Friday, December 27, 2013

Some thoughts on Nikita

Hanh Nguyen (TV Guide) interviews the creator of "Nikita," Craig Silverstein, and here's a taste:

Go back to the start ... do you remember your hopes for the show and if any of those things changed?
It became more sci-fi than I had expected it to be. But the only real big change in my hopes and plans had to do with the Nikita-Alex relationship. My original plan was to build them into unlikely rivals, that Alex was going to take a darker turn. Not that she would become an enemy, but that they would find themselves on opposite sides and she would have taken over Zetrov. Of course, you saw that story line piece by piece get sealed off and tied off, resolved. That one, I'd say, is the biggest shift from my grand plan to where we ended up.

Can you think back to some favorite scenes over the years?
The moments that I remember the most were the moments that surprised me, like Birkhoff getting his hand hammered by Amanda. We knew the scene and we knew her line, but we just didn't anticipate it being so brutal. I was really surprised by that. Also, I really loved in the seventh episode of the second season where Nikita ascends the building to get at the Wall Street guy who she thought killed Ryan. The first of the three times that Ryan dies on the show. The solution that had come up from our producer narc in Toronto ... to plug some device into the window washer grooves was such a brilliant idea because we had just written your standard old harpoon and grapple hook type of thing. This was so much better. And then I had always loved the moment from the 11th episode in the first season, "All the Way," where Nikita was trapped in Division, hanging by chains. And Alex weakens the ceiling and Nikita rips the chains out and uses the chains as weapons. I don't think I found past that point a more effective visual statement of what the show was all about -- that Nikita was going to take the chains that had locked her in and would turn them back on the people that had chained her. It's real simple symbolism, but it didn't hit you over the head with it.

Tonight was the final episode of the show.  Mike's already blogged about the final episode "Nikita how it all ends (spoilers)."

It was a great ending.

I watched it.

I watched all the episodes.

People ask in e-mails if we watch the shows that others in the community blog about?

Usually we do.  I watch "Revenge" and "Scandal, for example.  (Rebecca blogs about them.)  I watch "Arrow" (Stan blogs on it).

We do try to give people their space.  Mike carved out "Nikita."  C.I. suggested it to him and he got hooked.  His writing is why I started watching -- season two and I first streamed season one on Netflix.  I also watched "Chuck" because of him. 

It really was a great show.

Earlier today, "Nikita wraps up tonight on The CW (Ava and C.I.)" went up.  If I had known about that, I would've tried to have reposted it to give a heads up.

But we flew back from Atlanta today and the kids played when we got back to C.I.'s but I went and took a long nap.  I woke up when my middle son came in and told me it was time for "Nikita" to start.

I had not been online at all.  I was either at an airport, in the air or in bed.

Mike's covered everything great.

The only thing I see that I can add is that when Nikita and Michael elope, they're having drinks and Nikita looks off to the side and sees Ryan who smiles at her. He's not really there, of course, he died in the second to last episode.

What character would I have brought back for the last episode?

Percy would have been interesting.  I know Carla Bennett (the great Erica Gimpel) was killed (by Birkhoff) but a lot of the dead returned on this show and since she created Division with Amanda and Percy (and she hated Amanda), it would have been nice.

But who I really wanted was Sean.

He died last season.

He was Alex's boyfriend and the son of a senator (who got assassinated in season two).

Sean and Alex had strong chemistry and he was someone who really wanted to take care of Alex.

That part of Sean especially touched me because Alex had the worst life and everyone was always making demands on her.  Sean was the only one who seem to register that having her parents killed when she was a child (and in the house) (yes, she'd later find out her mother had lived), being betrayed by people who took over her father's business, being forced into sexual slavery, becoming a junkie, etc. -- only Sean seemed to get that Alex, as strong as she was, could really use someone to lean on.

Which makes it all the sadder that Alex unintentionally set into motion the events that left Sean dead.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, December 27, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the protests continue, Nouri threatens this was the last Friday of protests, 9300 Iraqis have died in violent deaths so far this year, we look at the press mythology around Barack, and more.

So before the year ends is anyone going to call the press on their b.s.?

Poor Rupert Cornwell.  All that time in his talented half-brother's large shadow left Cornwell with a soggy brain incapable of analytical thought, incapable of anything but parrot-like repetition. British Cornwell wants to turn US President Barack Obama into a visionary and he's not about to let something like facts get in the way.  The elderly fop chatters, "The last US troops left Iraq in 2011, and only a handful are likely to remain in Afghanistan after December 2014."  Poor little piss ant -- so many years of writing and he has not one damn thing to show for it.  Don't wake him from his early senility but all US forces never left Iraq and, in fact, another special-ops unit was sent in back in fall 2012.  Tim Arango (New York Times) reported at the end of September 2012, "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."

Let's emphasize one more time for the very slow and very stupid:

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.        

So Rupert apparently thinks he's prefect again in the midst of his first boy-on-boy crush.  And he can't stop salivating over Barack's alleged miracle powers of leadership.

But wait . . .

There's the other narrative.  The one where al Qaeda in Iraq is running all over Iraq and all over Syria.  Sarah Birke published a post on that today at The New York Review of Books.  Excerpt:

Talk to any Syrian you meet on the Syrian-Turkish border these days, and in less than five minutes the conversation is likely to turn to Da’ash—the Arabic acronym for the rebel organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, or ISIS. Linked to al-Qaeda, the fearsome group has swept across northern Syria, imposing sharia law, detaining and even beheading Syrians who don’t conform to its purist vision of Islam, and waging war on rival militias. In early December, the group killed a foreign journalist, Iraqi cameraman Yasser Faisal al-Joumali, who was reporting in northern Syria. Even using the word Da’ash—seen as derogatory by the group’s members—is punishable by eighty lashes, a twenty-three-year-old wounded fighter from a rival Islamist group told me from his bed in a Syrian-run makeshift clinic in Turkey.  
[. . .]
ISIS originated as an Iraq-based al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Qaeda in Iraq. The organization is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an ambitious Iraqi extremist who has overseen relentless attacks in Iraq, causing civilian casualties, and who was designated a Global Terrorist by the US State Department in October 2011, with a $10 million bounty on his head. As the war in Syria progressed, al-Baghdadi saw an opportunity for al-Qaeda, and in January 2012, sent some footmen to found Jabhat al-Nusra with the aim of creating a new transnational state ruled by sharia law and a belief in using violence to get there. 

Now I don't personally believe the Sky Is Falling narrative that so many preach on 'al Qaeda in Iraq.'  I think it's an imprecise term that is misapplied to breed fear and to justify violence and excuse it.  As long as, for example, Nouri can scream "al Qaeda! al Qaeda!" he's under no obligation to own up to what he's done.

So not taking the press narrative seriously means I've yet to write a piece about, "Barack Obama blew Iraq!  He should have . . ."

But what's the press' excuse?

They keep pimping this great threat from al Qaeda in Iraq.

I don't believe it.  But they pimp it so they must believe it.

Mustafa Habib (Niqash) has a report today which opens:

The Sunni Muslim extremist group, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has made it clear that it wants to annex Sunni Muslim areas of Iraq. One of the biggest Iraqi military operations in recent history has now been launched against them. But it doesn’t seem to having any impact on the group.  
The last few weeks in Iraq have been good to the extremist organisation, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The Al-Qaeda affiliated group managed to attack and assassinate a number of high ranking Iraqi army officers and policemen in a number of provinces, including Ninawa, Diyala, Baghdad and Anbar. All of these are known as places where the organisation, also called ISIS or Daash, keeps bases. They are also areas where a large proportion of the population is Sunni Muslim. Al Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim extremist organisation and it often targets Shiite Muslims – although recently it has also attacked Sunni Muslims it considers to be cooperating with the Iraqi government.

A few weeks previously, at the beginning of December, ISIS clearly stated that its ambition was to annex the Anbar province, which shares a border with Syria. The extremist group already has control over various areas in Syria and it seems it wants to add this part of Iraq too. 

Habib's not the first to write about that claim.  We've ignored it before.  I don't take it seriously.

What I see -- and I could be wrong -- or a variety of groups making attacks but they are at cross purposes with one another and should they try to build within Iraq they would have huge squabbles, huge fights.  They are not a group -- they are groups that are linked loosely.  Syria provides them another mutual target.   Even so, if you've paid attention, you've noticed that they can't even really get along as they conduct attacks in Syria.

But that's where I stand.

Where the press stands is that al Qaeda in Iraq is a nightmare group which has increased its power in Iraq and gone on to Syria (and Libya -- for the few who bother to note the horror that is Libya today).

Guess what boys and girls, if you want to run with that allegation, then you have to blame Barack.

You can't have it both ways.  If al Qaeda is on the rise in Iraq after the (bulk) of US troops withdrew, then this is, in fact, on Barack.

He clearly made a huge error.

I'm not saying he did.  But I don't buy into the mythical al Qaeda in Iraq.

He can't have been brilliant on the Middle East if al Qaeda in Iraq is truly on the rise.

You're going to have to reconcile your two assertions are in conflict, they're at cross purposes.

If al Qaeda in Iraq is on the rise, Barack's to blame for that.

And he's to blame for arming Nouri.  From yesterday's snapshot:

Fortunately, not all outlets have correspondents from the kiddie table.  Elise Labott and Tom Cohen (CNN) get it right regarding who is providing arms, "Two years after bringing home U.S. troops from Iraq, the Obama administration is sending Hellfire rockets and ScanEagle surveillance drones to help government forces fight al Qaeda affiliates growing in influence, a State Department official confirmed to CNN on Thursday."  Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) also gets it right, "The Obama administration has begun sending Hellfire missiles and surveillance drone aircraft to Iraq to help the government battle an expanding threat from local Al Qaeda-affiliated militants, U.S. officials said, the first such assistance since the American withdrawal from Iraq in 2011."

Congress wasn't notified of these arms.  The Arms Export Control Act's Section 36(b) requires that the President of the United States informs Congress in writing of all defense articles sold to foreign governments before the sale goes through.  That's the law.
So was these sold or was this another 'gift' that the US taxpayer is paying for?
[. . .]
UPI notes the 75 Hellfire Missiles arrived in Iraq last week and that "more are expected." Rethink Afghanistan puts the cost of a single Hellfire Missile at $58,000.  75 of them?  Check my math, but that comes to $3,750,000.  A nearly four million dollar 'gift' has been purchased with the American taxpayer dollars.  And that's not counting the drones.  There aren't specific numbers being reported regarding the drones, so we'll just note the US Air Force put the price of one system (4 drones and the reporting device) at $3.2 million in 2006.  We're now at the price tag of $7 million dollars.

Noel Brinkerhoof ( explains today:

The Iraqi military will receive 75 Hellfire missiles from Washington. Costing nearly $70,000 a piece, the delivery represents an early Christmas gift for arms maker Lockheed Martin. The company also made out with the order to manufacture Aerostat surveillance balloons, three of which were provided to the Iraqi government by the Obama administration.
Other U.S. arms merchants stand to benefit as well from President Barack Obama’s efforts to support al-Maliki.
The administration intends to ship 10 ScanEagle reconnaissance drones in March to Iraq. This shipment will mean more revenue for Boeing.

Nicole Fray (GovConWire) adds, "William Hartung, director of research organization Center for International Policy, said in the report that the U.S. has provided Iraq with about $35 billion worth of weapons and services since 2005."

Gordon Lubold was an idiot writing for the Christian Science Monitor and he's an idiot writing today for Foreign Policy about the missiles and drones.  He's standing on quicksand -- pimping al Qaeda in Iraq as a huge threat but trying to also pretend no mistakes were made by Barack.  It doesn't work that way.  In his article, James Jeffrey strokes his like War Hawk.  The only one who makes even a moment's sense is neocon Kimberly Kagan:

Other analysts were not that impressed by the arms sale to remedy Iraq's worsening security situation. . Kim Kagan, president of the Institute for the Study of War, a longtime advocate of an aggressive security policy in Iraq, said she thinks the administration is continuing to confuse materiel assistance for bona fide military cooperation.  "The U.S. does not seem to be imposing pressure on Prime Minister Maliki to refrain from using his security forces for political ends, such as suppressing the Sunni protest movements, the camps of which the [Iraq Security Forces] have surrounded over the past several days," she told Foreign Policy via e-mail.

Also sharing today?  Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch) offers this take on Iraq:

In March 2003 the majority of Iraqis from all sects and ethnic groups wanted to see the end of Saddam’s disastrous rule even if they didn’t necessarily support the US invasion. But the government now in power in Baghdad is as sectarian, corrupt and dysfunctional as Saddam’s ever was. There may be less state violence, but only because the state is weaker. Its methods are equally brutal: Iraqi prisons are full of people who have made false confessions under torture or the threat of it. An Iraqi intellectual who had planned to open a museum in Abu Ghraib prison so that Iraqis would never forget the barbarities of Saddam’s regime found that there was no space available because the cells were full of new inmates. Iraq is still an extraordinarily dangerous place. ‘I never imagined that ten years after the fall of Saddam you would still be able to get a man killed in Baghdad by paying $100,’ an Iraqi who’d been involved in the abortive museum project told me.

It's a shame that appears buried inside a Patrick Cockburn report as opposed to opening a report or even being the sole focus of a report.

It's Friday in Iraq.  Last week, the ongoing protests hit the one year mark.  They've been ongoing since December 12, 2012.

Nouri responded by (again) declaring them terrorists and announcing his planned assault on Ramadi's sit-in. Sunday,  W.G. Dunlop (AFP) reported Nouri has declared the sit-in in Ramadi is a 'terrorist' cell:

The protest site is located in the Anbar city of Ramadi, but is nowhere near where the clashes took place.
"I say clearly and honestly that the sit-in site in Anbar has turned into a headquarters for the leadership of Al-Qaeda," Maliki, a Shiite, said in remarks broadcast Sunday on Iraqiya state TV.

Tuesday, December 24th, Nouri had his forces cut off roads leading out of Ramadi and to surround the protest yard.  All Iraq News reports that Nouri's forces withdrew from the protest yard but  Iraq Times noted that this was followed by an air drop of leaflets and that Nouri's forces were receiving support from the US military.  Leaflet droppings advising to protesters to leave are a lot like the 2003 pre-invasion leafleting the US government did over Iraq.

 Did that send the protesters into hiding?


That's Samarra today.

-بهاء احمد16عاما في الثالث متوسط-الذي -ضمن حملتها الجديدة-داخل محل يعمل فيه في

And that's 16-year-old  Ahmed Bahaa killed in Anbar today by Nouri's forces.

That's what Barack's backing.  That's what the White House is giving arms for.

The murder of Iraqis whose only crime is exercising their legal rights.

Here's Ramadi's sit-in today.

Iraqi Spring MC reports helicopters were flying over the Ramadi square.

Al Mada reports that Maliki was denounced at Anbar protests for his threats (we'll get to today's threats in a moment) and that he was denounced for his militias which are not held accountable for their terrorism.  In Samarra, Nouri was denounced for arming and paying Shi'ite militias to terrorize and kill Sunnis while at the same time Nouri insists that he's fighting terrorism.

Only one English-language outlet reports on today's protests.  Omar al-Jaffal (Al-Monitor) files a major report which includes:

Mohammed al-Bajari, the official spokesman for the sit-in in Fallujah, said, "The sit-ins will continue." He added, "The protesters will not leave the sit-in squares until their legitimate demands are met, oppression ends and the innocent people are released from prison."
Bajari clarified that the protesters "will not comply with the orders of political parties or failed politicians, [nor will they respond to] threats by militias." He alluded to preparations for "civil disobedience and internationalizing the issue via international courts."
Bajari noted, "Those present in the squares have tribal connections, which would exacerbate the crisis in the event that the protests were subjected to any attack." He stressed, "[The right to] peaceful sit-ins are guaranteed by the constitution. Citizens have the right to protest as long as the constitution guarantees this right." He also pointed out, "Any [measures that are] non-peaceful will lead to bloodshed."
Bajari explained, "The Glory and Dignity Army was only formed in the city of Ramadi. It does not direct weapons at the army or the police, but rather at militias — which I won't name — that are trying to eliminate the sit-ins."
Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports Nouri al-Maliki again threatened the protesters today.  He declared this will be their last Friday protest and that he will burn the tents in the protest squares down.  He declared that the protesters were guilty of sedition.  Sedition?  Nouri as William Bligh?  I can see it.  Kitabat notes that he made these remarks in a televised interview.  Kitabat also notes Nouri's been insisting 30 terrorist leaders are hiding in protest tents.  
A number of Iraqi politicians, however, are rejecting Nouri's declarations of violence.
National Iraqi News Agency reports that Anbar Province Governor Ahmed Khalaf al-Dulaimi declared today, "The sit-ins squares do not represent threat to the country’s security, the big danger comes from desert areas in Anbar where armed groups are concentrated and from their; they launch their terrorist attacks against innocent civilians."  Ahmed al-Alwani is an Iraqiya MP who chairs Parliament's Economic Commission. Kitabat notes that al-Alwani dismissed Nouri's charges as beig without merit or value.  He declared that peaceful protests were guaranteed in Iraq's Constitution.  Al Mada adds that Kurdistan Alliance MP Hamid Buffy said there was no legal justification for breaking up the Anbar Province protests and compared using military force to break up the protests to the slaughter in Hawija.
That April 23rd massacre of a peaceful sit-in in Hawija  resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53 dead.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).
Nouri's a thug and he's a killer. And this is who Barack's in bed with.

Iraq Body Count notes that, through yesterday, there have been 869 violent deaths this month so far with 9300 violent deaths for the year so far.  Earlier this week, RT interviewed Iraq Body Count's Lily Hamourtziadou.  Excerpt.

RT: You've been researching the victims of terrorism in Iraq for a long time. Where do you get the information and how credible is it?

Lily Hamourtziadou: Our research is daily and what we do is we check many media sources, any media source that is available to us in English or in Arabic. We collect any information we have on civilian casualties on a particular day. We have a very large database that contains names, ages, places where attacks have taken place, as well as who the perpetrators were if they are identified. And that enables us to monitor the violence, to provide some statistics and to see whether it is increasing or decreasing, who is doing the killing, who the targets are.

RT: Is there something the media and the general public don't know about the situation in Iraq?

LH: What most people don’t understand is that the violence in Iraq is daily. Normally we turn on TV and if there happens to be a major attack, it is reported and we hear about it. But the daily violence we don’t hear about. At the best of times in Iraq, 300-400 civilians lost their lives in a month that was at its quietest. That is completely unacceptable. We won’t accept it in the UK, in the USA or anywhere else in the world and now we have come to disregard it or not be interested in it, but through my work I have come to know.
Iraq Body Count notes that, through yesterday, there have been 869 violent deaths this month so far with 9300 violent deaths for the year so far.

This week also saw AFP's WG Dunlop do media rounds.  Sometimes billed as "William," sometimes as "Will."  It was "Will" who went on NPR's Morning Edition this week.  Has anyone ever been duller or less informed?  He only came to life when talking about the lack of electricity.  But he was on to talk about violence.  He didn't mention the slaughter in Hawija.  He didn't mention the slaughter of journalists.  He didn't do much of anything but promote AFP's 'count.'

For years, we noted the Iraqi government's count was an undercount.  As I would point out, UN friends would pass that along.  Finally, in 2012, Prashant Rao began a count at AFP.

The good from that was it demonstrated the Iraqi government was lying about the deaths.  And, to his credit, Prashant worked that into a report.

But the bad is that not everyone fills out the count each day.  And the other bad is, they only report deaths that the police tip them off to.

Iraq Body Count should be considered the standard because they have been doing their job since the start of the illegal war and they continue to.  They base their count on media reports.

I'll trust the media over Iraq's police force.

If Dunlap's going to be a guest discussing violence, he needs to note the shortcomings of the AFP count. To Prashant's credit, he publicly allowed that they did not get all the deaths due to their method for recording deaths.

elise labott
the los angeles times


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ephron nailed it

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Not Born In A Manger" went up yesterday.

"How The Grinch Tried To Steal Christmas, Or, Have A Holly Jolly Christmas" is Hillary Is 44's latest.

I don't think they pull it off.

And I wish, since they were silent for five days, they'd just tried to do a straightforward post.

Some people can pull off funny.  Cedric and Wally, for example, can do funny.

"The future looms"

C.I. can do it and did this week with "The Portable Sowell: The Imprudence and Stupidity."

But everyone can't pull it off.

It's like the line Nora Ephron wrote for Carrie Fisher's character in "When Harry Met Sally . . .," "Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor but they couldn't possibly all have good taste."


"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Thursday, December 26, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the Ashraf community is attacked again, Barack Obama 'gifts' weapons to Nouri (leaving US tax payers on the hook for his $7 million gift?), Christmas Day saw an attack on Iraq's Christian community which left nearly 40 dead, and more.

The two biggest topics in the e-mail are Joss Stone and the Ashraf community.  Starting with Joss, who is amazing.

"Drive All Night," written by Joss and Eg White, is from Joss' LP1 album which Kat reviewed here and, examing 2011's year in music, Kat found first place to be a three-way tie, "Stevie Nicks' In Your Dreams, PJ Harvey's Let England Shake and Joss Stone's LP1."  And we picked it for "The Make Out Song of 2011" at Third.  And, FYI, I know Joss and I know Dave Stewart but I'm actually plugging Joss right now because Kat intends to feature Joss in Kat's look back at 2013 in music.

Make out song?

An e-mail to the public account -- yes, we're starting the snapshot slowly -- wants to note celibacy.  It's aimed at gay men.  So I called to ask some friends, "Is this some new activist movement" since it wasn't filled with hate -- "or what?"  No, it's an effort to promote an online gay matchmaking service.  It's Gayquation whose Facebook page is here and whose Twitter feed it here.  With eHarmony's well noted homophobia, I have no problem noting a gay matchmaking online service (once, I'm not going to do it all the time).

But I won't take part in a celibacy campaign for adults.  Adults will do what they want and should.  And 30 days of celibacy sounds a lot like that very bad Josh Hartnett film 40 Days and 40 Nights.

That was an idiotic movie and I said it would be before it started filming.  Movies have to be relatable to be successful.  The film bombed in the US ($37 million box office -- a sleazy and misleading ad campaign allowed it to do very well outside the US).  I said open the film with a pissed off woman who doesn't like being his latest one night stand and, while he's sleeping, locks him in a celibacy device.  Forced celibacy would speak to many men's fears and he is kept in the device until that one night stand feels he's learned a lesson.  That's relatable as a fear.  A grown man who is sexually active -- leading a life many male ticket buyers wish they had -- deciding not to have sex for 40 days isn't relatable.  And that brings us to Gayquation's campaign. That movie took a promising actor and stripped him of his heat and Hartnett's still not recovered.  The campaign may harm your company in a similar way. You got your links, be happy and don't e-mail again.


BBC News notes, "A rocket attack has killed three members of an Iranian opposition group in Iraq, the group and its parent organisation say.  They say a number of people from the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) group were injured at Camp Liberty in Baghdad."  Camp Hurriyah, also know as Camp Liberty, is where the Ashraf community was forced to relocate.  Tonight, the US State Dept issued the following statement:

Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Washington, DC
December 26, 2013

The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s rocket attack at Camp Hurriya that has reportedly killed and injured camp residents and also injured Iraqi police officers. Our condolences go out to the families of the victims and we hope for the swift recovery of those injured.
From the moment we learned about this attack, we have been in communication with the United Nations Assistant Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and senior Iraqi officials to ensure swift and immediate treatment to the wounded. We thank both UNAMI and the Government of Iraq (GOI) for rapidly responding, including by providing ambulances and treatment to those seriously injured.
We continue to call on the GOI to take additional measures to secure the camp against further violence, including by immediately installing additional protective barriers, such as bunkers and t-walls. We also call on the GOI to continue to honor its obligations under its December 25, 2011 agreement with the UN and urge the Iraqi Government to find the perpetrators and hold them accountable for the attack.
The United States is committed to assisting the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the relocation of all Camp Hurriya residents to a permanent and safe location outside of Iraq. We call on more countries to assist in responding to this urgent humanitarian situation by welcoming camp residents for relocation, as Albania has admirably done over this past year, and by contributing to the fund established by the United Nations to support their resettlement. The Department, through its Senior Advisor for MEK Resettlement, Jonathan Winer, will remain actively engaged in the international effort to relocate the residents of Camp Hurriya to safe, permanent, and secure locations outside of Iraq as soon as possible.

PRN: 2013/1266

As of September, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  In addition, 7 Ashraf residents were taken in the assault.  Last month, in response to questions from US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, the  State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Brett McGurk, stated, "The seven are not in Iraq."

Today's attack?  The British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom issued the following statement today:

At 21:15 Baghdad local time on 26 December 2013, Camp Liberty was the target of dozens of missiles. This attack has taken place a matter of months after Iraqi forces massacred 52 residents at their previous home in Camp Ashraf. The shamefully weak response to that attack by the EU Governments, the US administration and the United Nations has given the Iraqi authorities the green light to continue killing at will.
In total, Iraqi assaults on the two camps have left some 115 unarmed and defenceless civilians murdered. These are Iranian dissidents to whom the US authorities guaranteed protection and who are recognised as Protected Persons under the Fourth Geneva Convention. Today the whereabouts of seven hostages taken by the Iraqi authorities in the 1 September 2013 attack remain unknown and the latest murders are an indication of the Iraqi authorities’ intentions in relation to Camp Liberty. It is in this Committee’s view no coincidence that such an attack occurs shortly after Nuri Al-Maliki returns from a visit to Tehran.
The British government and other member states of the United Nations must immediately condemn this latest attack. Further UNHCR must immediately recognise Camp Liberty as a refugee camp and grant all the members of the camp group refugee status. It is clear that their current recognition as persons of interest under international law is insufficient and has hindered their safe return to third party states.
Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC, Co-Chair of the Committee said:
This Committee has repeatedly warned the British Government and the United Nations that these assaults will continue until such time as an armed UN presence is stationed at Camp Liberty. Today’s deaths were avoidable had that UN presence been in operation. The British Government must today publicly show its support for an armed UN presence at Camp Liberty while calling for the immediate release of the hostages.
This attack and the uninterrupted executions happening in Iran each and every day have resulted from the international community’s weak stance towards the Iranian regime in recent months.
Unfortunately the UK Government has been weak in expressing its protests, and has done little to ensure that both Iraq and Iran understand that these attacks on unarmed people are wholly unacceptable.

Reuters notes al-Mukhtar Army militia is claiming credit for the attack, saying they "fired 20 Katyusha rockets and mortar rounds" at Camp Hurriya and quotes the group's leader Wathiq al-Batat stating, "We've asked (the government) to expel them from the country many times, but they are still here."  Yesterday, PMOI Iran posted a video of  retired US Col Wes Martin speaking December 19th about the Ashraf community, "As you've heard before -- and as everyone here knows -- there is no way an assault can come on that camp without going through Iraqi forces."

His comments especially make sense in light of today's attack.  (His full comments make even more sense but PMOI Iran has badly edited his remarks.)

They -- whomever 'they' may be (claiming credit doesn't necessarily mean someone did the act; however, the fact that the group made the assertion quickly does lend credence to the claim) -- launched 20 rockets and mortar rounds.  Where was the Iraqi military that's supposed to be guaranteeing the Ashraf community's safety?

Don't expect an answer.  There are never answers provided by Nouri al-Maliki's government.

The government that's being armed.

As noted this morning, misreporting took place by many outlets:

The Voice of Russia states, ""The United States is sending dozens of missiles and surveillance drones to Iraq to help government forces combat an explosion of violence by al-Qaida-backed insurgency that is gaining territory in both western Iraq and neighboring Syria."  This is echoed by The NewsHour (PBS), "The U.S. is "quietly" sending dozens of Hellfire missiles and surveillance drones to Iraq, in hopes the government can quell an al-Qaeda insurgency."  Noah Rayman (Time magazine) parrots, "The United States is supplying Iraq with arms and surveillance technology to combat al-Qaeda-backed insurgents amid worsening violence, the New York Times reported Thursday, two years after the last American combat troops left the country."  AFP runs with, "The United States is sending Iraq dozens of missiles and surveillance drones to help it combat a recent surge in al-Qaida-backed violence, the New York Times reported Thursday.  The weapons include a shipment of 75 Hellfire missiles purchased by Iraq, which Washington delivered to the country last week, the Times reported."

Fortunately, not all outlets have correspondents from the kiddie table.  Elise Labott and Tom Cohen (CNN) get it right regarding who is providing arms, "Two years after bringing home U.S. troops from Iraq, the Obama administration is sending Hellfire rockets and ScanEagle surveillance drones to help government forces fight al Qaeda affiliates growing in influence, a State Department official confirmed to CNN on Thursday."  Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) also gets it right, "The Obama administration has begun sending Hellfire missiles and surveillance drone aircraft to Iraq to help the government battle an expanding threat from local Al Qaeda-affiliated militants, U.S. officials said, the first such assistance since the American withdrawal from Iraq in 2011."
Congress wasn't notified of these arms.  The Arms Export Control Act's Section 36(b) requires that the President of the United States informs Congress in writing of all defense articles sold to foreign governments before the sale goes through.  That's the law.
So was these sold or was this another 'gift' that the US taxpayer is paying for?
December 12th, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa held a joint-hearing on Iraq.  We covered it four days later in the December 16th snapshot

Subcommittee Chair Ted Poe: Now he wants some help once again.  He talks out of both sides of his mouth while trying to cozy up to the United States, he cozies up to the Iranians at the same time.  Prime Minister Maliki came here dragging the sack in November wanting more tax payer money.  He wanted attack helicopters and all sorts of advanced equipment.  But is that what he needs to go after al Qaeda?  Does he have other reasons for wanting that equipment?  Maliki has centralized power. alienated the Sunnis, brought back the Shi'ite hit squads.  This in part has allowed al Qaeda to return to be back in Iraq.  What Maliki needs is a new strategy to fight al Qaeda.  This includes doing a better job of reaching out to the Sunni population so that they feel that Maliki represents all Iraqis, not just one group.
And we'll note this:

Ranking Member Brad Sherman:  And he wants American weapons.  And his biggest argument is that we should give him American weapons because his enemies hate us.  The problem is, his friends hate us too.  And his friends in Tehran are more dangerous to us than his enemies in Falluja. Now Maliki's argument goes something like this: He holds office today solely as a result of various actions taken by the United States -- some of which were mistakes.  And so therefore he is our product and therefore we have to protect him and do whatever he wants.  And so therefore he is one of the good guys no matter who he allies himself with today.  The fact is, his allegiance to Tehran is only a little bit less than Assad's allegiance to Tehran.  But Maliki's government goes something like this: Since he has been the beneficiary of a series of American mistakes in the past, we have a legal duty to continue to make mistakes on his behalf in the future.  Uhm, if we're going to provide him with weapons, there ought to be at least four conditions.  The first is that he start trying to reach a compromise with at least some elements of the Sunni community.  He's taken provocative actions against Sunnis such as postponing elections in Sunni areas and forcing prominent Sunni politicians out of the government.  He shouldn't be seeking the best deal he can for the Shi'ite community, he should be seeking a peace that would benefit not only him but the United States.  And he needs to allow proper Sunni representation in his government.  Second, if he wants our weapons, he ought to pay for them. People involved in foreign policy seem to be so focused on foreign policy that whether we get paid for the weapons is a footnote.  The fact is Iraq has plenty of oil now, will have even more in the future.  They've to enough cash to pay for the weapons now and they can certainly borrow on the international markets and, at very minimum, they can agree to pay us later in cash or oil.  Third, he's got to stop Iranian flights over his air space into Syria.  He'll say, 'Well then give me an airforce.'  We don't have to.  All he has to do is authorize the Saudi, the Turkish or the American airforce to ensure that his air space is not used  by Iranian thugs transiting to so that they can destroy and kill as many innocent people and some non-innocent people in Syria.  And finally he's got to focus on the hostages of Camp Ashraf and the human rights of those in Camp Hurriyah also known as Camp Liberty.  These are international responsibilities that he has.  So if there is no penetrating analysis, the argument will be: 'We created him, he seems like a good guy, he's in trouble, therefore we give him weapons for free.'  That is the default position of our foreign policy
Congress wasn't informed.  Either Barack broke the law or Iraq is being given -- by Barack with the US taxpayers footing the bill -- these weapons. There was also no public announcement.  
Congress wasn't informed.  I have no idea why the New York Times, 'breaking' the story seems to have forgotten to contact Congress.  That's sort of a basic for a news outlet.  
Outlets run statements like this from Australia's ABC:  "'The recent delivery of Hellfire missiles and an upcoming delivery of Scan Eagles are standard [foreign military sales] cases that we have with Iraq to strengthen their capabilities to combat this threat,' a State Department official said."
That would say this was Iraq purchasing; however, "foreign military sales" is not said in the quote by the State Dept.  The State Dept quote is, "The recent delivery of Hellfire missiles and an upcoming delivery of Scan Eagles are standard cases that we have with Iraq to strengthen their capabilities to combat this threat."
So it may be a gift.  We'll stay with 'gift' for now.
What's Congress going to say about this 'gift'?
We know what was said this month.

Subcommittee Chair Ted Poe:  When I was in Iraq, a couple of years ago, a year and a half ago, Prime Minister, I asked him the question about the oil and how about paying for some of this nation building, military, all the things America's doing and he literally went -- was very vocal about Iraq would not pay the United States a dime for helping them liberate their country and rebuild their country.  So I think that may still be his position.
I can't imagine that Congress will be thrilled by the 'gift.'  As RT observes, "Other plans to provide Iraq with supplies have also stalled in Congress, where a bill to lease and sell the country's Apache helicopter gunships to Baghdad is languishing among concern that Maliki would use them to bully his political rivals."
UPI notes the 75 Hellfire Missiles arrived in Iraq last week and that "more are expected." Rethink Afghanistan puts the cost of a single Hellfire Missile at $58,000.  75 of them?  Check my math, but that comes to $3,750,000.  A nearly four million dollar 'gift' has been purchased with the American taxpayer dollars.  And that's not counting the drones.  There aren't specific numbers being reported regarding the drones, so we'll just note the US Air Force put the price of one system (4 drones and the reporting device) at $3.2 million in 2006.  We're now at the price tag of $7 million dollars.
Taxpayer dollars, Barack's not using the family checkbook on this gift.
Among the reasons Congress objects?
Nouri's a thug and they know it.  Many members of Congress also have an affinity for the KRG -- the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.  KRG President Massoud Barzani's repeatedly warned about the danger arming Nouri could result in.
He's not the only one concerned.  US military leaders thought, with regards to the F-16s the US will provide Iraq with next year, there was an agreement in place in June that no planes would be supplied until the Iraqi military was restructured because US military intelligence raised red flags over the appointments Nouri was making -- key positions being filled by those with links to Iran.  US military leaders were disturbed by that for a number of reasons including Iraq providing Iran with technology.  Again, the White House appeared to give their word that the F-16 transfer would be slowed down so that it did not take place until after the 2014 parliamentary elections (currently scheduled for April 30th).  US military intelligence says Nouri can't win re-election as Prime Minister, he's too unpopular.  (He didn't win re-election in 2010.  His State of Law lost to Iraqiya but the White House brokered The Erbil Agreement to go around the voters and the country's Constitution and give Nouri a second term.)
I was told this evening that the drone transfer is "outrageous."  The military officer noted the US already runs drones (US military and CIA) in Iraq and wondered why Nouri needed his own but, more to the point, why this technology was being handed over to Nouri since the same drones are used in spying on other countries? (He meant Iran.)
There are a lot of questions to ask about this 'gift.'  
The press seems so uninterested in any of them.
Turning to today's violence, Xinhua usually does the best job of the foreign outlets. Today, they do so by default since AP and Reuters have little interests in the day's violence.  However, Xinhua is off the mark with, "Four people were killed and five others wounded in separate violent attacks in Iraq on Thursday, police said."  They note 1 police officer and a relative were shot dead near Baquba, the corpse of Cleric Ali al-Timimi was discovered in Maqdadiyah, a Kut bombing left 1 person dead and four injured and a Salahrudin Province roadside bombing left a Sahwa leader injured.
That was, sadly, not all the reported violence. There were 12 more reported deaths and twenty-three more reported injured.  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Falluja bombing claimed 1 life and left three more people injured, a Kut roadside bombing left Major Dhirgham Bashir dead, an Alshwertan Village bombing  left two police officers injured, a Mosul home invasion left 1 police officer and his wife dead and their son injured, 1 former military colonel was shot dead in Mosul, a Hit bombing left an Iraqi military officer and four soldiers injured, assailants "dressed in military uniforms, kidnapped four citizens in the Karim al-Haymas village in Mandali in Diyala, then killed them just 500 meters from the village," an Ishaqi bicycle bombing left 2 police members dead and three injured, 2 Tuz Khurmato bombings left 1 person dead and eight injured, and an Associate Director of a polling center in Mosul was left injured in a Mosul shooting.
All together that's 16 reported deaths and 28 reported injured.
Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 9300 violent deaths so far this year with 838 for the month thus far and 56 for yesterday.
Yesterday was Christmas Day.  Pope Francis delivered his holiday message which included:
Looking at the Child in the manger, our thoughts turn to those children who are the most vulnerable victims of wars, but we think too of the elderly, to battered women, to the sick. Wars shatter and hurt so many lives!
Too many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fueling hatred and vengeance. Let us continue to ask the Lord to spare the beloved Syrian people further suffering, and to enable the parties in conflict to put an end to all violence and guarantee access to humanitarian aid. We have seen how powerful prayer is! And I am happy today too, that the followers of different religious confessions are joining us in our prayer for peace in Syria. Let us never lose the courage of prayer! The courage to say: Lord, grant your peace to Syria and to the whole world.
Grant peace to the Central African Republic, often forgotten and overlooked. Yet you, Lord, forget no one! And you also want to bring peace to that land, torn apart by a spiral of violence and poverty, where so many people are homeless, lacking water, food and the bare necessities of life. Foster social harmony in South Sudan, where current tensions have already caused numerous victims and are threatening peaceful coexistence in that young state.
Prince of Peace, in every place turn hearts aside from violence and inspire them to lay down arms and undertake the path of dialogue. Look upon Nigeria, rent by constant attacks which do not spare the innocent and defenseless. Bless the land where you chose to come into the world, and grant a favorable outcome to the peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Heal the wounds of the beloved country of Iraq, once more struck by frequent acts of violence.   
38 of yesterday's 56 deaths?  They took place in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad.   Latin American Herald Tribune explained, "Al-Dura is a majority Sunni neighborhood that has a large Christian community and several churches."   Xinhua reported:

The deadliest attack occurred around noon when a car bomb went off near Mar Youhanna church when Christian worshippers were leaving after celebrating Christmas day in Doura district in the southern part of Baghdad, killing up to 27 people and wounding 56 others, a police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, three roadside bombs went off in a quick succession at a busy marketplace in the same predominantly Christian district, killing 11 people and wounding 14 others, along with damaging nearby shops and stalls, the source said.
December 26, 2013

"The civilized world's overwhelming silence and inaction guarantees more innocent victims in 2014,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center

At least 37 people were killed in bomb attacks in Christian areas of Baghdad on 
Christmas and dozens of other injured, some by a car bomb near a church after a service.

“That these religious celebrations in Iraq turned into carnage was entirely predictable as Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorists have labeled Iraqi Christians as heretics,” charged Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Center. “Indeed, Iraqi security forces were posted at churches, whose worshipers braved the threat of death to mark the holiest day on their calendar. We call on the United States and the EU to take the lead in committing to protect religious minorities wherever they dwell. The civilized world’s overwhelming silence and inaction only guarantees more innocent victims in 2014,” Cooper continued.

“While the year 2013 has seen a gradual descent into hell for an Iraq under siege by Islamists,” observed Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, the Center’s Director of Interfaith Affairs. “It has meant slipping into the seventh circle for Christians, whose ranks have already been decimated by years of sustained attacks against its historic Christian communities. The world must recognize that the unfettered suppression of religious minorities in Iraq – and Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria – continues to grow. It will spill over to other countries unless the world moves to make the safeguarding of religious expression a core policy goal. The trampling of this fundamental human right devalues all of civilization – believer and atheist alike.”

Earlier this year, during a private Simon Wiesenthal Center audience with Pope Francis, Center dean and founder Rabbi Marvin Hier told the Pope that he has an ally in his efforts to protect persecuted religious minorities, including endangered Christian communities.

For more information, please contact the Center's Public Relations Department,
310-553-9036, join the Center on Facebook,, or follow @simonwiesenthal for news updates sent direct to your Twitter page or mobile device.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of the largest international Jewish human rights organizations with over 400,000 member families in the United States. It is an NGO at international agencies including the United Nations, UNESCO, the OSCE, the OAS, the Council of Europe and the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino).

elise labott
the los angeles times