Friday, August 16, 2013

Cowardly Chris Floyd

Friday, the weekend at last.  Chris Floyd supposedly was going to stop blogging.  Once upon a time, that would have been a great loss.  But when even the New York Times can (and did!) report Barack sent US troops into Iraq in fall 2012, Chris Floyd -- supposed voice against empire -- couldn't say one word.  Here's C.I. in Thursday's snapshot:

No slam against the State Dept but I'm just not into stupid idiots of the press.  And that's what most of them are.  I am so weary of their inability, when provided with the opportunity, to ask about US forces in Iraq, about the Memo Of Understanding signed in December 2012 allowing for joint US - Iraq patrols.  Dropping back to the April 30th Iraq 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."

 I'm tired of the idiots, the liars and the cover up artists.  I'm tired of their blood lust for war in Syria and how that reduces Iraq to a bit player or extra in their narratives of the Gulf region.  I'm tired of all of it.  I'm tired of them ignoring reality. I'm tired of the repeat e-mails insisting I've lied about a Memorandum of Understanding being signed (you'd think people would at least use provided links before making that charge).  I'm tired of a lazy, spineless press that refuses to report on the MoU even when the Pentagon issues a press release (as they did last December) or when the State Dept notes it as it did today:

At the December 2012 JCC, Acting Defense Minister al-Dlimi signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Security Cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense. This agreement represents the strong military to military relationship between the United States and Iraq, and provides mechanisms for increased defense cooperation in areas including defense planning, counterterrorism cooperation, and combined exercises.

Maybe if scared and lazy 'names' like Chris Floyd weren't such little chicken wussies, C.I. wouldn't be weary of nearly a year of attacks for the 'crime' of telling the truth?

Here's Chris Floyd today at CounterPunch:

First point: as Arthur Silber has noted, the importance of these ‘whistleblower’ cases has nothing to do with the personalities involved. Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden: it doesn’t matter what kind of people they are, if you think they are ‘heroes’ or ‘bad people,’ if you’d ‘like to have a beer with them’ or would run a mile if you saw them coming. What matters is what they have done; what matters are the fragments of truth they have made available. If the sexual charges against Assange turned out to be true, it would have no bearing whatsoever on the importance of what Wikileaks has accomplished, the fissures it has made in the bristling walls of deceit that our brutal, stupid and venal elites around the world have erected to hide their misdeeds. The same goes for Snowden, Manning, or anyone else whose actions have made similar fissures.
It’s always a great temptation to succumb to the cult of celebrity, of course, to live vicariously through the snippets we happen to read here and there about some famous person, to see them as “heroes” who live out the courage or accomplishments or glamor that we can only dream of. And that’s fine for a flip-through of People magazine in the check-out line. But this is serious business. The actions of these whistleblowers involve taking on the power of corrupt and murderous state structures that can and will destroy individual lives and entire nations — structures that are wildly out of control and are devouring the very substance of human society. Actions that put a spoke of truth in the wheels of this monstrous machine are of incalculable importance. The ‘character’ of those who put  in the spokes is of vastly minor importance.

Don't tell people what I would do, you wuss.  Speak for your own cowardly ass.  Like Richard Gere in Somersby, I'd choose death because I do believe in my convictions.

I don't need your dumb ass rulings, you little wuss who cried like a baby when Daily Kos or Democratic Underground (or both?) banned you.

You're a joke because you couldn't speak the truth about Iraq.

Of course a cowardly wuss like you would piss your panties and recent your beliefs.  But don't pin your cowardice off on all of us because we're not all whores.

If Brad had been my client, I would have told him that little speech my save his ass (might not) but it would sell his soul.  That's reality.  Too much reality for cowardly Chris Floyd.

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

Friday, August 18, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Hoshyar Zebari speaks in DC, he ignores the Hawaija massacre and the Sunnis, Barack Obama is caught lying about his illegal spying on the American people, Colonel Denise Lind issues a report on Bradley Manning, Heidi Boghosian discusses government spying, and more.

"Ten years after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the better future that we seek is still a goal, not a given," Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari declared today.  He arrived in DC to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday.  Today, he delivered a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  It was not a good speech.  It was often not a factual speech.  It was a speech that showed Zebari at his worst.  

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is a Kurd as is Zebari.  Too often, both men are seen as refusing to stand up and lacking spine.  In small ways, Talabani has been able to deliver for the Kurds which is what has redeemed him with many in the Kurdistan Regional Government.  Last year,  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.

Zebari attempted a move for the presidency in early 2013, angering not just just the Talabani family but many officials of both the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Talabani's party) and of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (led by KRG President Massoud Barzani).  It was thought that Zebari was once again putting himself ahead of the Kurdish interests.  It was made clear to Zebari that should he attempt to grab the office, Hero Ibrahim Ahmed would announce she was filling the post and that she would have backing from leadership in the PUK as well as the blessing from the KDP.  Zebari's  work has too often been seen to benefit Nouri al-Maliki and not the Kurds.  His statements have too often seem to leave out Sunnis which especially became an issue when the Kurds began attempting to improve relations in 2011.  Most of all, an attempt to seize the post could remove the presidency from Kurdish control.  That is why the First Lady of Iraq reluctantly agreed with the leadership of the two major political parties in the KRG that if anyone should attempt to grab the post, she would announce she was assuming the role while her husband recovered.  Such a move would be popular with many Kurds but would also play well across Iraq due to the sympathies over Jalal's stroke.

Zebari's speech did nothing to redeem his image.

Minister Hoshyar Zebari: As Iraqis rebuild our own country, Iraq and the United States will benefit by building a longterm partnership. Together, we can and must develop what President Obama has described as "a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect."  With our political progress, our economic progress, and our diplomatic progress, Iraq is taking its place as a partner for the United States, for our neighbors, and for the family of nations. On the political front, we are building a multi-ethnic, multi-party democracy, with respect for the rule of law. Our democratic process is moving forward at a strong and steady pace. Our local elections took place in April of this year. In Iraqi Kurdistan, there would be regional elections in September this year.  

First major screw up.  Anbar and Nineveh were not allowed to vote in April.  The two provinces were penalized by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for their ongoing protests.  He said it was due to violence.  A lie.  Baghdad Province had more violence at that time.  He provided other excuses (such as voter theft), none were believed.  The so-called Independent High Electoral Commission was against the delay and was the only individual or body who could legally authorize it.  Allowing Nouri to get away with postponing elections set a dangerous precedent.  Anbar and Nineveh were finally allowed to vote in July.  To no one's surprise, Nouri's State of Law faired poorly in the elections.

Zebari may have been attempting to smooth over differences but to Sunnis it will appear that 'their' Foreign Minister (Sunnis are Iraqis too) has yet again sleighted them -- and this time on the international stage. 

Hoshyar Zebari:  And our legislative elections, generral elections will take place next year  -- which will determine our national leadership -- a very, very important date to watch. We have a government of national unity. Now all the communities participate in the working of the government and of the Parliament.  

No.  By "the working of the government," he means the Cabinet.  Iraqiya walked out this summer.  Do not point to Saleh al-Mutlaq or any other person.  The leader of Iraqiya is Ayad Allawi.  In June, 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.  He noted Iraqiya walked out of the Cabinet and that any who remained were not Iraqiya members.  Zebari betrays many by refusing to acknowledge The Erbil Agreement or Nouri's failure to honor it.


Hoshyar Zebari:  Yes, we have differences of opinion, as all democracies do, but we are working together and slowly but surely our efforts are achieving results.  We are promoting human rights.  There has been violations, which we admit, but there are constant efforts to improve on that. and to be responsive to all codes and also the freedom of expression and the advancements of women.  There has been demonstrations and sit-ins in Iraq in many provinces, in western part of Iraq and some Sunni provinces in Iraq for the last eight months and they have kept [can't make out the word], they have sit-ins, they have obstructions, but the government have not resorted to the same methods the Egyptians recently used or deployed to disperse the demonstrators.

First off, don't e-mail that Zebari didn't say it.  He did.  It's not in prepared remarks.  I know that.  I was e-mailed the prepared remarks (as were many, I see, by looking at the cc).  Zebari went off script and did so without stumbling which indicates to me he didn't want Nouri to know he was mentioning the protests.

Second, what?

Nouri's thugs have intimidated, harassed and followed protesters.  In single digits, his forces have been responsible for deaths at protests several times in the last eight months.  That's not even allowing for the refusal to allow journalists near to cover the protests or his arrests of journalists who try to cover the protests.  

Third, the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53 dead.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

It is not a minor event.  The International Crisis Group noted this week

 After Hawija, Iraq is on the brink of a relapse into generalised conflict, confronted with a resurgence of Sunni militant operations, the strengthening of al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and waves of attacks fuelling sectarian tensions. The government has tightened security measures even further, exacerbating the divide between Sunni constituents and central authorities.

Zebari lied and let's also remember the attack took place over the objection of the governor of Kirkuk.  Shalaw Mohammed (Niqash) interviewed Governor Najm al-Din Karim back in May:

NIQASH: Let’s talk about the controversial Tigris Operations Command. It’s caused several crises around here. What’s your opinion on this Iraqi military base?

Al-Din Karim: Neither I, as governor, nor the provincial council have changed our opinions on this issue. We don’t want the Tigris Operations Command here and we don’t accept their presence. Although we have agreed to form a committee in Baghdad to try and resolve this impasse.

NIQASH: The incidents in Hawija, where protestors were killed by the Iraqi military, also seems to have seen more Iraqi army forces enter Kirkuk.

Al-Din Karim: Actually those forces did not come through Kirkuk - they entered Hawija by helicopter. They tried to come through Kirkuk but we prevented them from doing so. I know the Prime Minister disapproved of this – he told me so last time we met.

Not exactly the rosy picture Zebari painted.

During the Q and A, Zebari got a little more honest, for a brief second.

Hoshyar Zebari: As I said before, really we have demonstrations, sit-ins, all over the country for the past eight months and the government never resorted to the kind of violence -- except in one or two incidences in Haiwja.  And I'm not here to justify this violations whatsoever.  But really the government has tolerated this so far to go on without any intimidations.

Back to his speech:

Hoshyar Zebari:  All the political parties have accepted election as a method of power-sharing and peaceful change. Iraqis want to decide our future with voting, not violence. On the economic front , we are growing and diversifying. We have one of the world’s ten fastest growing economies, expanding by 9.6 percent in 2011 and 10.5 percent in 2012. According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, we will grow by 8.2 percent this year -- beating China for the third straight year. On the energy front, our oil production has increased by 50 percent since 2005. Iraq expects to increase oil production to 4.5 million barrels by the end of 2014 and nine million barrels a day by 2020. As the International Energy Agency has reported, Iraq is poised to double our output of oil by the decade of the 2030’s. We will emerge as the world’s second largest energy exporter. And we will ease a strained global oil market. In spite of this progress, we face serious economic problems. Ninety percent of our economy depends on oil. Our unemployment rate is 11 percent. Our poverty rate is 23 percent. Terrorism 3 contributes to the cycle of poverty, and young unemployed men can be ready recruits for terrorist groups. In order to diversify our economy beyond energy, Iraq is investing oil revenues in education and crucial development projects, incl uding restoring electrical power and rebuilding our transportation system. 

Most experts argue Iraq's unemployment rate is actually 21% or higher.  As for diversifying the economy, Nouri's been promising that since 2006.  Too bad for Nouri, the only high ranking official who worked on that was Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.  As Sami Moubayed (Gulf News) reminds:

Iraqi Sunnis, for sure, are furious. Al Maliki has blamed them for the deteriorating security. Further, he has systematically purged leading Sunnis from his government, like Vice-President Tareq Al Hashemi, who was sent into exile, and Finance Minister Rafia Al Issawi, who barely escaped an assassination attempt in 2012. The Baathists are still taboo in Iraqi politics. Al Maliki is the man who single-handedly wrote off the execution of every single senior Sunni of the former regime, including Saddam himself.

Lara Jakes (AP) reports Zebari noted today that Iraq needed US "advisers, intellgence analysis and surveillance assets -- including lethal drones."    Jakes (AP) reported this morning on Iraq and how it is being shoved aside in the news cycle by other events.  It wouldn't have opened the snapshot were it not for Zebari's speech.  We would have opened with the illegal spying.  The plan was to include a new report on Iraq and to explore Nouri's 'leadership' and a third term.  That's getting shoved back to next week, hopefully Monday.  We will also likely return to Zebari's speech to note more from the questions and answer section.

There is no security in Iraq.  This is made especially clear by an incident today. NINA reports that Lt Col Wissam Korgi al-Dulaimi's home was invaded today.  The man holds the title of Director of the Division to Combat Terrorism.  Yet his Falluja home was invaded by a man wearing an explosive belt. The suicide bomber detonated his bomb and took his own life while taking the lives of 2 bodyguards and the Lt Col's brother and also injuring two people.  Also today, a police officer was shot dead outside his home near Mosul and his brother was left injured in this shooting.  Alsumaria adds that a Ramadi suicide bombing claimed 1 life and left two police officers injured, a Samarra bombing left six members of the police injured,  and a Mahmudiyah bombing claimed the 2 lives (military officer and a soldier) and left seven soldiers injured. AFP observes, "In Friday's deadliest attack, a roadside bomb exploded in the west Baghdad neighbourhood of Ghazaliyah, killing at least four people and wounding 14 others, while another blast on a commercial street in Saidiyah wounded six, officials said."  They also note a Muqdadiay home invasion in which the police chief was "shot dead in front of his family" and a Buhruz bombing which claimed 2 lives and left seven people injured.

Nouri al-Maliki is a failure.  In his second term as prime minister, he has turned out to be even worse than his first term.  He can't lead, he can't protect. He can, and does, blame mythical foreigners for the violence in Iraq.  Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) observes:

The Iraqi government, however, has failed in doing its political duty. Political failure means failure at all levels, including security. But Al Maliki does not want to look at failure from this perspective although many of his allies in the National Alliance disagree with him. He tries to justify his policies through blame and threats.
In a meeting with political and economic experts, Al Maliki hurled accusations at allies in different political blocs, such as the Al Muwatin Bloc headed by Ammar Al Hakim and the Sadrist movement headed by Muqtada Al Sadr. He also accused some of his ministers of being responsible for the deteriorating security situation. He forgot that as the prime minister, he shoulders the most responsibility.
Additionally, when Al Maliki accuses neighbouring countries of sponsoring terrorism in Iraq, he is only embarrassing himself. He ends up in a very awkward position because he becomes obliged to reveal the names of these countries — and bolster his accusations with proof. He also needs to tell his people how his government is dealing with these countries.
Iraqis have a right to know their real enemies and the government has no business hiding the truth.
If what Al Maliki is saying is true and he has evidence against countries sponsoring terrorism in Iraq, then he has a national and moral obligation to challenge these countries in an international court of law and the UN Security Council.
But the truth lies elsewhere. If we were to accuse those who destroyed Iraq, encouraged corruption, sectarianism, forgery, armed militias, and the killing of highly-qualified Iraqis, we will not find any group more liable than the Green Zone group, along with its establishments and institutions.

Kitabat notes Nouri is refusing to own up to his security failures and is again blaming the unnamed foreigners.  As the fingers point more and more to Nouri and he grows ever less popular.  Iraq Times notes a new poll finds 83% of Iraqis consider Nouri a failure as a prime minister.  Michael Jansen (Gulf News) points out, "Shias have also lost faith in the Maliki government’s ability to deliver safety from the bombers. Maliki’s credibility is plunging and with every bombing, his approval rating drops further."

Last week, US President Barack Obama held a press conference.  See last Friday's snapshot and Ava and my "Media: The weak press, the weak press conference." Today, Margaret Hartmann (New York magazine) reminds Barack insisted, "What you're hearing about is the prospect that these [programs] could be abused.  Now part of the reason they're not abused is because they're -- these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC."

Last night, Barton Gellman (Washington Post) reported:

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

Yet again, NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden is demonstrated to have been telling the truth while Barack's caught lying.   Charlie Savage (New York Times) notes, "The National Security Agency violated privacy rules protecting the communications of Americans and others on domestic soil 2,776 times over a one-year period, according to an internal audit leaked by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden and made public on Thursday night."  Savage also notes:

A brief article in an internal N.S.A. newsletter offered hints about a known but little-understood episode in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found in 2011 that the N.S.A. had violated the Fourth Amendment. The newsletter said the court issued an 80-page ruling on Oct. 3, 2011, finding that something the N.S.A. was collecting involving "Multiple Communications Transactions" on data flowing through fiber-optic networks on domestic soil was "deficient on statutory and constitutional grounds."

Andrea Peterson (Washington Post) observes nicely, but he lied, he lied, he lied.

Obama said that wasn’t supposed to happen because it would be “against the orders of the FISC.” So why didn’t the judges on the court catch these abuses?
In another story broken by [Carol D. Leonnig of] The Post today, the chief of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court admits he doesn’t actually have the capability to investigate the compliance record of NSA surveillance programs:

The FISC is forced to rely upon the accuracy of the information that is provided to the Court [...] The FISC does not have the capacity to investigate issues of noncompliance, and in that respect the FISC is in the same position as any other court when it comes to enforcing [government] compliance with its orders.

Today, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now! -- link is text, audio and video) addressed the topic with the ACLU's Alex Abdo:

ALEX ABDO: It’s truly shocking that the NSA is violating these surveillance laws thousands of times every year—effectively, about seven times a day—in part because these laws are extraordinarily permissive. These aren’t laws that impose meaningful constrictions on the NSA. They essentially allow the NSA to collect vast quantities of information about Americans’ communications inside the United States and as we communicate internationally. So the fact that they’re violating these very permissive laws is truly shocking.
But I think, even more fundamentally, the disclosures really undermine the intelligence community’s primary defense of these programs, which is that they are heavily regulated and overseen. We now know that that’s simply not true. Congress has not been able to effectively oversee the NSA’s surveillance machinery. Now we know that the FISA court, the secret court that’s charged with overseeing the NSA, is not able to and, in its own words, doesn’t think it has the capacity to effectively oversee the NSA. So, for all of these years, the government has been claiming this is a regulated surveillance complex, and in fact the fox has been guarding the hen house for far too long, and it needs to stop.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, but even with these revelations, government officials seem to indicate that these are not deliberate violations but inadvertent problems in terms of how they’re gathering and sifting data, and that they’re relatively small compared to the huge volume of what they’re actually doing. Do you buy that argument?

ALEX ABDO: Well, the NSA has, for the past months in defending these programs, used word games when it talks about the consequences of these policies for Americans’ privacy. They use words like "targeted," "incidental" and "inadvertent" to really obscure what’s going on. And the fact of the matter is that these laws allow the government to listen in on Americans’ phone calls and to read Americans’ emails in an extraordinary number of circumstances, and the government has not been forthcoming about that authority, and they’re not being forthcoming now when they suggest that these violations are minimal. These are thousands of violations every year, and each violation could affect hundreds or even thousands of Americans. But we still don’t have the basic facts to have that debate.

Law and Disorder Radio  is a weekly, hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights). National Lawyers Guild executive director Heidi has a new book  Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance which was released last week.  She discusses it on FAIR's CounterSpin which began airing today.

Peter Hart: Now the book was obviously much in the works before Edward Snowden made these issues front page news but I see in the book a connection to his actions and one incident you recount in the book.  A group breaks into an FBI office to gain documents about spying on political groups which leads to policy changes that basically eliminate that spying program.  In so many ways, it seems like, reading through the book, Edward Snowden, his story, recalls lessons from the past.  Talk a little about that.

Heidi Boghosian:  That's true.  And although the context is different, I think the underlying principles are the same.  You're talking about the incident in the early seventies in which a group of concerned citizens broke into a local FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania and found a trove of files indicating that the government had been spying on lawful Americans -- notably outspoken activists.  People like Martin Luther King Jr., peace activists, anti-war activists.  But they took these files and mention of it to the media.  Immediately, the American people reacted with outrage.  And what happened was, we had a series of Congressional hearings called the Church Committee, headed by Frank Church, and the FBI ended COINTELPRO and set in place a series of protections that basically curbed the FBI from unlimitless surveillance and it laid out guidelines by  which agents would need probable cause that criminal activity might be afoot in order to open an investigation and put a bar against spying on religious, political, other leaders in social movements unless they could prove that there was something wrong.

Peter Hart:  Now we're talking about government spying and that's been the focus of so much one of the Snowden coverage.  One of the lessons of the book is that private companies are very much involved in this on a number of levels.  They're contractors with the federal government.  They're also hired guns on activist groups -- things that the government probably couldn't do legally but you can hire a private company to do these things.  Talk a little about the role of private companies and how they blur the distinction between government surveillance

Heidi Boghosian:  In many ways, private corporations have become the long arm of the government, doing -- as you say -- things that the government could not legally do because they're bound by the strictures of the US Constitution.  Our officials take an oath to protect the Constitution.  And, as we mentioned, some protections were set in place.  They've eroded over time but I think most Americans would be offended if they knew the level of surveillance and they're getting a hint of that now.  Corporations conduct approximately 70% of the US government's intelligence functions. We've seen a shift so that, in many cases, well trained staff move from the public sector into private jobs because they're much more lucrative.  What happens, however, is that there is no oversight and no accountability in a lot of these actions so that even members of Congress are largely in the dark about how these corporations act.  And, as you mentioned with activists, a large part of what corporations do is guard against any outside criticism of their policies so that, for example, in addition to entering into contracts with the government, they may have their own internal intelligence units that collect data, photographs, they spy on activists who are outspoken -- many times, successful activists who've actually changed policies of, say, Burger King or, you know, work that the group PETA has done to raise awareness about how we treat animals.  So environmental activists, animal rights have been deemed top domestic terrorist threats by the government and really, I think, playing into fears people have about another terrorist attack unfortunately by branding US citizens and other people who are merely exercising in most cases their First Amendment right to free speech and free activities, the right to assemble and take grievances to the government, they're being punished, labeled as terrorists, vilified and this has what we call a chilling effect on the exercise of free speech.

Again, Heidi Boghosian's new book is  Spying on Democracy: Government Surveillance, Corporate Power and Public Resistance -- it is a strong book and makes for a powerful read.  Moving to the US Senate, yesterday  Senator Patty Murray's office issued a joint-statement from Senator Murray and Senator Kelly Ayotte.  Murray, the former Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, now Chairs the Senate Budget Committee.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Thursday, August 15, 2013                                                                                   202-224-2834

Murray, Ayotte Statement on Secretary Hagel Directive on Military Sexual Assault
Hagel memorandum includes directive for immediate implementation of trained military lawyers to help victims of sexual assault take action against attackers
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) released the following statement after Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel directed immediate implementation of several measures to “gain greater consistency of effort and enhance oversight, investigative quality, pretrial investigations and victim support” in cases of military sexual assault. Among other measures, the directive includes implementation of trained lawyers to provide victims in all branches with guidance through the legal process, similar to legislation introduced by Senators Murray and Ayotte.
“I applaud the proactive steps Secretary Hagel is taking today to do right by our nation’s heroes and begin the process of tackling this scourge within the ranks,” said Senator Murray. “Our legislation to provide victims with a dedicated legal counsel absolutely gets to the heart of effectively addressing the tragic epidemic of sexual assault in our military and I was pleased to see Secretary Hagel has put priority on its implementation. Providing legal advocates for victims is a major step forward in reversing this awful trend and establishing the necessary means for these men and women to take action against their attackers through what is a deeply personal and painful process. While these measures are by no means a silver bullet, it is inexcusable for us to wait any longer to address this issue and I’m glad Secretary Hagel understands these actions are long overdue.”

“It’s encouraging that the Department of Defense is taking steps to implement these reforms immediately, rather than waiting for them to become law,” said Senator Ayotte.  "The actions announced today will provide greater protections to victims, increase reporting, and result in more prosecutions – and they represent a significant step forward as we continue efforts to stop sexual assault in the military.”

Last month, the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee approved $25 million to fully fund the Murray-Ayotte Special Victims Counsels (SVCs) program. The House of Representatives has also approved full funding for this program in their Department of Defense spending legislation. In May, Senators Murray and Ayotte introduced the bipartisan Combating Military Sexual Assault Act, which has been included in the pending National Defense Authorization Act. The SVC program is based on a successful pilot program currently implemented in the Air Force.
Meghan Roh
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office

Moving over to commentary on a military court-martial.

And yesterday was another highlight with Bradley Manning giving his statement and essentially reaching the point where he had been advised by his defense team that he had to -- for mercy from the judge -- that he had to convince her, hopefully, that she would see that he wouldn't be in prison for the next 90 years.  Obviously, he would end up dying in prison because he's 25-years-old.

That's Kevin Gosztola. He's speaking of Bradley's apology.  Like Ann, we'll note this from Thursday's Free Speech Radio News:

Pfc Bradley Manning apologizes during sentencing hearing
Private First Class Bradley Manning  addressed the court yesterday, during the sentencing phase of his military trial. Despite his acquittal on the most serious of the charges against him, aiding the enemy, Private Manning faces as much as 90 years in prison for releasing classified military information to the public. Manning spent  more than three years in pretrial detention, much of which he served in solitary confinement. Throughout the trial, he fought the charges against him. Yesterday, he shifted gears and apologized for his actions. David Swanson is Campaign Coordinator at and blogs at Swanson was in the courtroom when Manning made his statement, and described Manning's statement as “an apology for having acted without being able to think clearly.”
“That's not what Bradley Manning did. If you look back at the chat logs, he was thinking very, very clearly and he had clear and honorable intentions. There is a reason he is viewed as a hero around the world, why he is a four time Nobel Peace Prize nominee. And it just wasn't discussed by him or by the therapists or by his sister or his aunts, in all of yesterdays testimony.”
According to Swanson, the strategy to seek the mercy of the court was clear. Further, there was no mention of the mistreatment Manning suffered during his pretrial confinement,  no discussion of the relative merits of any particular sentencing outcome,
“... and no mention whatsoever at any time during the course of the day of the good that he did the world as the most significant whislteblower in U.S. History.”
The Court is expected to return its verdict early next week.

Yesterday on KPFA's Flashpoints, guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Kevin Gosztola about Bradley Manning and the apology he offered Wednesday in the military proceeding.

Kevin Pina:  Well you know the problem of course with taking that position is should they give him the 90 years anyway, then, of course, we will probably hear the truth again which is on behalf of the American people which many people applaud him for.  There's now a movement to award him the Nobel Peace Prize.  We've had Norman Solomon on this program telling us about that, that there's a grassroots movement to get him named Nobel Peace Prize for having done this on behalf of the American people.  But if he gets the 90 years anyway, having apologized for what he did, it's going to make it really difficult for people.  The right-wing is going to have a hey-day attacking his credibility with his second statement, aren't they?

Kevin Gosztola:  Sure.  I place the blame on the defense team for this one.  I don't blame Bradley Manning for doing what his defense team says is appropriate at this stage.   So clearly, David Coombs could have maintained a whistle-blower defense but decided that that was a risk that he was not willing to take.  He's not playing this like Bradley Manning is a political prisoner which, I think, there's a lot to indicate he is a political prisoner.  And, in fact, I would suggest to you that if he does get sentenced to whatever amount of time -- and I kind of think that the judge is probably going to sentence him to 30 or 40 years in prison -- and I say that a lot of people are going to be very upset and they're going to get down and they're going to think  how horrid this is but  I also say that there are a lot of supporters around the world and because he is a political prisoner in many respects, it could be 15 to 20 years and we will see his sentence commuted because of all of the activism around him and all of the support for his actions.  I just don't see him getting punished for that long period of time, being kept in prison.

While Kevin Gosztola can share honestly, Alexa O'Brien continues to insist that something else happened.  Marcia called O'Brien's nonsense out this morningGosztola reports today on findings released by Colonel Denise Lind who is presiding over the military proceeding against Bradley:

Manning was convicted of “wrongfully and wantonly causing publication of intelligence belonging to the United States on the Internet knowing the intelligence” would be “accessible to the enemy to the prejudice of the good order and discipline in the armed forces or of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”
What she found in relation to this charge was that he had clearly committed this offense when he released the information in the database containing Iraq war logs, information in the database containing Afghanistan war logs, the “Gitmo Files,” the reports on an investigation into the Granai air strike in the Farah province in Afghanistan, the 250,000-plus diplomatic cables, the Reykjavik cable and the report from the Army Counterintelligence Center (ACIC) on WikiLeaks as a “threat.”
The judge concluded, “At the time of the charged offense, al Qaeda and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were enemies of the United States. Pfc. Manning knew that al Qaeda was an enemy of the United States.” His conduct was “of a heedless nature that made it actually and imminently dangerous to others.”


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michael s. smith
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Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pants on the ground again for Barack

Thursday.  Almost the weekend.  If you missed it, Barack's been caught with his pants down again.

pants on the ground 13

That's Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Pants on the Ground."

And Mike Masnick (TechDirt) reports the latest pants on the ground:

And... the latest report from the Washington Post based on leaked documents shows that an audit of the NSA's activities shows it broke privacy rules, mostly to spy on Americans, thousands of times per year:
The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by law and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.
The audit info comes from Ed Snowden's leaks, so it seems rather incredible that President Obama, Keith Alexander and Mike Rogers didn't seem to realize that this audit would eventually come to light, showing that they were flat out 100% lying to the American public.

He just keeps lying.

And he keeps getting caught.

Where's the cry for impeachment?

Where's the demand of "Throw the bums out!"

Where's the public force that pulls him from his vacation and makes him stop lying?

Barack is a coddled little bitch.  He's never been forced to take accountability or act like a grown man.  He's just a filthy little bitch who gets fawned over repeatedly.

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

Thursday, August 15, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Bradley Manning's words have impact. Alexa O'Brien struggles with reality, Baghdad is slammed with bombings, Hoshyar Zebari visits DC and meets with John Kerry, the US State Dept forgets to note that in their daily press briefing, and more.

Yesterday, Bradley Manning spoke for three minutes in the military proceedings against him.  Paul Courson (CNN) explains:

Convicted leaker Army Pfc. Bradley Manning acknowledged Wednesday that by leaking tens of thousands of pages of classified documents he "hurt people and hurt the United States."
"I understood what I was doing was wrong but I didn't appreciate the broader effects of my actions," he said during his sentencing hearing at Maryland's Fort Meade. "I only wanted to help people, not hurt people."

That's fairly straightforward but appears to confuse Alexa O'Brien and some in her circle.  Reflecting on their statements today, I was reminded of film director Angela Garcia Combs sharing at Women and Hollywood Monday an observation of the late Karen Black:

Karen once described to me a great lesson she learned from Lee Strasberg. She was a young actress in his class attempting to grow her craft, yet she didn't like him. What he said didn't sit right with her, somehow his personality rubbed her the wrong way, but she had trouble putting her finger on it. One day, however, Strasberg was as usual pontificating before his class, yet he was not wearing his trademark suspenders. As he lectured, he nervously fiddled with his now imaginary prop and it occurred to Karen that for all his undoubted wisdom, Strasberg was not living in the present. Her observation of Strasberg's simple conditioned response freed her. She realized that living in the present, recognizing something as simple as what is there, rather than imposing what we wish to be there -- this is was what it would take to inhabit the characters she was to play, and thus ended her relationship with the esteemed pedagogue. Karen was a great observer of human nature and she could see when someone was not in the present. Karen inhabited the present.

Alexa O'Brien appears to be unable to live in the present as well.  Whether than report what happened yesterday, she's invented these alternative realities and is making so many ridiculous statements such as this in her dotty performance on Democracy Now! today:

Now, of course, it didn’t come in the package that people expected it to come in. It actually came in a very sort of—I would actually characterize it as an earnest and sincere package. People have to understand something: Bradley Manning is more of a moral character than he is a political one. Why are people so moved by Bradley Manning? Why do people say, "I am Bradley Manning?" Because his acts were fundamentally an act of conscience.

If you are a friend of Alexa's you might encourage her to stop imploding publicly.  She had a shot at a career in journalism.  But reporters don't dish in "a moral character."  /Even columnists -- those not named Gail Collins -- try to avoid that kind of nonsense.  And people said "I am Bradley Manning" to show solidarity with him.

Words have impact.

As I noted yesterday, I fault attorney David Coombs for Bradley's statements.  But whomever you blame or credit, the statements drive away support.  That's reality, start addressing it.

I would hope grown ups could.  I don't know about Alexa.

  1. Bradley Manning did not say he harmed the US. He said he hurt the US. I think there is a difference.

Am I the only not just thinking O'Brien's splitting hairs but also remembering the scene in Love & Death between Woody Allen and Diane Keaton?

Boris:  Sonya, are you scared of dying?

Sonya:  Scared is the wrong word.  I'm frightened of it

Boris:  (mocking) That's an interesting distinction

The statement Bradley made was stupid and ignorant -- regardless of who came up with it.  All along, the talk has been of a win on appeal.  That especially became the case as observers with any knowledge of the law watched David Coombs bungle repeatedly.  So if you have Bradley make a statement, you make it a rousing one that will rally the supporters.  It was stupid not to have done that.

Danny Schechter (News Dissector) observed this morning, "It was a humiliating day for Bradley Manning and his supporter who have been lobbying for him to receive a Nobel Peace Prize. He finally had a chance to have his say in court and he opted to seek mercy and perhaps a reduced sentence by apologizing."

David Swanson (War Is A Crime) offered his reaction:

I sat in the courtroom all day on Wednesday as Bradley Manning's trial wound its way to a tragic and demoralizing conclusion.  I wanted to hear Eugene Debs, and instead I was trapped there, watching Socrates reach for the hemlock and gulp it down.  Just a few minutes in and I wanted to scream or shout.
I don't blame Bradley Manning for apologizing for his actions and effectively begging for the court's mercy.  He's on trial in a system rigged against him.  The commander in chief declared him guilty long ago.  He's been convicted.  The judge has been offered a promotion.  The prosecution has been given a playing field slanted steeply in its favor.  Why should Manning not follow the only advice anyone's ever given him and seek to minimize his sentence?  Maybe he actually believes that what he did was wrong.  But -- wow -- does it make for some perverse palaver in the courtroom.

There is a wide range of reactions to Bradley's remarks.  Many were voiced last night in the roundtable for the special gina & krista round-robin published this morning.  Mike shared his reaction at his site:

I kind of thought what Bradley did was brave and the right thing to do.
Now that he's apologized will those celebs in the "I Am Bradley Manning" video join him in apologizing?
I don't know what to say.
I advocated on his behalf and I defended him.
Today he apologizes and tells the court he was wrong.
Whatever, huh?
He and his support network can have each other because I'm done with him.
As I explained in a roundtable we did tonight, other people should do what they want.
But I do have a law degree.  I did public defending pro bono.
And you don't do what Brad did today.  Not to lessen a sentence (or try to).  You don't disown actions you're proud of.
Bradley's lost his ethical high ground now.

Others can defend him.  I won't attack them for it (in the community or out).  But I'm done with him.
I've got a life and I'll be living it no longer worrying about him.  He disowned his actions?
I supported those actions.
I'm done supporting him.  And since he's admitted to damaging the country (yeah, he said that too), he'll get whatever sentence Col. Denise Lind gives him.  And if she now throws the book at him, oh well.  That's his problem.

(Added) Marcia shared her reaction to the 'defense':

But as a member of the LGBT community, I feel betrayed by the 'defense' David Coombs presented.
Brad is not, you understand, a brave person who came forward and did the right thing.
No, he's a dirty pervert with a sickness and, in the best tradition of burn the witch, Brad is forced to confess his sins and admit to damaging the country.
I'm real damn sorry that David Coombs is such a stupid ass and transphobe, but I'm even sorrier that Brad's name is now muddied.
I'm sorry that what he did is now on record as being a result of a 'perversion.'
Being transgendered is not "disorder."
Coombs had a right to defend his client.
He did not have a right to do so by spitting on the LGBT community.
To put on the stand witnesses testifying to a "disorder" was spitting on us.  In the early 90s, that "disorder" could have been same sex attraction.
I have nothing but support for Brad but David Coombs is a transphobe and a homophobe.  (Homophobe?  He repeatedly equated trans as "gay."  Women trapped in men's bodies are not "gay," they are transgendered.)

Of Bradley's statements, Alexa O'Brien declared on Democracy Now! today (with a straight face but while rocking herself back and forth), "So, it’s very much in line with, I think, what’s been a really actually successful defense strategy on Coombs’s part, is to lay it all out there and show how it all fits together."

Successful defense?  John Knefel (Rolling Stone) noted Colonel Denise Lind found Bradley "guilt of 20 other counts, which could get him up to 136 years in military prison." We should probably point out that Bradley won't get the death penalty but that's only because the military took it off the list of options before the court-martial began.  So how has Coombs mounted a successful defense?  In what crazy world does Alexa O'Brien live when you're found guilty of all but two counts against you and are now facing the possibility of over 100 years behind bars?

The Bradley Manning Support Network is attempting to mount a response for when Lind announces the government's sentence against Bradley.  Kat noted that last night and offered:

Are you kidding me?
In this heat?  You want me to demonstrate in this heat?
For someone who says they were wrong to do what they did?  For someone who says their actions damaged the country?
Forget that.  Since May 2010, I have wasted my time on Bradley Manning.  I've done so here, in pieces co-written with Third and over and over in various groups we've spoken to around the country.
I could have used that time on other issues, I could have used it for pleasure.

I used it on Brad because I believed in what he did.  Now that he apparently does not, I don't have time for him.  Sorry.
Don't give me that crap that he's facing life behind bars.
His statements today do not change that.
What they did is renounce a powerful stand.
I don't have time to fight for those who won't fight for themselves, sorry.
Some in the community (we did a round-table for a special gina & krista roundtable that will be in inboxes tomorrow morning) are of the opinion that Coombs is entirely responsible.  That's fine.  I respect them and their opinion.  But Bradley made his statements today and, I repeat, I don't have the time to fight for those who won't fight for themselves.

I pin the blame on Coombs and do so because he's the attorney who is supposed to advise the client.  If the statements were Bradley's idea (if!), Coombs should have explained the damage they do in terms of public support and in terms of an appeal.

I'm sorry, let's walk it through.  Bradley hires a functional attorney like Marjorie Cohn or Michael Ratner for an appeal.  That would be a great move.  But what would Cohn or Ratner have to work with. "Your honor, Bradley Manning is a whistle-blower and his actions helped many ---"  At what point does the prosecution jump in to point out that Bradley disowned the actions in his statement to the court and admitted he had "hurt" the United States?

I blame Coombs.  But whomever you fault or credit, you're allowed your reaction.  After three years plus of defending Bradley, you're allowed to feel negatively about his statement in court yesterday.  Kat and Mike are done with him.  That's not an unnatural response.  There are others who will feel the same way.  Living in denial or attempting to impose it on others (I'm not sure which O'Brien is doing) will not change the way people feel.

Before I go further, as Kat noted in her post last night, I say Justin Raimondo ( has the right to shout, "I was right!"  He was.  I had hoped he was wrong.  But from the start of Coombs' nonsense, Raimondo called it out.  (I wrongly thought that when the court-martial started we would see some grand plan for a defense where it all made sense. That never happened.)  Raimondo caught on to the nonsense of David Coombs, to how he distracted and wasted support early on.  I was wrong -- I often am -- and Justin Raimondo was right.  Good for him.

Back to the statement Bradley made.  It included, "How on earth could I, a junior analyst, possibly believe I could change the world for the better over the decisions of those with the proper authority?"  That also bothers people because people do make a difference.   Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't decide, "I'm a Christian minister.  How could I make a difference over the decisions of those with the proper authority."  But let's not just make this about the left.  I can't stand Phyllis Schlafly or the beliefs she extolls.  But she apparently believes in her stated beliefs and she never let anything stop her from pushing them.  This is a woman who ran for Congress in the fifties.  She lost, so what.  At a time when there were 96 US Senators and only one was a woman (Senator Margaret Chase) and when there were 435 House Reps but only 7 were women (Edna Flannery Kelly, Katharine St. George, Frances P. Bolton, Marguerite S. Church, Vera Buchanan, Reva Beck Bosone and Elizabeth Kee), Shlafly felt she -- one person -- could make a difference and she ran.

The belief that one person can make a difference is not rooted in left or right politics, it's a belief that belongs to all.  It's in religions, including missionary religions, it's in children's fables  and is the whole point of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes."

The Emperor's got no clothes on
No clothes? That can't be -- he's the Emperor
Take that child away
Don't let the people hear the words he has to say
One small voice
Speaking out in honesty
Silenced, but not for long
One small voice
Speaking with the values we were taught as children
[. . .]
You can change the world
But you better be strong.
-- "One Small Voice," written by Carole King, first appears on her Speeding Time

This is what we are taught as children, as Carole's song so aptly points out.  So for Bradley's statement to go against the grain on that as well is going to leave many feeling less than thrilled.   At World Can't Wait, Dennis Loo compiles a list of the many ways Bradley's actions did make a difference.  WikiLeaks released a statement which included:

But Mr. Manning's options have run out. The only currency this military court will take is Bradley Manning's humiliation. In light of this, Mr. Manning's forced decision to apologise to the US government in the hope of shaving a decade or more off his sentence must be regarded with compassion and understanding.
Mr. Manning's apology is a statement extorted from him under the overbearing weight of the United States military justice system. It took three years and millions of dollars to extract two minutes of tactical remorse from this brave soldier.
Bradley Manning's apology was extracted by force, but in a just court the US government would be apologizing to Bradley Manning. As over 100,000 signatories of his Nobel Peace Prize nomination attest, Bradley Manning has changed the world for the better. He remains a symbol of courage and humanitarian resistance.
Mr. Manning's apology shows that as far as his sentencing is concerned there are still decades to play for. Public pressure on Bradley Manning's military court must intensify in these final days before the sentencing decision against him is made.
WikiLeaks continues to support Bradley Manning, and will continue to campaign for his unconditional release.

There are a wide range of opinions and stands.  Pretending that Bradley didn't say what he said or that the defense has been a success?  That's not opinion that's slash fiction.  And don't pretend you covered the issues if you never explored counter-insurgency.  Pauline Jelinek and David Dishneau (AP) explore the many issues of the hearing including counter-insurgency:

COUNTERINSURGENCY CAMPAIGNS • Manning was disturbed by what he saw at war, including the civilian deaths and tactics that turned the local populations in Iraq and Afghanistan against U.S. and other foreign troops. Those are issues that frustrated other troops who served, up to the war’s highest commanders.
Manning said he hoped exposing how America fought in Iraq and Afghanistan might prompt debate and reform of its counterinsurgency strategy, which created the battlefield around any corner and any village and neighborhood — and, as Manning said, often produced resentment and lack of cooperation among the people of both nations.
Ritchie said the question of Manning’s motives is interesting on various levels.

Yes, Bradley did say he wanted to start a debate on counter-insurgency.  Too bad for Bradley, most people weren't up to it - -hadn't been for over a decade.  How did counter-insurgency become 'respectable'?  The Carr Center at Harvard and places where other academic whores gather.  Review Adam Curtis (BBC News) 2012 report and marvel over how counter-insurgency went from being so reviled during the Vietnam era that the US military disowned it, to staging a comeback in the 00's.  It took a lot of silence for that to happen and you can look to The Nation magazine which refused to call it out (I'm not forgetting Tom Hayden's piece -- I'm also not forgetting that it first appeared elsewhere and that in all the years that have followed no one at The Nation bothered to ever weigh in).  Look to The Progressive magazine which never called it out.

Excuse me, The Progressive wasn't just silent.  We often note Samantha Power blurbed the military's counter-insurgency manual.  I never would have known that were it not for the ad for the military's manual that ran in The Progressive.  So the magazine didn't just remain silent, it accepted money to promote war on a native population.

Counter-insurgency was mentioned by Bradley in his court-martial.  It was mentioned by witnesses (including one this week) but where was the coverage?  AP reported on it.  Kelley Beaucar Vlahos ( has written of it many times including this week in a column on Iraq:

 Currently, I am reading (Ret) Col. Gian Gentile’s new book, Wrong Turn: America’s Deadly Embrace of Counterinsurgency. Gentile is a friend of, having sat for an interview back in 2009. His consistent criticism of counterinsurgency (COIN) amid the unprecedented drumbeat for it by the civilian and military power establishment was both vilified (by COINdinistas) and welcome to those of us opposed to U.S war policy overseas. In his book, he has the last say, gazing on the ruins of American power in Iraq and Afghanistan. Everything he predicted then is playing out each night on the (very) brief news reports about Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) attacks against Maliki’s government and the civilian populace. But we doubt Gentile, who fought in Iraq during its deadliest moments in 2005, is taking any satisfaction.

 Today, Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari met in DC with US Secretary of State John Kerry.  The State Dept issued the following:

The Governments of the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America reaffirmed their strategic partnership during a meeting of the Political and Diplomatic Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) on August 15, in Washington, DC.
This meeting, held at the Department of State, was co-chaired by Secretary Kerry and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. This is the fourth meeting of the Political and Diplomatic JCC since it was established by the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) to strengthen the U.S.-Iraq bilateral and strategic partnership.
The United States offered its full support for Iraq’s efforts to strengthen ties within the region. Since the last meeting of this JCC, Iraq and Kuwait made impressive strides before the United Nations, resumed commercial flights between Kuwait City and Baghdad, and completed maintenance of the border pillars along their shared border. The United States was proud to support these diplomatic achievements, which required difficult decisions on both the Iraqi and Kuwaiti sides and have contributed to regional peace and stability.
The United States further reiterated its strong support for Iraq’s efforts to increase and deepen dialogue with other regional partners, and emphasized the importance of working together to bolster moderate forces and isolate extremists in the region. The United States also congratulated Iraq on the strong participation by Iraqi Security Forces in joint regional military exercises, such as the recently completed Eager Lion exercise in Jordan. The United States further affirmed its strong commitment to help the Government of Iraq defeat al Qaeda and other terrorist groups that continue to threaten Iraq and the entire Middle East region.
During the meeting, the delegations discussed international efforts to address the ongoing crisis in Syria and explored areas of potential cooperation, particularly on humanitarian issues and consultation on border security to prevent the infiltration of terrorist groups into Iraq. Both sides affirmed their commitment to a Syrian-led political transition leading to a pluralistic political system representing the will of the Syrian people. The United States emphasized the importance of providing refuge and services to those fleeing the violence in Syria. The Iraqi side further reiterated its commitment to deter the transit of weapons through its territory and welcomed in this regard the recent notification to the U.S. Congress of the potential Iraqi purchase of an integrated air defense system to fully protect its sovereign airspace.
Both delegations emphasized their commitment to close and ongoing security cooperation, noting in this regard the Memorandum of Understanding on security cooperation signed at the Defense and Security JCC in December 2012, the inaugural U.S.-Iraq Joint Military Committee (JMC) hosted by U.S. Central Command in June 2013, and the more than $14 billion in equipment, services, and training purchased by Iraq for its military and security forces through the Foreign Military Sales program. Both delegations pledged to enhance this cooperation in pursuit of their joint interests in denying terrorists a safe haven anywhere within Iraqi territory.
The United States noted the provincial elections held in Iraq earlier this year and discussed Iraq’s plans for national elections scheduled for 2014. The United States pledged to assist Iraqi implementation of this next essential step in the development of Iraq’s democracy, noting its commitment under the SFA to Iraq’s democratic development.
The delegations also discussed President Obama’s decision to extend extraordinary protections for the Development Fund for Iraq and emphasized the close partnership that exists between Iraq and the United States on macro-economic issues. The Iraqi side affirmed its commitment to resolve outstanding claims over the coming months to set the conditions for those extraordinary protections to expire in 2014. The two sides also discussed the issue of energy diplomacy and the importance to Iraq and to the global economy of ensuring a steady and redundant supply of energy resources to global markets. This topic will be addressed in further detail at the next Energy JCC to be held pursuant to the Strategic Framework Agreement later this year.
The United States praised the Government of Iraq in passing anti-trafficking legislation and pledged its continued support for the Government of Iraq’s efforts to combat trafficking in persons as well as security for all Iraqis.
The United States and the Republic of Iraq committed to continue discussions of these issues through working groups and to convene the next Political and Diplomatic JCC in Baghdad.

 We took off the heading (date and title) but it was noted in full.  We're not going to do the same, in this snapshot, with the background briefing.  We'll include two sections tomorrow but we're not making time or space for it today.


No slam against the State Dept but I'm just not into stupid idiots of the press.  And that's what most of them are.  I am so weary of their inability, when provided with the opportunity, to ask about US forces in Iraq, about the Memo Of Understanding signed in December 2012 allowing for joint US - Iraq patrols.  Dropping back to the April 30th Iraq 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."

 I'm tired of the idiots, the liars and the cover up artists.  I'm tired of their blood lust for war in Syria and how that reduces Iraq to a bit player or extra in their narratives of the Gulf region.  I'm tired of all of it.  I'm tired of them ignoring reality. I'm tired of the repeat e-mails insisting I've lied about a Memorandum of Understanding being signed (you'd think people would at least use provided links before making that charge).  I'm tired of a lazy, spineless press that refuses to report on the MoU even when the Pentagon issues a press release (as they did last December) or when the State Dept notes it as it did today:

At the December 2012 JCC, Acting Defense Minister al-Dlimi signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Security Cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense. This agreement represents the strong military to military relationship between the United States and Iraq, and provides mechanisms for increased defense cooperation in areas including defense planning, counterterrorism cooperation, and combined exercises.

We'll close with the full State Dept press release that came from.  But before we do . . .

If you want to really see people not doing their job, read or watch today's State Dept press briefing.  Although John Kerry met with Hoshyar Zebari today, not one reporter asks about that or Iraq and State Dept spokesperson Jen Psaki never mentions it.  This silence took place in spite of the fact that, as Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, John Kerry told reporters today, "Iraq sits at the intersection of regional currents of increasingly turbulent, violent and unpredictable actions. Sunni and Shia extremists on both sides of the sectarian divide throughout the region have an ability to be able to threaten Iraq's stability if they're not checked."

The silence took place despite the fact that BBC News reported, hours before the briefing, that Bahgdad has been slammed today with bombings  Al Jazeera counts 7 bombings, 40 dead and fifty-six injured and notes:

Aljazeera's Imran Khan said most authorities in Iraqi government have been finger-pointing one group, a group calling itself al-Qaeda in Iraq, adding that there has been no claims of responsibility so far.
"Timing is very interesting, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave a speech on state TV on Wednesday night," Khan said.

Xinhua explains, "One of the car bombs went off in the crowded district of Alawi, near the Green Zone which houses the Iraqi government offices and some foreign embassies, killing four people and wounding 12, a police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity."  ITV news offers this on the Green Zone:

  • Green Zone is the common name for a 10 square kilometre site in the centre of Baghdad which houses the coalition government buildings.
  • Surrounded by a seventeen foot high concrete fence it was where the key diplomats from the international community where based.

Kristen Butler (UPI) notes, "The attacks took place at nearly the same time across the city, during rush hour." ITV offers a Reuters photo essay here.

Heather Saul (Indpendent) quotes Mohammed Sabri, eye witness to a Baghdad market bombing stating, "I got closer and saw burning cars, two charred bodies and several people on the ground. Security officials keep telling us that their forces are able to protect us, but this has not happened yet."  Kareem Raheem, Raheem Salman, Sylvia Westall and Elizabeth Piper (Reuters) quote an Iraqi male who was injured (and declined to give his name), "Windows were smashed and my children started screaming and running everywhere, smoke and dust filled my house. The politicians are responsible for the deterioration in security."

ITV notes the death toll has risen to 42.  It may go higher.  But Baghdad's not the only place in Iraq targeted with violence.   National Iraqi News Agency reports a Falluja roadside bombing left two Iraqi soldiers injured, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left two more people injured, and "an armed attack on the road between Shatrah county and Aldawwayah village" left 1 person dead and two more injured.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 390 violent deaths so far this month.

Michael Jansen (Gulf News) has a strong analysis of Iraq which includes:

 Over the past year, the number of attacks has risen due to Baghdad’s inability to tackle Al Qaeda’s local franchise, the Islamic State in Iraq, and the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
Baghdad cannot deal with the jihadi insurgency because the country’s Sunni community – particularly tribesmen based in the provinces of Anbar, Salahuddin, and Nineva – has been alienated. Ever since Nuri Al Maliki became prime minister in 2006, Sunnis have been sidelined and marginalised. Sunnis hoped the situation would improve after the 2010 election which was won by the secular coalition formed by the Iraqiya party led by Ayad Alawi. This did not happen because he was bypassed as the choice of prime minister and promises to empower his party were not kept.
Maliki took the levers of power into his hands by retaining control of security ministries and operating his own militia as well as the armed forces and police. He also recruited mainly Shias into these bodies. By excluding Sunnis – particularly Sunnis who had joined the Sahwa or Awakening units formed by the US occupation forces to deal with Al Qaeda – Maliki deprived Iraq of the most useful tool against Al Qaeda which, since the US departed in 2011, has revived and flourished.

We will probably work in Jansen's critique in tomorrow's snapshot.  For now we'll close with this State Dept release:

U.S.-Iraqi Strategic Framework Agreement: Update on Implementation

Fact Sheet

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
August 15, 2013

Since Vice President Biden traveled to Iraq in November 2011 and convened a meeting of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee, the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) has served as the backbone of our relationship with the Government of Iraq (GOI). The United States and the GOI value the SFA, as evidenced by public statements by each side, the three Higher Coordinating Committee meetings and 24 Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) meetings held in the areas of cooperation outlined in the SFA, the Working Groups within each JCC that meet on a regular basis, and the myriad of developments across these sectors, a sampling of which is listed below:
Defense and Security (Last JCC in December 2012)
  • In June 2013, the U.S. Central Command hosted the first U.S.- Iraq Joint Military Committee (JMC), which is a subordinate discussion to the Defense and Security JCC. The JMC addressed issues such as border security, Iraqi military strategy, and engagement of Iraqi Security Forces in regional training exercises. The next JCC likely will be held in Washington this year.
  • At the December 2012 JCC, Acting Defense Minister al-Dlimi signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Security Cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense. This agreement represents the strong military to military relationship between the United States and Iraq, and provides mechanisms for increased defense cooperation in areas including defense planning, counterterrorism cooperation, and combined exercises.
  • With strong U.S. support, Iraq has brought its military engagement with regional partners to historically high levels, including military exercises, strategic conferences and bilateral military engagements. Iraq’s participation in a naval exercise in Bahrain this year marked the first out-of-area deployment by an Iraqi naval unit in the post-Saddam era and the first-ever Iraqi port visit to Bahrain.
  • In close collaboration with U.S. officials, the Government of Iraq has purchased more than $14 billion in equipment, services, and training through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program for its military and security forces. The Iraq FMS program is one of the largest in the world and is an important symbol of the long-term security partnership envisioned by both countries. We remain committed to meeting Iraqi equipment needs as quickly as possible.
Education, Science and Cultural (Last JCC December 2012)
  • The number of Iraqi students studying in the United States increased by 31% from 2011 to 2012 to a total of over 800. Our close bilateral cooperation in this area should produce continued increases in 2013.
  •  The Baghdad-based English Language Institute, established in partnership with the Iraqi government, is expected to open in October 2013. The U.S. provided $1 million in funding to support English language instruction to hundreds of Iraqi government scholarship students each year for this program.
  • More than 1,200 Iraqis ages 15-22 participated in the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program, including more than 200 in 2013. Areas of focus include leadership development, respect for diversity, and civic participation.
  • 150 Iraqi professionals participated in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in 2013. Themes include women in leadership, science and technology, interfaith dialogue, energy policy, higher education, journalism, civic engagement, elections, public health, entrepreneurship, stock exchange, and environmental protection.
  • The USG, in conjunction with the UN, IAEA, and Ministry of Science and Technology, held a two-day Nuclear Dismantlement Conference in Erbil in 2013, focusing on the Adaya nuclear burial site in Ninewa province. The conference represented the culmination of the DOS Iraq Nuclear Dismantlement Program’s seven years of work to safeguard and remediate the most contaminated Saddam-era nuclear sites around the country.
  • Cultural heritage is a significant pillar of the Strategic Framework Agreement, reflecting the high value both our nations place on this irreplaceable resource. Through the Iraq Cultural Heritage Project, a $12.9 million initiative developed and funded by the State Department, and implemented by the nonprofit International Relief and Development from 2008 to 2011, Iraqis have undergone training on cultural preservation techniques (including exchanges with the Smithsonian Institution, the Winterthur Museum and other key partners), rehabilitated and furnished eleven of the museum’s public galleries, a three-story collections storage facility, and significantly upgraded conservation labs.
Energy (Last JCC April 2012)
  • Iraq’s Ministry of Electricity received U.S. training for over 100 of its key engineers and managers on energy security and safety in 2012 and 2013.
  • Iraq’s Ministry of Oil received U.S. training for 9 key geoscientists and engineers on resource evaluation.
  • The Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq reaffirmed their commitment, including signing a Memorandum of Understanding in January 2013, to jointly cooperate in the areas of oil production and export, natural gas, electricity, and critical energy infrastructure protection.
Law Enforcement and Judicial/Human Rights (Last JCC June 2013)
  • After considerable technical support and assistance from the U.S. Government, Iraq has now begun arresting, investigating, and prosecuting cases under its comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation.
  • In May 2013 Embassy Baghdad, a Federal Judge from the 2nd Circuit, and the FBI, trained 13 Iraqi investigative judges on techniques in asset recovery in financial crimes, and a presentation on such techniques will be made to the Acting head of the Higher Judicial Council Judge Hammari.
  •  In 2012, Iraq established the High Commission for Human Rights to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights and ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Political and Diplomatic (Last JCC August 2013)
  • With U.S. support, Iraq and Kuwait worked together to end Iraq’s Chapter VII obligations regarding the mandate of the High Level Coordinator for Missing Persons and Archives and establish a UN-led mechanism to continue and maintain their cooperation in this area. U.S. support also facilitated both parties’ successful efforts to resolve the longstanding dispute over damage inflicted on Kuwait’s national airline during the Gulf War. As a result, flights between Baghdad and Kuwait City resumed in 2013 after a 22-year cessation. In addition, both sides completed maintenance of the border pillars along their shared border in accordance with UNSCR 833. Iraq has also constructively engaged its key neighbors like Jordan and the United Arab Emirates on issues of shared concern, including the growing conflict in Syria.
  • In April and June 2013, Iraq took another step toward building its democratic foundation through successfully holding provincial elections and in preparation for national elections in the spring of 2014.
  • The United States continues to strongly support Iraqi civil society and the many NGOs that continue to operate in Iraq under very challenging circumstances, through training and advocacy, bringing public attention to issues of inclusive citizenship, displacement, human rights and women’s rights. The State Department also named the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization the winner of its 2012 Human Rights Defenders Award, for its “fearless advocacy for human rights, concrete achievements in protecting female detainees, and critical work on curriculum reform to promote religious freedom.”
  • Through its UN partners, the United States has contributed over $1 billion in overall humanitarian aid since the Syria crisis began, including fully funding a $1 million food voucher program for the Domiz refugee camp in northern Iraq and supporting Syrian refugees living in camps and in host communities in Iraq.
  •  The United States also continues to provide support to displaced Iraqis, both inside Iraq and elsewhere in the region. Thus far in Fiscal Year 2013, the U.S. has provided over $87 million to address the needs of displaced Iraqis through the provision of shelter, health care, livelihoods assistance, and other basic humanitarian assistance.
Services, Technology, Environment & Transportation (Last JCC Nov 2012)
  • Iraqi Airways continued to revitalize its aircraft fleet, and in part due to U.S. Government advocacy, agreed to a contract with Boeing for 41 planes worth $5.4 billion for delivery from 2013 – 2017.
  • The Department of Transportation’s attaché office in Baghdad worked with Iraq’s Ministry of Transportation to bring Iraq’s airports into compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization codes and regulations, clearing American commercial carriers to resume operations to airports in northern Iraq for the first time in decades.
Trade & Finance (Last JCC March 2013)
  • Prime Minister Maliki joined over 100,000 Iraqi visitors to the U.S. sponsored Pavilion at the Baghdad International Trade Fair in the fall of 2012. U.S. organizations’ participation was up 80% over the 2011 fair, the first time the U.S. participated since the 1980s.
  • The Trade & Investment Framework Agreement between the Governments of Iraq and the United States, which addresses trade issues and improves bilateral economic relations, entered into force in May 2013.
  • In part due to U.S. Government advocacy, major U.S. companies like Boeing, Cisco, ExxonMobil, Ford Motors, Halliburton, Honeywell, and Lockheed Martin all have offices or are represented in Iraq. U.S. exports to Iraq, excluding aircraft, rose 13 percent between the first quarter of 2012 and first quarter of 2013.

PRN: 2013/1008