Saturday, January 25, 2014


Dracula (NBC, Fridays) was excellent.  I just got done watching it.

Where to start?

Dracula goes by the name of Alexander Grayson (and is played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers).  He is in 19th century London.  His wife was killed, he was killed.  Van Helsing brought him back to life.  Why?

A group called The Order of the Dragon murdered Van Helsing's family.  He wanted revenge and Dracula was the only way he saw he could have it.

He's developed a potion/medicine that allows Dracula to be in sunlight for up to four hours.

He and Dracula aim to put The Order of the Dragon out of business.  The Order's holdings are in oil so Grayson has invented wireless electricity.  This is to be the big demonstration, this episode.

Jonathan and Mina were engaged to be married.  He slept with Lucy, she ended it.  He's now lost her but has turned his back on Grayson (Grayson doesn't know it) and joined The Order of the Dragon.

This episode was where everything went crazy.

Mina visits Jonathan to return a locket he gave her, it was his mother's so she wants to return it.  He tells her to stay away from Grayson, "Grayson's ruined me, made me do vile things, vile things to you."

She blows him off as anyone would.

A seer is in London.  From the Vatican?  I have no idea but he does give Lady Jane a small knife and says it's from the Papal something. 

His name?

Loydcess Scarva.

I may not have that spelled right.  I probably don't.

He wears glasses, near the end of the show, he takes the dark glasses off and his eyes are these weird fluid blue things.

He has some blood trapped in some device and when he stares at it, he can locate vampires.

He gives Lady Jane an address and she dispatches her vampire hunters.

They kill two.  She's ready to jump for joy bur Browning has received a message he won't speak of and rushes off.

He goes home.  His wife has received a ransom demand (their kids were kidnapped two episodes ago) with one of the children's fingers -- a body part will be chopped off regularly.

Van Helsing kidnapped the children, remember?

And he no longer wants to be Dracula's partner.  He's destroying viles of the potion-medicine that lets Dracula walk in the sun.  Just throwing them on the ground.

Renfield hears the noise and rushes in asking what has happened.  Van Helsing lies and says he discovered it like that and, as he says this, he's removed a knife.  He used it to repeatedly stab Renfield.

Now, he tells Renfield, "Grayson will never walk in sunlight again -- much like yourself."

I hope Renfield's not dead.  A lot of people died this episode -- not extras or people we'd never seen until this episode.  I hope Renfield's alive.  We didn't seem after that.  And that was before the half-way point of the show.

Browning goes to deliver the money.  He arrives at the barn where Van Helsing stored the children (in a basement under the farmhouse).  He hears his children and then is surprised by Van Helsing -- in the dark -- behind him.  Van Helsing pats him down and finds a gun.  He walks Browning to a certain spot -- gun at the back of Browning's head -- and then walks over to a lantern and lights it.  When he does Browning sees his face.

Van Helsing asks if he recognizes him?  No.  Well he killed Van Helsing's family.  Browning observes that would be a long list of possible people Van Helsing could be.  Van Helsing has Browning over a trap door.  That Browning falls through to the basement.  His legs are clearly broken in the fall.  He yells Van Helsing won't be able to buy his way out of this.

Van Helsing pours the money down on Browning and tells him his children are down there to.

The first to emerge is his daughter.  He calls to her and she moves a little closer.  He asks her where her brother is and then the brother shows up.  Browning calls for his children to come to him.  They turn and look at each other, then smile, then reveal vampire teeth.  They run over to Browning and begin feeding.  Van Helsing, from above, pours gasoline on them and says he fed them Dracula's blood.  Van Helsing leaves as the barn is burning down and the burning are screaming.

Jonathan brought The Order into the lab where they placed a bomb on the generator so that five minutes after the exhibition starts, it will blow up.  Jonathan Harker's upset, he thought they were just going to make the demonstration fail, he didn't realize people would die.   Too bad, he's told, this is The Order.

He tries to find Mina to make sure she doesn't go to the exhibition.

Lucy, by the way, is very sick.  Her mother wants to call the doctors and Lucy begs her not to.  Lucy stays in bed all day.  You know why, Dracula bit her at the end of the last episode.  She's now a vampire.

The Seer tells Lady Jane he can see Dracula.  He's down on the docks.  He's speaking before hundreds of people.

"Grayson!" Lady Jane finally admits he is Dracula and hurries off.

Grayson is speaking about what led up to this moment.  Jonathan shows up.  He thinks he spots Mina and grabs a woman but when she turns around he sees it's not Mina.  He begins shouting her name.  This leads others to shout -- to Grayson -- something like "Show us!" -- meaning start the exhibit already.  Which he does.  And Mina's near enough for him to smile at her.

Jonathan sees Mina and grabs her.  They've got to leave.  Five minutes after Grayson flips the switch, the whole thing will blow.

Mina moves to warn Grayson but Jonathan pulls her away.  He bumps into a man doing that and the man is furious and punches Jonathan out.

This gives Mina the chance to run to the stage where she tells Grayson what's happening.  She also pulls the fire alarm to try to get people out.

Jonathan runs up after her and he's forced by Grayson to confess.  Grayson tells him to get Mina out of here -- she doesn't want to leave.  She and Grayson have already tried to turn off the machine with no luck.  But Jonathan gets her moving out.

Grayson is having no luck shutting it down.


It all blows up.  Mina and Jonathan are thrown to the ground.  When they get up she tells him he killed Grayson and all these other people, he's a murderer.

Lady Jane arrives after the explosion.  It appears everyone is dead but she goes in anyway.

She calls to Grayson.  A moan.

She follows it but it's another man.  But behind her now is Grayson.

She tells him she knows who he is.

He tells her she's always known.

He knows her, he knows the darkness inside her.  He tells her, "I live in the darkness but I yearn for the life.  Even though it burns, I want life."

She's there to kill him.  She tries with a gun but he's disappointed and knocks it away.

She then uses two hatchets but he disarms her.

He says she said she loved him and she says, grabbing the dagger the Seer gave her, that she lied.  She stabs him and he steps backward and collapses as she goes for a hatchet.

She picks it up and moves towards him.  She raises it up to kill him.

And he rises quickly and knocks her across the hall. She lands on something that pierces through her.

"Sorry, Jane," he tells her, "I've grown immune to all your toys."

She asks him to kill her, not turn her into a monster.  She tells him that he owes her that much.

So he bites her and feeds, killing her.

I am going to really miss Lady Jane.  The actress who played her -- Victoria Smurfit -- did a great job.  After Jonathan, she was the finest member of the cast.  In addition to having a great talent in the role, Lady Jane was also a great role.  She and Dracula were slugging each other in the face in the final battle.  She was no wimp.  And the show's going to suffer without her.  Mina is a romantic heroine.  Lucy's going to be evil.  Lady Jane was a true force.  They need more women on the show -- if they're going to have a second season. 

Let's go to Lucy.

She's wide awake and has her color back.  Her mother is asleep in a chair in the room.  She calls to her and asks her to come give her a hug.  Her mother gets out of the chair and tells her she was so worried about her.  As she hugs her daughter, Lucy's teeth open wide and she bites her mother's neck.

Mina goes to the mansion to see if Grayson's there.  She sees a light in one room and goes there.  No Grayson.  But she does see a picture of Dracula's wife.  The woman she was before she was reincarnated.  As she stares at it, Dracula calls to her.

She's so happy he's alive.

The two  make love.

The next day, last scene of the episode, Van Helsing is in his home, he removes a dusty box.  It has a Bible and several metal crosses.  He grabs one and holds it up.  He hits a switch and a blade drops out of the bottom.  There's a knock at the door.

It's Jonathan.  He wants to destroy Grayson and Van Helsing promises him that he'll be able to because he (VH) knows everything and is going to share it, such as his name, Dracula.

And that was the end of the episode.

And end of series?

This was the tenth episode and season one is only ten episodes.

I hope NBC brings it back for a second season.

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

Friday, January 24, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri continues to terrorize Anbar, Iraqis continue to protest Nouri, Iraq's Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has no "Red Notice" with INTERPOL (though the press 'forgot' to tell us that), and much more.

This month, Larry Everest (Revolution Newspaper) asked, "How is the U.S. imperialist media dealing with the ongoing carnage in Iraq?"

And he answered, "One example was the January 10 New York Times front-page story titled, “Fallujah’s Fall Stuns Marines Who Fought There.” This article is an exposure of the bankruptcy and illegitimacy of the U.S. imperialist media. People need to reject this drumbeat to think like Americans, and see the world through the lens of the American empire, and start thinking about humanity!"

And that is one answer.  But the reality is that you can count on a handful the number of outlets outside of Iraq treating Nouri's assault on Anbar Province with any reality.  Most either ignore what's taking place or else they carry the party line of 'bad terrorists are here and must be killed!'  Say the word "terrorist" and everyone loses their voice apparently.

That's why it's been so effective in killing liberties in the US, this so-called War on 'Terror.'  It's a mental stop sign in the same way "Communist" was for so many in the US at the middle of the 20th century. For some, the term terrifies them.  For others, they're just terrified someone will call them "terrorist."  But not many want to say,"Hold on a second, let's get serious."  So if you holler "terrorism!" or "terrorist!," you can usually dominate the conversation and the narrative.  No one asks you for proof, no one questions.

And that's how Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's chief thug and prime minister, has gotten away with a series of War Crimes over the last weeks.   The Geneva International Centre for Justice notes the continued assault on Anbar Province:

In the wake of the 1st of January 2014, the 600.000 residents of Fallujah, one of the main cities in al-Anbar, found themselves encircled by the government forces. The residential areas were under the military attack. This time it was claimed that al-Qaeda and ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) had taken over the city. Indeed some fighters wearing such signs were seen to have set police stations and government buildings on fire; however these people encountered strong resistance from the local residents.
Furthermore, the witnesses mentioned that these acclaimed terrorist fighters appeared as soon as the government’s army arrived and took positions in the surroundings of the city. Many of the contacts of GICJ in Fallujah and Baghdad therefore believe that disguised militia groups affiliated with the al-Maliki’s party were channelled into the city in order to provide the necessary pretext for an attack and gain the military support from the Western countries.
As of January 6, the main eastern, northern and southern checkpoints were closed and the army refuses to allow people, medicine or food items to enter or leave the city.  Even the Iraqi Red Crescent could not enter anymore. Families who wanted to flee could only leave under extreme difficulties. These sanctions were imposed even though the residents of Fallujah publicly affirmed numerous times that the city had not been taken over by any terrorist.
Al Maliki’s official portrayal of terrorists brought him the immediate support from the USA as well as from Iran. Also, Russia announced its support. Other voices however, such as the senior EU lawmaker Struan Stevenson, a member of the European parliament, warned in an open letter published on 7 January 2014 that “Iraq is plummeting rapidly towards civil war and genocide”. In a second letter published on 20 Januaray 2014 Stevenson’s further warned that claims by al-Maliki were “utter nonsense”. Still, he had “convinced his American allies that he is fighting a war on terror and they are pouring in rockets, drones and other military hardware which Maliki is using to bomb and kill civilian targets”.
Al-Maliki insists once again to demolish all demonstrations and to use force against all the cities that witness resistance against his policies. The continuing use of the army against densely populated cities can only lead to another huge humanitarian disaster. Many residents are fleeing, not in fear of terrorists but in fear of the government forces and over hundred people have already lost their lives during the attacks by tanks and by air that mainly targeted the residential areas in the outskirts of the city.

National Iraqi News Agency reports that the Iraqi military's mortar shelling last night left 4 people dead and 32 more injured "including women and children" and today's military shelling of Falluja left 5 people dead and 14 more injured -- "most of them women and children."   Collective punishment is what Nouri's pursuing.  If you doubt that:  Iraqi Spring MC notes that Nouri's army shelled Falluja General Hospital.

Attacking hospitals is an international no-no.  Nouri al-Maliki is a War Criminal and collective punishment is a War Crime.  Daoud Kuttab (Crimes Of War) explains:
Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, collective punishments are a war crime. Article 33 of the Fourth Convention states: “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed,” and “collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.” Israel, however, does not accept that the Fourth Geneva Convention or the Additional Protocols apply to the West Bank de jure, but says it abides by the humanitarian provisions without specifying what the humanitarian provisions are.
By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World Wars I and II. In the First World War, Germans executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity. In World War II, Nazis carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance. Entire villages or towns or districts were held responsible for any resistance activity that took place there. The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commentary to the conventions states that parties to a conflict often would resxort to “intimidatory measures to terrorize the population” in hopes of preventing hostile acts, but such practices “strike at guilty and innocent alike. They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice.”
The law of armed conflict applies similar protections to an internal conflict. Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 requires fair trials for all individuals before punishments; and Additional Protocol II of 1977 explicitly forbids collective punishment.

This week UNAMI issued their [PDF format warning] latest human rights report on Iraq which included, "The deliberate or indiscriminate targeting of civilians constitutes a gross violation of international humanitarian and human rights law and of Iraqi law."

So why is the assault on Anbar allowed to take place -- let alone continue -- without a huge outcry from all over?

It's accomplished nothing.

All Iraq News reports 2 Tikrit bombings left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and four more injured, an armed clash in Ramadi left 13 fighters dead and that a home invasion late last night in Basra left 2 women dead (mother and daughter).  NINA also notes a Hamrin home bombing which left two police injured, Joint Special Operations Command declared they killed 2 suspects in Mosul, 1 Sahwa was shot dead outside of Kirkuk, and an armed clash in Falluja left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and four more injured.  Through Thursday, Iraq Body Count counts 839 violent deaths this month.

 Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports it is thought 75% of the residents of Falluja have fled.  The United Nations Refugee Agency issued the following today:

GENEVA, January 24 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Friday reported that more than 65,000 people had over the past week fled the conflict in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi in central Iraq's Anbar province. Since fighting broke out at the end of last year, more than 140,000 people have been made homeless by fighting according to Iraq's Ministry of Displacement and Migration.
This is the largest displacement Iraq has witnessed since the sectarian violence of 2006-2008. This number comes on top of the 1.13 million people already internally displaced in Iraq and who are mostly residing in Baghdad, Diyala and Ninewa provinces.
UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva that people in Anbar, including UNHCR staff, had reported that many civilians were unable to leave conflict-affected areas where food and fuel were now in short supply.
"Most of the recently displaced remain outside Fallujah city, accommodated by relatives or staying in schools, mosques and hospitals where resources are running low. Host families are having difficulties sustaining the burden of caring for the displaced," he said.
The spokesman added that UNHCR and its humanitarian aid partners had managed to distribute tarpaulins, blankets, sleeping mats, food, and hygiene supplies. On Thursday, UNHCR delivered 2,400 core relief kits. The Ministry of Displacement and Migration and the Iraqi parliament have also sent aid.
"Many of the displaced, nonetheless, are still in desperate need of food, medical care, and other aid. As the insecurity has spread, many families who fled several weeks ago have been displaced again," Edwards said.
The UN in Iraq has asked the government to facilitate the opening of a humanitarian corridor to reach displaced and stranded families in Anbar province. In recent weeks, several bridges leading into the conflict area and communities hosting displaced people have been destroyed, making access difficult. Currently, it is impossible to reach the area from Baghdad and relief agencies are using roads coming from northern Iraq.
Meanwhile, other areas of Iraq including Baghdad, Erbil, Kerbala, Salah-al-Din and Ninewa have witnessed the arrival of thousands of displaced people. People are reportedly without money for food and lack suitable clothing for the rainy conditions. Children are not in school and sanitary conditions, particularly for women, are inadequate.
"Establishing camps for the newly displaced is not our preferred option and may prolong displacement. But, if the government of Iraq opts to establish sites, UNHCR is ready to provide tents and core relief items as well as provide support to camp management," Edwards said in Geneva,
In northern Iraq, at the request of the Erbil government, UNHCR has refurbished the Baharka temporary site to host people arriving from Anbar. Tents, electricity and sanitation facilities have been installed and the facility is ready to accommodate up to 300 families should the government decide to open the site. In Suleymaniya, some sections of Arbat camp, originally built for Syrian refugees, have been made available to accommodate internally displaced Iraqis. There are some 300 displaced families in Suleymaniya.
Planning is under way to field additional mobile teams to strengthen capacity in Anbar and teams could also be dispatched to other provinces hosting the displaced.

F. Brinley Bruton (NBC News) quotes Peter Kessler, UNHCR spokesperson, stating, "“People are still fighting and mortars are still landing. People don’t have access to food."  Yang Yi (Xinhua) quotes UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards stating, "Most of the recently displaced remain outside Fallujah city, accommodated by relatives or staying in schools, mosques and hospitals where resources are running low. Host families are having difficulties sustaining the burden of caring for the displaced."  And on the topic of mosques,  Kitabat reports that 'acting defense minister'  Saadoun al-Dulaimi (he's not the Minister of Defense -- only Parliament can make someone that -- so he's something else, maybe Nouri's little sex toy?) declared that they (the Iraqi government) will bomb and target any home or mosque they think might contain a terrorist.  Any home or mosque.

Are we really so sick, twisted and fearful as a people that we're going to allow ourselves to be scared into silence by the calculated use of the term "terrorist"?

To me this looks a lot like genuine terrorism.

قوات المالكي تقوم باعدام مواطن في بعقوبة وتمثل بجثته. .

 Via Iraqi Spring MC, some of the dead in Baquba that Nouri's forces murdered.  Notice the Iraqi soldiers in the background.  No effort is made to remove the three dead people.  Or to cover them.  they're displayed.  Why?
Because they're "kills" and the Iraqi military is displaying their "kills" in order to frighten the nearby residents.
The attack isn't just the bullets, the mortars and the bombs.  Nouri's attack on Anbar is also psychological.  

Again from UNAMI  [PDF format warning] latest human rights report on Iraq:

The impact of violence on ordinary Iraqi women, men, boy and girls cannot be underestimated. Apart from the increasing risk of becoming a direct victim of violence, the fear of violence severely limits their ability to enjoy fundamental human rights and freedoms, including freedom of movement, as many people start to confie their activities outside their homes to essential tasks, which in turn impacts on their ability to access basic services, such as education and health care. Furthermore, there are an increasing number of civilians who are the secondary victims of violence -- particularly those whose family members have been killed or wounded . Besides the psychological and emotional suffering, the death or injury of family members sometimes deprives households of breadwinners or those who are contributing financially to their households. Families of injured and disabled people have to bear significant costs (both financial and physical ) involved in ensuring adequate medical care and support.

The attacks from Nouri's forces are acts of terrorism.

But if anyone confronted him, Nouri would probably blow them off.

Earlier this month, Felicity Arbuthnot (Morning Star) pointed out, "Fallujah, Ramadi and much of western Iraq has been demonstrating for a year against the vicious, sectarian, US-imposed puppet government of Nouri al-Maliki."  Since December 21, 2012, protests have been ongoing throughout Iraq over Nouri's corruption and criminality.  These protests continue.  Iraqi Spring MC notes protests continued in Anbar, Samarra, Rawa, Jalawla and Tikrit (pictured below) and also protests continued in Falluja, Baiji, and Baquba.

  1. الجمعة الموحدة في قضاء عنه بمحافظة الانبار: .
  2. الجمعة الموحدة في مدينة سامراء بمحافظة صلاح الدين: .
  3. الجمعة الموحدة في مدينة تكريت بمحافظة صلاح الدين: .

Nouri has repeatedly attempted to end the protests.  He's threatened them, he's labeled them terrorists, his forces have attacked them, have followed them from the protests to their homes, his forces have killed them, and so much more.  But of a year and a month, they've protested non-stop.  
Last week, Abdullah Salem (Niqash) reported:

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

Earlier this week, assailants broke into the home of the Sunni Muslim cleric Radwan al-Hadidi. Al-Hadidi was one of the leaders of the Sunni Muslim anti-government protests in the area and several days earlier he had made a speech criticising extremist Sunni elements. He told media that it was easier to talk with a wall than it was to talk to Al Qaeda. Yet at the same time al-Hadidi was also firmly opposed to the policies of the Shiite Muslim-led government in Baghdad and had demanded that it be dissolved and that the Iraqi Constitution be re-written.

The men who broke into al-Hadidi’s house murdered him.

This was not an isolated case. Several of the leaders of the demonstrations in this area have been assassinated over the past year. The murders started after demonstrators started to carry guns - and they started to carry guns after the Iraqi army broke up a demonstration in Hawija, near the city of Kirkuk, in late April. In doing so, they killed around 40 demonstrators and injured hundreds of others.
“Rumours started circulating that there were now Shiite Muslim militias killing the protest leaders,” says Abdul-Salam Raouf, a local journalist. “Allegedly they were supported by Iran and they included the likes of the League of Righteous led by Qais Khazali and Hezbollah in Iraq led by Wathiq al-Battat.”

One of the first protest leaders to be murdered was Haitham al-Abadi who was attacked on August 19, 2013. The attack on al-Abad also saw another tribal leader, Ahmad al-Ramawi injured.

Later that month gunmen targeted Barzan al-Badrani, a prominent tribal leader who took part in the protests. He was murdered using a pistol with a silencer in central Mosul.

Another protest leader, Tharwi al-Kourz al-Shammari, was also killed in Mosul, next to his house by unidentified gunmen. Yet another protest leader Thaer Hazem Abed was killed by gunmen in September. 
Then on October 11, cleric Ali al-Shamma was murdered after he finished his Friday sermon in Mosul.

Tuesday, Nouri's government announced the executions of 26 people.  Thursday, the announcement was 11 more people were hanged.  Tuesday, Human Rights Watch issued World Report 2014 which noted 2012 saw Nouri's government execute at least 129 people while 2013 saw the number increase to 151.  Today another human rights organization attempts raises the issue.  Amnesty International notes:

Saudi Arabian national Abdullah Al Qahtani is at imminent risk of execution in Iraq. He is one of six men who were reportedly tortured into “confessing” to being members of terrorist organization al-Qaeda.
Four of Abdullah's six co-defendants were already executed. Abdullah is next.
Thanks in part to the calls of Amnesty supporters, Abdullah’s execution had been temporarily delayed. However, Abdullah's time is once again running out.

Please help stop the imminent execution of Abdullah al-Qahtani.

If you use the link, they have a contact form you can use. Meanwhile Iraqi Spring MC reports Nouri's forces carried out a campaign of arrests in Adhamiya (Baghdad neighborhood that has been protesting Nouri for over a year) focusing on the youth -- the protesters have been predominately young adults.  NINA reports:

Army troops closed on Friday evening al- Adhamiya district and the roads leading to it and prevented citizens from entering or leaving it after the arrest of Sheikh Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz al-Ani, head of the Council of Scholars of Iraq , and Abdul Sattar Abdul-Jabbar Imam and preacher of al-Imam al-Aadham Mosque .Eyewitnesses in al- Adhamiya district said in a telephone contact with / NINA / that the security forces deployed their military vehicles in different districts in al-Adhamiya especially near its entrances and main streets as a proactive step on the invitations to hold a sit-in in front of Abu Hanifa mosque in protest at the arrest of the two sheikhs .
The eyewitnesses confirmed that the security forces have forced the owners of the shops and restaurants to close their shops for fear of the evolution of the situation.

Kitabat notes the rising calls for the two to be released.  Iraq's Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi remains in Turkey.  May 8, 2012, INTERPOL stupidly issued a "Red Notice" for Tareq.


We noted then that they were breaking their own rules.  The lazy, western media loved it and repeated it -- not reported because they don't know enough to know the basic facts to report.

Guess who no longer has a "Red Notice"?  Did you guess Tareq?  If so, you're correct.

There are 41 people still wanted by Iraq with INTERPOL "Red Notices."  Tareq is no longer one of them.

The press that made such a big deal of it last year is no where to be found.  The idiots can always be counted on to scream, "FIRE!" They just can't be counted to ever actually report.

The Red Notice was cancelled last week.

Where has the press been?

Again, they couldn't shut up about the "Red Notice" -- in terms of being a parrot and repeating what they were told.  They couldn't offer any real facts and certainly no analysis.  As the saying goes, there's no app for critical thinking.

NINA notes that Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi met today with US General Ray Odierno and KRG President Massoud Barzani spoke with US Senator John McCain about the Iraq crisis while both were in Davos Switzerland today.  Yesterday's snapshot noted the speech Osama al-Nujaifi gave at the Brookings Institution in DC.  Today Brookings' Fred Dews blogs about the event and ends with  "Get the full event audio."  Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports, "Nujaifi, the most senior Sunni Arab in the Iraqi government, said Barack Obama and vice-president Joe Biden had agreed to send direct support to the Sunni tribes, whose leaders had led the Awakening movement that stabilised the province throughout 2007."

At today's US State Dept press briefing moderated by spokesperson Marie Harf:


MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday --

MS. HARF: And then I think I’m a little tight on time, so we’ll do a few more and then – yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Very quickly. Yesterday, the speaker of the house – the speaker of the Iraqi parliament Usama al-Nujayfi gave a speech at Brookings. He gave a very bleak picture of what’s going on in Iraq, and he said that we are at a turning point, at the fork of the road, so to speak, alluding to the next elections, suggesting that Maliki should not run for a third term. Would you advise the current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, that if he runs for a third term, that would be more decisive to the country?

MS. HARF: Again, Said, this is – got to your question on General al-Sisi – we don’t take a – well, don’t be frustrated. It’s our position. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, I’m – okay, that is your position that --

MS. HARF: We don’t take a position on who should lead countries.


MS. HARF: I don’t have more details about our discussions with the prime minister about the upcoming elections. We’ve said that the upcoming elections are an important step in Iraq’s future – that we will work with whoever the leader is of Iraq.

QUESTION: But also, the U.S. was really instrumental and sort of crafting the constitution. And he specifically addressed Article 142, which remains to be a very decisive article among all Iraqis. Would the U.S. also provide technical and legal advice on how to amend that article?

MS. HARF: I don’t think we need to tell the Iraqis what to do with their own constitution. Obviously, we provide a range of diplomatic and political, military advice to the Iraqis, but I just don’t have anything more on that.

al-Nujaifi also touched on elections today.  Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports:

Usama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni, said in an interview during a visit to Washington that he feared attempts to discourage voting or "provoke the situation" in Sunni areas, or to sideline certain would-be candidates, were designed "to weaken Sunni representation in parliament."
He also warned that poor security could pose problems for the parliamentary polls, scheduled for April 30.
"If the security conditions worsen, the elections could be postponed (or) if they are held, they will take place under inappropriate conditions," he said.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Elementary and Ed Snowden

Ed Hightower has a piece on NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden at WSWS:

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden answered questions online Thursday posted by an audience via Twitter. The questions ranged from the openly hostile to expressions of genuine concern for Snowden’s safety and interest in his views on privacy and freedom. In all of his answers, Snowden demonstrated a high level of political principle and considerable courage.
Having obtained temporary asylum in Russia, Snowden expressed his desire to return to the US, but said it was not possible, because he had no protection under whistleblower statutes, and because he was being charged under the 1917 Espionage Act “which was never intended to be used against people working in the public interest, and forbids a public interest defense.”
He added, “This is especially frustrating, because it means there’s no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury.”
Noting the media reports Thursday that the government’s own Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board had vindicated his exposures, finding that the NSA’s Prism meta-data domestic spying program was unconstitutional and had done nothing to detect terrorism Snowden commented:
“When even the federal government says the NSA violated the constitution at least 120 million times under a single program, but failed to discover even a single plot, it’s time to end ‘bulk collection,’ which is a euphemism for mass surveillance. There is simply no justification for continuing an unconstitutional policy with a 0% success rate.”
Since he made his first revelations of a vast and unconstitutional spying operation by the NSA last summer, Snowden has become an international symbol of the struggle in defense of democratic rights.
A recent Quinnipiac poll found that 57 percent of Americans consider Snowden a whistleblower, with that figure increasing to 77 percent among 18-29 year olds. Despite a relentless barrage of smears and slanders from pundits and politicians of both major political parties, only 34 percent of respondents in the Quinnipiac poll agreed with the official narrative branding him a traitor.

Tonight's episode of Elementary (CBS) was pretty good.

Watson was in the park with a friend (and her friend brought her son to play on the park equipment).  So Watson's friend tells her she needs to get out in the real world more.  She points out that Watson lives with her business partner (Sherlock Holmes).  And she's going to help.  She has a birthday present.  She signed Watson up for six months on a dating site.

Watson returns home talking to Sherlock as soon as she comes in.  But there's a man there.  Sherlock explains that the man wants to talk to them about the case but didn't want to start until everyone was present.

The man explains there's a man named Ezra and he revealed all these secrets.  And the man, we'll call him The Belgium, represents a group that wants to help Ezra.  Right now, Ezra's in hiding to avoid being arrested.

Sherlock announces they'll take the case.

Belgium leaves.

Watson's surprised he just decided they were taking the case.  He shows her a photo (cell phone) he just took of the guy and tells her they're following the guy.  He's not really from Belgium.  Sherlock sends the cell phone photo to a friend with a facial recognition program and he and Watson trail Belgium.

Ezra's like Ed Snowden and Julian Assange -- he's a composite.

Watson wonders about tracking him down, should they be tracking Ezra?

Sherlock says they're doing it to find out who's after him and whatever else, Ezra doesn't deserve to be hunted down and killed for what he exposed.

So they find out that The Belgium is actually American. He's CIA they find out by following him to his cover which is a CIA front.

They then realize the reporter breaking the story is still in contact with Ezra and they monitor her to figure out how.  It's via a guy at the front desk of her work.  They swipe his phone.

Once he realizes it's gone, the Ezra community rises up to try to destroy them. 

They hack in to Watson's computer and they get them arrested for fake threats -- detained and questioned for fake threats. 

Watson had been talking to a guy online -- from the dating site.

He shows up worried.  He got some strange e-mails from her, her profile now lists her home address and she's made some outrageous remarks about same-sex marriage on her online profile.

He figured someone was hacking and he just wanted to make sure she's fine.  She's honestly touched.  She can't do anything right now but she plans to call him in a few days.

So they figure out who's hiding Ezra, they go to her apartment and find her dead.

Ezra killed her.  They conclude that immediately.

I was hoping there would be a switcheroo, that it was the CIA, for example, but it was him.

Sherlock gets online to talk to the Ezra community to get some sort of information.  They don't want to talk to him.

One of them types: You're going to have to take off your clothes.

Sherlock stands up, removes his belt and starts undoing his pants when they type that they meant Watson.

Watson's not doing it much to Sherlock's surprise.  He doesn't see it as any big deal.

Ezra is planning to go to Venezuela and would have made it -- when Watson and Sherlock and NYPD Blue caught up with him, he said he had a list of 14 security assets and it would be made public if he didn't get on the plane and leave.  He does that but Watson steals his watch.

They'll scrape DNA to prove he killed the woman.

It was him.  Sherlock goes to The Belgium.  They can get Ezra but doing it means 14 assets are exposed.  Belgium assumes it's off.  Sherlock points out that Belgium can access the information himself, find out the 14 names and warn them.

That happens.

Ezra's brought back and makes a deal where he won't get the death penalty under the espionage act in exchange for admitting he killed the woman.

His admission allows the cyber stalking and hacking of Watson and Sherlock to stop.

She goes out on the date with the guy but isn't impressed.  She tells Sherlock he needs to be out there trying.  He reads the note from the British blond woman who's in prison, the one who tricked him, his nemesis, that he still loves.

So what about Ed and Julian Assange being turned into a composite named Ezra?

I thought it was fine.

If this had been a cheesy show, an Aaron Sorkin show, everyone would have been on the same side and had the same opinions.  Instead, Watson and Sherlock had to grapple.  And I was surprised because Watson was supporting him -- surprised because her initial remarks made me think she'd be opposed to his whistle-blowing.

I thought it was good.  I thought Sherlock's point about Ezra not deserving to be killed for what he did spoke reality at a time when we still have members of Congress who think Ed Snowden should get the death penalty.

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

Thursday, January 23, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue,  Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi speaks in DC, Martha Raddatz goes back to Iraq, the assault on Anbar continues, Barack's allegedly gotten the US Congress to cave and he'll be able to give despot Nouri al-Maliki additional weapons, and more.

Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is currently in the United States.  With Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi currently in exile, al-Nujaifi is the highest ranking Sunni in the Iraqi government.  This morning, he spoke at the Brookings Institution.

Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi:  We first got rid of an oppressive regime and it was followed by a military occupation then a Constitution that was written in unfavorable conditions and circumstances.  There was also a road map that was set.  The Iraqis were not able to contribute to this road map because we were in a rush.  And we wanted Iraq to be an exemplary democracy.  
The Constitution in Iraq was written under very difficult circumstances and in a very sensitive period in the country  and on the hand of politicians who suffered a lot in the past -- arrested or condemned to execution, exiled or in prison.  So the psychological environment was very hard and there were mutual fears between the Iraqi components.  This was the reason why the Constitution has some problems.  And some Articles in the Constitution can be interpreted in different ways. 
We also set up mechanisms to build institutions.  But the orientation of the Constitution was not as it should have been because of the political tension and divisions.  And the institution stipulated in the Constitution was not built as it should because of the problems.  
For instance, the Federal Supreme Court which is the highest judicial body and it rules on the conflicts between different parts of the country.  
So far, we were not able to implement it because this law needs two-thirds of the votes in the Parliament and all the political parties do not agree.  So far it is tribunal.  
Now we have courts that do exist so it is not does not have the Constitutional prerogatives to be able to rule on interpreting the Constitution or deciding if the laws are Constitutional.  That's why there are Constitutional differences between the provinces, between the provinces and Baghdad or between the legislative and the executive powers. 
All this made political life more complicated in Iraq.  And our path towards being the democratic process that we seek was not smooth. There are bad implementation of the law and selective implementation. Parliament adopted some 215 laws.  Some are very important for the stability of Iraq and for providing services to the people and for building the state as it should be built.  But some of these laws were not implemented.  They were adopted, published in the journal -- official journal -- and theoretically should have been implemented but so far they are not because there are unilateral political decisions not to implement them.  
For instance, the law on the provinces that give important prerogatives to the provinces and enough funds and means to implement the essentialization of the state.  But this law was not implemented because some in the country believe that it should not be.  
Also the law about customs, it was adopted two years ago but it is paralyzed on purpose.  
So we are facing many obstacles when it comes to building institutions and building the state of Iraq.  There is selectivity in implementing the laws.  Sometimes the law is implemented on some Iraqi parties and not on some other Iraqi parties. Hence a lack of confidence by the citizens in the political process, in the state institutions and also in the participation in the political process.  
Iraq is now facing a terrorist threat as we've seen since the beginning of the year when the change has started.  And now we need to know how to defeat terrorism at the security and at the ideological level.  
We do know that in 2007 with the surge of the American forces sectarian violence ended in the country.  And we set a plan to fight al Qaeda and the terrorist groups with the support of the Sunni clans -- most especially in Anbar -- they were armed, financed and promises that they will be part of the armed forces.  And the clans were able to defeat al Qaeda and security was restored in Anbar that represents 31% of the surface of Iraq.  So we were able to bring security back and the world is witness.  
But after this victory, there was no follow up on the promises that were given to them and they did not get their rights as, for instance, to integrate into the armed forces, to get the salaries that they need to protect them from being targeted by the terrorists.  Very few of them got salaries, those who did get salaries got salaries that were very, very low, many of them were arrested because of systematic targeting by sectarian politicians or even by al Qaeda because they wanted to undermine the rule of the tribes.  
From 2009 until a few months ago, these forces were almost completely destroyed and then al Qaeda came back stronger than before.  al Qaeda was able to paralyze the tribes and the central state did not follow up on its moral and verbal promises. 
So al Qaeda is back and it is exploiting political differences and the general feeling of frustration among the Iraqi people.  It also is exploiting the systematic corruption at the political and economic level, finding the support, finances and means in some provinces in Iraq.  And in 2013, more than 9,000 Iraqis were killed and more than 25,000 were wounded and this is the highest figure in recent years. 
So the political components in Iraq were not able to build the Iraqi political system or to implement the Constitution and to reach a genuine partnership and a genuine reconciliation.  They were not able to implement the laws as it should be and get rid of corruption and abuses and they did not respect all the Iraqi components as to represent them  in a fair manner in the armed forces.  According to the Constitution, they did not provide the provinces with enough funds. Also we did not adopt the law on hydrocarbons oil and gas which is very important to set a balanced relation between the provinces and the center for the production and exportation of oil.  
So some parties are implementing the Constitution based on their own perspective and this is hindering the building of the state, the national cohesion and is leading to more division.  And more and more people are being disappointed and do not trust the political process at this point as we have seen by the very low turnout in the last general elections [2013 provincial elections] and the ones before [2010 parliamentary elections]. We believe that Iraq is, at this point, at a crossroad.  The key to situation is clear and we can find a solution.  What we need though is a strong determination and the political will for everyone to agree on the Constitution and to forget the past, to move beyond the fears and to stop punishing the Iraqi people and move to reconciliation and prevent Iraq from sliding into even greater troubles.  
In the Kurdish provinces [Kurdistan Regional Government, three semi-autonomous provinces in northern Iraq] there was a law adopted to amnesty every one who committed a crime against the Kurdish people and worked with the previous regime.  Some of them were accused of violent crimes but they decided to amnesty everyone.  And the situation in the Kurdish provinces is stable and everyone is part of the political process.  The Kurdish provinces are now an example of security and successful investment and  wise politics.  
But in central Iraq, we are still arresting people and we are also still implementing the law on the Justice and Accountability in a partial sectarian way.  We are still banishing some of the Iraqi people who were not part of the previous regime and doing so for political reasons.  That is unfair. 
So we have failed in implementing this law.  
The political process is now in jeopardy.  
We need to act clearly and swiftly.  
The next elections are very important and could solve many problems. 
The situation should be stable and calm.  
We should put an end to the violence and the  killings and we should avoid any political measures that are provocative and the day before yesterday a decision to [create three new provinces] which led to lots of reactions.  
Also the issue of what is happening in Anbar Province. Of course, al Qaeda is there and we should fight al Qaeda and we believe so.  The tribes are fighting terrorism at this point.  But not everyone in Al Anbar Province is a terrorist.  [Some residents have been taking part in protests.] There are political demands and rights and problems that need political solutions and not military answers.  
So I am ready to answer your questions now but let me state again that Iraq is at a crossroad -- either it will move towards success and democracy and provide a successful example of a democratic country in a difficult region or, God forbid, we will move into something similar to what's taking place in Syria today.  The second option is to be expected if we do not confront the existing problems in the correct manner. 
Today, Iraq needs national reconciliation and partnership instead of the marginalization 

Okay, on the above.  This is the second week where inadequate translators were provided at a DC Iraq event.  Last week, it was Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq at the US Institute of Peace.   Brookings' translator -- a woman -- was better than the man translating at the US Institute of Peace.  He was awful.  It took him so long -- lengthy pauses -- to figure out what was being said that he would stop mid-sentence because a new person had begun to speak.

She wasn't that bad.  But "[Some residents have been taking part in protests.]"?  I have no idea what he said because she rushed through a bad translation.  She did this also with the section where I have "[create three new provinces"] which instead found her stating that the military launched campaigns in four provinces on Tuesday.

Until the end of the speech, she repeatedly used the term "confessional" when the English word for the term al-Nujaifi was using was "sectarian."  I do realize that context is a great deal.  I really think if you're translating on current events, you should know current events.  The woman did better than the man who stumbled and fumbled and left whole sections untranslated.  But this really shouldn't be considered acceptable.  As I've noted before I have a friend who runs a translation firm.  I told her about this experience and asked if it's considered acceptable?  She said it wasn't.  And I don't see how it could be.  Two people were hired to do jobs which were translating the remarks of visiting politicians.  If you're not translating the remarks, if you're not translating them correctly, you're not doing your job.

On the above, I also broke it up into paragraph form.  Normally, we don't do that.  But that's such a large section of words.  And they had to be included because if Saleh al-Mutlaq and the MPs last week got very little US media coverage, Osama al-Nujaifi is getting even less coverage.

Gus Taylor (Washington Times) is one of the few covering this morning's event.

With fears growing that the situation could trigger an all-out civil war between Iraq’s Shiites and Sunnis, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has yielded to pressure from the Obama administration to delay using the Iraqi military, which is dominated by Shiites, to mount full-scale assault on Anbar.
Mr. al-Maliki has also begun paying more secular Sunni tribesmen to fight back against the extremists in Fallujah.
But Mr. al-Nujayfi on Wednesday suggested the move may be too little too late — or that it must be expanded upon significantly and quickly if the Maliki government has any hope of forging a sustainable alliance with secular Sunni tribal leaders going forward.
He also said the rise of al Qaeda-linked groups in Anbar could most accurately be blamed on the Maliki government’s abandonment of previous alliances that U.S. military forces once nourished with those tribal leaders.
Karen DeYoung and Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) report on the Brookings event and on the visit to the US:

The amount of face time that Nujaifi got with top U.S. officials — including Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — suggested that Washington realizes that mobilizing Iraq’s beleaguered Sunni community will be key to restoring order in Anbar. A State Department official said Washington is hopeful that the ongoing crisis might deliver a larger breakthrough in Iraq’s stagnant politics.
“A big part of what Nujaifi and we are trying to do is move this beyond the military front,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the situation. “Even if you can quell the al-Qaeda advances long-term, you won’t be able to make any progress without political reform as well.”
Yesterday, Iraq's Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi met with US President Barack Obama.

And yesterday, the White House issued the following:
The White House
Office of the Vice President

Readout of Vice President Biden's Meeting with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi

This afternoon, President Obama joined Vice President Joe Biden’s meeting with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and a delegation of Iraqi parliamentarians. Both sides reaffirmed the importance of the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq.   The President encouraged Iraq’s leaders to continue dialogue to address the legitimate grievances of all communities through the political process. Both sides agreed on the need for both security and political measures to combat terrorism, and discussed efforts to formally integrate local and tribal forces into the state security structures consistent with the Government of Iraq’s public commitments in recent days.  President Obama and Vice President Biden also expressed the United States’ strong support for continued cooperation between local and tribal leaders and the Iraqi Government against al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI)/the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  The President and Vice President underscored that the United States stands with Iraq and its people in the fight against AQI/ISIL and other extremist groups.

Osama al-Nujaifi's visit was also noted in today's US State Dept press briefing conducted by spokesperson Marie Harf.

QUESTION: There’s been a number – two of the highest-ranking Sunni political – elected political leaders from Iraq have been through town in the last week.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yep.

QUESTION: The speaker of --

MS. HARF: Nujayfi.

QUESTION: Yeah. Nujayfi is here now. I was wondering if you could, first, just kind of give us a sense of whether or not he’s having any official meetings in this building --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and who’s he going to be meeting with and what are they going to talk about?

MS. HARF: Yeah. So I have a couple updates on Speaker Nujayfi’s travel to the States. On Monday, so four days ago, Secretary Kerry met with the Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, Usama al-Nujayfi, to discuss bilateral issues, including the ongoing situation in Anbar province. They discussed our shared commitment toward a long-term partnership under the Strategic Framework Agreement.
The Secretary noted the importance of cooperation between Anbari local and tribal leaders, the Iraqi security forces, and national leaders in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Anbar province. In that light, the Secretary welcomed the stated commitment by the Government of Iraq to incorporate Iraqi citizens in Anbar who stand up to fight ISIL and other extremist groups into the formal security structure of the state.
The Secretary further praised Speaker Nujayfi’s commitment to support efforts to enlist tribes to control their local areas, in coordination with provincial councils and the Government of Iraq. The two also discussed the importance of Iraq’s national election in April. And Secretary Kerry assured Speaker Nujayfi that the United States will continue to work with United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq to ensure that the election occurs on time, is transparent, and reflects the will of the Iraqi people.
And the Vice President also met with Speaker Nujayfi. This was yesterday, I believe. President Obama joined Vice President Joe Biden’s meeting with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Usama al-Nujayfi and a delegation of Iraqi parliamentarians. Both sides reaffirmed the importance of the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq. The President encouraged Iraq’s leaders to continue dialogue to address the legitimate grievances of all communities through the political process.
Both sides agreed on the need for both security and political measures to combat terrorism and discuss efforts to formally integrate local and tribal forces into the state security structures. Both the President and Vice President expressed the United States strong support for continued cooperation between local and tribal leaders and the Iraqi Government against al-Qaida in Iraq and the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, and of course, underscored that the United States stands with Iraq and its people in this fight against extremist groups.
And I can check on the timing of that meeting. So those are just a couple of his meetings he’s had.

QUESTION: Just one more. Could you just speak to the challenges associated with – of managing these meetings with opposition figures from a political situation that’s fairly tense with sectarian divisions right now? I mean, has the Maliki government or the prime minister had anything to say about the fact that these guys are coming, and is there – have you followed up with him within the context of these meetings?

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. I mean, we’ve made very clear to the Iraqi Government that we will talk to the different political leaders from all sides as part of our engagement. The Vice President has spoken a number of times to Prime Minister Maliki in the recent weeks. The Secretary has made calls. A lot of people have made calls. Brett McGurk, who folks know knows Iraq very well, was just there for an extended trip where he met with political leaders from across the board. So this has certainly been our practice. I haven’t heard anyone suggest that it should be otherwise.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. HARF: Yes. What, on Iraq?

QUESTION: On Iraq, yeah. I’m just – there’s been a proposal in recent days, I believe by the Maliki government, to break off three new pretty much Sunni-dominated provinces in Iraq. They would be in mostly western and northern Iraq, but it would be two provinces in Anbar around Fallujah and Tuz Khormato, and then up north in Ninawa near Tal Afar. I’m just wondering if this came up in the discussions with the Secretary or to your extent of knowledge with the Vice President, and what the Administration feels about this. I know there’s been a strong sense of keeping one country of Iraq --

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: -- but I don’t know how that would equate with breaking off into new provinces within Iraq.

MS. HARF: Right. It’s a good question and I actually – I’m sorry to do this to you twice today – don’t know the answer. So let me check with our folks. I’m not aware of the details of the proposal, but I can see if it came up in discussions and see what our take is on what that might mean. You’re absolutely right that we’ve long said Iraq needed to remain a unified country, certainly, but I’m happy to check on that.

Still on the topic of the US and Iraq, this evening on ABC World News, Martha Raddatz reported from Iraq.

Martha Raddatz:  When the sun goes down in Baghdad, this is what happens: The American military moves in.  ABC News obtained these images -- a massive American cargo jet delivering weapons to Iraqi partners.  2400 rockets to arm Iraqi helicopters [. . .]

Bradley Klapper (AP) reported this morning, based on unnamed sources, that US senators -- such as Senator Bob Menendez -- have been persuaded to drop their objections regarding Apache helicopters among other weapons Barack wants to provide to Iraq's prime minister and chief thug Nouri al-Maliki.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) conducted a major interview with Shi'ite politician Adil Abdul-Mahdi who was Vice President of Iraq.  In 2006, he and Tareq al-Hashemi were Iraq's two vice presidents; in 2010 he and al-Hashemi were again named Vice Presidents and, in 2011, Khondair al-Khozaei was named a third vice president, weeks later Abdul-Mahdi resigned his post in protest of the ongoing corruption and other issues.  He is a member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (led by Ammar al-Hakim) and he has often been mentioned as potential prime minister -- most often in 2005 and 2006. He shared that he thought Nouri made a mistake in seeking a second term and all of the crises which followed that.

We noted that section yesterday.  In light of today's AP news, we're noting a different section.

Al-Monitor:  You served as vice president of Iraq for a number of years and then resigned from the post this term. Do you think that the presidency carried out its role on the constitutional level, and how do you view the presidency in the absence of President Jalal Talabani?

Abdul-Mahdi:  First, I hope that President Talabani regains his health and well-being, so that he can regain his role as a balanced figure whom everyone turns to in times of crisis. But to answer your question, I would say: No, it did not play a role on the political and constitutional levels. The presidency is not, as they say, an honorary institution. Rather, according to the Constitution, it is a supervisory institution, and its task is to monitor the correct implementation of the Constitution. It has a lot of tools to do this. But it failed to carry out this role and in turn contributed to negative developments. However, it cannot be denied that, in some way, they [presidency officials] served as a safety valve, as political leaders at least gathered to ensure calm in periods of crisis.

Jalal Talabani is the President of Iraq.  Or he's supposed to be.  The question continues to be: Can you be the president of a country you're not in?   December 2012,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17, 2012 (see the December 18, 2012 snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20, 2012, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.  Over a year and one month later, he remains in Germany.  He's been posed for three sets of photos starting in May of 2012.  They don't want you to see his left side.  They also don't want anyone to try to speak to him -- not reporters, not Iraq's prime minister, not members of Talabani's political party and not Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi.

Barack wants to send more weapons to Nouri who doesn't have a check on him anymore.

As Abdul-Mahdi pointed out, it is not a ceremonial position.  The presidency acts as a check, a balance.

Dropping back to Tuesday's snapshot:

UPI reports, "Iraq was the only member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to post a decline in oil production last month, the IEA said Tuesday."  Nouri al-Maliki's Iraq stands out -- just never in a good way.  Today the prime minister and chief thug of Iraq wanted to take bows again.  AP notes that Nouri's government issued a declaration, "The justice ministry carried out the executions of 26 (men) convicted of crimes related to terrorism on Sunday."  CNN adds, "One of those executed was Adel al-Mashhadani, a militia leader in Baghdad who was "famous for sectarian crimes," the statement said. He was a member of the Awakening, the Sunni tribal fighting force who fought alongside the United States against al Qaeda militants."  The announcement of the executions come one day after UNAMI issued their [PDF format warning] latest human rights report on Iraq which included:

16. Declare a moratorium on the use of the death penalty in accordance with UN General Assembly resolutions 62/149 (2007), 63/168 (2008), 65/206 (2010) and 67/176( 2012) ; revie w the criminal code and the criminal procedure code with a view to abolishing the death penalty; and consider acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aimed at abolishing the death penalty; 
17. Implement international standards that provide safeg uards of the rights of those facing the death penalty , as set out in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 of 25 May 1984 , until the death penalty is abolished in Iraq.

Clearly, Nouri's not listening to the United Nations.
Today Human Rights Watch issued World Report 2014 which notes 2012 saw Nouri's government execute at least 129 people while 2013 saw the number increase to 151.  BBC News notes today's executions come after "m the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for an immediate halt to executions in Iraq. A spokesman for Navi Pillay said in October large-scale killings were 'obscene and inhumane'."

On Sunday, Nouri authorized 26 executions.  Today?  Raheem Salman, Isabel Coles and Robin Pomeroy (Reuters) report 11 executions were carried out today. AFP observes, "UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged Iraq to halt executions on a visit to Baghdad this month, but was publicly rebuked by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki who said the country does not 'believe that the rights of someone who kills people must be respected'."

On security, National Iraqi News Agency reports a Qabri-Laabid home invasion left 1 police member and 2 other people dead, 1 corpse was discovered dumped in Basra (gun shot wounds), an armed attack in Alsinaiyah left two Iraqi soldiers injured, an Aini-Lbeidhah roadside bombing left 1 soldier dead and four more injured, a Hit city roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police member and left three more injured, the Iraqi military's shelling of Falluja left 2 civilians dead and ten more injured ("including women and children"), an Abu Ghraib armed clash left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and three more injured,  and 1 contractor shot dead in Badush, a Muqdadiyah bombing left two Iraqi soldiers injured.  All Iraq News adds, "Two terrorists of what is so called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria were killed nearby the Iraqi-Syrian borders."  Alsumaria reports an eastern Baghdad attack by assailants on motorcycles who shot dead 1 shop owner and left a worker injured, and the corpse of 1 child was discovered hanging in a Zammar market.

Again, this evening on ABC World News, Martha Raddatz reported from Iraq and spoke with US Ambassador to Iraq Robert Stephen Beecroft.

Martha Raddatz: [. . .]  America's Ambassador tells us Falluja has fallen to an al Qaeda that is now rising across this country. 

Robert Beecroft:  We're in a very precarious situation.  They're capable of-of serious assaults.

Martha Raddatz:  Do you know what -- approximately how many number of al Qaeda are there in Ramadi?

Robert Beecroft:  A lot of people saying these days you've got around 2,000 in the country hard core.

Martha Raddatz:  An astonishing number.  Falluja is really not far from Baghdad.  We wanted to see how far we could get.  It would not be far. Iraqi forces are ringing the city with checkpoints and armored vehicles.  About five miles out of Falluja, the roads became far more desolate and Iraqi security forces warned us we should not go any further.

It's a two minute report, there's not time for a lot.  So let's note Ann:

This is happening because Nouri wouldn't listen to the peaceful protesters who have been protesting now for over a year and because he is terrorizing Anbar Province.

Violence breeds more violence -- especially when the violence is carried out by the government.

I want you to look around your neighborhood the next time you are out.  Figure out how many streets make up your neighborhood.

And then picture that your neighborhood was being bombed and shelled and Hellfire missiles fired on it by the government.


Because they insisted 'terrorists' were in the neighborhood.

Maybe they were, maybe they weren't.

But you know your not a terrorist.  And you should know your neighbors next door and across your street.

Looking around, you should see a lot of innocent people.

And realize that they are all suffering.


Because the inept government either doesn't know how to combat terrorism or just wants an excuse to destroy you and your family and your neighbors.

This is collective punishment.

Wikipedia notes:

Collective punishment is the punishment of a group of people as a result of the behavior of one or more other individuals or groups. The punished group may often have no direct association with the other individuals or groups, or direct control over their actions. In times of war and armed conflict, collective punishment has resulted in atrocities, and is a violation of the laws of war and the Geneva Conventions. Historically, occupying powers have used collective punishment to retaliate against and deter attacks on their forces by Resistance movements (e.g. destroying entire towns and villages where such attacks have occurred).

It is illegal and it is a War Crime.

Yet instead of the White House demanding Nouri cease and desist immediately, Barack rushes to arm Nouri with more weapons he continues to use on the Iraqi people.

War Crimes.

Twitter exchange on Iraq today:

    1. When I reach Twitter marks and think I'm a big shot I remember 's phone autocorrects my name to 'trashcan'
    2. Mine doesn't autocorrect your name! Always know it's you! LOL!
    3. Haha I appreciate it. Mercifully, most phones autocorrect my name to 'peasant', rather than the alternative.
    4. LOL! That is MUCH better than Liz's! Hope you're well today!
    5. Can't complain at all. Baghdad has been quiet (touch wood) today. Thanks for asking, hope you're well too.
    6. Very concerned about things are going there and in Anbar. Stay safe!!

  • Finally, Christopher A. Preble notes a CATO Institute event on Iraq to be held next month:

    Just over two years after the last U.S. combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq, an insurgency is raging throughout the country. The black flags of ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham – now fly over Fallujah, the site of some of the bloodiest battles of the U.S war in Iraq. These recent gains by extremists, and the apparent inability of the Iraqi government to exercise control over its territory, have many in U.S. foreign policy circles worried.
    Many blame Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for the uptick in violence, arguing that his heavy-handed policies toward the Sunni minority laid the groundwork for the current insurgency. (e.g. here) Others blame the Obama administration for failing to successfully negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which would have allowed a small residual U.S. force to remain in the country to help train the Iraqi army and conduct counterterrorist operations. The claim that such forces would have been able to exert great leverage over the Iraqi political class, and that Obama himself bears some blame for the violence because he withdrew U.S. troops rather than leave them in Iraq without a SOFA, ignores that our forces were unable to fix Iraq’s shattered political system even when they were in Iraq in large numbers. (More on this here.)
    Iraqi politics, Iranian influence, and a spillover of violence from the Syrian civil war make the situation far more complex than most want to admit. It’s one thing to assign blame, it’s quite another to find solutions.
    At an upcoming Cato policy forum, “Understanding the Continuing Violence in Iraq,” experts will provide context for the current situation, outline obstacles facing the Iraqi government, and debate what role, if any, the United States should play. Speakers include Douglas Ollivant of the New American Foundation, who wrote on this subject earlier this month, and Harith Hasan who, with Emma Skye, commented on Iraqi politics here last year, and has also written a book on the subject.
    The event begins at Noon, on Tuesday, February 12th. To learn more, and to register, click here.


    the associated press