Saturday, June 04, 2011

That bad economy

Friday! At last! It was a hot day and when it gets that hot, I'm just sapped for the second half of the day. That's how it's been all day.

Okay, Jerry White (WSWS) explains:

President Obama makes an appearance today at a Chrysler plant in Toledo, Ohio where he will tout the resurgence of the US auto industry. Two years after his administration oversaw the restructuring of Chrysler and General Motors, the president will proclaim that the auto companies are profitable and hiring again and that the industry is leading a rebound of American manufacturing.

The president’s handlers, no doubt, intend to make this theme a key part of his re-election campaign, since many Republicans opposed the industry bailout. The rosy picture, however, conceals the reality facing auto workers and more generally the American working class as whole. Chronically high levels of unemployment remain, hourly wages have fallen below levels reached in the depth of the recession and housing prices have seen their biggest drop since the Great Depression.

After several quarters of modest growth, the manufacturing sector contracted sharply last month. Following the handout of trillions of dollars to the banks, economists are increasingly warning of the possibility of a double-dip recession, which would have devastating consequences for workers and their families.

On the dreadful economy, POLITICO notes, " The president has been unable to curb the nation’s nine percent unemployment rate, so he will be forced to put the best possible face on a sputtering recovery."

Yes, he will. And how lucky for him that the press is prepared to do that as well.

The same way they've always whored for him.

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

Friday, June 3, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq is slammed by bombings, activists demonstrate in Baghdad's Tahrir Square despite intimidation efforts by security forces, Adam Kokesh gears up for his dance party, and more.
Iraq War veteran Adam Kokesh holds the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Dance Party tomorrow at noon. Young Americans for Liberty (a continuation of 2008's Students for Ron Paul) picks Adam Kokesh as their Rebel Of The Week. John McKenna explains, "Dancing, even if you are the worst dancer known to man, is a free act of expression, which I'm pretty sure is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Banning it as a 'dmonstration' is bad enough, but the Gestapo-like reactions of the Park Rangers was beyond unnecessary." What is McKenna talking about? On last night's Adam vs. the Man, Adam spoke with Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry and, in a column, Medea explains what happened last weekend:

It was Memorial Day weekend. My partner Tighe Barry and I were on our way to New York, but we decided to make a quick trip to the Memorial to support the dancers. When we got there, two park policemen were talking to the group. We moved closer to hear what they were saying and overheard someone ask the police how they define dancing. Tighe put his arms around my waist and started swaying, illustrating how hard it is to define what, precisely, is dancing.
Suddenly, to our utter amazement, we were set upon by the police. They yanked us apart, handcuffed us and shoved us on the ground. That's when three members of the group put on their headsets and started boogying. The police went wild, bodyslamming, chokeholding, and jumping on top of them. The police cleared out the entire Memorial as if they were protecting the tourists from some kind of terrorist threat, then threw us in a paddywagon and hauled us off to jail. Three hours later, after mug shots and fingerprinting, we were charged with "dancing in a restricted area" and cited to come back to court.

Adam got the body slam, the choke hold and the arrest for the 'crime' of rhythmic movement. He is fighting back and there will be a Dance Party at the Jefferson Memorial this Saturday at noon. More information can be found at RT's Adam vs. the Man. Especially refer to Wednesday's broadcast. In addition to Adam's program, you can also find out information at this Facebook page on the event and on solidarity events taking place around the world.
May 11th, Senator Patty Murray, Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, held a press conference to explain Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, a Senate bill to assist veterans with employment. Among the things that the bill would do:
* Makes participation in the Transition Assistance Program mandatory for separating servicemembers;
* Requires that each servicemember receive an individualized assessment of jobs they may qualify for when they participate in the Transition Assistance Program;
Transition Assistance Program (TAP) is supposed to help service members transitioning to veteran status with a number of issues that will come up in the civilian world such as how to market skills. "TAP is a program," US House Rep Marlin Stutzman declared yesterday, "that is supposed to help discharging veterans transition from the military into civilian careers. VA also has a portion of TAP where they educate the servicemembers on the multitude of services that are available to them once they become veterans."
Stutzman is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity which was holding a hearing on TAP. The first panel was composed of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America's Marco Reininger and AMVETS' Christina Roof. Excerpt.
Subcommittee Chair Marlin Stutzman: I do have a couple of questions for both of you. You mentioned the figure of 45% of service members attend TAP. Is that for all branches? Am I wrong in that the Marines do require, it is mandatory for their service members to attend TAP before they are discharged? And do we know if their percentages are any higher than the other branches?
Christina Roof: When I spoke with Marine Corps officials last week, I was told it is mandatory that their Marines complete the TAP program. I was also told there were some exceptions, of course, you know, like critical injuries involved and so on. But I was told last week that it is mandatory that all their Marines complete TAP before their service discharge.
Subcommittee Chair: Marlin Stutzman: So that's with no exceptions? Every Marine coming out does -- has completed TAP or . . .
Christina Roof: Again, I can only go on what they told me which was, it is mandatory which I think is a great idea that should be across the board. I can't speak, again, to each individual case but it seems like they are enforcing it.
Subcommittee Chair Marlin Stutzman: So would the 45% number have Marines in that percentage? Or do we not know more of -- the demographics or --
Christina Roof: I'll let my colleague, I think that was his number.
Marco Reininger: Sir, if I may, I'm not 100% sure whether or not this number includes the Marine Corps but I believe that making it mandatory DoD wide would be the right solution here. That same survey indicated that many veterans didn't attend the TAP program where TAP courses were offered because it had a reputation of being redundant, not really useful for making a successful transition. And, in some cases even, commanding officers wouldn't let them go. This is what they say, again, this is what the survey indicated. So mandating it DoD wide for all service branches would be the right answer here, sir. And, of course, along with that comes having to overhaul the program so that it actually works and makes sense for people to actually attend.
[. . .]
Ranking Member Bruce Braley: Let me ask you this basic question. Isn't it true that the Department of Defense could make these programs mandatory, across the board right now without any further action by Congress if they wanted to? [They nod their heads.] That was a "yes" from both of you.
Marco Reininger: Yes, sir, absolutely, the executive branch could order this to be mandatory and that would most likely be the end of it as far as I understand the process.
At Third last month in "Hiring Heroes Act of 2011," we noted our support for Senator Patty Murray's bill including the mandatory aspect of TAP:
We think it has to be mandatory to be successful and we feel that way based on the many stories shared with us and those shared in public about returning service members. How you're gathered in a large group and told there's help available if you have 'emotional' problems, but nobody has 'emotional' problems, right? In other words, the VA's been able to avoid issues like PTSD by demonizing and ridiculing them when they should be providing treatment.

We can see something similar happening with the military's job skills training program. Wait. See it happening? It's already happening which is why Murray could state, in the news conference, "Today, nearly one-third of those leaving the Army don't get this training."

There are a lot of programs the military offers. There's a real problem getting the word out. In some instances, such as PTSD, it's hard to draw any conclusion either than the military wants to keep the numbers down. Making the program mandatory means it falls back on superiors if veterans aren't getting access to these programs.
Making it mandatory does make superiors answerable if TAP isn't attended. Why wasn't it attended? Why didn't you ensure that ___ attended it? Did you not understand it was mandatory and your role in this was to ensure that it happened?
Back to the Subcommittee hearing. The second panel was composed of VA's Thomas Pamperin, Ruth A. Fanning, Dept of Labor's Ramond Jefferson and DoD's Philip A. Burdette and Brig Gen Robert Hedelund. Staying with the topic of TAP, we'll note this exchange.
Subcommittee Chair Marlin Stutzman: General Hedelund, my question is with the Marine Corps policy that requires TAP, have you seen any negative effects? And how does the Corps enforce mandatory attendance?
Brig Gen Robert Hedelund: Yes, sir. Thank you for that question. First, no. No operational impacts by requiring Marines to go to mandatory TAP. As I mentioned in my opening statement, our goal is to make this mandatory requirement almost OBE because people will figure out this is something they need and want. That said, some of the discussion earlier from the first panel is relevant in that it is a bit of a leadership issue. Let's not forget that this event does not happen in a vacuum. And that's part of the issue right now with TAP is that it's a one-shot deal. And where it falls on a Marine's timeline to get out of the Marine Corps sometimes is convenient, sometimes not so much.
Now we'll note another hearing this week (I didn't attend this hearing) via press coverage. Jane Cowan reports on PM (Australia's ABC -- link includes text and audio) about the Wednesday House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing.
JANE COWAN: In a report to Congress in the middle of last year the Pentagon said Iraq's security forces would continue to rely on US support to meet and maintain minimum standards. In March this year the US Senate heard there would be "loose ends" unless the Iraqis asked America to stay on. This is how the Democratic congressman Gary Ackerman puts it:

GARY ACKERMAN: Iraq seems to have been a marriage of convenience. Everybody seems to agree that there should be some kind of a divorce but when? And everybody thought that we were waiting for the final papers to come through and now we seem to have some remorse about that. Maybe we're sticking around for the sake of the children, and now they're all saying we should leave, although they really mean we should stay but we ain't staying unless they ask us it seems like a mess. I don't know how you explain that to the civilian population that's going to be asked to pay for child support.

JANE COWAN: The Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had been saying for months he'll stand by the deal but recently did a turnaround, saying he'd support keeping some troops beyond the deadline if he can get most of the country's politicians to agree.
Sophie Quinton (National Journal) adds, "Testifying experts stressed that the United States is expected to continue to influence Iraq by civilian means. The State Department is scheduled to take the lead role in supporting Iraq's security, political, and economic development in October 2011, and the U.S. Agency for International Development will continue its capacity-building efforts." Quinton quotes the State Dept's Patricia Haslach (Iraq Transition Coordinator) telling the Subcommittee, "We're not done. We have no intention of leaving Iraq." John T. Bennett (The Hill) emphasizes US House Rep Gary Ackerman's remarks:
"Most Americans believe we're done in Iraq," said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East and South Asia subcommittee. "That is at odds with the reality in Iraq.
"The American people thought they had already bought this and paid for this," Ackerman said. "That appears to not be the case."
So, too, did members of Congress.
That means the White House soon will have to start "selling a lot of members," Ackerman said, predicting that the "collision" of reality and lawmakers' desires "will not be pretty."
The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "Informed sources in PM Maliki's Office: confirm news that the press has been buzzing with : Maliki has formed a secret committee with his direct oversight to complete the secret discussions with the Americans about the second security agreement." In related news, John R. Parkinson (ABC News) reports that Speaker of the House John Boehner has siad Barack Obama needs to "step up and help the American understand why these missions are vital to the nationaal security interest of our country. [. . .] I really do believe that the president needs to speak out, in terms of our mission in Afghanistan, our mission in Iraq, our mission in Libya, and the doubts that our members have frankly reflected they're reflecting what they're heaing from their constituents."
Iraq was slammed with bombings today. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Seventeen people were killed and 50 others wounded in a blast from a container full of explosives left outside of the Presidential Palaces Mosque in central Tikrit, Iraq, officials told CNN. That was followed in the evening by another explosion when a suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest enetered a Tikrit hospital treating the wounded, Iraq interior ministry officials told CNN. Six people died and 10 were wounded at the hospital in the second attack." On the mosque bombing, BBC News notes, "Some reports suggest the bomb was hidden inside a fuel canister at the entrance to the mosque." AP explains, "The mosque was inside a government-controlled compound where many officials live, and most in attendance were security or government employees." Muhanned Saif Aldin and Tim Craig (Washington Post) quote MP Jamal Algilani stating of the government out of Baghdad, "The procedures that they are following don't meet the size of the responsibility that they are in charge of." Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) quotes provincial counil member Hussein al-Shatub stating, "I don't know how they were able to put these explosives in such a secure area. I was at the main gate of mosque on my way to pray when the explosion occurred. I started evacuating injured people to the hospital. It was a huge explosion." Al Jazeera adds, "Al Jazeera's Omar al-Saleh, reporting from Baghdad, quoting government sources, said, 'Significantly, the compound houses the governor, police command and several other security directorates'." Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) offers one government response to the bombings, "Friday's explosions came less than 24 hours after four explosions hit another predominantly Sunni Muslim city, Ramadi, on Thursday night, killing five and injuring 27. Residents of Tikrit said that authorities had imposed a curfew until further notice."

Today was truly a violent day in Iraq and not the day for the US State Dept to issue a release promoting business in Iraq that opens with one bad lie after another until it sinks under its own spin:
Iraq today is emerging from years of civil conflict and economic isolation, and has the potential to again become what it was not so long ago: a prosperous country with a thriving middle class. Iraq is a market with tremendous potential.
  • By many estimates, Iraq has the world's third-largest oil reserves, and plans to explore for additional reserves.
  • Iraq's population is estimated at around 30 million, among the largest in the region, and is projected to grow more than two percent annually over the next five years.
  • According to the Iraqi government's National Development Plan, the government has plans to spend $100 billion of its own money on thousands of reconstruction and development projects over the next four years.
In recent years, there are a number of tangible signs that Iraq's economy is stabilizing and expanding:
  • Iraq's economy averaged an estimated 4.5 percent real growth over the past four years;
  • Oil production has increased an estimated 22 percent since 2005, and oil exports have increased an estimated 58 percent over the same period;
  • Consumer prices have stabilized, with single-digit inflation over the past three years after more than 50 percent inflation in 2006;
  • The Iraqi government has spent more than US $20 billion on reconstruction and investment projects each of the last two years.
The economic sectors in Iraq with the greatest investment potential include: energy, including both hydrocarbons and the electrical power sector; infrastructure such as architecture, construction, and engineering and transportation; information and communications technology; health such as medical technology, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, and health care services; and agribusiness.
We'll come back to the State Dept's embarrassing days but you'll notice the release ignores the issue of unemployment. That issue, the lack of jobs, has been among the reasons Iraqis have been protesting.
Youth activists and others (including The Great Iraqi Revolution community) gathered in Baghdad's Tahrir Square to honor the detainees lost in the so-called 'justice' system in Iraq. People whose families have no idea where they are or if they are still alive. And, specifically, to show solidarity with the four arrested last Friday. Last Friday was "False Promises Friday." The Great Iraqi Revolution noted the four arrested: "THE 4 YOUNG ACTIVISTS WHO WERE ARRESTED TODAY BY QASSIM ATTA AND TAKEN TO A PLACE UNKNOWN - 27.5.2011 - THEIR NAMES ARE: JIHAD JALEEL, ALI ABDUL KHALIQ, MOUAYED AL TAYEB AND AHMED AL BAGHDADI. We pray God to have them released very soon."

They also noted of last Friday's Baghdad protest -- or in response to it, a smear campaign is being launched on TV, "In the serial of attempting to bad mouth and blacken the Tahrir Square protestors and demonstrators, Qassim Atta and the Iraqiya air photos of one of the detained activists in the Protests and accuse him of several crimes, they then proceed to air a film of a crime whose perpetrators are known to all and sundry, and in the same film some hooded men are heard to accuse that the activist is the person who committed the crime!" And the assault on protesters continued Saturday. Aswat al-Iraq reported:

An eye witness said that a military force raided an NGO, known as Where is My Right, and arrested 11 persons, including its secretary general, in suspicion for their relationship with the organizers of Tahreer Square demonstrations.
"Four Hummer military vehicles and two 4-wheel drive cars surrounded the organization premises in Maidan Square, in the center of Baghdad, where they searched it and destroyed its computers," the source told Aswat al-Iraq.
On the other hand, an activist said on the Facebook page for the Tahreer Square demonstrations, that the organization is an NGO that participated in organizing the demonstrations.
The arrested persons were meeting to discuss how to release the four activists who were arrested last Friday.

Yesterday Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both issued statements decrying the government crackdown on protest and free speech in Iraq. Today The Great Iraqi Revolution offers audio of a song and notes, "Today, all of Iraq is a Revolution Battlefield."

On the four arrrested last Friday, Raheem Salman and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) speak with the families of the activists and one of the fathers tells the reporters, "I know about Ahmed that he loves his country, he loves freedom. I don't know where to go, whom to ask. Are our sons really criminals? .... Even if they have fake identities, why can't we see them? This is not a threat to the state's security." Meanwhile Jack Healy and Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) note, "Rights groups said the people detained had been denied access to lawyers and visits with their families, and criticized the arrests as a ploy to stifle any dissent in the streets, even if it was peaceful and relatively low-key."

The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "Our Correspondent in Baghdad: Government Intelligence officers in plain clothes seriously assaulted members of the press on FALSE PROMISE FRIDAY and particularly Russia Today Channel crew, Diyar Channel and Al Ain, attacking them with knives resulting in the very serious injury of the Diyar correspondent and the theft of 4 cameras as well as the smashing up of the Rasheed Channel camera." and "Our Correspondent in Baghdad: Very heavy deployment of government security forces in Baghdad and heavy deployment of SWAT on Mohammed Al Qassim Highway." Alsumaria TV also notes that "Iraqi security forces massed up."
Turning to the political scene where everything's fallen apart over Nouri al-Maliki's refusal to keep his word and honor the Erbil Agreement (that agreement allowed the stalemate regarding selecting a prime minister and Parliament holding sessions to end by having the various political blocs agree on key issues and positions). Earlier this week, Iraqiya walked out on the process (Iraqiya was the political slate that won the most votes and the most seats in Parliament). UPI notes, "Iraqiya announced it was standing on the sidelines until Maliki's State of Law coalition met a series of demands. Iraqiya in its demands called for an end to 'security violations' in the country, partnerships in security and human rights and the approval of the Sunni-backed slate's list for top defense positions, the Voices of Iraq new agency reports." Aswat al-Iraq notes that Iraq's Sunni Vice President and Iraqiya member Tariq al-Hashimi issued a statement declaring Nouri "has no solution to the present crisis except fleeing from political forces by his weak promises. Maliki will not be able to achieve the national partnership, because he is eager for the (necessity leader) idea." al-Hashimi is calling for new elections. And Alsumaria TV reports, ""Head of the Islamic Supreme Council Sayyed Ammar Al Hakim believes that blaming the current downfalls in Iraq on national partnership is wrong, a source told Alsumaria. The present situation relies on partnership between the weak not between the strong and competent, Al Hakim argued."

And as that debate continues, back to a US government embarrassment. Eli Lake (Washington Times) reports on an emerging scandal involving the US State Dept and your right to know:

The State Department is blocking inspectors from the U.S. government's independent auditor for Iraqi reconstruction from conducting an assessment of the department's multibillion-dollar effort to train Iraq's police.

Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, discussed the standoff with the State Department in an interview this week.

"We have a long history of auditing the police training in Iraq," Mr. Bowen said. "It is simply a misapprehension to conclude that our jurisdiction only applies to bricks-and-mortar reconstruction. To the contrary, Congress has charged us with overseeing the expenditure of funds in Iraq."
Moving to the US, one of the perks of being friends with a strangely influential person in the antiwar movement is apparently that you don't get called out. So a CIA/former CIA/something gets to brag how groovy Robert Gates is an Robert Gates gets years and years of cover. Donald Rumsfeld didn't. But Robert Gates has managed to be the Secretary of Defense under two different administrations. Yet somehow, he doesn't get called out. As Mike recently pointed out, when CIA Ray McGovern wanted attention and attempted to disrupt Hillary Clinton's speech, he insisted it was just like what he'd done with Rumsfeld. No, it wasn't. Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense. Over the war. But a special, loving friendship appeared to prevent McGovern from protesting Gates. And surprisingly, Gates hasn't been held accountable by the left for anything throughout his tenure -- despite his Iran-Contra history. Gates is on his never-ending Love Me tour. The War Hawk has paired up twice this week with War Pimp Robert Siegel. The day (Feb. 5, 2003) Colin Powell, then-US Secretary of State, went to the United Nations to lie (what Collie calls the "blot" on his record), Robert Siegel hailed it on All Things Considered as "the most extenisve, most documented and mosturgent presentation." Siegel was happy, in that segment, to present Collie's accusations -- just not to question them or note the embarrassing realities of the lies. Strangely, while Siegel couldn't question any of the assertions, Democracy Now! (link has audio and video) -- covering the same segment with Phyllis Bennis, James Paul and As'ad Abu Khalil -- was able to and to note that how "much of Powell's presentation is impossible to verify." In fairness, the All Things Considered segment did not "a bunch of determined liars" -- however, that was the 'peace' voice (Jessica Tuchman Mathews) speaking of Iraqis. Please note that JTM was their idea of 'peace' because she (a) hated Iraqis on air and (b) wasn't opposed to the idea of going to war with Iraq and just concerned herself with whether Colin Powell was really groovy or he-makes-her-panties-wet groovy. They also had time for Coward Daniel Schorr (no longer 'with us' and no loss there) to provide a commentary declaring it was time for those European countries who were enjoying "popularity," he insisted, because they were "thumbing their nose at a super power" (the US) needed to "consider the risks and the costs of letting America go it" alone and they just might regret "turning their backs on America."
The first part of the interview (which aired Wednesday) was embarrassing but Iraq didn't really factor in. The second part aired yesterday.
In the interview, Gates explains he was always for the surge (and that he plans to write about what really took place on the Iraq Study Group he served on before becoming Secretary of Defense "and I will write about this later, but I was not the only one"). Siegel wanted to talk about the defense industry advertising on TV and in print in the DC area and Gates chuckled about how he believed the costs of that would show up "in one of our contracts" causing Siegel to laugh, "You'll end up paying for that ad is what you see.." That's not funny nor is it accurate. Gates doesn't "pay." The American tax payers pay. It's the American people's money.
And instead of asking about the 'surge,' why the hell wasn't Siegel asking about the realities of Iraq or does Siegel not pay attention to what actually happens in Iraq? Siegel -- and All Things Considered -- bungled things (at best) in real time when they should have been investigating and informing the American people that there was no case for war on Iraq. Eight years later, he wants to chuckle and laugh with Gates and present the notion that Iraq is somehow stable and things are groovy. That this passes for journalism is the strongest argument for defunding NPR.
All Things Considered isn't the only pro-war outlet to be promoting the Iraq War these days. There's also The New Republic which has been around since 1914 and has a long and embarrassing history that would make for an epic mini-series. Following 9-11, the center-left magazine became ever more War Hawkish. And, as it did so, it lost more and more readers. Thomas E. Ricks 'young thang' Spencer Ackerman worked for The New Republic back then (he was later fired) and Ackerman was among the staff pimping the Iraq War. Among the staff? Howard Kurtz (then at the Washington Post) reported June 19, 2004:
Ever since the New Republic broke with liberal orthodoxy by strongly supporting President Bush's war with Iraq, the magazine has been getting a steady stream of e-mails from readers demanding an apology.
Now the left-leaning weekly has admitted that it was wrong to have backed the war based on the administration's claims that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction.
"We feel regret, but no shame. . . . Our strategic rationale for war has collapsed," says an editorial hammered out after a contentious, 3 1/2-hour editors' meeting.
"I wanted the editorial to be honest not just about the war and other people's mistakes but our mistakes," Editor Peter Beinart says. "We felt we had a responsibility to look in the mirror."
Pretty words from Petey but if they were at all truthful and represented the way the editors actually felt, T.A. Frank's hit piece would never have been published in 2005. From Dave Zirin's article decrying Frank's attacks on the peace movement:
Author Tom Frank -- clearly from the Glass School of Journalism the New Republic has made famous -- described sitting in on an anti-war panel sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, the Washington Peace Center, the DC Anti-War Network and other groups.
After having heard the 100 plus attendees cheer sentiments like "Money for Jobs and Education Not For War and Occupation," Frank became so riled up, he unloaded a deranged harangue about the suffering he would like to rain upon people daring to organize against this war. After Stan Goff, a former Delta Forces soldier and current organizer for Military Families Speak Out, expressed sentiments like "We ain't never resolved nothing through an election," Frank's jag began. Clearly too doughy to do it himself, Frank started to fantasize about a Teutonic strongman who could shut Goff up.
Frank writes, "What I needed was a Republican like Arnold [Schwarzenegger] who would walk up to [Goff] and punch him in the face."
As the panel continued, every cheer and standing ovation seemed to set Frank deeper down a path of psychosis. After International Socialist Review editorial board member Sherry Wolf asserted that Iraqis had a "right" to rebel against occupation, Frank upped the ante in his efforts to intimidate anyone considering entry into the anti-war movement.
Were the editors serious -- and not just trying to revive their failing magazine -- in the spring of 2004, the start of 2005 would have been a lot different. And some publications -- The Progressive or The Nation, for example -- may feel superior to The New Republic today. They have no reason to. Kat, Wally, Ava and I are speaking about the Iraq War to various groups probably 44 or more weeks a year. And people sometimes ask why that is? 'Isn't the Iraq War over?' No, it's not. 'But Americans turned against the war.' At one point they had. And it's doubtful there will be a signifcant change in the next five or so years. But the revisionary tactics by War Hawks following Vietnam weren't interested in changing everyon's mind by 1980, they were laying the groundwork for the real revisionary techniques that would follow in the 80s. And a truth that pollsters never like to admit, any poll with a strong response (oppose or support)? It's not really accurate. Let's say 63% of Americans felt the Iraq War was a mistake in 2007. As much as 10% of that may not be a feeling. As much as 10% of the respondents are not really following the issue. What they're basing it on (true in any poll with strong support or strong opposition) is the cues, the cues in public, the cues from the media, the herd mentality.
In that environment, you can't be silent. Unless you're trying to hand a victory to the War Hawks. While The Nation and The Progressive are silent about an ongoing war, The New Republic is always working it into columns. Fouad Ajami's latest (published at midnight) is entitled "Robert Gates Is Right About Iraq We've made progress -- and we shouldn't remove all U.S. troops." And maybe the first question should be: Why is The New Republic publishing a member of the right-wing Hoover Institution? The man's a moron and like most of the morons who were Academic War Hawks, he's with Johns Hopkins. No where in the article is there any indication that Ajami has been repeatedly wrong on the Iraq War since it started. And for a 21-year-old today, you're really expecting a lot if you think she or he is going to know who helped lie the US into war eight years ago.

In addition, there are people who are just desperate for the Iraq War to be acknowledged in any way or form. By being silent you're helping to create the vacuum that the War Hawks will not shy from filling. Meanwhile Emily Bourke (The World Today, Australia's ABC -- link has audio and transcript) notes a new study:
EMILY BOURKE: As Australia buries yet another one of its soldiers killed in the war in Afghanistan, a new survey has found most Australians and Americans think the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have not been worth it.

The research by the US Studies Centre in the University of Sydney has revealed that almost a decade after the September 11 terrorist attacks the subsequent military campaigns are not helping to win the war on terror.

The data shows the majority of Americans and Australians are suffering war on terror fatigue and they're questioning the cost in blood and treasure.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The disappointing court

Almost the weekend! And this weekend, this Saturday, you are invited to . . . a dance off!!!!!!

That's Saturday, DC, noon, Thomas Jefferson Memorial and the world will be dancing along with those in DC.

This is from John Burton's "US Supreme Court protects abuse of material witness warrants" (WSWS):

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Bush administration attorney general, John Ashcroft, cannot be sued personally for directing federal agents to use “material witness” warrants to round up and jail Muslims during the so-called “war on terror.”

Three liberal justices joined with the high court’s right wing to reverse a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, on the basis that the constitutional limits on the power to arrest and imprison people not suspected of criminal activity is not “clearly established.”

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion relies on the same police-state argument put forward by Obama administration lawyers at the oral argument. He wrote that evidence of actual motive is irrelevant so long as federal agents obtain a warrant based on claims that an arrest is necessary to secure testimony for a legal proceeding. (See, “Obama lawyer defends Bush aide against abuse charges”)

Three other right-wing justices, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, joined Scalia’s opinion without reservation. Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joined the opinion, but wrote separately that there may be other cases where the use of “material witness” warrants might raise constitutional issues.

For more on that topic, you can see Stan's "Supreme Court says we are subjects not citizens" and Betty's "Because the Supreme Court is full of crap."

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

Thursday, June 2, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Adam Kokesh prepares for the Dance Party this Saturday at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Iraqi government releases false totals for May (and the press doesn't say a word), the continued effects of Nancy Pelosi's decision to sell out the peace movement, and more.
We'll open with this from Feminist Majority:
June 2, 2011
Contact: Francesca Tarant
Ph. 703.522.2214 or Email:
Statement by Eleanor Smeal, Publisher of Ms. and President of the Feminist Majority: Jill Abramson Reaches the Pinnacle of the New York Times
The selection of Jill Abramson, an accomplished feminist, as executive editor of The New York Times, which is not only the most influential newspaper in the United States, but also the premier online news platform, smashes a barrier to women's achievement in print and digital media.
This is all the more important because it comes at a time when women's rights are under attack in Congress and state legislatures. Additionally, women are still only one-third of executive editors and one-fifth of presidents, publishers and CEOs of major U.S. newspapers. Globally, women hold only 27 percent of top news management positions. Hopefully the elevation of Jill Abramson to the pinnacle of The New York times will spur the advancement of women in management throughout the industry.
No matter what happens, Iraq War veteran Adam Kokesh's DC event opens tomorrow's snapshot. The host of RT's Adam vs. the Man was among those assaulted by DC Parks Police over the weekend discusses his Dance Party this Saturday at Thomas Jefferson's Memorial starting at noon on yesterday's broadcast (airs Mondays through Fridays at 7:00 pm EST). You can refer to Adam's program and to this Facebook page for more on the event. And while Adam's hosting the DC Dance Party, soldiarty Dance Parties are springing up around the country to be held at the same time for those who are unable to attend the event in DC. Excuse me, all over the country and at places around the world. Ontario has announced their Solidarity Dance Party and so has Paris. There's also a video contest taking place here (winner to be determined by noon tomorrow based upon which video has the most views). Adam noted on yesterday's broadcast, "We just decided that Friday night, at 8:00 pm, for those of you in DC or who are coming to DC for this event, we are going to be meeting for a pre-party at 8:00 pm at Dupont Circle and it will be a chance for you to meet, maybe some fellow dancers, hang out, get to know them, in a slightly more relaxed environment than what we might see at the Jefferson Memorial on Saturday."
"I think we all can agree that this is one of the most important hearings that we'll have in this Congress," noted House Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Jeff Miller yesterday morning. Noting that the unemployment rate for today's veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars (young veterans) is "as high as 13.1%," and went on to make remarks that left me confused. What does Miller mean when he proclaims "there are legal protections for Guardsmen and Reservists who left work to fight for our country. By law, they are entitled to have or back to their jobs when they come home. We need to be aggressive in enforcement of this law"?
Yes, it is illegal to fire someone because they're serving in the Guard. But what is this "we need to be aggressive in enforcement of this law"? Congress makes laws, it doesn't enforce them. And on the enforcement side here, it doesn't exist. Disclosure, I'm covering legal expenses for a friend in my state who is suing to get his job back (it was 'filled' while he was overseas). There's no, "Quick, call San Francisco PD and get an officer out here to arrest someone!" There will be no prison time at the end for the employers. My friend will get his job back and he'll get some sort of cash settlement. But there's no enforcement of this law. That's a joke and it's insulting to pretend that there is. The branch addressing this is the judicial branch.
If Chair Miller would like to legislate some new and more strict laws, that would be great. But as they exist currently, let's stop pretending that these laws are "enforced." They're not. That's why so many Guard members and Reservists are having to turn to the courts. This is not a minor point and it enraged me yesterday so I held off on this hearing thinking I'd be more laid back on the issue today. I'm not. If Chair Miller was just trying to offer some meaningless but pleasing words, he needs to be aware that people aren't stupid enough to applaud those words. But if he comes up with an actual plan -- he says he's hoping to "introduce a new jobs bill for veterans," great. We'll note it, we'll review it here. But if the bill has nothing on protecting the jobs of those called up (or it has toothless and meaingless words), we'll note that as well. This is becoming one of the biggest employment issues for Reservists and Guard members. And prior to recently, I would note, scanning the papers across the country, at least one regional story each month on a veteran going through this. But until a friend of mine faced this problem recently, I didn't realize how widespread it was. I think many people are as ignorant of that as I was. It's not getting the attention it deserves.
Ranking Member Bob Filner noted in his opening remarks (oral, not the prepared, written remarks), "I would associate myself with your [Chair Miller] comments except for one statement. You -- you start off with the mantra that we have to reduce taxes on small business which I would agree with and cut spending. And then you go on to say how we need more training and this and that. Seems to me we have to increase spending in these areas and I'm not afraid to come out and say it. We've got to increase our spending in these areas. If we're going to put people back to work, it's going to take some investment."
The Committee heard from three panels of witnesses. The first panel was composed of the National Association of State Workforce Agencies' Richard Hobbie, DirectEmployers Association's Jolene Jefferies, the Chamber of Commerce's Kevin Schmiegel and the Society for Human Resource Management's Hank Jackson. Schmiegel was the only witness on any panel to note that unemployment might be about to increase with a number of service members due to return from Afghanistan and Iraq. We'll note this from the hearing.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Thanks to each of you for your testimony. I think we've heard a common thread among a lot of what you had to say. There are a lot of programs out there and a lot of information out there, a lot of ways that people can get to it but nobody knows it's there. How do we do it? I mean that's -- we've already got the programs in place, the websites are out there, VA's got it, SHRM's got it. Who wants to start? And I'd be glad to hear from anyone of you on a simple way to fix our problem.
Hank Jackson: I'll -- I'll take that simply because SHRM, as a human resource association, sort of takes its on as one of our responsibilities. I truly believe that education is what's sorely lacking. When we go to our members -- we surveyed our members last year -- 53% of our members indicated that they were actually attempting to hire veterans but were not sure about how to go about it, how to target veterans. We believe that through the programs with the Dept of Labor Vets, that we are developing a tool kit for veterans and employers that we hope to roll out sometimes before the end of the year in conjunction with the Dept of Labor. We believe that our members are truly committed to this cause. It's a matter of giving them a succinct place to go to address this issue.
Richard Hobbie: Mr. Chairman, I agree with Mr. Jackson that partnerships with employers and federal, state and local agencies is extremely important and, of course, we've made great progress on that in the last four years with our partnership with DirectEmployers Association and we continue to make progress.
Jolene Jefferies: And I can just say, I kicked off -- we did a, DirectEmployers Association hiring and retaining veterans web in our education series and that has been keeping me incredibly busy. There's definitely a strong interest in this. And to Mr. Jackson's point, there's a lot of turnover in these human resource departments and it does require continuous communication and education. And we just can't stop that effort. It's got to be an ongoing initiative. So in that spirit, we're providing this education series, recording it, and it's open to the public, does not cost anything and we've had state work force agencies, LVERs [Local Veterans Employment Representatives], DVOP [Disabled Veterans Outreach Program], the VA, the OFCCP [Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs] employers all demanding this training so there is a huge need for that.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: Finally, Mr. Schmiegel.
Kevin Schmiegel: Thank you, sir. I'd like to make two points. The first point which is one of the principles we talked about is that the effort has to be focused on the local community. In my last assignment as a Marine, I was the head of Assignment Monitors. I managed 60 human resource specialist in the Marine Corps that assigned 170,000 Marines worldwide. One of our other primary responsibilities was to retain Marines. We only retain about 1 out of every four Marines so when we were doing our interviews to talk to those Marines about their decision to leave, we often asked them what they were going to do next. They never talked about what they were going to do next, they always talked about where they were going. The fact is, veterans and their families are returning to local communities every day. So the second point, which talks to the local community, is efforts have to be better coordinated between the public and private sector in those local communities. Our approach is simple, we're going to do a hundred events, a hundred hiring fairs in those local communities using the local Chambers of Commerce and the relationships that we have formed nationally with the Dept of Labor Vets and with the employer support of the Guard and Reserve and Ray Jefferson's state directors [Jefferson is the Assistant Secretary for the Department of Labor Veterans Emplyment and Training] and Ron Young's -- Ron Young's team of state directors [Young is the Executive Direcot of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve] in the Guard and Reserve are going to get together in those local communities and execute events. If we focus on local communities and we better coordinate private and public sector efforts, we will be more successful.
Committee Chair Jeff Miller: I salute the Chamber on the 100 jobs fairs you're talking about holding but I think you just hit on part of your problem. If they're all returning to their own home communities, you have tens of thousands of communities which we need to be penetrating and be able to communicate with. So how do we solve that problem? They all want to go home -- and I certainly understand that -- so I mean we've got small cities of several thousand to large cities of millions. Sir?
Kevin Schmiegel: I think there has to be several different models, several different approaches to this. So we've conducted what Ray and I refer to as mega-hiring fairs in cities like Chicago, in cities like New York, in cities like Los Angeles, that model may have over a hundred, a hundred-and-fifty employers and a couple of thousand veterans and their spouses attend. We generally have high level speakers, we have transitional workshops to offer in conjunction with that. When we go to smaller areas -- We'll be in, we'll be in Great Falls, Montana on August 13th, the model is different. You have to focus on fewer number of employees and you have to also take into account that neighboring states from Montana may have significantly lower rates of unemployment than Great Falls. So you may ask a big employer like Haliburton, who has a significant number of jobs in the eastern portion of the state and in the neighboring state, to offer jobs to veterans and their families to relocate either in Montana or in a neighboring state. So I think the answer to the question is the model is different. You have to start somewhere. A hundred is a very aggressive number. The US Chamber of Commerce has over 17,000 local Chambers of Commerce affiliated with us. Next year, if this campaign is successful, we hope that the 100 becomes 500. And the year after that, we hope the 500 becomes 1,000. Thank you.
Commitee Chair Jeff Miller: Thank you. Mr. Filner?
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I thank you all for your testimony and your efforts. This is obviously a Congressional hearing and we have oversight of the VA. I haven't heard any suggestions on what we ought to be doing or what the VA ought to be doing. Looks like the only guy who's doing anything in government is Mr. Jefferson over here -- I mean, from the testimony -- I know you're false modest. But what are we all doing here? I mean this ought to be a top priority for everybody. And I can imagine -- you guys are the experts -- but if I just thought about it for a few seconds I could think of what the VA could be doing. I mean, why isn't every regional office, for example, putting out a list of veterans and their specialties and what they're seeking jobs as? You guys all said we have trouble linking up with who the veterans are. Well the VA knows every veteran. Let's just put out a list of everybody who's looking for a job. I mean, it just doesn't seem difficult. We hear about the transition of skills in the military being hard to translate. We could deem anybody who's in electronics or a medic or a truck driver -- I mean, we can give them a certificate that says "For the purposes of hiring, this serves as" you know "what ever entry level." And people can be trained further. But they have incredible skills. We've been working on this civilian certification for, I don't know, decades. Nobody can seem to solve it. We've got guys truck driving all over Iraq or Afghanistan, they come home and they find out they have to take a six month course to get a commercial driving license. They say, "Hey, what do I need that for?" And they get discouraged. They're truck drivers. They know how to do it and they do it under the most difficult conditions you can imagine. Let them have a certificate that starts with a job. Or electronics people or medics. I mean, I've watched these medics. They have incredible -- they do things that no civilian would ever think of doing and yet they've got to go through some other certification, masters and go to this college and that college. Come on. They have the training. And we could just do it. I'd like you to give us some suggestions in either law, regulation, just executive order that we can help you do the kind of things you're doing every day. You are out there. We ought to be helping you in every way we can and the VA's job is to do that. Give us one thing we could do, if each of you could do that.
Jolene Jefferies: I think for starters, what would really help employers and we don't need a list of names necessarily but even just a simple heat map, for instance, that shows what the talent pools of veterans are, what their skills are, and where, in terms of geography, where can we find certain veterans with specific skills. And that way, we can at least hone down our recruiting strategy --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Done. Let's do it. Anybody from the VA here? Where's Ms. Fanning? [VA's Ruth Fanning] Afraid to raise her hand? Whatever -- she say heat map? [Pointing to VA staff] Whatever a heat map is, let's do it. I can imagine what it is, but I'm sure it's easy.
This continued with Filner handing out assignements but only Jefferies had an answer ready on what she needed. She had to be asked, she did not require prompting (not true of others). There's another hearing, one we attended today, that I'll try to note tomorrow. There's no room in the snapshot for it today.
Among the many things we need to cover today is violence. It's June 2nd, the month of May is over, so let's look back. May 1st, 4 were reported dead and 17 injured. May 2nd, 4 dead and 21 injured. May 3rd, 15 dead and 40 injured. May 4th, 8 dead and 7 injured. May 5th, 30 dead and 90 injured. May 6th, 3 dead and 7 injured. May 7th, 9 dead and 18 injured. May 8th, 17 dead and 11 injured. May 9th, 4 dead and 19 injured. May 10th, 2 dead and 8 injured. May 11th, 2 dead and 16 injured. May 12th, 7 dead. May 13th, 3 injured. May 15th, 8 dead and 19 injured. May 16th, 14 dead and 16 injured. May 17th, 25 dead and 7 injured. May 18th, 6 dead and 2 injured. May 19th, 37 dead and 102 injured. May 20th, 7 dead and 14 injured. May 22nd, 23 dead and 47 injured. May 23rd, 13 and 10. May 25th, 5 dead and 30 injured. May 26th, 26 dead and 12 injured. May 27th, 2 dead (we're not counting the young boy killed by his cousin when they were playing with guns -- though that death was certainly at the very least 'inspired by the Iraq War'). May 28th, 5 dead. May 29th, 2 dead and 10 injured. May 30th, 4 dead and 6 injured. May 31st, 2 dead and 3 injured. Check my math, that should add up to 284 deaths and 535 wounded. Iraqi Body Count -- which does a far better job of tracking than I do -- notes 353 reported deaths.
Xinhua announces that "May's death toll was the lowest since December 2010, when the authorities announced the death of 151 Iraqis." That might be true . . . if the figures Xinhua uses were accurate. They announce, using figures by the Ministry of Interior, Defense and Health, only 171 deaths in Iraq (excluding US soldiers -- we didn't count them yet either). That would be a lie. LIE. Reuters runs with the same FALSE figures because, despite reporting daily deaths and injuries, it's just too hard for the little guys and gals to keep track of what they report -- or, more honestly, they're as sick of their reporting as so many others are.
Did violence decrease in May? No. Drop back to the May 2nd snapshot and you'll see we counted 262 deaths and 598 injured for the month of April. 284 deaths for the month of May would be an increase. And Iraqi Body Count (refer to the snapshot) found 283 were killed in April and they find 353 for the month of May.
It's a two syllable word and that may be more than many US reporters can manage but it is, indeed, an "increase" from the month of April. And just because three government ministries tell you otherwise doesn't make a lie true. In fact, it's past time for the press that refuses to keep their own count to stop repeating what they know each month is a lie. Each month they run with the lies. It's not a mistake, it's not an error. It's deliberate and it should have stopped long ago.
John Drake is a consultent with AKE and we'll note his Tweets on weekly violence for the month of May.
John Drake's Twitter feed May 9th:
johnfdrake John Drake
At least 78 people were killed and 233 injured in violence in #Iraq last week.
John Drake's Twitter feed May 16th:
johnfdrake John Drake
johnfdrake John Drake
johnfdrake John Drake
That was not a complete count (and he didn't pretend it was) but his totals? 228 dead and 722 injured. Supposedly reputable news outlets are really going to pretend that the Iraqi government figure of 171 deaths for the month of May is accurate? Really?
Or we're going to pretend the numbers Prashant Rao put into a computer graph program mean a damn thing? Seriously? All they mean is Prashant wasted his time and now wants to waste ours. You're better than that, all of you, and your readers deserve better.
Since March 2010, a wave of assassinations and assassination attempts have swept Iraq and the last three months have only seen an increase. May 26th saw the assassination of Ahmed Chalabi's boy pal Ali al-Lami. Responding like a grieving lover, Nouri al-Maliki went on a rampage to find someone to blame for the death of his beloved. But many others died and they got no interest from Nouri. Ayad Ali Akbar of the Ministry of Defense was assassinated in Baghdad May 23rd. And the most high profile assassination attempt was probably the May 30th one that Nineweh Province Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi survived -- he is the brother of Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of Parliament. But there was no agonizing cry from Nouri and State of Law over any deaths except for Thug Boi Pin Up Ali al-Lami.
And the wave continues today as Aswat al-Iraq reports that Sheikh Hameed Ahmed was assassinated in Falluja. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "At least five people were killed and 27 others wounded, including 17 policemen, in a series of coordinated explosions late Thursday that struck the city of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, police said." Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured four, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured two people, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured five people, a second one injured four people and a third one left two people injured.
The Great Iraqi Revolution notes that this Friday's protests will be entitled "Tahrir's Detainee Friday." Jacques Clement (AFP) observes, " Iraq risks a return to massive street protests when a 100-day deadline for progress expires next week, experts say, with no core issues having been addressed and a summer heatwave coming." The 100 Days was devised by Nouri al-Maliki (and popularized by Moqtada al-Sadr) in an attempt to defuse the protests. While activists are gearing up for next week (two Friday's from now), protests will be taking place tomorrow. And the title for this coming's Friday's protest, Great Iraqi Revolution explains, was chosen to stand loyal with those who have been wrongly arrested and held in secret prisons. There has been a steady crackdown on protesters but Friday and Saturday Nouri al-Maliki's goons took it up another level.

Today the pattern of attacking protest is called out by not one but two major human rights organizations. Human Rights Watch issues the following:

(Tunis) - Iraqi authorities have detained, interrogated, and beaten several protest organizers in Baghdad in recent days, Human Rights Watch said today. Iraqi authorities should stop the attacks and charge or release those being held, Human Rights Watch said.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, a protest organizer, Isma'il Abdullah, was abducted, stabbed, and beaten on May 27, 2011. The Kurdistan government should make sure its promised investigation of the episode is thorough, fair, and transparent, and leads to the prosecution of those responsible, Human Rights Watch said.
"Authorities in Baghdad and in Iraqi-Kurdistan are keeping their citizens from demonstrating peacefully," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Iraq needs to make sure that security forces and pro-government gangs stop targeting protest organizers, activists, and journalists."
Several activists in the capital told Human Rights Watch that they believed that the increased security at Baghdad's Tahrir Square and the recent arrests were an attempt to head off reinvigoration of public protests, amid efforts by various small protest groups to work together. They said that neighborhood officials had warned them that security forces had made increased inquiries into the activists' whereabouts and activities over the past two weeks.

Baghdad Arrests
On May 28, soldiers in four Humvees and two other unmarked vehicles approached the offices of the human rights group Where Are My Rights in Baghdad's Bab al Mu'adham neighborhood, as members met with fellow protest organizers from the February 25 Group. Members of both groups told Human Rights Watch that soldiers raided the building with guns drawn, took away 13 activists in handcuffs and blindfolds, and confiscated mobile phones, computers and documents.

One detained activist who was released on May 29 told Human Rights Watch that during the raid a commanding officer introduced himself as "from Brigade 43"of the army's 11th Division and said another officer was "from Baghdad Operation Command."

"They did not show any arrest warrants and did not tell us why we were being arrested," this activist said:
A female activist complained and asked to see warrants, and they told her to "shut up and get in the car." They blindfolded and handcuffed us, and while they were doing this, they asked, "Why are you having these meetings? Do you really think you can bring down the government?" And they asked who was supporting us.
The activist said that the army took the people it arrested to a detention facility at Division 11 headquarters, where they were interrogated both as a group and individually. "Once we were there, they hit us with their hands in the face, neck, chest, and arms while we were still blindfolded," the activist said. "They kicked us everywhere they could reach. They did not use batons on me, and they talked to each other about not leaving marks or bruises on us."
The released activist and several members of both organizations said security forces are still holding nine of the activists and have released four without any charges. "I asked what crimes we had committed, and asked again about arrest warrants," said the released activist. "They never answered either question."
On May 27, men in civilian clothing detained four student protesters - Jihad Jalil, Ali al-Jaf, Mouyed Faisal, and Ahmed Al-Baghdadi - near a peaceful protest at Baghdad's Tahrir Square, witnesses said. "When [the protesters] started to struggle, uniformed security forces joined in to help the abductors," one witness told Human Rights Watch. "I saw Jihad [one of the protesters] dragged across the ground. A soldier pointed an AK-47 against Jihad's head and cocked it, threatening to shoot him if he moved. People started panicking and running."
In the confusion that followed, some witnesses said they saw security forces push the four protesters into an ambulance that sped away, though others were not sure what happened to them. Members of two of the students' families told Human Rights Watch that authorities would not tell them where they had been taken, despite multiple inquiries. The brother of one said, "We talked to officials from the Interior Ministry, the 11th Division, the Baghdad Brigade, and other prisons. They all say they do not have him and don't know anything about him."

Human Rights Watch received no response from a government spokesman to requests for information about the four protesters' whereabouts. On May 31, state-run Iraqiya TV broadcast a Baghdad Operation Command statement saying security forces had arrested the students for carrying forged IDs and not for participating in protests.

One of the detained students, a frequent protest organizer, had been chased by unknown assailants 10 days earlier and had been afraid to sleep at home since, a family member told Human Rights Watch, "He called us a few times, but would not tell us where he was staying, because he was convinced that security forces were after him and would come arrest him if they were tapping the phone line."

According to witnesses and media reports, there was a significantly larger presence of government security forces on May 27 than at other weekly Friday demonstrations that have taken place since February 25 over the chronic lack of basic services and perceived widespread corruption.

Kurdistan Abduction
In the Kurdistan attack, in Sulaimaniya, a group of eight armed masked men, some in military clothes, grabbed Abdullah, 28, an organizer and frequent speaker at Sulaimaniya protests, as he was buying a phone card at about 12:05 a.m. on May 27, and whisked him away in an unmarked Nissan patrol car. Abdullah told Human Rights Watch that after they drove for a half-hour, the men pulled him out of the vehicle into a field, where they covered his head, stabbed his arm, and pounded him with their fists and butts of their pistols and rifles.
During the beating, he said, when one of the assailants suggested they kill him, others said they "needed an order from above." One assailant left to make a phone call and when he returned, he told the others "not to kill me but to do something very bad to my face." They removed the cover from his head and one of the gang "beat my face with the Kalashnikov many times until my nose was broken."

At about 2 a.m., he said, they dumped him on the outskirt of the city. Before they left, he said, "they threatened me to never participate in any protests and I should be thrilled that they didn't kill me this time."

Abdullah said that after he filed a police complaint the following day, government and security officials called him and promised to investigate.
On May 29, Hakim Qadir Hamajan, director of Sulaimaniya's security forces, told Human Rights Watch, "We condemn all such acts of violence. The investigation is ongoing, and no information can be released yet, but we are working to find whoever is responsible and bring them before the courts to be prosecuted."

Abdullah had gone into hiding in mid-April after receiving threatening phone calls and text messages because of his protest involvement. He said he had re-emerged six weeks later because he believed he was no longer at risk after hearing that officials and opposition parties would be discussing Kurdistan's political crisis.

Iraqi authorities have taken several steps to eliminate protests in the capital from public view. On April 13, officials issued new regulations barring street protests and allowing them only at three soccer stadiums.

In late February, Iraqi police allowed dozens of assailants to beat and stab peaceful protesters in Baghdad. In the early hours of February 21, dozens of men, some wielding knives and clubs, attacked about 50 protesters who had set up two tents in Tahrir Square. During nationwide February 25 protests, security forces killed at least 12 protesters across the country and injured more than 100. On that day, Human Rights Watch observed Baghdad security forces beating unarmed journalists and protesters, smashing cameras, and confiscating memory cards.
Security forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and its ruling parties have used repressive measures against journalists and demonstrators since the start of the daily protests in Sulaimaniya on February 17 seeking an end to widespread corruption and greater civil and political rights. On March 6, masked men attacked demonstrators and set their tents on fire in Sulaimaniya. On April 18, security forces seized control of Sara Square, the center of Sulaimaniya's protests, and have prevented further demonstrations.

On April 27, the KRG issued a 19-page report of its investigation into the violence during the previous 60 days of demonstrations. It concluded that violence was committed by both security forces and protesters, and that "the police and security forces were poorly trained in handling it appropriately."
Iraq's constitution guarantees "freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration." As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iraq is obligated to protect the right to life and security of the person, and the right to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.
Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to end their clampdown on peaceful protests following the arrest of 15 pro-reform activists in Baghdad in recent days.

Four protesters were arrested by plain-clothed security forces last Friday morning during a peaceful demonstration in Baghdad's Tahrir Square. They are still being held and are reported to be facing trial on charges of possessing fake ID cards.

Eleven other activists were arrested when security forces raided the Baghdad headquarters of 'Ayna Haqqi' (Where is my right), a local NGO, on Saturday. Four were later released but the others, including the NGO's secretary-general, Ahmed Mohammad Ahmed, are still being held, apparently because they are suspected of involvement in organizing demonstrations in Tahrir Square.

"These arrests provide further evidence of the Iraqi authorities' intolerance of peaceful dissent and are very worrying," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International's director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"If they are being held solely for their peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression or assembly they must be released immediately and unconditionally."

"Rather than clamping down on protests, the Iraqi authorities should be upholding and protecting the right of Iraqis to engage in peaceful protests in support of calls for political and economic reform. Iraqis should be free to express their opinions without fear of arrest or harassment by the security forces."

All 11 detainees are currently held at al-Muthanna Prison in Baghdad. They have been denied access to their families and lawyers, raising fears that they could be subject to torture or other ill-treatment.

"The Iraqi authorities must ensure that these detainees are protected against such abuse, including by being allowed immediate access to their lawyers and families," said Malcolm Smart.

Protests first erupted in Iraq in mid-2010 over the federal government's failure to provide basic services such as water and electricity. They then gathered momentum, inspired by the popular protests in Tunisia and Egypt, and culminated in a "Day of Rage" on 25 February, when tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in cities across Iraq.

The Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional governments responded by issuing regulations giving the authorities virtually unlimited discretion to determine who can demonstrate, but many Iraqis have continued to protest in defiance of official restrictions.

Published last month, Amnesty International's report Days of Rage: Protests and Repression in Iraq describes how Iraqi and Kurdish forces have shot and killed protesters, including three teenage boys, and threatened, detained and tortured political activists, and targeted journalists covering the protests.

Read More

If you're wondering what the US State Dept added and thinking you must have missed their 2:00 AM press release earlier this morning, take a breath, relax, you didn't miss it. The State Dept has no statement on it. And the White House? Barack will give mealy mouthed speeches about 'supporting' protests and protesters in the 'Arab Spring' while repeatedly and intentionally ignoring the human rights abuses in Iraq carried out by the US installed puppet government. John Glaser ( observes, "The consequences protestors have faced elsewhere could be vastly more calamitous in Iraq. Hence the very reason Iraq should be constantly in the headlines. The media are having a tough enough time keeping U.S. support for Arab dictatorships on the down low. With[out] the suppression of Iraqi democracy on the front pages, it'd be too difficult to avoid making U.S. imperialism a primary inquiry in the news on the Arab Spring. But suppressing Iraqi democracy is precisely what Operation Iraqi Freedom has brought." At The National Interest, Teg Glaen Carpenter sketches out realities of Iraq:
Aside from periodic elections with competing parties, the new Iraq is beginning to resemble the old Iraq under Saddam Hussein. Maliki's bureaucrats routinely harass both foreign and domestic media outlets that dare to expose his administration's abuses.
Disturbing evidence of such repression has been building for at least the past two years, but matters escalated dramatically in February with the regime's shocking brutality. As with many other countries in the Middle East, demonstrations broke out in Iraq demanding, among other things, an end to the Maliki government's rampant corruption. Those demonstrations culminated with a "Day of Rage." Although the demonstrations even on that day were mostly peaceful, security forces killed at least twenty-nine participants.
They also rounded up dozens of journalists, writers, photographers, and intellectuals who had been involved in organizing the rallies. The Aldiyar Television station, which had telecast footage of the demonstrations, reported that security forces arrested seven employees, including a director and an anchorman, and closed the studio.
One of the many other journalists arrested in Baghdad was Hadi al-Mahdi, who told Washington Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen what happened after soldiers detained him and several colleagues while they were sitting at an outdoor cafe. The soldiers loaded al-Mahdi and the others into Humvees and drove them to a side street, where they beat them severely. Then they took them to a former defense ministry building that now houses a unit of the army's increasingly feared intelligence unit. Mahdi was taken to a room alone, where he was beaten again with clubs, boots and fists. Not satisfied with such garden-variety brutality, they took his shoes off, wet his feet, and administered electric shocks.
This is the new Iraqi democracy for which the United States has spent more than $800 billion and sacrificed some 4,500 American lives. It is an Iraq in which regime opponents are arrested and tortured, in which more than a third of the terrorized Christian community has fled, and in which religious zealots are forcing more and more women back under the veil.
Meanwhile Bloomberg News and the San Francisco Chronicle report, "The U.S. is failing to meet "key milestones" leading up to the planned handover of responsibilities in Iraq from the U.S. military to the State Department on Oct. 1, according to a report being issued tomorrow by State Department's Inspector General." They're not meeting the needed deadlines (US government isn't). It's not as if the White House isn't pushing to extend the SOFA. The real surprise is the Iraq benchmarks. Remember those? Barack should have no say in extending or not extending the US presence in Iraq -- via DoD or state Dept. Why?

Because continued monies given to Iraq by the US tax payer were dependent upon the benchmarks. The (Bush) White House wrote the benchmarks. But it was the (Democratically-controlled) Congressthat insisted on them.

Back then, you may remember, Democrats in Congress pretended to want the Iraq War over and want it over immediately. So they gave a lot of "Mr. President . . ." speeches including noting that there was no progress. The White House would insist there was. The benchmarks were supposed to provide the Congress and the American people with a means to measure what was taking place in Iraq.

The GAO hasn't bothered to examine the benchmarks since 2008. However, it should also be noted that the GAO is an arm of Congress and only researches and studies what it's instructed to by Congress. How interesting that Congress lost interest in measuring 'progress' in Iraq as soon as they believed a Democrat would win the 2008 elections.

The benchmarks were not only signed off on by the White House and the US Congress, they were also signed off on by Nouri al-Maliki. As Barack attempts to extend the US military presence in Iraq, as Democratic House Rep Adam Smith insists he's okay (and he says other Dems are as well) with 10 to 20,000 US troops remaining in Iraq, the American tax payer should be pointing out that the benchmarks were supposed to be met and that the Congress said if they weren't met the funding for the Iraq War stopped.
What were the Iraq benchmarks? Not what was the list and how much partial success did they meet, what were they really?
They were Nancy Pelosi's sell out of the peace movement. Nancy Pelosi flipping the middle finger at all Americans and thinking everyone was too stupid to ever catch on. In 2006, the Democrats had control of which house of Congress? None. Republicans had control of both houses. Give us a house, Nancy said in the lead up to the 2006 mid-term elections, and we'll end the Iraq War. With control of just one house, we'll have the power to end the war.
And Americans believed the lie. They turned out, they showed up to vote and they gave the Democrats control of both houses of Congress. When Democrats got control of the House, Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House -- the most powerful position in the House. Instead of using her position to end the Iraq War, she used it to continue it. That's not an assertion that can be questioned at this point. It is fact. Her actions, her sellout of the peace movement, allowed the Iraq War to continue.
May 22, 2007, CNN reported, "Speaker Nancy Pelosi will present a plan to House Democrats for a war funding bill that won't include a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq but will feature benchmarks with consequences, according to Democratic leadership aides. [. . .] They said Democrats won't give up on a deadline for pulling troops out of Iraq, hoping to write language into defense appropriations and defense authorization bills over the summer. Some prominent antiwar Democrats denounced the compromise, and even Pelosi said she was unsure of her vote." The two-faced Pelosi had been quoted shortly before (May 11, 2007) by Jonathan Weisman (Washington Post) insisting, "He has grown accustomed to the free hand on Iraq he had before January 4. Those days are over."
No, what was over was the peace movement. Nancy Pelois either lied flat out or she's too damn ignorant to know what she was being sold.
She failed Americans. She failed Iraqis. She failed Iraqis not only by continuing the illegal war, Nancy Pelosi failed them by refusing to uphold the benchmarks she insisted on (as Speaker she could have killed them). We see the results of Nancy Pelosi's 'leadership' in Iraq today. Al Rafidayn reports on a bill that Nouri pushed through his Cabinet (and which he wants the Parliament to turn into a law). The bill calls for prison sentences for those who were Ba'athists prior to the start of the Iraq War. Prior to the start of the Iraq War, many Iraqis were Ba'athists. Whether they were Sunni, Shi'ite or what have you. It was a political party in Iraq and part of a political movement in the Arab world. Dar Addustour reports that Nouri's Cabinet claims this proposal is just to prevent Ba'athist from taking control of the country again. Dar Addustour notes it's a five-year prison sentence for those who were 'just' members but ten years for those promoted the party as well.
"Wait! What does that have to do with Nancy?" The 18 benchmarks? One of the benchmarks was de-de-Ba'athification. One conclusion the Iraq Inquiry will offer is that Paul Bremer's decision to institute de-Ba'athification -- purging the government and military of Ba'athists -- after the US invaded Iraq did more than anything else to increase the conflict. Government officials and military officials were all in agreement on that in their testimonies to the London-based Inquiry led by John Chilcot. And one of the benchmarks was to do away with this policy and to find reconciliation.
It never took place. It never took place. And the law Nancy pushed through said if the benchmarks weren't met, the funding was cut. Nancy didn't her job and Iraqis suffer to this day.
Yesterday, Iraqiya pulled out of the government/went on strike/however you want to word it. Reading this morning's US papers, it's amazing to find no coverage of this. Especially from outlets such as the New York Times which has obsessed in print repeatedly over Moqtada al-Sadr's threat to pull his small bloc out of the government. Moqtada has 39 seats in Parliament (40 if you're genereous). Iraqiya has how many?

Well it won the most seats of any competing slate and that number is 91. Iraqiya has seen a splintering with a small number of members spinning off into White Iraqiya. Whether they would followthe decision or not is an actual news story. (My guess is they would not.) But even without them, Iraqiya still controls far more seats than Moqtada.

Should Iraqiya and it's splinter stick together on this issue, they could force Nouri to give into other major blocs (such as al-Hakim's) and could force him to court MPs representing the religious minorities because he would need every vote possible to pass legislation.

That's a news story.

And Ayad Allawi, leader of Iraqiya, did not just suddenly wake up yesterday and decide, "I feel like departing the government today." This threat has been floated for months now. It was made implicit early in May with Allawi speaking of it freely. Last week, the Arab media was filled with various columns and reports attempting to assess how serious Allawi was and what the chances were that Iraqiya would walk?

So there's no excuse for the New York Times of "We were taken by surprise!"

There silence on the issue also demonstrates that they're really not interested in whether people leave Nouri's government, they're just interested in All Things Moqtada. Repeating, Iraqiya has far more seats in Parliament than does Moqtada's bloc. The bloc the Times can't shut up about.

Why did Iraqiya walk? The Erbil Agreement not being implemented and, yes, that's a hard news story as well. Dar Addustour obviously agrees. Alsumaria TV notes, "State of Law Coalition senior official Kamal Al Saidi accused Al Iraqiya List of trying to sap the political regime and complicate the situation in Iraq. Some of Al Iraqiya's demands are alarming and unconstitutional mainly regarding the demand to cancel the Justice and Accountability Commission, Al Saidi argued."

So what today really reveals about the US press is that we have a lot of people fascinated with Moqtada, a lot of fans, just not a whole lot of reporters.