Saturday, January 18, 2014

Barack does nothing to stop illegal spying

Peter Van Buren offers some disturbing news:

I read my healthcare provider’s privacy information, those endless pages you click through signing up. After many, many paragraphs describing how they would not share my Personal Health Information (PHI) even with my spouse without my authorization, I ran straight into this (emphasis added):
We may sometimes use or disclose the PHI of armed forces personnel to the applicable military authorities when they believe it is necessary to properly carry out military missions. We may also disclose your PHI to authorized federal officials as necessary for national security and intelligence activities or for protection of the president and other government officials and dignitaries.
I checked a few other major insurance carriers, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and they all have the identical language; check yours.
In other words, your doctor does not need your authorization to share your health information with the government. If the NSA asks for it, they get it. I found no provision requiring your medical provider to tell you the information was passed to the government.

Do you realize what that means?  Do you realize how much we've just lost?

Daniel Ellsberg was the whistle-blower who released The Pentagon Papers exposing the government lies regarding Vietnam.

Do you remember the Nixon White House's reaction?  From Wikipedia:

In August 1971, Krogh and Young met with G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt in a basement office in the Old Executive Office Building. Hunt and Liddy recommended a "covert operation" to get a "mother lode" of information about Ellsberg's mental state in order to discredit him. Krogh and Young sent a memo to Ehrlichman seeking his approval for a "covert operation [to] be undertaken to examine all of the medical files still held by Ellsberg's psychiatrist." Ehrlichman approved under the condition that it be "done under your assurance that it is not traceable."[21]
On September 3, 1971, the burglary of Lewis Fielding's office – titled "Hunt/Liddy Special Project No. 1" in Ehrlichman's notes—was carried out by Hunt, Liddy and CIA officers Eugenio Martínez, Felipe de Diego and Bernard Barker. The "Plumbers" failed to find Ellsberg's file. Hunt and Liddy subsequently planned to break into Fielding's home, but Ehrlichman did not approve the second burglary. The break-in was not known to Ellsberg or to the public until it came to light during Ellsberg and Russo's trial in April 1973.

 Today, they wouldn't need to break in.  Thanks to ObamaCare, they can just cite national security and get your files?

Barack Obama is so disgusting.

Did you catch his awful speech?

Joseph Straw (New York Daily News) reports:

The U.S. will modestly constrain but not curtail post-9/11 surveillance programs that sparked a global uproar when they were exposed by a rogue contractor, President Obama announced Friday.
“Regardless of how we got here,” Obama said, “the task before us now is greater than simply repairing the damage done to our operations or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future.”
National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden revealed last year that the government legally — but secretly — forces phone companies to turn over billions of records on Americans’ calls and stores them.

Noah Feldman (Fresno Bee) reports:

Bothered that the government has the metadata from all your calls so that it can map out the details of your life at the click of a button? If you really are, little in President Barack Obama's much-hyped speech on intelligence gathering should allay your concerns.
True, Obama announced that he would "end" the metadata- collection program "as it currently exists." But he never explained how, ignoring the recommendations of his own handpicked review group and instead asking his administration for new technical options on the bulk storage of data by the end of March.
If you remember the president's promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, you know that "ending" something means doing it subject to realistic constraints — which may keep the program from ending at all. And if you don't have short-term amnesia, you'll recall that the Obama administration isn't exactly bristling with skilled high-tech advisers who can build complicated new solutions to technological problems.

Read more here:

And Norman Pollack (CounterPunch) points out:

America needs the threat of terrorism to keep our own people in line, something for which McCarthyism and the frenetic atmosphere of anticommunism had already paved the way with much success, as in the bipartisan consensus over war, intervention, corporate aggrandizement, deregulation, environmental destruction, and denial of an effective and comprehensive social safety net. Whether Democrats or Republicans are the more devoted servants of capitalism is an open question, rhetorical obfuscations notwithstanding. To claim a constructive role in limiting surveillance, as Obama’s DOJ speech is sure to do, beggars the imagination, for reducing women and children to blood spats in Pakistan, Yemen, or Somalia, hardly comports with solicitous regard for the preservation of civil liberties at home. He can get away with it because Americans’ thirst for superiority in the world (and within the US, similar gradations based on class, wealth, and race)has the effect of viewing others as less than human, the domino-effect of diminishing respect as one descends the social scale (except that those in America further down the scale accept the stigmatization in exchange for participating in the joys of conquest, while the victims of American suzerainty—shame on them—tend to hold grudges, and even fight back.)

So that's a look at where we stand now.   Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, January 17, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue,  Barack wants to arm and train Nouri's killers, BRussells Tribunal talks reality on Iraq, Robert Gates calls for conditions on any arms to Iraq, NPR and Tom Bowman edit out Gen Martin Dempsey's most important remark in an interview, and more.

The topic of Iraq was raised in today's State Dept briefing delivered by spokesperson Jen Psaki.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout about the Deputy Burns meeting with the Iraqi deputy prime minister?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, with the Iraq – mm-hmm.
Deputy Secretary Burns, as part of his regular diplomatic engagement with senior Iraqi officials, met today with Iraqi deputy prime minister – with the Iraqi deputy prime minister to discuss bilateral issues, including the ongoing situation in Anbar Province, the upcoming elections, and our shared commitment towards a long-term partnership under the Strategic Framework Agreement.

QUESTION: Was any part of that discussion regarding the Iraqi Government seeking arms or increased arms supplies from the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve, of course, seen those reports in the public comments, I guess it would be a more accurate way of referring to them. Certainly, we’re not going to get into a laundry list of FMS support. You’re familiar with what we have provided, the fact that we’re working with Congress on pieces like Apaches. In terms of whether they discussed that or not, I’m happy to see if there’s more detail to provide.

QUESTION: Jen, on the same issue --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just finish Iraq. Go ahead --

QUESTION: Yeah, on Iraq.

QUESTION: Also, was there any discussion about the willingness by – excuse me – the U.S. military to train Iraqi troops in a third country?

MS. PSAKI: I know there have been reports of that which are, I believe, referring to Jordan which are inaccurate, but --

QUESTION: Jordan, that’s inaccurate --

MS. PSAKI: I can check and see if there’s more about the meeting to read out to address your question as well as Arshad’s.

QUESTION: So is the report inaccurate that the U.S. military is ready to train troops in a third country, or just the part that it might be in Jordan? Which one is accurate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any more specific details for you beyond the fact that the report that has been specifically referring to Jordan and training and U.S. involvement at that is inaccurate.[i]

QUESTION: In the meeting with – between the Deputy Secretary Burns and Dr. Saleh al-Mutlaq, has the issue of the sectarian divide come up? The reason I ask this, because Mr. Mutlaq is saying all over the place that basically the sectarian differences are irreconcilable. He’s basically accusing his boss, al-Maliki, of being irreformably sectarian.

MS. PSAKI: Let me check, as I mentioned to Jo and Arshad, if there’s more that we can share about Deputy Secretary Burns’ meeting on all of your specific questions.

QUESTION: The reason I ask this is because the reconciliation has been really at the crux of the issue, but the United States has not taken any steps to sort of take initiative or perhaps lead the initiative on reconciliation.

MS. PSAKI: I think we – the United States has done a great deal to engage the Iraqi Government – not just providing military equipment to Iraq, but also working with all parties to better address the needs of the Iraqi people. We’ve had a range of officials on the ground, including Brett McGurk, as recently as, I believe, a week ago.


MS. PSAKI: We’ve engaged the government closely. We’ve encouraged unity repeatedly and consistently over the course of months. So I would just refute the notion of your question.

And they added this footnote to the transcript:

[i] Spokesperson Psaki understood the question to be about *current* training operations.
As we have said, we do consider the Government of Iraq an essential partner in a common fight against terrorism and our two countries continue to build a mutually beneficial partnership under the Strategic Framework Agreement. We remain deeply committed to supporting Iraq in its battle against terrorist threats and in its efforts to advance political and economic development. As part of our support, we seek to offer a broad range of security, counter-terrorism, and combat support capabilities for Iraq to draw on to help meet its significant security challenges in the near term and invest in its future over the longer term.

Let's talk about arming and training.  AFP speaks to an unnamed Defense Dept official, "Pending an agreement with Jordan or another nation to host the effort, the training was "likely" to go ahead as both Baghdad and Washington supported the idea, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity."  Luis Martinez (ABC News) adds:

Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters Friday there were discussions underway with Iraq about future training possibilities for Iraq’s security forces.  “We are continuing to discuss with the Iraqis how we can train them and how we can keep their security forces at the highest possible levels,” Warren told reporters.
“The department recognizes that it is important for the Iraqis to have a capable force,” said Warren.  He would not detail whether those discussions would have U.S. troops doing the training or where such training might occur if it is agreed to.

Loveday Morris and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) report, "Maliki said during the interview that he would support a new U.S. military training mission for Iraqi counterterrorism troops in Jordan, marking the first time he has expressed support for a plan that the Pentagon has been contemplating in recent months. U.S. military officials have not provided details on the scope or timing of such a training mission."

That's the training issue.  And it should be noted that training in Jordan isn't a new idea.  It dates back to the Bully Boy Bush administration when Jordan was going to be used as a location to train Iraqi police.  Let's move over to the arming.  Oren Dorell (USA Today) reports, "The Obama administration said Friday it is sending more weapons to Iraq to help Baghdad put down a resurgent al-Qaeda that is battling government troops in cities that U.S. troops helped liberate during the Iraq war."  David Lerman (Bloomberg News) adds, "The aid will be delivered “as rapidly as possible” to meet a request made by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman."

In light of the above, it's interesting that the Chair of Joint-Chiefs of Staff, Gen Martin Dempsey declared, "No one has asked, nor have we offered direct military involvement because of the underlying religious issues and extremist issues."

That statement may surprise some.

It will certainly surprise the listeners of NPR who caught Tom Bowman's lousy report for Morning Edition today.

It really is amazing how NPR works to pull news from their broadcasts.

Dempsey made the quoted remark to Bowman.  It didn't make the edit.

Jim Garamone (DoD's American Forces Press Service) found the remark newsworthy:

 The United States is looking at how to help solve the problems of the region. Dempsey said the U.S. military can help in planning and logistics. “No one has asked, nor have we offered direct military involvement because of the underlying religious issues and extremist issues,” he said.

Claudette Roulo (DoD's American Forces Press Service) also found the remark newsworthy:

“No one has asked, nor have we offered direct military involvement because of the underlying religious issues and extremist issues,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told NPR this week.

On the heels of embarrassing adoption 'report,' NPR really didn't need to get caught with bad editing choices again.  But they have been caught.

Tom Bowman didn't report Dempsey saying,  "No one has asked, nor have we offered direct military involvement because of the underlying religious issues and extremist issues."

It's a real shame Tom Bowman fell in love with his own voice (he offers several cut-aways as though he's Peter Griffith on Family Guy) and lost interest in the subject of his supposed report.  What "underlying religious issues and extremists issues" was Dempsey referring to?

It's a shame Bowman and NPR didn't feel the need to allow the American people to hear the discussion.

Robert Gates is a former US Secretary of Defense (December 2006 to July 2011).  He has a new book he's promoting entitled Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War.  The Christian Science Monitor hosted a press breakfast for him this morning.  Anna Mulrine (Christian Science Monitor) reports he declared that the US military had accomplished the goals they were tasked with and handed control of the country over to the Iraqi government:

The mistakes that have since been made by Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki have included isolating Sunnis in a country dominated by a Shiite-led government and "treating the Sunnis in such a hostile manner over the last couple of years or so."

The Christian Science Monitor has posted a brief clip of Gates speaking about Iraq.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates:  Well I think if I were sitting in the [White House] Situation Room today, I would recommend that we offer the Maliki government a wide range of military assistance -- both equipment and training.  But I would be very explicit about conditioning it on his outreach to the Sunnis and pulling back on all these acts such as trying to arrest Vice President [Tareq al-] Hashemi and other Sunni officials from his government, make some investments in Anbar and other Sunni areas that give the Sunnis some reason to believe this government in Baghdad does represent them and is better -- is better than any other.  I think -- I think there are two causes of the situation that we face, that is going on in Iraq.  One is Maliki treating the Sunnis in such a hostile manner over the last couple of years or so.  And -- and the other then is the spillover from Syria.

For more on the breakfast, refer to FORA TV which has more clips (and the recording of the entire breakfast is available for $9.95). Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq makes similar points to Joshua Keating (Slate):

The U.S. government has reportedly now agreed to supply the Iraqi government with more weapons in order to defeat the “al-Qaida linked” Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) militants now in control of the city of Fallujah in Anbar province, after conversations between Maliki and Vice President Biden earlier this week. But Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, a prominent secular Sunni leader whose party opposes Maliki’s, told Slate that today that “stability will not happen through supplying arms only” because Sunnis in the region “feel they are being marginalized, and they are uprising now.”

“There is a wrong feeling that what’s happening in Anbar is merely al-Qaida and da’ash (a nickname for ISIS). This is a mistake,” he said. “People in Anbar are uprising now because when the army was sent to defeat al-Qaida in Anbar [last year], they changed their direction and went after demonstrators. The attacked the demonstrators, removed their tents, and arrested one of the parliamentary people in Ramadi. This gave people the impression that the aim is not al-Qaida, that the aim is the demonstrators.”

And things are probably about to get even worse if previous patterns are any indication.  Currently, parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 30th.  What happened last time in the lead up to parliamentary elections?  Saleh al-Mutlaq should remember, it was done to him.

Candidates were disqualified.  They were labeled 'terrorists' and 'Ba'athists.'  This happened if they were political rivals of Nouri al-Maliki and it was done via the Justice and Accountability Commission.  Dar Addustour reports the Justice and Accountability Commission will be vetting candidates shortly.

They weren't supposed to vet anything in 2010.  They were a one-time committee that was supposedly phased out as part of Nouri's efforts to meet the White House benchmarks -- which included to move towards national reconciliation and to end Paul Bremer's de-Ba'athifaction process.

Sunnis are targeted by Nouri.  That's among the reasons they protest.

Above is Samarra from earlier today -- Iraqi Spring MC posted the video here.  December 21, 2012, a wave of protests kicked off in Iraq and they continued today. Protests also took place in Amiriya, Rawa, Falluja,  Tikrit, Baiji, and Baquba.

NINA reports:

Vice Chairman of the Council Faleh al-Issawi told / NINA / that the local government , represented by the provincial council and governor of Anbar province , is holding talks and continuous meetings with tribal sheikhs and elders , in order to end the crisis and the tense situation in the province.
Issawi added that the purpose of these meetings and discussions, is to know the demands of the clans, and to work on bringing together their points of views with the central government in order to end the current crisis and end armed manifestations in Anbar. 

This week, BRussells Tribunal's Eman Ahmed Khamas spoke with RT about the assault on Anbar.

Eman Ahmed Khamas:  I was saying that the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq is to be blamed for this violence.  And of course there are many other reasons behind this violence: the non-functioning state, for example, the corrupt and fascist government, the absence of any kind of services, the failing state, all of these -- and above all the persecution of people --  especially those who protest against the fascist policies of the government.  All these togethar are behind the escalation of violence.  [. . .]  Actually for the last year -- more than a year Iraqis are protesting peacefully I mean protesting against the government's policies and, above all, the executions and the detentions.  You know Iraq now has the first rate of executions in the world.  And, again, the non-functioning state, the failings, etc.   What the government did is that they attacked the peaceful protesters and they killed many of them.  For example, a few months ago, they slaughtered 45 people in Hawija, people who were protesting peacefully.  And in other places -- in Diyala, in Mousl, and Anbar -- all these killings.  Yes, Iraqis are trying to cope with this violence but simply the government has to stop persecuting the people.

Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports:

Iraq’s senior politicians are tripping over themselves to come up with proposals to solve the current crisis in Anbar. Despite the fact that some of the ideas are plausible and positive, it seems unlikely that any will get off the ground because of entrenched political antipathies in Baghdad. What is needed is a neutral mediator to bring all the enemies to the bargaining table.

National tension is running high due to the events in Anbar province over the past fortnight. Now that an all out military confrontation – between the Iraqi army and non-army forces in the southern province - appears to have been avoided several senior politicians in Baghdad have come up with plans to try and resolve the situation politically.

Some of the plans seem to have come about as a result of diplomatic pressure from Iraq’s allies, from countries like the US, and others may well be popularity ploys aimed at Iraq’s upcoming federal elections, due to be held in April. However whether any of them gets off the ground is a whole other issue.

The first of these initiatives came from former Iraqi Prime Minister and leader of the opposition, Ayed Allawi. Allawi is a Shiite Muslim politician who leads an opposition bloc made up mainly of Sunni Muslim politicians and who always emphasises the non-sectarian nature of his political positions. His suggested plan involves withdrawing the Iraqi army from Anbar province and looking seriously at the legitimate demands of Sunni Muslim protestors who have been conducting anti-government demonstrations for almost a year now.

Allawi also wants a committee formed to look into the issues – the committee should be made up of representatives of the government and other main parties in Baghdad as well as representatives from Anbar’s tribes and the Sunni Muslim demonstrators – and which would uphold the Iraqi Constitution and ensure that the first two parts of his plan are carried out.  

A second plan was announced by Ammar al-Hakim who leads the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. His party is part of the ruling, mostly Shiite Muslim coalition headed by Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki. But in recent times, the Shiite Muslim organization has been forging its own path and maintaining a healthy distance from the increasingly unpopular al-Maliki.
Al-Hakim suggests the formation of a council of elders made up of representatives from Anbar’s tribes as well as constructing self defence militias made up of members of Anbar’s tribes. Additionally al-Hakim thought that accelerating reconstruction projects in Anbar would also help increase satisfaction in the area and give demonstrators less to complain about.

“Al-Hakim's initiative is aimed at preventing military intervention in Anbar,” Habib al-Tarfi, an MP for the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, explained to NIQASH. “It reassures Iraq’s Sunnis while stressing the importance of peaceful dialogue as the only way out of this crisis.”

The latest – but probably not the last – plan came several days ago from the President of the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani. In a press release, Fadhil Mirani, a senior member of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, or KDP, said that the President was working on a comprehensive initiative to contain the Anbar crisis.
Mirani suggested that, “currently Iraq’s Kurds might be more acceptable mediators to work with each opposing party in this conflict because they’re not a part of the problem.”
al-Hakim's proposal is the on that the US government has been backing for two weeks now -- as al-Hakim has repeatedly noted in public.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 640 violent deaths for the month.  Today?  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Tikrit armed attack left 1 Sahwa leader dead and his son injured,  1 corpse (gun shot wounds) was discovered dumped in the street northeast of Baquba, a Shura armed attack left 1 Iraqi soldier dead, a Mosul roadside bombing left one military Lt Col injured, an Almishahdah armed attack left 2 rebels dead, a Ramadi suicide bomber took his own life and that of 9 "Anabar's tribes sons," a Jorfi-ssakhar elementary school was bombed, and a bridge linking Anbar Province to Karbala was blown up.

Turning to the topic of war resistance, J.B. Gerald (Global Research) notes:

Canada continues to deport contemporary deserters to U.S. military prisons. One or two resisters have found safe haven through legal cases and appeals against the orders to remove them. Polls have shown a majority of Canadians supports war resisters, but in 2010 Parliament failed to pass bill C-440 amending the Immigration act in their favour. The Harper government continues to deny refuge and asylum. Aside from known cases there are unknown numbers of resisters.
Among the deported were Robin Long, Clifford Cornell, and Kimberley Rivera. In the U.S., sentenced to 14 months, Kimberley Rivera gave birth in prison Nov. 26th, and was released Dec. 12th, after serving 10 months. In reporting her release, the U.S. military paper, Stars and Stripes, noted her dishonourable discharge doesn’t necessarily mean she won’t be able to find work. Jeremy Hinzman, an upfront conscientious objector, after numerous complex legal battles received a permission to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. The UN Human Rights Commission has shown ongoing support for the rights of conscientious objectors. Yet on long term AWOL from the U.S. Army, Rodney Watson, under government warrant, enters his fifth year of sanctuary asylum in the First United Church of Vancouver. Many legal cases have been won by resisters, then appealed by the government and legal cases of war resisters such as Joshua Key remain under consideration as though waiting for politicians to wake up. Some cases are rarely mentioned, as though notice might upset an applecart.

Julie Berry writes the editors of the St. Thomas Times-Journal to note, "Conscientious objector, Kimberly Rivera, has just finished serving a 10 month jail term in U.S. Military prison because of her refusal to take part in the Iraq war. She has spent months separated from her husband and children and now faces rebuilding her life with a felony conviction on her record. This injustice only happened because our government chose to force her to leave Canada and return to the US, arguing that it was 'merely speculative' that she would be punished."  Last month, Courage to Resist noted Kim Rivera had completed her sentence.  While behind bars, Kim gave birth.  The San Diego Free Press reported November 30th,

Kimberly Rivera gave birth to her son Matthew Kaden Rivera in the Naval Hospital on November 25th.   Her husband Mario was initially denied access to the birthing room but was ultimately granted permission to attend the delivery.  Although the delivery itself went smoothly, this was no ordinary birth– Rivera has been serving a ten month sentence for deserting the US army while deployed in Iraq.  She deserted in 2007 because she felt morally unable to take part in the conflict.

Kim is part of a movement of war resistance which also includes Lt. Ehren Watada, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Justin Colby, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson,  Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Ricky Clousing, Mark Wilkerson, Agustin Aguayo, Camilo Mejia,  Patrick Hart, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake, Brad McCall, Rodney Watson, Chuck Wiley and Kevin Benderman.

In January 2004, Jeremy Hinzman became the first US service member to go to Canada and seek asylum instead of deploying to Iraq to serve in the illegal war.  War Resisters Support Campaign explains:

Jeremy Hinzman was a U.S. soldier in the elite infantry division, the 82nd Airborne. He served in Afghanistan in a non-combat position after having applied for conscientious objector status.   After being refused CO status and returning to America, he learned that they would be deployed to Iraq.
  Hinzman did not believe the stated reasons for the Iraq war. In January 2004 he drove to Canada to seek asylum. He is currently living in Toronto with his wife Nga Nguyen and son Liam. His refugee claim was turned down in March 2005 by the Immigration and Refugee Board. This decision was upheld by the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal, and on November 15, 2007 the Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.
  On July 21 2008 their daughter Meghan was born in Toronto.
  Jeremy and his family was ordered to leave Canada by September 23, 2008, or face deportation to the United States where Jeremy would be turned over to the US military to face punishment for desertion. A judicial review of this decision was denied by the Federal Court in June 2009, but on July 6, 2010, the Federal Court of Appeal, citing serious flaws with the immigration officer's decision, ruled in favour of Jeremy and ordered a review of his application to stay on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds.

Hinzman remains at risk of being forced to return to the United States.  Tom Riley writes the editors of the Toronto Star, "During the Vietnam era, Canada welcomed 50,000 draft resisters and deserters. I was one of them. It’s shameful that 40 years later, rather than continuing this proud tradition and affirming Canadian values, our government is using its resources to try to actively intervene in the cases of Iraq resisters to try to ensure they are forced out of Canada."   On Global Research's latest radio show, they speak with war resister Joshua Key who notes that those who speak out are especially punished when they return or are forced to return.  He shares that due to his writing a book about war resistance (The Deserter's Tale, written with Lawrence Hill), his granting many interviews on the topic, his appearing in documentaries and his acting as an advisor on Kimberly Peirce's Stop-Loss mean he would, according to one expert, get 20 years in prison if he was forced to return to the US.

Finally, David Bacon's last book, Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press), won the CLR James Award. He has a new book, The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration.  Teofilo Reyes reviews it for Labornotes:

While immigrants were fasting on the Mall near the U.S. Capitol last month to pressure for immigration reform, the Mexican Congress was allowing privatization of the country's public oil corporation, PEMEX.
Separated by 2,500 miles, these events might seem a world apart.
But David Bacon's The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration shows how the two are intertwined. Bacon weaves narratives across borders, following communities as they struggle at home, migrate, and then struggle again in their new homes.
Over half the Mexican population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank. And Mexico is the only country in Latin America that saw poverty increase last year.
 In 1994 Mexico formally scrapped its decades-old program of economic development based on industrial and agricultural self-sufficiency. The government turned instead to a policy based on open markets and foreign investment: NAFTA.
Shortly after the NAFTA ink dried, the U.S. fell into a recession and the poverty rate in Mexico quickly grew to over 60 percent of the population. Ross Perot's sucking sound of jobs rushing south across the border was drowned out by the noise of U.S. capital vacuuming up cheap labor.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Elementary and Time pimps mafia

Tonight's Elementary on CBS was pretty cool.  Jonny Lee Miller plays Sherlock Holmes who's recovering from drug addiction.  He's British.  He shares a home, originally at his father's request/insistence with Dr. Watson -- Dr. Joan Watson played by Lucy Liu.  The two are consultants for the New York City Police Department -- Captain Tommy Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill).

Those are the four main characters.  Tonight, Holmes and Watson solved a murder by a scientist of two other's.  Why?

Because the two were close to solving a major scientific equation and the murderer wanted to have the credit.

She kills them and has the perfect alibi because she's on tape in a bar at the time of the murder.

"Science, Chuck!"  as Geoffrey says in the movie Strangers With Candy.

The timestamp on the tape is fake.  It's not from night time.  Holmes realizes this when a man on the tape puts down a ten and walks off with four beers.  It's actually happy hour!

And Holmes and Watson got closer.  She goes to the cemetery to visit a doctor who was a mentor to him. (Subplot in the episode, son of dead doctor hit her up for money to open a bar.)  Holmes asked to go with her next time.

From the good, we move to the stupid: Nate Rawlings.  Rawlings writes an idiotic piece for Time which includes:

One of the sheikhs with whom MacFarland partnered extensively was Sittar abu-Risha, a forcible, charismatic leader whom MacFarland calls a friend. In September 2007, after MacFarland had rotated home and was working on Iraq strategy at the Pentagon, Sheikh Sittar was assassinated by an improvised explosive device outside of his house. His murder appeared to be an inside job. Sittar’s brother, Ahmed abu-Risha, took over the Anbar Salvation Council, as the collection of tribal militias is known. “Ahmed is a very pragmatic guy, kind of a business guy; a consensus builder,” MacFarland says. “He was able to hold the tribes together and finish what they had started.”

Uh, no.  Ahmed abu-Risha is not just a thug, he's Iraqi mafia.  And that's not a closely held secret.

How sad that Rawlings couldn't mention that reality. 

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, January 16, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Anbar continues, Nouri hands the White House a weapons wish list, the Council of Ministers announce they'll sue the UN World Food Program, KRG President Massoud Barazni prepares for a Davos visit, and more.

Iraq is in so many crises that even the US can't ignore it (continue to ignore it) these days.  It was an issue raised repeatedly yesterday in the House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee.  We covered the hearing in yesterday's snapshot, Ruth covered it in "Benghazi addressed in Congress," Kat in "Homeland Security Committee hearing," Wally in "Beto O'Rourke talks about Iraq" and Ava in "US Rep Brian Higgins weighs in on Iraq."   US House Rep Michael McCaul is Committee Chair and US House Rep Bennie G. Thompson is the Ranking Member.  The Committee heard testimony from former US Senator Joe Lieberman, former US House Rep Jane Harman, retired General Jack Keane and the RAND Corporation's Dr. Seth Jones.  We're going to drop back to the hearing for these remarks from Keane during US House Rep Sheila Jackson-Lee.

Retired General Jack Keane:  I disagree with you, Congresswoman, on Iraq.  The fact of the matter is that the immunity issue was not a serious issue, it was a false issue presented by Maliki as face saving because the United States envoy came in after the military had recommended 24,000 soldiers stay in Iraq.  The president's envoy put 10,000 on the table.  Maliki knew that was not a serious proposal and it eventually got down to nothing.  The immunity issue got brought up at the end.  And was more face saving for him inside Iraq than anything else.  The fact of the matter is that is a significant strategic blunder -- not leaving forces there -- much as we did post-WWII, not for security reasons but for influence.  And we lost this influence over Maliki.  And even further than that, it's more than just the troops.  We disengaged geo-politically with Iraq in terms of partnering with them which they wanted very much so.  They forced a Strategic Framework Agreement on us.  We wanted to have a Status Of Forces Agreement on the troops and they said no.  Maliki said we're not doing that until we agree to have a strategic partnership that will last twenty years. That was their idea.  We walked away from that as well.  And now we have this debacle on our hands. 

We're including that because a simplistic memory has replaced actual history.  Just last week, The National Interest was mocking Senator John McCain over accurate remarks that McCain was making.  The idiot at National Interest wasn't even aware that McCain had been making those accurate remarks publicly since November 2011.  McCain knows a great deal about the political mood in Iraq during the negotiations for a new SOFA.

I didn't support another SOFA.  I also don't think the lack of one is what's responsible for Iraq's problems today.  Those are my strongly held opinions.  My opinions do not allow me to lie about McCain or anyone else.  It's a shame The National Interest has standards lower than mine.

Keane's facts on the negotiations are solid.  His interpretation of the facts you can agree with or not.

But the notion that has taken hold has been a huge lie.  On the 'left,' for some (the ya'll drawling radio host for one -- whose Libertarian, not left) the lie was Nouri defeated the US!!!! WE LOVE NOURI!

Which is why Antiwar Radio has been the biggest joke for years -- unable to call out Nouri al-Maliki because the host was too busy sucking his knob.  Nouri didn't do anything wonderful to end a war.

Nouri's plan was to renew the SOFA, that is known.  It became more difficult due to political considerations on the ground.  When the numbers dropped from what he wanted (at one point, the US State Dept was aware Nouri wanted 36,000 US troops to remain in the country), it became, for Nouri, not worth the risk of the SOFA.  But he was saying for that time and planning to pick the topic back up.  This was testified to Congress by Leon Panetta.

A lot of people who have heard none of the Congressional testimony on this issue have weighed in with half-baked b.s. So much so that The National Interest thought they could mock John McCain for telling the truth.  There are a lot of times I have mocked John McCain in the past -- and I'm sure will do so in the future -- but I've never mocked for speaking the truth.

We may come back to the hearing tomorrow, we may not.  But for the record, my belief is and has been that the current crises in Iraq stem from the White House's refusal in 2010 to support Iraqi voters and instead back Nouri for a second term as prime minister even though his State of Law came in second to Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya.  From Ned Parker's "Who Lost Iraq?" (POLITICO):

It was the April 2010 national election and its tortured aftermath that sewed the seeds of today’s crisis in Iraq. Beforehand, U.S. state and military officials had prepared for any scenario, including the possibility that Maliki might refuse to leave office for another Shiite Islamist candidate. No one imagined that the secular Iraqiya list, backed by Sunni Arabs, would win the largest number of seats in parliament. Suddenly the Sunnis’ candidate, secular Shiite Ayad Allawi, was poised to be prime minister. But Maliki refused and dug in.
And it is here where America found its standing wounded. Anxious about midterm elections in November and worried about the status of U.S. forces slated to be drawn down to 50,000 by August, the White House decided to pick winners. According to multiple officials in Baghdad at time, Vice President Joseph Biden and then-Ambassador Chris Hill decided in July 2010 to support Maliki for prime minister, but Maliki had to bring the Sunnis and Allawi onboard. Hill and his staff then made America’s support for Maliki clear in meetings with Iraqi political figures.
The stalemate would drag on for months, and in the end both the United States and its arch-foe Iran proved would take credit for forming the government. But Washington would be damaged in the process. It would be forever linked with endorsing Maliki. One U.S. Embassy official I spoke with just months before the government was formed privately expressed regret at how the Americans had played kingmaker.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke with Piers Morgan (CNN -- link is text and video) last night and declared of Iraq, "I think that we succeeded in the mission in 2008 and 2009 in terms of being able to turn over to the Iraqis a fragile, but real, democratic government . . . as well as security and stability in the country.  We basically handed them their future on a silver platter . . . I think we accomplished our mission, and we withdrew in a way that was not a strategic defeat with global consequences for us."  So if Iraq was, in Gates' opinion, handed "a fragile, but real, democratic government," what changed that?  Maybe in 2010, the White House refusing to endorse the election results and demand that the voters and the country's Constitution be followed?

Tuesday, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq spoke in DC at the US Institute of Peace.  We noted it in that day's snapshot.  We also noted some of the small coverage the event got.  I said we'd come back to the event.

MP Nada al-Juburi: It is very important when we talk about violence and sectarianism and corruption, I think there is a relationship between the three.  And these three topics came together in Iraq and effected the work of these institutions. I'm not here pointing at one certain institution but all the institutions.  At the end of the day, the citizen is not satisfied generally speaking.  And this is a very important issue especially at this stage.  And what is going on right now, during the two terms of Parliament and the political blocs that are inside the Parliament played many roles and played important roles.  I think there are two terms of the Parliament are considered to be very important to the history of Iraq when we talk about democracy because it established and worked in a very difficult time, there is no doubt about it.  But, on the other hand, when we look into the political divisions and differences impeded the stability.  And some of the political elements, I say a few, they might have a direct link to the violence.  Bu they are not representing a huge sector.  But when you look into the discourse that sometimes comes out that could also lead to violence in the street.  So I say it is very important the quality of the political discourse.  The message inside the political discourse will direct the street to a certain direction.  And also the terrorists will exploit these occasions when there is inflamatory political speech, these terrorists will exploit the chance to conduct terrorist actions everywhere and it increases.  When we talk in Mosul but in Mosul suffering a lot oof killing of people and journalists.  So when we look into 2012 it was a tragedy compared to any place in the world. So, again, the political blocs will play an indirect role to increase the violence through its political discourse.  So if we have a rash now -- political discourse -- and supporting national reconciliation, especially after the withdrawal and where all the politicians were all elected.  And so I think again that national reconciliation, if it took place clearly and transparently and will give high assurance to the people -- especially at this time where we are witnessing new elections parallel to combating terrorism.

I said we'd come back because the coverage we noted sometimes noted a male MP but no one noted female MP Nada al-Juburi.  We'll note her here.  All the Iraqi participants spoke through an interpreter (and a bad interpreter at that, yeah, I said it). Also Zuber Hewrami (Rudaw) reports today on al-Mutlaq's speech.

al-Juburi spoke of corruption which brings us to the next topic.  In 2009, IRIN noted food insecurity was increasing in Iraq.  Food insecurity continues today.  The UN's World Food Program notes:

The situation in Iraq remains volatile due to long years of ongoing instability. Since 1990, both accessibility and the quality of essential services have deteriorated significantly in a country where one quarter of the population lives below the poverty line of US$2 per day. 
According to the Iraq Knowledge Network (IKN) survey conducted in 2011, food deprivation in Iraq decreased from 7 percent in 2007 to 6 percent in 2011. Vulnerability to food deprivation also decreased from 20 percent to 14 percent during the same period. Food deprivation in Iraq is transforming from a rural to an urban phenomenon due to improved government investment in agriculture and improvement in rural incomes due to rising food prices. 
However, substantial regional differences persist. Districts suffering from the highest levels of food deprivation are concentrated in the south and north-west of the country. Limited income and lack of access to enough food remains the main cause of food insecurity in Iraq. Although Iraqis’ dependency on the Public Distribution System (PDS) has decreased from 67 percent in 2007 to 57 percent in 2011, it remains the main source of food for the poorest Iraqis.

More than 1.7 million Iraqis – of which 49 percent are women and 51 percent men – have been internally displaced since February 2006. Recent studies show that internally displaced people’s (IDPs) access to food has drastically decreased as a result of irregular PDS distributions. In some governorates, up to 92 percent of IDPs claim food to be their most pressing need.  

Food's been an issue for some time.  Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi regularly called for Iraq to diversify its economy and to revive the farming industry.  Mike Tharp (McClatchy Newspapers) noted in 2009, of the the country that was once the bread basket of the Middle East,  "Iraq now imports nearly all the food its people eat: California rice, Washington apples, Australian wheat, fruits and vegetables from its neighbors. All are staples in Iraqi groceries and on the dinner table. The decline of the farming sector creates other problems. Agriculture accounts for half or more of Iraqi jobs and is the second-largest contributor to the gross domestic product. The prices that people and the government pay for shortfalls in what they used to grow weaken the country's economy."  Also in 2009, Jack Dolan and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reported Iraq's Minister of Trade, Abed Falah al-Sudani, was leaving his office:

All of Baghdad seemed to watch last weekend when Sudany appeared on state TV to answer questions about his two brothers allegedly skimming millions from a national food program as ordinary Iraqis went without staples such as rice, wheat and cooking oil.
Sudany also struggled to answer charges that when government investigators arrived at the Trade Ministry, his guards had fired into the air, allowing his brothers to escape out a back door, and about why an inspector general was transferred to Beijing after he asked about shipments of spoiled food.

The corruption has never gone away.  Equally true, a number of food providers have seen Iraq as the place to unload anything.  Alsumaria reports today 7 people have been arrested in Maysan suspected of planning to sell expired food.  They also report that the Parliament's Integrity Committee is questioning a Ministry of Commerce sugar contract.   These food issues follow another one from earlier this week -- the issue of bisquits.

National Iraqi News Agency reports:

Allawi said in a statement on Wednesday 15, Jan. that the government and the concerned parties are responsible for the case of forgery and corruption about the deal for importing invalid biscuits for the Ministry of Education within the school feeding program, and the manipulation of mafias from abroad in the duration of the validity of the biscuits sent to Iraq by the World Food Program.

He called for stopping the import of the biscuits from the World Food Programme, and to stop supplying the schools with all kinds of biscuits existing in the warehouses of the Ministry of Education.

Allawi stressed the need to fight financial and administrative corruption that is eating away the body of the Iraqi state, blaming the Iraqi government responsible for exacerbating this phenomenon, which increased from the tragic situation in the country, represented by the deterioration of security, infrastructure, environmental services, social, educational, and the absence of professional and genuine partnership in the management of all state institutions

Ghassan Hamid (Alsumaria) reported yesterday that 139 tons of these biscuits had been distributed to schools in Dhi Qar Province.  Alsumaria reports today that the UN World Food Program has expressed regrets over the concerns regarding the "high-energy biscuits" and their "validity" (UN Representative Jane Pearce's word) and called on the Iraqi media to mitigate negative publicity.  Pearce is also the country director for the WFP on Iraq. Iraq Times notes this UN  scandal follows the UN's earlier oil-for-food scandal.  Al Rafidayn reports that Minister of Education Mohammad Tamim has announced that the Council of Ministers has decided to sue the World Food Program over the biscuits.  Saturday, Iraq Times reported that the biscuits spoiled in the heat after having been stored in rented warehouses in Jordan prior to being transported and that the expiration dates on the biscuits were changed in Jordan.  Majid al-Khafaji (Kitabat) feels the biscuit issue is a crime but feels the government should be focused on larger crimes like the lack of public services and the lack of security.

Iraq Body Count counts 94 violent deaths yesterday and 604 for the month so far.

And the violence continues.  BBC News reports, "The bodies of 14 Sunni Muslim men have been found in an orchard near Baghdad, say Iraqi authorities.  The bodies were found with gunshot wounds near the Sunni Arab town of Mishahda, about 30km (20 miles) north of the capital." AP adds the 14 were kidnapped by assailants "in military uniforms."  Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports 8 of the fourteen were family members.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Madain roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left eight more people injured, a western Baghdad roadside bombing (Ghazaliya district) left 2 people dead and nine more injured, a Tikrit armed attack left 1 Sahwa and his brother dead, a Falluja mortar attack killed 2 people and left four more injured, a northern Baghdad sticky bombing (Morocco Street) left one person injured, a Baghdad armed attack left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and another injured, 2 Baquba home bombings claimed 3 lives and left three more people injured, a central Baghdad bombing claimed the life of 1 Department of Justice employee, "the Ministry of Interior announced the killing of three gunmen . . . in west and south of Baghdad,"a Mosul roadside bombing left two people injured, "on the road link between Baquba and Muqdadiyah" a car was attacked leaving 1 person inside dead and the other injured, Baghdad Operations Command announced they shot dead 2 suspects, 4 fighters were killed east of Ramadi with the assistance of military helicopters, a south Baghdad roadside bombing (Madain area) left 2 people dead and eight more injured, a western Baghdad bombing (Aliskan area) left 1 military officer dead and another injured, and  Joint Operations Command announced they had killed 3 suspects near the Syrian border.

Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq is currently on a visit to the United States.  Alsumaria reports today he met with US politicians.  With Senator John McCain, he discussed relations between Iraq and the US, terrorism and political reconciliation.  Senator McCain's office issued the following statement on the meet-up:

Jan 15 2014

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement on his meeting yesterday with Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Saleh Mutlaq:
“I had an excellent meeting yesterday with Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Saleh Mutlaq. We discussed the tragic developments in Anbar province, and he offered great insights into how our two governments can work together in addressing Iraq’s current crisis. We both agreed that strengthening and improving the capabilities of Iraq’s armed forces is essential at this difficult time, but we also agreed that there is no purely military solution to Iraq’s problems.
“The only way to halt Iraq’s slide into instability and achieve lasting peace and prosperity is through greater democracy, power sharing, and reconciliation. All Iraqi citizens should be empowered through the political system, and all Iraqis have an obligation to reject violence and extremism and take steps to further political reconciliation. In particular, both members of Congress and the Obama Administration should continue to urge Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government to reach out to all Iraqis, to govern more inclusively, and to pursue the necessary political reforms that can strengthen national unity and marginalize Al-Qaeda and other violent extremists.”


Nouri al-Maliki's assault on Anbar Province continues.  Safaa Abdel Hamid (Alsumaria) reports that Hussain al-Shahristani, Deputy Prime Minister for Energy, today called for a political solution stating he doesn't believe the problems can be solved via a military operation in Anbar.  This as the Ministry of Defense announces it has "conducted 235 air-raids" in Anbar since the start of the assault at the end of December.  That's nothing to be proud of but it does argue that, no, Iraq is not in immediate need of F-16s from the United States -- unless US President Barack Obama's point is to aid Nouri in the killing of the Iraqi people. Loveday Morris (Washington Post via Arizona Star) reports, "Iraq has provided Washington with a list of weapons it needs to wrest back control from anti-government and al-Qaida-linked militants in restive Anbar province, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Thursday, and soon plans to request counterterrorism training from U.S. forces."

Safaa Abdel Hamid (Alsumaria) reports the Iraqi military is shelling Falluja's residential neighborhoods and, citing a police source, that 13 homes have been damaged.  A police source also reveals to Alsumaria that the military's bombing campaign killed 16 civilians ("including women and children").  Amjad Salah and Mohammad Shafiq (Alsumaria) reports the bombings is forcing dozens more families to flee.  January 9th, Human Rights Watch noted that 13,000 Anbar residents had fled to Erbil.  Thousands of families have been displaced and Iraq already has a serious IDP problem before Nouri launched his latest assault.

National Iraqi News Agency reports:

Speaker Osama Najafi discussed by phone call conversation with the Minister of Finance by interim Safaa al-Safi how to overcome the difficult ordeal suffered by the people of Anbar population and urged to pay state staff salaries , food , living supplies to end the humanitarian crisis resulting from the ongoing military operations which caused the displacement of thousands of families and severe lack of food and fuel.

Though many are calling on dialogue and for an end to military operations in Anbar, that's not happening.  Alsumaria reports that the Iraqi military this morning cut off all communications -- cellular and internet -- in Khalidiya, east of Ramadi.  This was done in preparation of an assault on Khalidiya.  There was some hope that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's visit would help end the assaults.  That hope vanished quickly.   Not only, in their joint-press conference on Monday, did Nouri publicly rebuke Ban Ki-moon's call for reconciliation but, as All Iraq News reported Tuesday, Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi called the visit a failure, "Ki-moon is failed because he was supposed to meet the chieftains in Anbar instead of the government officials."

On the topic of visits, Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is scheduled to visit DC next week.   Amjad Salah (Alsumaria) reports KRG President Massoud Barazani is off to Europe where he will participate in the World Economic Forum (Davos, Switzerland, January 22-25th).  He's leading a delegation from Erbil -- a KRG delegation.  Bad news for Nouri, he's not apparently going to be heading a delegation out of Baghdad.  Well, it's a World Economic Forum and Nouri's a joke on the international stage, better he stay home in his kennel and let Barzani represent Iraq.

Meanwhile, Iraq's budget has gone to Parliament.  National Iraqi News Agency reports that Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman calls the forwarding of the budget -- which led the Kurds to walk out of the Cabinet -- "unwise."  NINA also notes Kurdish MP Ashwaq al-Jaf notes the Kurds plan to use Constitutional steps in Parliament to address the issue.  Steve LeVine (Quartz) explains:

The Iraqi government has raised the stakes yet again in its brinksmanship with Kurdistan—unable so far to halt the Kurds’s headlong push as an independent oil exporter, Baghdad has prepared a 2014 budget that entirely cuts off the northern region.
Baghdad’s move on Jan. 15 is a response to Kurdish plans to sell their first piped oil at the end of this month at Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, the first stage in an apparent strategy for wholesale economic independence from Iraq proper. With it, Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki raises the temperature not only on the Kurds, but also the foreign oil companies on which Kurdistan is relying—ExxonMobil, Chevron, France’s Total, Gazprom and a group of wildcatters.
Maliki said there will be no restoration of the Kurds’s $12 billion-a-year budget allocation until they produce 400,000 barrels of oil a day—worth about $14.6 billion a year at today’s prices. But the oil companies’ current plans do not yield that scale of production until well into next year. So to stave off economic mayhem this year, the Kurds will be lobbying both Maliki to see reason and the oil companies to up their game. 

UPI notes, "Genel Energy, led by former BP boss Tony Hayward, said Wednesday it expects oil from a pipeline in the Kurdish north of Iraq to be exported from Turkey soon."

And finally,  David Swanson's War Is A Crime carries the announcement from the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII):

The Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) have voted overwhelmingly to present the 2014 Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence to Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.
A Nobel Peace Prize nominee, U.S. Army Pvt. Manning is the 25 year-old intelligence analyst who in 2010 provided to WikiLeaks the "Collateral Murder" video – gun barrel footage from a U.S. Apache helicopter, exposing the reckless murder of 12 unarmed civilians, including two Reuters journalists, during the “surge” in Iraq.   The Pentagon had repeatedly denied the existence of the "Collateral Murder" video and declined to release it despite a request under the Freedom of Information Act by Reuters, which had sought clarity on the circumstances of its journalists' deaths.
Release of this video and other documents sparked a worldwide dialogue about the importance of government accountability for human rights abuses as well as the dangers of excessive secrecy and over-classification of documents. 
On February 19, 2014 Pvt. Manning -  currently incarcerated at Leavenworth Prison - will be recognized at a ceremony in absentia at Oxford University's prestigious Oxford Union Society for casting much-needed daylight on the true toll and cause of civilian casualties in Iraq; human rights abuses by U.S. and “coalition” forces, mercenaries, and contractors; and the roles that spying and bribery play in international diplomacy.
The Oxford Union ceremony will include the presentation of the traditional SAAII Corner-Brightener Candlestick and will feature statements of support from former SAAII awardees and prominent whistleblowers.  Members of the press are invited to attend.
On August 21, 2013 Pvt. Manning received an unusually harsh sentence of 35 years in prison for exposing the truth -- a chilling message to those who would call attention to wrongdoing by U.S. and “coalition” forces.
Under the 1989 Official Secrets Act in the United Kingdom, Pvt. Manning, whose mother is British, would have faced just two years in prison for whistleblowing or 14 years if convicted under the old 1911 Official Secrets Act for espionage.
Former senior NSA executive and SAAII Awardee Emeritus Thomas Drake has written that Manning "exposed the dark side shadows of our national security regime and foreign policy follies .. [her] acts of civil disobedience … strike at the very core of the critical issues surrounding our national security, public and foreign policy, openness and transparency, as well as the unprecedented and relentless campaign by this Administration to snuff out and silence truth tellers and whistleblowers in a deliberate and premeditated assault on the 1st Amendment."
Previous winners of the Sam Adams Award include Coleen Rowley (FBI); Katharine Gun (formerly of GCHQ, the National Security Agency’s equivalent in the UK); former UK Ambassador Craig Murray; Larry Wilkerson (Col., US Army, ret.; chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell); Julian Assange (WikiLeaks); Thomas Drake (NSA); Jesselyn Radack (former ethics attorney for the Department of Justice, now National Security & Human Right Director of the Government Accountability Project); Thomas Fingar (former Deputy Director of National Intelligence, who managed the key National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 that concluded Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon four years earlier); and Edward Snowden (former NSA contractor and systems administrator, currently residing in Russia under temporary asylum).
The Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence are very proud to add Pvt.  Manning to this list of distinguished awardees.
David Swanson's wants you to declare peace at  His new book is War No More: The Case for Abolition. He blogs at and and works for He hosts Talk Nation Radio. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.  

For the record, Chelsea Manning has asked not to be called "Pvt Manning" and prefers "Ms. Chelsea Manning" if a title is to be used.

mike tharp

jomana karadsheh

al rafidayn
missy ryan

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Barack kicks the can again

Friday, Barack's supposed to give his do-nothing speech on illegal spying.  Jason Ditz ( appears to agree:

President Obama’s Friday “reforms” are likely to amount to little or nothing, and the biggest political hot-button issue, the NSA telephone metadata surveillance, is likely to be punted downfield entirely, according to those familiar with the plans.
The problem is that President Obama wants to keep the plan more or less unchanged, but admitting as much would be politically impractical amid growing outrage about it. His plan, rather, is to leave the matter to Congress.

How typical.  Someone claims they want to be a leader and then refuse to offer leadership.

He's the kid in high school running for student council to get an extra photo in the year book.

Bill Van Auken (WSWS) reports:

The Obama White House is preparing a National Security Agency “reform” package that is aimed at legitimizing and institutionalizing the NSA’s illegal domestic spying operations, while putting in place stringent security measures to prevent disclosures of its crimes such as those carried out by former contractor Edward Snowden.
President Barack Obama is set to present the so-called “reforms” in a speech he will deliver Friday at the US Justice Department. The measures he has embraced are selected from among those recommended to his administration last month by a hand-picked advisory panel dominated by former intelligence officials.
Even before Obama could make the speech, new revelations provided by Snowden have uncovered yet another sinister operation by the NSA. The latest exposure involves the agency’s secret planting of software in almost 100,000 computers, enabling it to spy on their users even when the computers are not connected to the Internet. The program uses radio waves transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards planted on the devices. The technology also provides the means for launching cyber-attacks.
“The radio frequency technology has helped solve one of the biggest problems facing American intelligence agencies for years: getting into computers that adversaries, and some American partners, have tried to make impervious to spying or cyberattack," wrote the New York Times, which broke the story. “In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user.”
The NSA responded to the report by insisting that its activities were aimed only at “valid foreign intelligence targets,” and the Times reported that it had not uncovered evidence of this spying technique being employed against domestic targets. Given previous disclosures from Snowden, however, there is every reason to suspect that US citizens are being targeted.

 If Barack had any kind of a spine, he'd be shutting down the NSA.  Instead, he's just praying he can drag out doing nothing long enough that everyone will forget.

I believe that's also his 'close' Guantanamo plan.

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, rebels seize more territory in Anbar, Nouri orders a newspaper shut down, Nineveh wants to become semi-autonomous, Nouri ticks off the Kurds again, Iraq is noted in a US Congressional hearing today, an investigation is launched to determine whether US service members disrespected Iraqi corpses in Falluja in 2004, and more.

TMZ announces today:

The United States military is conducting a formal investigation into American soldiers burning the dead bodies of what appear to be Iraqi insurgents.
TMZ obtained 41 pictures that we're told were shot in Fallujah in 2004.  Two pictures show a Marine appearing to pour gasoline or some other flammable on the remains of what officials believe are 2 insurgents.  Two other photos show the bodies on fire.  You then see charred remains.
Another photo shows a Marine crouched down next to a dead body and mugging for the camera.
Still another pic shows a Marine rifling through the pocket of the pants on a corpse.
We have not included all of the photos.  Many are just too gruesome.  There are well over a dozen bodies in the pics and some are covered with flies and one is being eaten by a dog.
We turned them all over to the Pentagon last week, and a Pentagon official tells us the pics have triggered a Marine Corps investigation.

ABC News Radio explains, "The defiling of remains is a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice but the photos may also be a violation of U.S. Central Command’s General Order Number One, which provides the guidelines for how American troops serving in the Middle East should conduct themselves."  The issue was raised at today's State Dept press briefing delivered by spokesperson Marie Harf:


MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you could say something about these pictures that were released about military soldiers pouring gasoline on the bodies of Iraqis in Fallujah in 2004. I understand there’s an investigation going on.

MS. HARF: I have not seen those. I’m sorry. I would point you to DOD. They probably have the lead on this. I’m happy to check with our folks. I just haven’t.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering. I mean, right now as you are trying to work with the Iraqis on countering what’s going on, the violence on the ground, if this kind of damages your credibility in terms of someone that can be helpful right now.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re certainly extremely committed to working with Iraq in a variety of ways to counter this threat together. We’ve talked a lot about that in the past few weeks in a combination of political and counterterrorism support. I’m not familiar with the specifics about these photos, but we certainly are very committed to the relationship and have no indication that the Iraqis aren’t as well.

This comes as Michael Lipkin (Law360) reports, "The American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights organizations renewed their attempts on Wednesday to force the U.S. Department of Defense to release photos of prisoner abuse in U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, arguing conditions had changed since the DOD last rejected their requests."  And as the US Air Force is rocked by a test cheating and drug scandal.  At the Pentagon today, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James took questions about the investigation.  Those alleged to have been involved are members of the ICBM force -- the intercontinental ballistic missile force.  Phil Stewart (Reuters) reports, "The Air Force has suspended security clearances for 34 officers and is re-testing the entire forces overseeing America's nuclear-armed missiles after uncovering widespread cheating on a key proficiency exam."  Secretary James declared at the press conference, "I've directed that the OSI put full resources against this investigation so that we get to the bottom of exactly what happened, who was involved, and the extent of this so that we can hold people appropriately accountable for this."

Former US Senator Joe Lieberman:  Yet increasingly we hear voices -- on both sides of the political spectrum -- who say that the threat from terrorism is receding, the end of this conflict is here or near, and therefore that we can withdraw from much of the rest of the world. This narrative is badly and dangerously mistaken. There is no question, the United States -- under President Bush and President Obama -- has inflicted severe damage to 'core' al Qaeda, the senior leadership that reconstituted itself in the mid-2000s in the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan, after being driven by the American military from neighboring Afghanistan after 9/11. To borrow a phrase from General David Petraeus, while the progress we have achieved against core al Qaeda is real and significant it is also fragile and reversible . What has degraded core al Qaeda in the tribal areas of Pakistan has been the persistent, targeted application of military force against these indi viduals and networks. The precondition for these operations, and the intelligence that enables them , has been our presence in Afghanistan. If the United States withdraws all of our military forces from Afghanistan at the end of this year -- the so-called "zero option," which some now advocate -- you can be sure that al Qaeda will regenerate, eventually on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border. If you doubt this, I urge you to look at what is now happening in western Iraq, where just a few years ago, during the US-led surge, al Qaeda was dealt an even more crippling blow than core al Qaeda has suffered in Pakistan. Yet now it is al Qaeda that is surging back in Iraq, hoisting its black flag over cities like Falluja and Ramadi, murdering hundreds of innocent Iraqis this year, with violence surging back to 2008 levels. 

Lieberman went on to advocate for "a small number of embedded [US] advisors on the ground" in Iraq as well as for the US to provide "airpower."  He was testifying today before the House Homeland Security Committee -- US House Rep Michael McCaul is Committee Chair and US House Rep Bennie G. Thompson is the Ranking Member.  Also testifying were former US House Rep Jane Harman, retired General Jack Keane and the RAND Corporation's Dr. Seth Jones.

Gen Jack Keane:  After the strategic blunder of leaving no residual force in Iraq -- and immunity for US troops was a false issue -- equally damaging was distancing ourselves from a long term strategic partnership between the US and Iraq leaving the al Qaeda to have re-emerged and the level of violence today is as high as it was in 2008 and destined to get higher.  The al Qaeda are quickly taking control of western Iraq while they have seized control of northern Syria.

Harman had nothing to offer on Iraq -- possibly because she was still focused on the Defense Policy Board briefing on South Asia that  "I've just come from" -- a briefing which she described as "bone chilling."  (What was she referring to?  US assessments on where nuclear war stands currently between Pakistan and India.)

We'll note this exchange.  It's typical of the hearing -- talking down to Americans, preaching war and death and destruction.

Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson:  A lot of us our faced, when we go into our districts, with an effort that's gone on a long time.  The people are becoming weary -- not defeated, but weary. And they say, "Why don't you do something to bring this to an end?" If we had a magic wand, we could do that. So, listening to some of our constituents who talk about the 6,000 people who died and the enormous costs so far, and I'll go, because I've heard it -- what would you suggest as a response to those constituents going forward, as to what members of Congress, the House and the Senate should do to bring that to an end? I'll start with you, Senator.

Former Senator Joe Lieberman:  Thanks, Congressman Thompson, that's a -- that's a really important question.  I'm glad you asked it because that's the reality.  And I know that's what you face and what members of both parties probably face -- when you go home.  So here's the point at which -- I mean one first reaction I have, which won't really convince people, but it - but it's an important one.  I will tell you that every time I went to a funeral of a soldier from Connecticut who was killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, I was amazed and moved by the families saying, 'Please make sure that our son/daughter/husband/whatever didn't die in vain.'  So there is that element.  I mean, if we just, we learned some lessons from Iraq and Afghanistan, that if we just walk away, we do risk saying to those families whose family members gave their lives because we ordered them to go there in our defense that they did die in vain.  I don't think we ever want that to happen.  Second thing, I want to go back to and, in some ways, I want to make this personal about President Obama. Put it in this context, President Obama ran for office in 2008 and again in 2012 with one of the basic themes -- in addition to all the change and dealing with domestic problems -- was that he was going to get us out of the wars that we were in and not get us into additional wars around the world/  And, uhm, you know, fair enough.  But sometimes the world doesn't cooperate with a presidential narrative and I think that's where we are in the countries that I've talked about: Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya.  Which, if we don't do something more than we're doing now, they're going to tip over.  So, I say this personally, I'm not here just to criticize what the Obama administration has done.  In some sense, I'm here to appeal to the Obama administration -- which, after all, the president's going to be our president for three more years and a lot that could be good or bad for our security couldan happen.  I repeat, what's a lesson learned that's consistent with the message that the president -- the policy that the president has adopted?  We're not going to send tens of thousands of troops on the ground to any of these countries.  But there's something in between that and just pulling out.  And I think what we've all , in different ways, tried to argue today, both militarily and in other ways in terms of aid and support where if we don't -- and this is what I'd say to the constituents -- if we don't at least maintain a presence, if we don't help the freedom fighters in Syria, the non-extremists, anti-Assad people, if we don't build up the Libyan military to maintain order against the militias, if we don't make the kind of agreement and support the government in Iraq, then we're going to get attacked again. Same from Afghanistan.  And, uh, then we're going to have to go back in there and have to spend more, risk more American lives.  It's not an easy argument to make -- and particularly, not in tough economic times.  But so I think, bottom line, we've learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, it's not going to be hundreds of thousands of troops but if we just turn away we're going to suffer and, therefore, we need your support, Mr. and Mrs. Constituent, to help us do that. 

Former US House Rep Jane Harman: I can think of five things -- some of which I've already mentioned, but I'll tick them off.  One, honor the service of those who followed orders and went to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Tens of thousands grievously wounded.  Many came home in decent shape.  Honor their service.  Make sure we have in place a welcome mat that includes all the benefits they're entitled to but also hopefully efforts to build good jobs for them -- the unemployment rate among returning vets is disproportionate to the unemployment rate of others.  Second, engage in a whole of government approach to solve this problem.  We've discussed that at length, I won't go into it again.  Third, continue the counter-terrorism mission in not just the Middle East but around the world.  The US has interests in other places other than our own country but we surely don't want training grounds to develop again in pick a place.  And we know that some are and we need to be active there using all the tools that we have. Fourth, continue our surveillance system although I think some reforms are in order.  The president will speak on Friday.  I was quite impressed with the report that was presented to him.  It's not clear exactly what he'll adopt but we need to have an effective system that can spot bad guys and prevent and disrupt plots against us.  And finally, enact cyber security legislation so that we are protected against what is a growing threat and could in the end be a more -- many predict -- a much more severe threat than some other form of terror threat against the homeland.

Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson:  General?

Retired General Jack Keane: Yes, I would first say to them that never before in the history of the country have so few sacrificed so much for so many and have done it for so long.  And the fact of the matter is that the reason why it has been so long is because of the mistakes that we made and be honest about it.  The fact of the matter is that our strategy initially in Afghanistan -- military strategy I'm talking about here -- and our military strategy in Iraq after we liberated Iraq was flawed  And that led to protracted wars.  And we should have an honest discussion with the American people and with your constituents. Now the fact of the matter is that if you know America's military -- and I can say this with some knowledge -- is that we normally get off on the wrong foot and we have throughout our history with some rare exceptions.  But because we're reflections of the American people, the American society, we're intellectually flexible and operationally adoptable.  And we sort of get to the answer faster than other people would when we're on a much larger war than what we're dealing with here.  And we did figure it out eventually in Iraq and we have figured it out in Afghanistan as well.  And the sacrifice is definitely worth it to protect the American people.  I mean, when you talk to the troops we deployed in the 90s and we were all over the world doing things in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Herzegovina, you name the place, there were problems and we were there.  Not necessarily fighting to the degree that we've done post-9/11 but nonetheless deployments and some fighting.  From 9-11 on, and we have a 9-11 generation in the military, we have a 9-11 generation in the Central Intelligence Agency -- The fact of the matter is when you talk to these troops, it's all about the American people.  Before it was about helping others.  This is about protecting the American people and they get it.  That's why they willingly go back and do four, five, six tours.  We have generals that have been away from their families for 8 out of 10 years.  I mean it's quite extraordinary the sacrifice that is willingly be made. Tell that story.  It's extraordinary because they are protecting the American people and our way of life.  And they're willing to do something that most of the American people cannot do and that is die for that.  And that is really quite extraordinary.  So I say be honest with them.  And then, in terms of this troublesome area, I know intellectually we like to talk about we're pivoting to the east because of the emergence of China.  Does anyone in this room believe that in any near term we're going to go to war with China? Not that we shouldn't be vigilant about them.  We can't be serious about that.  The fact of the matter is we have huge problems in the Middle East that threaten the United States.  And we have to stay engaged, Mr. Congressman, that is the word that we need to use.  We partner with our allies in that region and we support people who want to overthrow dictatorial regimes -- like in Libya, like in Tunisia, like in Syria.  In Libya and Syria, they just want us to help them.  They don't want our troops. And in Iraq, where we did help them, we walked away and look at the mess we have as a result.  That should inform us of how dangerous this situation is and how important American commitment is to stay engaged.  And we have to do that if we're going to protect the American people. 

Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson:  Dr. Jones?

Dr. Seth Jones:  I would say three things that are worth reminding constituents and all Americans that we talk to.  One is, as much as we would like this war and this struggle to end, there are organizations committed to fighting Americans and conducting attacks overseas that will not end.  They don't have a desire to end this and the struggle on their part will continue.  Therefore, the struggle continues.  As much as we want to end it, the terrorists we've talked about today are committed to continuing this struggle.  Second, I would say, as everybody here has noted, the days of large numbers of American forces targeting terrorists overseas -- particularly conventional forces -- are over.  And I think that as we have seen over the past several years, they have tended to radicalize populations rather than to facilitate.  So what that does leave us is, I would say, a third point.  There is a more modest approach.  I think we have learned we're talking about smaller number of forces, lethal ones overseas -- as well as civilians; we're talking about smaller amounts of American dollars that are being sent.  There is a need for direct action -- some direct action activity.  We have stopped plots targeting the US homeland from overseas because of this action.  We also have an interest in building some of the local partnership capacity so that we don't have to do all of this -- so that we don't have to do all the fighting and dying and that locals can do it.  This is the direction we've moved on in several fronts.  So I would say there has been a learning process.  But let me just conclude by again just reminding constituents and Americans, that from the al Qaeda and jihadists perspective, the war continues and, in that sense, we cannot retreat. 

Some quick take aways.  Joe Lieberman has never understood 9-11, not even the official story.  If you examine his claims about how inaction will cause another 9-11, you should realize quickly that the only inaction in the official story is the failure to heed warnings.  The reasons given for the attack are not reasons calling for more US troops stationed around the world. In fact, one reason given for the attacks was US troops stationed in the Middle East.  Second, it's really sad that two people who voted for the Iraq War -- Lieberman and Harman -- can do nothing to justify the war but hide behind dead soldiers.  Contrary to their embarrassing remarks, you don't continue insanity because some people died.  You learn from your mistakes.  Or, in Lieberman and Harman's case, you never learn.  Last main point we'll make: only a smaller number of forces will be used.

That's what the War Hawks said.  And that can be seen as a victory.  The force size -- even at its largest -- in Iraq was never as great in number as what the US sent to Vietnam.  So it's worth noting that the Iraq Wae which was supposed to bury memory and fact (more popularly known as "the Vietnam syndrome") didn't work.  And even War Hawks have to face that in the next go rounds the numbers sent will be even smaller.

Lieberman and others, of course, say send advisers so we should probably point out that this is the way they birth wars -- start it with advisers and kick it up to something greater.

I'll probably come back to the hearing tomorrow to note one more thing regarding Iraq.  Also in today's State Dept press briefing:

QUESTION: Marie --

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Yep.

QUESTION: I have one more – Iraqi members of parliament are in town. Have they met anyone from the State Department?

MS. HARF: Members of parliament?


MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t know. I’ll check.

That's what we need to cover and I'll kick that back to tomorrow.  This is about the DC event that we covered in yesterday's snapshot.  We'll try to pick up the Iraq from the hearing and one of the MPs from yesterday.  Also Ruth and Kat were at this morning's hearing and plan to write about it at their sites tonight focusing on Benghazi.  Ava and Wally were at the hearing and are debating if they've got anything else they can cover.

Yesterday, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq began a visit to DC.  Speaking to  Eli Lake (Daily Beast) al-Mutlaq called for the US to send election monitors to Iraq.   He made his call for election monitors on the same day as a Nineveh Electoral Commission official was assassinated in Mosul.  Today, National Iraqi News Agency reports, "Unknown gunmen assassinated on Wednesday 15, Jan. an employee at Nineveh Elections Office, near his home in eastern Mosul."

The elections are the parliamentary elections which are supposed to take place April 30th.
Some have argued that Nouri al-Maliki's current assault on Anbar Province is a campaign move as he seeks a third term as prime minister.  Others have argued Nouri's assault is an attempt to delay the elections.
Alistair Lyon and Yara Bayoumy (Reuters) provide an analysis of Nouri's rule and we'll note this part on the 2010 parliamentary elections where Nouri's State of Law was beaten by Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya but the White House insisted Nouri be given a second term:

A former senior adviser to Maliki is cited by Iraq expert Toby Dodge of the London School of Economics as saying the prime minister began keeping decision-making far more to himself after the formation of his government in 2010.
"Maliki's paranoia went stratospheric and he wouldn't listen to any advice," Dodge quoted the adviser as saying.
The election also discouraged Sunnis who, after boycotting earlier U.S.-sponsored elections, had put their faith in the ballot box and supported Iraqiya - only to see it stymied after its success. "It's against that background that violence and alienation has flourished in Anbar," Dodge said.
In 2010, the Iraqi people voted and the White House stripped them of their votes.  Since then things have gotten progressively worse each year in Iraq leading up to the just finished 2013 which Prensa Latina describes as follows: "The city [Baghdad] is sunken in a wave of violence that left a death toll of 9 500 people last year, caused by the resurgence of the conflict between the Sunni Muslim Community, which feels discriminated, and the Shiite-led government."

Nouri's assualt on Anbar continues.  Colin Freeman (Telegraph of London) reports that, "in the town of Saqlawiyah, west of Fallujah, Iraqi police fled their station after being outgunned by militiamen, who used a mosque’s loudspeakers to urge them to leave. "   AFP notes that "militants took more territory from security forces in crisis-hit Anbar province.  The twin setbacks for authorities, grappling with Iraq’s worst period of unrest since the country emerged from a sectarian war that killed tens of thousands, come just months before parliamentary elections." F. Brinley Bruton (NBC News) reminds, "Sunni militants took over the city of Fallujah west of Baghdad two weeks ago, in a direct challenge to the rule of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."   Sameer N. Yacoub and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report:

The World Health Organization said the few health facilities in the province were no longer able to provide even lifesaving interventions and residents in Ramadi and Fallujah face acute health needs due to the conflict. The organization said it has dispatched 2 tons of medicine and supplies.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it has delivered food and essential supplies over the past few days to nearly 12,000 displaced people in Anbar and several other mainly Sunni areas. It warned the families "are enduring considerable hardship," and their situation has shown no signs of improvement.

Iraq Body Count counts 52 dead from Tuesday's violence and, through yesterday, 458 violent deaths for the month so far.

Sky News counts at least 75 dead today as does Alistair Lyon (Reuters) while EFE notes at least 152 people were left injured.   NINA reports 1 Shabak was shot dead in Mosul, an eastern Baghdad car bombing (Palestine Street) left twelve people injured, a northeastern Baghdad car bombing claimed 5 lives and left twelve people injured, 2 people were shot dead in Baghdad, Baghdad Operations Command announced they shot dead 1 suspect, an armed clash in Jlami-dor left 3 fighters dead, an Alhamrah Village roadside bombing left 3 police members dead and two more injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing killed 1 police officer, an eastern Baghdad roadside bombing (al-Obeidi area) left 2 people dead and five more injured, a Jalawla sticky bombing left 1 person dead, a Baghdad sticky bombing (Sadr City) left 1 person dead and two more injured, 4 corpses (1 woman, 3 men) were discovered dumped in the streets of Baghdad, a Mosul bridge bombing left 7 Iraqi soldiers dead and nine more injured, Anbar security announced they killed "11 members of Daash when military helicopters bombed" Saqlawiyah, an Ein al-Jahash roadside bombing left Ismail al-Jubouri wounded (he's the Director of Nineveh Operations Command), a south Baghdad roadside bombing (Zafaraniyah) claimed 2 lives, a western Baghdad car bombing (Shu'la) claimed 2 lives and left ten people injured, a south Buhruz funeral bombing left 13 people dead and twenty-one more injured, and a central Baghdad car bombing (Sena'ah Street) left 1 person dead and nine more injured. Sky News notes of the funeral bombing "In the deadliest single incident, a bomb blew up in a funeral tent in Buhriz - 35 miles north of Baghdad - where mourners were marking the death of a Sunni Muslim pro-government fighter."  All Iraq News notes 1 corpse was discovered dumped northwest of Mosul (gunshots to the chest).

Let me point out what we said here before Nouri's assault on Al Anbar Province began -- it would not stop violence in Iraq and that previous assaults by Nouri only stirred up violence in the parts he wasn't attacking.  That has proven to be the case this go round as well.  Of today's violence, Lateef Mungin and Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) observe, "Much of the violence recorded Wednesday was in and around Baghdad."  Michael Holmes (CNN) has a strong look at Iraq today which includes:

Plenty has been reported about the violence in Ramadi and Fallujah and the resurgence of al-Qaeda linked radicals, but the killing is widespread -- from Mosul in the north to Baghdad to the south of the country.
Dr. Ayad Allawi was Iraq's first post-Saddam head of government, serving as interim Prime Minister in 2004 and 2005. Tough as nails, but a committed secularist, he looks at his country today with more than a dose of pessimism.
"Unfortunately the country is moving on a sectarian road now," he tells me as we sit in his office, hidden behind blast walls and protected by government and private security.
"It was very dangerous to start with, and I warned leaders in the region. (Now) Iraq has started a civil war -- it hasn't reached the point of no return, but if it does then the whole region will burn up."
He points the finger of blame in many directions, from Syria to the U.S. to Iran, but mainly at the man who now holds his old job -- Prime Minister al-Maliki.
"He doesn't believe in power sharing, he doesn't believe in reconciliation," Allawi says. "He promised to do these things once he became Prime Minister, but in effect he talks against this -- accusing everyone else of being a terrorist, or corrupt, or extremist and so on.

"Authoritarian regimes don't work in this country -- we tried this before and it didn't work. No one sect can rule, no one party can rule, no one man can rule -- we want a democratic country but this is not, unfortunately, what this government wants."

The Irish Mirror notes that Nouri made a high drama statement today, "If we keep silent it means the creation of evil statelets that would wreak havoc with security in the region and world."  Some assume he means Falluja and Ramadi.  He may just as well be talking about provinces that want to declare their own independence (as guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution).  Bassem Francis (Al-Monitor) speaks with Nineveh Province's Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi (brother of Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi).  Atheel explains Nineveh is thinking about declaring its independence:

In a discussion with Al-Hayat, Nujaifi said: “The province is worried about the recent events in Anbar. Any conflict between the security forces and the Sunnis will be quickly reflected on the people in Ninevah. These events have made the people of Ninevah province despair that the conditions of the Sunnis in general, and the people of Ninevah province in particular, will be reformed any time soon. … Therefore, our only option to restore hope to the people of the province is to come out with a new project that has specific features. We have all agreed to request either the establishment of an [autonomous] Ninevah province or to demand the internationalization of the situation of the Sunnis in Iraq because of the injustice they are suffering.”
Nujaifi said: “[Iraqi Prime Minister] Nouri al-Maliki wants to risk the security of Iraqi society for electoral purposes. He always uses the [recess periods] to make his moves. Every year during the Christmas period he provokes a major crisis, taking advantage of the world being on holiday. … In today’s case, his aim is the election. [He wants] to achieve a victory over his Shiite rivals and at the same time to push the Shiite extremism project a step forward.”
Ninevah’s government accuses Maliki of confiscating its authority over the deployment of the army in major cities, and for launching arrest campaigns by exploiting the laws of “accountability and justice” and “the fight against terrorism,” as well as for depriving the province of a budget that is commensurate with its population.

Nouri's also stirring up problems with the Kurds.  Kitabat reports Kurdish Cabinet members walked out of the meeting on the budget today due to Nouri's efforts to penalize the Kurdistan Regional Government for the KRG's oil deal with Turkey. This is the second year in a row where Nouri has failed to work out what the Kurds see as a fair budget.  Though the budget's been forwarded to Parliament, Baghdad residents won't read about that in the Middle East.  The Baghdad and Saudi Arabia daily newspaper has been shut down.  Kitabat reports that Nouri's forces stormed the paper's Baghdad offices and shut it down.  Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory has called for an explanation and cites journalist Hamza Mustafa explaining that the Ministry of the Interior forces stormed in late Tuesday, shut them down and told them they were no longer allowed to print a newspaper in Baghdad.

jomana karadsheh