Saturday, June 29, 2013

Levine offers some truth, Baldwin some questions

It's the weekend.  And Andrew Levine has a great column called "Obama’s Grave Threat to Democratic Governance:"

They didn’t have far to look – not with a Republican Party hell bent on making Democrats seem the Lesser Evil.  There is even an entire cable network, MSNBC, with a nighttime lineup devoted to making fun of Republicans.   It is not a hard sell; Republicans are easy prey.
But the excuses ring hollow, and mocking characters drawn from central casting at Morons Are Us gets old quickly, especially when there is no election in the offing.
It doesn’t help either that the MSNBC pundits are themselves nauseatingly servile not just to the Democratic Party but to the regime both parties serve: witness, for example, how even the most “liberal” of them struggle to join the Obama-led, bipartisan bad-mouthing of Edward Snowden.
In any case, the problem with Obama is not just that because liberals cut him so much slack, he neuters them without even trying.
The bigger problem has to do with how he has helped make things worse.


And it's so good to see others on the left calling out the crap that is MSNBC.

Good for Levine.

Bad for Alec Baldwin.  He went on a homophobic rant on Twitter Thursday and is now swearing it off and insisting he's not a homophobe.  But the scariest thing?  The plastic surgery he's had. 
The third photo?  What the hell? 

Alec Baldwin was an older man who was attractive.  He kept hearts aflutter on 30 Rock, for example.  SO why did he have to get that facial work done?  He doesn't even look like himself.

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

Friday, June 28, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Hoshyar Zebari makes optimistic readings, protests continue in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr continues to be one of the few Iraqi leaders who reads the actual details,  retired US general George Casey is a 'trending' in the Iraqi press, Bradley Manning's defense appears to miss yet another opportunity, new revelations emerge about Barack Obama's spying on the American people, and more.

Today Amnesty International notes torture in 'liberated' Iraq:

The torture had so disfigured him that even his own mother had trouble recognizing him when she visited him in prison.
But as Ahmad ‘Amr ‘Abd al-Qadir Muhammad’s mother explained, what happened to her son behind bars is not unusual in Iraq.
"For a year I thought he was dead and then I was told that he was in prison. On my first visit I did not recognize him because of the marks of torture on him … The burn on his shoulder, the burn on his leg, the injury from a drill in his arm,” she told Amnesty International.
Her son Ahmad, a Palestinian born in Iraq, was arrested on 21 July 2006 in the Zayouna district of Baghdad, at the height of the sectarian violence that crippled the country, and held incommunicado for more than a year.
The authorities accused him of being a member of an armed group that was planning to plant explosives, and sentenced him to death 17 May 2011 after a trial marred by torture allegations.
When he saw his mother for the first time in a year, in a detention centre in the al-Baladiyat district of Baghdad, he just said:
“They tortured me to force me to ‘confess’.”
A medical examination carried out by the Forensic Medical Institute around two years after Ahmad’s arrest documented “brown large scars” on various parts of his body, congruent with his account.

The torture, the disappearances in the 'legal' system, the imprisonment of people without trial and, even more shocking, the imprisonment of people without being charged are hallmarks of Iraqi 'justice' today and they are among the issues that kicked off the 2011 protests and jump-started the ongoing protests that began December 21st.   National Iraqi News reports "thousands" turned out in Falluja and Ramadi today and notes:

Sheikh Mohammed Fayyad, one of the organizers of Anbar sit-ins ,said to NINA reporter : "The citizens participated in the prayers that held in the courtyard northern Ramadi and eastern Fallujah cities , stressing that the goal of this trickle is to send one again a message to the governing in Baghdad that our demonstrations are peaceful and backed by citizens deep conviction.

Iraqi Spring MC notes that speakers in Samarra sees Iran behind the 2006 attack on the al-Askari shrines and they cite US General George Casey for that assertion.   They also note Samarra protesters are calling for an independent, international investigation and state that they do not trust Nouri's government to conduct the investigation.  Alsumaria notes that the cry was also echoed at the Tikrit demonstration.  They elaborate on Casey's remarks explaining that they were made in France and that he was speaking at event sponsored by an Iranian opposition group (they probably mean the MEK).  NINA quotes Sheikh Hussein Ghazi stating in Samarra, "It has become clear in the light of what is declared by the US forces former commander in Iraq Gen George Casey, a few days ago, about Iran's implication in Samarra bombings that targeted the holy shrine of the two Imams in 2006, and the painful consequences of those bombings that have been carried out with the knowledge of the Iraqi government."  Alsumaria notes Moqtada al-Sadr, cleric and movement leader, responded to a question about Casey's charges by noting that the US government repeatedly blames Iran whenever possible and -- apparently confusing Casey with either former US general (and one time top commander in Iraq) and former CIA Director David Petraeus or with Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk who's currently stationed in Iraq -- Moqtada dismissed Casey as a "womanizer."

In Falluja, National Iraqi News Agency notes, Sheikh Ghalib al-Issawi called for the closure of the Iranian embassy in Baghdad.  Iraqi Spring MC adds that many members of the media were prevented by Nouri's forces from entering the square where the sit-in was taking place.

Alsumaria reports protesters in Dhi Qar Province insist that they will continue their protests until the electricity situation is addressed.  (Electricity actually has gotten worse in the last months in Dhi Qar which is what prompted the citizens to take to the streets.)  Al Mada reports that at least 50 people turned out in Basra to protest in front of Egypt's Consulate over the death of Shi'ite cleric Hassan Shehata.  Four days ago, saleh1966 (All Voices) reported:

Some 3,000 Sunnis, led by Salafis, attacked and killed four Shiite men including senior cleric Hassan Shehata and his brother, accusing Shehata of spreading Shiism beliefs in Egypt. The attack occurred in the town of Zawiyat Abu Muslim in Giza province on the outskirts of Cairo on Sunday, al-Ahram newspaper reported.
The paper also stated that hundreds of attackers stabbed, beat and dragged the bodies of the victims. About 30 were seriously injured and four were pronounced dead by the Health Ministry.

For six months and one week, Iraqis have taken their protests public at great risk to their own safety.  The the April 23rd massacre  --  when Nouri's federal forces stormed a sit-in and killed adults and children -- was only the most violent example of the security forces attacking protesters.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. UNICEF informed the world that 8 of the dead were children and twelve more children were left injured.  Protesters have been followed home by security forces, have been harrassed by security forces, have been pursued in mosques by security forces.

But they have continued to turn out in a manner which the world press would normally applaud; however, the world press makes increasingly clear just how little they care about Iraq or Iraqis.  The Tuesday April 23rd massacre, for example, was reported after the fact by the world press.  In the days leading up to it (the Friday before at least one protester at the Hawija sit-in was killed by Nouri's forces and several were injured, the sit-in was surrounded by Nouri's forces which refused to allow them to leave; the Saturday and Sunday saw efforts by Iraqi MPs to enter the sit-in and deliver food and medicine), only the Iraqi press covered it.  No US outlet filed one story even though, by Sunday evening, even the US State Dept was taking the issue seriously and terming it a "hot spot."  Would the 53 people slaughtered have died if the world press had done their job?  Possibly not.

The world press exists to humor Nouri al-Maliki, not to hold a US-installed thug accountable.  Felicity Arbuthnot (Dissident Voice and Global Research) notes realities as she explains a popular rumor in Iraq currently:

As violence continues to rage across “liberated” Iraq under America’s puppet “Prime Minister” Nuri al-Maliki, a fair amount of it at his instigation as his troops round up and shoot demonstrators (President Jalal Talabani, who had a heart attack early in the year has vanished without trace, Vice President Tarik al-Hashimi has fled to Turkey in fear of his life) one incident arguably of note, has gone unnoticed in the Western media.
On Friday June 21st the Ba’ath Party, in a statement, said that “Party Members” had killed one of Saddam Hussein’s executioners alleging it was the balaclava masked man who placed the noose around his neck and led him to the trap door, in a videoed and multi-mobile recorded death and aftermath of further horror, ushering in the US-UK’s “New Iraq.”

The exeuctioner rumored to have been killed is also rumored to have worked for Nouri personally and to have been a relative of Nouri.

Good news, Iraq is not in the midst of a(nother) civil war (ethnic cleansing) and no civil war (ethnic cleansing) is coming because the current "crisis is manageable" -- so says Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari in an exclusive interview with the Associated Press.  Of course, Zebari's also fudging what happened yesterday at the United Nations Security Council.  Like Zebari, I was there.   See yesterday's snapshot.  Iraq was 'removed' from Chapter VII but, despite Zebari (and other Iraqi officials) insisting 'free at last!,' Iraq was placed under Chapter VI which is only slightly better than Chapter VII.   From the UN press release:

Recognizing that the situation that now exists in Iraq is significantly different from that which existed at the time of the invasion, the Council decided that the issues of missing people and property will now be handled under Chapter VI of the Charter, which calls for a peaceful resolution of disputes.
Another key provision of the new resolution is the Council’s decision to transfer the mandate formerly assigned to the High-Level Coordinator for Iraq-Kuwait Missing Persons and Property to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).
Paragraph 14 of resolution 1284 (1999) requested the appointment of a High-Level Coordinator to report to the Security Council regularly on “compliance by Iraq with its obligations regarding the repatriation or return of all Kuwaiti and third country nationals or their remains” and “the return of all Kuwaiti property, including archives, seized by Iraq.”
The new resolution terminates that measure and in turn calls on the head of UNAMI to “promote, support and facilitate efforts regarding the repatriation or return of all Kuwaiti and third country nationals or their remains, and the return of Kuwaiti property, including the national archives, seized by Iraq.”
Further, the resolution also requests that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon consider designating the deputy chief of UNAMI covering political affairs “with the responsibility for overseeing these issues and ensuring appropriate resources for this purpose.”

Sorry to harsh the mellow but that is the reality.

The US Embassy notes a less specific but congratulatory message US Secretary of State John Kerry issued today:

Statement by Secretary Kerry: UN Security Council Decision to Transfer Chapter VII Mandate to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq

June 28, 2013
The United States congratulates the Governments of Iraq and Kuwait on successfully resolving key bilateral and international issues over the past year, which helped result in today’s milestone decision by the UN Security Council. It's testament to the commitment of two neighbors to a new relationship that we're witnessing the transfer of the Chapter VII mandate and responsibilities of the UN High-Level Coordinator for Gulf War Missing Kuwaiti and Third-Country Nationals and the Return of Kuwaiti Property to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq.
We further welcome the completion of the border maintenance work and the establishment of technical arrangements between Iraq and Kuwait as recommended by the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Boundary Demarcation Commission. As I discussed during my visit to Kuwait yesterday, we will continue to support both Kuwait and Iraq so they continue to build further confidence and cooperation, strengthen their relationship, and enhance regional stability.

As so often happens, cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr appears to be the only one paying attention to the details.  Alsumaria reports he declared today that he hoped the Iraqi government did not give away needed things to leave Chapter VII and that moving Iraq from Chapter VII to Chapter VI does not grant Iraq freedom.  He has concerns about a number of issues including the economics of the deal.  Al Mada reports that Parliament is also expressing concerns about the issue of Iraq's money held by the international community and about being shut out on the negotiations regarding the shift from Chapter VII to Chapter VI.

Turning to the topic of violence, yesterday's snapshot noted, "BBC News reports Baghdad cafes were struck by bombings, 'The bombs went off on Thursday evening when the coffee shops were filled with people watching a football match.'  Reuters counts 'at least 22' dead." AP reports today the death toll rose to 36.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 546 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.   AFP reports a twin bombing has taken place in Ramadi today and gives the death toll at 9.  Alsumaria explains there was a bomb on a civilian car followed by another bombing when citizens rushed to the scene to help following the first bombing.  AP states the death toll has increased to 11.  Alsumaria also reports that the body of a tribal leader in Kut was discovered shot-dead in his own home.  National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 Sahwa was shot dead in a Kirkuk attack, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in a Kirkuk attack and another was left injured, a Baghdad bakery bombing left five people injured, 1 person was shot dead in Baghdad and another left injured,  and an attack on a Madain football field left 2 dead and ten injuredAP notes that the death toll rose to 4 and the number injured to 15 on the football field bombing while a Dujail suicide car bombing attacked a funeral killing 4 people and injuring four more.

And on the aftermath of violence, Aswat al-Iraq reports:

The Iraqi government declared the disputed town of Tuz Khormatu a disaster zone following the recent string of bombings targeting protestors bemoaning the deteriorating security situation in the city.
The bombings killed and injured hundreds of people, including the head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, a number of its leaders, and members of the Saladin provincial council.
Niyazi Oglu, a Turkmen representative to the Saladin provincial council, informed Asharq Al-Awsat: “Among the measures that the ministerial committee, protestors, and government representatives agreed upon is to provide the [town] with the necessary infrastructure to convert it into a governorate.”

Things sound a little less 'manageable' than what Zebari's portraying them as.

Al Rafidayn reports that the US Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Beecroft met with the Iraqi media and answered questions.  Among them, a new Iraqi prime minister?  Parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2014.  Beecroft stated it is the job and right of the Iraqi people to pick their leaders and the US is prepared to have a diplomatic relationship with any Iraqi chosen to represent the people.  He refused to speculate on any particular person.  He was asked about the F-16 fighters and stated that they would not be delivered until September 2014.

Yesterday, the US State Dept issued a public notice regarding proposals for Iraq:

Public Notice
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Request for Proposals: Democracy, Human Rights, and Rule of Law in Iraq.
The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) announces a Request for Proposals for projects that promote human rights and the rule of law in Iraq.
PLEASE NOTE: DRL strongly urges applicants to access immediately in order to obtain a username and password. It may take two full weeks to register with Please see the section entitled, “DEADLINE AND SUBMISSION INSTRUCTIONS” below for specific instructions.
DRL invites organizations to submit proposals outlining program concepts and capacity to manage projects targeting one or both of the following issues:
Technical Capacity Building to Service Providers in Gender Based Violence Programs (approximately $1,500,000 available)
DRL seeks proposals for programs to increase the technical capacity of service providers (both governmental and non-governmental) in Iraq that focus on protections for victims of gender-based violence (GBV), pursuant to the goals and objectives of the U.S. National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security and the U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence Globally.
In the broadest terms, “gender-based violence” is violence that is directed at an individual based on his or her biological sex, gender identity, or his or her perceived adherence to socially defined norms of masculinity and femininity. It includes physical, sexual, trafficking in persons, and psychological abuse; threats; coercion; arbitrary deprivation of liberty; and economic deprivation, whether occurring in public or private life. Women and girls are the most at risk and affected by GBV. However, boys and men can also experience GBV, as can sexual and gender minorities, such as men who have sex with men and transgender persons. Strengthening the physical, material, and human resources of institutions that aim to assist victims of GBV is an essential first step in addressing this issue.
Proposed programs must directly target those service providers engaged with or training to engage with victims of domestic violence and other forms of GBV, including sexual violence, early and forced marriage, honor crimes, perceptions of gender that may lead to violence, and/or female genital mutilation (e.g., social workers, NGO workers, shelter staff, health care providers, and/or students in university programs focusing on human rights, counseling, or social work).
Training activities must, at minimum, include:
  • ensuring privacy of victims
  • sensitizing staff
  • de-stigmatizing victims of violence
  • addressing attitudes, knowledge, and beliefs of GBV counselors
  • understanding the legal framework
  • training health care providers, including in forensic examination and documentation
  • improving danger assessment
  • providing safety planning
  • providing emergency services to survivors of sexual violence
  • developing educational and informational materials for training GBV service providers.
The ability to assemble partner organizations and actors to develop and adopt standards and protocols will be highly valued. The engagement of non-traditional stakeholders such as men and boys, and religious and community leaders, is encouraged. The successful implementer should be able to target, assemble, and obtain buy-in from partners to facilitate knowledge-sharing; and be able to provide technical assistance and coaching through frequent, regular communication and regular site visits to partner facilities.
An ability to implement programs in Iraq must be demonstrated. The proposal must realistically address the challenges and limitations the applicant would likely face in Iraq. The duration of proposed programs must be between twelve to eighteen months. Applicants may request between $750,000 and $1,500,000.

We don't have the space in the snapshot for the full release (the above is not even 1/4 of the release).  So use the link if you're interested and we'll try to post it in full this weekend.

When you go out in the street
So many hassles with the heat
No one there can fill your desire
Cops out with the megaphones
Telling people stay inside their homes
Man, can't they see the world's on fire?
Somebody take us away, take us away 
-- "Safe In My Garden," first appears on the Mamas and the Papas' album The Papas & the Mamas

In the US,  Lisa Neff (Wisconsin Gazette) observes:

The openly gay soldier’s arrest and prosecution have not been an issue for the nation’s largest LGBT groups. Searches for “Bradley Manning” on websites for the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, OutServe-SLDN or National Gay and Lesbian Task Force yield no statements, news releases or other references.
The ACLU and Amnesty International, however, have monitored the Manning case.
The ACLU maintains the government is overreaching with the charge of aiding the enemy. “The crux of the government’s case against Manning – that he leaked sensitive documents without authorization – in no way depends on branding him a traitor,” said Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project. “In its zeal to throw the book at Manning, the government has so overreached that its ‘success’ would turn thousands of loyal soldiers into criminals.”
Amnesty, which has dispatched a monitor to Maryland for a trial that is expected to last until August, has said the government must allow Manning to use a public interest defense. “The court must allow Manning to explain in full his motives for releasing the information to WikiLeaks,” said Anne FitzGerald, Amnesty director of research and crisis response. “Manning should have been allowed to explain how, in his opinion, the public interest in being made aware of the information he disclosed outweighed the government’s interest in keeping it confidential.”

Who are they talking about?  Bradley Manning.  Brad's a little 'too controversial' for support from the LGBT groups who will always stand up for one of their own -- provided that person can be easily marketed and vanilla.  Brad's involved in issues that really matter and that's when Human Rights Campaign and others have to take a pass. 

Monday April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7, 2010, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August 2010 that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." In March, 2011, David S. Cloud (Los Angeles Times) reported that the military has added 22 additional counts to the charges including one that could be seen as "aiding the enemy" which could result in the death penalty if convicted. The Article 32 hearing took place in December. At the start of this year, there was an Article 32 hearing and, February 3rd, it was announced that the government would be moving forward with a court-martial. Bradley has yet to enter a plea. The court-martial was supposed to begin before the November 2012 election but it was postponed until after the election so that Barack wouldn't have to run on a record of his actual actions. adds, "A court martial is set to be held in June at Ford Meade in Maryland, with supporters treating him as a hero, but opponents describing him as a traitor."  February 28th, Bradley admitted he leaked to WikiLeaks.  And why.

Bradley Manning:   In attempting to conduct counter-terrorism or CT and counter-insurgency COIN operations we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists and not being suspicious of and avoiding cooperation with our Host Nation partners, and ignoring the second and third order effects of accomplishing short-term goals and missions. I believe that if the general public, especially the American public, had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as [missed word] as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.

Standing up against brutality and War Crimes is too controversial for Human Rights Campaign.  Give them an 'issue' like who didn't go to prom and they'll work themselves into a frantic uproar.  But deal with an issue that has global implications of life and death and watch the 'brave' groups fall silent.

AP reports that Col David Miller, Brad's commander in Iraq, took the stand today and declared that the reaction in the unit to Brad's release was "a funeral-like atmosphere fell over that crowd."  Oh, how awful.  It sounds like the poor dears could be 'shaken' by other things as well -- like maybe the Superbowl or NBA play offs as well?  Maybe the US military can next prosecute over that and how it effected 'morale'?  Considering that Brad only confessed in February, Miller might have used his command position to execute those under him on democracy -- or was Miller so traumatized that he forgot the US Constitution and how the legal system works in the US?  Was Col Miller so raked with gasping sobs that the phrase "innocent until proven guilty" escaped him?  Was he so traumatized that he was unable to advise the people serving under him to focus on their tasks and missions?

Adam Klasfeld (Courthouse News) quotes Miller testifying, "I was stunned.  The last thing I anticipated was an internal security breach from one of our own."  So the 'morale' issue was really about Miller's own shock -- including the fact that he failed at his job since the "internal security breach" took place under his watch.  Sounds like Miller's 'trauma' has a lot to do with his own failures as a commander.  This is a point a functioning defense would have made (Brad doesn't have one) and they immediately would have begun asking Miller about disciplinary actions that were taken against him (Miller).  If there were none, the defense should have hammered that home.  If Brad's actions did not result in serious discipline for his commander, then the brass was saying privately that Brad's actions weren't that serious.

Ed Snowden is the NSA whistle-blower who blew the whistle on the US government's spying on its own citizens.  He went to Hong Kong and now appears to be in Russia.  He was discussed on the second hour of today's The Diane Rehm Show (NPR -- link is audio and remember the program now provides transcripts in an attempt to serve an even broader audience including those unable to stream and those who might have the computer capabilities to stream but who wouldn't benefit from an audio stream and need text due to hearing issues).  Diane's panelists for the international hour were Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera, Anne Gearan of the Washington Post and Moises Naim of El Pais.  Excerpt (this is from their transcript):

Diane Rehm:  All right, so let me ask you all, if Snowden did decide to return to the United States, what would happen to him? Anne Gearan? 

Anne Gearan:  Well, there's an indictment, so he would be arrested. The question is, what would happen, presuming he came back to the United States in a public manner and the Justice Department, law enforcement authorities knew where he was? And it's hard to imagine that it could happen in any other fashion at this point. The question then becomes, what would happen to him post-arrest? Would he be treated as a sort of ordinary white-collar criminal? Would he be treated as some sort of special case because of the national security implications?  The Obama administration is extraordinarily well aware of the bad PR around the world that surrounded the treatment in jail, the perception of the treatment in jail of the Wiki leaker who is now on trial in military court. They wouldn't want to repeat anything like that, but it is hard to imagine that they would allow him to be released before trial. 

Diane Rehm:  Would he get a fair trial, Moises? 

Moises Naim:  Well, the publicity around him and surrounding the case will certainly make it very complex, but I don't see any other way, except if he go -- some country accepts and gives him asylum. And there is talk, you know, the Russians, he's at a very strange place... 

Diane Rehm:  He sure is. 

Moises Naim: (word?) airport in Russia where, you know, the Russians claim that he's not in their territory. You know, they have a hot potato in him, and it's a delicious hot potato because they are mining it to the hilt and enjoying the limelight on the case. 

Diane Rehm:  So what is his legal status in this country now that his passport has been revoked? 

Anne Gearan:  Well, he's not quite a man without a country. He's an American, but he's an American caught in an international transit zone which is the ultimate no-man's land without a passport. So he cannot travel as an American citizen. He will have to travel on some other kind of travel document which would have to be granted by another country. 

Diane Rehm:   I see. 

Anne Gearan:  Or the United States would have to an extradition arrangement under which he would come home with law enforcement escort.  

The revelations about Barack's spying on Americans continue to emerge.  Yesterday on the Pacifica Evening News (a joint-production from KPFA and KPFK -- click here for the specific broadcast), John Hamilton  explained:

There are new revelations today about the scope of NSA surveillance on foreigners and on United States citizens.  The Guardian reveals the Obama administration, for more than two years, permitted the NSA to continue collecting vast amount of records detailing the e-mail and internet usage of Americans.  Top secret memos obtained by the Guardian detail how an initially warrentless wiretapping program code named Stellar Wind began shortly after 9-11 and continued until 2011 with some aspects continuing to this day.  The program collected vast amounts of bulk meta data on e-mail traffic including for several years on communications not involving foreigners.  The program also collected mega data on the Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses used by people inside the United States when sending e-mails, that's information that can reflect their physical location. It did not include the content of e-mails.  An Obama administration official confirmed the existence of the program to the Guardian but said it ended in 2011; however, the Guardian reports some collection of Americans' online records continues today when one party in the communication is outside the US.

Free Speech Radio News today continues the coverage of the topic with Alice Ollstein interviewing the ACLU's Patrick Toomey about the revelations.  Excerpt.

Patrick Toomey (ACLU): The process was one that doesn't support the normal, adversarial judicial process.  Only the government is a participant in most proceedings before the [FISA] Court and we have also found, from the IG report, that there was a very clubby or seemingly friendly negotiation that happened between the Executive Branch and the Court.  There's descriptions of back-and-forth between the Court and the Court's legal advisors and the Executive Branch, weekend meetings between the judges and the Court has simply proceed in a very pro forma way to reauthorize every three months or so the wire tapping programs that the government has brought under the Court's supervision.

Alice Ollstein:   According to the Guardian, this particular program ended in 2011 but another called Evil Olive began in late 2012 designed to capture the meta data of online data between US citizens and their connections abroad.  The ACLU is currently suing the Obama administration over the mass collection of phone data of American citizens revealed in documents published by  the Guardian revealed earlier this month.  Tommey says a jdugment in that case that mega date deserves protection against unreasonable search and seziure could set a legal precedent that also protects online communications swept up by the federal government.  Alice Ollstein, Free Speech Radio News, Washington. 

Yesterday, the ACLU issued the following press release:

June 27, 2013
CONTACT: 212-549-2666,

NEW YORK – The government is collecting large amounts of information about Americans' internet communications, according to a report published today in The Guardian. The newspaper also published an internal government report detailing the blanket collection of email and other internet data as part of the NSA's original warrantless wiretapping program, which was apparently modified over time.
"The revelations about our government's spying raise new and troubling questions about the extent to which the government is monitoring Americans' private lives, including whom we email or chat with and what websites we visit," said Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project. "This is further confirmation that the National Security Agency has been operating in the shadows for far too long. Extreme secrecy has facilitated extreme policy – all at the expense of Americans' constitutional right to be left alone by their government absent specific cause or suspicion. The Obama administration must come clean with the country about the extent to which it believes it may monitor all Americans' emails and phone calls. The debate that the administration has welcomed cannot take place without the facts it continues to conceal."
Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel with the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, said, "We once again learn the Senate and House Intelligence Committees were briefed and approved of invasive surveillance, this time the bulk collection of our e-mail records without any suspicion of wrongdoing. There are still many unanswered questions, particularly what programs currently exist and what information they collect on innocent Americans. Congress needs to force public disclosure of all legal underpinnings of these programs and get to work on reining them in. It appears clear that the administration, the FISA Court, and many members of the intelligence committees will continue to allow the NSA's broad dragnet of innocent American communications if Congress doesn't act now to stop it."

Friday, June 28, 2013

Clare Daly, a real politician for the people

Hump day.  Okay, Beau e-mailed me about a speech.  I hadn't seen it.

Global Research has the video of Irish MP Clare Daly speaking out against Barack Obama.  Use the link to stream and here's a bit of what she said:

“We had very little challenging of the fact that she’s ‘glad to be home’—home a country she’s been in less than a week and her husband has very tenuous links in.” President Obama’s great-great-great grandfather was born in the Irish village of Moneygall; an 8th cousin to the president lives there today. …
“Of course, the biggest irony of all, the protestations of Obama himself in his speech to children in Northern Ireland about peace, when he said, ‘those who choose the path of peace, I promise you, that the United States of America will support you every step of the way. We will always be the wind at your back.’
“Now, I ask you, is this person going for the hypocrite of the century award?” . Because we have to call things by their right names, and the reality is that by any serious examination, this man is a war criminal. He has just announced his decision to supply arms to the Syrian opposition, including the jihadists, fueling the destabilization of that region and continuing to undermine secularism and knock back conditions for women.”…

Amen.  Makes me proud to be an Irish-American.  Who is Clare Daly?  Wikipedia explains:

Clare Daly (born April 1968) is an Irish politician.[1] She was elected as a Socialist Party Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin North constituency at the 2011 general election.[2] She was previously a Socialist Party councillor for the Swords electoral area on Fingal County Council. She resigned from the Socialist Party on 31 August 2012, redesignating herself as a United Left Alliance TD.[3]

She really denounces Barack for his announcement that he's going to arm the so-called rebels in Syria and for his Drone War.  She calls The Drone War,  "The favorite method of extermination of your friend, Mr. Obama."

You really need to watch the video to see someone standing up for peace.  I wish we had someone like her in our Congress. 

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

Thursday, June 27, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Martin Kobler calls out the violence (while madly packing), Hoshyar Zebari delivers a major speech to the UN Security Council, Iraq is taken off Chapter VII (but it's not the celebration moment some see it as), we look at The Erbil Agreement and Ayad Allawi's comments to the BBC about "the Americans," and more.

Today in New York, at the United Nations Security Council, Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari spoke at length about Iraq and leaving Chapter VII.  Excerpt.

Minister Hoshyar Zebari:  Mr. President, at the outset, allow me to thank you for holding this important meeting.  I should also like to express my thanks and my appreciation to the countries that sponsored this resolution and contributed to its enrichment as well as to our friends, the member of the Security Council, that voted to adopt it.  I cannot fail to express my country's gratitude to the Secretary General for his report and document S/2013/357 which contains important proposals and analyses as well as the efforts of the United Nations Mission for Assistance in Iraq -- UNAMI -- led by Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mr. [Martin] Kolber for its efforts in fulfilling the requirements of its mandate in Iraq, as well as to the state and government of  Kuwait for it's support and assistance to Iraq to emerge from the provisions of Chapter VII.  [. . .] Mr. President, your august council is meeting today to adopt a resolution which falls within the context of a number of resolutions and measures taken by the Security Council to remove Iraq from under the provisions of Chapter VII of the United Nations' charter.  In carefully looking at the past few years, we can see how far Iraq has come along the path of constructive cooperation with the objective of enabling it to finally fulfill all of its obligations under Security Council resolutions.  Our foreign policy and international relations have mainly focused on the means of ridding the people and the country of Iraq of the burden placed by those resolutions.  Such burdens would never have been imposed on Iraq had it not been for the aggressive policies of the former regime, policies of waging wars against its neighbors and internally repressing its own people.  Those resolutions have been an obstacle on Iraq's road toward progress, prosperity and regional and international integration.  In looking back at our achievements over the past few years and Iraq regaining its international standing, as it was prior to the adoption of Resolution 661 of 1990, we take note of a crucial resolution: Resolution 1762 of 2007 which ended the mandate of the United Nations condition on Monitoring, Verification and Inspection  Commission -- UNMOVIC.  That resolution strengthened the sovereignty of Iraq and lifted the weight of political constraints from the country.  It was a resolution that paved the way for Iraq's return to the regional and international communities and contributed to the stability of our region.  That resolution represented the international community's recognition of the correct approach taken by Iraq in fulfilling its obligations in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.  It is with great pride that Iraq currently chairs the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.  This confirms the validity of the path that Iraq has taken -- particularly following the ratification of the Additional Protocol to the Safeguard Agreements for the International Atomic Energy Agency -- IAEA -- and the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.  Mr. President, your esteemed council further decided in its Resolution 1859 of 2008 to review those resolutions pertaining to the situation between Iraq and Kuwait and the situation in Iraq in order to identify together  the mutual obligations corresponding to the international community as represented by your esteemed council and those of Iraq.  As result the Security Council adopted three important resolutions on the 15th of December 2010: Resolutions 1956, 1957 and 1958.  According to which, all of Iraq's obligations were ended with the exception of three issues relating to the situation between Iraq and Kuwait.  Namely, one, the issue of missing Kuwaitis and property; two, the maintenance of border markers; and, thirdly, that of compensation.  With regard to the first issue, significant progress has been achieved within bilateral cooperation between the two countries.  None of that cooperation would have been achieved without serious cooperation by the Iraqi authorities.  We shall continue to do so, we shall continue that endeavor.  And we will increase the pace of that cooperation in the coming period.  Now that the issue has been moved to the provisions of Chapter VI of the charter by your latest resolution.  In regards to the second issue, the maintenance of border pillars, markers, Iraq and Kuwait have reached a mechanism through the establishment of the joint-ministerial committees and put in place the necessary measures as indicated in security Resolution 833 of 1993.  In this regards, may I refer to the letter of the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council of 6-12-2013 referring to the end of the mission entrusted to him under Resolution 833 of 1993, "Therefore, on that basis, Iraq has now fulfilled all of its obligations under that resolution."  As for the issue of compensation, Iraq is committed to pay the percentage decided by the Security Council based on the mechanism as set by the United Nations Commission on Compensation and this has been included in United Nations Security Council resolution 1956 of 2010 under the mechanism of the successor arrangement for the Iraq development fund. We, therefore, believe, Mr. President, that Iraq -- by the Security Council's adoption of this latest resolution -- Iraq has fulfilled all of its obligations as provided by Security Council's resolutions adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter.  We believe that today's date, June 27 of 2013, will be a landmark, a milestone, in the history of relationship between Iraq and the international community.

 That was a lengthy excerpt.  But it's a major step, the lifting of Chapter VII, and it also gives you an overview of the narrative the Iraqi government wants out there.  Iraq was placed under Chapter VII as a result of its invasion of Kuwait in 1990.  Today there was a unanimous vote.

All Iraq News reports the news was greeted in Baghdad with celebrations: "launching fireworks and raising the Iraqi flags in addition to organizing motorcades that spread flowers and sweets [to] citizens in Baghdad," according to a statement from Acting Mayor of Baghdad Abdul Hussein al-Murshidi.  Press TV quotes Nouri al-Maliki declaring, "Iraq is now free from the constraints imposed by the follies of the dictatorial regime."  I don't think that statement helps a great deal.  "Follies"?  Seriously, that's what you're going to call the attack on Kuwait?

And it's supposed to be a wonderful day for Iraq but, if you're honest, it's just a slightly better day.  Chapter VII did not go 'poof' and disappear.  It's been replaced with a new resolution which, as the United Nations notes, "called on the Iraqi Government to continue searching for Kuwaiti nationals and property missing since Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion, but terminated provisions in earlier texts that allowed the military enforcement of the measures under Charter VII of the UN Charter. "  It's been moved from Chapter VII to Chapter VI.

After the session, Hoshyar Zebari addressed the press (and spoke in English).  "Today there was a very, very important Security Council resolution on Iraq - Kuwait relations.  And this resolution is a historical resolution for Iraq and it's a success for the United Nations and for the two countries.  In fact, Chapter VII and the sanctions on Iraq have become something of the past.  And, as I said in my statement, we are concentrating more on the present and the future in Iraq - Kuwaiti relationship."

He hailed it as "an example for other countries to resolve their disputes between peaceful means."

He hailed many things.  Not at the press conference, but in his remarks to the Security Council, he hailed provincial elections -- 2009 and the ones that have taken place so far this year.  He spoke of how provincial elections allowed the people to pick their government.  He didn't speak of the 2010 parliamentary elections.  But he did mention the planned 2014 parliamentary elections.  That was interesting.

I don't blame him for not sighting the problem plagued 2010 elections which were only resolved with a legal contract, The Erbil Agreement, which was then broken (by Nouri al-Maliki) and created the ongoing political crisis in Iraq.  One of so many crises in the country.

 Iraqiya won the 2010 elections (so one of their members should have been made prime minister if the country's Constitution had been followed and US President Barack Obama hadn't insisted Nouri al-Maliki get a second term).  The leader of Iraqiya is Ayad Allawi.  He Tweeted today:

The started and continued with disorder leading through waves of crises.

But it was a Tweet yesterday that got some attention from the Iraqi press.

The absence of cabinet bylaws and power-sharing is a couple of many abuses of the by the Iraqi PM.

Among the outlets reporting on that Wednesday Tweet Thursday afternoon were All Iraq NewsRudaw reports:

Ayad Allawi, the man who is not Iraq’s prime minister despite winning at the 2010 polls, blames the country’s violence and instability on an incompetent government, badly trained forces and a constitution that he says was forced on Iraqis by American invaders.
“All the killings and bombings are happening and the security forces aren’t able to cope, because they are unprofessional and there is no proper military hierarchy,” Allawi said in a Facebook Q&A with fans.
“The the security forces are built and run by certain political groups and the government itself admits that these forces have been infiltrated and are incapable of doing their job,” says Allawi, insisting that an army should be trained for protection of all Iraqis, not just those with certain religious or ethnic backgrounds.
Allawi, Iraq’s first prime minister after the invasion and once seen as the “strongman” who would put the country back together, has been sidelined ever since he was swindled out of his victory at the 2010 polls.
I read an incredibly stupid post at a website today.  I'm being kind and not naming it (it's not a blog, it's a website of a magazine that's been around for decades).  The post insisted that Americans all needed to focus on ____ (foreign country) and that Americans "owed it" to _____ focus on it.  Really, because US forces didn't get sent there.  They were sent to Iraq, or did the idiot forget that?  (If I named the idiot -- we have a lot of Arabic readers -- the idiot would be targeted as a Zionist because of their organization which is another reason not to name or link to the post.)   There are numerous ways to respond to that would-be Joan of Arc.  I'll offer three quickly.

1) If you want to burn at the stake, step on up, honey, but don't try to pull me with you.

2) You don't go for seconds until you've cleaned your plate.

3) Have you looked at Iraq?  If the US owes anything to another country right now, I'd argue the biggest debt -- certainly debt of attention -- is to Iraq.

I'm so tired of these people selling their new wars while refusing to even acknowledge the mess their War Hawk ways have created in Iraq.

The person has no idea what's going on in Iraq.

Others who have a slight idea argue The Erbil Agreement isn't important.

If you don't think that's important, you're suffering English press damage.  The Arabic press has never fogotten it.  Rudaw, by the way, isn't Arabic.  It's a Kurdish press. And even they are talking about it.

Most Americans have no idea about the agreement or that it exists.  Of those who do know, too many think it's unimportant.

More than anything else, The Erbil Agreement is why the US standing in Iraq is so low today.

Iraqis were even more thrilled by candidate Barack Obama than Germany or other countries.  They thought Iraq would have a friend.  This man who was opposed to the Iraq War (not quite true -- he gave a 2002 anti 'dumb war' speech but by 2004 was telling the New York Times that, had he been in the Senate in 2002, he might have voted for the resolution to go to war with Iraq). And he charmed Nouri al-Maliki in their face-to-face.

But then came the lead up to the 2010 elections.  Gen Ray Odierno was sounding warnings (he was the then-top US commander in Iraq).  He could see Nouri's State of Law potentially losing and, he worried, if that happened what happens if Nouri refuses to step down.

The White House had the ear of then-US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill who was a disaster and would be asked to step down from his post as a result of the 2010 election aftermath.  Chris Hill was fired, let's be really clear on that because Hill keeps popping up as an Iraq 'expert' in the media.  He was fired.  He was fired for the job he did.

Chris was whining about Odierno doing this or that.  Chris felt that Odierno got media attention and the media liked Ray better and if someone would tell mean ol' Ray Odierno to stop talking to the media, they might listen to him.

Instead of telling Chris to take the thumb out of his mouth and stop whining, Barack went along with all of Chris' demands.  And probably because Odierno's reports weren't good.

They were truthful, they were reality-based.  But they didn't make you want to smile the way Chris Hill's eternal progress reports did.  There was no reality to the report Hill passed on.

And sure enough, Nouri was a thug.  In March the elections were held and second place Nouri refused to step down.  Not for a day, not for a week.  For over eight months.  Setting the record for that time.

Though he'd lost, Nouri wasn't going to step down.  And as the stalemate continued, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to Barack and told him it was time to stop listening to Chris Hill and that he really needed to listen to Ray Odierno.

This stalemate?  That's why Iraqiya wants a caretaker government in place when the 2014 elections (which could become 2013 ones if they're moved up) are held.  They don't believe Nouri will step down if he loses again.  Why would they?  He's already demonstrated once that he wouldn't.

For a little over eight months, things were at a stand still.  But Barack was still backing Nouri (Samantha Power swore Nouri was the best shot at stability in Iraq -- proving that she's not only dumb, she's deadly).  So Barack has US officials pressure the other Iraqi leaders into giving Nouri a second term.  How?  The Constitution is clear, Nouri's out.

The Erbil Agreement went around the Constitution.  It was a contract between the leaders of the political blocs.  The US officials were saying, 'Look, there's no prime minister.  Nothing's going forward, your Parliament has only had a roll call in 8 months, there are no meetings, there is no Cabinet.  Nouri has refused to budge for 8 months.  It's up to you to be the mature ones and show leadership and allow Iraq to move forward by letting Nouri have a second term.  But, in exchange for giving him this second term, you can ask for things your constituents want.  And we'll write it up and it'll be a legally binding contract with the full backing of the US government."  So the political leaders signed on.

And Nouri ran with the agreement long enough to be named prime minister and then shredded it and refused to honor any of the promises he had made in it.

This is why Iraqis lost faith with Barack.  The US government played dumb and didn't say a word.  And ever since then the political crisis has been about The Erbil Agreement and Nouri's refusal to implement this power-sharing agreement.

Last week, Sarah Montague (BBC Hardtalk) did one of her hard hitting interviews where she takes an adversarial position.  This interview was with Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya.  And what seemed to frustrate her the most was how he kept talking about "international community" when clearly he meant the US government but he repeatedly avoided naming it.

Sarah Montague:  But you were voted, your party got the most seats.

Ayad Allawi: Yes.

He went on to blame Iran and she went on to get very frustrated.  (Iran is a part of the story.)

Sarah Montague:  You chose to go into that government [Nouri's government].

Ayad Allawi:  No, we chose because the alternative, after seven months of not forming a government, we thought Iraq needs a government.  And the alternative was a power-sharing agreement between us and Mr. Maliki and the Dawa Party.  So we signed the power-sharing agreement [The Erbil Agreement] --

Sarah Montague:  Was that a mistake?

Ayad Allawi:  It was not honored, unfortunately -- neither by the Islamists, Mr. Maliki and his  nor by the international community who supported the power-sharing agreement.  But this was not honored, unfortunately.  We stayed in the Cabinet for a period of time until we saw that there were no intentions at all to implement the agreement and by then the demonstrations started in Iraq in 2011 ---

Sarah Montague:  But do you accept -- do you accept that part of the problem is that you couldn't control your own party? That, if actually, Iraqiya formed a bloc that  was together and which you could control then you could have had more influence than you chose to?

Ayad Allawi:  No, because there were some interferences from outside powers to prevent this from happening.

Sarah Montague:  You say you picked up a lot of votes -- Sunni votes -- do you recognize that they may feel let down by you now?

Ayad Allawi:  I don't think so.  We -- We tried and this was really an opportunity that the Sunnis elected a Shi'ite and this shows that they are not sectarian.

Sarah Montague:  They elected you.  And you're a secular Shia, you brought Sunnis along and you tried to reach across these sectarian divides?

Ayad Allawi:  -- know what happened and what happened was very, very clear, that there was Iranian influence on certain parties in Iraq, they were objecting to the Iraqiya taking over. They were to the extent of threatening.  And that's why I'm saying that lots of leaders tried to intervene [. . .] by explaining to Iran that this is not the way to interfere in Iraq.  But the Iranians never budged really.  And unfortunately, what went with this was the international scene, international community, agreed to Iran and we then had to agree because we can't leave the country without a prime minister --

Sarah Montague:  You say the international community, the Americans?  Are you saying the Americans should have stood up to Iran?

Ayad Allawi:  Yes, democracy. The Americans.

Sarah Montague:  Do you feel let down by the Americans?

Ayad Allawi:  They let down the political process, they let down the democratic process in doing so, the Americans.

Sarah Montague:  Realistically, what could they have done?

Ayad Allawi:  They could have used their office to not keep on pressuring us and others and the Kurds to accept Nouri al-Maliki as a prime minister.

Sarah Montague:  They should have said 'no' even though the majority of the Shi'ites --

Ayad Allawi:   They should have said that we respect the Constitution.  Iraq was still under Chapter VII.  The [UN] Security Council supported the elections and supported the results of the elections.  And then they changed their minds once Iran started to behave in a very aggressive way against Iraqiya.

Sarah Montague:  . . . [stumbles for words] It sounds as if you're saying, "Look I didn't get my way! The Americans should have put me in! And --"

Ayad Allawi:  No, no, no, no.  The Iraqi people voted me in, not the Americans.  And the Americans, unfortunately, I don't know why, they agreed to what Iran was saying, they blocked the way of Iraqiya to take over.  So this is really very simple. This is what happened.

Let's again note John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq’s first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."

Just because most US outlets refused and refuse to cover what happened doesn't change the fact that Iraqis, that the Arabic region, knows exactly what happened and it's not a good view of the United States that they've been left with.

Now maybe in some sort of cold and 'realpolitk' manner, people could live with it if it had resulted in improvements for the Iraqi people.  But it hasn't.

The violence is but one example.  And what an example of the lack of leadership in Iraq the violence is.   Through Tuesday, Iraq Body Count counts 511 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  And today?  National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 man was shot dead in Mosul and his mother was left injured, and an armed clash in Mosul left 2 Iraqi soldiers deadAll Iraq News notes a Mosul store that sells alcohol was targeted with a bombing today leaving 6 people "killed and injured."

As bad as that violence is, and it is bad, it was only morning-to-mid-day violence.  More was to come.  BBC News reports Baghdad cafes were struck by bombings, "The bombs went off on Thursday evening when the coffee shops were filled with people watching a football match."  Reuters counts "at least 22" dead.  Today, the United Nations noted:

The recent wave of violence in Iraq is taking a toll on human rights in the country, according to a United Nations report out today which recommends that the Iraqi Government implement measures in a range of areas, including police training and women's and children's rights.
According to the report, which covers the period from 1 July to 31 December 2012, at least 3,200 civilians were killed and more than 10,000 injured in 2012 in a reversal of the trend that had seen violence decline in recent years. The report warns that the upturn in armed violence requires greater civilian protection and strengthening of human rights institutions in the country.
“The return to high casualty figures means that much more needs to be done to protect civilians,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Martin Kobler.
“We have consistently urged Iraqi leaders to engage in dialogue and develop policies that address the root causes of the problem. Too many innocent lives have been lost,” he said.
The report, produced by the Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) in cooperation with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), stresses that more needs to be done to ensure financial, medical and other forms of support reach victims of violence.
It also notes that the Iraqi Government has yet to respond to UN and international calls for a moratorium on the death penalty.
“Weaknesses in the criminal justice system mean that the death sentence is often handed down under questionable circumstances in Iraq,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay. “With 123 prisoners executed in 2012, there is a great risk that the worst miscarriages of justice imaginable are taking place here.”

 On the violence, Al-Shorfa reports, "Scores of people wounded in attacks that hit Iraq the past two weeks have been transferred to European hospitals for treatment, the Iraqi government said Thursday (June 27th)." Once upon a time (following the October 31, 2010 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad), Nouri was publicly attacking France and other governments for providing medical treatment and more.  No word from Nouri today as the actions admit what most people already knew: Iraq's limited hospital beds are already full.

At the very end of today's US State Dept press briefing, handled by spokesperson Patrick Ventrell,  Iraq popped up:



QUESTION: Yeah. There has been a really horrific spike in the violence in Iraq with so many killed, but also some Iraqi politicians saying that they should open the discussion again for a new security agreement with the United States. Will the United States be sort of receptive to such an idea?

MR. VENTRELL: I hadn’t seen that particular point, or I’m not sure if – I’d have to refer you to the Embassy if they have more information on that. But we’ve been very clear about our concern about continued violence and the need for an end to sectarian attacks, and we’ll continue to make that point.

QUESTION: So other than condemning the violence, are you doing anything to sort of help mitigate --

MR. VENTRELL: Our Embassy is – our Embassy and our experts here in Washington are very engaged, continue to work with all the parties on – to try to be – help there to be as much cooperation as possible between different political groups so that Iraqis can work out their differences through the political system, and that’s really the key here.

AFP quotes the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler stating today, "I am very concerned at the end of my two years, because sectarianism increases, violence increases."  Kobler may or may not really be concerned.  But is the United Nations really concerned?  It's a question worth asking because AFP explains, "Kobler told AFP from his residence in Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone ahead of his departure from Iraq to take up a new post as UN special envoy to the Democratic Republic of Congo."  Kobler's leaving and no one's been named as a replacement.  This is the worst time for Iraq in the last few years and there's not Special Envoy named as the current Special Envoy exits the country to take another post.

We know who's exiting.  Who might be increasing their presence?   Reuters quotes Gen Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating yesterday,  "We've made a recommendation that as we look at the challenges faced by the Lebanese armed forces, the Iraqi security forces with a re-emerging Al Qaida in Iraq, and the Jordanians, that we would work with them to help them build additional capability."  AP's Qassim Abdul-Zahra reports on this today and notes that the drawdown at the end of 2011 left "About 100 military and civilian Department of Defense personnel remain in Iraq as an arm of the American Embassy to act as liaisons with the Iraqi government and facilitate arms sales."  A vast improvement over yesterday's AP report (not by Adbul-Zahra).

From the DoD transcript, here's Dempsey exact words:

We have a mil-to-mil relationship with the Lebanese armed forces now.  I've had since I -- since I commanded CENTCOM, actually, about four or five years ago.  And we've made a recommendation that as we look at the challenges faced by the Lebanese armed forces, the Iraqi security forces with a re-emerging al-Qaeda in Iraq, and the Jordanians, that we would work with them to help them build additional capability.  But this -- when you say would we send the United States Army or the United States military into Lebanon, I'm talking about teams of trainers, and I'm talking about accelerating foreign military sales for equipment for them.  This is -- this is about building their capability, not ours.

Courtney Kube (NBC News) adds:

 "Militarily, what we're doing is assisting our partners in the region, the neighbors of Syria, to ensure that they're prepared to account for the potential spillover effects," Dempsey said during a briefing, citing the recent announcement that the U.S. left some Patriot missile batteries and F- 16s in Jordan to aid that country's defense.
Dempsey said the U.S. military is already working with the Iraqi military, the Lebanese armed forces, and Turkey.

The agreement is the Memo of Understanding.  It's a shame the press refused to cover it in real time.

Late to the party?  Food's all gone but you can make yourself a drink.  From 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."

Tim Arango had major news (granted, it was buried in a report) and everyone pretty much ignored it. (Tom Hayden didn't -- but even the editorial board and the 'fact checkers' at Tim Arango's own paper ignored his report.)  Tim Arango's report came out right before the debates.  But, as Ava and I noted in our debate coverage, none of the moderators ever asked about it or even seemed aware of it.

The moderators were uninformed.  Worse, so were the 'fact checkers' of the debates.  October 23, 2012, the morning after the last Barack - Romney debate, "The only thing worse than the debate itself (Ava and C.I.)" went up.  In it, Ava and I take on the so-called 'fact checkers' with regards to Iraq:

In the meantime, in the real world,  Tim Arango (New York Times) reported September 26th:

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 General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

That directly relates, USA Today, to the fact check you're supposed to be conducting.  You're ignorant and you're not alone.  CNN concludes their Iraq fact check with "Each man's attacks are rooted in fact. The Obama administration did attempt, unsuccessfully, to extend the presence of a scaled-back U.S. training mission in Iraq, while Romney has said Washington should have kept a considerably larger force in Baghdad."  D-d-did they, CNN?  Did the Obama administration attempt, unsuccessfully, to extend the presence of a scaled-back U.S. training mission in Iraq?  And, more importantly, are they still trying?

Yes, they are.  But don't expect CNN to tell you about that.  And don't expect Andrea Mitchell and NBC's Truth Squad to tell you the truth either.  Like CNN, they find both were accurate, "The president was referring to an Oct. 8, 2012, speech that Romney gave criticizing the 'abrupt' withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq, but the Republican didn’t explicitly say the U.S. should have more troops there. Romney is right that the administration tried and failed to get an agreement that would have allowed a small force of U.S. troops to remain for several years."  But is it accurate to ignore that the White House continues to pursue negotiations on sending US troops back into Iraq?  No, it isn't.

Or anyone else.  Shashank Bengali (Los Angeles Times) does a better job than many, noting the attempt by Barack to extend US troops beyond 2011: "But the negotiations fell apart over Iraq’s unwillingness to grant U.S. soldiers immunity from prosecution. The last U.S. troops withdrew from Iraq in December."  That last sentence is where Bengali is lost.  US troops remain in Iraq -- to guard the diplomatic staff, as 'trainers,' Special-Ops and -- as the Iraqi press has been reporting for weeks now -- searching planes coming through Baghdad International on their way to Syria and on the Syrian border.

Susan Cornwell and Lucy Shackelford (Reuters) also fail the fact check:  "The last U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq last December, ending a war launched in March 2003. At the height of the war, there were more than 170,000 U.S. troops there. Last year Obama did try to negotiate an agreement with Iraq that would have kept some U.S. forces in the country as trainers, but the two governments failed to reach an agreement over giving American soldiers legal immunity."

Not only do the two forget that negotiations are ongoing, not only do they forget that US troops are still there but we believe Susan Cornewell was present a few months back at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing when the over 15,000 US troops that were moved to Kuwait from Iraq so that they would be right on the border, ready to go back in, were discussed.  We believe Susan sat to our right.  Maybe we're remembering wrong.

John Glaser ( falls into the camp of noting that Barack tried -- past tense -- to get an agreement.  John misses the fact that the negotiations continue.

All the people above -- even USA Today -- can take comfort in the fact that they're not the idiot Jason Linkins who apparently never knew that the administration tried to negotiate an extension.  Jason's an idiot so he 'reports' at Huffington Post.  As Peter Feaver (Foreign Policy) noted yesterday:

According to Michael Gordon: "Mr. Biden also predicted that the Americans could work out a deal with a government led by Mr. Maliki. 'Maliki wants us to stick around because he does not see a future in Iraq otherwise,' Mr. Biden said. 'I'll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA' he added, referring to the Status of Forces Agreement the Obama administration hoped to negotiate."

They wanted it and they still do.  Hey, where's Brett McGurk?

Any member of the press want to answer that one?

We do realize Brett did the work around in 2008 when it came to the immunity issue, right?  We all know that?  On the left, we guess we don't since so many of the left pimped for Brett even after the sex and journalism scandal (don't sleep with sources and don't let your lover vet your copy).

So where's Brett right now?

Another question: Where's the New York Times' fact check?  Right here.  And everyone above can feel superior to the so-called paper of record.  We knew the circulation had dipped again but who knew that this was true even among the paper's reporters?  Apparently, Michael Luo, Michael Cooper, Michael D. Shear, Richard A. Oppel Jr, Jeff Zeleny and the others doing the fact check, not one of them actually reads their own paper.

Tim Arango (New York Times) reported September 26th:
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 General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

That was actual reporting.  And yet his own peers at the paper are unaware of it.

If the debate -- the "dull-bate" a stand up on the phone just called it -- last night was bad, the only thing worse has been the 'fact checking.' 

Even the New York Times 'fact checkers' ignored what Tim Arango had reported.  The press failed.  Did they fail because they were stupid or did they fail because this was another attempt to help the US government send troops to Iraq?  I guess your call on that depends on whether you see the press as imbeciles or liars.
But their inability to report the truth is exactly why one of the most important institutions in this country is held in such low regard by the American people.
(And for those who didn't know?  Because the press wasn't telling -- the American press.  Brett McGurk was already in Iraq as the Iraqi press was reporting.  As far as Americans knew, in June of 2012, he withdrew his name from nomination for US Ambassador to Iraq.  And that was it for Brett.  But the reality is that he's billed as the Assistant Secretary of State.  Not at the State Dept's website.  They don't mention that he's in Iraq there, they don't mention that he works for the State Department.  But he's in Iraq and that's how he's presented to the Iraqi officials he meets with, "Assistant Secretary of State."  You have to wonder how much lying this administration thinks it can get away with?  I've never known an administration before to lie about any non-CIA employee being in a country, especially when they've been there for months and will be there for months and are meeting with that country's leaders.)

In yesterday's snapshot, we covered some of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.  Ava covered it last night with "Elijah Cummings -- bald face embarrassment," Wally with "Managing the IRS' real estate portfolio? (Wally)" and Kat with "Was the witness able to understand."

US House Rep Bill Flores noted in a hearing this morning:

As today is National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day, I would like to take a brief moment to address those veterans experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder who may be in attendance or listening. Hope and healing is possible.  And I encourage you and all of those suffering to reach out for help.  You can call 1-800-273-TALK, that's 1-800-273-8255, and press "1" for veterans.

He was speaking at the start of the House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.  I wasn't present.  When I mentioned to a friend that I wouldn't be there (due to Zebari and the UN), he said he was going and he'd pass on anything he thought was the most important aspect of today's hearing.  To him, that was the most important aspect (he's a veteran) and I thank him for sharing that.

On hearings, J. Russell George is an Inspector General with the Treasury Dept and he has been noted in numerous snapshots because he testified at hearings I've attended.  He is not above criticism.  No one is.  (That includes me.)  And I have criticized him and strongly called him out on some things.  But there's a push to blame him.  It's the latest attempt of crap from the Democratic Party.  It appalls me to see how desperate and disgusting my party has become.

The spin is that George misled.  That's one part of the spin, one attempt.  First off, we were at those hearings and he didn't mislead.  Political groups were targeted.  After the hearings started, we usually said, community wide in our reporting, that political groups were targeted.  We didn't say "just conservatives."  What was exposed was that groups who were right or left but seen as not worshiping Barack had problems with the IRS in terms of tax status.  Ava especially emphasized this in her reports.

Some Democratic politicians (and their ugly mouthpieces on MSNBC) want to pretend like the month of May didn't happen and Congressional hearings didn't reveal this fact.  That's a lie.

The second part of the spin is that George failed to do his job.

Maybe.  If you're looking at an investigation he did and you can back up that claim, go for it.

But that's not what they're saying.  What they're saying is he failed to unearth targeting of left organizations.

This is so disgusting.  I was appalled at the lies under Bully Boy Bush when Valerie Plame was outed.  Republicans refused to deal with reality and lied -- LIED -- to make it appear that what took place was less outrageous.

Now some Democrats are doing the same.  George is an IG.  His division gets a complaint and he investigates it.  He is not spying on the IRS.  He is not there 24 hours, seven days a week, trying to monitor all of their actions.  When he examines something -- true of any IG of any department -- they are examining the specifics of a complaint.

What some Dems in Congress are currently doing in attacking George is disgusting.  To be real honest, he seems like a nice and unassuming person.  I feel bad when I have to call him out.  But I'm calling out for things he did.  I'm not inventing a role for him to play.

Oversight of the IRS is supposed to take place within the IRS.  The IG is not there for oversight.  No problems should escalate to the IG, honestly.  By the time that's happened, the IRS officials in charge should already have been aware of a problem and addressing it.  That's their job.

If some Dems want to whine that they don't feel that left groups getting targeted was given enough attention, that's on the IRS.  George did not get a complaint on that.

J. Russell George is getting smeared for partisan reasons.  That needs to stop and Americans need to start demanding that members of Congress act a little more mature.


qassim abdul-zahra