Saturday, November 16, 2013

Idiot of the week

There was a plethora of fools and idiots this week -- such as this one -- so the stakes were high.

My pick?

The press.



They are supposed to impart information.

September 1st, 7 people were kidnapped in Iraq.  They were Camp Ashraf residents.  They have supporters on a hunger strike.

And Ammon News reports, "Jordanian MPs demanded Immediately secure release of the hostages by Government of Iraq, the Iranian Foreign Affairs wabsite reported on Sunday."

As C.I. reported yesterday, the State Department told Congress that the 7 hostages are no longer in Iraq.

Brett McGurk:  [. . .] We can pinpoint where the people are and I'd like to follow up with you on that.  The seven are not in Iraq.  

Is there a reason the US press couldn't report that.  C.I. waited Wednesday and Thursday for them to.  When they hadn't by Friday, she was going to pass this on to a friend at a newspaper to let them have the scoop.

This is discussed in Marcia and Elaine's posts last night:

  • So how did the press miss this huge story?

    Oh, that's right, they're idiots who fail to do their jobs.

    From the idiots of the press we'll move over to a strong writer, CounterPunch has another strong article by Norman Pollack:

    The current case in point is Obamacare, government as midwife to health insurers’ gross profitability. Measured by the standards of other advanced industrial nations, this does not even meet the betrayal-of-the-public test, so fraudulent its provisions and workings.
    What we refuse to admit or to learn is that public policy (including, necessarily, foreign policy) forms a coherent and consistent whole. Fakery on health care does not hold promise for efficacious action on, say, climate change, gun control, job creation, mortgage protection, etc., because the motivation and receptivity to class- and power-arrangements is the same, the placation of, and support for, capitalist interests at the highest levels of wealth and structural concentration, no matter the particular issue at stake. 

    So there you go.

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

    Friday, November 15, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the 7 Ashraf hostages were taken out of Iraq (according to the State Dept),  KRG President Massoud Barzani prepares for an important meet up, protests continue in Iraq, Barack Obama continues to object to the Iraq Inquiry in London releasing documents, and more.

    Al-Arabia reports, "Former Iraqi interim prime minister and head of Iraqya political bloc Iyad Allawi on Friday accused the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of failing to protect the Iraqi sovereignty, which he said is lost to Iran and its proxy militias." Ayad Allawi is the man who should be the current prime minister of Iraq but the White House forced a second term for Nouri al-Maliki's by brokering The Erbil Agreement which went around the votes of the Iraqi people, the Iraqi Constitution and the the principles of democracy.

    US House Rep Gerry Connolly:  What is the relationship, in your opinion, Mr. McGurk, between the government in Tehran [Iran] and Mr. Maliki's government in Baghdad?

    Brett McGurk: It's a relationship that is really multifaceted.  Uhm, Iran -- uh -- I mean if you just look at that border, Iraq is going to have cultural, religious, economic relations with Iran.  Uhm, that's something we recognize.  Where we try to draw a line is any sort of security relationship with Iran and we've had some success in that area.  Uh, my experience, in the last decade, whether working with Iraqis or Shia, Sunni, Kurds -- everybody, is that there's really no love loss between Iraqis and Iran.  They remember the very long Iraq - Iran War in the 1980s and that is really felt very deeply in the psychology.  Uh, Iraq also feels --

    US House Rep Gerry Connolly:  Can I, can I interrupt you one second?  And you would say that that view is also shared by the Maliki government despite the Shia nature of that government?

    Brett McGurk:  Uhm.  Sometimes it's a mischaracterization to say that Shia in Iraq are linked to Shia in Iran.  They have have religious ties but the Shia in Iraq and Grand Ayatollah [Ali  al-]Sistani in Najaf -- and his philosophy of quietism -- is totally 100 degrees opposite to the philosophy of [Ruhollah Mostafavi Musavi] Khomeini and [Sayed] Hamid [Rohani] in Tehran, which is kind of clerical rule,  Sistani's view is that more of a democratic tradition -- which we would recognize -- and which there should be separation from the top cleric and the government.  That is something that most Iraqis adhere to.  And it's a critical distinction to really working-working with this problem.  Make no mistake, Iranian influence in Baghdad is very strong, it is there every day.  They've had a presence in Baghdad for ten years.  They've had the same people there who have built relationships that are very deep and it's something we need -- we need to deal with.  We have to recognize they're going to have a relationship.  It's drawing a line at the malign and nefarious influences from Iran, which we're trying to do. 

    US House Rep Gerry Connolly made those remarks at Wednesday's US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa hearing on Iraq.   US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the Subcommittee Chair and US House Rep Ted Deutch is the Ranking Member and the witness appearing before the Subcomittee was Brett McGurk, the State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.    Wednesday we covered the Jewish archives from that hearing, Thursday we covered Camp Ashraf and religious minorities.

    Back to Allawi today, Al Arabiya also reports today:

    Allawi said he understands the lack of military ability to stop Iran from violating Iraq’s sovereignty but that Prime Minister Maliki does not have the will to use diplomacy and international organizations.
    “Iraq could resort to the United Nations, the Arab League, or the Organization of Islamic Conference to force Iran to refrain from violating Iraq’s airspace,” Allawi said.

    The point that Nouri could ask others to protect the airspace was also raised in Wednesday's hearing.

    US House Rep Brad Sherman: Mailik wants our weapons yet he allows planes to go from Iran to Syria, taking murderers and thugs and the IRGC and weapons with him, he says that he can't defend his own air space but he is certainly not invited Turkey, Saudi Arabia or the United States to defend that air space  from these murderers that fly leisurely across Iraq and do their killing in Syria.

    Allawi's comments are not controversial and expose not only Nouri's false claims but those of his lackey Hoshyar Zebari who has repeated Nouri's false claims and repeated them as factual.  I personally don't believe Iraq needs to take a side.  But Nouri claimed in his New York Times column, "After some initial differences, American and Iraqi policies toward Syria are converging."  And a lie's a lie.  Nouri and Zebari have been lying.

    Brett McGurk lies as well.  In the hearing, he lied, for example, when he spoke of Iraq's Minister of Defense.  The man he named?  Not the Minister of Defense.  Nouri is.  Nouri did a power grab.  Back in July 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."   Those posts have remained vacant.  They were supposed to be filled at the end of 2010.  But filling them meant Nouri couldn't control them so he defied/broke the Constitution and claimed the positions as his own.

    Brett lied so often.  Let's go to money.

    US House Rep Brad Sherman:  I want to focus on finances.  How much money did we give Iraq this year?  How much do they get from oil?  And are they pumping oil as quickly as they can or are they constraining their production in accordance with OPEC rules?

    Brett McGurk:  In terms of money, we're not really giving Iraq much money at all anymore.  Our assistance levels have gone down dramatically.

    US House Rep Brad Sherman:  But it's still well over a billion?

    Brett McGurk: Uh, no.  I believe that the most recent request is now of under a billion.  It's gone from 1.5 billion last year to, uh, FY13 [Fiscal Year 2013]  to about 880 million.  And I can again brief you on the glide path in terms of our overall presence.  In terms of oil, it's actually quite the opposite.  The Iraqis have done everything they can to get as much oil onto international markets as possible --

    US House Rep Brad Sherman:  So they are pumping as much as possible.

    This thread was continued with US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher who made a series of statements about the "$880 million in aid" and how it came not only after so many deaths but also "after spending almost a trillion dollars over a decade."

    Brett McGurk:  Congressman, thank you, I just want to clarify, the 880 million dollars  is our operating request for, uh, the current budget -- for sustaining our presence in Iraq and doing various things we do there.

    US House Rep Dana Rohrabahcer:  That's right.  So why should we do that?

    Brett McGurk:  Well we have vital interests at stake in Iraq.  Whether you measure it from al Qaeda in Iraq, whether you measure it from the oil production,  whether you measure it from just the overall stability of the region.  I think withdrawing from Iraq, in terms of our overall diplomatic presence and what we're doing, would have a really devastating consequences to our longer term interests. 

    So that we all get what was just said, the US State Dept, from the mouth of Brett McGurk, just declared Iraqi oil is a "vital interest" of the United States government and part of the US government's "longer term interests."  In other words, we have confirmation that Iraqi oil -- "vital interest" -- was one reason the US went to war on Iraq.

    Second, Brett's playing with the numbers.  He could have -- as a State Dept friend told me -- have used "about $600 million" as well.  The State Dept is requesting $1.18 billion.  That's not including USAID's request.  The RAND Corporation, just last week, noted the request in Ending the US War In Iraq.  Kerry presented the request to Congress last April.  They've not amended the request.  Brett was being a liar.  No surprise there.

    Brett's lies were never ending.  We could spend two more snapshots just documenting the lies from the hearing.

    We'll note this one, "I would point you to an important op-ed the Iraqi ambassador wrote on our Veterans Day, thanking all the sacrifice in Iraq."


    Nouri wrote only one column in the last weeks.  It was for the New York Times. The Assyrian International News Agency is among those who reproduced the column.  Two US newspapers ran it on Veterans Day but it has nothing to do with veterans.  Nouri never mentions veterans and only brings up service members in two sentences (paragraph three) to say he doesn't want US troops.

    I thought I'd somehow missed Nouri's column.  That I'd missed it and no outlet had noted it.  But I checked and there is no other column -- only the one he wrote for the New York Times (published online October 29, 2013).

    Brett couldn't stop lying.

    And maybe he lied about the whereabouts of the 7 Ashraf hostages kidnapped in September?  I don't know.  I know what he said and he said in an open hearing so why didn't it get reported?  Oh, that's right, we're the only ones in the United States reporting on this hearing.

    While the US press filed nothing on the hearing, the US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents issued a statement:

    During a hearing on November 13, 2013 by the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, Brett McGurk, when faced with repeated questions by several subcommittee members over the breach of commitments by the US Government and Iraq to protect thousands of Iranian dissidents in Iraq, resulting in the murder of 112 defenseless residents of Camp Ashraf, attempted to exonerate the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of any role in the execution-style murder of 52 residents of Camp Ashraf and the abduction of seven more on September 1st.
    Mr. McGurk, to the astonishment of Members of Congress, downplayed the seriousness of this massacre and the daily deadly violence in Iraq, as being ordinary and inevitable. Mr. McGurk did nothing to allay the concerns of anxious families and relatives of the residents, in attendance at the hearing. Nor did he highlight the detrimental sectarian policies and incompetence of the Iraqi Prime Minister as the main causes of the carnage in the country. Instead, Mr. McGurk suggested to the Iraqi people that the only way to stay safe is to leave Iraq.
    McGurk minimized the Iraqi government's role in the September 1 massacre. A plethora of evidence and expert testimony, however, make it clear that highest levels of the Iraqi government, including the Prime Minister, were involved in the planning, execution and cover-up of this crime against humanity.
    Camp Ashraf is sealed off from the outside by chain-lined fence with barbed wire on top, leaving only two entry gates for the Camp, guarded by an Iraqi army brigade at the west gate and by a Rapid Deployment Unit on the east gate.
    Camp Ashraf is under 24/7 guard of 1,200 Iraqi forces in the midst of a highly militarized zone, with hundreds of units of Iraqi army within a 20 mile radius. There are dozens of check points on the only highway that leads from Camp Ashraf to Baghdad to the south and to Kirkuk to the north. As such, U.S. military officers who served in Iraq have stated unequivocally that it is absolutely inconceivable that more than 100 heavily-armed men with a large load of explosives to have carried out this murder without the approval of the highest authorities in Iraq. These officers who trained the Iraqi forces have stated that the assault force employed US tactics and equipment in the attack.
    According to statements by European Ministers, as well as past and present United Nations officials and eyewitnesses, the seven hostages, including six women, have been detained and interrogated by the Iraqi army's Golden (dirty) Division in Baghdad. On September 12, Kamel Amin, Spokesman of the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry, told Radio Free Iraq, "Security forces arrested these individuals [seven hostages] for attacking them [security forces]."
    Hundreds of Camp Liberty residents in Iraq as well as their relatives and friends in Europe, Canada and Australia have been on hunger strike for the past 77 days. Many are at a critical physical stage and may not survive if the hostages are not released immediately.
    The US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents (USCCAR) calls on President Obama to intervene personally and demand that the Iraqi government release the hostages at once and return them to Camp Liberty. Only in this way, can the US Government atone for betraying its promises and commitments to protect the residents of camps Ashraf and Liberty.

    The statement is mistaken.

    That's not their fault, no one reported on the hearing and we were saving Sheila Jackson Lee for Thursday and then I kicked her back to Friday to see if anyone would report what happened?

    They did not.

    The 7 hostages that the US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents are calling for Nouri to release?

    They are not in Iraq.

    If the US government is telling the truth, the seven are no longer in Iraq.  This was revealed in the final exchange of the hearing, when US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee joined the Subcommittee and, after taking a brief break, began her five minute round of questioning.  Two notes.  "[. . .]"?  We don't have time to include their praise of one another and maybe if that praise hadn't been used to waste time then Sheila Jackson Lee would not have had to ask for more time?  Second "pointed purse"?  I have no idea.  I turned to Ava and asked, "Did she just say 'pointed purse'?"  That's what Ava heard as well.  Who knows what she said, that's what it sounded like.  With that, here's the exchange.

    US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee:   [. . .]  But there are hostages in Iraq that we must have now.  There's documentation that those hostages are there by our French allies, by the United Nations and other supportive groups and information.  I can't imagine with the wealth of sophisticated intelligence authorities that we have, that we have funded who have a vast array of information about Americans  cannot pinpoint where starving Iranians, loved ones [are] whose families are trying to save their lives after being on a hunger strike for 73 days.  And so I would ask this question of you, already knowing about your heart and your concern, I will not judge you, I already know that you're committed to getting this right/  Will you -- will you demand of Maliki, not next week or months from now, but can we expect in the next 48 hours a call to the head of the government of Iraq demanding the release of these hostages and demanding their release now?  Or the documented, undeniable evidence that they are not held in Iraq?  Second, would you be engaged with -- or  the Secretary [of State John Kerry] be engaged with -- and I have spoken to Secretary Kerry, I know his heart -- with Maliki to demand the security of those in Camp Ashraf  for now and forever until a relocation to a homeland, a place where their relatives are or where they desire to be? [. . .]

    Brett McGurk:  [. . .] We can pinpoint where the people are and I'd like to follow up with you on that.  The seven are not in Iraq.  But I will guarantee in my conversations with Maliki on down, the safety and the security of Camp Ashraf, Camp Liberty, where the residents are, the government needs to do everything possible to keep those poeople safe  but they will never be safe until they're out of Iraq.  And we all need to work together -- the MEK, us, the Committee, everybody, the international community -- to find a place for them to go.  There's now a UN trust fund, we've donated a million dollars and we're asking for international contributions to that fund for countries like Albania that don't have the resources but are willing to take the MEK in.  And we need to press foreign captials to take them in because until they're out, they're not going to be safe and we don't want anyone else to get hurt.  We don't want anymore Americans to get hurt in Iraq, we don't want anymore Iraqis to get hurt in Iraq  and we don't want any more residents of Camp Liberty to get hurt in Iraq and until they're out of Iraq, they're not going to be safe.  This is an international crisis and we need international help and support. 

    US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee:  May I follow -- May I just have a minute more to follow up with Mr. McGurk, Secretary McGurk?  And I hear the passion in your voice but let me just say this. We're in an open hearing.  You know where they are.  Who is going to rescue them?  Whose responsibility will it be to get them from where they are into safe haven?  Because otherwise, we're leaving -- we're leaving Maliki now without responsibility.  We're saying, and you're documenting that they're not there.  Let me just say that when my government speaks, I try with my best heart and mind to believe it.  But I've got to see them alive and well to believe that they're not where I think they are, they're in a pointed purse.  I'm glad to here that but I want them to be safe but I want them to be in the arms of their loved ones or at least able to be recognized by their loved one that they're safe somewhere.  So can that be done in the next 48 hours?  Can we have a-a manner that indicates that they are safe?

    Brett McGurk:  I will repeat here a statement that we issued on September 16th and it's notable and I was going to mention this in my colliquy with my Congressman to my left, that within hours of the attack, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Score issued a statement praising the attack.  We issued a statement on September 16th calling on the government of Iran to use whatever influence it may have with groups that might be holding these missing persons to secure their immediate release.  And I can talk more about details and the status of these individuals.  And I've briefed some members of the Subcommittee. I'd be happy to follow up. 

    I don't possess Sheila Jackson Lee's alleged ability to see into the heart of people.  But I do know the law.  If seven hostages were taken out of Iraq by whatever forces, the US government has to rescue them or pursue it.  That's because Genevea didn't and doesn't end -- the law covering the US government's obligations to the Ashraf community -- until the Ashraf community is safely out of Iraq.  7 hostages kidnapped and taken out of the country?  The US has failed and must secure their release.  The US has failed.

    I loathe Bully Boy Bush, my life's much better with him out of the White House.  But somehow when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House, no one was murdered in Camp Ashraf and no one was kidnapped from it.

    Protests continued today in Iraq.  Since December 21st,  ongoing protests have been taking place in Iraq.  Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) explained the reasons back in February:

    Protests are raging throughout Iraq...thousands upon thousands are demanding the following :

    - End of Sectarian Shia rule
    - the re-writing of the Iraqi constitution (drafted by the Americans and Iranians)
    - the end to arbitrary killings and detention, rape and torture of all detainees on basis of sect alone and their release
    - the end of discriminatory policies in employment, education, etc based on sect
    - the provision of government services to all
    - the end of corruption
    - no division between Shias and Sunnis, a one Islam for all Iraqi Muslims and a one Iraq for all Iraqis.

    The protests in Anbar, Fallujah, Sammara, Baquba,  Tikrit, Kirkuk, Mosul...and in different parts of Baghdad stress over and over 1) the spontaneous nature of the "popular revolution against oppression and injustice" 2) its peaceful nature  i.e unarmed  3) the welcoming of ALL to join the protests regardless of sect or ethnicity as ONE Iraqi people and 4) and the March to Baghdad.

    Layla Anwar and Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi are among the few who can publicly note what led to the protests.  The western press likes to reduce it to one event.  The arbitrary arrests have not ended and, as they continue, they continue to inflame an already tense situation.  Human Rights Watch notes today:

    Baghdad residents told Human Rights Watch that between November 7 and 11, SWAT and counterterrorism forces carried out mass arrests in the Dora and Adhamiyya neighborhoods. A tribal leader said that a security force he could not identify raided homes and conducted random arrest sweeps in Adhamiyya, arresting more than 30 people without warrants, insulting them and calling them “humiliating names,” then turned them over to a battalion from the army’s 44th brigade, 11th division. Interior and Defense Ministry officials told Human Rights Watch in February and May that it is illegal for Defense and Interior Ministry security forces to detain suspects, rather than transfer them to the custody of the Justice Ministry.

    The tribal leader told Human Rights Watch that he and other elders from the neighborhood visited the battalion to request the detainees’ release. “They let some of them go, but this has become the norm,” he said. “Every Ashura, security forces come, raid the neighborhood, arrest people, and hold them for a while. Once Ashura is over they release most of them, but they are never charged.”

    He said that the army battalion commander told him that, after Ashura, “The people who are wanted will stay and the others will be released.” A lawyer working with him told Human Rights Watch that most of the people “were arrested randomly, without warrants” and that some were laborers from outside Baghdad. The lawyer said he had heard that security forces conducted similar operations on the same days in Baghdad’s Tarmiyya and Dora neighborhoods, also majority Sunni, but that he did not know how many people they arrested.

    Another Adhamiyya resident told Human Rights Watch that on November 7, security forces began conducting raids in the neighborhood that continued until November 10, the date of the interview. “We can see them everywhere [right now], but we don’t know how many people they are arresting,” she said.

    A resident of Dora told Human Rights Watch that on November 7, “a huge number” of SWAT forces dressed in black surrounded the neighborhood at 10 a.m. and raided “every single house” in an operation that lasted until 5 p.m. “They brought at least five trucks,” she said, “and arrested so many young men – at least 50 of them. They put them in the trucks and took them away. The women were coming out and crying, and none of the men have returned.”

    She said the families of the arrested men are “terrified” and do not know where their relatives are being held. “People are afraid to leave and afraid to stay in their homes,” she said. She said many of the people arrested “looked very young” but did not know whether they were under 18.

    A teacher from Hitt, a majority Sunni city in in Anbar province, told Human Rights Watch that between 5 and 6 a.m. on November 10, SWAT forces surrounded entire neighborhoods in the city and arrested dozens of young men over the course of several hours. The teacher said she saw security forces “everywhere” in the streets and watched them arrest two people. Several students told her later that day that SWAT forces arrested several of their family members, in at least one instance taking a student’s uncle and all of her cousins from their house, she said.

    A local news correspondent living in Ramadi told Human Rights Watch that residents and tribal leaders told him security forces from theJazeera and Badiya Operations Command arrested 90 people from Falluja, 63 from Hitt, and 42 from rural areas in Anbar on November 9 and 10.

    On November 9, Anbar police chief Hadi Resij, announced that local police and SWAT forces had arrested 43 people in the Shouhadaa neighborhood that evening during a “security operation” south of Falluja, apparently referring to one of the several arrest sweeps that witnesses described to Human Rights Watch. He said all those arrested were “leaders of al-Qaeda,” but did not offer any evidence given that none of the detainees have faced trial. Human Rights Watch was unable to reach other Interior and Defense Ministry officials for comment.

    Iraqi Spring MC notes protests took place in Falluja,  Mosul, Samarra, Baiji, Rawah, Tikrit, Ramadi,  The protests are regularly ignored by the western media.  They do have a Tweet this morning:

  • On protests?

    Patrick Cockburn (Independent) can never be bothered with reporting these massive, ongoing citizens protests.  But let oil enter the picture and the 'reporter' is suddenly interested.  Yesterday, he reported:

    Hundreds of foreign workers are being hurriedly evacuated from Basra in southern Iraq following violent protests by Iraqi oil workers and villagers over two incidents.
    In one of them, a British security man tore down a poster or flag bearing the image of Imam Hussein, a figure highly revered by Shia Muslims. The violence may make international oil companies more nervous about operating in Iraq, which is at the centre of the largest oil development boom in the world.

    Oil, oil, oil.  Patrick Cockburn doesn't give a damn blood flowing in Iraq but offer him an oil angle and suddenly he's all horned up.

    Strange, he's covering Basra and oil but can't mention Hassan Juma Awad.   Earlier this week, US Labor Against The War noted:

    USLAW received a brief message from Hassan Juma'a Awad, President of the Iraq Federation of Oil Unions, informing us that at a court hearing in Basra today, all charges against him filed by the Ministry of Oil and South Oil Company were dismissed.

    This is the second time criminal charges were thrown out by the court.  After the first dismissal in July, the Ministry of Oil and management of South Oil Company appealed the decision.  The appellate court reinstated the charges and sent the case back to the lower court for another hearing.  That hearing was held today, November 10, 2013.
    In his message, Brother Juma'a thanked U.S. Labor Against the War, Solidarity Center, American, European and other unions and labor federations for support and solidarity, without which he would likely have been convicted and could have been imprisoned for three years and fined huge sums.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a Shweich roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left two more injured, a Haweeja suicide bomber left three members of Sahwa commander Aziz Mohammed Khalaf's family injured, a Samarra sticky bombing left one person injured, Baghdad Operations Command announced they shot dead 2 suspects,  1 civilian was shot dead in Kirkuk, a Mosul bombing left three police members injured, the Badush Prison Inspector was shot dead in Mosul, and a Mosul roadside bombing left 1 woman dead and six more people injured.  All Iraq News adds that Diyala University Professor Thabit al-Khazraji was assassinated while leaving a Baquba mosque, Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 334 violent deaths so far this month.

    On violence, Prashant Rao (AFP) reports that the head of UNAMI, Nickolay Mladenov, declared today that Iraqi security forces are in need of "re-training."  He told journalists in Baghdad:

    There is a culture within the security forces, and the way they do things, which needs to change.  One that is more respectful of human rights. If you want to talk about the immediate security response to the crisis, the police, the army, etc. need massive amounts of re-training... in relation to human rights, and how they respect international standards of human rights, how they undertake operations.

    Yes, they do need something more than what they have.  But the person over them is Nouri al-Maliki and that's also part of the problem.  He may be commander in chief per the Constitution but he only presides over the police due to a power grab.  (The police are under the Ministry of the Interior.  He has refused to nominate anyone to head the ministry so that he can control the ministry.)

    Until Nouri gets replaced -- if that ever happens -- don't expect those under him to possess traits he neither cultivates nor values.

    Nouri is in charge of the Ministry of the Interior -- that's the ministry that launched the assault on Iraq's Emo youth and gay -- and perceived gay -- males.  That's the ministry that went into the schools declaring these people 'evil' and stating it was okay to attack and kill them.  The Ministry of the Interior denied doing that when an international outcry built to the attacks; however, Al Mada and Alsumaria corrected that lie by printing the official handout from the Ministry of the Interior that was distributed during their school presentations.

    Let's turn to political.  In 2014, Iraq's supposed to hold Parliamentary elections.  This will mean, among other things (if elections are held), that someone will be selected to be President of Iraq.

    The KDP is coming off a huge victory and KRG President Massoud Barazani is looking for the next post to tackle.  What if that post is the Iraqi presidency?  Which would see him resign as the KRG President and possibly upgrade his nephew, the current prime minister of the KRG, into the post of presidency?

    A major meet-up is taking place this weekend.  Turkey's Hurriyet notes political implications -- for one person, in Turkey:

    Science, Industry and Technology Minister Nihat Ergün ruled out assumptions that Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani’s upcoming meeting with Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Diyarbakır was the ruling party’s ploy to get more votes in the local elections.

    AFP adds, "Ankara: Turkey’s prime minister will hold talks on Saturday with Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani aimed at restarting a stalled peace process, with decades-old divisions between Ankara and the Kurds far from over.  The talks -- branded 'historic' by Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- come at a sensitive time for the Turkish government after a peace deal with Kurdish rebels stalled in September."   Rudaw notes, "As a prominent Kurdish leader, Barzani will be the first to visit Diyarbakir and be received as the president of the Kurdistan Region. This has symbolic significance at the minimum. Unlike previous Turkish governments, Turkey’s foreign policy under Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has shown flexibility and leniency toward the Kurds."

    Current President Jalal Talabani has been out of the country for eleven months.  Couldn't run for re-election from a hospital bed in Germany.  (The Iraqi Constitution bans Talabani from a third term but when is the Constitution followed in Iraq?)

    Barzani's got two years tacked on to his presidency of the KRG.  That's 2014 and 2015.  Then what?

    He can't have a third term (the two years tacked on was consolation for the fact that, during his first term, the law was passed limiting the office to two terms).  He has an international presence.

    Hoshyar Zebari's a joke.  Even his own party, PUK, is now lukewarm on him and that's before he attempted to stab the Talabani family in the back.

    A Kurd as prime minister of Iraq?  Not happening in 2014.  So that leaves the presidency or Speaker of Parliament and, of the two, the presidency has more prestige.

    And the Kurds consider it their position.  Talabani  insisted to US Vice President Joe Biden (in the fall of 2010) that the presidency belonged to the Kurds.  (Talabani was being asked to step aside and let Ayad Allawi take the post since his Iraqiya got the most votes and since the US government would not allow Allawi to be prime minister because they were backing Nouri.)

    If it's a Kurdish position, Barzani would be the most likely choice to fill it.

    Yesterday, Shi'ite pilgrims were targeted in Iraq.  The US Embassy in Iraq issued the following:

    U.S. Deplores Attacks Targeting Religious Pilgrims Commemorating Ashura

    November 14, 2013
    The United States Embassy deplores recent attacks around Iraq targeting religious pilgrims commemorating Ashura. The deliberate targeting of innocent civilians, particularly those exercising their faith, is cowardly and reprehensible. We extend our condolences to the victims and their families and wish for a rapid recovery for those who were injured. The United States is committed to partnering with the Government of Iraq in its efforts to combat terrorism.

    On the topic of people being targeted in Iraq due to their religion, Ewan Palmer (International  Business Times) reports:

    Christianity is in danger of becoming extinct in the countries where it was founded because of persection, a senior Tory has warned.

    Baroness Warsi, the government's minister for faith and communities, claimed that Christians were being driven out of Middle Eastern countries such as Iraq and Syria by being targeted for "collective punishment" for the actions of Western powers.
    [. . .]
    Warsi, who was Britain's first female Muslim cabinet minister, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the Christian population in Iraq had fallen from 1.2 million in 1990 to 200,000 today. She added that the war in Syria had "masked the haemorrhaging" of its Christian population.

    Let's move to England.  Matt Carr (Huffington Post) notes England's Iraq Inquiry which has still not produced a report and which now appears to be blocked from reporting what they unearthed -- blocked by US President Barack Obama:

    This week however, the British public were presented with further evidence of how hollowed-out the democratic process has become, when the Chilcot Inquiry revealed that it was being denied access to 25 notes sent by Tony Blair to George Bush, and 130 documents relating to conversations between the two architects of the Iraq War, in addition to dozens of records of cabinet meetings.
    There is no more serious decision that a government can take than a declaration of war, and there is no more serious test of a democracy than the ability to hold its leaders to account over why and how such decisions are taken, especially when a war is declared on false pretenses and results in a tragic and bloody disaster of the magnitude of the Iraq War.
    The Chilcot Inquiry was established by Gordon Brown with the fairly mild remit to establish 'lessons' from the Iraq war, rather than 'apportion blame.' Much to its own surprise no doubt, it has shown more teeth than anyone expected, to the point when its investigations threaten the reputations - and the cash flow - of those responsible.

    Sarah Lazare (Mint Press News) observes that "the U.S. government is forbidding the release of communications between Blair and Bush in the lead-up to the war, declaring it classified information and pressuring British Prime Minister David Cameron to wipe this information from the report."  The Voice of Russia (link is audio) speaks with the Guardian's Richard Norton-Taylor about the latest scandal while  Robert Fox (The Week) argues:

    The refusal to disclose presidential correspondence and conversations is yet another example of US exceptionalism, a principle often cited by President Obama.
    Today 'exceptional' means not being accountable - not having to explain to your allies why you want them to make war, not having to justify extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib or chaotic secretive military courts.
    The Chilcot Inquiry has, by many accounts, already unearthed glaring evidence of government mismanagement and worse. Chilcot should steal himself and publish all he knows, whatever Britain's exceptional allies might think and say. It is a duty he owes the public

    This is becoming a huge scandal and we've noted it three days in a row now.  People need to be asking why so-called 'independent' US outlets are ignoring the story?  I'm not talking about MSM or corporate media.  I'm talking about the whore beggars always insisting you need to send money to keep their magazine or their radio program afloat because only they will tell you the truth.

    Iraq briefly came up during today's State Dept press briefing by spokesperson Jen Psaki.  We'll close with that exchange:

    QUESTION: Okay. On KRG and Turkey --

    MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: -- the President of KRG, Mr. Barzani, is going to visit Turkey tomorrow. First of all, do you have any reaction to that? And I have couple other questions.

    MS. PSAKI: Well, the U.S., as you know, has a strong and positive relationship with both Iraq and Turkey. We’re encouraged by recent efforts on both sides to improve relations, including recent reciprocal visits. Improvement in Iraq-Turkey relations is critical for regional stability and cooperation, so we continue to encourage that.

    QUESTION: There is – an oil pipeline is about to – according to news reports, is going to start pumping oil very soon – maybe weeks, maybe months – from KRG to Turkey. What’s your view on that matter?

    MS. PSAKI: Well, our consistent position hasn’t changed, which is that we don’t support oil exports from any part of Iraq without approval of the Iraqi Federal Government. So we continue to urge the Federal Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to reach a constitutional solution.

    QUESTION: There was a phone call between the Vice President Biden and the KRG President Barzani --

    MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

    QUESTION: -- and some statements came from Ankara today that Turkey can help KRG and Baghdad to distribute this income from this KRG sale. And there are other reports that the U.S. can do this. Do you have any view on that subject?

    MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the White House, the Vice President’s office, on the specifics of that call. I don’t have any details on it and what may or may not have come out of it, what’s accurate.


    Friday, November 15, 2013

    Brightness Falls

    I finally finished Brightness Falls, Jay McInerney's 90s masterpiece.  An amazing book.

    A big one.  But it really holds you.

    It's 1987, Russell and Corrine are married and working big time.  She's on Wall Street, he's at a huge book publisher.  There's a sense of something in the air (the stock market crash?) and he's unhappy.  He tries to take over his publishing house, she is sick of Wall St. and quits her job.

    Their friend from college Jeff ends up with AIDS.  And he passes away.

    The best moment of the book is probably when Corrine attends his funeral and she's reminded of Charlotte's Web.

    I also really liked Russell's dad (auto worker).

    When the stock market crashes, they get honest with each other.  Corrine says she slept with Jeff and Russell tells her he slept with a woman.

    This is a really involving book.  There are so many great characters in the book, many are minor and do their part and are gone, others are in and out throughout.

    When they talked about what had gone wrong during the past year, Russell and Corrine were always telling two different stories.  In his history of their world, the battle for control of a publishing company and the stock market crash of 1987 would feature prominently, stirringly; in hers these were footnotes in tiny print.  These public events -- like the death of a loved one from a communicable disease, like a financial collapse -- revealed like a lightning flash, for a split second, how connected and interdependent each of them was at all times, their well-being intimately bound up with the fate of those around them.  
    She didn't think she could remotely explain what she was thinking to Russell, and for a moment she almost despised him again.  But she loved him in spite of this, and that was the whole point.  She once dreamed of a perfect communion between souls, believed she had achieved it with Russell.  Now she was willing to fight for something less.

    That's near the end of the book, at Jeff's funeral.

    Brightness Falls is really an incredible book.  If you haven't read it, visit your local library and pick it up.

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

    Thursday, November 14, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Matt Olsen talks to Congress about al Qaeada, Brett McGurk thinks he can solve the problems of Iraq's religious minorities by just meeting with Catholics, the US government has top secret information about the September 1st attack on Camp Ashraf, the process of elimination means that the information is about Nouri's participation in the murders, Barack Obama covers up for Bully Boy Bush like a true friend or maybe just like a man in love, and much more.
    Before we get to yesterday's hearing on Iraq, let's start with an example.  There's a small yard three homes face.  Daisy uses a third to grow rose bushes, Millie opts for tomatoes, Diane grows cabbage.  There's a well that all three use to water their plants in order to avoid dragging a water hose across the street.  Then one day Diane walls off the well and puts a padlock on the gate.  The neighborhood gets together to make peace and Diane agrees to share the water.  But she doesn't follow up on that and begins making other demands, saying the roses belong to her and so do the tomatoes.
    The neighborhood tries to fix the peace again -- "fix" being the key word.
    They say to the three women that the actions are hurting the neighborhood.  They insist that peace is imperative.  From now on, they say, for peace, Daisy will give Diane a third of her roses and Millie will give Diane a third of her tomatoes.
    And that, the neighborhood insists, will bring peace.
    That's not peace.  That's a bully, a mafia, a crook that's already refused to follow agreements now getting more concessions.
    Nouri al-Maliki is Diane.
    After his State of Law lost the 2010 elections, he brought the entire government of Iraq to a political standstill for 8 months as he refused to step down so that a new prime minister could be named.
    The White House backed him and went around to the leaders of the political blocs, telling them that Nouri could hold out for another eight months, insisting that if they loved Iraq, if they cared about it, they needed to give Nouri a second term.
    And, look, they'll put it in writing, make it a contract, and make sure that the needs of each bloc are addressed by getting legal concessions from Nouri that will be in the contract.
    That contract is the US-brokered Erbil Agreement.  It gave Nouri the second term that the voters didn't give him.  But he stalled on implementing the promises he made.  He insisted they would take place but first he needed to name a Cabinet, first his Cabinet needed to get focused, first he needed to address government corruption (to get protesters off the streets), first . . .
    He was supposed to implement it in November 2010.  By the summer of 2011, with it still not implemented, Iraqiya (the slate that won the 2010 elections), the Kurds and cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr were publicly demanding that Nouri implement The Erbil Agreement.
    This is the political crisis and it continues because Nouri still hasn't honored his promises.

    Iraq's main ethnic and sectarian groups - Kurds, Shia Muslims and Sunni Muslims- each with its own militias, have to share power. Iraq cannot be ruled by one side, nor divided among all. It was in dire need of visionary, credible and strategic leadership to unite people and lead the transition to democracy. That collective effort was, and still is, absent, creating competitive and even violent approaches to power. One of the enduring sources of instability in Iraq is the policies and tactics of the political class to either maximise gains, or stop the other side from doing so, all at the expense of the common good.
    Many of Iraq's problems stem from its political leaders who are exploiting the ethno-sectarian divisions in their favour to grab more power. Their failure to craft an inclusive democracy has deepened rivalries and given rise to sectarianism, ethnic chauvinism and authoritarianism. Even the constitution which has established a term of reference to solve the power-sharing problems, has been breached time and again.

    No, that's lying.
    If you've already compromised in good faith and honored your part of a legal contract only to have the other party refuse to own their part?  You don't compromise again.
    To compromise again is to fail the people you represent, the people who are counting on you.  
    There should be no agreements or compromises until Nouri honors what he's already promised.
    And that means actions.   That does not mean a new contract where Nouri gets what he wants and says he'll honor the promises he already made.
    The Kurds fell for that last time.
    Nouri took an oath to uphold the Iraqi Constitution when he was made prime minister in 2006.  The Constitution -- then and now -- includes Article 140 which addresses how you resolve oil-rich Kirkuk -- a disputed province claimed by both the central government out of Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government.  The Constitution compels Nouri to hold a census and referendum to resolve the dispute.  And it also calls on the prime minister to do this by the end of 2007.
    Nouri never did it.
    And it was stupid on the part of the Kurds to think that someone who refused to honor the Iraqi Constitution would now honor a contract.  Yes, the White House told Kurdish leaders The Erbil Agreement was a legally binding contract and, yes, the White House lied that they would back The Erbil Agreement 100%.  
    But when someone's legally required to do X and they haven't?  You don't sign any agreement with them until they do X.  
    The Erbil Agreement was bad enough but now here comes a 'helper' via Al Jazeera -- which can report from Iraq but so rarely does.  And the 'helper' has a grand plan: From where you're standing right now, compromise!
    But all but Nouri are standing on less ground than they had in 2010 and they don't need to disappoint their followers by giving up any more ground.

    US House Rep Grace Meng:  Regarding the issue of Iraqi Jewish artifacts that are currently on display in The National Archives, I want to especially acknowledge and thank Congresswoman [Ileanna] Ros-Lehtinen, Congressman [Steve] Israel and Senator [Chuck] Schumer for their leadership on this issue.  Rescued from Baghdad in 2003, the collection of ancient artifacts include letters, books and personal photos that were left behind by Jews after WWII who experienced extreme anti-Semiticsm including harassment and violence.  It is imperative that these artifacts are returned to the descendents of the Jewish community from which they were wrongly confiscated and not the Iraqi government.  We must ensure that justice for the Iraqi Jewish community.
    Meng was speaking at yesterday's House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa hearing.  US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is the Subcommittee Chair and US House Rep Ted Deutch is the Ranking Member and the witness appearing before the Subcomittee was Brett McGurk.  Yesterday we focused on the Jewish Archive aspect.  
    Today, we're going to focus on religious minorities and Camp Ashraf.   Religious minorities have long been under attack.  Will McGurk's words reassure? 
    US House Rep Steve Chabot:  While Iraqi Christians find themselves in an increasingly hostile environment, the Kurdish region was a safe haven for Christian refugees in Iraq.  However, a number of bombings against Christians in Kurdish -- in the Kurdish region have changed the security situation for Christians.  And with reports of discrimination, Christians no longer feel safe even in the -- in the Kurdish region.  What's the administration doing to help Christians and other minorities in Iraq and what is the Maliki government doing to protect Iraqi religious minorities?

    Brett McGurk:  Well, thank you, very important, uh question, and at the State Dept we are focused on this every single day I try to meet with the Iraqi Christian community here in the United States.  When I'm in Iraq, I try to meet with the Christian leaders.  Our Ambassadors engage with them on a regular basis.  On my last trip, I met with Bishop [Bashar]  Warda who's in Erbil  And we-we asked him, what do you really need from us?  And he needed some more facilitation with the Kurdish government and he needed some help to resolve some land disputes.  And they have now set up a joint-commission to do just that.  Uhm, the prime minister met Archbishop [Louis Raphael] Sako -- the main Christian leader in Iraq -- to talk about threats to the Christian community.  Uh, the real problem in Iraq now is that every community is under threat.  The casualties that have taken place this year in Iraq are a threat to everybody but the Christians in particular and some of the other minority communities such as the Shabaks and the Yazidis are under real threat from these al Qaeda groups.  We are talking with the Christian -- the Iraqi Christian community here and also Christian leaders in Baghdad about what we can do to harness local forces to protect their local communities and then working with the Iraqi government to get resources into those communities.  And we've made some progress over the last three to four months but I-I -- I just -- Our eyes are wide open that this problem isn't -- Again, the more that al Qaeda gains strength and, uh, gains roots in western Iraq, the greater the threat will be.  That's why we have to go after that in a very serious way.
    Sako is the main Christian leader in Iraq?  That's certainly going to be news to a lot of others in Iraqis?  But Shabaks and Yazidis aren't Catholic.  How will they be helped when their needs aren't explored.  If you're not talking to them and their leaders, how are you helping them?  You're not.
    In Mosul today, NINA reports, four homes were blown up. Who lived in them?  Shabaks.  They're being targeted and the State Dept isn't even listening to them.  Or most Christians because they're really not in Baghdad these days.  The migration was started long ago but really accelerated after October 31, 2010 when Our Lady of Salvation Church was attacked in Baghdad.
    Not only are these Christians in large and increasing numbers, their needs are going to be different than those living in Baghdad.  They are refugees.  And what is the State Dept doing about that?  Nothing and apparently because they're not even aware of them or the need to converse with them.
    Let's move over to the Ashraf residents.  As of September, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.
    The September 1st attack was not minor to the Subcommittee.  Chair Ros-Lehtinen told McGurk she wanted regular updates on the T-walls and how many are being put up to protect the Ashraf community from mortar attacks. He stated that there were "about 14,000 now" ready to be assembled and put up.  But US House Rep Brad Sherman pointed out there were 17,000 T-walls up when he last visited Iraq, up at Camp Liberty, but now they're are less than 200.  Clearly, T-walls were taken down (by the orders of Nouri al-Maliki although McGurk insists it was because of the desires of the Ashraf community).  US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher had one of his constituents stand.  The man lost family in the September 1st attack. He was one of the Ashraf community supporters who regularly attend hearings wearing yellow (they also turned out in full force to protest Nouri's visit to DC).  US House Rep Ted Poe noted them in his remarks to McGurk,  "These people that are here, working people, Americans, and they are concerned about people that they love in Iraq.  And they constantly are losing friends and family members to attacks."  These attacks have lasting effects and the State Dept has done very little.

    US House Rep Joseph Wilson:  . . . but a real tragedy has been the murders at Camp Ashraf.  Since December 2008, when our government turned over the protections of the  camp to the Iraqi government, Prime Minister Maliki has repeatedly assured the world that he would treat the residents humanely and also that he would protect them from harm.  Yet it has not kept the promise promise as 111 people have been killed  in cold blood and more than a thousand wounded in five attacks including the September 1st massacre, what is the United States doing to prevent further attacks and greater loss of life in terms of ensuring the safety and security of the residents

    Brett McGurk:  Congressman, first let me say thank you for your-your service and your family's service.  Speaking for myself and my team who've spent many years in Iraq and have known many friends we've lost in Iraq, it's something we think about every day and it inspires our work and our dedication to do everything possible to succeed under very difficult circumstances.  Regarding Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, the only place for the MEK and the residents of Camp Liberty to be safe is outside of Iraq.  Camp Liberty is a former US military base  We lost Americans, right nearby  there, as late as the summer of 2010.  We lost a number of Americans to rocket fire and indirect fire attacks and our embassy compounds were the most secure facilities  in the country as late as the summer of 2010, that was when we had about 60,000 troops in the country in the country doing everything that they possibly could do to hunt down the rocket teams that we knew were targeting us.  Uh, there are cells in Iraq  -- we believe directed and inspired from Iran -- which are targeting the MEK, there's no question about that.  And the only place for the MEK to be safe is outside of Iraq.  That is why the State Dept and the Secretary have appointed a colleague of mine, Jonathan Winer, to work this issue full time. to find a place for them to go. Right now, there's about 2900 residents at Camp Liberty and Albania's taken in about 210, Germany's agreed to take in 100 and that's it.  We need to find a place for these - these people to go.  It is an urgent and humanitarian issue, an international humanitarian crisis.  And I went to the camp to meet with the survivors, to speak with the families, and what they told me and I promised them to do everything I possibly could to get them to safety.  Uh, it is incumbent upon the Iraqi government to do everything it possibly can to to keep them safe -- and that means the T-walls and the sandbags and everything else.  Uh, but the only place for the residents to be safe is outside Iraq.  Since the tragic attacks at Camp Liberty on September 1st 1300 Iraqis were killed, 52 people were massacred at Camp Ashraf.  This was a tragic, horrifying act.  But since then, 1300 Iraqis in the country have been killed.  The country is incredibly dangerous and the MEK, to be safe, have to leave Iraq and we want to find a place for them to go.  

    US House Rep Joseph Wilson:  Well I appreciate your commitment to that.  After the September 1st massacre, the State Dept called for an independent investigation by the United Nations.  74 days on, nothing's been done, let alone an independent investigation.  Could you tell this Committee whether any independent probe has been carried out or not?  If so, by whom and what is the finding?  If not, why not?  Five attacks have been launched against the residents and not one person has been arrested.  What do we do to maintain promises of protection?

    Brett McGurk: Uh, Congressman, shortly after the attack, we worked with the United Nations to make sure that they got a team up to Camp Ashraf within 24 hours of the attack to document exactly what happened because there was a lot of stories about what happened.  They went there took photographs of the bodies to make sure that it was documented as to how these people were killed and there's no question about it.  We have looked very closely at all of our information I know that I've-I've had the opportunity to brief some members of the Subcommittee in a classified setting which I'd be pleased to do again to update you on the information that we have.We did call for an independent investigation and for the UN to be involved in this process.  The UN was also involved in making sure that the survivors got out of Camp Ashraf and out of harms way to get to get to Camp Liberty.  But, again, Congressman, I would welcome the opportunity to brief you and discuss with you in a classified setting everything we know that happened on September 1st.
    Here's a question.  Why did it take the September 1st attack for the State Dept to hired someone to work on the issue?  In fairness to Secretary of State John Kerry, maybe the question should be why, in four years, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn't hired anyone?  Or how about why did she fight a federal court for years before taking the MEK off the terrorist list?
    And if this i really considered "an international humanitarian crisis" by the State Dept, could Brett or John inform the spokespersons for the State Dept because Iraq rarely comes up and Camp Ashraf  is not a topic -- Iraqi Christians as well -- that interests the spokespersons.
    Seems to me if you have a semi-daily press briefing by the Dept, you use that briefing to highlight "an international humanitarian crisis."  
    I'm also confused why you need to go into a classified briefing to discuss an attack on Camp Ashraf?
    McGurk hurled every imagination you could think of at Iran in one remark or another.
    So he's not protecting Iran.
    Who's he protecting?
    It would appear he doesn't want to speak publicly about how Nouri al-Maliki allows and aids attacks on the Ashraf community.
    This was made even more clear in another exchange.

    US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  You believe them that that there's really a security reason that they haven't put those T-walls up at Camp Liberty?

    Brett McGurk:  No, I do not think that there are legitimate security reasons that the T-walls have not been put up.

    US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher: You sounded to me when I was listening to you -- and I listened very closely to what you said -- that we can't blame the leadership -- the Maliki leadership for the lack of security at Camp Liberty?

    Brett McGurk:  Uh, no.  And in fact my conversation with Maliki was that you need to get as many T-walls into that facility as possible without any excuses.  Period.  Full stop.  So I -- if I -- You may have heard me say something differently but I 


    US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  Maybe I'm misinterpreting what you said.  Now tell me this.  Those troops that came into Camp Ashraf and murdered 52 unarmed MEK refugees, you hold that this was done by a rogue element in the Iraqi army or do you think the Maliki regime is complicit in this murder?

    Brett McGurk:  I don't believe there was a rogue element.  I think a lot of this goes back to the background of the situation.  Camp Ashraf was seen as a forward operating base to the MEK --

    US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  I don't need a background on it.  I'm not trying to find out.  It's clear that we had Iraqi soldiers going in there murdering people who are unarmed, tying their hands behind their back and then blowing their brains out.  This is an atrocity.  It's a crime against humanity.  Now, I don't need a background to find out the background on Camp Ashraf.  Do we hold that government responsible or is this a rogue element?  And if it was a rogue element in the military, what has the Maliki regime done to deal with that?  

    Brett McGurk:  Congressman, I would -- I would welcome the opportunity to speak with you in a classified setting and tell you everything we know about this attack including who committed the atrocity. 

    US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  You know, I'm not asking for all the information that you know.  I'm asking who we're holding accountable.  And we aren't.  Clearly  we are sending a message to the Maliki government that it's okay because we're not doing anything about it.   We have -- we have -- Here's a picture of a gentleman who used to work up here and we have -- and I submit this right now, Mr. [Acting] Chairman [Ron DeSantis], for the record -- a gentleman who used to work on Capitol Hill representing the MEK and we saw him on many occasions.  And guess what? [Pointing to photo] Here's his body at Camp Ashraf where they have murdered him -- brutally tied his hands behind his back and blown his brains out. We need -- we need to -- If we excuse this by lack of attention, we are sending our own message as to what values we have and we're sending other dictators and terrorists a message as well about American weakness. I am not satisfied with what this administration is doing.  And one last note, Mr. Chairman, and that is: These people are under attack.  I think at the very least, and this is my opinion right now, we should take the people in at Camp Liberty.  Let's just take them in.
    Again, McGurk had no problem launching any and every allegation at Iran in his comments to the Subcommittee.  So what's the classified issue?  It really appears the State Dept knows what the press does, Nouri was responsible for the September 1st attack.  
    There was another exchange on the topic of Ashraf that we need to include.

    US House Rep Ted Poe:  I've been to Iraq a lot.  I've seen a lot of people in Iraq.. and I met with Maliki.  I was with Mr. Rohrabacher.  We met with Maliki and we asked him this one question:  Can we go see the people at Camp Ashraf?  And he said: Absolutely not. In fact, he got so incensed that we asked that question when we were on a helicopter to the north to see the Kurds, he went to the State Dept and asked us to leave the country.  We were kicked out of the country.  So when you see him get a little emotional -- and me as well -- here we are giving billions to a country where the president -- or the prime minister -- refuses to let members of Congress see what's taking place in Camp Ashraf.  That's the background.  Five attacks on Ashraf and Liberty.  Five. Over a period of years.  Not one criminal has been brought to justice.  Not one.  We don't even know their names or who they are.  If the Iraqis were serious about investigating, they would at least bring in somebody.  If those investigators worked for me when I was a prosecutor, they'd have been fired several attacks ago. These people that are here, working people, Americans, and they are concerned about people that they love in Iraq.  And they constantly are losing friends and family members to attacks.  Meanwhile, the United States?  I'm not sure what we're doing.  I now understand that not any of the witnesses have been talked to about the latest attack.  These are real people that are killed and I'm sorry for the graphicness of this poster but this has happened at Camp Liberty where the people were in the clinic and they were assassinated [the poster he held showed 4 people on the ground dead].  They were tracked down and murdered.  Now we would think, being the freedom loving country we are, that we would be opposed to this type of activity and we would do a little bit more to pressure it because it is our responsibility. You have made a comment that we are not taking these people into the United States because they used to be a foreign terrorist organization but the State Dept through the Secretary of State can waive that as they did with 12 previous people who came in.  When I've talked to other countries about why don't you take these folks from the MEK?  You know what the first thing they say is?  'The United States is hypocritical.  They say that people ought to take them but you won't take any of them.'  Got a good point.  When we talk to the Germans and the British and the French and the people in the Netherlands that they ought to take the former MEK, when they say 'well you're not taking any of them.  Good? It's an excellent point.  I find it hard to believe that the Iraqi security forces are unaware of this attack when they had to go through numerous checkpoints to get to the place where they murdered these folks.  The Iraqis are responsible for guarding them and they were missing in action, they all went on a doughnut break at the time that these homicides occurred -- they're always missing.  And there's a debate about the seven who were taken and captured I've become a real big fan of the French Foreign Affairs Minister -- especially with this last situation where he stopped this bad deal with Iran -- in a letter to some of his people in the Parliament, he makes the comment that, as far as he's concerned, these 7 are still in Iraq. My question is: Have these seven people been rescued to your knowledge -- no matter where they are?

    Brett McGurk: No.

    Has anybody in the State Dept interrogated the survivors as far as a criminal investigation gone on?  Have we sent in all of the investigators that we have?  Or any of the investigators -- what happened?  What did these people look like, etc, etc?

    Uh-uh, we have turned our -- as much information as we possibly can to find out where these seven people are and I'd be happy as I've done with some members of the Subcommittee to brief you in a classified setting. 

    That's not my question.  My question is have they been asked specifically about the murders in the camp that they survived?  About who they were?  What they looked like? What they said?  What language were they speaking?  Interrogated about those basic criminal investigation questions?  

    Brett McGurk:  We have asked, uh, our contacts with the MEK that we deal with to put their contacts and those who have information in contact with our experts at our embassy to connect some of the dots.

    US House Rep Ted Poe: We've waived 12 and allowed them to come into the United States.  Why haven't we waived that for more people who want to come?

    Brett McGurk:  Congressman, I want to be very precise in my language.  When I said that a legal fix would help given the FTO designation, we are under, we are deliberating about our policy regarding entry into the United States and we are -- no decision has been made.  That is why I cannot discuss this further here.

    US House Rep Ted Poe:  But it's the law, is it not, that the Secretary can waive that under the current law right now?  That's not any big secret.

    Brett McGurk:  There are mechanisms under which a limited number of people would be able to come into the US, yes. 

    US House Rep Ted Poe:  So what do we tell these folks?  Freedom loving folks in a place where they don't want to be.  We won't take them.  We can't get other countries to take them.  And you want to know what they're waiting for? The next attack if we don't hold Maliki accountable. I just want to make this comment.  I don't know if you've seen this letter or not but 44 of us -- 22 Democrats and 22 Republicans-- have sent a letter to the President of the United States saying, 'No more money to Iraq until there's accountability for the murders in Camp Ashraf.'  Have you seen that letter?

    Brett McGurk:  I have seen that letter. 
    Briefly during the hearing, US House Rep Ron DeSantis was acting Chair when the Chair had to step out of the hearing.  DeSantis is also an Iraq War veteran.  US House Rep Adam Kinzinger also serves on the Subcommittee and he is an Iraq War veteran.  We may include Kinzinger tomorrow.  Of DeSantis?  We'll note Brett's an idiot.
    And policy is being made on his stupidity.
    To DeSantis, Brett McGurk explained that the suicide bombers in Iraq?  They're foreigners.  They're foreign males who can't do anything else (like be a mechanic, Brett offered), so they come into Iraq and become a suicide bomber.
    Hey, last month, schools were targeted.  One successfully for the suicide bomber in that it resulted in killings.  Less than two weeks ago, another one unsuccessfully for the suicide bomber in that the bomber was caught.  From the November 4th snapshot: " Al Mada notes that a female suicide bomber was caught yesterday before she could blow herself up in front of a primary school."  Oh.  And get this.  She was Iraqi.
    Brett's so deeply stupid.  And his stupidity is used as the baseline when making policy, that's really frightening.
    We're covering the hearing one more time.   It's an important hearing.  And it's one the press has ignored.  Did Cheryl Mills ask them not to cover that up to?
    Who knows, but it was an important hearing.   We were at a hearing this afternoon which got a little attention thanks to an AP report.  Everyone's re-writing AP and including the one line quote.  No one's noting the hearing itself because they weren't there and AP didn't identify it.  It was an afternoon hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and the witnesses were Matt Olsen, Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, FBI Director James B. Comey and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Rand Beers.  Olsen did not just bring up Iraq in his prepared testimony.  He was giving a survey of al Qaeda in many countries.  Here's what he noted about al Qaeda in Mesopotamia: 

    al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, is at its strongest point since its peak in 2006 and this year has significantly increased its pace of attacks. The group is exploiting increasingly permissive security environments in Iraq and Syria to fundraise, plan, and train for attacks. AQI has maintained an experienced cadre of operatives in Iraq. The group's amir last year initiated a campaign of attacks against prisons to free members, which culminated this July in high-profile coordinated attacks on two Iraqi prisons that freed hundreds of prisoners. In addition, AQI continues to operate in Syria, where the group has recruited many foreign fighters, including Westerners. AQI's growing cadre of Westerners in Syria probably bolsters the group's pool of external operatives who could be used to target the west.

    Violence?  Margaret Griffis ( reports 67 killed in Iraq today in violence with another 152 injured.

    From the reality of the illegal war, let's move to the fairytale. 

    And I'm so sad
    like a good book
    I can't put this 
    Day Back
    a sorta fairytale
    with you 
    a sorta fairytale
    with you 
    -- "A Sorta Fairytale," written by Tori Amos, first appears on her album Scarlet's Walk

    For those who can't remember, let's revisit former President Bill Clinton's 2008 remarks:

    "But since you raised the judgment issue, let's go over this again. That is the central argument for his campaign. 'It doesn't matter that I started running for president less a year after I got to the Senate from the Illinois State Senate. I am a great speaker and a charismatic figure and I'm the only one who had the judgment to oppose this war from the beginning. Always, always, always.' "
    [. . .]
    "Second, it is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment and how he had been against the war in every year, numerating the years, and never got asked one time, not once, 'Well, how could you say that when you said in 2004 you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution? You said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war and you took that speech you're now running on off your website in 2004* and there's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since?' Give me a break.
    "This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."

    "*" It was 2003 when it was first disappeared as Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) has pointed out.

    Barack Obama lied throughout 2008 -- it was a fairytale, his so-called objection to the Iraq War.  Bill Clinton called it correctly.  Barack gave into some elderly and overweight smelly radicals (I knew them years before, trust me, they stink) and appeared at a 2002 'rally' (15 or so people) to 'speak out' against the Iraq War before it started.

    By the time it started he was on board 100%.  He was now running for the US Senate.  That's when Elaine and I encounter him -- after a hard sell on him from people whose names we're never supposed to mention -- and the first thing we want to know about is Iraq.  But the war's started, he tells us, so it's too late for objections, it must be "successfully prosecuted."  We immediately left and didn't write a check.

    We were face to face with the fraud and that might explain why we were immunized from The Cult of St. Barack that emerged in 2007 and 2008.

    We knew he was a cheap liar using the Iraq War to get elected.

    All these years later, it's still hard for The Cult to admit St. Barack wasn't against the Iraq War.

    Not only did he not vote to defund the war when he finally got into the Senate but full of crap Barack rescued the Bully Boy Bush administration by refusing to hold them accountable for their crimes.

    He also never met an Iraq War supporter he couldn't find a job for in his administration: John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Chuck Hagel . . .

    The list is endless.  Ann Wright resigned from the State Dept in objection to the Iraq War.

    Barack had no post for her in the government -- despite Ann being not only a diplomat but, prior to that, Col Ann Wright in the US military.

    Somehow that resume didn't impress Barack.

    In the latest news of Barack's support for the Iraq War, Al-Arabiya News explains:

    The United States is behind the delaying a key report's release showing how the UK went to war with Iraq, London-based daily The Independent reported on Wednesday.
    White House and State Department officials are behind the blocking of the four-year Chilcot inquiry, which the UK's Cabinet Office has been criticized for halting.
    The newspaper saw drafts of the report earlier this year which challenged the official story of the UK's entry into the Iraq war, mainly related to exchanges with then-PM Tony Blair and former president George W. Bush.

    Don't worry, this is more three-dimensional chess from Barack, his Cult will explain.  They will tell us that this is part of a larger scheme to lull Bully Boy Bush into a false sense of security and then, just as Bully Boy Bush is convinced he'll escape scott free for his crimes, Barack will dispatch a drone! Or Samantha Power to bore Bush to death with a speech!

    Please, Barack's a War Hawk himself. That's all he is and now he covers for the War Crimes of Bully Boy Bush.  Sisters under the skin, the two of them.

    Chris Ames (Iraq Inquiry Digest) walks through the latest here.  Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports:

    The former Labour foreign secretary, Lord Owen, has criticised Tony Blair and the coalition over the refusal to release key evidence about what Blair told George Bush in the runup to the invasion of Iraq.
    Blair's position was an "intolerable affront to democratic accountability", Owen told the Guardian.
    It has also emerged that Lord Butler, the former cabinet secretary who chaired an inquiry into the use of intelligence before the invasion, has accused Blair of deliberately preventing his ministerial colleagues from seeing important data at the time.
    In a move prompted by last week's disclosure by Sir John Chilcot, chair of the Iraq inquiry, that he was still in dispute with Whitehall over release of the Blair-Bush records, Owen has written to David Cameron about the role played in such deliberations by the cabinet secretary, who is currently Sir Jeremy Heywood. Chilcot has made it clear, in public letters to Cameron, that Heywood was at the centre of discussions not to disclose the records of conversations between Blair and Bush. Owen points out that Heywood was Blair's principal private secretary in 10 Downing Street from 1999-2003, "the very time when the decisions to go to war were being taken".