Saturday, May 04, 2013

Nikita: High Value Target

Nikita airs Fridays on The CW.

After last night's "High Value Target"?  Two more episodes left.  Next Friday and then, Friday after that, season finale.

Ryan: Look, we can talk a good game but we have to face the facts: Division is only us now.  We're literally the only ones left and we've been taking a pretty bad beating.

Nikita:  It was just us before and we took down Percy and all of Division from a safe house.

Birkhoff: But at least we knew where Percy was.   We had a bulls eye we could aim at.  We're flying blind now.

Ryan: And every hour that goes by brings us that much closer to the sale of the black box.

Michael: It might be time to think about our options.

Nikita: What?
Michael:  Nikita, we don't have the tools to fix this and we need to take action before the president figures out what has happened here and sends a Navy Seal team to clean up.  I hate to say this but I think we should run.

Cyrus: Speak for yourself, sailor.

Nikita:  Cyrus?  What are you doing here?

Cyrus is there to try to help.   He heard the Black Box was out in the open.  (We last saw Cyrus earlier this season when Amanda was trying to push Nikita's buttons and Amanda said she'd kill him.)

There's going to be a bidding on the Black Box in Canada at the G20.  Though Sonya's not quoted above, she's in the room too.  Alex isn't.

How can they beat various countries with bidding?  Division has no assets.

That's when Alex walks in and says they can use her money.

So Alex and Michael and Nikita head to Canada for the mission.

Owen/Sam is meets with a buyer.  He shows him -- on an iPad -- his brother being killed by Nikita.  He's in. (Let's call him Spain.  I didn't catch the country.)

Owen goes to invite the German.  He doesn't care.  Owen lays on a quote from Nietzche and that does the trick.

Owen distributes phones to all the countries bidding.  They'll bid on those phones at the dinner that night. 

Alex shows up and introduces herself to the foreign minister of Turkey.  Deputy minister, he corrects her and he knows of her (remember, Alex is a Russian heiress).  She was speaking to a friend of his and she'd like to help him win the Black Box.  He plays dumb at first but then bites when she points out Division killed her family and that should be on the Black Box.  She says that's all she wants, he can have the rest on the box.  He agrees.  She's got $200 million he can bid.

Now while this is going on, Sonya, Cyrus, Birkhoff and Ryan are working the computers, etc. back at Division.

When they get a visitor . . .

A Navy Seals team.

Four Navy Seals?

Division is trained killers and all the President sends in is four?

She wants them killed.

Vasquez is one of them.  Maybe the head of the four.  we'll pretend he is even if he wasn't.  He shows them satellite photos from last week: a huge crowd on the ground above leaving Division.  The president knows.

Ryan's activated his com so Nikita could hear all of this.  She tells the Seals that they are on a mission right now and the Seals are interfering.  The president is called and told about the Black Box.

She's at the G20.  Nikita approaches her and the President lies that Nikita's an old student of her's from Harvard.  She and Nikita walk off.  To get the Black Box, Nikita needs access to the dinner.

The President tells her staff to get her former student a ticket -- but only after she makes clear that if the mission isn't a success, Ryan, Sonya, Cyrus and Birkhoff will be killed.

I'm going to lump three scenes together here.  Owen has Amanda chained to the bed in a hotel room.  Yes, the German gave him trouble until he quoted the line Amanda gave him.  That did the trick.  He's now ready to kill Amanda.  She tells him he can't. If the bidding war goes bad, he'll need her to set up another auction.  Fine, he says, he'll kill her after.

He splits.

It's the dinner.  Michael is out in the hall in the service entrance.  Nikita's in the party.  Alex is as well.  While Nikita identifies the bidders, Alex says with the Turk and is able to tell everyone when the bidding starts.  Nikita wants to flush out Owen so she makes herself visible.

The Seals team doesn't know how to shut up and they're talking during the mission -- back at Division -- and asking questions and making asses out of themselves.  Including second guessing Nikita. 

If she flushes him out, they'll lose him, Vasquez insists. 

Ryan says they know what they're doing.  Reminder that they better or they're dead.

Owen does see her but so does Spain.  (Saying that's the woman who killed his brother.)

As Owen runs, Nikita follows.  In the hall Michael greets him.  Nikita comes up from behind.  They tussle briefly.  Briefly because it's Spain and his support staff, out for Nikita.

As Nikita and Michael fight them off, Owen splits.  Michael asks -- having overheard Spain -- who the guy's brother was?  Nikita says she has no idea but she's sure he had it coming.

They've lost Owen.

Vasquez wants to kill the mission.

No, it's only the first bid.  Alex has her eyes on everyone inside.  She speaks with Owen either here or a little earlier.  She asks him about the woman he loved who died.  Did he get over her? He tells her that was Owen and it doesn't matter now.  Then he realizes Sean . . . "Pierce is dead?"  Yep.  For a second, as he looks at Alex, you see 'Sam' become Owen for a moment.  Then he insists that you just shake it off.  Alex offers to give him $200 million for the box right now but he won't take it. 

In the hallway, Michael has something else.  A hotel room key.  He swiped it during the tussle with Owen.

They get Birkhoff to track it down.

He finds out the hotel.

They head there while he's finding out the room.  They have to take the stairs because the elevators are being checked by cops who are all over. 

Amanda looks up as the door opens.

In walks . . .

guys we've never seen before.


She tells them she didn't think they were ever going to get there.  They rescue her.

As they hurry out and over to the elevator, Michael and Nikita come off the stairs.  Seeing the two, Amanda's men begin firing.

Cops swarm the floor as Nikita uses the hotel key to go into the room Amanda was held in.

The cops bust in to discover . . . Nikita and Michael nude in the shower.  What's going on?  Michael asks, "Did my wife send you?" Nikita responds, "You're married!"  The cop looks at them and over at the bed -- where the handcuffs are still attached to the bedposts and says he's sorry "carry on" and gets out of there.

The Turk has lost the bid.  Alex is mobile, walking around looking for the winning bidder.

It's the Germans, she says. 

Cyrus says there's no way.  China could out bid Germany.  It can't be.

It is.  Alex says she's following them.

She goes to the parking lot and watches as the Germans go to a car, grab a car-key (a clicker) from inside the gas tank space and open the back of the car.  They take out a metal brief case.  Alex watches and says they've got the Black Box.

As the other two are excited, the German who holds the Black Box fires on the other two.

Alex reports this and trails after him.

The Seals are trying to kill the mission.  Cyrus has spoken to Sonya about this and a possible backup plan in case the mission fails.

With the Black Box on the loose, Vasquez attempts to kill Cyrus, et al. Sonya hits the keyboard and some whistles and bells go off and steam starts pouring out of tubes as Sonya, Birkhoff, Ryan and Cyrus dart into Ryan's office.

Nikita finds a burner phone that was being used to bid and calls Owen.

She tells him he was set up.  Doesn't he find it strange that the Germans won?  Yeah, but?  Nikita asks him about how he got the Germans on board?  He tells her about the line Amanda had him quote.  Nikita explains that the line was a code.  Amanda and the German are working together.

They're all headed for the harbor.  Amanda's complaining that the helicopter is still not there when Michael and Nikita pull up.  Gun fire ensues as Amanda and the German split. 

Nikita and Michael are exchanging gun fire.  Owen goes driving up to another part of the port.  Amanda escapes but he nails the German and shoots him repeatedly.

German:  You'll be hunted forever.

Owen:  I already am. By better than you.

The German dies.

Amanda calls off the team on Nikita and Michael (they need to live for her plan, she says) and her crew manages to escape as well.

Owen shoots the Black Box.

Nikita and Michael are just running up.

They see him but he runs to his car and leaves.

As they walk up, they see the Black Box.

Nikita takes it as proof that he's still Owen or some part of him is.  Michael disagrees.

The Seals are busting at the doors of Ryan's office.  Ryan goes to his safe and pulls out a grenade.  He tells them that he's going to have to do it.  Everyone's in agreement, they're going to kill themselves.

Nikita calls. They've got the Black Box, it's destroyed.

Birkhoff uses a favor from a hacker friend to get the image of the shot up Black Box sent all over (spammed) Toronto.

The Seals break in.

They're going to shoot them all.  Ryan explains his grenade and also gets in a speech about how he's dangerous now.  Yawn.

The Black Box photo is seen by the President.  She calls Vasquez, asks to speak to Ryan, congratulates him on the mission and then tells Vasquez the hit is off.

End of episode.  Time to celebrate.  Booze for Birkhoff, Sonya, Nikita, Ryan and Michael.  Sonya hands Alex a water.  (Alex thanks her for it.  I know Alex was addicted to the pills but I didn't realize she was now off booze as well.)  As they're celebrating the end of Division, Cyrus walks in.  He just got off the phone with his contacts.  The helicopter was registered to ___.

Everyone goes slack jawed.

That's the rogue outfit Percy had, The Shop.  They were even worse than Division.

Ryan:  If Amanda's aligned herself with them, she'll be capable of anything.

NIkita: She already is.  So what does she need them for?

Ryan: Maybe they need her.

Nikita: Somehow that seems so much worse.

End of episode.  Remember two more new episodes left.

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

Friday, May 3, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the protests continue, Nouri continues to order the use of the 'magic' wands in Baghdad, calls emerge for Nouri to leave office, worshipers at a mosque face a bombing, and more.

Since December 21st, Fridays have meant protests in Iraq -- and harassment of protests by Nouri al-Maliki's forces.  Today, protests took place in many locations including Mosul, Samarra (where Nouri had aircraft providing surveillance), Tikrit (where Nouri's forces -- like Americans in Abu Ghraib prison -- used dogs to 'assist' them, where protesters called for a unified Iraq, and decried attempts by the government to suppress the media), and Jalawla (where Nouri's forces closed roads in an attempt to stop the protests and then closed entrances to the square).  All Iraq News notes that today the protesters elected Mohamed Taha al-Hamdoun to be the spokesperson for protesters in Anbar, Salahudden, Kirkuk, Baghdad, Diyala and Mosul.

National Iraqi News Agency notes that, in Falluja, Sheikh Ahmad al-Abadali spoke of the commitment to peaceful demonstrations and wondered why Nouri continues to use sectarian terms as it attempts to dismiss the protests?  NINA notes that in Falluja's morning prayers, Sheikh Mohamed Taha Hamdon declared that there were four options: replace Nouri, divide Iraq into three regions, "we rule ourselves in our provinces according to the constitution and in accordance with systems of more than 41 percent of the world's countries, stressing that who advocates to implement this option are seeking preserve the unity of Iraq and the fourth option is, confrontation and war, and this option is hated by the people."  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) adds, "In Samarra, Sunni cleric Mohammed Taha warned that the country is descending to civil war because of what he described as a-Maliki’s dictatorship."

Replace Nouri?  In today's New York Times, Nussaibah Younis makes the case for that with "Why Maliki must go" -- which we'll get to in a minute.  In yesterday's snapshot, we noted former US Ambassador Ryan Crocker had a column (Washington Post) which is mistaken beyond means.  I argued:

While the key moments of betrayal did not happen on his watch (it was under the dithering idiot Chris Hill), you cannot act, in 2013, as if talk will bring back the progress of 2010.  We'll address that at length tomorrow.  As with the issue of US forces in Iraq, it's one of those topics we have to keep going back to because so few will ever bother to cover it.  The shortest version is when you make a deal in 2010 and one party (Nouri) fails to honor it, you can't show three years later and say, "Well let's just talk and try to progress."  No, we don't reset the clock.  If there is to be progress in 2013, the first step is honoring the contract that was signed in 2010.

He proposes everyone just talk and:

Last week, the US Congressional Research Service published "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights."  The report was written by Kenneth Katzman.  We're noting the section on the 2010 elections and The Erbil Agreement:

Part of the difficulty forming a government after the election was the close result, and the dramatic implications of gaining or retaining power in Iraq, where politics is often seen as a "winner take all" proposition.  In accordance with timelines established in the Constitution, the newly elected COR [Council of Representatives, Parliament] convened on June 15, 2020, but the session ended after less than a half hour without electing a COR leadership team.  The various factions made little progress through August 2010, as Maliki insisted he remain prime minister for another term and remained in a caretaker role.  The United States stepped up its involvement in political talks, but it was Iraqi politics that led the factions out of an impasse.  On October 1, 2010, Maliki received the backing of most of the 40 COR Sadrist deputies.  The United States reportedly was concerned that Maliki might form a government with Sadrist support.  The Administration ultimately backed a second Maliki term, although continuing to demand that Maliki form a broad-based government inclusive of Sunni leaders.  Illustrating the degree to which the Kurds reclaimed their former role of "kingmakers," Maliki, Allawi, and other Iraqi leaders met in the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government-administered region in Irbil on November 8, 2010, to continue to negotiate on a new government.  (Sadr did not attend the meeting in Irbil, but ISCI/Iraq National Alliance slate leader Ammar Al Hakim did.) 
 On November 10, 2010, with reported direct intervention by President Obama, the "Irbil Agreement" was reached in which (1) Allawi agreed to support Maliki and Talabani to remain in their offices for another term; (2) Iraqiyya would be extensively represented in government -- one of its figures would become COR Speaker, another would be defense minister, and another (presumably Allawi himself) would chair an oversight body called the "National Council for Strategic Policies," and (3) amending the de-Baathification laws that had barred some Iraqis, such as Saleh al-Mutlaq, from holding political positions.  Observers praised the agreement because it included all major factions and was signed with KRG President Masoud Barzani and then U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey in attendance. The agreement did not specify concessions to the Sadr faction.

We've address The Erbil Agreement over and over.  Like US troops still in Iraq, it's one of those topics that results in drive-by readers e-mailing to insist (a) it never happened and (b) the US was in no way involved in it.

The Erbil Agreement ended the 8 month political stalemate that followed the 2010 elections.  It's the legal contract, brokered by the US, that allowed those not supporting Nouri to throw in their support in exchange for legally defined within the contract terms.  The KRG, for example, was supposed to get the census and referendum in Kirkuk (promised in Article 140 of the Constitution but that Nouri refused to move on in his first term).  Another promise was that an independent national security council would be created and Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi would head it. (Iraqiya won the 2010 elections; Nouri's State of Law came in second.  He refused to honor the election results and step down which created the political stalemate that lasted 8 months.)

Let's point out that this move by Nouri was not a surprise.  In the lead-up to the 2010 elections, US Gen Ray Odierno was warning this could happen but the White House elected not to listen to him.  They backed the idiot Chris Hill who was then US Ambassador to Iraq.  Hill didn't even want Odierno speaking to the media and the White House went along with that as well.  Odierno warned what could happen.  The idiot and unqualified Hill (and we noted he was an unqualified and an idiot when we reported on his confirmation hearing -- see the March 25, 2009 snapshot and the March 26th snapshot) and the White House that courted and coddled him are responsible for what went down in 2010.  And you can read more about that and how it took Odierno going to then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates after the 2010 parliamentary election and Gates bringing then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in on their conversation for Odierno to get the audience with the administration that he should have received automatically by reading Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor's The Endgame.

Barack was an idiot to have shut General Ray Odierno, the top-US commander in Iraq, out of the conversation.  To his credit, when approached by Gates and Clinton (and faced with ongoing political stalemate and Chris Hill's inability to answer basic questions about it), Barack did act quickly to replace the idiot.  Which is how you had James Jeffrey quickly nominated to be the new US Ambassador to Iraq with a confirmation hearing taking place July 20, 2010.  That said, in our reporting on Hill's confirmation, we noted he was unqualified, we noted he had no understanding of the issues.  The 15 or so months he was allowed to be ambassador to Iraq were a disaster whose repercussions are still felt today.

Ryan Crocker was the US Ambassador to Iraq immediately before Chris Hill.  He was nominated by Bully Boy Bush and, after Barack was elected in 2008, Crocker offered to stay on until a replacement could be found.

As Betty noted last night, Iraq got coverage (finally) on The NewsHour (PBS -- all links to the program that follow are text, audio and video).  Betty covered the segment on the violence.  The other segment was Ray Suarez moderating a discussion about the state of Iraq featuring Ryan Crocker and former Iraqi Deputy Ambassadot to the UN (2004 to 2007) Feisal Istrabadi.

Istrabadi starts out noting the basic problem ("Nouri al-Maliki himself has been asserting greater and greater control over the instrumentalities of the state, and I -- and has been unable or unwilling to enter or execute the compromises") to which Crocker quickly agrees ("I think Feisal is right, Ray.").  Crocker mentions the slaughter in Hawija (last week, a peaceful sit-in was attacked by Nouri's forces leaving 50 dead and 110 injured) but feels this is a "signal for Iraqis of all sects and ethnicities to take a very deep breath" -- no, that's not how it works in a functioning society.  A despot does not launch a massacre  and the response is, "Let's take a deep breath."  While you're taking that deep breath, you're likely to be stormed the same way the sit-in in Hawija was.

As Betty did on Wednesday, Feisal Istrabadi noted some contents of the US diplomatic tookbox that the US could be using to influence events.  Crocker wants US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to act as mediators.  But for what purpose?

I agree they should be mediating.  But Crocker's column in the Post offers this notion that things can be healed with talking.

No.  The Erbil Agreement was a legally binding contract (that the White House swore had its full support and backing).  Nouri used it to become prime minister and then tossed it aside refusing to honor it.  Since 2011, the Kurds, Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr have been calling for Nouri to implement The Erbil Agreement and he has refused.

You can't trust someone like that.  Forget for the moment that The Erbil Agreement is like every other promise Nouri makes (including the "100 Days To End Corruption" promise to the Iraqi people of February 2011) in that he gets attention and praise for a proposal but never follows up on it.

The Erbil Agreement ended up a political stalemate.  It was a legal contract.  Nouri used just enough of it to get what he wanted (a second term as prime minister) and then trashed it.  And has refused to implement even when called on to do so.

How do you trust someone who refuses to honor a contract?

You can not hit the re-set button and start all over on this.  It doesn't work that way.

It is not as if 2010, the political leaders in Iraq said, "Nouri, grab the post of prime minister -- that you didn't win -- and we'll work out what we want in exchange and get back to you."

Everything was drawn up in the contract.  Everything was stated clearly.  Everything was agreed to.  And Nouri started implementing the contract and kept it moving long enough to get his second term and then refused to follow it and implement the other provisions.

Nouri owns a home and you give him $125,000 for it and he signs it over to you but he refuses to move out of it.  You keep calling, "Hey, Nouri when are you going to vacate the premises?  You know there's a date for that in the contract but you've exceeded it."  You wait for over two years for him to turn over the house you paid for.  He refuses.  You're looking for a new house and find the perfect one.  You love it but turns out Nouri owns this one too.  Are you really going to trust him again?

Only if you're crazy.

There's not a re-set button after he refused to honor the contract.  Not only did he refuse to honor it, but the contract outlined a power-sharing government and Nouri has spent the last months insulting such a government, saying it is not functional and insisting that he will have a majority government.  (Him having a majority government is difficult when he came in second place.)

So there's no reason to trust him.  He doesn't honor a contract, he doesn't support a power-sharing government.

Noting the possibility that Iraq could split up into three independent governing bodies under some loose system of federalism, Jim Muir (BBC News) reminds:

The government led by Nouri Maliki was supposed to be one of national partnership.
Under a power-sharing deal brokered by Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, the man whose Iraqiyya coalition actually came out ahead of Mr Maliki in the polls, Iyyad Allawi (a secular Shia who garnered most of the Sunni vote), was supposed to head a "Higher National Strategy Council" with considerable powers.
None of that happened. Instead of being seen as a partner, Mr Maliki has been accused increasingly of going it alone with autocratic powers stemming from his control of the entire security apparatus, including the defence and interior ministries.
Sunni participation has been increasingly marginalised and opinion alienated by Mr Maliki's failure to address key Sunni demands and complaints, especially relating to the release of detainees, counter-terrorism laws, job opportunities etc.

You'd have to be the stupidest person in the world to say, "Okay, let's all start over."  There is no starting over.  His record is firmly established so that at this point, if you go into an agreement with him, you better know that when he (again) breaks it, no one wants to hear you whine.

Bernard Gwertzman (Council on Foreign Relations) speaks with Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) about what's going on in Iraq.  Excerpt.

[Bernard Gwertzman:] Why can't Maliki make peace with the Sunni political leadership so that things can calm down?
[Ned Parker:] Well, that's the issue: Today, you can make the argument that you have troops now surrounding two cities, Fallujah and Ramadi, which were a hotbed for the insurgency against the Americans and later a base for al-Qaeda. So there is a tense standoff there, and I suppose you can attribute or credit to local leaders; they have worked out an initial understanding with the Iraqi military to try to ease the situation where there are some people inside of Ramadi who killed five Iraqi soldiers last Saturday. But the problem is, whether on the local level or on the national level, there is no real consensus or trust between the sides to bring the situation under control. So politics exist in the vacuum of mistrust, and if harsh decisions are made, very quickly you go from calm into a crisis. And each crisis is worse than the last. So tentative channels can be established for communications, but without bold action, inevitably things will boil over.

After The Erbil Agreement gave Nouri everything he wanted and he refused to honor his side of the contract, it's not at all surprising that there is no trust.

Again, Nussaibah Younis makes the case "Why Maliki must go" and this includes:

But if Mr. Maliki, who took office in 2006, had a successful first term, he has squandered the opportunity to heal the nation in his second term, which began in 2010. He has taken a hard sectarian line on security and political challenges. He has resisted integrating Sunnis into the army. He has accused senior Sunni politicians of being terrorists, hounded them from power and lost the cooperation of the Sunni community. The result: the political bargain that had sustained the fragile Iraqi state broke down.
Today, resurgent terrorist groups have killed hundreds of moderate Sunnis who once fought them, and are offering others a grim chance to save their lives — by “repenting” and joining the extremists.
Meanwhile, Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni, remains in exile, having fled and then been given a death sentence in absentia on charges of terrorism. Similar moves to charge Finance Minister Rafe al-Essawi, a moderate Sunni, led to the protests that have now engulfed Iraq’s Sunni heartland and alienated other communities. An army attack on a protest encampment last week brought only wider violence.

The last sentence refers to Hawija.  Tuesday, April 23rd, Nouri al-Maliki's federal forces stormed a sit-in in Hawija, Kirkuk. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.  Last night, Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported, "Iraqi security used disproportionate force, including shooting unarmed civilians, during a raid on an encampment of Sunni Arab protesters last week that left 45 people dead, according to two government investigations and foreign diplomats."  Parker quotes an unnamed "foreign official" who states, "It became a vendetta out of all proportions.… This was carnage."  And this is on Nouri.  Parker quotes 'acting minister of defense' stating the people were "terrorists."  There is no acting minister of defense.

The Constitution of Iraq does not recognize "acting" minister. You're a minister or you're not.  How do you head a ministry?  The Prime Minister (or prime minister-designate) nominates you to the Parliament and you win enough votes for confirmation from the Parliament.  Once that happens, you're in unless you want to go because the Prime Minister can't fire you, only the Parliament can and that's by a vote.  (Nouri's repeatedly asked the Parliment to strip Tareq al-Hashemi of the title of Vice President.  The Parliament's refused to do so.)

Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."  Again, let's pull from Kenneth Katzman's latest report to the US Congress, "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights" (Congressional Research Service) on what happened after The Erbil Agreement, "As for the State of Law list, Maliki remained prime minister, and retained for himself the Defense, Interior, and National Security (minister of state) posts pending permanent nominees for those positions."  To be clear, Parliament has not rejected any nominee.  Nouri has never nominated people for these posts in his second term.    Struan Stevenson heads the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq and notes in a column for UPI today: "In a subsequent agreement signed in the presence of the U.S. ambassador to Iraq (The Erbil Agreement), Maliki agreed to appoint representatives from Allawi's faction into key government posts as ministers of defense, interior and security. In fact he has never done so and his office maintains full authority over the army, police and intelligence services, giving him virtual dictatorial powers." 

Yes, it all comes back to that.  The Erbil Agreement was not a minor document.  There is no 'acting' minister of defense.  Why would Nouri have 'acting'?  Because he has no respect for the Constitution or for legal contracts.  But also because it's a power-grab (as Iraqiya rightly labeled it back in January of 2011).

Nouri puts you in as "acting" Minister of Defense.  You do what he tells you.  If you fail to or if you disagree or if decides you're not loyal, he kicks you out.  And there's nothing you can do because you don't have a position that's defined in the Constitution.  By contrast, if he nominates you to be the Minister of Defense and the Parliament votes you into office, you then control your ministry unless Parliament votes to remove you.

So the flunky who pretends to be in charge of the Minister of Defense does what Nouri tells him too.  Which means Nouri is responsible for the slaughter in Hawija.

Equally true, the 'acting' moron who declared the people taking part in the sit-in to be all 'terrorists'?  He was using the same terminology that Nouri had used the week prior.

From the April 18th snapshot:

  Kitabat reports that tribal leaders in Dhi Qar have signed a letter apologizing to activists.  For what?  For Nouri's "abusive verbal attack" on them.  Nouri gave a little speech where he called the peaceful activists lawless rebels and threatened to use force against them.  Peaceful protests have been going on across Iraq, peaceful protests against Nouri, since December.
They aren't the only ones condemning Nouri for those remarks.  NINA notes that Osama al-Nujaifi's party has condemned the remarks and called for Nouri to stop verbally attacking demonstrators and return to Baghdad to oversea security issues.  Osama al-Nujaifi is part of the Iraqiya political slate but this was his Motahedoon Coalition issuing the condemnation.  Iraqiya also condemned the remarks.  Maysoun al-Damlouji, Iraqiya spokesperson, is quoted by NINA stating, "Describing our honorable people who peacefully demonstrate across Iraq demanding their legitimate rights as conspirators is the ugliest words you can use against the oppressed people." Iraqiya MP Ahmed al-Alwani added that Nouri's attacks on demonstrators "incite sectarian strife."

Even Nouri's new bride Saleh al-Mutlaq is calling out the remarks leading Kitabat to wonder if the honeymoon is over for Nouri and Saleh or if this is just more propaganda from Saleh in an attempt to boost the votes for the National Dialogue Front?

The slaughter is on Nouri.  Dr. Bashir Musa Nafi explains at Middle East Monitor:

 Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have gathered in the squares of six Iraqi cities since the last week of December. During 120 days of public protest against sectarian discrimination and persecution carried out by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's regime, the demonstrators, along with their supporting scholars, dignitaries and tribal leaders, were keen on keeping the protests peaceful. Despite the hardships faced by the protesters, with the regime ignoring their demands, not one government institution has been attacked and no officials have been harmed. However, the Prime Minister, known for his fascist ideas and obsession with domination, power and direct control over the security agencies, especially the army, had different ideas.
From the very beginning, Al-Maliki mocked the Popular Movement and the crowd in the streets of Fallujah, Ramadi, Samarra, Mosul and other cities. He described the protesters as sectarian, Ba'athists and terrorists, and threatened them. In Fallujah, Al-Maliki instructed his forces to tackle the protestors, causing a number of deaths and injuries.
However, the clarity of purpose and awareness of what the Prime Minister had sought to do drove the people of Fallujah to lick their wounds and underline the peacefulness of the c. Even so, the harassment of demonstrators by security forces and the army did not stop; in Samarra, the prime minister's forces used violence and weapons against protesters.
However, what was witnessed in the “freedom” square in the city of Hawija in the early hours of Tuesday, April 23 was something different. Without warning, while most of the people of the city and the protesters were still asleep, the army and security forces associated with the prime minister's office stormed the square with armoured vehicles, heavy machine guns and helicopters. Within moments, the protest camp was a war zone. More than hundred protesters were wounded and dozens were killed of people; some, claimed eyewitnesses, were executed in the field. In the days after the sneak attack by Al-Maliki's forces tensions remained high.

Nouri's got a lot of blood on his hands.   Ammar Karim (AFP) reported this morning that the 'magic'  wands to 'detect' bombs (and drugs and, no doubt, spirits from the other world) are still being used in Iraq.  He speaks with a police officer in Baghdad who admits that everyone knows that they don't work but that the police are under orders to use the wands.

At the start of November 2009, Rod Nordland (New York Times) reported on these 'bomb detectors' in use in Iraq: "The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works 'on the same principle as a Ouija board' -- the power of suggestion -- said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wand as nothing more than an explosive divining rod."  That's when the wands should have ceased being used in Iraq.  But that didn't happen.  Dropping back to January 25, 2010:

Riyad Mohammed and Rod Norldand (New York Times) reported on Saturday that the reaction in Iraq was outrage from officials and they quote MP Ammar Tuma stating, "This company not only caused grave and massive losses of funds, but it has caused grave and massive losses of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians, by the hundreds and thousands, from attacks that we thought we were immune to because we have this device."  Despite the turn of events, the machines continue to be used in Iraq but 'now' an investigation into them will take place orded by Nouri. As opposed to months ago when they were first called into question. Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) adds that members of Parliament were calling for an end to use of the machines on Saturday.  Martin Chulov (Guardian) notes the US military has long -- and publicly -- decried the use of the machines,  "The US military has been scathing, claiming the wands contained only a chip to detect theft from stores. The claim was based on a study released in June by US military scientists, using x-ray and laboratory analysis, which was passed on to Iraqi officials."

And still the wands were used.  April 23rd (see the  April 24, 2013 snapshot), the man who made and sold the wands, who was on trial for those wands, was pronounced guilty on three counts of fraud.  And still Nouri has allowed -- no, insisted that the wands be used.

Yesterday, McCormick was sentenced to a maxium of 10 years.  Jake Ryan (Sun) quoted Judge Richard Hone stating, "The device was useless, the profit outrageous and your culpability as a fraudster has to be placed in the highest category.  Your profits were obscene.  You have neither insight, shame or any sense of remorse."

Guess who else has neither insight, shame or any sense of remorse?

Nouri al-Maliki.

Robert Booth (Guardian) noted yesterday that Saad al-Muttalibi ("adviser to Nouri al-Maliki) is insisting Nouri's considering suing on behalf of the victims.  We noted, "Actually, the families of the victims should be suing Nouri for allowing those things to be used for the last years, even after the wands were globally revealed to be a joke."

After the wands have been ruled a fraud and the maker and seller of them has been sentenced, Nouri's still making police officers use these devices that do nothing?

This is grounds for removal from office.  This is incompetence at the highest level.

It also means the Iraqi government just lost the ability to sue for James McCormick or his company for any damages.  By using them today, this is no longer, "We were defrauded!  We didn't know!"  Now you're into the "buyer beware" category.  (The Parliament might have standing and groups representing Iraqis who lost loved ones should have standing but Nouri, the Council of Ministers -- which he heads -- and the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry Defense -- ibid -- should have just lost standing to sue.)

So, to be clear, not only has he wasted a fortune on 'magic' wands but he's made Iraq unsafer.  If you're the police or whatever force and you're using the 'magic' wand to detect a bomb and it comes back 'negative,' I believe you then move on to the next car.  You've done your 'test.'  You've stood beside or behind the car and jogged in place (how, supposedly, the 'magic' wand is activated) and nothing happened so you waive the car on.

Without the 'magic' wands, that time would be spent searching a car.  A search might or might not discover a bomb but it would have a better chance of finding one.  (As would bomb sniffing dogs.)  Back in October, Al Mada noted that Parliament's Security and Defense Commission was budgeting for explosive detectors and bomb sniffing dogs.  It's a shame Nouri couldn't have led on the issue.

But he never leads.

I'm sorry, that's just not true.  Nouri has led.  Take this example from the December 31, 2012 snapshot:

Iraq is still among the most corrupt countries as ranked by Transparency International. 176 countries were ranked this year on transparency and Iraq came in as the 169th most transparent country.  Only seven countries were ranked as less transparent.  Nouri's long been accused of skimming off Iraq's funds and his family lives high on the hog.  He also employs his son who is said to be as much of a terror as Uday Hussein was said to be.  Nouri's son is part of current corruption scandal.
October 9th, with much fanfare, Nouri signed a $4.2 billion dollar weapons deal with Russia.  He strutted and preened and was so proud of himself.  Yet shortly after taking his bows on the world stage and with Parliament and others raising objections, Nouri quickly announced the deal was off.  The scandal, however, refuses to go away. The Iraq Times stated Nouri was offering up his former spokesperson  Ali al-Dabbagh and others to protect the truly corrupt -- the truly corrupt -- according to members of Parliament -- including Nouri's son who got a nice little slice off the deal.  These charges came from Shi'ite MPs as well as Sunnis and Kurds.  Even the Shi'ite National Alliance has spoken out.  All Iraq News noted National Alliance member and one-time MP Wael Abdul Latif is calling for Nouri to quickly bring charges against those involved in the corruption.  (The arms deal is now treated by the Iraqi press as corrupt and not allegedly corrupt, FYI.)   Latif remains a major player in the National Alliance and the National Alliance has backed Nouri during his second term.  With his current hold on power reportedly tenous and having already lost the support of Moqtada al-Sadr, Nouri really can't afford to tick off the National Alliance as well.  Kitabat reported MP Maha al-Douri, of Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc in Parliament, is saying Nouri's on a list of officials bribed by Russia for the deal. 

So, see there, he's led Iraq to topping the corruption index.  And, as we noted yesterday, Iraq just topped Committee to Protect Journalists' 2013 Impunity Index -- kill any journalist in Nouri's Iraq and never fear that you might be arrested.

He's also 'led' on increasing violence in Iraq.  Yesterday, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported the United Nations have released their figures for the month of April: 712 people killed in violence and 1,633 left injured.  Basing it on their own figures, the UN declares last month to have been the most deadly in Iraq in five years.  Vivienne Nunis (Voice of Russia) notes the UN figures and speaks with AFP's Mohamad Ali Harissi who states:

To be honest, you have to be lucky to stay alive here.  People, the Iraqis, they open their door and just before they go out to work they pray so they come back safe because you can be in the street and suddenly there will be a car bomb next to you and you will be killed.

People here they live by chance you know. The one who stays alive is lucky.  It's really a mess and it's really sad because people die every day.  And for what, for nothing you know?

France 24 has posted images and video of some of the recent violence.

Prensa Latina sees Iraq today "plunged into violence."  Alsumaria notes a Baghdad grenade attack on an alcoholic store in which 3 people died and two more were left injured and a bombing inside a northern Baghdad mosque has claimed 3 lives and left twenty-eight injuredAll Iraq News reports it was near the mosque and that the death toll has risen to five and there are thirty injured.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) offers that the bombing was outside and "The blast took place as worshippers were leaving the mosque in the al-Rashidiya neighborhood following Friday prayers, police said."  Deutsche Welle identifies the mosque as al-Ghofran mosque.   Xinhua adds, "Meanwhile, a total of nine policemen were killed and six others wounded in clashes between armed men and police in Mosul, some 400 km northwest of Baghdad, a local police source told Xinhua."

We're wrapping up.  But Elaine pointed out Wednesday night that Policy Mic, writing about the protests in Iraq, was unable (like so many others) to note that one thing fueling them has been the rape and torture of females in Iraqi prisons.  This has happened with so many outlets.  So it's worth noting that Struan Stevenson was able to note it in his column for UPI: "Arbitrary arrests, constant executions and torture of prisoners -- particularly the torture and rape of female detainees, have increased to such an extent that Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and even the European Parliament have formally objected."  We'll close with this from ETAN:

Groups Call on U.S. to Condemn Indonesian Attacks on Peaceful Demonstrations in West PapuaContact: Ed McWilliams, West Papua Advocacy Team, +1-575-648-2078,
John M. Miller, National Coordinator, ETAN, +1-917-690-4391,

May 3, 2013 - The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) and West Papua Advocacy Team (WPAT) strongly urge the U.S. government to condemn the unwarranted assault by Indonesian government security forces on peaceful May 1 demonstrations in West Papua. They called for U.S. security assistance to be curtailed, absent an end to such egregious human rights violations and credible prosecution and sentencing of the perpetrators of these crimes among Indonesia's military, police, and "anti-terror" forces.
  Widespread nonviolent Papuan protests commemorating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations 1963 handover of West Papua to Indonesian control were met with security force brutality. At least two West Papuans were killed; many more were wounded and/or detained.

On May 2, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay “expressed serious concerns over the crackdown on mass demonstrations across Papua." Her statement said "These latest incidents are unfortunate examples of the ongoing suppression of freedom of expression and excessive use of force in Papua. I urge the Government of Indonesia to allow peaceful protest and hold accountable those involved in abuses.

ETAN and WPAT, noting the close relations and expanding security relationship between Washington and Jakarta, call on President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to press the Indonesian government to end its suppression of freedom of expression in West Papua and to hold those responsible for violence against civilian demonstrators accountable before civilian courts.

The U.S. should also urge Indonesia to allow visits by UN Human Rights Special Rapporteurs, as the Indonesian Government agreed to do in late 2012, and more generally end restrictions on travel there by international observers. The planned visit by Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, remains stalled over Indonesian government restrictions that would prevent him from visiting political prisoners in West Papua and elsewhere.

ETAN and WPAT also urge the appropriate committees and subcommittees of the U.S. Congress to hold hearings examining the impact of expanding security ties between the U.S. and Indonesia and possible violations of the Leahy law. This is especially urgent given the continuing and even worsening violations of human rights by the Indonesian military and other security forces targeting Papuans seeking to exercise rights guaranteed them by international treaties and covenants. Legislation to curtail or fully suspend this assistance should be on the agenda for such hearings.

The latest attacks are the latest human rights violations that have continued unabated since Indonesia took control of the territory 50 years. These crimes are part of a larger pattern of repression and impunity perpetrated by troops and police armed and trained by the U.S.

This statement is also supported by the West Papua Action Network.

ETAN was formed in 1991. The U.S.-based organization advocates for democracy, justice and human rights for Timor-Leste, West Papua and Indonesia. ETAN on the web: Twitter: etan009. The West Papua Advocacy Team is a U.S.-based NGO composed of academics, human rights defenders and a retired U.S. diplomat. Both organizations co-publish the monthly West Papua Report.


Donate today. Read ETAN's fund appeal: ETAN. Order books and more from ETAN Recipient of the Order of Timor (Ordem Timor)

John M. Miller, National Coordinator
East Timor & Indonesia Action Network (ETAN)
Phone: +1-718-596-7668   Mobile phone: +1-917-690-4391 
Email: Skype: john.m.miller Twitter: @etan009






 rod nordland
martin chulov


Thursday, May 02, 2013

Foreclosure Queen Penny buys a Cabinet seat

Thursday.  Remember tomorrow on The CW, another new episode of Nikita.

Can you believe, changing the subject, that Barack Obama's nominated the ugly Penny Pritzker?  From Viveca Novak's piece at Open Secrets:

Now that President Obama has nominated one of his top fundraisers, Chicago-area businesswoman and philanthropist Penny Pritzker, to head the Commerce Department, the usual microscopic examination of her background and finances presumably will ensue. Plenty of grist for the mill: Her family's Hyatt Hotels has clashed with labor unions over the chain's treatment of housekeepers, and a bank partly owned by the family was deeply involved in subprime lending, which helped cause the financial crisis of 2008. Then there are the offshore trusts...

Pritzker, of course, was a bundler for and co-chair of Obama's 2012 campaign, collecting at least $500,000 (and possibly much more), according to information given out by the campaign And she was chair of the finance committee for his 2008 campaign, helping him bring in the millions he needed to raise after he decided not to accept public financing; she herself bundled between $200,000 and $500,000 for Obama in that earlier cycle. She also gave $250,000 to help fund her fellow Chicagoan's 2013 inaugural.

So this anti-labor trash gets to buy her way into the Cabinet?

Today Free Speech Radio News noted, "Pritzker is heir to the Hyatt Hotel fortune, and currently sits on the board. The company has long battled with labor unions. It’s the target of a national boycott campaign citing a range of worker abuses, including the firing of a dishwasher in San Francisco who was unable to return to work three days after having a C-section. Anna Simonton, FSRN, Washington."

I looked around for others expressing alarm. But this is Barack's nominee.

I went to The Progressive and nothing.  I went to The Nation and scrolled through all their astroturf passed off as writing only to discover nothing.

So the person who helped created the financial crisis gets away with it.

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

Thursday, May 2, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Congress is informed about US troops still in Iraq, the United Nations finds April to have been the most violent month in Iraq in five years, with crises mounting some fear civil war, Patrick Cockburn reports some argue civil war has already started, a new awareness campaign on violence in Iraq uses the tagline "You're Next," Iraq tops another list of countries (it's not good news), James McCormack gets sentenced, and more.

Like Jon Stewart, The Onion's gotten a little too long in the tooth, it's audience a little too broad and a lot too stupid.  That's how you get their 'joke' where they insulted the 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis back in February.  It's how you get last week's Onion piece about Barack sending troops back into Iraq for the "reinvasion" -- which I suppose passes for humorous if you're stupid and ignorant and want to advertise those facts.

From Tuesday's snapshot:

December 6, 2012, the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department Defense of the United States of America was signed.  We covered it in the December 10th and December 11th snapshots -- lots of luck finding coverage elsewhere including in media outlets -- apparently there was some unstated agreement that everyone would look the other way.  It was similar to the silence that greeted Tim Arango's September 25th New York Times report which noted, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions.  At the request of the Iraqi government, according to [US] General [Robert L.] Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

Mike and Elaine covered Iraq at their sites on Tuesday noting their disbelief that Daniel Ellsberg and Phyllis Bennis would make fools of themselves twaddling on about how US troops have left Iraq.  All US troops never left Iraq.  Last March, Rajiv Chandrasekaran (Washington Post) included the claim that all had left in his "Five myths about Iraq" column.

Last week, the US Congressional Research Service published "Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights."  The report was written by Kenneth Katzman.

General [Martin] Dempsey's August 21, 2012, visit focused on the security deterioration, as well as the Iranian overflights to Syria discussed above, according to press reports.  Regarding U.S.-Iraq security relations,  Iraq reportedly expressed interest in expanded U.S. training of the ISF, joint exercises, and accelerated delivery of U.S. arms to be sold, including radar, air defense systems, and border security equipment. [. . .]
After the Dempsey visit, reflecting the Iraqi decision to reengage intensively with the United States on security, it was reported that, at the request of Iraq, a unit of Army Special Operations forces had deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence, presumably against AQ-I.  (These forces presumably are operating under a limited SOFA or related understanding crafted for this purpose.)  Other reports suggest that Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) paramilitary forces have, as of late 2012, largely taken over some of the DOD mission of helping Iraqi counter-terrorismf orces (Counter-Terrorism Service, CTS) against AQ-I in western Iraq. Part of the reported CIA mission is to also work against the AQ-I affiliate in SYria, the Al Nusrah Front, discussed above.
Reflecting an acceleration of the Iraqi move to reengage militarily with the United States, during December 5-6 2012, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy James Miller and acting Under Secretary of State for International Security Rose Gottemoeller visited Iraq and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed with acting Defense Minister Sadoun Dulaymi.  The five year MOU provides for:

* high level U.S.-Iraq military exchanges
* professional military education cooperation
* counter-terrorism cooperation
* the development of defense intelligence capabilities
* joint exercises

The MOU appears to address many of the issues that have hampered OSC-I from performing its mission to its full potential.  The MOU also reflects some of the more recent ideas put forward, such as joint exercises.

So the Congressional Research Service explains, in a report for the US Congress, that US troops have gone back into Iraq?  The liars aren't capable of shame.  Phyllis Bennis, since the 2011 drawdown (the US Pentagon called it a "drawdown" and not a "withdrawal" and did so for a reason), has sometimes declared all have left and sometimes noted some remain.  It's apparently too hard for her to tell the truth so she needs little 'breathers' to catch her breath.  This isn't something that should vary.  If you're an analyst and billed as such and discussing US troops in Iraq, there's only one answer, only one correct one.

Let's go over what the report said the Memo of Understanding provided for:

* high level U.S.-Iraq military exchanges
* professional military education cooperation
* counter-terrorism cooperation
* the development of defense intelligence capabilities
* joint exercises

Pretty obvious.  But so was the explanation of what the MoU provided that we offered in the December 10th snapshot.  Even so, we were compelled to review it again in the December 11th snapshot:

In yesterday's snapshot, we covered the Memorandum of Understanding For Defense Cooperation Between the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Iraq and the Department of Defense of the United States of America.  Angry, dysfunctional e-mails from Barack-would-never-do-that-to-me criers indicate that we need to go over the Memo a little bit more.  It was signed on Thursday and announced that day by the Pentagon.   Section two (listed in full in yesterday's snapshot) outlines that the two sides have agreed on: the US providing instructors and training personnel and Iraq providing students, Iraqi forces and American forces will work together on counterterrorism and on joint exercises.   The tasks we just listed go to the US military being in Iraq in larger numbers.  Obviously the two cannot do joint exercises or work together on counterterrorism without US military present in Iraq.
This shouldn't be surprising.  In the November 2, 2007 snapshot -- five years ago -- we covered the transcript of the interview Michael R. Gordon and Jeff Zeleny did with then-Senator Barack Obama who was running in the Democratic Party's primary for the party's presidential nomination -- the transcript, not the bad article the paper published, the actual transcript.  We used the transcript to write "NYT: 'Barack Obama Will Keep Troops In Iraq'" at Third.  Barack made it clear in the transcript that even after "troop withdrawal" he would "leave behind a residual force."  What did he say this residual force would do?  He said, "I think that we should have some strike capability.  But that is a very narrow mission, that we get in the business of counter terrorism as opposed to counter insurgency and even on the training and logistics front, what I have said is, if we have not seen progress politically, then our training approach should be greatly circumscribed or eliminated."
This is not withdrawal.  This is not what was sold to the American people.  Barack is very lucky that the media just happened to decide to take that rather explosive interview -- just by chance, certainly the New York Times wasn't attempting to shield a candidate to influence an election, right? -- could best be covered with a plate of lumpy, dull mashed potatoes passed off as a report.  In the transcript, Let-Me-Be-Clear Barack declares, "I want to be absolutely clear about this, because this has come up in a series of debates: I will remove all our combat troops, we will have troops there to protect our embassies and our civilian forces and we will engage in counter terrorism activities."
So when the memo announces counterterrorism activies, Barack got what he wanted, what he always wanted, what the media so helpfully and so frequently buried to allow War Hawk Barack to come off like a dove of peace.

The administration is as empty as the media.  If you doubt that, September 26th, the New York Times' Tim Arango reported:

Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.

This is not a minor topic.  If you claim you pulled all troops out and you didn't, that's called news.  If you claimed you pulled all troops out and September 26, 2012, it's reported you didn't, that's big news.  If you're running for re-election and you have debates after September 26th, that topic should be front and center.

But as Ava and I repeatedly noted (here and at Third) it wasn't.   At the end of September Tim Arango's report appears.  Where was the traction, where was the coverage, where were the questions?   From Ava and my November 7th "Let the fun begin:"

Days later, October 3rd, Barack 'debated' Mitt RomneyAgain October 16thAgain October 22nd.
Not once did the moderators ever raise the issue.

If Barack's sitting before them and he's flat out lying to the American people, it's their job to ask.  They didn't do their job.  Nor did social menace Candy Crowley who was apparently dreaming of an all-you-can-eat buffet when Barack was babbling away before her about how he wouldn't allow more "troops in Iraq that would tie us down."  But that's exactly what he's currently negotiating.

Maybe Candy Crowley missed the New York Times article?  Maybe she spends all her time pleasuring herself to her version of porn: Cooking With Paula Deen Magazine?

That is possible.

But she was only one of the three moderators.  Bob Schieffer and Jim Lehrer also moderated.  Of course, they didn't foolishly self-present as a fact checker in the midst of the debate  nor did they hit the publicity circuit before the debate to talk about how they were going to show how it was done.

Three moderators moderating debates after Tim Arango's article is printed allowing Barack to claim he withdrew troops from Iraq in three debates, one after the other.  Crowley, Schieffer and Lehrer never raised the issue.  We won't call them whores for a change, we'll just note how stupid and ignorant they are.

In yesterday's snapshot, I said we'd address the topic today.  That's because I get tired of going over it.  I have to provide links, I have to go so slow, bit-by-bit.  And even so, the public e-mail account will fill with e-mails that Martha, Shirley, Eli, Beth, KeShawn, Jess, Dona, Jim, Kat, Ruth, Isaiah, Ava and myself will have to endure insisting I am lying.  E-mails from people who -- even when you provide them with links -- links that go to the New York Times, links that go to the Pentagon (the Pentagon issued a press release on the Memorandum of Understanding, they weren't shy about it, the press refusal to cover it is a question for you to ask whatever news outlet you turn to) -- will insist that I've made the whole thing up.

The most common statement in these e-mails will be an insisting that if Barack had sent US troops back into Iraq, it would be all over the news and on the front pages.

It should be.

But it wasn't.

At some point, you're going to have to stop trying to stone the Cassandra and face reality.  [Or maybe I just close the public e-mail account and we just take feedback from community members.  As Gina (the gina & krista round-robin) has long observed, this is a private conversation in a public sphere.]

Iraq remains a disaster.  Today it manages to come in number one on a list of countries but, sadly, that list is the Committee to Protect Journalists' 2013 Impunity Index:


Iraq has the world’s worst record on impunity. No convictions have been obtained in 93 journalist slayings in the past decade. The vast majority of the victims, 95 percent, were local journalists. They include freelance cameraman Tahrir Kadhim Jawad, who was killed on assignment outside Baghdad in 2010 when a bomb attached to his car exploded. Jawad was a “courageous cameraman” known for getting footage “where others had failed,” Mohammad al-Jamili, Baghdad bureau chief for the U.S. government-funded outlet Al-Hurra, said at the time. Police opened an investigation but made no arrests.
Impunity Index Rating: 2.818 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants
Last year: Ranked 1st with a rating of 2.906

It's been an interesting few last weeks as Nouri has insisted upon an investigation into the death of this member of federal forces, or these five members.

But all that's really underlined is that there's never any real investigation of any of the journalists who've died.  Reporters Without Borders notes today is World Press Freedom Day and adds:

The persistently high level of impunity is not due to a legal void. There are laws and instruments that protect journalists in connection with their work. Above all, it is up to individual states to protect journalists and other media personnel. This was stressed in Resolution 1738 on the safety of journalists, which the United Nations security council adopted in 2006.
Nonetheless, states often fail to do what they are supposed to do, either because they lack the political will to punish abuses of this kind, or because their judicial system is weak or non-existent, or because it is the authorities themselves who are responsible for the abuses.
The creation of a mechanism for monitoring adherence to Resolution 1738, which Reporters Without Borders has proposed, would encourage member states to adopt specific provisions for penalizing murders, physical attacks and disappearances that target journalists, would extend Statesʼ obligations to non-professional “news providers” and would reinforce their efforts to combat impunity for such crimes.
At the international level, the legal protection of journalists is also guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Geneva Conventions and other instruments. The United Nations recently published an Action Plan on the safety of journalists and measures to combat impunity for crimes of violence against them.
The International Criminal Court’s creation has unfortunately not helped advance the fight against impunity for those responsible for the most serious crimes of violence against journalists, although journalists play a fundamental role in providing information and issuing alerts during domestic and international armed conflicts. The ICC only has jurisdiction when the crime takes place on the territory of a state that is a party to the Rome Statute (which created the ICC) or if the accused person is a citizen of a state party.
Furthermore, the Rome Statute provides for no specific charge for deliberate physical attacks on journalists. Article 8 of the statute needs to be amended so that a deliberate attack on media professionals is regarded as a war crime.

Of course, chief thug and prime minister of Iraq Nouri al-Maliki celebrated World Press Freedom a little early this year.  Sunday, Nouri's government announced they were pulling the licenses for Al Jazeera, al-Sharqiya, al-Sharqiya News, Babeliya, Salahuddin, Anwar 2, Taghyeer, Baghdad and Fallujah.  All Iraq News quoted Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi declaring, "The decision is considered a clear threat for freedom of expression in Iraq and completely incompatible with the concept of democracy.  This decision will arouse many suspicions since Iraq is currently passing through a tense phase that requires all the media efforts to expose breaches and to follow up on the involvement of senior figures in corruption."

Violence continues with National Iraqi News Agency noting a Karbala bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer and left two more injured, an armed attack in Falluja left four police officers injured, a Baghdad military headquarters was hit by three Katusha rockets,  and Kirkuk Province police chief "Jamal Taher Bakr escaped an assassination attempt by an explosive device."

On the never-ending violence, Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports:

A group of young Iraqis mourning deaths after a popular Baghdad café was bombed are taking matters into their own hands. They want Iraqis to stop simply counting bodies and start feeling the human toll of sectarian conflict.   

“You’re Next”. This is the somewhat chilling slogan that is being used by a new youth organization to promote their campaign.

“But we didn’t choose this slogan to make anyone feel insecure,” they insist. “We just want to alert people to the sad future that awaits if we all keep silent. It’s a fate that awaits all victimized Iraqis and it’s a future that nourishes political greed and corruption.”

The group behind the You’re Next campaign was founded as a reaction to the ongoing violence and resulting deaths in Iraq, and in particular, as a reaction to the April 19 bombing of a café in the Amiriya neighbourhood of Baghdad.  The café was one popular with local youth. The You’re Next campaigners not only condemn those who planted the bombs but also those who have adapted to a life full of bombings and similar acts.

“We’re just shocked at how many people are numb to the killings that occur almost daily and who have forgotten the human impact of these acts,” Nouf al-Assi, one of the five young people who started the campaign told NIQASH. “For them, these kinds of things are just part of daily life. We’re also frightened by what we see as the spread of sectarian-based publications and sectarian debates.”

Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports the United Nations have released their figures for the month of April: 712 people killed in violence and 1,633 left injured.  Basing it on their own figures, the UN declares last month to have been the most deadly in Iraq in five years.

David Blair (Telegraph of London) weighs in on the shocking figures noting:

This rising drumbeat of violence reflects an increasingly bitter political conflict. Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of a Shia-led government, has been accused of naked sectarianism, purging members of the Sunni minority from his administration.
Having boycotted the previous poll, Sunnis voted in large numbers during the last election in 2010 and the party they mainly favoured, Iraqiya, came first with 91 seats compared to Mr Maliki's 89.
But the prime minister put together a coalition that allowed him to stay in power and then used his victory to sack key Sunni politicians, notably Rafie al-Issawi, the respected finance minister, who was dismissed in December.
When Sunnis demonstrated against what they viewed as a Shia sectarian government, they were often bloodily repressed. Last month, the security forces destroyed a protest camp in the Sunni town of Hawija, killing at least 20 people.
"What the Sunnis did in 2010 was to invest in the ballot box," said Toby Dodge, the author of "Iraq: From War to a New Authoritarianism". "Since then, they have been systematically betrayed in their investment in democracy."

The International Crisis Group's Maria Fantappie told ABC's Radio Australia's Anna Hipsley today, "Well of course we know Iraq is a violent country which has been under constant violence but the violence increased in the past month.  And I would say that the main difference between the past and what is happening now is that what is happening now is a real political confrontation between, on one side, government forces and, on the other side, protesters who have, for four months, they have been demonstrating peacefully but in recent events in the last weeks, when the government forces raided the camp of the protesters in Kirkuk, near Kirkuk, in Hawija camp, this has led [. . .] to an increase in the confrontation between the government forces and the protesters."

She stated that she had just left Iraq and that Anbar Province protesters were being threatened by government forces.  Daniel Serwer (World Politics Review) offers his take on the crises which includes these observations:

The protesters feel equally justified. They view Maliki as increasingly sectarian and authoritarian. Torture is common in Iraq’s prisons. Iraq’s media are under pressure. Maliki has bypassed official processes to appoint personally loyal military commanders and undermined the independence of the central bank, the judiciary, anti-corruption investigators and other countervailing institutions. Several Sunni politicians have been accused of supporting terrorism and their personal security details subjected to arrest, with at least one guard dying in detention under suspicious circumstances.

Maliki’s current crackdown comes amid other political challenges. Kurdistan is chafing at the restrictions Baghdad wants to impose on its oil exploration, production and exports, including from “disputed” territories. Passage of a budget without their support also offended the Kurds, even if it safeguarded their 17 percent of the country’s oil revenue. Irbil is now openly flirting with Ankara, which is eyeing newly discovered Kurdish oil resources and enjoying rich construction contracts.

Maliki needs at least some Sunni support to rein in Kurdistan. But his once-good relationship with Sunni former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Rafia al-Issawi soured when Iraqi security forces arrested Issawi’s personal security detail on terrorism charges. Saleh Mutlak, a Sunni former Baathist who rallied to Maliki despite having called him a dictator, has been weakened politically and is now waffling. Maliki risks finding himself without significant support from either Sunnis or Kurds, leaving him exposed to the whims of his Shiite sometime-ally Muqtada al-Sadr.

Still on the violence, Patrick Cockburn (Independent) offers:

Iraqi leaders fear that the country is sliding rapidly into a new civil war which "will be worse than Syria". Baghdad residents are stocking up on rice, vegetables and other foodstuffs in case they are prevented from getting to the shops by fighting or curfews. “It is wrong to say we are getting close to a civil war,” said a senior Iraqi politician. “The civil war has already started.”

This is borne out by the sharp rise in the number of people killed in political violence in Iraq in April, with the UN claiming more than 700 people were killed last month, the highest monthly total for five years.

Former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker has a column (Washington Post) which is mistaken beyond means.  He proposes everyone just talk and:

It is also incumbent on the friends of Iraq to support this effort. Progress in Iraq came when coalition elements encouraged Sunni communities to work with a government in which they still lacked trust. It is vital that the spirit that animated the progress then be reinvigorated now. It has thus been good to read of the activities in recent days of the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad and the U.N. mission there, calling for calm, engaging with all parties and reminding them of what they could lose: the new Iraq that they and we paid so much to create.

That's insanity.  While the key moments of betrayal did not happen on his watch (it was under the dithering idiot Chris Hill), you cannot act, in 2013, as if talk will bring back the progress of 2010.  We'll address that at length tomorrow.  As with the issue of US forces in Iraq, it's one of those topics we have to keep going back to because so few will ever bother to cover it.  The shortest version is when you make a deal in 2010 and one party (Nouri) fails to honor it, you can't show three years later and say, "Well let's just talk and try to progress."  No, we don't reset the clock.  If there is to be progress in 2013, the first step is honoring the contract that was signed in 2010.

In the last years, the person on the Shi'ite side of the political fence who has repeatedly seemed most mature and aware has been cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr.  The Hawija massacre was carried out by Nouri's forces.  Moqtada had nothing to do with that.  Yet World Bulletin News reports that it is Moqtada who has offered a public apology to the Sunni community, "I apologize to the Sunnis for the cruelty of the Shiite government and if I were a Sunni, I would too apologize to the Shiites for the things that they had gone through."

Good for Moqtada.  The slaughter has to be acknowledged.  Nouri doesn't want to acknowledge it because he's responsible for it.  But the only thing more harmful to Iraq right now than the slaughter is for political leaders to act as if it did not take place.  That compounds a very serious injury and breeds hostilities.  Iraqiya has called out the slaughter.  Ayad Allawi, the leader of Iraqiya, is a Shi'ite.  Moqtada called out the slaughter and now he's also issued a statement recognizing the pain.  Nouri's inability to join in these conversations and be a part of a productive Iraq goes beyond paranoid to petulant.   Nouri has become the country's biggest liability. 

All Iraq News notes that Allawi expressed alarm at the human rights situation in Iraq today while meting with Sarah Otis and Erin Evans of Human Rights Watch Organization.  He is quoted stating, "The situation of the human rights in Iraq is regrettable and serious due to the daily violations that occurred at the protest squares or inside persons or even on the streets through the arrests and the assassinations and so forth."

Dropping back to the June 8, 2010 snapshot:

In November of last year, Rod Nordland (New York Times) explained the 'bomb detectors' in use in Iraq: "The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works 'on the same principle as a Ouija board' -- the power of suggestion -- said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wantd as nothing more than an explosive divining rod." They are the ADE 651s with a ticket price of between $16,500 and $60,000 and Iraq had bought over 1,500.  More news came with arrests on January 22: "Caroline Hawley (BBC Newsnight -- link has text and video) reports that England has placed an export ban on the ADE-651 'bomb detector' -- a device that's cleaned Iraq's coffers of $85 million so far. Steven Morris (Guardian) follows up noting that, 'The managing director [Jim McCormick] of a British company that has been selling bomb-detecting equipment to security forces in Iraq was arrested on suspicion of fraud today'." From the January 25th snapshot:

Riyad Mohammed and Rod Norldand (New York Times) reported on Saturday that the reaction in Iraq was outrage from officials and they quote MP Ammar Tuma stating, "This company not only caused grave and massive losses of funds, but it has caused grave and massive losses of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians, by the hundreds and thousands, from attacks that we thought we were immune to because we have this device."  Despite the turn of events, the machines continue to be used in Iraq but 'now' an investigation into them will take place orded by Nouri. As opposed to months ago when they were first called into question. Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) adds that members of Parliament were calling for an end to use of the machines on Saturday.  Martin Chulov (Guardian) notes the US military has long -- and publicly -- decried the use of the machines,  "The US military has been scathing, claiming the wands contained only a chip to detect theft from stores. The claim was based on a study released in June by US military scientists, using x-ray and laboratory analysis, which was passed on to Iraqi officials." 
Today the BBC reports police raids took place at "Global Tech, of Kent, Grosvenor Scientific, in Devon, and Scandec, of Nottingham. Cash and hundreds of the devices have been seized, and a number of people are due to be interviewed under caution on suspicion of fraud."  Michael Peel and Sylvia Pfeifer (Financial Times of London) add, "Colin Cowan, head of City police's overseas anti-corruption unit, said investigators were seeking further information from the public about the manufacture, sale and distribution of the devices. Det Supt Cowan said: 'We are concerned that these items present a real physical threat to anyone who may rely on such a device for protection'." 

The wands didn't work, they were never going to work.  The liar who sold them, and got rich off them, James McCormick, was convicted last month.   Robert Booth and Meirion Jones (Guardian) report, "A jury at the Old Bailey found Jim McCormick, 57, from near Taunton, Somerset, guilty on three counts of fraud over a scam that included the sale of £55m of devices based on a novelty golfball finder to Iraq. They were installed at checkpoints in Baghdad through which car bombs and suicide bombers passed, killing hundreds of civilians. Last month they remained in use at checkpoints across the Iraqi capital."  Today, Jake Ryan (Sun) reports, McCormick, who is 57, was sentenced to a "maximum ten years today."

Robert Booth (Guardian) notes Saad al-Muttalibi ("adviser to Nouri al-Maliki) is insisting Nouri's considering suing on behalf of the victims.  Actually, the families of the victims should be suing Nouri for allowing those things to be used for the last years, even after the wands were globally revealed to be a joke.  The Belfast Telegraph notes that McCormick "showed no reaction as he was told his 'callous confidence trick' was the worst fraud imaginable."  Jake Ryan quotes Judge Richard Hone stating, "The device was useless, the profit outrageous and your culpability as a fraudster has to be placed in the highest category.  Your profits were obscene.  You have neither insight, shame or any sense of remorse."

 the belfast telegraph