Saturday, June 01, 2013

The long day (and veterans issues are much more complicated than I ever knew)

Busy Friday.  I took my daughter to the zoo and we had fun, got too much sun (my nose is a blister).  I get home and she's taking a nap and I'm eating when my phone rings. It's a friend.

He's a vet.  He's not one of the veterans Elaine's counseled. Just FYI.  He was in Afghanistan and came back a little over a year ago.  And he's freaking out.

And I can't go over because my daughter's asleep and it doesn't sound like a scene for a child.  I'm trying to get ahold of Elaine to either watch our daughter or go over - which ever she was comfortable with.  I can't get ahold of her.  So I'm calling everybody -- I mean, everybody.  I get through to my best bud Tony and he says he'll drive to the place so he can watch my daughter and I can go.  Which is the plan when we get off the phone but then C.I. calls and she got my message what's going on?  I tell her.  She asks for the address -- she was enroute to Mom's -- and asks me to call and say she's going to be knocking on the door.  I'm like, "No, don't.  It was a bad idea, I was freaking out --"  But she insists and I do.

C.I. drank him under the table.  When Tony got to my place, I went right over to my friend's place and knock on the door. And I go in and they're taking swigs of vodka out of the bottle.

He wouldn't let C.I. in at first.  He said she'd take away his bottle.  She said, "Let me in, I'll drink with you."

And he did (let her in, and she did drink with him).  I don't know if his gun was loaded or not but it was right there on the coffee table.

But there they are sitting on the floor by the couch and the coffee table just trading swigs.

He was really bummed at this point but he was calm.  When I was on the phone with him he was seriously depressed but also like manic and that was more frightening that he was so down and was talking so fast.   And talking about hurting himself.  And some will say, "Call the police!"  But I do remember what happened to that veteran who needed help and called the police and how that backfired so I wasn't going to make that my first choice.

And I went off in the kitchen because I don't know how C.I. had calmed him but she had.  Probably just by listening, she's got a lot of empathy.  But I didn't want to mess up what she'd accomplished and I also didn't want to leave her there alone in case she needed help.  And she just spent the entire evening listening to him and drinking with him and offering something every now and then.  And it was about two hours into it that I realized what she was trying to steer him to, signing in for observation.  And I thought it was not going to be pretty when he caught on.

But she did it slowly and bit by bit so that 90 minutes later he was saying, "You know maybe I should get looked at?"  And she said, "That's a great idea.  We can go right now.  Mike can drive us, he hasn't been drinking."  And my friend goes, "Good old Mike.  Mike!  Mike!  Come drive me so I can get some help!"

So we all got in my car and off we went and he signed himself in.  And I hope he gets some real help. That was scary for me and I was on the outside, imagine what it was like for him.  Imagine all that had been going through his head.  I hope he stays the weekend.  He's supposed to but when you sign yourself in, you can sign yourself out.

It also brought up so many issues that I didn't think about.  Like when he first called and was really upset and talking about hurting himself, I was trying to get him to call the suicide hotline and he was saying he didn't want to talk to some bureaucrat.  Do they have veterans answering those phones?  If they don't, they need to.  It could make a real difference in whether or not a veteran in trouble picks up the phone.

It's also kind of shocking, to be honest.  I've heard about this and C.I.'s covered these type of issues in the snapshots, but this was my first time seeing it up close and I just don't think our government's doing enough.

We got in my car after and C.I. had two questions: 1) Could she roll down the window so she didn't hurl (she said she can't remember when she drank so much vodka -- and they were drinking it straight out of the bottle until the bottle was empty) and 2) would I be ticked off if she dictated the snapshot?

I'd forgotten all about that and I felt bad about that.  But she said not to worry and started on that.

When she was done dictating the snapshot, we were pulling up, she's at our place tonight.

Tony was still there waiting to make sure everything was alright even though Elaine had been there for hours. C.I. talked with us for about 20 minutes and then said she was sorry "but I am drained" and she went to the guest bedroom to go to sleep.

You know the cases Elaine can share because they weren't her cases, where C.I. ends up helping a male doctor?  That's one of Elaine's exes.  And one of the reasons they broke up was because she didn't think that he respected life enough or other people.  If he knew C.I. was visiting Elaine, he thought nothing of calling and telling C.I. it was an emergency and she was needed.  The time Elaine lost it was when he sent C.I. into a locked unit with a 20-year-old football player who didn't want to be in chemical dependency treatment and who had made a shiv.

C.I. walked right in knowing that.  Elaine said if she knows someone's hurting, she's willing to try anything.  (And when the football player was threatening to use the shiv on himself, C.I. tackled him and brought him down to the ground.  And she's not a large woman or a tall woman.  That made the player start laughing about how he couldn't believe she tackled him and brought him down to the ground.  And she said something back like, "And if you'd let go of that damn shiv we could be sitting up right now laughing about how stupid I was to tackle you.")

To me, with my friend tonight, it's like C.I.  had some spooky Vulcan mind-meld.  I mean, she was beyond empathy or sympathy and that probably is very draining.  Especially when you're dealing with someone who's upset and hurting and you're trying to calm them down and get them to a place where want to get help and keep on keeping on.

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

Friday, May 31, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests continue, May ends with a huge death toll, the British people struggle with how many have died in Iraq, Senator Patty Murray raises the issue of rape and assault in the military, we explore Amnesty International's new report on Iraq, and more.

Let's start in the US and start with Congress.  Senator Patty Murray sits on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Before this year, when she became the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee, she was the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  She's the subject of a profile -- Jamelle Bouie and Patrkick Caldwell's "Patty Murray In 19 Takes" for The American Prospect -- that's good for votes so there's probably not much reason to dispute the article.  But I do question the assertion that "she lacks any major legislation to her name."  That really undercuts the work she's done over the years and specifically with regards to veterans.  The Vow To Hire Heroes Act is major legislation and it took Murray's S. 951 (Hiring Heroes Act) and paired it with House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller's J.R. 2433 (Veterans Opportunity to Work Act).  The American Progress writers ignoring this is really unfortunate because it goes to the central points they are trying to make in the article -- she gets things done (they repeatedly quote people calling her a "workhorse").  In this case, Murray and Miller got things done.  She's a Democrat, he's a Republican.  They had related bills.  Hers easily passed in the Senate (I believe it was 95 votes in favor and zero opposed).  His bill was popular in the House.  They worked together and, as a result, major legislation was passed.  I think that both she and Miller have much to be proud of with regards to that.  I also fault the article for failing to note the work she has done on veterans issues which includes shining a light on issues when no one else was.  If you're a veteran who pays even a little attention to Congress, you usually know her for some issue.  If we're speaking to seriously wounded veterans, for example, they generally will note Senator Murray's efforts to help veterans start families.  She's led on that issue -- veterans whose injuries mean conception will require medical assistance -- and on many others.

Murray, before she was Committee Chair on the Veterans Affairs Committee, was often the only one on the Committee who would address issues like rape and assault.  This should not be an issue that only women can raise.  One of the many reasons to be proud of former US House Rep John Hall is that he led on this issue -- and made a real difference on it -- when he was in the House.  Currently, in the Senate, Senator Richard Blumenthal is a strong voice on the issue and is one of several former prosecutors in the Senate who are strong voices on this issue -- two others are Senator Claire McCaskill and Senator Kelly Ayotte.  And Senators Murray and Kelly Ayotte have teamed up to co-sponsor the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act (Legislation, Summary, Cosponsors).  The two senators explained their bill in a column for POLITICO earlier this month:

Our bill, the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act, would attack this crisis on multiple fronts. It would empower victims with special military lawyers to help guide them through the legal process. It would prohibit sexual contact between instructors and trainees during basic training and ensure the National Guard and Reserves have improved access to sexual assault response coordinators. Our bill would also take steps to make certain sexual assault cases are referred to the general court-martial level when sexual assault charges are filed -- or to the next superior competent authority when there is a conflict of interest within the chain of command.
Our legislation has gained support from members of both parties, and we welcome additional proposals that will turn "zero tolerance" rhetoric into "zero tolerance" policy and practice.
Make no mistake, our nation continues to have the best military in the world, largely because of the character of the brave men and women who selflessly serve. The vast majority of our service members are exceptional citizens who serve with unparalleled honor, dignity and distinction. We owe them nothing less than to take meaningful action to rid our military of the scourge of sexual assault.

This morning in Seattle, Washington, Senator Murray joined with Dr. Joyce Wipf (Professor of Medicine and Director of VA Puget Sound's Women's Program), Bridget Cantrell (PTSD and MSA expert), Jackie McLean (Director of King County Department of Community and Human Services), Charles Swift (former Navy JAG, MSA advocate) and some survivors of assault  to discuss the proposed legislation.

One of the survivors is former Marine Angela Arellano.  Dana Rebik (Q13 Fox News)  reports she was assaulted while serving in Japan, 'I had gone with a group of friends to watch a football game and after the game one of the senior Marines, an NCO, raped me."  Patricia Murphy (NWPR -- link is audio and text) quotes Angela explaining what happened after she reported the rape, "I received two weeks barracks restriction, two weeks extra duty and two months reduced pay.  And the most that he got for what he did was they transferred him off our base to another base in Okinawa."  Elisa Jaffe (KOMO News) quotes Angela stating, "I was accused of smearing a good Marine's name, I was accused of being a slut, I was called a whore, and this was by investigators."  Senator Murray adds, "We have to ask why any victim would trust the system as it currently exists to protect them.  We have literally given our victims nowhere to turn and we need a cultural overhaul."  Adam Ashton (Olympian) adds:

Former Army Spc. Nichole Bowen of Seattle, 34, said she kept quiet about the persistent sexual harassment she felt during her deployment to Iraq in 2003. She said she was propositioned almost every day.
“Every day on the deployment was a rape threat,” she said.
Both she and Arellano said the effects of the unwanted sexual contact haunt them years later.

Read more here:

Tim Haeck (My Northwest) quotes Senator Murray explaining, "It is absolutely unconscionable to me that a fellow servicemember, the person you rely on to have your back, would commit such a terrible crime against one of their fellow servicemembers."  Senator Murray's office notes:

Senator Murray’s legislation to reduce sexual assaults within the military and provide greater resources to the victims of this crime, the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013: Legislation, Summary, Cosponsors
Follow the conversation on Twitter with @PattyMurray & #CombatMSA

“The services have struggled for decades with pervasive sexual assault in the ranks. SWAN has been at the forefront of demanding institutional changes that would help improve this crisis and transform military culture. The Combating Military Sexual Assault Act introduced today by Senator Patty Murray and Senator Kelly Ayotte contains many provisions that will give the military the tools it needs to combat this widespread problem. Common-sense solutions like providing victims with their own designated lawyers, criminalizing sexual relationships between basic training instructors and students, and making sure that our National Guard troops have access to the same resources that active duty service members have are critical in making sure that survivors are supported and that offenders will be better prosecuted."
-Anu Bhagwati, Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) Executive Director 
“The 380,000 member Military Officers Association of America strongly endorses the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013. Preventing sexual assault is a duty of everyone in the chain of command.  This legislation will increase support for sexual assault victims and strengthen policies and procedures for such cases in our nation’s Armed Forces.”
-MOAA national President, VADM Norb Ryan, USN-ret. 
“The Association of the United States Navy strongly support the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act. The number of sexual assault cases is unacceptable and reflects the need for immediate action as the Department of Defense has reported.  This bill will help set in place the right oversight and stronger processes needed to protect our Sailors, men and women.”
-AUSN Executive Director, RADM Casey Coane, USN-ret.
"In light of the Pentagon's announcement that an estimated 26,000 cases of sexual assault occurred in the military in 2012 alone, the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act of 2013 is a necessary step to protect victims and hold perpetrators accountable. The effects in our culture of victim-blaming, cover-up and misogyny goes far beyond individual cases of criminal justice to be pervasive throughout the military. Survivors of military rape should have all the means they need to recover from their trauma, and the CMSA's provisions will help ensure these resources are available. NOW is glad to support Sens. Murray & Ayotte's legislation in the hope that it will improve the lives of the millions of female (and male) members of the military.”
 -Terry O’Neill, National Organization for Women President
“The special victims counsels have helped...typically it's 30 percent, as I mentioned, of our victims who won't -- continue through prosecution, even after making an unrestricted report. So far, the 265 assigned special victims counsels, two have done that. That's a great trend. We must now continue it. One of the other problems we have is that we have never had people who make restricted reports initially change from a restricted to unrestricted at a very high rate so that we can investigate and potentially prosecute those cases. About 17 percent of our reportees in the past have changed from a restricted mode to an unrestricted. Of the victims who have special victims counsel assigned, that number is tracking at 55 percent right now. And it's rising slowly as confidence grows. We have to continue that trend.”
-General Mark Welsh, U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff, 5/8/13

Turning to Iraq, last week, Amnesty International released their State of the World report which noted the protests in Iraq which have been ongoing since December 21st:

In December, tens of thousands of mostly Sunni Iraqis began holding peaceful daily anti-government protests against the abuse of detainees.  The unrest was triggered by the detention of several bodyguards of Finance Minister Rafi'e al-Issawi, a senior Sunni political leader, and by allegations of sexual and other abuse of women detainees.

Iraqi Spring MC offers video footage of RamadiNational Iraqi News Agency reports, "Tens of thousands of citizens flocked to sit-in squares in Falluja, Ramadi before noon today to participate in the Friday prayers named by sitters/ Our movement path convince your Militias/."  Alsumaria reports Salahuddin Province saw big turn out in Tikrit, Samarra and Baiji (and look at the crowd in the photo Alsumaria has up). The protesters called out the bombings and shootings that have claimed lives across Iraq and they vowed that they would continue demonstrating until the Iraqi people are heard by the government.  Iraqi Spring MC reported that SWAT forces surrounded Ramadi protesters (this was around 9:10 a.m. EST).  Alsumaria reports that the tribal clans then arrived with their forces.  The goal of SWAT was to arrest protest leaders such as Mohammed Abu Risha and Ali Hatem al-Suleiman.  The tribal clans then provided the leaders with a safe way out of the square and, after this took place, SWAT withdrew.

Nouri may have closed Baghdad to some vehicle traffic but he couldn't stop those in Baghdad from gathering.  This Iraqi Spring MC photo shows (it's al-A'mirya in western Baghdad) the prep for the sit-in.  Kitabat features a photo of the large turnout in al-A'mirya.

On this last day of May, violence continued in Iraq.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 873 violent deaths so far this month.  ABC News Radio observes, "The international community is deeply concerned that the recent spate of violent episodes in Iraq triggered by simmering sectarian tensions could explode into a full-blown civil war."  Martin Kobler is United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's Special Representative to Iraq.  Press TV quotes him stating, "I am seriously concerned.  This can get worse, and that's why I strongly advocate that this bloodletting is stopped and the situation does not deteriorate."  Iraq was discussed today on Here and Now (NPR) by guest host Meghna Chakrabarti and the BBC's Rami Ruhayem. Excerpt.

Meghna Chakrabarti:  More than 1,000 people have been killed there in the past two months making it the deadliest period in Iraq since 2008 when the US ended it's so-called surge of troops there.  The current blood shed is so bad the UN Special Representative to Iraq sounded a dire alarm.  Martin Kobler told reporters in Baghdad that, "Systemic violence is ready to explode at any moment if all Iraqi leaders do not engage immediately to pull the country out of this mayhem."  Rami Ruhayem is with the BBC's Arabic service.  He's in Baghdad and, Rami, can you tell us, are there pockets where the violence is occurring or is it just all over the country?

Rami Ruhayem:  Well there is one exception -- it's the Kurdish north, probably the most secure area in the country.  We very rarely hear of anything happening over there.  Other than that, it's mostly all over the country.  Baghdad?  Very hard hit in many cases.  Mosul, Ramadi, Anbar, the western provinces, also, of course, many Shi'ite areas.  Probably the south is a little bit more secure than other areas of the country but the only place where we do not see bombs or assassinations is probably the Kurdish north.

Meghna Chakrabarti: Mmm.  And as you mentioned assassination attempts in Anbar Province  on the governor there -- he escaped that -- car bombs in Baghdad, roadside bombs, do you have a sense as to why this is all happening now? 

Rami Ruhayem:  Well it's not just happening right now.  It's been happening for the past ten years actually -- ever snce the United States and Britain invaded and knocked Saddam Hussein out of power.  So it's not really new.  And, obviously, every time something big happens, observers and everybody tries to link it to the latest political development -- rather inside Iraq or the neighborhood.   For example, elections or what's going on in Syria.  But this kind of violence hasn't really stopped for the last ten years.

Meghna Chakrabarti:  So, Rami, this doesn't seem like an unusual uptick in violence?  I mean, a thousand people dead in two months?  I take your point that Iraq has been ground down by violence and warfare for a decade now, but this isn't out of the ordinary?

Rami Ruhayem:  Well possibly.  The last week, not just the last month, but the last week has seen probably what you could call an uptick. But it's very difficult to measure whether violence is going up or down in Iraq because you see sudden outbursts within  a week or a month or even  several weeks or several months and you see a picture of relative security but yes we have seen quite a lot of attacks  during the past week and, of course, rumors.  Maybe this is the new thing?  We've heard rumors of sectarian killings and that would be new because we haven't seen that since 2006, 2007.

Meghna Chakrabarti:  Well tell me more about that.  There seems to be an even greater rising of Sunni - Shia tension in Iraq.  So is there any evidence that those rumors of sectarian violence -- that there's substance to those rumors?

Rami Ruhayem:  The rumor, of course, was that in Sunni areas of Baghdad there are basically checkpoints manned by irregular militias seeking revenge for attacks or car bombs in Shia areas.  So that's the rumor.  We haven't seen any evidence of that.  The government says we haven't seen any such thing and has urged people to call if they see any irregular checkpoints.  No proof yet but rumors are enough to scare people.

Diane Rehm also touched on Iraq in the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) today with her guests Nadia Bilbassy (Middle East Broadcast Center), Nathan Guttman (Jewish Daily Forward) and Mark Landler (New York Times). 

Diane Rehm:  And lots of violence going on in Iraq this week as well, Nathan. 

Nathan Guttman: Definitely. The think the numbers are -- we've seen more than a 1,000 people killed in violent attacks since April, which is critical to the numbers we've seen during the Iraq war. And the concern is that the sectarian violence is getting out of hand. To a certain extent, some people think it's a spillover of the Syrian situation where Sunnis and Shiites are on opposing sides. And this is reigniting the old sectarian tension in Iraq. 

Mark Landler: Yeah, there's sort of both a domestic element in Iraq and potentially a regional element. The domestic element is that Sunnis -- minority Sunnis feel that the Shiite government is persecuting some of their leading political figures. And there's a lot of anger among Sunnis. That's a long-running chronic issue in Iraq.  The regional element, which troubles a lot of people -- Ryan Crocker's talked about this, the former U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad -- is that you now see an alliance forming between al-Qaida and Iraq. And Jabhat al-Nusra, which is the -- you know, the more extremist group in Syria. And so you could see the tensions that are inflamed in Syria spilling over and in a sense making this domestic -- this preexisting domestic issue far more explosive. And that troubles a lot of people. 

Diane Rehm:  Is Iraq heading back toward civil war? 

Mark Landler:  Well, let me quote Ryan Crocker because he knows more about it then I do. He doesn't think so. He thinks this is manageable, as bad as it is. And he doesn't think it has to go in that direction. But, you know, it raises an interesting question for Americans. The criticism of President Obama was that he got out of Iraq leaving very little, if any residual force behind and sort of left the Iraqis to their own devices.   So the question now is, what is our role? The Iraqis desperately want trade and economic ties with the United States. Can we play any sort of a constructive role in heading off that worse-case scenario? 

Nadia Bilbassy:  I think the UN spokesperson in Baghdad won already that the country is heading towards a broader conflict if the political leadership do not act. The problem for -- as Mark said, basically the power sharing agreement that happened after the election never really fully implemented. There is always a suspicion between the Sunnis who dominated the country political life during Saddam Hussein and the majority Shiites.

Today's violence?    Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reports a Baghdad bombing has claimed 4 lives and left eleven people injured while a Falluja armed attack left 3 police officers dead and two more injured. National Iraqi News Agency reports a Muqdadiya bombing claimed 2 lives and left six more people injured, a Sharqat bombing claimed the life of 1 Sahwa and left another and one police officer injured, and a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left another injured.  The Muqdadiya bombing targeted a mosque.  Alsumaria notes that six other mosques in Diyala Province have been targeted with bombings over the last two months.

Jason Ditz ( offers this look at the month's violence:’s own daily round-ups from Margaret Griffis tracked Iraq violence counts, and came up with 1,077 dead in the month of May, and 2,258 others wounded. Such a level has not been seen since the last sectarian civil war in Iraq in early 2008.
Perhaps most troubling is that the toll wasn’t a straight line throughout the month, and that much of the violence came in the second half of May. 

Over a thousand in May?  That's certainly a surprise to some people.  Alex Thomson (Channel 4) reports on new poll of the British that asked them how many people died in Iraq.  Here's a summary of the polling results:

  • Two-thirds (66 per cent) of the public estimate that 20,000 or fewer civilians and combatants have died as a consequence of the war in Iraq since 2003.
  • One in 10 (10 per cent) think that between 100,000 and 500,000 have died and one in 20 (6 per cent) think that more than 500,000 have died.
  • According to public estimates, the mean number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion is 189,530.
  • Women in Britain are more likely to underestimate the number of deaths in Iraq since the invasion than men. Half (53 per cent) of women think 5,000 or fewer deaths have occurred since the invasion compared to one-third (35 per cent) of men.
Perhaps that last figure is the most startling – a majority of women and more than a third of men polled say fewer than 5,000 deaths have occurred.

Thursday, May 23rd, I dictated (the Iraq snapshots are dictated), "Amnesty International's State of the World report was released today.  We will cover it tomorrow."  We did not cover it the next day.  A number of things, including the Associated Press' Matthew Lee's strong questioning of the State Dept, grabbed my focus.  My apologies.  In the Iraq section, the opening includes this -- remember this is the description of a government the US props up, funds and arms:

Thousands of people were detained; hundreds were sentenced to death or prison terms, many after unfair trials and on terrorism-related charges.  Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees remained rife and were committed with impunity.  At least 129 people were executed, including at least three women.  Armed groups opposed to the government continued to commit gross human rights abuses, killing hundreds of civilians in suicide and other bomb attacks.  Harassment, intimidation and violence against journalists and media workers continued to be reported.

After I missed noting the report last Friday, a number of e-mails speculated I was ignoring the report because of current problems with Amnesty.  When possible, the last four years, we've noted Amnesty UK because a friend with the UK chapter is someone I speak to regularly so it's very easy, in the course of our conversation, for me to get a heads up about Iraq.  But we haven't dropped Amnesty International's US chapter.  I understand why people would wonder and I heard the radio report this week about the woman in charge of Amnesty US -- thing is, she stepped down from that post back in January.  When you make a dumb mistake like that, SF, you make it very easy for every thing else you say to be dismissed.  Once upon a time, we could pick and choose with regards to Iraq.  That's not possible anymore.  We'll even note Commentary and other conservative sources -- with links -- these days.  Yes, it's usually to disagree with them but once upon a time, we didn't note them at all.

Amnesty International has never been the ideal that so many wished it had become.  The outrage being expressed currently is, to me, laughable.  Francis A. Boyle can and has written and talked about Amnesty.  His criticism has been serious criticism.  A lot of what's going on right now isn't serious.  It's conjecture and it's Hillary hatred (the woman who stepped down in January had worked under Hillary Clinton).  I don't mind conjecture.  I do mind it when conjecture is presented as established fact.  A number of voices on the radical left give the radical left a bad name by repeatedly insisting conjecture is fact.  They are largely attacking Amnesty because of Bradley Manning.  I consider Bradley a political prisoner.  Amnesty currently has not made that call.  Is that fair?  Actually, by Amnesty standards, it is.  By the standards in the 70s, they're being true to their guidelines.  Amnesty has not spoken to Bradley and cannot speak to him.  His attorney is an ego maniac -- yeah, I said it -- who doesn't know what he's doing and that has impacted the coverage.  (He refused to give interviews -- I was at his little presentation when he bragged about that.  What an idiot.  When your client can't speak to the world, when he's gagged, you do every interview you can to humanize him.)  How is Amnesty supposed to determine he's a political prisoner?

If they declare him one and he reveals something different in his testimony at the court-martial, they'll look too eager to label people "political prisoners."  Bradley is one person.  Amnesty's ability to shine a light on those in need is a great power -- it's why some of his supporters are attacking Amnesty for not labeling him a political prisoner.  But that ability is lessened when a non-political prisoner is wrongly labeled by them.

They've been unable to interview him, his attorney is a joke (civilian attorney), what's been presented to the court as the foundation of an argument created an uproar among his supporters but could have laid the groundwork for declaring him a political prisoner (but were Amnesty to now do so on the basis of gender issues, they would be attacked for that by some of Bradley's supporters).  He gave a statement in court.  That's all anyone has to go by.

And it appears he's going to plead guilty in some form or manner to partial or full charges.

If you think back to 'reporter' Sarah Olson, it's actually similar.  We supported Lt Ehren Watada (the first officer to publicly refuse to serve in the Iraq War).  Olson was among the journalists who interviewed him.  The military wanted to call her as a witness for the prosecution.

And Sarah distracted from the story from that moment on.  And all of her supporters were as loud as they were stupid.  We didn't support Sarah.  We couldn't.  I noted repeatedly that if she would say, "I'm not going to testify," we could support her.  We supported Judith Miller's right to refuse to answer questions about her sources.  If Sarah had refused, I would have led every snapshot addressing the issues involved.  But regardless of the outlet and the interviewer, she refused to say what she was going to do.  And she was all over the place getting publicity.  In the meantime, Ehren had stated what he was going to do.  And his story was lost as Sarah sucked up all the media oxygen.  (And then, in the end, when Ehren saved her cry baby ass, she 'rewarded' him by giving an interview shortly after where she trashed him.)

I can't defend her if she can't discuss her "strategy" (her term).  By the same token, Amnesty can't call Bradley a political prisoner.  Is he going to plead guilty in part or in full?  No one knows (but it looks that way).  Bradley needs to do what he thinks is right and we've stated that all along.  That mean if he gets offered a deal that works, he should grab it if he can live with it.  But he could issue statements through his attorney that would assist Amnesty in labeling him a political prisoner.  That's not happened.  (Monday on NPR's Here and Now, Slate's Emily Bazelon will be a guest to discuss the issues involved in Bradley's court-martial.)

I wish Amnesty would declare Lynne Stewart a political prisoner and I've lobbied for that to friends with Amnesty.  We don't always get what we want.  I haven't attacked them for not labeling Lynne a political prisoner (and I label Lynne one hear whenever I write about her).  Amnesty International is an organization, it's not pizza delivery -- you can't just place an order and expect to get what you want.

Does Amnesty have value?  Yes.  And if you doubt it, let's drop back to yesterday's snapshot:

The US State Dept today issued "Country Reports on Terrorism 2012."  The annual report focuses on terrorism or 'terrorism' around the world.  The Iraq section includes these claims:

We then included some of the claims and then I noted:

We're not going to spend a lot of time on the above because, first of all, it's almost June 2013.  Iraq's far too fluid for a look at 2012 violence to offer a great deal of insight.  Second of all, it's a dishonest report.  When you're praising the ability to 'secure' the Arab League Summit and you're not noting that Baghdad shut down the week before the Summit? You're not being honest.  If you can shut down Baghdad for the week before and the week of a Summit, it's not a surprise that there's no violence in Baghdad.  Was it worth it to the Iraqi people?  Was it worth it to them for all that money for security (and painting and prettying Baghdad) and for the inconvenience of the city shutting down for two weeks?  Probably not.  But that's not even considered in the report which fails to note any of the details of the Arab League Summit -- which was a huge failure and avoided by the leaders of all the major countries in the region.  So we'll note the ridiculous claims but we're not going to focus on them.  And the 'international' meet-ups in Baghdad continue to be a laugh.

If Amnesty is nothing but a cheap megaphone of the State Dept, then surely this report that they released Thursday of last week will track with the State Dept report released this week, right?

So let's see what it says about the Arab League Summit:

In March, the League of Arab States held its summit meeting in Baghdad for the first time since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.  Prior to the meeting, the security forces carried out mass arrests in Baghdad, apparently as a "preventive" measure.

I'd forgotten about that, the mass arrests.  I don't just mean that it slipped my mind when I was dictating the snapshot yesterday, I mean, until I read the Amnesty report today, I had forgotten about it.  Amnesty didn't forget and they didn't was on the way the State Dept did.  Know what else they noted:

Young people, particularly those seen locally as nonconformists, were subject to a campaign of intimidation after flyers and signs targeting them appeared in the Baghdad neighbourhoods of Sadr City, al-Hababiya and Hay al-'Amal in February. Those targeted included youths suspected of homosexual conduct and those seen as pursuing an alternative lifestyle because of their distinctive hairstyles, clothes or musical tastes.

You know who didn't note that in their recent report?  The US State Dept.

There's no better example of terrorism than groups who are targeted because of who they are.  That's the Jews during WWII, it's the Armenians during the Turkish genocide, it's gays and lesbians (or people suspected of being gay or lesbian) in oppressive societies.

"B-b-b-but, that's your definition of terrorism and the State Dept was focusing on the Iraqi government."  No.  Read through all of what they wrote and the lists of violence they compiled.  It's 'terrorism' when they don't have to take a stand.  Also grasp that the targeting was done by the government. The Ministry of the Interior, specifically.  (That's the police ministry, by the way.)  They had put out a paper about the Emo, demonizing them.   March 5th, we noted:

In the meantime, the attack on Emo youth or suspected Emo youth in Iraq continues. Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that those with longish hair, suspected of being Emo are being threatened and killed. Grace notes that there are lists of Emo youth (or accused of being Emo youth) publicly displayed in Sadr City, Shula and Kadhimiya with the promise that, one by one, each will be killed. An unnamed official in the Sadr City municipal court states that people have, on their cell phones, the names of young people to "liquidate" because they are Emo. This is beyond insanity and what happens when the US government turns a country over to thugs. And where is Nouri calling this out? Oh, that's right, he's not a leader. Well where's the United Nations? A segment of Iraqi youth is being targeted for "liquidation." That's pretty disturbing. Note the silence.

Four days later, March 9, 2012, Dan Littauer (Gay Star News) reported:

The report from the local LGBTQ activist indicates that Jaish Al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army) and Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous) are at least partially responsible for the murders.
An anonymous official in Sadr city’s municipal council affirmed that some people are recruited by extremist armed militias who carry lists stored in their phones with the names of emo youths and LGBTQ people to be murdered.
It has also emerged that some officials are actually behind the killings.
Colonel Mushtaq Taleb Muhammadawi, director of the community police of the Iraqi Interior Ministry, stated on 6 February that they had observed the so-called Satanists and emos. He added that the police have an official approval to eliminate emo people because of their ‘notorious effects’ on the community.
The colonel declared to Iraq News Network that: ‘Research and reports on the emo phenomenon has been conducted and shared with the Ministry of Interior which officially approves the measures to eliminate them.
‘The Ministries of Education and Interior are taking this issue seriously and we have an action plan to “eradicate them”. I will be leading the project myself and we have the necessary permits to access all schools in the capital,’ added the colonel, thus possibly indicating at the very least Iraqi state complicity with the massacres.

The Ministry of the Interior tried to deny involvement but got caught in their lie by Al Mada which printed the handout the ministry passed out during school presentations calling for death of the Emo. Scott Lang's wrote a column for the Guardian that addressed this:

Iraq's brutal interior ministry issued two statements in February. The first announced official approval to "eliminate" the "satanists". The second, on 29 February, proclaimed a "campaign" to start with a crackdown on stores selling emo fashion. The loaded language suggests, at a minimum, that the ministry incited violence. It's highly possible that some police, in a force riddled with militia members, participated in the murders.

That's not terrorism?  If you don't think that's terrorism, I think there's something seriously wrong with you.  Children were targeted for death and other children were encouraged to kill them -- encouraged by the Ministry of the Interior.  Shame on the US State Dept for turning a blind eye to it in their supposed 2012 report.  They should be ashamed of themselves.  Amnesty's far from perfect and I agree with Francis A. Boyle's criticism of Amnesty (which is much harsher than "they didn't label my hero a political prisoner!).  But to call them just a mouth for western government's foreign policy is selling them short. 

the guardian
scott long



Thursday, May 30, 2013

Norman Pollack, Ian Murphy

Almost the weekend.  Warning, taking my daughter to the zoo tomorrow.  Expect me to be exhausted at the end of the day.  This is her first trip.  She asked if we could go.  She only knows zoos from movies.  And she's convinced it's going to be so much fun.  I'm sure she'll have fun.  I'm also sure that a few hours in, she'll need me to carry her on my back.  That's fine but just a heads up not to expect much tomorrow because I will probably be very, very tired.

Norman Pollack has another must-read at CounterPunch:

Is punishment of so-called leakers surprising given this framework?  Does assassination conduce to respect for the law on other occasions?  Does “hit-lists,” an established fact of Terror Tuesdays as the National-Security gang sits around, at the Chief’s feet, planning summary executions from the skies, where habeas corpus, right to counsel, evidentiary preparation, are as remote as the 8,000-mile in distance from “pilot” of the drones to the victims, executed, vaporized, in plain sight.  The Obama Team is one set of tough cookies, not to be restrained by reporters, whistle blowers, soon perhaps, even demonstrators, as we saw when one CP writer, Medea Benjamin, was ejected from Brennan’s hearings for DCIA.  But now finally we are seeing some action in response to (a) abuses of the law, (b) the utter lack of government transparency, and (c) the chilling effect (a natural outcome of Obama’s own coldness with respect to civil liberties, as much else) on press freedom and the right to know in general, action, be it noted, taken by Republicans—not Democrats—and therefore easily dismissible by liberals, even when, as here, there is abundant merit in the criticism directed against government tactics in seeking to silence dissent and opposition.

He has quickly become, in my opinion, the reason to visit CounterPunch.  I'll also be nominating him for a truest at Third which I hope he gets.  I like John V. Walsh but don't see him lately at CounterPunch.   I don't think they've had a writer I enjoyed this much -- at CounterPunch) since Elaine Cassel.  When I was in high school, she was the main reason I would go to CounterPunch.

Last night, I threw out a link and said I was going to let someone else comment first.  I was talking about Stan who wrote "The problem is Macaray not Bill Maher" last week.

The link I threw out was to Ian Murphy's "Bill Maher And The Evangical Left" (The Progressive):

And, in the real world, Obama-era liberals have repeatedly supported policies they once reviled only because the sticker on the box read: “Hope and Change.”
I could compile a list of partisan super-hacks from, say, Media Matters for America or even Think Progress, but no one popular figure better exemplifies this political, moral branding-shift than the host of HBO's “Real Time” Bill Maher.

He goes on to really hold Maher accountable and this is probably my favorite part:

Maher blows off Benghazi, and the legitimate IRS and DOJ/AP scandals in one faith-based swoop: “Doesn't it matter that these are all bulls**t?” Motivated reasoning, an applause line, preaching to the choir. To Maher, it's all horrible lies; it's heresy to challenge the righteousness of the one true Democratic POTUS.
“The press is in a frenzy about this too,” Maher scoffs over the AP's violated 1st and 4th Amendment rights, yet another assault in Obama's relentless war on whistle-blowers “They're like a crack addict looking for a rock in the carpet.” Later in the program, Maher offers an even lamer bit of sophistry: the press failed us with Bush's warrantless wiretaps, so we shouldn't care that it's happening to them now (despite it being “bulls**t,” which implies that it didn't happen, right?).

Wouldn't it be something if this was a sign that The Progressive was putting away the pom-poms and returning to being the magazine it was under Bully Boy Bush?  A magazine that had ethics and could call out an Oval Office occupant.

Leigh Ann wondered that too, if the magazine could be finding its spine?  She e-mailed about that today.  She's one of the oldest readers I have, I think she started e-mailing me in my second week online.  She wondered if "looking back, would you and C.I. have been as vocal as you were if you knew what it would cost?  I'm thinking of how BuzzFlash, for example, went from linking to C.I. nearly every week to flat out ignoring her because she wouldn't whore for Barack."

I can answer for C.I.

We're all her unruly children.  :D

Seriously, all of us who sprung up with our own sites, we were TCI-ers first.  And once we got our own sites, at some point, we have all written something that has caused C.I. grief.  For example, Kat did a review trashing a big rock star and he was furious and angry with C.I. for it.  He stopped being friends with C.I. for it because (a) she wouldn't apologize for it, (b) she wouldn't give him Kat's phone number and (c) she wouldn't agree it was wrong.  But usually what we did was call ____ an asshole.  And then ____ writes us and says he was going to note C.I. but after what we just pulled . . .

Now that would happen and we'd all go to C.I. and say we were sorry.

She'd say don't worry and it didn't matter.

And it really didn't.  In 2008, as she refused to whore for Barack and found herself delinked and no longer highlighted by all these supposedly left sites, it didn't matter to her one bit.  She's not going to whore.

So that's her.


If I'm honest, I don't know.

Right now, I would say, "Yes, I'd do it all over again the same."

But there were times when it was as if Leigh Ann and Beau were my only readers.  I went from the top listing for "Mikey Likes It" on Google to down the page.  And I'm not C.I., it hurt.  She doesn't care.  She doesn't repeat herself, she doesn't do greatest hits, etc.  But she's famous offline.   People stop her for autographs and tell her they love her.  (And I really respect her for not trading on that online.  She could have had an instant following by blogging under her own name.  Instead, she made it about the issues and her voice and found an audience.)

But my online 'fame' was all I had.  And I went from 1,000 hits on a slow day to, in 2009, 40 hits on a good day.  In 2010, I might have, if given the chance, said, "Yeah, I'll whore for Barack, I'll go back and change." Because that was depressing.

But then came a few changes and boom I had readers again.  So I know that they do visit if you've got something to say.

And I learned a lot during that time period about me and about the world.

My grandfather that I blog about a lot would get so mad at me when Bush was in the White House because I'd be talking about how I hate Republicans.  And he would say that I could hate certain politicians but if I was hating all the people who were Republicans then I was the stupid one because I was making sure that I would never be friends with a group of people who maybe could learn from me and I could learn from.  My grandfather's a Socialist.  So he also didn't grasp my blind worship of Democrats.

And the last years have brought some Republican readers who felt the need to e-mail and let me know I was wrong about something or right about something.  And the last years have shown me just how unethical Democrats can be as well.  So it's been an eye opener.  And at some point, maybe not in my lifetime, I think we're going to shake off the labels -- as a people -- and demand that our government serve us and stop serving corporations.  And that's a hope that's resulted from the lessons of the last years.

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

Thursday, May 30, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, 872 violent deaths so far this month, Moqtada al-Sadr calls for Iraq to get a new president, rumors about President Jalal Talabani's health move from Arab social media to the Arab press, the United Nations warns of "systemic violence" and "mayhem" in Iraq, Iraq's oil production drops for the month of May, CNN closes shop in Baghdad, US Senator Patty Murray gears up for a press event to raise awareness of rape and assault in the military, the IRS scandal continues to bubble with 76% of Americans wanting a special prosecutor to be appointed, and more.

Thursday, May 30th, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
 (202) 224-2834

TOMORROW: MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT: SEATTLE: Murray to Meet with Survivors of Military Sexual Assault, Discuss Her Bill to Protect Victims

Of the estimated 26,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2012, only 3,374 were reported
Murray bill would provide greater victim resources while improving current prevention programs

(Washington, D.C.) – Tomorrow, Friday, May 31st, 2013, U.S. Senator Patty Murray will meet with survivors of military sexual assault and advocates in Seattle.  Last month, Senator Murray introduced the Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013, which would reduce sexual assaults within the military and address a number of gaps within current law and policy. One provision in Senator Murray’s bill would provide victims with a dedicated counsel to guide them through the difficult process of reporting sexual assault. According to DoD estimates, there were about 19,000 cases of military sexual assault in 2010 alone. Of these, 3,192 were reported, leaving thousands of victims to face the aftermath alone as their assailants escape justice. That number rose to 26,000 cases in 2012 with less than 3,400 of those cases being reported. Murray will use the stories she hears Friday to continue fighting for victims of military sexual assault in Washington, D.C.  More about Senator Murray’s bill HERE.


WHO:          U.S. Senator Patty Murray

         Survivors of military sexual assault

         Charles Swift, former Navy JAG, MSA advocate

         Dr. Joyce Wipf, Professor of Medicine and Director of VA Puget Sound’s Women's Program

         Bridget Cantrell, PTSD & MSA expert

         Jackie McLean, Director, King County Department of Community & Human Services

WHAT:        Senator Murray will meet with survivors of military sexual assault, discuss ways her legislation will protect victims

WHEN:        TOMORROW: Friday, May 31st, 2013

          10:00 AM PT

WHERE:    UW Medicine at South Lake Union

         850 Republican Street, Conference Room C359

                     Seattle, WA 98109



Kathryn Robertson
Deputy Press Secretary 

Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray

154 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington D.C. 20510

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

Last night, filling in for Ann, I noted 30-year-old Anthony K. Mastrogiovanni had "pleaded guilty today to the sexual exploitation of minors to produce child pornography" as a Justice Dept press release noted and it also noted:

According to filed court documents and proceedings, between 2006 and 2012, Mastrogiovanni was a U.S. Navy reservist who sexually exploited more than 30 male juveniles, ranging from 9 to 16 years of age, in Maryland and Louisiana to produce child pornography.  During that time period, Mastrogiovanni met and befriended his victims through his involvement in civic organizations or his military affiliation.  Mastrogiovanni captured sexually explicit video of the victims on cameras hidden in his residences in Louisiana and Maryland.

These crimes are not about sex, they're about power, they're about harm and they're not being addressed.  That's why Senators Murray and Kelly Ayotte have proposed their bill,  "Combating Military Sexual Assault (MSA) Act of 2013."  This is only one bill trying to address the issue.  Karisa King and Gary Martin (San Antonio Express-News) reported yesterday on five other bills:

* Senators Barbara Boxer and Kirsten Gillibrand have a bill (Military Justice Improvement Act) to prevent military commanders from overturning verdicts (to allow those convicted or rape and/or assault to be stuck with those convictions the way they would in the civilian world)

* US House Rep Jackie Speier has a bill (reintroduced) to create an independent oversight office to handle investigations and prosecutions of assault and rape.

* Senator Amy Klobuchar has a bill to keep convicted sex offenders from entering the military

* Senator Klobuchar and Senator Claire McCaskill have a bill to establish standards for those over the assault prevention programs.

* US House Rep Niki Tsongas and US House Rep Mike Turner have a bill where if you're convicted of rape or assault you end up kicked out of the service.

These bills are needed because despite all the talk from the Defense Dept over the last ten years, they've failed to create policies that addressed the issues the bills cover.  I'm really hoping the Murray event gets coverage because the range and scope of her bill and the five above go just how much work needs to be done to combat assault and rape within the military.

Today the United Nations News Centre notes that Martin Kobler declared, "Systemic violence is ready to explode at any moment if all Iraqi leaders do not engage immediately to pull the country out of this mayhem."  Kobler is United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq and heads the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 839 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month -- two days left in the month, today and tomorrow.  Today National Iraqi News Agency reports a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left six people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing left three people injured, 2 Iraqi border guards in Anbar Province were killed by men "wearing police uniforms," a Mosul suicide car bombing claimed the lives of 3 police officers and left eight more injured, a Baghdad car bombing (Karrada district) claimed 1 life and left nine people injured2 Baghdad car bombings (Binooq neighborhood and one "near the Mission Complex") left 6 people dead and nineteen injured, and a Ramadi bombing assassination attempt on Anbar Province Governor Qassim Mohammed al-Fahdawi left the governor unscathed but injured four of his bodyguards. Al Rafidayn notes that motorcycles and vehicles have been banned in Baghdad today and tomorrow.  Adam Schreck, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) count 33 dead in today's violence.  Mohammed Tawfeeq and Jason Hanna (CNN) note that "since Monday alone, at least 120 people have been killed."  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, according to Iraq Body Count, 161 people were killed in violence.  If you add AP's 33 death toll for today to that you 194 violent deaths since Monday morning.

UNAMI issued the following on Wednesday:

Baghdad, 30 May 2013 – On 29 May, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Martin Kobler, briefed the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (AFET) on the current developments in Iraq.

In his exchange of views with the parliamentarians, Mr. Kobler expressed serious concerns over the heightened level of violence in Iraq and the danger that the country falls back into sectarian strife, if decisive action is not taken by its political leaders. “The country stands at a crossroads,” the UN Envoy said, calling for a stronger EU role in dealing with the developments unfolding in the country, and for increased interaction with the Iraqi Council of Representatives. 
Mr. Kobler also briefed AFET on UNAMI’s efforts to resettle the former residents of Camp Ashraf to third countries. He deplored the lack of cooperation of the residents and of their leadership with the UNHCR and UN monitors, and urged them to accept concrete resettlement offers. Stressing that “resettlement to safe countries is the only durable option”, he called again on European Union member states to accept former Camp Ashraf residents into their countries.

 On violence in Iraq, let's move to the US.  First, of all the times to leave -- from a journalistic stand point, now is when you leave Iraq?

To be the last to leave, the last to be gone,
stolen from the ones who hung on to it.

To be the last in line, the ones that live on,
silhouette of a dream, treasured by the ones 
. . . who hung on to it.
-- "Fireflies," written by Stevie Nicks, first appears on Fleetwood Mac's Fleetwood Mac Live.

Erik Hayden (Hollywood Reporter) reports today that the last US TV network with a news bureau in Baghdad, CNN, has announced they are closing it.  They quote a spokesperson for CNN (nameless because this is so embarrassing would you want your name attached?) stating, "While CNN is departing its current brick-and-mortar location in Baghdad, the network continues to maintain an editorial presence in Iraq through a dedicated team of CNN stringers and correspondent assignments as news warrants."   This is when CNN pulls out?  And no one thought how this would hurt their news image just when they're rebuilding and gaining viewers by supposedly focusing on news?  Hayden explains,  "Fox News confirmed to THR that, after the recent closure of their own bureau this year, they rely on stringers and correspondents based in Iraq for their coverage. ABC News and NBC News have one full-time producer based in the capital city."

The violence is at a five year high as CNN closes its bureau?  It might be interesting here to note Noam Chomsky's remarks about what happened to the world press when the violence increased in East Timor.   CNBC's Pozner and Donahue had Chomsky as a guest for the full hour on the April 20, 1993 and April 22, 1993 episodes.  Excerpt.

Noam Chomsky:  It's as if history set up a controlled experiment.  There were two major atrocities at the same time, same part of the world, roughly comparable in scale.  One of them was an Indonesian invasion and annexation, East Timor.  The other was Pol Pot atrocities internal to Cambodia.  The coverage -- The coverage was dramatically different.  The coverage of East Timor declined sharply as the atrocities continued.  The coverage of East Timor was pretty high before the Indonesian invasion.  It then declined and hit zero in both the United States and Canada -- and most of the western world -- in 1978 when the atrocities really reached genocidal proportions.  In Cambodia, on the other hand, there was huge publicity. Within a few weeks of the Khmer Rouge takeover, the New York Times was already denouncing genocide and probably a few hundred or thousand people had been killed.  Well what was the difference?   The difference was in one case the United States was directly behind it.  It was providing 90% of the arms.  It was providing crucial diplomatic support.

Phil Donahue:  East Timor.  The Indonesian invasion of  East Timor.

Noam Chomsky:  The US provided critical diplomatic support.  Daniel Moynihan took pride in the fact that he prevented the United Nations from doing any action -- he writes about it with great pride.  The US gave them new offers of arms.  As the attack peaked, Carter sent more arms.  And Cambodia was an enemy.  You can be very moral about the atrocities committed by an enemy.

And it's safer, career wise, to 'cover' Syria (call for war on Syria) than it is to cover Iraq.  The US is arming Nouri, they've sent more US troops back in.  No one wants to tell the truth.  Dropping back to the April 30th snapshot:

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

No other media outlet amplified Tim Arango's NYT report.  No media outlet covered the Memorandum of Understanding.  The White House backs Nouri al-Maliki and so you get no honesty and now you get even less coverage.  But war on Syria is wanted so Deborah Amos and others with NPR end up in that country.  Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is seen as an 'enemy' by the US government so McClatchy has someone covering it and the New York Times has a whole squadron -- in fact their star reporter would probably be alive today if he'd stuck to covering Iraq but Syria was 'fresh meat' for the cannons of war and off he rushed.  Turn on the evening news on commercial US broadcast networks (CBS, ABC and NBC) and you'll find reports from Syria.  You won't find Iraq.

The US State Dept today issued "Country Reports on Terrorism 2012."  The annual report focuses on terrorism or 'terrorism' around the world.  The Iraq section includes these claims:

Iraqi security forces made progress combating al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) and other Sunni insurgent organizations in 2012. While there has been clear and measurable success against AQI over the years, the group still remains a dangerous threat to the Iraqi people. In 2012, there were no significant attacks on U.S. interests or U.S. fatalities. The Iraqi government succeeded in securing multiple large public religious gatherings and government events – most notably the Arab League Summit in late March and P5+1 talks in May in Baghdad – but terrorist bombings and other attacks continued to occur.
The Government of Iraq concentrated its counterterrorism efforts against AQI and other Sunni-affiliated terrorist organizations. AQI remained capable of large-scale coordinated attacks and conducted numerous high-profile suicide and car bombings on government and civilian targets, aiming to increase tensions among Iraqi sectarian groups and ethnic minorities, and undercut public perceptions of the government’s capacity to provide security. Jaysh Rijal al-Tariqah al-Naqshabandiyah (JRTN), a Sunni nationalist insurgent group with links to the former Baath Party, also continued attacks during the year. JRTN largely targeted Iraqi and U.S. interests in northern Iraq. Shia militant groups Kata’ib Hizballah, Asa’ib Ahl Haqq, and the Sadrist Promised Day Brigades adhered to the cease-fire they declared in the latter half of 2011 and early 2012. Some former Shia militant leaders began engaging in the political process and competing for political influence.
Terrorist tactics and weapons remained largely unchanged from 2011, as AQI and other terrorists relied predominantly on suicide bombings and car and roadside bombs and to a lesser extent on gunmen using assault rifles or silenced weapons to assassinate government and security officials.
Iraq-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation remained strong, particularly in training, advisory, and intelligence-sharing programs.
The Iraqi Security Forces proved capable of working together to find, arrest, and charge terrorism suspects. In November, the Iraqi Police, Federal Police, and Iraqi Army – at times working together – arrested over 350 people on terrorism charges and seized several weapon and rocket caches, as part of a major counterterrorism operation. Iraq’s Counterterrorism Services (CTS) also conducted approximately 1,600 terrorism related arrests in 2012.

 We're not going to spend a lot of time on the above because, first of all, it's almost June 2013.  Iraq's far too fluid for a look at 2012 violence to offer a great deal of insight.  Second of all, it's a dishonest report.  When you're praising the ability to 'secure' the Arab League Summit and you're not noting that Baghdad shut down the week before the Summit? You're not being honest.  If you can shut down Baghdad for the week before and the week of a Summit, it's not a surprise that there's no violence in Baghdad.  Was it worth it to the Iraqi people?  Was it worth it to them for all that money for security (and painting and prettying Baghdad) and for the inconvenience of the city shutting down for two weeks?  Probably not.  But that's not even considered in the report which fails to note any of the details of the Arab League Summit -- which was a huge failure and avoided by the leaders of all the major countries in the region.  So we'll note the ridiculous claims but we're not going to focus on them.  And the 'international' meet-ups in Baghdad continue to be a laugh.

May 7th, Aswat al-Iraq reported, "Ministry of Higher Education will hold tomorrow its International Conference on Sustainable Development in Iraq with the participation of Arab and foreign universities."  Iraq's Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research issued a statement trying to play it as a big success.  Then they issued this statement which buries reality in the final paragraph:

While inaugurating the International Conference to achieve sustainable development in Iraq which was organized by the Ministry, His Excellency Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Mr. Ali Al-Adeeb, called on researchers and faculty members in the educational institutions to follow  new methods to liberate man from the extremist ideology which became one of obstacles to the development in Iraq.

Mr. Al-Adeeb said that the sustainable development in Iraq needs basic steps represented by the liberation of man from extremist behaviors and providing security, justice and equality, adding that the universities can prepare studies that contribute to the integration of Iraq with the countries of the developed world.

Al-Adeeb added that the Iraqi universities should take their vital and prominent role in establishing a knowledge base that contributes in building a contemporary educational system, able to adapt the revolution of knowledge witnessed by the world, indicating that human freedom is an important issue, allows everyone to think away from the exploitation, launching the energies and capabilities to create life and guiding community to its correct identity.

Mr. Al-Adeeb pointed out that we cannot benefit from the science in an environment that lacks security and stability, and the variety in the community represents an important factor that leads to the integration in achieving development, adding that the universities and the educational institutions are the first and the effective factors in speeding up the development of society in all fields.

It is worthy mentioning that the conference was attended by researchers from Bahrain, Sudan, Yemen and Libya.

The 'international conference' was supposed to have participation from Arab universities.  See any major players there?  Bahrain, Sudan, Yemen and Libya?  Nope.  Bahrain's government is hated by two-thirds of the Iraqi population (and protested regularly in Basra and Baghdad by Moqtada al-Sadr's Shi'ite supporters).  And that's the most prominent of the four.  The best excuse is that violence scared the major players from attending.

In this current climate of violence in Iraq, fears are swirling.  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) reports:

[T]he death squads were the most ambiguous aspect of the war. They carried out kidnappings and killings by wearing Iraqi police uniforms, and traveling in official and military vehicles in 2006-2007 — while an evening curfew was in place (from midnight to 6 a.m.) — to hunt for their victims.
This term goes back to before the civil war, when The Washington Post used it on Dec. 4, 2005, while criticizing the way the Iraqi police forces were formed and infiltrated by militias. 
Remarkably, the term has re-emerged after eight years. As news reports in Baghdad talked about the return of militants and killings carried out by armed militias in broad daylight, the Sunni Mutahidoun bloc held the Iraqi authorities responsible for this matter and accused them of bringing back the civil war.

These Shi'ite militias have alarmed many including cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr.  AFP notes, " Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr criticized the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, accusing the Premier of waging a sectarian war and urging him to end the oppression of minorities. [. . .]  The government must hold accountable and sack those who are manipulating the intelligence and security services, Sadr said in a statement. He also urged the authorities to work hard in order to defuse sectarian tension ravaging Iraq."

Dillon Clancy (New Europe) observes, "Tension has erupted over the perception that prime minister Nouri al-Maliki is actively working to marginalise Sunnis and concentrate power in his own hands. Over the past year the Maliki government has arrested or exiled a number of high level Sunni officials, most notably vice president Tareq al-Hashemi and finance minister Rafi al-Issawi, provoking widespread protests CNN has reported."    The violence has been increasing for some time.  A smart move would have been to have filled the security ministries with people to head them.  That was supposed to happen in 2010.  All these years later, it still hasn't.   All Iraq News notes MP Yousif al-Taai, with Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc, "stressed the necessity of nominating the security ministers rather than running the security ministries by acting ministers."  Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."

As the turmoil swirls, where is Iraq's president?  Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  At the start of the month, there were new rumors swirling about his health and, this past week,  Nouri al-Maliki attempted to have Jalal stripped of his post this month.  (Parliament rejected the notion.) Following that,  Al Mada ran a photo of Jalal Talabani seated outdoors with his medical team and noted the team states the Iraqi President's health has continued to improve and he will return to Iraq shortly. 

Arabic social media has been referring to the photos and the video as having a Weekend At Bernie's type feel to it.  (In Weekend At Bernie's, two young men prop up the corpse of dead Bernie to trick people into believing he's alive.)  The fact that Jalal's only seen in the photos from his right side have people speculating about what the left side shows -- the after-effects of a stroke? Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram) notes:

Rumours have been abundant about Talabani’s health condition as his convalescence coincides with one of Iraq’s most serious political crises and its deadliest period of ethno-sectarian strife since the United States pullout in 2011.
Some reports have suggested that Talabani is clinically dead in the Berlin hospital where he is treated, others said the enfeebled president has handed his will to one of the leaders of his party.
Regardless of the furious speculations among Iraqis about Talabani’s health conditions, his prolonged absence has sparked a debate about whether he will be physically able to resume official duties.
According to various medical studies, persons who had strokes mostly develop serious physical and emotional problems occurring after recovery and they will need prolonged treatment.

Abdel Hamid Zerbari (Al-Monitor) adds:

Some political observers are skeptical of the photographs, in which Talabani appears seated in only one position. They stress that the photos were released after the prosecutor general of the Iraqi Council of Representatives issued a statement, on May 13, calling on the head of the council to take legal action pursuant to the provisions of Article 72.II.c of the Iraqi constitution in the event of a vacancy in the office of the president. The request is also based on provisions of Article 1 of amended Public Prosecution Law no. 159 of 1979.
Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr supported this request and said in a statement, "It is necessary to take the necessary steps to appoint a new president of the republic to replace President Jalal Talabani." Sadr also thanked the public prosecutor and asked him to "be independent."
But the Legal Committee in parliament responded via Kurdish MP Khaled Shawani, deeming this request illegal and saying "Article 72 of the constitution talks about the vacancy in the post of president of the republic, not an absence. Vice President [Khodair al-Khozaei] has assumed the responsibilities of the presidency." He continued, "Parliament is not obliged to implement this request."
A popular rumor in Arabic social media for the last two weeks has been that Nouri al-Maliki has asked Hero Ibrahim Ahmed to become Iraq's new president.  She is the wife of Jalal Talabani.

Omar al-Shaher (Al-Monitor) reports:

Concerns about the possibility of Iraq sliding toward the abyss of sectarian war once again have strongly affected commercial activities in Baghdad. Wholesalers in many provinces shifted to the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, which enjoys security and stability, to obtain goods. Also, real-estate prices in the capital dropped significantly due to a considerable rise in supply.
Traders of food products and construction materials in the predominantly Sunni city of Ramadi, in the west of Iraq, told Al-Monitor that they decided to shift to the wholesale markets in the city of Erbil, the capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, out of fear of going to the Iraqi capital following news that Shiite militias set up checkpoints in the western entrances to Baghdad in search of Sunni men arriving at the capital.
Although the Iraqi security institution denied the news, the transit station for those traveling to Baghdad in Ramadi and Tikrit, in the predominantly Sunni Salahuddin province, has been almost empty in the past few days.

So regionally, violence is effecting Iraq's commerce at a time when everyone -- from NGOs to the IMF -- have warned Nouri al-Maliki's government that Iraq needs to diversify its economy.  But it struggles to do that because of Nouri.  His failure to keep agreements -- even signed contracts like The Erbil Agreement -- that he makes within Iraq with political blocs helps prevent the international business community from actively working with Iraq.  They don't trust him.  He lies and he lies publicly.  Whether it's promising to power share, promising to meet the demands of Iraqi protesters (in 2011, not the ongoing protests right now), promising not to seek a third term, over and over there are lies.  That's on him, he's harming business.  For example, October 9th, with much fanfare, and wall-to-wall press coverage, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  He strutted and preened and was so proud of himself.  He made a spectacle of himself which might have been okay if the deal had gone forward.  Instead, it immediately fell apart.  Every other week there's news that the deal is back on . . . then it's not.  It doesn't matter if tomorrow, over seven months later, the deal is implemented.  The fact of the matter is Nouri drew attention to himself over a huge deal that made him look like a minor player on the world's stage and then the deal immediately fell apart.

The lesson for businesses?  Nouri's word is dirt, he can't get along with other Iraqis and even a signed contract doesn't matter.  The new "Iraq Defence & Security Report Q3 2013" from Business Monitor International finds, "Internally, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has worsened sectarian tensions by failing to deliver on a promise to implement a power-sharing agreement designed to safeguard the rights of the country's different ethnic and religious groups."

There's also ExxonMobil?  Dropping back to the November 11, 2011 snapshot:

In Iraq, things are heating up over an oil deal. Hassan Hafidh and James Herron (Wall St. Journal) report, "ExxonMobil Corp. could lose its current contract to develop the West Qurna oil field in Iraq if it proceeds with an agreement to explore for oil in the Kurdistan region of the country, an Iraqi official said. The spat highlights the political challenges for foreign companies operating in Iraq" as Nouri's Baghdad-based 'national' government attempts to rewrite the oil law over the objection of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Tom Bergin and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) offer, "Exxon declined to comment, and experts speculated the move could indicate Baghdad and the Kurdish leaders are nearing agreement on new rules for oil companies seeking to tap into Iraq's vast oil reserves." UPI declares, "The breakaway move into Kurdistan, the first by any of the oil majors operating in Iraq under 20-year production contract signed in 2009, could cost Exxon Mobil its stake in the giant West Qurna Phase One mega-oil field in southern Iraq." Salam Faraj (AFP) speaks with Abdelmahdi al-Amidi (in Iraq's Ministry of Oil) declares that the Exxon contract means that Exxon would lose a contract it had previously signed with Baghdad for the West Qurna-1 field.  Faraj sketches out the deal with the KRG beginning last month with Exxon being notified that they had "48 hours to make a decision on investing in an oil field in the region."  Exxon was interested but sought an okay from the Baghdad government only to be denied.

The shortest version of this ongoing soap opera is that in the two-years-plus since that day, Nouri and his flunkies have threatened ExxonMobil, have stated the White House was going to stop the deal (a State Dept press briefing cleared that up), have said they would ban ExxonMobil, they would punish it, they would . . .  ExxonMobil and the KRG are doing nothing illegal.  There's no national oil and gas law.  That's on Nouri.  In 2007, the White House wrote "benchmarks" for success in Iraq.  These were to keep Congress from defunding the illegal war.  Iraq would meet these benchmarks and that was how it would be demonstrated that there was progress.  On his end, Nouri signed off on the benchmarks.  These goals were really supposed to be for a year, but when Iraq couldn't meet them, the Bully Boy Bush White House re-set the clock and started saying that progress on these benchmarks (just talking about them counted as progress, in the new 'understanding') was progress.  One of the benchmarks was to pass an oil and gas law.  That never happened.  Six years after Nouri signed off on those benchmarks to keep US dollars flowing into Iraq, it still hasn't happened.  If there was a law, there's a chance the semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government could be violating it.  But there's no law and that's Nouri's fault.  Just last year (June 2012),  April Yee (The National) was pointing out, "A hydrocarbon law remains a mirage in Baghdad and the reality is dawning that Iraq's plans to become one of the world's top-five oil producers are jeopardised by the legal deadlock." But that didn't wake Nouri up and nothing ever does.

In March, Reuters reported that although ExxonMobil has been willing to sell off "its stake in the southern Iraq West Qurna-1 oil field" and just focus on the Kurdistan Regional Government's opportunities, "now Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is working to keep the U.S. oil giant on side, industry sources say, offering much sweeter terms at West Qurna-1 – a $50-billion (U.S.) investment project and a greater potential prize than the Kurdish blocks if Baghdad structures the contract closer to the more lucrative Kurdish model." 

UPI reports that Genel Energy (United Kingdom and Turkey) has "confirmed the presence of a commercial oil discovery" in the KRG.  The KRG has oil and is has a history that predates the 2003 invasion.  That history includes keeping its word with businesses.  That's among the reasons businesses flock to the KRG.  Yes, it's also safer but the Green Zone in Baghdad remains one of the safest places in Iraq and business hasn't boomed there.

While Nouri stomps his feet and obsesses over the KRG and its deals, he can't even manage Iraq's only moneymaker at present: Oil.  There have been very few attacks on oil factories or pipelines this month.  Instead, the violence focused on people.  Upstream (The International Oil and Gas Newspaper) reports:

Opec crude output has fallen in May due to lower exports from Iraq and disruptions in some African producers, as improving compliance with an Opec output ceiling is expected to be maintained at a meeting this week, a report said. 
[. . .]
 Iraq has shipped about 200,000 bpd less from its southern and northern ports, according to shipping data. Exports of Kirkuk crude remain restrained by a dispute between the central government and the Kurdistan region over payments.

Amena Bakr and Reem Shamseddine (Reuters) report that in Vienna today, ahead of OPEC's planned meet-up tomorrow,  Iraq's Minister of Oil Abdel-Kareem Luaibi told the press, "We are looking to increase our exports and we aim to make our crude more competitive in the market."  These fumbled steps, by the way, are coming as Iraq's trying to win the post of Secretary-General of OPEC and these fumbles don't help with that.  April Yee (The National) explains, "Other decisions, such as selecting a new secretary general - a position held by Libya's Abdalla El Badri - that Saudi, Iranian and Iraqi candidates are vying for are so contentious they are likely to be left alone."  Just ahead of Friday's meet-up, All Iraq News reports that Minster of Oil Abudl Karim Luaibi also declared today, "Baghdad decreased rates of the production planned at the basic oil fields in the south of Iraq in line with more realistic target level which is nine million barrel per day instead of 12 million barrel daily that was planned to be achieved by 2017."

Turning to The Drone War, from yesterday's Free Speech Radio News:

Shannon Young: A drone strike in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan killed at least four people today. The number two leader of Pakistan's Taliban, Wali ur-Rehman, is reportedly among the dead, although the group's official spokesperson has not confirmed the death. The drone strike comes less than a week after President Barack Obama pledged in a major counterrorism speech to limit the use of weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles. The CIA drone program is a sensitive issue in Pakistan. A politician who has criticized the use of drones there will take office as prime minister next Wednesday.

Last Thursday, at Fort McNair, US President Barack Obama attempted to defend his ongoing Drone War with remarks such as, "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."  And The Drone War is something people should be proud of and want to pass on?   The Bureau of Investigative Journalism notes Barack has ordered 317 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.   John Knefel (Rolling Stone) points out:
One week after President Obama's much-touted speech on national security, many experts are more confused than ever about what rules govern the U.S. government's overseas killing program and where those rules apply. While the speech left many viewers with the impression that Obama planned to reform or even end this program, his administration's practices tell a different story. On Wednesday, anonymous Pakistan security officials said that a CIA drone strike had killed the Pakistani Taliban's deputy leader, Wali ur-Rehman, in North Waziristan. A pair of additional reported strikes in Yemen – both officially unconfirmed by the U.S. – raise even more questions about how and why the American government kills people in other countries.

Of yesterday's strike in Pakistan, Jason Ditz ( observes:

 White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted that the promise of transparency had been fulfilled by delivering the speech in which the promise was made itself, and then went on insist that they would not comment on specific anti-terrorism operations.
The only comment that even hinted at a pretext for the attack was Carney reiterating President Obama’s comment that the US was obliged to continue operations in and around Afghanistan during the NATO occupation.

Where does The Drone War lead?  To Killer Robots apparently.  Australia's ABC explains:

The technology is being developed in the United States, Britain and Israel, although none have actually used it yet.
During a debate at the UN Human Rights Council, special rapporteur Professor Christof Heyns said machines lacking morality should not have life-and-death powers over humans.

Ed Pilkington (Guardian) adds:

"Killer robots" that could attack targets autonomously without a human pulling the trigger pose a threat to international stability and should be banned before they come into existence, the United Nations will be told by its human rights investigator this week.
Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, will address the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Thursday and call for a worldwide moratorium on what he calls "lethal autonomous robotics" – weapons systems that, once activated, can lock on and kill targets without further involvement of human handlers.

The Guardian uses an illustration that is what everyone will immediately think of: a machine from the Terminator film series.  Nick Miller (Sydney Morning Herald) notes:

During the debate Pakistan's council delegate Mariam Aftab – speaking on behalf of 56 Islamic states – said the international community should consider a complete ban, not just national moratoria. 
Lethal autonomous robots would fundamentally change the nature of war, she said.
Pakistan has been the focus for anti-terrorism drone strikes. "The experience with drones shows that once such weapons are in use, it is impossible to stop them," said Ms Aftab.
Most of the delegates said they found the report interesting and worthy of further debate, though several said it would be better negotiated outside of a human rights forum.

Finally, the issue of the IRS.  The US agency responsible for collecting federal taxes within the United States was caught targeting political groups.  The activity was known to the IRS and known to be wrong as early as May 2010.  One official, Lois Lerner, got a friend to ask her a question (planted a question with a friend) earlier this month so she could (finally) bring up the scandal.  She only did so to get ahead of the news that the Treasury Dept's Inspector General over the IRS had a damaging report about to be released.  Conservative groups were largely targeted.  They were not the only ones.  Yes, "Tea Party" and "Patriot" were 'flag words' as the IRS illegally entered into political speech, but left groups critical of the administration were also targeted.  This fact has come out in the hearings but has largely been ignored by the press.  Today Elizabeth Flock (US News and World Reports) notes that a third of the groups were not conservative groups.

If you're late to the story, community coverage has included this "Iraq snapshot," Ava's "Sir, I gave you the wrong information (Ava)," Wally's "Time for a special prosecutor (Wally)," Kat's "It was like Steel Magnolias at one point during the hearing," Dona's "Report on Congress" and Cedric's "Future employment opportunities for Lois Lerner" and  Wally's "THIS JUST IN! A WHOLE NEW WORLD FOR LOIS LERNER!,"; and this "Iraq snapshot," "IRS: 'Not corrupt, just incompetent'," Ava's "Guacamole and the IRS (Ava)," Wally's "Big lie revealed at House Ways and Means hearing," Kat's "The other Steve Miller appears before Congress, Marcia's "No accountability for the IRS scandal," and Dona's "Report on Congress."
We've noted that churches and right-to-life groups were also among the targeted -- that the IRS even inquired about prayers.  Today David Lightman and Kevin G. Hall (McClatchy Newspapers) report:

While the developing scandal over the targeting of conservatives by the tax agency has largely focused to date on its scrutiny of groups with words such as “tea party” or “patriot” in their names, these examples suggest the government was looking at a broader array of conservative groups and perhaps individuals. Their collective experiences at a minimum could spread skepticism about the fairness of a powerful agency that should be above reproach and at worst could point to a secret political vendetta within the government against conservatives.
The emerging stories from real people raise questions about whether the IRS scrutiny extended beyond applicants for tax-exempt status and whether individuals who donated to these tax-exempt organizations or to conservative causes also were targeted.

Read more here:

Jill Jackson and Stephanie Haven (CBS News) report that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee plan to question Cincinnati workers "in the next two weeks."  Were they responsible?  The Committees haven't gotten clear answers from IRS officials such as Lois Lerner, Acting Commissioner Steve Miller (he is now out of that job, he was in it when appearing before Congress in the last weeks), former Commissioner Douglas Shulman.  Local media in Cincinnati has been reporting for several weeks now that workers at that office were following orders and were not rogue employees.  Reuters notes, "The names of low-level officials who carried out the practice have been closely guarded by IRS higher-ups and agency's inspector general. No criminal charges have been filed."  They then offer a cautionary note that the low-levels may not be responsible.  Agreed.  That's why we haven't taken that position here.  The people blaming them?  That's been Lerner (who took the Fifth while sitting before Congress last week and refused to testify), Shulman and Miller.  And Miller revealed that one of the two 'local' people punished (the one who got an oral warning) might not have even been involved.  That's the kind of detail you determine before you hand out an oral warning.

As Cedric's "Bring on the Special Prosecutor" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! TIME FOR A SPECIAL PROSECUTOR!" pointed out this morning:

the associated press