in which both major parties are squaring off against each other, as meanwhile neither one questions the desirability, profitability, and wisdom of imperialism, that which embassies are intended to serve.  And designed to serve: the more unwanted the American presence in a country, the greater the concrete (as though giant bunkers), the greater the military protection, the hulk announcing and embodying US influence, right down to exempting private contractors (think Blackwater under its new corporate name)  for crimes committed against the laws of the penetrated—in some cases, occupied—country.  In the last three days, an article in the Washington Post (May 21) by Scott Wilson and Karen DeYoung and the New York Times editorial (May 23) make clear that Benghazi is but a pawn not only in US domestic politics, but also in spreading America’s  emphasis on paramilitary operations worldwide, beyond what other presidents contemplated, and at one with the program of armed drones for targeted assassination.  Embassies are beachheads for more forward maneuvers, both political and military.


Yes and this is one of the reasons that Benghazi matters.  It is not the only reason.  But it is one. 

However, Norman, if you want people to listen to you, stop insulting your potential listeners.

Susan Rice is not a minor player.  Her talking points were wrong.  Why they were wrong goes to what Benghazi actually was about. 

So stop the nonsense of "Oh, I'm better than those right-wingers."  Those right-wingers are American citizens, just like you.  Lose the attitude.  The reality is that, outside of C.I., the left has largely been silent on Benghazi.  She's talked about the CIA presence and much more in her entries at The Common Ills.  But other than her?  You have to go to Antiwar.com which is a Libeterain (right-wing) site. 

The Nation and MSBNC have not led on this issue.  So stop insulting right-wingers.

You might find out that they actually would like to hear what you write about Benghazi if it didn't include insulting them.

C.I. is very left.  But the reason she has impact is because she has center and right readers.  That's why when she raises something, it can make a difference.  She's not an echo chamber.  She can reach out across the spectrum.

Norman could have that same effect.

And his writing needs it because when he's on target, he's on target.

But as long as he keeps falling into that "I'm left so I have to insult right-wing Americans . . ." he's never going to have an audience.

First off, the Hopium snorters don't give a damn about anything that doesn't tell them Barack created the earth in six days.

Second off, there are a number of other issues going on right now.  So if you're righting about an issue the right cares about -- and most of the left dismisses -- don't be insulting them.

Insult politicians -- right or left -- but there's no reason for you to pick on groups of Americans just because they vote differently than you. 

That's just petty.  That's not even high school, that's like middle school s**t.

And it's a shame because Norman's really got something to say on Benghazi.  But I don't think he's going to reach many people and the group he could have influenced the most is the one he decided to insult.



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


Friday, May 24, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, more arrests of journalists in Iraq, a flunky Nouri al-Maliki's weaves a silly tale, who was the idiot that thought now was the time for US Vice President Joe Biden to speak to Iraqi leaders, the US War on the First Amendment continues to gather attention, the US State Dept is asked if a free press is just something they support in other countries, and more.


Starting in the US with The War on the First Amendment.  Last week, The War on the First Amendment's big revelations were that the Justice Dept had secretly seized the phone records of a 167-year-old news institution, the Associated Press. This week's revelation is that the Justice Dept targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen. Clark S. Judge (US News and World Reports) observed yesterday, "It has been a bad few weeks for the First Amendment.  The sinister commonality to the Internal Revenue Service and AP scandals and the James Rosen affair is that each appears to have been (strike "appears ": each was) an attempt to suppress a core American right."  Michael Isikoff (NBC News) reported:

 Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.


James Rosen's State Dept press badge was also used to retrace every moment he made in the State Dept when visiting.  Fox News reporter Whitney Ksiazek and Associated Press reporter Matthew Lee raised this issue yesterday at the State Dept spokesperson Patrick Ventrell's press briefing.

 Whitney Ksiazek: And then on a separate topic, was former Secretary Clinton consulted with the tracking of my colleague James Rosen’s building – State Department building swipe? And were any other employees interviewed in connection with the North Korea reporting that James Rosen did?


Patrick Ventrell: My understanding, this is a law enforcement matter. I really refer you to the Department of Justice for all details on that. In terms of our cooperation with the Department of Justice or the FBI on matters, that would be handled through Diplomatic Security channels and law enforcement channels. That’s how that’s done.

Matthew Lee:  So you – in principle, DS doesn’t have a problem turning over badge records to --

Patrick Ventrell: Again, I’m not aware of the specific cooperation on this case, but --


Matthew Lee:  Well, they got the records of his entry and egress, so you guys obviously handed – I mean, they didn’t make them up, I hope.


Patrick Ventrell:   Well, I can’t --

Matthew Lee:  So you guys obviously gave them to them.


Patrick Ventrell: I can’t comment on any details of this particular case, but when we have --

Matthew Lee: Well, I’m not talking about this particular case. Just in general, I mean, are you, like, running around, giving out the details of our comings and goings from this building?


Patrick Ventrell: Issues of cooperation on law enforcement matters between Diplomatic Security and the FBI are handled in law enforcement channels. I don’t have anything further on it.


Matthew Lee: Wait. Well, so you mean you’re not – do you just give the information out if people ask for it? Or do they need a court order or something?


Patrick Ventrell:  Matt, I’m not sure of the legal circumstances on that kind of information sharing.

Matthew Lee: Well, can you check?

Patrick Ventrell: Sure.

Matthew Lee: It would be --

Patrick Ventrell: I’m happy to check on --

Matthew Lee: If DOJ comes to you and says we want the entry and exit records from people, persons X, Y, and Z, do you just give them to them? Or do they have to --

Patrick Ventrell: My understanding is there’s a legal process that’s followed, but I’d have to check with the lawyers.

Matthew Lee:  Well, can you find out what the – what it is --

Patrick Ventrell: I’d be happy to check.

Matthew Lee: -- from your end, whether they need a subpoena or whether they need something like that.






This afternoon, Luke Johnson (Huffington Post) explained, "The Justice Department argued that Fox News reporter James Rosen's emails should be monitored for an indefinite period of time, even in the absence of being able to bring charges against him, according to court filings unearthed by The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza.  The revelation demonstrates the vast power that the Justice Department used against the journalist, who drew attention for publishing an article on North Korea's nuclear plans." Phil Mattingly (Bloomberg News) adds, "The Justice Department, in a statement today, said Holder was involved in the discussions as prosecutors deliberated over whether to seek the search warrant in the investigation into the leak of information about North Korea’s nuclear program in 2009."

On the president's remarks yesterday, Andrea Mitchell (Andrea Mitchell Reports -- link is video) had questions for Antony Blinken today:


Andrea Mitchell: I also wanted to ask you about the leak investigations.  He said in his speech yesterday that he's trying to get answers from the Justice Dept.  Why does he need answers from the Justice Dept about something that has been going on for so long?  Isn't he aware more broadly of the way these leaks are pursued and the way journalists have been swept up in it?

White House Deputy National Security Advisor Antony Blinken: Well Andrea, I obviously can't comment on a specific investigation but I can say this and it goes towards what the president said yesterday --

Yeah, we heard what heard what Barack said yesterday.  So you've got no new comments.  Gotcha.  He also pimped Barack's 'support' for a media shield law.  It was left to a news veteran today to remind the public that Barack's embrace of a proposed media shield law is a new development.  Today on CBS This Morning (link is video), hosts Gayle King and Charlie Rose discussed the issue with veteran CBS journalist Bob Schieffer (who hosts CBS' Face The Nation).

Gayle King: The President also said yesterday, Bob, that he wants to protect journalists from the government's overreach and now comes news this morning that Attorney General Eric HOlder signed off on allowing an investigation into some reporters' e-mails.  Is that an awkward position?

Bob Schieffer: Well I think what's interesting here is the President has said he wants Attorney General Holder to be the one who does this review about protecting reporters' rights and all of that when it is the Justice Dept, of course, that has caused all this controversy.  I mean, the president's saying he wants to review this and he wants to protect reporters' sources.  I think a lot of journalistic organizations and the people who run them are going to view this with  skepticism.  They'll go back to the old Ronald Reagan "trust, but verify" because the last time they introduced the shield law, uh, it was the President and this administration that watered it down and it, uh -- and it just laid there.  Nothing ever happened.  They're going to now reintroduce the same legislation.  But I think a lot of people are just waiting to see how serious the President is about this, because there's no question in the minds of many journalistic organizations -- and there's no question in my mind -- this was an outrageous overreach when they subpoenaed all these records at the Associated Press and some of these other instances as well.

Gene Policinski (San Jose Mercury News)  reminds, "Freedom to report the news requires the freedom to gather it."  Law and Disorder Radio,  an hour long program. usually airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week.  It did have a new weekly program this week but WBAI listeners didn't hear it.  WBAI is in pledge mode and instead had  Heidi Boghosian, and  Michael S. Smith for two hours live asking for donations to WBAI (if you'd like to donate, click here) and presenting a different program than this week's taped program.  From the live pledge drive:


Michael S. Smith:  And that raid on Associated Press where they got the home, cell phone and business phone records of 100 AP reporters --

Heidi Boghosian:  Right.

Without a warrant.  In clear violation of the Fourth Amendment --

Heidi Boghosian: Right.

Michael Smith:  and the First Amendment.  And just cleaned up the AP records.  Unprecedented.

Heidi Boghosian: It's unprecedented, Michael.

Michael Smith:  It's one thing after another.

Heidi Boghosian:  It's illegal too.  They're supposed to give notice when they do that but what's clearly happening is the press in this country is under attack.  We no longer have really a so-called free press.  If you look at the case of  Bradley Manning, Jeremy Hammond -- who's facing 42 years in prison for uploading documents to WikiLeaks  and of course Julian Assange.  Now the AP spying, the warrantless spying that has effected countless legal organizations such as the Center for Constitutional Rights, The People's Law Center in Chicago --

Michael Smith:  You know, you know why it's effected so many.

Heidi Boghosian:  Why?

Michael Smith:  Because the people effected by the raid on AP files are not just the AP reporters but they're their sources.

Heidi Boghosian:  Exactly.

Michael Smith:  Who's gonna --

Heidi Boghosian:  Who's gonna turn over information?

Michael Smith:  Who's gonna tell something to an AP reporter knowing that their phone conversation is going to go to the FBI?

Heidi Boghosian:  Exactly.  Exactly.  So we have what we have called "the chilling effect on Free Speech in this country" -- which again is why you need to support WBAI because we're not afraid to bring you the truth in reporting.


 At the Libertarian CATO Institute, Julian Sanchez argues the administration needs to take certain steps:

Transparency can begin with letting the public know exactly what the guidelines for investigating the press are—and how the Justice Department interprets them. As the FBI’s operational guidelines make clear, the rules requiring the press to be notified when their phone records are obtained only apply to subpoenas—not other secretive tools, such as National Security Letters, which can be issued without court approval. But the rules governing NSL demands for media records remain secret.
The Justice Department should also release any internal memos interpreting the rules governing press investigations. We know, for example, that there exists an informal 2009 opinion in which Justice Department lawyers analyzed how the rules would apply to sweeping demands—such as so-called “community of interest” requests—that can vacuum up a reporter’s records (among many others) even if the reporter is not specifically named as a target. Only brief excerpts of that opinion have been disclosed, thanks to a 2010 Inspector General report, and there is no way of knowing how many others remain secret.
Finally, we need an independent review—conducted by the Office of the Inspector General, not Attorney General Holder—to determine just how much surveillance of reporters has already occurred. It seems clear that the Justice Department does not think the current rules always require the press to be informed when they’ve been spied on: DOJ lawyers convinced a judge that the government never had to notify Rosen they’d read his e-mails. And because demands for electronic records can be quite broad, it would be all too easy for the government to end up with sensitive information about journalistic investigations even when no reporter was explicitly targeted.
When Congress and the public know what the rules really are, and how they have been applied in practice, we can begin a serious conversation about what reforms are needed to protect press freedom. Asking Eric Holder to investigate Eric Holder, on the other hand, is unlikely to protect much of anything—except, perhaps, Eric Holder.




Back to yesterday's State Dept press briefing. Later in the briefing, Asia Today and India Globe's Raghubir Goyal had a question.



Raghubir Goyal: New subject?

Patrick Ventrell: Yeah.

Raghubir Goyal: Question, Patrick, on the freedom of the press, globally.


Patrick Ventrell: You ask very broad questions, Goyal. (Laughter.)

Raghubir Goyal: Just simple question on the freedom of the press.

Patrick Ventrell: We support the freedom of the press. (Laughter.)

Raghubir Goyal: And the question is --

Matthew Lee: Do you?

Patrick Ventrell: We do.

Matthew Lee: Do you really?

Patrick Ventrell: We do, Matt.

Matthew Lee: Are you speaking for the entire Administration, or just this building?

Patrick Ventrell: We support the freedom of the press. We support it globally. We support it here at home.

Matthew Lee: That’s the position of this building. Is it the position of the entire Administration?

Patrick Ventrell: It is.

Raghubir Goyal: Just to mark the international freedom of the press, and recently Freedom House, they placed another 84 names of the journalists who were killed in 25 countries, but – these are only official from the Freedom House – but hundreds of journalists are beaten, jailed, or killed in many countries – more than 25 countries. My question is here: When Secretary meets with world leaders here or abroad, does he talk ever other than human rights but on the freedom of the press in these countries?

Patrick Ventrell: Indeed, he constantly and consistently raises these issues with foreign leaders around the world and here when he meets with them. And I think you heard over the two weeks during our freedom of the press activities, many of the cases that we called out, the high priority that we place on this, and our deep concern for the well-being of journalists who face violence and repression for the work that they do around the world. So that’s something we’re deeply committed to.

  
Raghubir Goyal: -- especially in China or Saudi Arabia and --

Patrick Ventrell: It includes all those countries.

Raghubir Goyal: Thank you, sir.

Matthew Lee: Is it just violence and repression? Or is it also government intimidation or – that you’re opposed to?

Patrick Ventrell: That as well. All of that.

Matthew Lee: So in other words, the State Department opposes the Administration – the rest of the Justice Department’s investigations into --

Patrick Ventrell: Well, again, I think you’re trying to conflate two issues here.

Matthew Lee: No, no. I’m asking about freedom of the press. That was what the question was.

Patrick Ventrell: And we do – and we support freedom of the press. I think you’ve heard the President – I think you’ve heard the White House talk about this extensively.

Matthew Lee: Right. So you – and you think that violence and repression against journalism – journalists is wrong, as you do harassment or intimidation by government agencies.

Patrick Ventrell: All of the above.

Matthew Lee: So you do not regard what the Justice Department has been doing as harassment or intimidation.

Patrick Ventrell: Again, I can’t comment on a specific law enforcement investigation.

Matthew Lee: I’m not asking about a specific case. In general, would the State Department oppose or support harassment, intimidation, or prosecution of journalists for publishing information?

Patrick Ventrell: We oppose that, in terms of them – is this around the world --

Matthew Lee: Okay. So the State Department then opposes the Justice Department’s prosecution.

Patrick Ventrell: Again, you’re trying to get me to conflate two issues.




No, not really but way to send a mixed signal to the world Patrick Ventrell.  Let's hope Secretary of State John Kerry does raise the issues of press freedom with Nouri al-Maliki's government in Iraq.  As Helena Williams (Independent) noted earlier this month, "According to the CPJ, Iraq continues to have the world's worst record on impunity, with more than 90 unsolved murders over the past decade and no sign that the authorities are working to solve any of them."

Article 36 of the Iraqi Constitution guarantees "Freedom of expression, through all mean," "Freedom of press, printing, advertisement, media and publication" and "Freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration.  This shall be regulated by law."  Every week, Nouri al-Maliki, chief thug and prime minister in Iraq, demonstrates that he has trouble comprehending if he bothers to read. Fridays in Iraq. Since December 21st, that's meant ongoing protests.

While the protesters to see the day as an opportunity to exercise their civil liberties, Nouri sees the day as a chance to trash the Constitution and demonize the protesters.   The Iraq Times notes today that Nouri's government doesn't represent Iraqis, it represents State of Law (Nouri's political coalition) and State of Law's agendas.  At times, the paper notes, Nouri claims to represent the Shi'ites of Iraq (Shi'ites are the majority population, Sunnis and Kurds are the other two major populations which also includes Turkmen, Assyrians, Chechens, Palestinians, Shabacks, Armenians and more).  But while claiming to represent only one segment, Shi'ites, Nouri can't meet that claim because Shi'ites, like every other group in Iraq, suffer from the lack of dependable public services -- that means drinking water, that means dependable electricity, that means sewer systems that work (and the al Sadr section of Baghdad -- a Shi'ite section before the start of the war in 2003 and a Shi'ite section today -- is always one of the worst flooded areas in Baghdad when the heavy rains come down due to refusal of Nouri's government to spend money on needed sewage and drainage). 


 Nouri continued his war on the press and on protesters today.  With regards to the press, it's very easy for Nouri to target them since western outlets refuse to cover the protests, refuse to do anything that might upset Nouri.  So it's left for Iraqi journalists to fight all alone for the Constitutionally guaranteed free press.  Not only do they fight alone but when they are attacked, when they are arrested, the western world can't be bothered.  Earlier this year, a French reporter, Nadir Dendoune, was imprisoned by Nouri wrongly.  We covered it here.  It was news and the reporter deserved coverage.  But so do the Iraqi reporters who suffer and they don't get the coverage.  They don't get the worldwide coverage.

Mustafa al-Rubaie was attacked by an Iraqi military lientenant and the soldiers under him joined in on the attack, beating al-Rubaie with their fistsOh, goodness, that must have been under Iraqi President Saddam Hussein!  No. This was last week in Baghdad.  All the Baghdad TV reporter was doing was covering a story.  For that he was publicly beaten by the military.  A week ago.  And you've never heard Nouri al-Maliki condemn it.  You may not have even heard that it happened.  But it is why, around the world, people are noting (such as here) that there's no difference between Nouri al-Maliki and Saddam Hussein.

Alsumaria reports Anbar police arrested seven journalists for attempting to cover the Ramadi sit-in.  Among the arrested was Alsumaria's photojournalist and cameraman Anmar al-Ani.   In order to be released, Alsumaria reports, Anmar al-Ani was forced to sign a pledge that he would not cover the protests.  It was made clear to him that he would not be released without signing the pledge.  He says that he was interrogated by the Police Directorate in Anbar.  In a report this evening, they note two other journalists have now been released -- presumably also after signing the pledge.  Does the White House -- as it gives Nouri's regime billions this year alone and US service members for 'counter-terrorism' -- ever raise this issue of cracking down on the press?  Maybe.  Maybe they say things like, "Call Anmar al-Ani a 'co-conspirator' and be sure and seize phone records."



Or maybe the explain how to hack?  Al Mada reports the protesters website was hacked late last night.  Hacking websites is not uncommon in Iraq.  This is: No one has claimed responsibility.  The Iraqi hackers that are real hackers, hackers who do it for the joy of hacking and the rush it provides, they repeatedly claim responsibility.  We've noted repeatedly that the hacked site has a name taking responsibility and usually an e-mail address.  For example, May 4th the Independent High Electoral Commission's website was hacked.  What did it say?

Attacked By T34M HACKERS OF IRAQ
" .. IraQ in Our hearts .. "
IraQeN-H4XORZ
ethic41_backer@yahoo.cl
ryvv@yahoo.com

(We're going to have drop FOTKI for image sharing.  It's not working -- repeatedly.  You can click here and see the image that should display on the May 4th page.)


This has happened repeatedly.  For the record, they all leave their e-mail address.  They all claim credit.  Now there's a hack and no one's taking credit.  Doesn't sound to me like that was a hack by the Iraqi hacking community.  Sounds to me like that was a hack carried out by the Iraqi government.



In addition to Ramadi, Iraqi Spring MC reports that reporters covering the Falluja demonstration were threatened by security forces.  National Iraqi News Agency reports that "tens of thousands" turned out in Ramadi and Falluja.  Anbar organizer Shiekh Mohammed Fayyad states that "the primary goal is to inform the government that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by the citizens deep convictions."  In Falluja, Iraqi Spring MC reports, there were calls for an investigation into the second massacre of Falluja (November 2004) by the occupation forces and the Iraqi government.   Protests also took place in BaijiBaghdad. and Baquba, and the Iraqi Spring MC offers this video of the Baquba demonstrators.  On the topic of Baquba, NINA reports, "Preachers of Diyala Fri-prayers blamed and denounced in their sermons security forces and hold them [responsible for] the repeated violations targeting mosques and worshipers, especially the recent bombings that targeted worshipers in Sariya mosque in Baquba."  They add that Shiekh Thamer al-Falahi insisted that the demands of the protesters be met.  Alsumaria reports (and check out their photo of the huge crowd) protests also took place in Samarr and Tikrit and that, in Sammar, surveys were passed out by organizers to the demonstrators to get their feedback.

Al Mada reports that Martin Kobler, the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Iraq, joined former Finance Minister Rafie al-Issawi, MP ahmed al-Alwani, and  Marwan Ali for a press conference at the home of Sahwa leader Ahmed Abu Risha to emphasize how important peaceful protest is and that this is a right the Constitution guarantees.  Kobler stated the UN confirms the right to demonstrate peacefully.  The attacks on journalists were called out and Kobler noted that freedom of the press is guaranteed in the country's Constitution.  Rafie al-Issawi declared that, after five months, the government (Nouri al-Maliki) has still not implemented the demands of the six provinces that have been protesting.   He also called for military forces, Nouri's federal forces and SWAT to leave Anbar and the end of arrest warrants for sit-in leaders.   Alwani's statements included calling out "genocides" in Diyala and Hawija and for the "war criminals" to be tried in international courts.


Tuesday, April 23rd Nouri's federal forces stormed a sit-in in Hawija causing a massacre.   Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.UNICEF counts 8 children dead in the massacre and twelve more children were left injured.


Whether US Secretary of State John Kerry talks about that with Nouri or about the press, no one knows.  But US Vice President Joe Biden is talking to Iraq and that's not necessarily a good thing.  Wait for it.  First, the White House issued the following today:

The White House
Office of the Vice President

Readout of Vice President Biden’s Call with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

Vice President Biden spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki today.  Discussion focused on Syria, and both leaders agreed on the importance of a negotiated end to the conflict.  The Vice President expressed concern about the security situation in Iraq and pledged continued U.S. support for Iraq in its fight against terrorism.   The Vice President also spoke about the importance of outreach to leaders across the political spectrum.  Both leaders expressed their ongoing commitment to deepening the U.S.-Iraq strategic partnership, as outlined in the Strategic Framework Agreement.


We're not done.  They also issued the following:

Readout of Vice President Biden’s Calls with Iraqi Kurdistan President Masud Barzani and Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama Nujayfi

Vice President Biden spoke with Iraqi Kurdistan President Masud Barzani and Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama Nujayfi yesterday, Thursday, May 23rd.  With President Barzani, the Vice President commended the return of Kurdish ministers and parliamentarians to Baghdad, and stressed the importance of engagement by all sides to seek solutions to contentious issues under the Iraqi Constitution.  With Speaker Nujayfi, the Vice President expressed concern about the security situation in Iraq, stressing the need for all of Iraq’s political leadership to unequivocally renounce violence and seek to marginalize extremists.  All three leaders reaffirmed the importance of the U.S.-Iraq strategic partnership.


So Joe didn't bring up the press and Joe didn't bring up the protesters so why the heck did the White House have him make those calls?

I like Joe Biden.  But talk about tone deaf on the part of the White House, talk about the need for Arabic speakers in the White House. There is nothing worse they could have done then have Joe Biden speak to Iraqi leaders today -- this month.

In the US, Joe Biden represents many things to different sets of people.  In Iraq?  He's got two images and let's focus on the most damaging: He proposed, as US Senator, that peace in Iraq would be possible only by splitting the country into a Shi'ite South, a Sunni central and the KRG in the north.  As Senator.  And we noted, while running for the presidential nomination, right before Iowa, Joe had noted if the US Congress didn't support then the idea was dead.  We covered that here.

Most ignored it because Biden's campaign was losing steam (he'd quickly drop out of the race).

It never registered in Iraq.

They continue to see Biden as the man who wants to split up their country.  And the Arabic press for the last three weeks has been full of reports that it's about to happen, Iraq's about to split.  Nouri's been in contact with Biden, the Kurds came to Baghdad just to ensure that the split takes place, blah blah blah.  Whispers with no foundation -- they may be true, they may be false -- have been all over Arabic media -- not just social media, all of the Iraqi outlets have reported it -- and reported it as a done deal.

So with the tension and fear rising in Iraq currently, why is Biden the go-to?  This was absolutely the wrong thing at the wrong time and these calls with the various leaders, whatever their intent (I'm told military issues were discussed with Nouri -- specifically more troops under the Strategic Framework Agreement and last December's Memorandum of Understanding with the Defense Dept), are only going to fuel more rumors in Iraq.

Even more troubling is All Iraq News' report that Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq head Ammar al-Hakim met with "US Embassy Charge D'Affaires" Doug Silliman today.  Are they -- the US administration -- just trying to send Iraqis reeling with paranoia?  Silliman's a name that's barely known in the US.  But his position in Turkey and the WikiLeaks exposure made him very well known in Arab media.  And Turkey borders Iraq so you can be sure that with talk of the US secretly supporting the PKK and supposedly looking the other way while Turkey allegedly supported al Qaeda in Iraq (Hurriyet News Daily) and that's before you get to the Cables WikiLeaks released and the powder keg that is the topic of Israel (it's a power keg issue in Iraq).  There is absolutely zero awareness and zero sensitivity when it comes to choosing US officials to dialogue with Iraqi officials.  This is just embarrassing, not to mention counter-productive.

I have no idea why the White House has no one monitoring Arabic media, why there's no one to say, "Uh, before the Vice President starts making those calls, you might want to look at these 57 reports from Iraq media in the last three weeks about how Biden's in secret talks with Nouri and the Kurds to split up the country."

These conversations will probably cause more harm than good and Biden's not given the chance to let this rumor in Iraq die (if it's just a rumor) before using his office to try to have some impact or influence on the current situation in Iraq.




Aleem Maqbool (BBC News) reports: on the rising tensions and starts by quoting a statement from Nouri's stooge  Sami al-Askari:



"Some Sunnis will not feel happy whatever they get because now they are sharing power. Perhaps this generation cannot be cured but we hope that the next generation of Sunnis feel they are Iraqi and don't feel they are different."
It is a statement that will infuriate many Iraqi Sunnis, including Nada Jabouri, an opposition MP.
"I feel sorry to hear that from any official in my country because after all we are already all Iraqis - all of us are Sunni, all of us are Shia."
Ms Jabouri says Sunni grievances are real, and points not only to the detentions, but the recent killings by government forces of Sunnis protesting against human rights abuses.
"No government has the right to use force against those demonstrators who are peaceful," she says.
Ms Jabouri acknowledged the many attacks were carried out by Sunni militant groups like al-Qaeda against Shia civilians, but said the government responses were only creating more tensions.
"We should not make civilian people pay the price for terrorist groups and what they do, but that is what is happening in Iraq now," she says.



Nada al-Jabouri is a MP with the Iraqiya bloc which won the 2010 elections and should have had first crack at the post of prime minister as a result of their win.  Instead, second place State of Law got to keep Nouri because Nouri pouted like a baby refusing to leave the post while Barack worked around the Constitution getting US officials to come up with The Erbil Agreement which is the legal basis -- such as it is -- for Nouri's second term.



And how sweet for Sami that he can tell such sweet fairy tales that absolve the government of wrong doing and pin the blame on Sunnis.  No doubt, at night in bed with Nouri, Sami al-Askari's a regular Scheherazade weaving one tale after another.

Too bad all the fairy tales in the world won't chase away the ongoing violence.  All Iraq News notes 1 person was shot dead in Mosul.  Alsumaria adds that another Mosul attack left one police officer injured and an armed attack on a Baghdad police station has left seven police officers injuredNational Iraqi News Agency reports an assassination attempt in Awja on Col Akrahm Saddam Midlif which he survived but which left two of his bodyguards wounded, a Falluja attack left two people injured (drive-by shooting), a Baquba bombing left a Sahwa injured, and late last night there was an attempted assassination on Diyala Province Governor Omar Himyari in Hamrin which left one of his bodyguards injured.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 653 violent deaths so far this month. 



Back to the US,  Tuesday's snapshot covered a House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee hearing.  This was an exchange between the Subcommittee Chair and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of Ameirca's Alex Nicholson:

Subcommittee Chair Dan Benishek is working on a draft of a bill to be entitled Demanding Accountability for Veterans Act of 2013 and this was discussed.

Subcommittee Chair Dan Benishek:  How do we hold the VA accountable?  How do we get those people to actually produce?  Mr. Nicholson, do you have any other ideas there?

 

[IAVA's Alex Nicholson]: I would just add, Mr. Chairman, that I think we are on the same page in terms of solutions that would actually have teeth to them.  You know, I think whether it's public safety issues, IG recommendations, following through on reducing the backlog, it doesn't sort of matter what issue you look at, the VA keeps promising us progress year after year and, you know, we-we see backlogs in not only disability claims issues but, like you mentioned earlier, in following through on all these outstanding IG recommendations.  So something that would add some teeth to the accountability factor I think would certainly be welcomed by us.  You know, we hear from our members consistently, year after year -- we do an annual survey of our membership which is one of the largest that's done independently of Iraq and Afghanistan era veterans.  And we consistently hear that while veterans are satisfied with the care they receive, they continue to be dissatisfied overall with the VA itself.  [. . .]  I would say from our perspective, solutions you mentioned with teeth would certainly be welcome and I think it's certainly high time that we start adding teeth into these type of bills.


My apologies, I left out Alex Nicholson's name.  The snapshots are dictated but that was my mistake.  If it's a morning hearing -- that ends before lunch (two recently haven't) -- at lunch, I either get on the laptop or the iPad and type up whatever exchanges will be included in the snapshot.  I do that myself.  Tuesday was a morning hearing and it was over in the morning.  That's my error and my mistake.  My apologies.  On the issue of the backlog, Aaron Glantz (Center for Investigative Reporting) reports:




The Department of Veterans Affairs has systematically missed nearly all of its internal benchmarks for reducing a hulking backlog of benefits claims and has quietly backed away from repeated promises to give all veterans and family members speedier decisions by 2015.
Internal VA documents, obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting, show the agency processed 260,000 fewer claims than it thought it would during the past year and a half – falling 130,000 short in the 2012 fiscal year and another 130,000 short of its goal between October and March. 
The result: At a time when the number of veterans facing long waits was supposed to be going down, it instead went up.
On April 29, the VA began to qualify its promise, made repeatedly since 2009, that “all claims” would be processed within four months by 2015.



Monday is Memorial Day.   CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft will be hosting a one hour special airing on CBS News Radio over the weekend (and streaming here) about Post-Traumatic Stress entitled "Combat Stress: Finding the Way Home." It's a strong documentary addressing a number of issues including the need to feel in control of your treatment and the need to choose the treatment that works for you.




Still on veterans issues, yesterday's the House Veterans Affairs Committee released the following:


Miller, McCarthy Introduce VA Backlog Task Force Bill


May 23, 2013


WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Chairman Jeff Miller (FL-01) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) introduced legislation that would establish an independent task force or commission to analyze VA’s disability benefits claims processing system. The task force would be charged with examining the root causes of VA’s backlog and providing solutions for ending it by 2015.
After decades of mismanagement, VA is buried under a mountain of backlogged disability benefits compensation claims. Nearly 900,000 veterans are waiting for a claims decision — a process that takes nine months on average, but in some cases takes years. VA leaders have repeatedly pledged to end the backlog by 2015, but many in the veterans community are skeptical the department is on track to meet that goal.
Under the bill, the task force would provide recommendations for improving VA’s claims processing operations within 60 days of its first meeting and continually help the department refine its claims processing efforts until VA’s backlog is eliminated.  
Task force members would be appointed by members of Congress and the Obama administration and would include a delegate from VA. The bill would also require task force members to solicit input from representatives from the veterans service organization community and private-sector leaders in fields such as claims processing, logistics, electronic records and product tracking.
“Government bureaucrats under both Republican and Democrat administrations created the backlog, so it’s only natural to solicit outside help from the private sector and the VSO community in working toward a solution. By creating a task force of private industry leaders, VA and VSO officials, we hope to establish a revised evidenced-based process that will help VA break its claims backlog once and for all in 2015, just as department leaders have promised.” Miller said.

“The entire country is counting on VA to end the backlog by 2015, and Congress is committed to holding the department accountable until they achieve that goal. Our veterans deserve the care they earned while protecting and defending our country, and continued failure by the VA cannot and will not be tolerated.” McCarthy said.

"As Memorial Day approaches, it's clear that there is no roadmap from the White House to bring the VA backlog to zero. Veterans need a comprehensive, inter-agency approach to solve the disgraceful backlog. IAVA strongly supports Chairman Miller's bill to proactively establish just such a coordinated effort to get the VA the help it needs on the backlog and to bring outside players to the table to assist in that effort. The enormous success of the roundtable with private industry experts convened by the Chairman last week is an example how the VA can greatly benefit from an expansion of this approach," said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.










 wbai
law and disorder radio
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heidi boghosian













The Drone War still

Thursday.

Blogger's acting up.  You may have briefly seen my post (just the snapshot which is the first thing I copy and paste in ).  I hit publish instead of save. 

So if you saw it and then lost it, that's what's going on.

Today Barack gave his big speech.  Yawn.

Ahead of his speech, Norman Pollack shared some thoughts at CounterPunch:


Obama is expected to reveal the justification for wholesale acts of political murder (now including that of four Americans—but who’s counting?) and the extreme terrorization of whole populations, through never knowing when the sustained buzzing overhead will strike without warning, this last a trick that the Nazis learned about psychological warfare during the London bombings, especially the unmanned aerial vehicles. If the US is skating on the thin edge of fascism in its creation of an hierarchical social order based on monopolization, the unrestrained growth of the military, and, through the political culture of militarism ensuring mass passivity and acquiescence (hardly a peep from organized labor, civil rights and civil liberties organizations, religious groups, students—all of whom played an important part in the civil rights struggle—on assassination as official US policy from the top), the use of armed drones is taking America over the edge.


Exactly.  It's a great piece of writing.  Make a point to read the whole thing.

And after you do, explain to me this weak-ass crap from the Center for Constitutional Rights:


May 23, New York  – In response to President Obama’s speech this afternoon, the Center for Constitutional Rights issued the following statement:

The president’s stated reengagement on Guantanamo is welcome, but long overdue.  However, unless he takes immediate steps to resume transfers and ultimately close the prison, his administration will not escape the “harsh judgment” of history he anticipated in his speech.  We welcome his decision to lift the ban on transfers to Yemen, which has trapped more than half of the men at the prison.  However, we are disappointed by the president’s comment that cleared men will only be released “to the greatest extent possible.”  While more than 100 men continue to starve themselves in a principled protest for their freedom, the president’s equivocation is troubling. After eleven years of detention without charge or trial, all of the men President Obama does not intend to give fair trials should be released and reunited with their families. Anything short of that threatens to worsen a potentially deadly crisis unfolding a Guantanamo. 

Regarding the U.S.’s use of lethal force against suspects of terrorism, though President Obama suggested a return to normal at some point in the future, the essence of his speech was to reassert the legally-flawed and dangerous premise of the targeted killing program —namely, that the United States continues to be engaged in a global war with Al Qaeda and undefined “associated forces.”  Whether or not the United States can use lethal force under the laws of war is not a matter of policy preference—it is a matter of law and facts.  The policy standard he outlined for the targeting of individuals, requiring imminence and feasibility of capture, while narrower than prior asserted standards, also raised questions about how those standards would be interpreted.   Prior Justice Department interpretations, for example, that imminence does not require clear evidence of a specific act in the immediate future, do not engender confidence. The president was certainly correct when he stated that we need to think about the world we are creating and leaving behind.   But codifying this program, despite its “refinements,” sets a dangerous precedent for future administrations and other countries.

Can you believe that nonsense?


DId Barack make a promise on Guantanamo?  And that's enough for the babies of CCR?  He made a promise to close it in 2007 as well, idiots.  They can't even call him out in strong language.

They're so embarrassing.  I'm sorry, I'm a guy.  I lose all respect for a man who can't stand up.  More and more that's The Michaels -- Ratner and Smith -- of CCR.  They're real good about ripping apart women on the air, but they're cowards when it comes to standing up to men.

What little fops they are.

Norman Pollack had it dead on.

It's a shame that he can do it but CCR refuses to.

The Drone War continues because of idiots like CCR.


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


 Thursday, May 23, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Sahwa and snakes threaten the Iraqi people, US President Barack Obama wishes he could close Guantanamo (he says), Medea Benjamin heckles him, he offers a major speech about how The Drone War and the so-called war on terrorism will continue, IRS official Lois Lerner gets placed on administrative leave, the War on the First Amendment continues, and more.

With US President Barack Obama making statements about the press today, we're again starting with The War on the First Amendment.  Last week, The War on the First Amendment's big revelations were that the Justice Dept had secretly seized the phone records of a 167-year-old news institution, the Associated Press. This week's revelation is that the Justice Dept targeted Fox News reporter James Rosen.   Today at Fort McNair, Barack declared:

The Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right balance between our security and our open society. As Commander-in Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information. But a free press is also essential for our democracy. I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.  Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law. That is why I have called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government over-reach. I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.


He is commander in chief of the US military only.  It is put under civilian control (him) and his actions in that role are subject to civilian oversight.  With regards to the press, the First Amendment is and should be any president's primary concern.  Barack has tried to use ignorance yet again to his favor.  That awful, hideous Geena Davis show (thankfully axed) pimped the notion weekly.  ABC has a real problem with pimping the presidency as commander in chief but I'll bite my tongue before I (again) make someone cry.  (You would have thought decades in journalism would toughen someone up but as a mutual songbird friend noted to me just last week, _____ is still crying over what I wrote about ____ last go round.)


"Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs."  This in the same week that it's revealed the Justice Dept presented Fox News reporter James Rosen as a "co-conspirator" in legal filings to a court of law?


Fox News has compiled a list of some of the public supportive comments that Rosen has received since the revelations.  To no surprise, people like Jake Tapper (CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper) have weighed in and stood up for the rights of the press.  Tapper is someone who works very hard to be fair.  Keith Olbermann, whom I can't stand, is not such a person.  But we'll give even him earned praise for weighing in and showing more awareness and class than I would have expected.  Good for Olbermann for taking a stand on principle.  Michael Isikoff (NBC News) reported yesterday:

 Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.

Isikoff also reports that to justify Google turning over Rosen's e-mails, the Justice Dept "'The Reporter did so by employing flattery and playing to Mr. Kim's vanity and ego.  Much like an intelligence officer would run a clandestine intelligence source, the Reporter instructed Mr. Kim on a covert communications plan that involved' emails from his gmail account."  When the issue of what Rosen wrote in his e-mails (specifically one sentence) comes up in talks we give, I'm not surprised.  Most people will not have personal contact with the press in their lifetime.   I usually cite one notorious hit piece written on me in the 90s and explain I didn't participate because, despite all the flattering e-mails and letters from the pig, I know journalists do that.  That is how they get their stories.  I'm not faulting them for it (whether they're personal friends of mine or otherwise) but never, ever believe someone attempting to get you on the record is being 100% honest with you in their remarks.  They have a job to do and that's to get the story.  They also need to make you feel comfortable to talk and to feel good about talking. That the Justice Dept -- or, for that matter, Google -- might not grasp that is rather sad.


On the AP attack, the North Jefferson News editorial board observes, "You may be tempted to dismiss as gratuitous wailing the news media’s concern over this serious breach of the constitutional wall between government and the press. But the chilling consequences of  the Justice Department’s overzealous intrusiveness could well impact your ability to know what your government is doing or not doing on your behalf."  Columnist S.E. Cupp (New York Daily News) explains what's at stake:

If you believe we’re better off as a nation knowing the truth about our military operations in Vietnam, as outlined by the Pentagon Papers, or about Watergate and Nixon administration’s break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, or about the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison and the Bush administration’s stated reasons for invading Iraq, then you should have serious concerns about the DOJ’s efforts to disrupt the critical relationship between reporters and their sources.



Jordy Yager (The Hill) reports, "A bipartisan group of House lawmakers unveiled a bill on Wednesday that would force the Department of Justice (DOJ) to get a federal court’s approval before seizing records from journalists." The group was US House Reps Ted Poe, John Conyers, Jerrold Nadler, Sheila Jackson Lee and Trey Radel.



Today, US President Barack Obama blathered on in that self-justifying way that War Criminals all seem to naturally shift into.  Like many a president on the ropes, he elected to give his speech at a military base, Fort McNair, where he hoped (wrongly) he would be better able to manage the crowd.  The  main topic was The Drone War.

Yesterday, as part of the roll out for today's speech, the Justice Dept's admission of 4 Americans killed by drones in The Drone War suddenly made the news.  As The Progressive's Matthew Rothschild observes in a radio commentary ("Tony Sopranco in the Oval Office") observes today, "And it claims with very little credibility that it didn't mean to kill three of the four which I'm sure provides great comfort and solace to their families."

Admitting to four known murders was seen by some, such as the weak  CCR, as good news  -- as though Barack was the friend you were launching an intervention on and not the man who has, as The Bureau of Investigative Journalism notes, ordered 316 drone strikes in Pakistan alone, resulting in the deaths of at least 197 children.   In a speech of nearly 6,500 words (I count 6,494),  he never noted what Alice K. Ross (Bureau of Investigative Journalism) reported earlier this month, that a Pakistan Peshawar High Court had ruled that these Drone Strikes were "criminal offences," a "war crime," a "blatant violation of basic human rights" and that the judge called for the United Nations Security Council to step in.

Though he spent a great deal of time making glib remarks about other countries, he never noted that the US had popularized The Drone War and made it an 'acceptable choice' for other countries, or that the US was providing drones with kill capacity to other countries.  He never acknowledged, for example, Nathalie Guibert (Le Monde) report, from earlier this week, that France will be purchasing  drones from the US --  two Reaper drones which will have to be 'European-ized' due to the fact that the drones are illegal as is in Europe. Germany has already spent $400 million to purchase several drones from Northrop Grunman Corporation.

Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) offers this take of today's speech, "But if the speech is remembered for anything years hence it will be as the moment when the president declared 'The war on terrorism is dead! long live the open-ended game of whack-a-mole against diffuse networks!'  Yes, that's right. Obama has rhetorically put to bed the frankly silly GWOT terminology -- while obliquely calling for years of low-grade conflict."


Barack's nearly 6500 words included:



From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the type of nation --  and world -- that we leave to our children.  So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. What we can do – what we must do – is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. To define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear, but hard-earned wisdom. And that begins with understanding the threat we face.



"We" did not make a decision on The Drone War, no vote from the American people was sought, no judicial review of The Drone War took place and, until last month's Senate hearing, there has been no little Congressional acknowledgment, let alone review.  And on that US Senate hearing last month?  Alice K. Ross (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism) observed that "the government [White House] refused to send a representative to yesterday's hearing."

At the heart of the objection to what Barack has done is the US legal concept that a democracy does not allow any one person to be judge, jury and executioner.  But that's what Barack has done and been as he has overseen The Drone War. 

 He had the audacity to invoke the phrase "rule of law" twice in his speech early on -- once to take a swipe at his predecessor, once to praise himself.  Rule of law does not allow one person to be judge, jury and executioner.  Rule of law has not been followed in The Drone War.  The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments Due Process Clauses have been ignored and broken.

He has ignored rule of law and the notion of democratic consent.  He has completely confused his role and the powers granted the office by the US Constitution as evidenced by his ridiculous assertions such as,  "For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.  But as Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives."  You are commander in chief of the US military.  You are not allowed to start a war, only Congress is.

Yes, Barack's administration made very clear in statements to the press that that had no respect for The War Powers Act but what Barack's actions with regards to The Drone War have made clear is that he has no understanding of what the Constitution allows a president to do or what it does not allow a president to do.  Either he has no understanding or just doesn't respect the Constitution.  He is not the commander in chief of the United States.  That title applies to his position over the military only.  As a person who lectured on the Constitution to college students, he should be aware of that fact.

In addition to not being commander in chief of the American people, his role as commander in chief is not supreme.  The US is not a military junta.  We have civilian control of the military which includes oversight of all actions built into the Constitution -- and that includes oversight of anyone in the Oval Office invoking the title commander in chief.

Terming it a "rebranding of the Bush era policies with some legalize," Jeremy Scahill shared his impression of the speech with Jake Tapper (The Lead with Jake Tapper, CNN) noting, "But effectively Obama has declared the war a battlefield and reserves the right to drone-bomb countries in pursuit of people against whom we may not even have direct evidence or that we're not seeking any indictments against."

In addition, as Julie Pace and Lara Jakes (AP) point out, the CIA controls the Yemen 'front' in The Drone War.  The Central Intelligence Agency -- like the Justice Dept -- is not part of the military.  Invoking 'commander in chief' with regards to his interaction and orders to the CIA is clearly violating "the chain of command" and militarizing a civilian agency, as well as disregarding the Constitution.  Before an e-mail comes in -- and some foolish people will -- the CIA is not needed by the military.  The military has intelligence units.  If you're unaware of them, for starters, you're unaware of how they were used to spy on American protesters during Vietnam.  But, for example, the US Army alone has MI, the Military Intelligence Corps, its own branch of the Army.


As Peter Finn and Julie Tate (Washington Post) emphasize in their report, Barack's remarks also included Guantanamo.  BBC News headlines their report "Obama offers a promise on Guantanamo but no direction."

Whack-a-mole used by Dan Muphy earlier?  I assume we all know the term, Senator John McCain popularized it in his criticism of the Iraq War as late as 2008.  But that was five years ago.  It refers to a game where there are all these holes, you have a hammer and mole pops its head out of one hole, you try to hit (and usually miss) and then it's popping out of another hole.  Guantanamo is not explained at all anymore.  I'm surprised by that.  A friend at NPR asked for a link to Dina Temple-Raston's report on the Guantanamo Bay prison that Temple-Raston did this week for All Things Considered.  There's the link but there's no explanation what Guantanamo is (American's concentration camp).

That was begun in January 2002.  Eleven-years-ago, there are people who have become adults during that time.  A basic synopsis is needed.  Bully Boy Bush began detaining -- widely detaining -- prisoners who had never been before court (still haven't) at a prison on Guantanamo Bay Naval Base -- which is in Cuba (on a piece of land leased or 'leased' by the US government).  Under President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, Hatian and Cuban refugees were housed there.  Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Bully Boy Bush ordered the round up of many Muslims and others in this country.  They were targeted, many were disappeared.  Some were sent to home countries, some were lost in the 'legal system.'  Some were sent to the Guantanamo prison.  In addition, the US has added to that prison population 'enemy combatants.'  The people in Guantanamo, some of whom have been there since 2002, are prisoners.  The Bully Boy Bush administration termed them -- and the press went alone -- "detainees."  As if they're doing a brief trip through Customs before hailing a taxi?

They're prisoners.  The US Supreme Court has noted the prison is under US control and jurisdiction which means rule of law -- Due Process -- applies.  This has not led to trials -- not even military tribunals.  By 2006, calls for closing the prison were being made by Amnesty International, the United Nations, the European Union and many others.  A year later, they were joined by then-Senator Barack Obama who was campaigning for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.  Barack proclaimed August 10, 2007, "As president, I will close Guantanamo, reject the Military Commissions Act and adhere to the Geneva Conventions."


That wasn't a surprise.  In a June 3, 2007 debate of contenders for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, Barack declared, in a response to a question about military action to stop a genocide, "Second point, our legitimacy is reduced when we've got a Guantanamo that is open, when we suspend habeas corpus. Those kinds of things erode our moral claims that we are acting on behalf of broader universal principles, and that's one of the reasons why those kinds of issues are so important." He received the party's nomination.  Therefore, as Matthew Boyle (Daily Caller) has pointed out, the Democrat Party Platform for 2008 included, "We will close the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, the location of so many of the worst constitutional abuses in recent years."

And yet, in four years, as president, he never closed it.  He had a lot of excuses.  But he never closed it.  Had he not been re-elected to a second term, he wouldn't have a chance now as a 'do-over.'

100 prisoners are currently on a hunger strike in Guantanamo.  Amy Davidson (The New Yorker) explained earlier this month that many are being forced fed by US personnel who are "pulling them into rooms where they are strapped to chairs and have rubber tubes stuck into their noses and snaked down to their stomachs, then pumping in a can’s worth of a liquid nutritional supplement."  Davidson noted that 100 was the military number and that the number striking may be even larger.  Last Friday, Al Jazeera reported (link is text and video) the hunger strike had reached its 100th day (and that 102 prisoners were taking part).  They quoted the Secretary-General of the World Medical Association, Dr. Otmar Kloiber, stating force-feeding the prisoners was "degrading and inhuman." May 2nd, Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg addressed the hunger strike with Renee Montagne on Morning Edition (NPR).   Rosenberg, who's long covered the story, explained the hunger strike:

As best as I can tell, relations started deteriorating around the first of the year, when a new guard force arrived at the communal camps. We had a first-ever episode of rubber bullets being shot into the showcase camp. We had a shakedown of the cells that the prisoner's lawyers said had been more invasive than in years. And then the prisoners covered up their cameras and blinded the guards. So April 13th, the troops stormed the communal camp and locked everybody into an individual cell. Once that happened, the hunger strike took off, and we now have 100 men refusing to eat.

She did more than that, she noted that despite the claims that Congress had tied his hands, Barack did have the power to release the Guantanamo prisoners, "Congress has imposed hurdles on transfers and releases of detainees. But they have left a little wiggle room if the secretary of defense will certify that someone is approved for transfer. If the president uses his executive authority to instruct the secretary of defense to undertake certification, we could see some detainees leaving again.As Amy Davidson has noted, of the 166 prisoners, 86 have been cleared for release and could be released by the process Rosenberg is outlining.  That would get over half the prisoners out of Guantanamo.  Tat could have been done yesterday, could have been done last week, could have been done last year, could have been . . .


Instead of recognizing that fact, Barack, in his speech today, once again pretended that Congress was preventing anyone from leaving Guantanamo.  

US President Barack Obama: I am appointing a new, senior envoy at the State Department and Defense Department whose sole responsibility will be to achieve the transfer of detainees to third countries. I am lifting the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen, so we can review them on a case by case basis. To the greatest extent possible, we will transfer detainees who have been cleared to go to other countries.

Medea Benjamin:  86 are cleared already! Release them today!

US President Barack Obama:  Where appropriate we will bring terrorists to justice in our courts and our military justice system.  And we will insist that judicial review be available to every detainee -

Medea Benjamin:  It's --

US President Barack Obama:  Now, ma'am, let me finish.  Let me finish.  Let me finish, ma'am. This is part of free speech.  You being able to speak.  But also you listening and me being able to speak.

Flaunting their great ignorance, his howler monkeys applauded.  No, free speech does not include that Barack gets to "finish."  He wasn't interested in the woman finishing -- and doesn't that say it all?  Or, as Gilda Radner once put it on Saturday Night Live, "You selfish porkface, now I'll never be satisfied."  But the Constitution does not have a clause allowing anyone the right to finish.  Barack is such an idiot and the encouragement of this stupidity by the Cult of St. Barack goes a long way towards explaining why the administration is currently up to the neck in scandals.


El Paso Inc notes Barack also referred to the 68-year-old Medea Benjamin as "young lady."  I guess we should be grateful he didn't call her "sweetie" or  "best looking" or suggest that "periodically when she's feeling down . . ."

It's a historic moment for Medea Benjamin and CODEPINK -- it only took them five years to confront President Barack Obama.  In 2008, as Medea's co-founder Jodie Evans was bundling billions for Barack's campaign (and forgetting to reveal it to the rank and file in CODEPINK), she and Medea ordered 'bird dogging' of Barack's chief rival in the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination Hillary Clinton.  They attacked Hillary repeatedly, busting up one event after another.  They never did the same to Barack, not even after he was elected.  Some argued that CODEPINK was afraid to confront a bi-racial man.  That argument holds no water because they never worried how racist it might look for the various White women attacking African-American Condi Rice repeatedly in public.  No, they didn't attack him or hold him to any standard because they elected him, they used their organization to destroy his rivals and to put him into office.  Whether today was a sign that the group had rediscovered their ethics or just Medea personally responding to the charges that CODEPINK has one set of standards for men and another for women and the recent outcry over Medea's written characterization of rape as "sex" (see here and here for two examples of the backlash to her inane and offensive characterization), we'll have to wait and see.


Please note, NPR has a transcript of the speech and audio here.

The President of the United States didn't forget Iraq.  In addition to the citation noted above, he also declared, "And so our nation went to war. We have now been at war for well over a decade. I won't review the full history. What’s clear is that we quickly drove al Qaeda out of Afghanistan, but then shifted our focus and began a new war in Iraq. This carried grave consequences for our fight against al Qaeda, our standing in the world, and -- to this day -- our interests in a vital region."  He won't review the full history here or ever -- not while he's in the White House.  He went on to say, "We ended the war in Iraq, and brought nearly 150,000 troops home."  Which I guess is an improvement on the lie that all US troops left.

But the ended war?  Then why he did send another Special Ops unit into Iraq last fall?  Ended the war?  Is the increased violence (resulting from the illegal war and Barack's insistence that Nouri al-Maliki remain prime ministers even after Iraqi voters decreed otherwise in the 2010 elections) a sign of a war ended?


Violence continued today in Iraq.  National Iraqi News Agency notes a series of armed attacks in Falluja which claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers and eighteen soldiers and Sahwas injured, a Baghdad armed attack left 4 Iraqi soldiers dead and five more injured, and a Falluja attack left two bystanders (woman and man) injuredAll Iraq News notes that "the driver of the dean of Kirkuk Law College" was found dead "shot in the chest" today in Kirkuk.  Alsumaria adds a Tikrit bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and four more were left injured, an Abu Ghraib bombing injured one Sahwa, and 1 person was shot dead in a Mosul marketMu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "In the eastern province of Diyala, three people were killed and two wounded in a bomb explosion at a mobile phone shop in the town of Kanaan near Diyala's capital of Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, a provincial police source told Xinhua."

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 640 violent deaths so far this month.  But Barack insists the war has ended?







My name is Penny Evans and I've just gone twenty-one
A young widow in the war that's being fought in Vietnam
And I have two infant daughters, I thank God I have no sons
Now they say the war is over but I think it's just begun
-- Melanie's version of "The Ballad of Penny Evans" used as an intro to her composition "Peace Will Come (According to Plan)"  -- "Peace Will Come (According to Plan)" first appears on her Leftover Wine album.


The Economist notes today: 

Three years after he formed his present coalition government, Nuri al-Maliki, the prime minister, a Shia, still has no defence or interior minister. He has responded by replacing many of his senior security men. That is unlikely to make a big difference.
The residents of many Sunni districts in Baghdad and in cities in Anbar have been locked in by army roadblocks and prevented from moving freely. The government fears armed gangs infiltrating from Anbar and talks of reinforcing a trench around all of Baghdad. The capital is again becoming like a fortress. Many parts of Iraq are still ruled under emergency measures imposed by America after its invasion; they have stayed in force since American troops left at the end of 2011.


AFP observes today, "Resentful of their treatment by the government of the Shiite prime minister, Nouri Al Maliki, Iraq's minority Sunnis have been protesting since December with demands that range from repealing laws seen as penalising their minority sect to forming their own autonomous region, akin to that run by the Kurds in the north." Amnesty International's State of the World report was released today.  We will cover it tomorrow.   Michael Jansen has long reported on Iraq.  We've noted her work most often for the Irish Times.  She has a report for Gulf Today on the violence:


 Maliki has said he is ready to consider the establishment of an autonomous Sunni region if it emerges through legal procedures. However, since he was reappointed to the top post in 2010, he has made many promises to the Sunnis, particularly on power-sharing, but has failed to deliver.
Instead, he has prosecuted Sunni Vice President Tareq Al Hashemi for allegedly operating death squads; forced Finance Minister Rafi Issawi, another Sunni, from office; and refused to pay salaries and pensions to Sunni “Awakening” fighters who helped contain Al Qaeda during the 2007 US “surge” campaign. Consequently, Maliki is not trusted by the Sunni community.
Instead of dealing with the Sunni protest movement, Maliki has accused it of both attempting to revive Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party and being a tool of Al Qaeda. Tribal leaders have been targeted for kidnapping and arrest by government forces, commanded by Maliki who holds both the defence and interior portfolios as well as the premiership.
 


Writing on the topic for The National, Hadeel Al Sayegh observes:


Eighty-six people died on Monday; it was the bloodiest and deadliest day of the year.
Monday's bombings have triggered feelings of resentment and hate on both sides. The words "sectarian war" are now frequently being used to describe the violence.
Sunni Iraqis are fighting for their rights, which are completely legitimate. But a select few have carried flags of Saddam Hussain's regime during the demonstrations, losing them legitimacy in the eyes of Shias, who are worried about a returning Baathist tide to return under the cloak of Al Qaeda.
Making matters worse, the truth is unclear. Every Iraqi channel - owned by their various political parties - portrays a different perspective on the story, casting blame in different directions.
"Baghdad is burning," my mother said as she wept and watched the developments unfold from Abu Dhabi. My mother - and all the Iraqis in the neighbourhood - have become addicted to watching the toxic and deadly events in Iraq.



 If the bombs and bullets don't kill you, the snakes just might.  Al Arabiya reports (link is text and video):

A sudden spate of snake attacks has citizens in Sayid Dkheel, a city in southern Iraq in a “dangerous” situation.
Large numbers of deadly snakes have and continue to invade the city as a rise in weather temperature sees them looking for a cooler spot to live.


Equally dangerous are armed thugs who threaten the Iraqi people.    National Iraqi News Agency reports that the Motahedoon Coalition has issued a statement stating that the government is supporting armed militias.  (Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi heads this coalition.) This follows NINA reporting, "Sheikh Mohammad al-Hayes, member of Anbar Salvation Council, announced two days grace for Anbar sitters before handing over the killers of five military."  He is a member of Sahwa -- the ones who gave up their beliefs when the US tossed $300 a month at each one of them.  They are now threatening the Iraqi people.  If someone has been killed, that's a matter for the police to investigate and armed thugs like Sahwa should be arrested for publicly threatening Iraqi citizens -- especially ones engaged in the exercise of their Constitutional rights.  If Iraq had a real leader, Sahwa would have been disbanded and kicked to the curb today.



The US government also has a lack of leadership.   Yesterday the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on the IRS scandal.  We covered it in yesterday's snapshot, Kat covered it in "It was like Steel Magnolias at one point during the hearing," Wally covered it in "Time for a special prosecutor (Wally)" and Ava covered it in "Sir, I gave you the wrong information (Ava)."  The Washington Post editorial board asks this evening:


 WHY DIDN’T Congress know earlier that the Internal Revenue Service had targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny? In days of hearings, lawmakers have tried to get a satisfactory answer from witnesses under oath. They haven’t succeeded.
According to a Treasury Department inspector general’s report, Lois Lerner, a mid-level IRS manager, learned in 2011 that her division had flagged applications for tax-exempt status that had come from organizations with “tea party” and similar terms in their titles. She told her employees to stop, which they did, but then they resumed some months later. When members of Congress later asked questions about the scrutiny some conservative groups were getting, why didn’t she reveal this history?


IRS official Lerner, whose salary is paid by the US taxpayer, appeared yesterday before the House Committee, the Congress, the people's representatives and announced she was pleading the Fifth Amendment (to avoid self-incrimination) about what she had done in her government job.  In their comedic joint-post this morning ("Future employment opportunities for Lois Lerner" and "THIS JUST IN! A WHOLE NEW WORLD FOR LOIS LERNER!"), Cedric and Wally noted future employment opportunities for Lerner could include:


* PLAY THE LEAD IN A THEATER ADAPTION OF THE PIANO.

* APPLY TO FILL IN FOR VANNA WHITE ON WHEEL OF FORTUNE WHEN VANNA NEEDS A VACATION.

* BECOME THE OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON FOR "SNITCHES GET STITCHES."

* TRAVEL THROUGHOUT AMERICA, FROM SCHOOL TO SCHOOL, DEMONSTRATING TO YOUNG CHILDREN HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY PLAY THE QUIET GAME.




Lerner may need to begin exploring those opportunities.  Joseph Tanfani (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Lerner, who has been with the IRS for 12 years, was head of the IRS office of exempt organizations, the unit that is tasked with policing charities and other nonprofits that get tax-exempt status. She has been placed on administrative leave, according to a congressional source who asked not to be identified."  Stephanie Condon and Walt Cronkite (CBS News) add, "Thursday afternoon, Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Government Affairs investigations subcommittee, called on Daniel Werfel, the new acting IRS commissioner, 'to suspend immediately Lois Lerner from her office as Director of the Office of Exempt Organizations'."  Senator Levin's office issued the following:


Senators Levin and McCain Call for Removal of IRS Official from Office

Thursday, May 23, 2013
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI), Ranking Member and Chairman of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, today sent the following letter to Daniel Werfel, Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) urging him “to suspend immediately Lois Lerner from her office as Director of the Office of Exempt Organizations at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)”:

May 23, 2013

Mr. Daniel Werfel
Acting Commissioner
Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20224

Dear Acting Commissioner Werfel:
We are writing to urge you to suspend immediately Lois Lerner from her office as Director of the Office of Exempt Organizations at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). We believe that Ms. Lerner failed to disclose crucial information concerning the IRS’s inappropriate targeting of some conservative 501(c)(4) organizations during the course of a Subcommittee investigation into how the IRS enforces the 501(c)(4) law, leading to an incomplete account of the full operations of her unit.
Since March of last year, the Subcommittee has been examining whether the IRS adequately and appropriately enforces tax code provisions and implementing regulations regarding the extent to which tax-exempt 501(c)(4) groups may engage in political campaign activity. The Subcommittee asked the IRS why it was not enforcing the 501(c)(4) statute which states that social welfare organizations should be used “exclusively for the promotion of social welfare” and instead enforcing the more lenient IRS regulation which states that a social welfare organization may be used “primarily” for social welfare. It also asked the IRS about how they reviewed applications filed by certain Democratic and Republican leaning 501(c)(4)s. Our investigation has included a year’s worth of correspondence between the Subcommittee and the IRS, as well as document productions and repeated consultations with IRS staff.
On April 30, 2013, Ms. Lerner and seven IRS colleagues spent six-hours being interviewed, on a bipartisan basis, by Subcommittee staff. That interview covered, among other topics, how the IRS determines which groups to review, what actions are taken in connection with the IRS reviews, and how the laws and regulations are used to examine those groups. Ms. Lerner failed to disclose the internal controversy over the search terms used by the Cincinnati office to identify 501(c)(4) groups for further review, the actions taken by that office in reviewing the identified groups, the investigation and imminent findings by the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA); and TIGTA’s conclusion that the IRS had used inappropriate criteria to target Tea Party and other conservative groups. Ms. Lerner also failed to disclose that she was fully aware of these issues as early as June 2011, and, according to TIGTA, had been personally involved in reviewing questionable actions taken by the Cincinnati office.

Given the serious failure by Ms. Lerner to disclose to this Subcommittee key information on topics that the Subcommittee was investigating, we have lost confidence in her ability to fulfill her duties as Director of Exempt Organizations at the IRS. Ms. Lerner’s continued tenure in the office she holds, where she is responsible for overseeing 1.6 million tax-exempt organizations, would erode public trust and confidence in the IRS and its professional integrity. We believe that the immediate removal of Ms. Lerner from office would be a vital step in helping to restore public trust in the agency.

Sincerely,

John McCain
Carl Levin








 matthew rothschild


 the christian science monitor