Saturday, February 08, 2014

The racism of Nicholas Kirstof and his Band of White Women

I am not a fan of Ishmael Reed.  I've noted that before.  But when someone is right, they're right.  In his new piece at CounterPunch he hurls a hundred and one things at the wall.  For me, the only thing that sticks is this:

Those are my neglected stories of 2013, what are those of Nicholas Kristof, whom the Time’s has assigned to take black and brown men to task for their moral shortcomings? All over the world! I’ve been challenging him like a boxer who calls another boxer “chicken” for refusing to fight. When I sent him an email, he had a black messenger from his camp, his column at the Time’s, to vouch for his good character. My challenge. When is Kristof going to respond to a SUNY study that holds that 90% of the white women from “middle class households” say that they have been battered or see their mothers, sisters and daughters battered.
When Kristof and his Band of White Women take off on one of their 'missionary' tasks,  it screams of racism.

Especially his Chalk and Cheese gal-pal Mia Farrow who has thus far exiled two family members: Both of them children of color: Soon-Yi Allen and Moses Allen.

But, we're supposed to believe, White girl wants to save the world of color?

She's as fake as Nicky K.

I seem to recall Nicky K's last fabled attempt to help people of color: Declaring his support for the illegal Iraq War.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Friday, February 9, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the protests continue in Iraq, there's news on the Jewish archives, we continue to examine how Brett McGurk misled Congress about Iraq, we also note Human Rights Watch's report on the abuse of Iraqi women, and much more.

January 16th, Senator Pat Toomey introduced Senate Resolution 333 on behalf of himself and Senators Richard Blumenthal, Chuck Schumer, Mark Kirk, Ben Cardin, Marco Rubio, Pat Roberts, Tim Kaine, Barbara Boxer and Robert Menendez:.

Strongly recommending that the United States renegotiate the return of the Iraqi Jewish Archive to Iraq.
Whereas, before the mid-20th century, Baghdad had been a center of Jewish life, culture, and scholarship, dating back to 721 B.C.;
Whereas, as recently as 1940, Jews made up 25 percent of Baghdad’s population;
Whereas, in the 1930s and 1940s, under the leadership of Rasheed Ali, anti-Jewish discrimination increased drastically, including the June 1–2, 1941, Farhud pogrom, in which nearly 180 Jews were killed;
Whereas, in 1948, Zionism was added to the Iraqi criminal code as punishable by death;
Whereas, throughout 1950–1953, Jews were allowed to leave Iraq under the condition that they renounce their citizenship;
Whereas, as result of past persecution, few Jews remain in Iraq today, and many left their possessions and treasured artifacts behind;
Whereas the Ba’ath regime confiscated these artifacts, later dubbed the Iraqi Jewish Archive, from synagogues and communal organizations;
Whereas, on May 6, 2003, members of the United States Armed Forces discovered the Iraqi Jewish Archive, which included 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents, in the heavily damaged and flooded basement of the Mukhabarat (secret police) headquarters;
Whereas, under great urgency and before adequate time could be dedicated to researching the history of the Iraqi Jewish Archive, an agreement was signed between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority on August 20, 2003, stating that the Iraqi Jewish Archive would be sent to the United States for restoration and then would be sent back to Iraq after completion;
Whereas, the Iraqi Jewish community is the constituency of the Archive and is now represented by the diaspora outside Iraq;
Whereas, the current Government of Iraq has publicly acknowledged the importance of the Archive and demonstrated a shared respect for the wishes of the Iraqi Jewish diaspora by attending the December 2013 burial of several Torah fragments from the Archive in New York;
Whereas United States taxpayers have invested $3,000,000 to restore the Iraqi Jewish Archive, and the National Archives and Records Administration has worked diligently to preserve the artifacts;
Whereas the National Archives and Records Administration is displaying the Iraqi Jewish Archive in Washington, DC, from October 11, 2013, to January 5, 2014, and in New York City from February 4, 2014, to May 18, 2014; and
Whereas the Iraqi Embassy to the United States has said that the Iraqi Jewish community, like other communities in Iraq, played a key role in building the country, shared in its prosperity, and also suffered exile and forced departure because of tyranny: Now, therefore, be it
That the Senate—
strongly urges the Department of State to renegotiate with the Government of Iraq the provisions of the original agreement that was signed between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority in order to ensure that the Iraqi Jewish Archive be kept in a place where its long-term preservation and care can be guaranteed;
recognizes that the Iraqi Jewish Archive should be housed in a location that is accessible to scholars and to Iraqi Jews and their descendants who have a personal interest in it;
recognizes that the agreement between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority was signed before knowing the complete history of the Iraqi Jewish Archive;
reaffirms the United States commitment to cultural property under international law; and
reaffirms the United States commitment to ensuring justice for victims of ethnic and religious persecution.

January 27th, other Senators began joining the resolution: Senator Jim Inhofe, Jerry Moran, Bob Casey, Daiel Coats, Orrin Hatch, Ed Markey, Roger Wicker, Chris Murphy, Roy Blunt, John Boozman, James Risch, Tom Coburn, Thad Cochran, Susan Collins, Chris Coons, Ted Cruz, Chuck Grassley, Mike Johanns, Patty Murray and Bill Nelson.  Rebecca Shimonsi Stoil (Times of Israel) reports today, "Late Thursday night, the Senate unanimously adopted the resolution" and that, barring "a re-negotiation of terms, the items are scheduled to be returned to Baghdad in June, a move that many fear will threaten their very existence."
There is a time issue.  As Josh Robin (Daily Beast) reports today, "A U.S. State Department official, insisting on anonymity, said in an email the Obama administration understands 'the sensitivities surrounding these items,' adding discussions are likely to intensify as the visit of the director of Iraq’s National Library and Archive approaches. The date for his trip hasn't been set."

Does US President Barack Obama understand "the sensitivities surrounding these items"?

And if so, why the hell should that reassure anyone.

What Josh Robin's reporting is not comforting and is, in fact, disturbing.

It's more foot dragging from Barack and his administration.

We need to include something right here.

US House Rep Brad Sherman:  There was bipartisan support for leaving a residual force in Iraq.  That required a Status Of Forces Agreement with the Maliki government.  And the Status Of Forces Agreement would have had to have included immunity for our soldiers so that they would not be subject to Iraqi courts.  We ask our soldiers, Marines, Airmen, etc. to take many risks.  One of them we don't ask them to take is the idea that their actions would be  held up to judgment in a court in Iraq or a court in Afghanistan for that matter.  We didn't get a Status Of Forces Agreement.  Some -- One theory is the administration blew the negotiations.   The other argu -- view is the Maliki government was in place when this government got there.  Maliki didn't have to give immunity to our troops and chose not to. We've seen that these immunity agreements are-are difficult for a host country to provide. [Afghanistan leader Hamid] Karzai isn't providing them.  And there are several elements of Iranian history going back seventy or eighty years when the Shah was held up to great ridicule for providing such immunity agreements.   Did we fail to get a Status Of Forces Agreement because we blew the negotiations or given the political reality starting with Maliki was there simply no way to get the immunity?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, first, you're keying on the history is really important here.  The history of immunity agreements, particularly in this region, is really what colors the entire debate.  The negotiation in 2007 and 2008 took almost 18 months.  And while we got those two agreements got passed -- the security agreement which allowed our forces to stay for three more years with immunity and a permanent Strategic Framework Agreement -- they barely passed.  And they passed on the last possible day and almost by the skin of their teeth.  And I was working on that issue with Ambassador [Ryan] Crocker for almost 18 months --

US House Rep Brad Sherman:  This was passing the Iraqi parliament?

Brett McGurk: Yes, the Iraqi parliament.  Um, our legal requirements in, uh, in 2011 were that another follow up agreement would have to go through the Iraqi parliament.  It was the assessment of the Iraqi political leaders and also of our leadership that it was unlikely to pass and, therefore, the decision was made that our troops would leave by the end of -- by the end of 2011.  But we still have a permanent -- a permanent Strategic Framework Agreement.  That agreement has passed the Iraqi parliament, was ratified in 2008 and it provides us a strong basis for providing security systems to the Iraqis.  It does not provide us the basis for having boots on the ground in a training presence but we do train Iraqi special forces under our Office of Security Cooperation through the [US] Embassy [in Baghdad] and we're also in discussions with regional partners for having a training presence.

When we objected to McGurk as Barack's (failed) nominee for US Ambassador to Iraq, we pointed out the SOFA and the e-mails from the Cult of St. Barack poured in insisting that McGurk had nothing to do with the SOFA, some idiots even insisted that McGurk hadn't been in Iraq.  Then news emerged of how he cheated on his wife in Baghdad, under the Bully Boy Bush administration, by sleeping with then-reporter for the Wall St. Journal Gina Chon and they dropped that complaint in their e-mails but insisted McGurk hadn't been working on a new SOFA.

There he is his words.  But more importantly, his words prove (a) that we were right, Nouri is no hero -- suck on it and your lies, Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio -- and did not stop the SOFA and (b) it proves Senator John McCain is right about how it went down.

On (a), we've had to suffer with Nouri fan bois like Scott Horton.  Desperately immature boys gripping their tiny penises, in search of a Daddy and seizing on Nouri as a hero.  He is a tyrant.  As Leon Panetta made clear in Congressional testimony, Nouri was not the stumbling block.  The stumble was the Parliament.

Approval would not come from it, not enough to get a winning vote.

On (b), I'm not a fan of McCain's I have criticized him here many times.  He is a War Hawk and he's mean-spirited. But his argument has been that the current administration failed with the SOFA and he has criticized the way they attempted it.  He also attributes motive -- that Barack wanted to keep a campaign promise so he tanked the SOFA.  I disagree with the motive and I don't know how anyone but Barack proves or disproves the motive.

But Brett McGurk is talking about two SOFA's.  McCain's complaint was that Barack started late and that the negotiations were not serious.

That's true.  They started in the summer of 2011.  That was much too late.  As McGurk notes above, they spent almost 18 months -- he, then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and others -- negotiating the first SOFA.

By contrast, not even six months were spent negotiating on a second SOFA before the October 2011 announcement that it hadn't worked.

The inept administration (and I'm glad they were inept with attempting a SOFA) still hasn't learned a damn thing.  Four months from now, the documents are scheduled to leave.  You can't postpone these talks.

But that's what the administration has done yet again.

Connolley questioned McGurk Wednesday at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.  The sole witness appearing before the Committee  was US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk.  Committee Chair Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel were among those noted in Wednesday's snapshot. with an emphasis on the Congress' opinion of Nouri (not good) and Camp Ashraf. Thursday's snapshot covered the hearing with regards to the Jewish archives.  This time, we'll report on a few other aspects and we may report on the hearing in at least one more snapshot.

Let's stay with Connolly and note this exchange.

US House Rep Gerry Connolly:  Elections in April?  Still on schedule?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, we, our team at the Embassy, is talking every day to the United Nations Assistance Mission-Mission in Iraq and the Iraqi High Electoral Commision which are planning the elections and the information I have received most recently is that we have tens of thousands of displaced families from Anbar Province.  We have been assured by those planning the elections that displaced people will still be able to vote and their vote will count as if they were in their home province.  So we are still confident the elections will be held on April 30th.  And our consistent position, our firm position, is that those elections have to be held on April 30th.  There should not be a delay.

Some fear a delay.  I'm fearful that Nouri's going to again prevent Anbar and Nineveh from voting -- as he did in the 2013 provincial elections.  Yes, after international pressure, they were allowed to vote in June.  The other provinces -- except for the KRG which votes on its own schedule in provincial elections and Kirkuk which Nouri prevented from voting -- voted in April.

Yesterday, we noted this from last month's "Will Nouri call off elections in provinces he's unpopular in?" (January 25th):

Duriad Salman and Ammar al-Ani (Alsumaria) report al-Nujaifi gave two interviews today, the first to Sky News and the second to Alsumaria.  Osama al-Nujaifi noted Nouri cannot continue to act unilaterally, that there are checks and balances in the system and he was concerned that Nouri thinks he's "singular" when it comes to decision making and that this could lead Nouri to attempt to postpone the upcoming election citing "poor security."  Nouri did just that last year.  And he wasn't supposed to.  He ruled that Anbar and Nineveh could not vote.  Under pressure from the US, specifically Secretary of State John Kerry, Nouri relented and, months later, allowed the two provinces to vote.
He never should have been allowed to postpone them.  He doesn't have that power.  The Independent High Electoral Commission is the only one that does and, as their name notes, they are supposed to be "independent."
If Nouri tries to keep provinces from voting, it will be worse than last time and it will be worse then cancelling the election all out.  It will be corrupt.
He penalized the two provinces he was most disliked in last year.  Those were provincial elections, citizens were voting on who to represent them in their provincial governments (think state governments if you're in the US and confused).  These parliamentary elections are like federal elections.  And if Utah wasn't allowed to vote to send people to the House and Senate, it wouldn't be a real election in the US.
In a later report, Duriad Salman and Ammar al-Ani report that the 'independent' commission is now saying that one or more provinces could be prevented from voting in the parliamentary elections.

The idea is being floated.  Twice, Brett McGurk was asked about elections.  We noted one in yesterday's snapshot and another today.  Never once did McGurk inform Congress that this idea was being floated -- let alone that the IHEC declared that it could possibly happen.

There will not be free or fair elections unless everyone votes on the same day.

Today, All Iraq News reports that Iraqiya MP Salim Dali declared the attack on Anbar Province was Nouri's attempt to delay the parliamentary elections.  He tells All Iraq News:
The government is trying to disturb the situation such as the situation in Anbar starting from arresting MP, Ahmed al-Alwani, which will negatively affect holding the elections.

More than 200 thousand refugees have left Fallujah city which raises the question about the way of holding the elections in this city and the other cities of Anbar. 
Witnessing the same situation of the former elections where they were postponed in Nineveh and Anbar provinces.

Iraqiya, for those who don't know or forgot, defeated Nouri's State of Law in the 2010 elections which should have resulted in Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi being the prime minister.  But Nouri refused to step down after losing -- for eight months he refused to step down bringing the government to a halt (this is known as the "political stalemate" and set a record at the time for the longest period in any country between elections and the forming of a government) and he had Barack's backing so he got away with it.  Barack ordered US officials to negotiate a legal contract (The Erbil Agreement) that went around the Constitution and the Iraqi voters (and any notion of democracy) which decreed a second term for Nouri.

In this year's planned elections, it is the post of prime minister, Mustafa Habib (Niqash) reports, that is the supreme prize:

The ultimate goal for almost all parties competing in the elections, due to be held at the end of April, is clear though:  the Prime Minister’s chair. After eight years of leadership from current prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki it is clear to most ordinary Iraqis, and therefore also to their politicians, that this is the most powerful position in the country. Over the past decade the executive branch of Iraq’s government has shown that it seems to have more power over what goes on in the country than Iraq’s parliament.

And how will the next Iraqi Prime Minister be chosen? Doubtless the person will be chosen by the members of political alliances that form after the upcoming federal elections. Right now the shape of those alliances are far from clear cut. Additionally the fact that Iraq’s current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is so deeply unpopular and that his mostly Shiite Muslim political alliance has been crumbling, alongside the differences in opinion among Iraq’s Sunni Muslim politicians, means that voters will definitely see some new alliances formed.

Analysts inside and outside the country are already coming up with a number of scenarios they believe may occur.

If Brett McGurk were honest, not only would he have informed the Congress on Wednesday about the IHEC stating it would be acceptable to deny a province the right to vote in the parliamentary elections, he would have also noted that in the two previous parliamentary elections, the desires and wishes of the Iraqis were ignored as the White House imposed Nouri as prime minister in 2006 and again in 2010.

Brett's not an honest man.  As his ex-wife can probably attest, he struggles with the truth.  But turns out, he's got a sense of humor.  Warped, yes, but a sense of humor.  We'll note this long exchange but, believe me, the set up pays off, you will howl.

US House Rep Juan Vargas: I personally am very concerned about the Christian community.  The Christian community has been slaughtered.  I mean the Christians that we saw killed on Christmas. You know, very unified attacks on Christians, 37 murdered.  The Chaldean community  before the war was about a million Chaldean Christians.  Now I think there's less than half, maybe a third of that,.  We're very thankful in San Diego that many Chaldeans have been able to come to San Diego and a great community is forming there and continues to form. I'd like to hear from you what we can do and what we should do and what we're not doing to help not only the Christian community, but especially the Christian community, but other communities as well.  I mean, what-what else should we be doing?

Brett McGurk: Uh, Congressman, thank you.  I-I've visted the Chaldean community in Michigan.  I would welcome the opportunity to come to your district to visit the community there.  Uhm --

US House Rep Juan Vargas: You're invited then.

Brett McGurk: Uh, extremist groups, as I've mentioned, are threatening Christians, Muslims, everybody in the region.  It is a phenomenon throughout the region, this is a regional problem. And one thing we're trying to do is work with the Christian leaders in Iraq is make sure that they have the resources they need from the central government and also the Kurdish Regional Government and making sure that there areas are as secure as possible.  In Iraq, the Chaldeans and other Christian minority groups are located in the Ninewah Plains.  Uhm, there is an al Qaeda extremist presence south of there.  We are working to try to make sure that local people, Christians in that community, have the resources they need to protect themselves and to police their own communities.  And we've made some progress there in that area over the last six months.  In the north, in Erbil and the Kurdish Region, uhm, when I was in Iraq a few months ago, I spoke to, as I mentioned earlier, with Archbishop [Bashar] Warda of the community there and linked him up with the Prime Minister so that they could talk about schools for the community and making sure that they're getting the resources that they need from the Kurdish Regional Government.  What we can do is a neutral group in Iraq with relationships between everybody because we've been there for ten years and are seen as a neutral player, one of the very few, is try to make sure that the connections are made between the governments provincial, regional and national. so that the Christian and minority communities have the resources they need to protect themselves but also for schools and for children and for everything else.

US House Juan Vargas:  Now I do have to say that I've heard from many that the central government, they claim that the central government is not doing much of anything at all to help the Christians.  In fact, just the opposite, that they leave them exposed, that their churches are exposed, that the schools are exposed.  I mean could you comment on that?  That they haven't been doing enough, not nearly enough, to protect the Christian community and especially the churches?

Brett McGurk:  Uhm, since a series of church bombings if I recall correctly in 2009 or 2010, uh, the Iraqis have really buttressed the Christian sites in Iraq.  Uhm, but as you mentioned, there are still attacks --

US House Rep Juan Vargas:  The Christian attacks, I believe, killed 37 --

Brett McGurk:  That's right

US House Rep Juan Vargas:  Christians.

Brett McGurk:  I have found the prime minister, when you discuss this issue with him, fairly emotional about wanting to protect Christians just like everyone else in his country.

Just like everyone else in his country?

Oh, that Funny Man Brett McGurk.

The killers of journalists go unpunished.  I will assume Congress is noting their own disdain for the press by refusing to cover that reality in any of the last five Congressional hearings on Iraq.

Yesterday, Human Rights Watch issued their 105-page report (PDF format warning) "‘No One Is Safe’: Abuses of Women in Iraq’s Criminal Justice System,"  Does Brett want tell us how much Nouri cares about women in Iraq?

Before he preps that joke, he might want to read the report.  If that's too much work for him, he can just start with the opening of the report's summary:

In May 2012, Hanan al-Fadl (not her real name) was grocery shopping in a market in central Baghdad when security forces dressed in civilian clothing seized her, bundled her into a car, and drove her to the office of a state institution, she told Human Rights Watch. 
There, she said, they beat her, shocked her with electric cables, and drenched her in cold water in an effort to force her to admit that she had taken a bribe. Hanan, a manager at a state-affiliated company that approves construction projects, said she realized she was paying the price for refusing to waive through a project in which the contractor had used sub-standard materials. “I made a mistake,” she said. “I didn’t know someone important in the government had a stake in the project.” Beaten and tortured for hours, Hanan said she refused to confess—until her interrogators threatened her teenage daughter. 

They pulled up her picture on my mobile, and said, “Is this [name withheld]?” They knew her name, where she went to school, everything. They said “We can take her just like we took you.” I would have said anything at that point. 

After holding her for more than a day, security forces took her to a judge, who refused to acknowledge bruises and swelling on her face, she said. She did not have a lawyer. Four months later, a Baghdad court convicted her of forgery and sentenced her to three years in prison, based solely on her “confession” and the testimony of a “secret informant.” When Human Rights Watch visited Hanan, she had been detained in Baghdad’s Central Women’s prison for more than a year. 
Hanan is one of thousands of Iraqis imprisoned by a judicial system plagued by torture and rampant corruption. Last April, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay issued a scathing indictment of Iraq’s “not functioning” justice system, citing numerous convictions based on confessions obtained under torture and ill-treatment, a weak judiciary, and trial proceedings that fall far short of international standards.

Or maybe Funny Brett would prefer to dive deeper into the report?  Say page 19 through 22?

Human Rights Watch found that security officials in the Interior and Defense ministries round up women, especially family members of male suspects, without an arrest warrant, deny women access to a lawyer, and fail to bring detained women before an investigative judge according to Iraq’s Code of Criminal Procedure. At least 15 female detainees, their families, and lawyers told Human Rights Watch that they were detained as a part of a round-up of an entire family or village. Security officers conducted warrantless raids in neighborhoods and detained some residents for several days.  
Ten women reported that security forces questioned them not about their activities, but about their relatives. 34 Security forces released some of the women without ever charging them, and charged others with “covering up ” for their husbands or other male family members, effectively punishing them for familial associations rather than any wrongdoing. 
A former judge, who asked not to be identified, said: 

If someone is arrested as part of an emergency operation, no matter how urgent, an investigative judge must still issue an arrest warrant.  In exceptional cases, where there is an explosion, for example, the arresting unit can collect testimonies at the scene while they await the issuance of arrest warrants. But what happens in fact is that they arrest them and later have a judge provide a warrant that justified the arrest.  

He added that security forces “often arrest a large number of people in an area where an incident occurs without an arrest warrant.” 
A lawyer, who asked not to be identified, said that this practice was especially frequent in arrests of women. “They arrest the women just to get at one person – their husband, or their brother,” he said.  Another lawyer who also requested anonymity said: 

Individual officers have taken the law into their own hands to arrest the wife and children to put pressure on the husband, but the wife is not responsible.  ...If a man is arrested and won’t confess, they bring his wife in. 

Arrests of women because of their relationships to suspects, without any evidence that they have committed a crime, amount to collective punishment, and violate international human rights law’s guarantee of the rights to liberty of person and the right to a fair trial.  These prohibit arbitrary detention and require that detention only be in accordance with clear domestic law, that detainees be in formed immediately of the reason for their detention and are promptly brought before a judge and charged with a criminal offense. Such arrests also violate Iraqi laws protecting these rights, including provisions of Iraq’s Constitution and Code of Criminal Procedure.  
On November 3, 2012, federal police invaded 11 homes in the town of al-Tajji, 20 kilometers north of Baghdad, and detained 11 women and 29 children overnight in their homes. The lawyer representing the women told Human Rights Watch that people were detained from every house in the village.  
After detaining 12 of the women and girls, aged 11 to 60, for several hours in their homes, police took them to a police station where they held them without charge for four days.  Throughout their detention, police put plastic bags over each of their heads until they began to suffocate, and electrocuted and beat some of them, according to the women’s accounts. 
Majida Obeidi, 22, detained as part of the Tajji operation, told Human Rights Watch that at around midnight on November 3, a large number of security forces raided the village and invaded the house where she was staying with her four young children and her husband’s 12-year-old second wife.  Some wore the uniform of the National Guard, others were Special Forces, and some wore civilian clothes, she said. 

I think there were about 10 or 15 soldiers. Zahra [the second wife] and I were alone in the house with my children. They blew open the doors and streamed in. They demanded to know where my husband was, but they didn’t know his name, and they asked where we kept the weapons. They looked for the weapons under the floor and ripped bricks off the house but they didn’t find anything. 

They held them overnight in her home, and then took Majida and her children, along with 11 other women and 25 of their children, to the federal police brigade headquarters in the Kadhimeyya compound, also known as Camp Justice, in Baghdad. Police held them there for four days, and then transferred them to the al-Shaaba al-Khamsa detention facility in the same compound. Police released the children after three days, but detained 12 of the women for a month before bringing them before an investigative judge. Majida said the officers repeatedly questioned her about her husband, and then accused her of being a terrorist.

Why don’t you show us the bodies of the Shia you slaughtered -- where have you hidden them?” They said horrible things to me.... I don’t want to repeat them. They called me daughter of a bitch, daughter of a whore. 

The judge charged the women with terrorism under article 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Law for “covering up” for their husbands. 
A high-level government official confirmed the details of the women’s detention and added that according to the brother of one woman, a colonel in Kadhimeyya offered to release his sister if he paid him US$6,500.  The statements of dozens of officials, lawyers, detainees, and their families indicate that bribery of this nature is common. The brother paid, but the colonel did not release his sister.

Nouri's 'concern' for Iraqi women isn't just appalling, it's criminal and the US government is in violation of the law by providing him with financial aid and weapons.

Do you wonder about the US press?  Not one member has bothered to ask the State Dept (which is over Iraq, in the executive branch) about this report or the legal implications of it.

Not one.

Ali Mamouri (Al-Monitor) notes the report:

A separate HRW report, released Feb. 6, 2014, documented cases of abuse against Iraqi women — both Shiite and Sunni — during detention. The report revealed that thousands of Iraqi women have been arrested and detained illegally, and many have suffered torture and been raped. The report concluded that corruption was rampant in the Iraqi judiciary, for a number of convictions based on confessions under duress have been recorded. Moreover, the documents demonstrate that international laws and conventions are not followed in Iraqi courts.
Surprisingly, Iraqi officials accusrd HRW of relying on false and biased information, even though they referred to HRW reports when Saddam Hussein was in power and they were in opposition to the regime.
In the latest developments on such matters, Iraq's Court of Publishing and Media issued two arrest warrants in early February 2014: the first against Judge Munir Haddad, who approved the death sentence of Saddam Hussein; and the second against Iraqi journalist Sarmad al-Tai, a known critic of the government’s political and economic performance.
The warrants charged them with “defaming” Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In the instance of Tai, it was the first time the defamation charge has been used since 2003. Tai was even charged based on laws issued under the former regime. 
Maliki’s media adviser, Ali al-Moussawi, defended the warrants, saying, “The prime minister is an Iraqi citizen, and like anyone he may defend himself through legal and judicial means. … That would strengthen the role of law and the judiciary because everyone is subject to them.” 

Let's go back to Wednesday's hearing.

US House Rep Gerry Connolly: And if I understand your testimony correctly, we're now relying on tribal support to dislodge the occupying forces in Falluja.  How in the world -- Isn't that an indictment of the investments we've made in the Iraqi military  and its inability to hold its own territory secure?

Brett McGurk:  Well the Iraqi military would have the equipment and the numbers to go into Falluja tomorrow and clean out the streets.  Uh, we believe that were they to do an assault like that would actually exaserbate the problem --

US House Rep Gerry Connolly:  I guess, excuse me a second, Mr. McGurk, I don't mean -- But before you get there, how did it happen in the first place?  How is it that the Iraqi government was not able to secure something as symbolically important if not really important as Falluja?

Brett McGurk:  Uhm, Congr -- As I tried to explain in my testimony, there was a series of incidents throughout 2013 including a protest movement which kind of added to the political instability in the -- in the region.  And in Falluja in particular, it is an area, as we know, any outsiders coming in to Falluja are resisted and that includes the Iraqi army, it includes us, wit includes, we hope now, these al Qaeda extremists.  All I can say is we are where we are right now and we're helping the Iraqis develop a plan right now developing a plan -- one that will lead -- I say, "tribal fighters" but what I really mean is that the local people, local population who know the street are able to actually identify the foreign elements and push them out.  But right now in Falluja, it's a mix of al Qaeda, former insurgent groups and former Ba'athists networks who are in control of the streets there.  It has always been a difficult place.  And, uh, so it's always been a difficult territory.

US House Rep Gerry Connolly:  The tribal support we're relying on, what is their attitude toward the Maliki government?  I mean because doesn't some of that support, cooperation, isn't some of that a reflection of how they view the central government?

Brett McGurk:  Yes.  There's certainly -- there's tremendous mistrust in the area of Falluja towards the central government, there's no question about that.

US House Rep Gerry Connolly:  And does that impede our work to try to dislodge the occupation forces in Falluja?

Brett McGurk: Uh, it does.  It makes -- it makes it harder.  As I said,  some tribes are actually working with the extremists, some are now working to oust them, many others are on the fence.  And that's why it is incumbent  on the central government, through resources and through dialogue and communication to mobilize the population against them.

Brett says the protest movement -- which was sparked by the torture and rape of women and girls in Iraqi prisons and detention centers -- "kind of added to the political instability."

The protest against the torture of women contributed?

You have to be pretty ____ dumb and a real whore -- and we all know Brett's a whore -- to get away with that one with a straight face.

No, Nouri's treatment of women absolutely added to the political instability.

Even in the face of  Norui calling them "terrorists," in the face of Nouri's assaults, in the face of the violence, nothing can stop the ongoing demonstrations that kicked off December 21, 2012 and have continued ever since.  Including today.

  1. الجمعة الموحدة في منطقة العامرية غرب العاصمة بغداد.

Protesters turned out in Amiriya today.  Yes, they do protest in that section of Baghdad and let's all just pretend that Nouri ordering two mosques raided in Amirya today had nothing to do with that.

Iraqi Spring MC notes that protests also took place in Baiji, Jalawla, Baquba and Rawa.

For 'fun,' Nouri ordered the military to also raid two mosques in western Baghdad (Amiriya).

No where is sacred in Nouri's Iraq, everyone is a victim and everyone is a target.

There is no respect for anything, certainly not for human life.  Nouri makes that clear every day.

Nouri's forces conducted 110 bombings in Anbar today, NINA notes.

It didn't always turn out the way tyrant Nouri al-Maliki hoped.  But when does it ever?

Even so he must be licking his paws in sorrow because, while he's happy to bomb and kill civilians, it's hard to picture him humping someone's leg excitedly when he heard the news that, as Iraqi Spring MC reports, Nouri's helicopters accidentally bombed some of Nouri's forces to the north of Falluja -- bombed and killed.

As if he wasn't already having enough problems recruiting volunteers for his killing squads.

That's not all he bombed.  Iraqi Spring MC reports he bombed the power station in Falluja and the city is now without electricity.

That qualifies as a War Crime as well.  But he's gotten away with collective punishment (a War Crime) because so many have been too stupid or too scared to call him out.

The death and dying continue.

National Iraqi News Agency reports Falluja General Hospital received 5 dead and twenty-injured people as a result of Nouri's shelling of the city (the dead and wounded included children and women),  Nouri's military shot dead 4 people in eastern Ramadi, a Sadr City car bombing left 2 people (one a police member) dead and seven more injured, 1 person was shot dead in Muqdadiyah, a Hammam al-Aleel roadside bombing left the brother of the area's police chief injured, an armed clash in Garma left 6 rebels dead and four Sahwa injured, Joint Operations Command declared they shot dead 2 suspects in Mosul, a Baiji car bombing targeted Maj Gen Hamid Mohammed Kemer didn't harm the officer but left three soldiers injured, 1 candidate with the Ahrar bloc was assassinated in Baghdad (Ghazaliya area), and clergy members Sheik Shehab Mahmoud al-Hamdani and Sheikh Abu Noah al-Hamdani were shot dead in Hamman al-Aleel. All Iraq News adds a Tuz Khurmato bombing killed 4 people and left twenty-three more injured.

One of the  only ones to really confront Brett and his lies on Wednesday was US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  Let me just say that the idea that -- we're talking about Camp Ashraf -- it just seems to me that fundamentally you're suggesting that our approach to stop the massacre, the ongoing massacre of the people at Camp Liberty that we basically have to go to the Maliki government and ask them?  The problem is they're not providing enough security.  The Maliki government is responsible for these deaths.  I don't understand.  The military -- the Iraqi military invaded Camp Ashraf and murdered people.  These are the people under Maliki's command did that.  They recently went into the fifty or so that were left at Camp Ashraf, tied their hands behind their back and shot them in the back of the head. And it was Maliki's own military, we know, who did that.  We know that the Camp Ashraf and these people were attacked numerous times by the Iraqi military.  This isn't rather Maliki and his people are not protecting the MEK.  This is a crime against humanity.  These are unarmed refugees and which Maliki's own troops are murdering.  And I'm not talking about rockets we don't know where they come from, we're talking about actual -- by the way, I would suggest  that they probably know about those rockets as well -- Maliki, let's make it very clear, as far as I'm concerned and as far as many people in Washington are concerned,  Maliki is an accomplice the murders that are going on.  And as an accomplice, we should not be treating him as begging him to have a residual force of US troops in order to help his regime?  I don't understand why the United States feels -- why we feel compelled to be part of all of this?  Why do we feel compelled that we have to go in and be in the middle of this fight between people who are murdering each other?  Thirty to forty suicide bombers a month? Thousands of people are losing their lives to this insanity.  Why should the United States, tell me, this is my question, why does the United States feel that we need to become part of this insanity?  And does that not instead turn both of the parties against us?

Brett McGurk:  Uh, Congressman, the suicide bomber, uh , phenomenon is complete insanity.  Uh, I agree with you.  When you look at Iraq and look at the region and you define our interests -- and I don't go to any leader and beg for anything.  We protect and advance US interests as we define them.  And in Iraq, whether you like it or not, oil, al Qaeda, Iran, vital US interests are at stake in Iraq.

Note where Brett went first: Oil.

It's always oil with the War Hawks.

Let it be noted that unlike so many of his colleagues, Rohrabacher didn't ply Brett with compliments, gushing of how he informed he was (he wasn't and neither were they or they would have asked better questions) or thank him for his service, etc.

Brett's a whore.  A whore knows how to seduce.  And from the distance, for example, the members of Congress mistake smarmy for charm and fail to notice that the forelock in the front is now separated from the rest of the hair on Brett's head by a deep island of scalp or the bald spot in the back.

Dreaming of all the pleasure I'm going to have
Watching you hairline recede 
My vain darling
-- "Just Like This Train," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Court & Spark

Joni was singing of the supremely vain -- so vain, he might think the song was about him, might he?, might he? -- James Taylor; however, it also applies to Brett.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Not a Susan Hayward fan

Susan Hayward.

As the e-mails came in on "About celebrity deaths," most seemed to get the point, if you're not a fan or they don't tick you off, you really don't have anything to say about a passing.

But a few were stuck on the fact that someone might not be a fan (or dislike) Philip Seymour Hoffman.  "He's dead!" one person wrote.

Yes, I was aware.

Some people speak to you, some don't.

Take Susan Hayward.

My aunt loves the late actress.

If one of her films is on TV, do not call.  If you're over when one of her films comes on, you're choices are, sit and watch with no talking except during the commercial, go to another room in her house or leave.

Sit and watch?

Not a possibility for me.

I can't stand her.

I don't just mean I dislike her, I mean there's something about her that grates on my nerves.

I don't like her acting, I don't like her looks.

With the exception of "I Want To Live" (her death row film), I don't care for her characters.

I find her rude and off putting and think she was perfect for the part of Helen Lawson in "Valley of the Dolls."

She has a film called "Woman Obsessed" where she's insulted this man, who is wounded, and when she goes to make it right, she doesn't just barge in, she pushes past him, knocking him out of the way.

And maybe in the 50s or 40s, whatever that film's from, it was supposed to suggest 'powerful woman' but all it said to me was how rude and off putting she was.

My aunt would disagree.

I love my aunt.

I will always think of her when I happen across a Susan Hayward film. 

But I'm just not and never will be a fan of Hayward's (and I've seen all of her movies, I'm sure, growing up).

There are some people that just don't speak to us.  For me, Philip Seymour Hoffman was one.

There are some will love -- I have many, Goldie Hawn comes to mind immediately.

And there are some that will just rub us the wrong way like, for me, Susan Hayward.

That's just how it is.

A number of us worked late on "the gina & krista round-robin" so I'm writing late and using my lunch hour to do so. 

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):

Thursday, February 6, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Human Rights Watch releases a report on the Iraqi government's abuse of Iraqi women, the White House has managed to alienate the Kurds, we look at Brett McGurk's Iraq testimony (where he lied, where he omitted), and much more.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  In addition to the biggest issue, which is that we don't have al Qaeda on the run, there are two issues which I continue to be very concerned about.  The first is the safety of the residents of Camp Liberty.  They still have very little protection.  When last you testified, Mr. McGurk, 192 T-walls were up.  Then the big progress, supposedly, is that 43 T-walls are now up in addition.   This is out of 17,500 T-walls. T-walls save lives.  Put them up.  Number two, the Iraqi Jewish archives.  Ted Deutsch and many other members are very concerned, don't want them to be shipped back.  The Iraqi government incorrectly states that these papers are theirs.  That is not true.  And we hope that you continue to work on that.  And the bigger issue that brings us together is that obviously since the departure of our troops, al Qaeda's re-emergence has caused Iraq to take a very worrisome turn for the worse.  We've sacrificed so much blood and treasure there to watch it descend into full sectarian violence and an al Qaeda safe haven.  So we've got to rebuild our influence there.

That's Ros-Lehtinen speaking at yesterday's House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.  The sole witness appearing before the Committee  was US State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk.  Committee Chair Ed Royce and Ranking Member Eliot Engel were among those noted in yesterday's snapshot.  We'll be covering the hearing for several snapshots.

Yesterday we noted the T-walls and we'll use Ros-Lehtinen to recap on that and to note other topics as well.  We jump to her questions for McGurk and there aren't any ". . ."  in the exchange we're noting below but please note she asked three questions and we grab one here and two more later and the three were asked at once and they were answered at once by McGurk.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen::  On the issue of T-walls at ,Camp Liberty why have there been only 235 out of 17,500 T-walls put up?  And why have we only seen an addition of 43 since our November Subcommittee hearing?  Can you please commit that you will put extra effort in saving lives there?

Brett McGurk:  On Camp Liberty, on specifically the issue of T-walls, I have, again, made a number of trips to Iraq and every time I go, from Maliki on down, I raise the issues of T-walls.  We got T-walls moving back into the camp, earlier this month.  They stopped.  I raised it again last Thursday with the Iraqi National Security Advisor.  I understand this morning, T-walls are moving into the camp again.  I visited the survivors and residents of Camp Liberty earlier this month.  I told them I promised I would do everything I could.  I also urged them to do everything they could and that meant showing up at these camp management meetings where plans are made to move the T-walls into the camp.  This is an issue I'm going to continue to stay on top of.

How lucky for him that the T-walls, he 'understands' started going up again Wednesday morning when he was to appear before the Committee on Wednesday afternoon.

This is nonsense.  We went over this yesterday.  The Congress was told by the State Dept in October that the remaining T-walls would be put out.  Brett McGurk himself repeated that to the Congress in November.  The State Dept issued a statement in December saying the T-walls were going up.  They still weren't.  In January, it was the US Embassy in Baghdad, noting McGurk's visit to Camp Liberty, that said the T-walls were going up.

It's a shame no one asked Brett McGurk what his 'understanding' really meant.

Did someone pass on that Nouri says now they'll go up.  What does his answer mean?

And since the world -- including the European Union -- think he's a liar for his November testimony on the kidnapped Ashraf residents and who has them?  Since the UN didn't call him a liar but did put out a statment (again) contradicting his claims on that, why should we believe him now?

And if he's before Congress again in a few months and the T-walls are still not up, does anyone tell him that he's doing a lousy job and suggest that it's past time the State Dept stopped wasting time and money repeating actions and statements that do not effect any change?

Or are we all supposed to stand there rooting for Brett and the State Dept to win the longest marathon ever?

In her opening remarks, Ros-Lehtinen noted the Jewish archives.  These were discovered by the US military shortly after the start of the Iraq War, they were discovered submerged in watery basement.  These artifacts are Jewish artifacts.  Many were stolen from them by Saddam Hussein's government.  Many they were prevented from leaving with.  The artifacts came to the US to be restored so that they could be preserved for the future.

Nouri al-Maliki has insisted that his government has the right to these documents which include the Torah which, last time anyone checked, was not an official document of the Iraqi government.  Also, last time anyone checked, the number of Jews in Iraq could be counted on one hand -- a direct result of the post-invasion Iraqi government's refusal to protect the Jews of Baghdad.

After the documents were restored, they went on exhibit last year.  The US National Archives and Records Administration not only displayed them, they digitized them.  The National Archives notes:

Startling evidence of the once vibrant Jewish life in Iraq came to light in May 2003 — over 2,700 books and tens of thousands of documents were discovered in the flooded basement of the Iraqi intelligence headquarters by a US Army team.
The remarkable survival of this written record of Iraqi Jewish life provides an unexpected opportunity to better understand this 2,500-year-old Jewish community. For centuries, it had flourished in what had generally been a tolerant, multicultural society. But circumstances changed dramatically for Jews in the mid-twentieth century, when most Iraqi Jews fled and were stripped of their citizenship and assets.

As Jewish people from around the world came to view them, one Iraqi woman whose family fled to Israel found her report cards from when she was a little girl.  Others found records and belongings of their parents.

This is not the property of the government Iraq.  This was personal property which was systematically stolen by a government of a country that has historically persecuted the Jews.

Those decades of persecution are why it so offensive to so many Jewish people around the world that this cultural heritage is going to be handed over to the Iraqi government.

The White House and the State Dept lamely and wrongly assert that they have to return it.

Their argument is that an agreement was made that the US would restore the documents and then hand then hand them to the government of Iraq.

But you can't enter into a property contract with anyone other than the owner of the property or a legally designated representative of the owners of the property.

The Iraqi government has no claim of ownership.  They also were not contracted by the world's Jewish community to represent the property on their behalf.

This is stolen property.

As we already noted, Ro-Lehtinen stated, "The Iraqi government incorrectly states that these documents are theirs."  That's what she was referring to when she said it.  Here she is asking about it (again, she asked three questions all at once during the questioning, we're splitting it up and splitting Brett McGurk's responses up).

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen::  The Iraqi Jewish Archives, you have been engaged in discussions with the Iraqis on this issue and your staff has spoken with representatives, the Iraqi Jewish Diaspora and the Jewish community as a whole.  But could you give us an update on progress of these discussions?  Have there been alternative plans proposed?

Brett McGurk:  On the -- on the Jewish archives,  uhm, as you know, this a very sensitive topic.  Uhm, I've been working directly with the Iraqis on this.  I was just in Iraq and raised it with those officials in charge of the file.  We are engaged in sensitive negotiations with the Iraqis.  Uhm, in the coming weeks the Director of Iraq's Archives and Library will be coming to the United States and, again, I hope to report progress on this  But we're engaged  and it's a sensitive investigation but I will keep you fully informed of those talks. 

How about you explain what you're talking about?

Brett McGurk is not talking about the archives being turned over to the Jewish people -- though he did  mislead Congress on just that in 2013.  What he's talking about is handing them over to Iraq and then maybe something will be done like it can tour every few years in the US.

Ros-Lehtinen is very much concerned about this issue.  She's not joking or pretending.  She's not the only one in the House -- in fact every Democrat and Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee believes the documents should be returned to the Jewish community.  There's also sizable objection in the US Senate to these documents being wrongly handed over to the Iraqi government.  In the Senate, Senator Chuck Schumer has been one of the leaders on attempting to prevent this from happening.

But when Brett starts making his pleasing bleets, he needs to be stopped.  He needs to be asked specifically what he's discussing.  Ros-Lehtinen was at the hearing where he lied.  She was out of the room when he was forced to clarify his remarks to explain there was no talk of these documents being turned over to their rightful owners.

He's real good about offering false flattery and 'shaping' his responses, he's just not so good about telling the truth.

Let's note this exchange.

Chair Ed Royce: You were just in Baghdad meeting with Iraqi officials.  You state that you detected for the first time acknowledgement that government of Iraq missteps may have made the problem worse.  And as I noted in my statement, this is not the feeling that Ranking Member Engel and I received when we -- when we raised this issue with the [prime minister] of Iraq in our meeting. So, that was a few months ago. I am somewhat encouraged by this but how encouraged should we be?  Because our concern has long been that this lack of reconciliation is compounding the problem seriously

Brett McGurk:  I have found, frankly, Mr. Chairman, an attitude among the Iraqis that was similar to the tactics that we used in the early part of the war that the security problem was simply a security problem and not a problem that was fused with economics and politics.  And we had a series of conversations over the course of last year as the, uh, ISIL attacks increased, in which Iraqis saw this mainly as a security problem.  All I can say is that I've been there twice, uh, this month.  Uh, since  the infiltration of ISIL into Falluja and Ramadi.  And I have heard from across the board, from the prime minister on down that unless you enlist local Sunnis in those areas, you'll never defeat and isolate ISIL and we've seen that now manifested in a commitment the Iraqi Cabinet has passed a number of resolutions saying tribal leaders and fighters will be given full benefits of the state and most significantly Prime Minister Maliki has made a commitment that tribal fighters who oust ISIL from these areas will be incorporated into the formal security services of the state: the police and the army.  That did not happen with the Awakening fighters that we worked with in 2007 through 2008.  So that is a very significant commitment.  We now need to stay on the Iraqis to make sure that they follow through.

People sat through that crap.  Some nodded.  In agreement?

'Awakening' are Sahwa, also known as 'Sons Of Iraq' (or 'Daughters Of Iraq' for the much smaller numbered female counterparts).  The then-top US commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, explained the Sahwa.  We reported on it in the April 8, 2008 snapshot:

Today The Petraeus & Crocker Variety Hour took their act on the road.  First stop, the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Gen David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker are supposed to be providing a status report on the Iraq War.  They didn't.  In fact, Petraeus made clear that the status report would come . . . next September.  When the results are this bad, you stall -- which is exactly what Petraeus did. 
The most dramatic moment came as committee chair Carl Levin was questioning Petraeus and a man in the gallery began exclaiming "Bring them home!" repeatedly.  (He did so at least 16 times before he was escored out).  The most hilarious moment was hearing Petraeus explain that it's tough in the school yard and America needs to fork over their lunch money in Iraq to avoid getting beat up.  In his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the "Awakening" Council (aka "Sons of Iraq," et al) that it was a good thing "there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads.  These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts."  Again, the US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat up. 
How much lunch money is the US forking over?  Members of the "Awakening" Council are paid, by the US, a minimum of $300 a month (US dollars).  By Petraeus' figures that mean the US is paying $27,300,000 a month.  $27 million a month is going to the "Awakening" Councils who, Petraeus brags, have led to "savings in vehicles not lost".  Again, in this morning's hearings, the top commander in Iraq explained that the US strategy is forking over the lunch money to school yard bullies.  What a pride moment for the country.

At that hearing, Senator Barbara Boxer noted that the US was spending $182 million each year ($18 million a month) to "Awakening" Council members and "why don't we ask the Iraqis to pay the entire cost of that program"?

Had Boxer not asked that basic question, the US government would not have attempted (repeatedly) to stop paying for Sahwa.

It's cute the way Brett thinks he can get away with rewriting history.  2009, specifically May 2009, is when it all goes to hell.  So sorry but Bully Boy Bush is not in the White House.  If this is news to you, you can refer to Heath Druzin's "'Sons of Iraq' still waiting on promises" (Stars and Stripes) from May 2009.

Today, Brett and other liars want to whine, "Oh, if only Nouri . . ."  No.

It was the current administration that stood by and did nothing as the Sahwa were targeted, as they weren't paid, as they weren't absorbed into the security forces, US President Barack Obama didn't do one damn thing.

This includes when Sahwa leader Adel Mashhadani was arrested.  From March 2009, Barack did nothing.

W-w-ait!  Barack and the White House only began insisting dropping the Sahwa was a mistake this past summer!

That is true.  It took the idiots that long to realize it.

But Adel al-Mashhadani was still alive then.

January 21st, just last month, Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) reported on the latest rounds of executions in Iraq and noted, "The statement quoted the justice minister, Hassan al-Shimari, as saying those executed included Adel-al-Mashhadani, a former anti-al-Qaeda Sunni leader in Baghdad who was sentenced to death in late 2009 for murder and kidnapping."

Isn't that something, singing the importance of the Sawha for months now and doing nothing -- not even lodging a complaint -- to keep Adel al-Mashhadani from being executed.

Let's note another exchange.

Ranking Member Eliot Engel:  It was my opinion when the Chairman and I met with Mr. Maliki, it was my opinion that he was a good listener but I didn't think he provided too much in terms of answers to the questions that we had -- one of which was overflights.  I think that he just came to listen but really didn't come to put his head together with us an help solve the problem

Brett McGurk:  Uhm-uhm, I found Congressman that since the Prime Minister's trip, that your meeting with him, other meetings he had here on the Hill, uh, he spent about two hours with President Obama in the Oval Office.  Uhm, he got a very direct message on a number of issues and we have seen some fairly significant changes from that visit and so I want to thank you for the meeting you had with him and I think you made an influence on some of the issues we'll discuss on Camp Liberty, we've seen some changes, and, particularly, a need for a holistic strategy to defeat ISIL and enlisting the Sunnis into the fight at the local level we have seen some fairly dramatic and significant changes from that visit.

Have we seen changes?  Or does Brett just love to keep saying "holistic" whenever he appears before Congress?

Nouri's done nothing "holistic."

He lies all the time.

The protests that kicked off December 21, 2012 and that have continued for over a year was the expression of outrage that slowly built up.  In the fall of 2012, the first reports emerged of women and girls in Iraqi prisons and detention centers being tortured and raped.

Parliament investigated and found that to be true and Nouri did his usual -- he stayed silent thinking he could ignore it.

What happens in the prisons is always what gave the protests their deeper meaning.  Yes, the lack of jobs and the lack of public services were important.  But with Sunnis targeted for arrests, with Sunnis disappearing into the 'legal' system, the torture and rape of women and girls was the last damn straw.

Why is the State Dept never made to respond to that issue when they appear before Congress?

Human Rights Watch notes today:

 Iraqi authorities are detaining thousands of Iraqi women illegally and subjecting many to torture and ill-treatment, including the threat of sexual abuse. Iraq’s weak judiciary, plagued by corruption, frequently bases convictions on coerced confessions, and trial proceedings fall far short of international standards. Many women were detained for months or even years without charge before seeing a judge.

The 105-page report, “‘No One Is Safe’: Abuses of Women in Iraq’s Criminal Justice System,”documents abuses of women in detention based on interviews with women and girls, Sunni and Shia, in prison; their families and lawyers; and medical service providers in the prisons at a time of escalating violence involving security forces and armed groups. Human Rights Watch also reviewed court documents and extensive information received in meetings with Iraqi authorities including Justice, Interior, Defense, and Human Rights ministry officials, and two deputy prime ministers.

“Iraqi security forces and officials act as if brutally abusing women will make the country safer,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “In fact, these women and their relatives have told us that as long as security forces abuse people with impunity, we can only expect security conditions to worsen.”

In January 2013, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki promised to reform the criminal justice system, beginning with releasing detained women who had judicial orders of release. A year later, the brutal tactics of security forces remain essentially the same and hundreds of women remain in detention illegally.

This is not a secret.  Again, Parliament investigated this in 2012 and found it to be true.

Why has the US Congress failed to probe it, failed to even demand answers from State Dept witnesses appearing before it?

Alexandra Zavis (Los Angeles Times) covers the Human Rights Watch report and notes:

The vast majority of the more than 4,200 women detained in Interior and Defense Ministry facilities are Sunni Muslims, according to figures provided by the prime minister’s office. But women of all sects are subjected to the abuses documented in the report, Human Rights Watch said.
The group found that women are detained not only for crimes they are said to have committed, but also to harass male family or tribe members, a practice that amounts to collective punishment for alleged terrorist activities, Human Rights Watch said. 
Some are held for months or even years after judges have ordered their release, the report says. Even if they are freed unharmed, they are frequently stigmatized by their families and communities, because they are perceived to have been dishonored, it says.

Why does this State Dept not care about women?

Why is John Kerry on some sort fanatical mission with regards to Israel and Palestine when he needs to be focused on Iraq?

Or have we all forgotten that the State Dept is over the US mission in Iraq?  That transition, from DoD to State, took place in the fall of 2011.  And State has been given billions of taxpayer dollars to oversee this mission.

But John Kerry is unhinged and goes from attempting to lead and market a war on Syria, to believing he's the messiah who will bring peace to the Israelis and Palestinians?  And all he really ends up doing is insulting both parties.

In the most recent past, special envoys were created to work on the issues regarding the plight of the Palestinians.

Kerry needs to be doing his job and his chief focus is supposed to be on Afghanistan and Iraq -- those are the State Dept's two big budget items.

Back to the hearing.  Again, Ros-Lehtinen asked three questions at once and Brett McGurk responded to all three in one response.  But we've divided it up here to zoom in on various details.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen::  And thirdly, on al Qaeda's resurgence, a lot of us this is due to the failure in the Iraqi government and Iraqi leadership since we left the country.  There are national elections planned in Iraq in April.  We were successful after the surge in getting the government to participate in more inclusive power-sharing government that kind of mollified the Sunnis in Iraq and left al Qaeda marginalized.  Then after we left, the Iraqis took another step backwards.  Now it is the Sunnis who are marginalized drawing many to al Qaeda.  What steps are we taking to ensure that the Sunnis are participating in these elections and that Iraq can return to that sort of power-sharing government we saw in the post-surge Iraq?  And continuing with the Sunni-Shia issue, we've seen over the last  few days that the Iraqi military has been bombarding Falluja which was overtaken by al Qaeda late last year presumably preparing for an assault; however, the Shi'ite dominated government  cannot successfully take Falluja on its own without the help of the Sunni tribal leaders in the region.  Can you describe the current Maliki government and these leaders?  And do you think Maliki will be able to gain their support given Maliki's crackdown on Sunnis in Iraq for these past few years?  Thank you sir.

Brett McGurk:  On the issue of elections and Sunni participation, as I said in my testimony, we are focused to holding election April 30th.  This will be the third full term elections for a four year government -- the first one in December 2005,  uh, and then 20, uh, 10 and this year.  As you, uh, may know, the head of the main Sunni coalition, Osama [al-] Nujaifi was in the United States two weeks ago.  He had meetings with the President, the Vice President, he met the Secretary of State at his home.  Uhm, so we are very focused on making sure that the elections happen, that they produce a genuine and credible result and that they allow a government to form that reflects the makeup of Iraqi society with all represented.  In Falluja, as I described in my testimony, the plan is to have the tribes out in front but with the army in support because this is -- they face -- ISIL is an army.  They have heavy weapons, they have 50 caliber sniper rifles.  They are very well trained and very well fortified.  So we have to have the Sunni's tribal local people out in front but they will require security support.  And General [Lloyd] Austin was in Iraq last week and in talks with Iraqi military leaders.  We are advising the military commanders as best we can, building  on the lessons that we learned in these areas for tactical and strategic patience for planning and to make sure that civilian casualties are minimized.

That's interesting.  It's not full response or a truthful one but it's interesting.

We've already noted Nouri's threats to hold the April 30th elections in only some provinces.  From last month's "Will Nouri call off elections in provinces he's unpopular in?" (January 25th):

Duriad Salman and Ammar al-Ani (Alsumaria) report al-Nujaifi gave two interviews today, the first to Sky News and the second to Alsumaria.  Osama al-Nujaifi noted Nouri cannot continue to act unilaterally, that there are checks and balances in the system and he was concerned that Nouri thinks he's "singular" when it comes to decision making and that this could lead Nouri to attempt to postpone the upcoming election citing "poor security."  Nouri did just that last year.  And he wasn't supposed to.  He ruled that Anbar and Nineveh could not vote.  Under pressure from the US, specifically Secretary of State John Kerry, Nouri relented and, months later, allowed the two provinces to vote.
He never should have been allowed to postpone them.  He doesn't have that power.  The Independent High Electoral Commission is the only one that does and, as their name notes, they are supposed to be "independent."
If Nouri tries to keep provinces from voting, it will be worse than last time and it will be worse then cancelling the election all out.  It will be corrupt.
He penalized the two provinces he was most disliked in last year.  Those were provincial elections, citizens were voting on who to represent them in their provincial governments (think state governments if you're in the US and confused).  These parliamentary elections are like federal elections.  And if Utah wasn't allowed to vote to send people to the House and Senate, it wouldn't be a real election in the US.
In a later report, Duriad Salman and Ammar al-Ani report that the 'independent' commission is now saying that one or more provinces could be prevented from voting in the parliamentary elections.

Seems like Congress should have been informed of that.  I'm not aware of any US outlet that's reported on the above.  But it is news in the Arab press.  And it should have been addressed by Brett McGurk in the hearing in response to the question.

Today was like every other day in Iraq of late, violence spread out around the country with an emphasis on Baghdad.

National Iraqi News Agency reports a Baghdad sticky bombing (Tayran square) left two people injured,  a Baghdad sticky bombing (Shaab district) left three people injured, a Baghdad car bombing (Karrada district) left five people injured, a Baghdad car bombing (Camp Sara area) left four people injured, 2 Baghdad car bombings (Hurriah area and Battol area) left thirteen people injured, a Baghdad car bombing (Jamelah neighborhood) left 1 person dead and seven more injured,  a Baghdad car bombing (Jkok area -- NINA notes this was the 7th Baghdad car bombing) left six people injured,  an attack on a Rifaii checkpoint left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and another injured, a Baquba car bombing claimed 1 life and left nine people injured,  security forces in Jurf al-Sakhar state they killed 3 al Qaeda in Iraq members, 2 Shabaks were shot dead in Mosul, a grenade attack on a central Mosul checkpoint left three police members and four civilians injured, 1 police member was shot dead at a Muqdadiya checkpoint, Dr. Jalil Ibrahim al-Obeidi was kidnapped from his Baquba private clinic (he is also the Director of Baquba Hospital), two oil tanker drivers were kidnapped and their tankers bombed "on the road linking between Salahuddin and Mosul," security forces shot dead 1 suspect in Tikrit, the Ministry of the Interior killed 1 "gunmen" entering Iraq from Syria,  and Joint Operations Command shot dead 2 suspects in Mosul.

All Iraq News adds that a father and son were shot dead in a sheep market in western Mosul and that an attack on Badush prison in Mosul left 1 guard dead, three more injured, 3 prisoners dead and five more injured.

We've repeatedly noted here the many back stabs from the White House to the Kurdish leadership.  This was tolerated -- embraced -- when the top Kurd was Iraqi President Jalal Talbani.  He's not been heard from in over a year and the rumors of his death or impending death never cease.

Yes, Senator Joe Biden had a good relationship with the Kurds.

Vice President Joe Biden, however, thought that good earlier relationship meant he could screw them over.  Let's put this as simply as possible.  Nouri al-Maliki is a spoiled rotten brat who throw one tantrum after another.  Joe Biden spends far too much humoring Nouri (who never keeps a promise) and expecting the Kurds to wait patiently until Nouri's calmed down and Biden can speak with adults.

But Nouri never calms down.

And the Kurds get screwed over and over.

The US worked hard to keep the Barzani family in the shadow of the Talabanis.

Those days are gone.  By 2011, when Jalal was still in good health, KRG President Massoud Barzani was emerging on the world stage as the Kurdish leader.

The Kurds have been disrespected -- as they have been historically by the US government.

And Barzani's not Talabani.  He's not going to be so easily bribed.

We've gone over this repeatedly here.  The US press never seems to catch on but I can't post a thing on the Kurds here without three State Dept friends calling and asking what I'm basing the analysis on?  And then slowly starting to agree that the US is losing the Kurds.  Too slowly.

Friday, we noted the latest insult.  And I was told by all three State Dept official referred to in the previous paragraph that I was interpreting it wrongly.  To which I said, "Maybe so, but I don't think so.  We'll just have to wait and see."  From Monday's snapshot:

Friday's snapshot noted US Vice President Joe Biden's phone call to KRG President Massoud Barzani, carried the White House statement and I pointed out, "It's a shame that they [the White House] have more concern over pleasing Nouri than they do over the safety of the Iraqi citizens."  Today Rudaw reports:

Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani has postponed a planned visit to Washington this week because of other commitments, said his chief of staff, Fuad Hussein.
“President Barzani told Joe Biden (the US vice president) that because of some other commitments he couldn’t visit Washington at this time,” Hussein told Rudaw. “That is why the visit was postponed.”

That's only surprising if you weren't paying attention.  In 2012, Barazni made clear his opposition to the US giving Nouri F-16s.  And today?  Not only are those going to be handed over, helicopters and Hellfire missiles are being provided to Nouri.  And on top of all of that, Joe Biden wants to hold Nouri's hand and reassure him while telling Barzani that concessions (to Nouri) need to be made.

President Massoud Barzani is a much admired figure in the KRG and he's a leader on the world stage but Biden wants to treat like an errand boy and hand him a grocery list?

Of course, Barazni's insulted.  And that's before you get to the White House's historic betrayal of Baraniz on the 2010 US-brokered Erbil Agreement that they used Barazni's name and reputation to sell and then refused, after everyone signed the contract, to stand by it.  Yeah, it's about time Barzani put some distance between himself and the US government.

Maybe even a brief spell will force the White House to take Barzani a little more seriously?

Again, the three told me I was wrong.  Even faced with the truth, they can't admit it.  They each did make a plea that went something like: 'For the good of everyone, please stop writing about this.'

The good of who?

The Kurds?

They're not helped by the silence.

Only Nouri is helped by the silence.

And I also pointed out that I don't work for the US government and I don't take orders from this administration.

Now apparently the US press does because it was one thing to ignore the growing tensions for months and months but when the visit got killed?  Everyone knew what was going on.

But it's left to Ayub Nuri and Rudaw to address the topic the US press shies from:

Many people were baffled this week by the sudden news that Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani was not going to Washington. Barzani’s supporters said it was the Kurdish president who had cancelled the visit. Others laughed and said, “Who could cancel on the president of the most powerful country in the world?” From the US there was no explanation, and out of Kurdistan only came conflicting reports.
But who snubbed who isn’t really the issue. The real question is: How do the Kurds see America today.
Ten years ago the Kurds saw America as an ally, and America regarded them as friends. The Kurds joined America’s war and contributed to Saddam Hussein’s downfall. Kurdish Peshmarga and security forces offered the Americans intelligence, advice and guidance. Kurdish politicians and ministers went to Baghdad and put into service their two decades of experience to rebuild the Iraqi government.
What did they expect in return? A democratic Iraq that America had promised everyone. But ten years on, not only have the Kurds not seen a democratic country that respects their rights, they in fact feel it is often America -- not Baghdad -- that is acting against them.

What kind of 'learning curve' is the White House on because they're on year six and they still don't know what they're doing?
While you ponder that, be sure to check out Alexandra Di Stefano Pironti's "President Barzani Continues Diplomacy with Key European Partners" (Rudaw) which went up tonight.

Brett McGurk should have been asked and pressed on how this administration managed to piss off the Kurds?

We'll continue with the hearing in tomorrow's snapshot.

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