Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Illegal spying and the tools of imperialism

Monday, Monday . . . can't trust that day.  It was MLK Day as well.  Do we have anyone like him today?

I used to think we did.  In 2005, for instance, I would have argued we had many.  My list would have included:  Howard Zinn, Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, CodePink, Joan Baez, Ani DiFranco, Michael Franti, etc.


I have a level of respect for Noam and that's about it.  Howard Zinn cowardly endorsed Barack in 2008.  He and Anthony Arnove really got bitched out -- worse than punked out -- by Barack.  And Zinn died before he could call out Barack.  So he died a loser and a liar.  Coward Zinn.

CodePink became CodeStink as they refused to call out Barack the way they did Bully Boy Bush.  Guantanamo?  They'll quietly complain these days.  Same with illegal spying.  And they've completely forgotten Iraq.

They're disgusting.

Alice Walker made a perfect fool of herself with her babbles over Barack.  She still can't call him out as he murders children with The Drone War.  Alice Walker's a fraud.

Who does that leave?

Ani DiFranco is a disappointment and I'll leave it at that because she's dealing with other criticism right now.

Michael Franti used to sing about how "we can't bomb the world to peace."  These days, he's just another cheap whore slinging his ass for imperialism. 

Joan Baez?  The Piss Queen.  She endorsed Barack which was bad enough but in all the time since Ms. Bravery has failed to call him out for The Drone War, the illegal spying, the attacks on the press, the attacks on whistle-blowers, you name it.

She's so disgusting that my father threw out all of his Joan Baez albums in 2012.  He tried to give her time to find her voice.  She never did.  So he just put all her albums in a trash bag and carried out to the trash can.  He used to be a big fan but she stood for something then and now she's just a tool of imperialism.

There are a lot of cowards these days.  As Patrick Martin (WSWS) notes:
The response of the US political establishment to President Obama’s adamant defense of illegal spying by the National Security Agency demonstrates that there is no constituency for the defense of democratic and constitutional rights within the US ruling elite.
In comments to the press immediately after the speech, as well as in appearances on the Sunday morning television interview programs, leading congressional Democrats and Republicans, as well as former intelligence officials, were unanimous in supporting both Obama’s speech and the NSA’s operations.
Three so-called critics of NSA spying, Democratic senators Mark Udall, Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich, issued a joint statement hailing Obama’s speech as “a major milestone in our longstanding efforts to reform the National Security Agency’s bulk collection program,” as though the cosmetic gestures towards civil liberties represented genuine concessions.
The most adamant defenders of the NSA programs, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, a Republican, and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, appeared together on the NBC program “Meet the Press” to support the NSA and launch a McCarthyite smear campaign against Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who exposed the illegal mass spying. (See, “Apologists for NSA redouble witch-hunt of Edward Snowden”.)
Rogers praised the speech, saying, “I thought the most important victory was the president standing up and saying, ‘Hey, the program did not have abuses. This wasn’t sinister. It wasn’t a rogue agency. It was legal and proper.’”
Feinstein chimed in: “What the president has said is that he wanted to maintain the capability of the program. That, as Chairman Rogers said, it has not been abused or misused. And it is carried out by very strictly vetted and professional people.”
Retired General Michael Hayden, who headed the NSA and later the CIA, appeared on Fox News Sunday and hailed the speech as “the most robust defense of why we conduct intelligence and how we conduct intelligence that the president has made since he’s been in office.” He dismissed the alterations Obama proposed in the surveillance programs as insignificant.
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democratic “critic” of NSA spying, appearing alongside Hayden, offered the most cynical take on Obama’s speech, saying his pledge not to target foreign heads of states allied with the US was merely an effort to assist these governments politically.
“We have relationships with all the intelligence services among our allies,” he said. “There is a growing and I think erroneous feeling in other countries that somehow the United States was in, tapping all of them. And I think this was probably a way of helping some of our allies say, it’s OK for us to cooperate with United States.”

I was asked about ignoring Dracula in Friday's post.

  I like the show.  I didn't realize I was expected to blog about it.  That's not me being snide.  I really didn't realize a lot of you were wanting that.

I haven't had time to watch it.  I'll stream it and write about it tomorrow, okay?

I was doing stuff with my daughter Friday and we didn't have the TV on. 

I really do like the show and this gives me an excuse to stream.  So I'll write about it tomorrow and I'll make it and Elementary the two shows I cover.

Okay, the latest edition of Third went up Sunday and Dallas and the following worked on the edition:

The Third Estate Sunday Review's Jim, Dona, Ty, Jess and Ava,
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude,
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man,
C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review,
Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills),
Mike of Mikey Likes It!,
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz),
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix,
Ruth of Ruth's Report,
Wally of The Daily Jot,
Trina of Trina's Kitchen,
Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends,
Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts,
and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub.

And this is what we came up with.

Thank you to the Bill of Rights Defense Committee for speaking strongly. Especially when so many stayed silent.  That includes the Center for Constitutional Rights. They were going to be slammed big time but C.I. asked us to wait a week and see if we felt the same.  Her reasoning was they did Tweet on Friday about it (which I didn't know, I just check out their site, not their Twitter feed) and they might post something this week and also that she felt bad because she never got around to highlighting a piece Heidi Bogohsian did last week on Law and Disorder. 

This is an Iraqi novelist and activist and she is exactly right.

And she is so right that she (Haifa Zangana) got two Truests.

How the western media ignores the people of Iraq.

Ava and C.I.'s masterpiece.  This really is great.  I see Chris Hedges now has a strong piece on the speech that went up Monday.  Good but Ava and C.I. did a great job and hopefully will lead others to make strong statements about the awful speech.

We talk about a number of things including the flu-cold.

Ava and C.I. wrote this and, if you didn't notice, Bob Somerby's pissed.  He did his passive agressive b.s. dance where he alludes to their writing but doesn't acknowledge it or link to it.  He's such a priss pot.


We take on Hostess' Ding Dongs. I loved these.  But the ones that came out this summer?  They're not chocolatey enough.  And, it turns out, they're 1.5 ounces lighter than they used to be -- each new box is.

Please do your part on this.

Ava and C.I. pulled this when they were doing their research for their TV piece.

This is a great photo of Faye Dunaway.  It's the announcement that she's going to make the film Duet For One.  She didn't.  She ended up leaving the project.  It was later filmed with Julie Andrews playing the lead.  We're planning to use that -- the Faye ad -- as a recurring illustration on pieces with a theme about Some things don't go as planned.

That's out of order.  I must have dragged it somehow.  But that's Jim's breakdown of the edition and he notes Faye's films that everyone loves.  And she's part of film history and legend.  She's got films that will continue to be watched.  A lot of actresses, even Academy Award winning ones, don't have that.  They make films that no one ever really sees after their initial runs.  Faye's got some classics.

Workers World repost.
Michigan Green Party repost.

Workers World repost.

And a look back at the community's best.

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

Monday, January 20, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, another journalist is killed in Iraq,  we drop back to remember the 70s when the US government pretended to be the Kurds friends while using (and then discarding them) like pawns, the IHEC fires a number of commissioners right ahead of the elections and offers no explanation, the Justice and Accountability Commission still has no head, and more.

As former UK prime minister and forever War Criminal Tony Blair likes to boast at his website, "Globalisation brings each of us closer together."  Blair found out just how close today.  Felicity Morse and Jonathan Owen (Belfast Telegraph) report, "One of the world’s most controversial political figures had an unlikely brush with reality on Friday, with Tony Blair subjected to a humiliating citizen’s arrest by a DJ working as a barman at trendy London eaterie the Tramshed."  Lizzie Edmonds (Daily Mail) adds:

The part-time producer said he put his hand on his shoulder and said 'Mr Blair, this is a citizen's arrest for a crime against peace, namely your decision to launch an unprovoked war against Iraq.'
Mr Garcia told Vice magazine how Blair then attempted to engage in a debate before one of his son's went to get security. The worker then left the restaurant to avoid any trouble.

The website Arrest Blair encourages people to make a citizen arrest of War Criminal Tony Blair.  Robin De Peyer (Evening Standard) notes, "After spending some time engaged in debate with the former Labour Prime Minister - who now focuses his energy on the Middle East peace process - the man said he realised one of Mr Blair's sons had gone to find security. Quitting on the spot, Mr Garcia said he then left the restaurant immediately."

And the war he co-started continues.  Saturday, Aswat al-Iraq reported, "Jordanian Minister for Communications and Media Mohammed al-Mo'mini announced the intention of his country to train Iraqi forces in anti-terrorism spheres on its soil."  AP quotes al-Mo'mini stating, "We look positively at the training because it is consistent with our foreign policy goal of fighting terrorism and because we have one of the best security and military training facilities in the region."  AFP reminds, "On Friday a US defense official told AFP that Washington was waiting for an agreement with Jordan or another country to go ahead with the training program. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has asked the United States to help the army fight against Islamist extremists, blamed for a spiral of deadly attacks in recent months."  Saturday, the White House issued the following:

The White House
Office of the Vice President

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

This afternoon, Vice President Biden spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Vice President discussed with Prime Minister Maliki the United States’ support for Iraq’s fight against the Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant. The two leaders agreed on the importance of the Iraqi government’s continued outreach to local and tribal leaders in Anbar province. The Vice President emphasized the importance of seeking a mutually acceptable path forward with Erbil regarding oil exports from Iraq.

That's what the White House says.

Some will believe, some will wait and see.

Because the US government lies and lies frequently.

US President Barack Obama's illegal is a current scandal.  The United States has endured many other government scandals.

During one such period, The Village Voice published Aaron Latham's "Introduction to the Pike Papers." The February 16, 1976 report noted:

As a part of its investigation of covert action, the Pike committee examined three recent operations: our funding of pro-U.S. elements during the 1972 Italian election, our funding of the Kurdish rebellion in Iraq, and our assistance to one of the contending factions in Angola.

What was the Pike Committee?  The CIA offers a summary that's both hyper defensive and hyper combative.  Their summary opens:

A storm broke over the CIA on 22 December 1974, when Seymour Hersh published a front-page article in The New York Times headlined "Huge C.I.A. Operation Reported in U.S. Against Anti-War Forces." Hersh's article alleged that the Agency had been engaged in massive domestic spying activities. 1 His charges stunned the White House and Congress.

In response, President Ford established a blue-ribbon panel, the Rockefeller Commission, to investigate CIA activities in the United States. Ford later complicated the already-delicate issue further by hinting of CIA involvement in assassination attempts against foreign leaders. Congress soon launched its own investigation of the entire Intelligence Community (IC) and its possible abuses. On 27 January 1975, the US Senate established the Senate Select Committee to Study Government Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities (the Church Committee). On 19 February 1975, the House voted to create a House Select Intelligence Committee (the Nedzi Committee, which was replaced five months later by the Pike Committee.)
These Congressional investigations eventually delved into all aspects of the CIA and the IC. For the first time in the Agency's history, CIA officials faced hostile Congressional committees bent on the exposure of abuses by intelligence agencies and on major reforms. In the Congress, there was no longer a consensus to support intelligence activities blindly. The old Congressional seniority system and its leadership was giving way. With the investigations, the CIA also became a focal point in the ongoing battle between the Congress and the executive branch over foreign policy issues and the "imperial presidency."
The investigations of the Pike Committee, headed by Democratic Representative Otis Pike of New York, paralleled those of the Church Committee, led by Idaho Senator Frank Church, also a Democrat. While the Church Committee centered its attention on the more sensational charges of illegal activities by the CIA and other components of the IC, the Pike Committee set about examining the CIA's effectiveness and its costs to taxpayers. Unfortunately, Representative Pike, the committee, and its staff never developed a cooperative working relationship with the Agency or the Ford administration.

The committee soon was at odds with the CIA and the White House over questions of access to documents and information and the declassification of materials. Relations between the Agency and the Pike Committee became confrontational. CIA officials came to detest the committee and its efforts at investigation. Many observers maintained moreover, that Representative Pike was seeking to use the committee hearings to enhance his senatorial ambitions, and the committee staff, almost entirely young and anti-establishment, clashed with Agency and White House officials.

Actually, the report specifically details Henry Kissinger of one of the main stalling points.

It details quite a lot.

In 1972, for example, Kurds in northern Iraq were funneled US dollars and they thought the US government cared about their situation.  The Kurds are considered the largest minority in the world without a homeland.  Those who were in Iraq were facing oppression under the government of Saddam Hussein.  What a blessing, what a heaven-sent gift for the Kurds that the US government supported them.

Oops!  It didn't.

Aaron Latham explained:

In 1972, Dr. Henry Kissinger met with the Shah of Iran, who asked the U.S. to aid the Kurds in their rebellion against Iraq, an enemy of the Shah.  Kissinger later presented the proposal to President Nixon who approved what would become a $16 million program.  Then John B. Connally, the former Nixon Treasury Secretary, was dispatched to Iran to inform the Shah, one oil man to another.
The committee report charges that: "The President, Dr. Kissinger and the foreign head of state [the Shah] hoped our clients would not prevail.  They preferred instead that the insurgents simply continue a level of hostilities sufficient to sap the resources of our ally's neighboring country [Iraq].  The policy was not imparted to our clients, who were encouraged to continue fighting.  Even in the context of covert action, ours was a cynical enterprise."
During the Arab-Israeli war, when the Kurds might have been able to strike at a distracted Iraqi government, Kissinger, according to the report, "personally restrained the insurgents from an all-out offensive on the one occassion when such an attack might have been successful."
Then, when Iran resolved its border dispute with Iraq, the U.S. summarily dropped the Kurds.  And Iraq, knowing aid would be cut off, launched a search-and-destroy campaign the day after the border agreement was signed.
A high U.S. official later explained to the Pike committee staff: "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work."

They were given support not because the US government hoped that they would be successful or even hoped that they would be successful.  In fact, Kissinger and the government were hoping that the Kurds "would not prevail."  It was all about screwing over someone else and the Kurds were just the US government's unknowing pawns.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton:  The EU is doing all it can to support Prime Minister Al Maliki and his Government in their efforts to confront terrorism and address security challenges, particularly in the west of Iraq, I am very concerned about the humanitarian situation in areas affected by the recent fighting and it's vital that everything possible is done to protect the civilian population from further violence. 

KUNA reports she made those remarks in Brussels today at the Cooperation Council meeting the Eropean Union and Iraq held.  Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari led the Iraqi delegation.

The European Union released a statement which includes:

The Cooperation Council between the European Union (EU) and the Republic of Iraq held its first meeting in Brussels on 20 January 2014. The meeting was opened by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, Catherine ASHTON, who headed the EU delegation. Deputy Foreign Minister of Greece, Dimitrios KOURKOULAS, was also present and chaired the remaining part of the meeting. The Iraq delegation was led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E.Mr. Hoshyar ZEBARI. 
The Cooperation Council, which takes place within the framework of the EU-Iraq Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), reaffirmed the commitment of both parties to continue strengthening their relations. The meeting took stock of progress in implementation of the EU- Iraq PCA, currently under provisional application, and discussed possible are as for future cooperation. Concrete implementation of the agreement began in 2013 with the holding of three technical sub-committees: Energy and related issues; Trade and related issues; as well as Democracy and Human Rights. In the margins of the meeting, the High Representative Catherine ASHTON and Minister Hoshyar ZEBARI held an exchange of views on a wide range of domestic and regional political issues. 

Yesterday, Nouri al-Maliki raged in public.  The AP cleaned it up to protect Nouri:  "Hours after the offensive was announced, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed to continue fighting 'terrorism,' but left the door open for a political solution."    NINA reported what AP was afraid to:

Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki described the demands of the protesters in the Anbar province as " trick fooled some of the politicians."
Maliki said in a speech during a ceremony of distributing land to the poor and squatters in Nasiriyah: "This trick has been revealed and this play has been ended." 

He's back to making public attacks on the peaceful protesters.

And the US government voices no displeasure over it.

When the US government 'helps' and nothing's being accomplished, it's time to examine what they're really doing.  The US government regularly lies about their intent, tricks people they're helping.  The Kurds, for example, should never believe a word the administration offers.

They used KRG President Massoud Barzani to get a second term for Nouri.  They brought him on The Erbil Agreement, got him to act as the Iraqi face of the agreement and they gave him their word that The Erbil Agreement was binding and had the full backing of the White House.  He then helped them sell it to the leaders of the other political blocs.  Nouri got his second term as prime minister like he wanted and he then refused to follow the promises he made in the agreement.

And did the White House rush to insist that The Erbil Agreement be followed?


They turned their backs on Barzani and everyone else.

And that's what created Iraq's current crises.

The US government should have long ago been asked to explain publicly what their real intent was with The Erbil Agreement and why they refused to insist Nouri follow it.

But today's cowardly press spends all their time ignoring The Erbil Agreement.

In fact, this topic was addressed in yesterday's "Roundtable" at Third (Jim: "Participating in our roundtable are  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub"):

Jim: Why don't people know about The Erbil Agreement?  We'll be guessing here, I know, but this was November 2010, the US still had large numbers of troops in the country, there was still limited American media coverage of Iraq.  Why don't people know?

Ruth: Well go to the snapshots for that time period.  What you will notice -- what I have noticed when I pull them up now -- is that really The Guardian newspaper out of England did a better job than anyone.  After that, you have Reuters which is an international newswire service.  But American outlets really were not interested in covering The Erbil Agreement.

Jim: Because?

Ann: Because it reveals what a fraud the US government is.  I mean think about what was done there with that contract.  Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya beat Nouri's State of Law.  Allawi should be prime minister today.  Why isn't he?  Because Nouri refused to step down.  Can you imagine the outrage in January 2009 if Bush had said he wasn't leaving the White House?  That's what Nouri did.  And the US government backed him on that. He brought the country to a stand still for over 8 months.  Parliament wasn't meeting.  Nothing was happening.  And the White House backed him throughout this.  Then, to make it worse, they negotiate a contract that gives this loser a second term.  Of course the US media didn't cover it.

Wally: Right because it's so revealing.  The government lies that they're bringing democracy to Iraq but, in 2010, they don't like the way the Iraqi people voted so Barack pisses on democracy.  It's brand new to Iraq, this idea that citizens are in charge.  And Barack pisses on that notion, says forget who you wanted to lead the country, I want Nouri so he's going to lead.  Why even have elections if the US government's going to overrule you?  Of course the US media didn't cover The Erbil Agreement.  That contract goes against democracy, against everything we supposedly stand for as a country.

Isaiah: Yeah, but -- I agree with what Wally and Ann and Ruth are saying -- but if Bully Boy Bush had been in the White House in 2010, the media would have crucified him for this.  Certainly, The Progressive and The Nation would have gone to town on him.  But since it was Barack, everyone looked the other way.

Cedric: Can -- I'm sorry, Isaiah, were you done?

Isaiah: Yeah, it's fine.

Cedric: I think, and this is point Jim and C.I. have both made for years but one I'm finally starting to grasp, that Bully Boy Bush became an embarrassment to the country and so the media turned on him.  That's big media, small media, all of them out to get him.  And good, I don't care for Bully Boy Bush.  But they weren't upset about illegal wars.  They weren't upset about spying or Guantanamo.  They were upset that he was such a buffoon, he basically fell down and embarrassed himself and the actions.  So they get behind smooth talker Barack and they don't care about anything but helping him sell imperialism.  They don't care about anything.  And there real problem with Bully Boy Bush was that he became a lousy salesperson for empire.  If he'd been able to move more cars off the lot, they would have kept him and kept fluffing for him.

Isaiah: I think that's a really strong point.  The Nation and The Progressive should be leading the way right now but they're not able to.  Why?  Because Barack's a Democrat?  Maybe.  Or maybe it's because, for all of their pretense during the Bully Boy Bush years, they're okay with empire -- especially when it's a Democrat leading it.

Kat: Yes.  That's really the case.  I mean, let's remember, The Nation had an expose on Senator Dianne Feinstein and they killed it. She's helping her husband get rich and abusing her position but The Nation kills the piece.  They're not about reporting.  They're not about issues.  They're about pimping empire but from the Democratic Party side.  The magazine has never been as bad as it is today.  And it's been plenty bad before.  I can remember Naomi Klein, when she still had bravery, talking about how when she wrote about what James Baker was doing in Iraq, the magazine really didn't want to know about what Madeline Albright was doing -- both were involved.  The Nation is more than okay with empire when carried out by Dems.

Jim: And The Progressive?

Rebecca: It's Salon dumbed down even further.

The Erbil Agreement, clearly, for the US government existed solely to create a justification for Nouri to have a second term after his State of Law lost the 2010 elections to Iraqiya.  Their actions make that clear.  The contract had many, many clauses.  The only one the US government gave a damn about?  Nouri getting the second term.

CNN Global Public Square host Fareed Zakaria has a column at The Daily Star in which he reflects on Nouri:

I met with the current prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, in 2005 when he held no office. I described him then as “a hard-line Shiite, unyielding in his religious views and extremely punitive toward the Sunnis. He did not strike me as a man who wanted national reconciliation.”
It was also clear that, having lived in exile in Syria and Iran for almost two decades, Maliki was close to both those regimes, which had sheltered him and his colleagues. Bush administration officials dismissed these concerns and told me Maliki believed in democracy and pluralism.
Fareed Zakaria called it right in 2005.  Sunday AFP reported honestly about Nouri's ranting.  They also noted what led up to the assault on Anbar:

A large section of Ramadi and all of Fallujah, both former insurgent bastions west of Baghdad, fell from government control late last month.
It was the first time anti-government fighters have exercised such open control in major cities since the height of the insurgency that followed the US-led invasion of 2003.
Fighting originally erupted in the Ramadi area on December 30, when security forces cleared a year-old Sunni Arab protest camp.
It spread to Fallujah, and militants moved in and seized the city and parts of Ramadi after security forces withdrew.

Back in December, Nouri kicked off his latest assaults by illegally arresting MP Ahmed al-Alwani (and killing six people in that dawn raid, including al-Alwani's brother).  Today All Iraq News notes Ahmed al-Alwani has finally been charged.  He's charged with terrorism.  He was arrested a month ago.  (December 28th, to be exact.) He finally got charged.  Iraqi 'justice.'  As Ayad Allawi -- among others -- has noted publicly, Nouri controls the Baghdad courts, there is no longer an independent judiciary -- largely because the US government looked the other way and humored the tyrant Nouri for 8 years.  And counting. December 27th, he went on TV to say he would burn the protest tents in Anbar down.  December 30th, his forces attacked the protest squares.

As NINA reports, Nouri's assault on Anbar Province continues today with armed clashes and heavy shelling in Falluja, Nouri's forces killed 32 fighters in Ramadi, 2 Iraqi soldiers were killed and three more injured northwest of Falluja,  the military killed 4 fighters in Ramadi, in another Ramadi clash -- with the help of helicopters -- security forces killed 6 fighters, a police station in Ramadi was set fire to, and "The security source in Anbar declared closing all roads lead to Fallujah with nearly provinces in preparation for storming the city's outskirts."  Nafia Abdul Jabbar (AFP) observes, "Al-Qaeda-linked militants tightened their grip on Fallujah, a city on Baghdad's doorstep that has been outside of government control for weeks."

Elise Labot (CNN) offers a run through of events in Iraq which takes the form of five questions and answers:

1. I thought the Iraq war was over. Why is there still fighting?
Well, actually last year was the deadliest since 2008. The number of dead reached its worst levels since the height of the Iraq war, when sectarian fighting between the country's Shiite majority and its Sunni minority pushed it to the brink of civil war. Those tensions continue to be fueled by widespread discontent among the Sunnis, who say they are marginalized by the Shiite-led government and unfairly targeted by heavy-handed security tactics.

Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) also goes with the Q&A format:

Did Iraq's civil war really end?

No. The very day the last US troops left Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, from the Shiite-Islamist Dawa Party, turned the screws on senior Sunni Arab politicians in parliament, signaling his intention to crush his political enemies. Mr. Maliki called for a vote of no confidence against Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq and issued an arrest warrant for Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, the country's most senior elected Sunni Arab officials.
In the years since, Maliki's government has worked steadily to undo whatever progress toward political reconciliation had been made prior to the US exit. While Iraq is much less violent than it had been, thousands of civilians are still being killed in political violence each year. In 2012 civilian deaths jumped 17 percent. Last year such deaths more than doubled, to more than 8,000.

The violence was throughout Iraq today.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a southwest Baghdad car bombing (Alshorttah al-Rabaah neighborhood) killed 2 people and left seven injured, another southwest Baghdad bombing -- two bombs actually (in Saydiya area) -- left 1 person dead and ten more injured,  a north of Baghdad roadside bombing (Rashidiya) killed 3 people and left eight others, a Khanaqin bombing claimed 1 life and left one person injured, the corpse of 1 woman was discovered in the streets near Samawah (bullet wounds), 1 man's corpse was discovered in Tangro (bullet wounds), suspect Mohamed Fadel Abbas was shot dead by the Ministry of Interior forces, 2 corpses were discovered in Mosul (bullet wounds), a southeast Baghdad car bombing (Baghdadijiddeedah) left 4 people dead and fifteen injured, state-TV (al-Iraqiya) announced that "the Wali of Anbar named Ismail Latif" was killed by security forces in Ramadi, a southern Baghdad car bombing (Abu Dshir area) claimed 6 lives and left fifteen more injured, a southwest Baghdad car bombing (Bayaa area) left eight people injured, and a northwest Baghdad car bombing (Alhurriyah area) left 1 person dead and nine more injured. The Latin American Herald has a breakdown on the Baghdad bombings here.  All Iraq News adds 4 corpses were discovered in Ramadi (Iraqi soldiers) and Firas Mohammed Atea, "reporter of Falluja Satellite Channel [. . .] was killed while accompanying the security forces during their clashes."  The International Federation of Journalists issued the following statement:

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has issued a renewed plea for Iraqi authorities to step up their efforts to protect the safety of journalists following the murder of reporter Firas Mohammed Attiyah today, Monday 20 January.

According to IFJ affiliate, the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate (IJS), Attiyah, who worked for Fallujah TV, was killed in a bomb attack in the town of Khaldiyah, east of the Iraq's Anbar provincial capital, Ramadi. The blast occurred as Attiyah, his brother and Muayad Ibrahim, a reporter for Al-Anbar TV, were travelling in a car to report on fighting in the area.  Ibrahim and Attiyah's brother were both wounded in the attack.

As violence in Iraq continues to escalate, The IFJ has reiterated its appeal for the Iraqi government to introduce genuine measures that will bring an end to the killing of innocent journalists and ensure that those who carry out acts of violence against the media face the full weight of justice.

"We are deeply saddened at the news that the journalists Firas Mohammed Atttiyah has lost his life and we send our deepest condolences to his family and colleagues during this incredibly difficult time," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

"Standing in solidarity with our Iraqi affiliate, the IJS, we reiterate our call for the Iraqi government to set up a special task force with the resources to carry out a thorough and independent investigation into the murder of Attiyah and the many other journalists that have been brutally killed in Iraqi. Impunity must end and those responsible must answer for their crimes."

According to the IFJ's list of Journalists and Media Staff Killed in 2013, Iraq remains of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists. Thirteen journalists were murdered in the country last year, with eleven of those murders occurring towards the end of the year.

Reacting to the desperate situation, the IFJ last October launched its End Impunity campaign which is calling on the governments of Iraq, Pakistan and Russia to investigate killings of journalists and bring their perpetrators to justice.

Boumelha added: "We are deeply concerned about the escalation of violence against the media in Iraq in recent months. Our End Impunity campaign is calling for an end to violence against journalists in the country where it is estimated that at least 300 journalists have been killed since the US invasion in 2003.

"Our message is clear: the slaughter of journalists in Iraq must end now," continued Boumelha. "Such blatant and utterly appalling disregard for the lives of journalists quite simply cannot be tolerated."

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 17
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 134 countries

Reporters Without Borders also issued a statement:

Reporters Without Borders is very concerned to learn that two Iraqi TV journalists were badly hurt in targeted attacks in the past eight days.
The first was Al-Mosuliya TV cameraman Salah Nezal in the northern city of Mosul on 12 January. The second was Sharqiya News reporter Saïf Talal near Baqubah, 60 km northeast of Baghdad, on 18 January.
“We firmly condemn these criminal attacks,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The appalling climate in which journalists have to work in Iraq constitutes a major threat to freedom of information in this country.
“We urge the authorities to deploy all necessary resources so that these crimes are independently investigated with the aim of arresting both the perpetrators and instigators and bringing them to trial. We also call for effective measures to guarantee journalists’ safety.”
Nezal was doing a report on the University of Mosul campus on 8 January when he and his driver were seriously injured by a bomb planted in the back of his car. They are both recovering.
Talal was driving near Baqubah, the capital of Diyala province, when unidentified gunmen repeatedly opened fire on his car, injuring him seriously.
Reporters Without Borders is deeply saddened to learn that Firas Mohammed Attiyah, 28, a freelance reporter working for Al-Fallujah TV, was killed today by a bomb in Khaldiyah, in the western province of Al-Anbar while accompanying police officers to the inauguration of new police station. Muayad Ibrahim, a freelance reporter working for Al-Anbar TV, was badly hurt by the bomb, which was targeted at the police.
Reporters Without Borders is concerned about the impact of the expansion of Jihadi groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and its impact on media personnel in Iraq. A knock-on effect from the conflict in Syria, it is resulting in a decline in the safety of journalists in Iraq.
The past few months have been particularly deadly, with at least 10 media personnel killed in attacks by Jihadi groups.

Recent decisions by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki’s government and signs of its growing hostility to pro-Sunni media are another source of concern. The government’s actions clearly point to a desire to closely control coverage of the ongoing tension and fighting.

On the issue of the killing of journalists, BRussells Tribunal carries ICSSI's "Journalists in Iraq: their freedoms obliterated by laws and policies while their lives are continually threatened!" which opens:

The Press Freedom Advocacy Association released its annual report for 2013, highlighting the serious deterioration in the working conditions and the safety of journalists in Iraq over the last year. The Association cited 286 cases of violent acts against journalists, including kidnappings and abductions, threats, bullying, beatings, and obstruction of their coverage of events. Twenty-one reporters and journalists were killed; most of these martyrs were specifically targeted because of their work. According to the Association, this is the most serious decline in the situation of journalists since 2007 when widespread civil conflict claimed the lives of thousands of citizens, including journalists.
The Association stated that this violence is largely caused by armed militias that operate freely in many areas, regularly threatening journalists with violence and death. The government allows these perpetrators to carry out their attacks with near total impunity. The province of Nineveh was identified by the Association as the most dangerous place in Iraq for journalists to work. Indeed, most journalists there have abandoned their work as a result of the threats and killings.

Even as the government has failed to address the dramatic increase in violence that journalists are experiencing, it has reinstituted laws and practices of the Saddam era that pose tremendous challenges to freedom of the press. Journalists have been detained, arrested and tried. The Association cited more than 700 cases in which members of the press have been brought before the court of “publication and media” regarding “crimes of libel and defamation” based on an Iraqi law of 1969. In addition, new legislation adopted in 2011, the so-called “Rights of Journalists Law”, severely threatens freedom of the press, and with it the transformation to democracy in Iraq. The Association worked for the repeal of this law, and later proposed amendments to the sections of the law that threaten press freedom to the Parliament’s Committee of Culture and Media in September 2013. It also filed a lawsuit in the Federal Court to force the government to revise the law, but until now, the Parliament has not placed discussion of these crucial issues on its agenda.

Jomana Karadsheh and Hamdi Alkhshali (CNN) remind, "On Saturday, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden talked with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki about U.S. support for Iraq's fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a group trying to overthrow the Iraqi government. Biden's office said the two leaders agreed on the importance of the Iraqi government's continued outreach to local and tribal leaders in Anbar province."  It doesn't matter.  Nouri doesn't give a damn what Joe Biden says.  If US President Barack Obama got on the phone with Nouri and said, "No weapons, no aid, until you start implementing power-sharing and listen to the Sunnis demands"?  That might frighten Nouri enough to start a real dialogue.  Short of that, the assault's continuing.

When this started as December wound down, a State Dept friend assured me Nouri would wrap up the "action" in 7 days "10 tops."

That hasn't happened.

Not only is that threatening to the residents of Anbar, has the White House forgotten that parliamentary elections are supposed to take place April 30th?

In December, you might be able to pretend that there was a time for an assault.  It's now January 20th, closer to the end of the month than the start and April 30th looms.

When is the White House going to get serious?

Or is the plan not to?  Is the plan to just prop Nouri up for a third term?

World Bulletin reports:

Eleven Independent High Electoral Commission chairmen have been dismissed prior to the upcoming parliamentary elections on April 30 in Iraq.
Iraqi Kurdish Regional Administration Independent High Electoral Commission President Ali Qadir who is among the sacked officials was not permitted to make a statement and was barred from his office.

In a press statement Kasim Abdurrezak, a member of the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Administration Independent High Electoral Commission, stated that Qadir has been discharged by the board because he did not perform his duties appropriately and because of corruption allegations.

The IHEC still hasn't posted a statement about this.  But this is not good 'timing.'  With an election so close, they're firing people from the Commission?  There's too much work to be done for this nonsense.  Last week, for example, the IHEC issued the following:

The IHEC Chief Electoral Officer (CEO), Mr. Mukdud al Sharify reported on 11 January that the IHEC has agreed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) to form a joint committee to follow up the upcoming Iraqi Parliamentary elections (IPE) of Iraqis abroad scheduled on 30 April 2014.
Mr. al Sharify said that the IHEC has held a broadened meeting with the delegation of MoFA to develop a general framework for cooperation and coordination to succeed the voting process for the upcoming IPE of Iraqis abroad.
He added that the meeting addressed several issues to facilitate the IHEC's work and to give opportunity for all eligible voters overseas to participate in the upcoming IPE. The recommendations came out to form a joint committee to facilitate the procedures of the IHEC's staff to open the electoral offices in the states where elections to be held, as well as to overcome the obstacles that may face the IHEC's work.
The MoFA delegation expressed their full readiness to provide all the facilities and cooperation to support the IHEC's role to run the elections abroad in 13 countries and four polling centers in other countries, in conjunction with the same date to run the IPE inside Iraq on 30 April 2014.

They have problems with incomplete voter rolls in Kirkuk and they need to include the external refugees in the voting, there's a lot to be done besides the printing of ballots, their distribution, the training of poll workers and security at the poll stations.  April 30th is not in the distant future. As EU High Representative Catherine Ashton observed today,  "April's general elections will be a crucial test for Iraq's democracy, and I hope that the country's political leaders will seize this opportunity to promote dialogue and compromise."

In the only good news, All Iraq News reports, "The Federal Court rejected the nomination of Falah Shanshal as the head of the Justice and Accountability Commission."  No offense to Shanshal, but the longer the Justice and Accountability Commission has no leader, the less chance of them excluding candidates from running in the races.  (In 2010, the Justice and Accountability Commission was used to weed out Nouri's political opponents.)

Finally, last Thursday, Abdullah Salem (Niqash) reported on the targeting of protesters in Mosul:

All eyes have been on Anbar. But a series of assassinations of Sunni Muslim tribal heads and clerics who have been leading demonstrations in Ninawa leads to worrying conclusions. Extremists from both Shiite and Sunni Muslim groups have the common goal of getting rid of this society’s leaders and causing havoc here too.

Earlier this week, assailants broke into the home of the Sunni Muslim cleric Radwan al-Hadidi. Al-Hadidi was one of the leaders of the Sunni Muslim anti-government protests in the area and several days earlier he had made a speech criticising extremist Sunni elements. He told media that it was easier to talk with a wall than it was to talk to Al Qaeda. Yet at the same time al-Hadidi was also firmly opposed to the policies of the Shiite Muslim-led government in Baghdad and had demanded that it be dissolved and that the Iraqi Constitution be re-written.
The men who broke into al-Hadidi’s house murdered him.
This was not an isolated case. Several of the leaders of the demonstrations in this area have been assassinated over the past year. The murders started after demonstrators started to carry guns - and they started to carry guns after the Iraqi army broke up a demonstration in Hawija, near the city of Kirkuk, in late April. In doing so, they killed around 40 demonstrators and injured hundreds of others.
“Rumours started circulating that there were now Shiite Muslim militias killing the protest leaders,” says Abdul-Salam Raouf, a local journalist. “Allegedly they were supported by Iran and they included the likes of the League of Righteous led by Qais Khazali and Hezbollah in Iraq led by Wathiq al-Battat.”
One of the first protest leaders to be murdered was Haitham al-Abadi who was attacked on August 19, 2013. The attack on al-Abad also saw another tribal leader, Ahmad al-Ramawi injured.
Later that month gunmen targeted Barzan al-Badrani, a prominent tribal leader who took part in the protests. He was murdered using a pistol with a silencer in central Mosul.
Another protest leader, Tharwi al-Kourz al-Shammari, was also killed in Mosul, next to his house by unidentified gunmen. Yet another protest leader Thaer Hazem Abed was killed by gunmen in September. 
Then on October 11, cleric Ali al-Shamma was murdered after he finished his Friday sermon in Mosul.
The governor of the province of Ninawa, Sunni Muslim politician, Atheel al-Nujaifi, has his own theories on why the men were assassinated. Al-Nujaifi supports the demonstrations and is also opposed to the current government headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. And he believes the protest leaders could have been targeted by one of two groups – either Sunni Muslim extremists affiliated with Al Qaeda, like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIS, or one of the extremist Shiite Muslim militias like the League of the Righteous.  Neither of these groups likes the Sunni Muslim protestors and they have their own reasons for wanting them dead.