Saturday, September 03, 2011






President Barack Obama has run away from so many of his initial principled stands in his first term that it is hard to tell at times what he will run on to win a second. The latest disappointment came Friday, as many Americans checked out and headed off to enjoy Labor Day, when Obama abruptly reversed the administration's plans to tighten controls over smog.


Obama is still suffering from the Speech Illusion, the idea that he can come down from the mountain, read from a Teleprompter, cast a magic spell with his words and climb back up the mountain, while we scurry around and do what he proclaimed.


Obama, who declined even to comment on the latest jobless figures on Friday, is like a rabbit caught in the headlights.



Turning to Iraq, Margaret Griffis ( notes, "A source in Babel province warned that 45 taxi drivers have gone missing in recent months." And Reuters notes 1 corpse was discovered in Kirkuk (stabbed to death) and that 13 of the 35 who broke out of a Mosul prison (see yesterday's snapshot) are still at large while 22 have been captured.
Wednesday's snapshot noted the ridiculous Michael S. Schmidt article entitled "Iraq War Marks First Month With No U.S. Military Deaths" (New York Times) but something was missed (by me) that community member Terrance caught: most months NYT ignores all but combat fatalities when doing their reports. In addition, we'll note this from John Glaser's refutation ( of the 'milestone' coverage:
Hailed as a victorious milestone, the achievement merely reveals the failure and disgrace of the Iraq War. [. . .] Milestones apparently don't have to consider civilian deaths, which reached 155 in August.
This supposed "milestone" provides comfort the families of service members? On today's Takeaway (PRI), Celeste Headlee addressed the issue with Jack Jacobs and Rossan aCambron. Excerpt:
Celeste Headlee: Also with us is Rossana Cambron whose son Arturo Cambron is serving his third term in Iraq so that's the opinion of a retired army col Rossana, what's your opinion as a mom? Does it make you feel the situation in Iraq is getting safer?
Rossana Cambron: It's a difficult question to answer because if I say "yes" people get the illusion that they can kind of rest, they apply it to their current situation. But as a mother who has a son in the war it only brings it down just a short notch to the concern I feel and the worry I feel. It doesn't really make a significant difference in how much I worry about my son and his safety --
Celeste Headlee: Well --
Rossana Cambron: -- in the overall scheme.
Celeste Headlee: -- have you noticed any change in the past few months in his messages to you when he talks to you? Does he seem to feel like things have gotten improved or safer there?
Rossana Cambron: Well if we compare it to his first deployment which was late '06, definitely there's less combat, there's less mission where he goes out and he doesn't come back and mention maybe a snippet of what he may have experienced. But, again, I don't want to leave the illusion that it's a great relief, that I've stopped worrying or that I can stop not looking out of my window for somebody that's waiting to give me the bad news or walking up my door -- or things like that. It's not like that. It's just a -- shave off a thin layer of the worry that I have every day, the concern I have every day.
Still on violence, Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) reports on a new Lancet study, "The report documented 1,003 suicide attacks in Iraq between 2003-10, which killed 12,284 civilians and injured a further 30,644. The Lancet authors found 108,624 civilian deaths from violence of all kinds in the period. To put that in perspective by adjusting for population, that would be equivalent to 1 million Americans killed in a seven-year period. And the violence has continued. Earlier this week, 28 worshipers were murdered by a suicide bomber at Baghdad's Umm al-Qura mosque."
Reviewing the month's violence and starting with what was reported by the media (and noted in the snapshots). August 1st, 2 dead and four injured; August 2nd, 6 dead and thirty-three injured; August 3rd, 18 dead and eleven wounded; August 4th, 3 dead and fourteen injured; August 5th, 1 dead and fifteen injured; August 6th, 1 dead and three wounded; August 7th, 6 dead and eight injured; August 8th, 8 dead and twenty-four wounded; August 9th, five wounded; August 10th, 1 dead and seventeen injured; August 11th, 5 dead and seventy-one injured; August 12th, five injured; August 13th, 3 dead and thirteen wounded; August 14th, 6 dead and eight injured; August 15th, 75 dead and two-hundred-and-fifty injured; August 16th, 8 dead and thirteen injured; August 17th, 8 dead and twenty-two wounded; August 18th, 10 dead and twenty-one injured; August 19th, 3 dead and six injured; August 20th, four were reported injured; August 21st, 8 dead and twelve injured; August 22nd, 6 dead and eight injured; August 23rd, no reports (the next day will find Reuters dropping back to cover the 23rd) ; August 24th, 8 dead and twenty-four wounded; August 25th, 23 dead and seventy-one injured; August 26th, 3 dead and nine injured; August 27th, 14 dead and twenty-six injured; August 28th, 35 dead and fifty-four injured; August 29th, 6 dead and thirty-eight injured; August 30th, 2 dead and eleven injured; August 31st, 4 dead and thirty-five wounded.
That's 262 dead and 855 injured. Iraqi Body Count counted 395 civilians killed (our 262 count is all killed, not just civilians -- the 262 leaves out Turkish and PKK claims on how many PKK fighters were killed due to the fact that the two sets of number conflict).
AFP notes that the Iraqi Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense released their figures for the month and are insisting only 239 Iraqis died in August ("155 civilians, 45 people and 39 soldiers"). But they've been undercounting forever. And with the exception of a pushback (from AFP) earlier this summer, the press just spits out the 'official' count -- from two ministries that don't even have Ministers. (Nouri cannot appoint a minister. He can nominate one. Parliament then decides on the nominee. If Parliament doesn't decide, there's no minister for that department.)
I'm not a fan of Alyona Minkovski or The Alyona Show (if needed, Ava and I can go into that at Third) but there's limited coverage of the WikiLeak released State Dept cable about the 2006 slaughter of an Iraqi family. Of the three choices I'm aware of that are radio or TV, her show was the strongest. She spoke with blogger Kevin Gosztola and we'll skip the whole Christopher Columbus claim of discovery of something already in the public sphere. We'll also skip the b.s. that doesn't address the cable. (But we will note when you yack and yack about others defocusing, why don't you yourself focus.) Excerpt:
Alyona Minkovski: Yeah can you give us a few more of the details that have been released in this cable about this raid?
Kevin Gosztola: Right, in this cable it's a communications log to the Mission in Geneva and he basically placed an inquiry, asking a number of questions about information he had received about multinational forces raid going into a home and, as you said in the set-up of your segment, five children were killed and four women were killed. And they were taken outside of the home and they were lined up and they were handcuffed -- they were in handcuffs -- and they were executed. And the autopsies show from the morgue they were able to see that they were shot in the head and that they were handcuffed. And then afterwards, a[n] airstrike came along and demolished the home so there wasn't any evidence left for any investigators to go [. . .]
And that's about all that was wroth it. Of course there was evidence even with the house demolished. That was the best of the three and, yes, that is very sad. John Glazer ( wrote about the cable earlier this week noting the dead killed in the 2006 raid:
Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay'ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra'a (aged 5) Aisha ( aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz's mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz's sister (name unknown), Faiz's nieces Asma'a Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.
And this is news and should be treated as such but I want to get back to the Christopher Columbus issue. John Glaser has written on the raid this week and done it very well. If he wanted to claim credit, I wouldn't bat an eye, though I doubt Glaser would take credit for doing more than he did. But to hear the blogger quoted above and the infotainment presenter go on and on about his big discovery and how now we know about a raid --now? Click here for Matthew Schofield's March 19, 2006 report for Knight Ridder Newspapers and this is Schofield's opening:

Iraqi police have accused American troops of executing 11 people, including a 75-year-old woman and a 6-month-old infant, in the aftermath of a raid last Wednesday on a house about 60 miles north of Baghdad.

The villagers were killed after American troops herded them into a single room of the house, according to a police document obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers. The soldiers also burned three vehicles, killed the villagers' animals and blew up the house, the document said.

A U.S. military spokesman, Major Tim Keefe, said that the U.S. military has no information to support the allegations and that he had not heard of them before a reporter brought them to his attention Sunday.

And we'll drop back to the June 2, 2006 snapshot to note it was covered by the press:
Next, there is Ishaqi which took place in March 15th of this year. For background refer to Democracy Now!'s March report as well as the BBC's report on a tape that has turned up which appears to refute the US military claims. In that incident, the official version is that "four people died during a military operation" when a building that was on fire collapsed on them while the version put foward by Iraqi police is that "US troops had deliberately shot the 11 people." March 23, 2006, Democracy Now! (link is transcript, audio and video) spoke with Matthew Schofield about the story:
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain exactly what you know at this point?
MATTHEW SCHOFIELD: Well, the story, as you and Juan just outlined it, pretty much goes through the basics of the story. We've talked quite a bit further in the last couple days with people surrounding the story. But what we have is a divergence on the story between the two -- there are two accounts. There's a U.S. military account, and then there's an Iraqi police account of what happened. As you know, the U.S. military account is that after showing up and getting into a shootout to get into this house, the house collapsed during the shootout. People were killed either in the shootout or by the collapsing house. They left. They found four bodies and left. They found this suspect. They arrested him. And that's pretty much that story. The other story is that the house was standing when the U.S. troops went in. They were herded into one room -- eleven people herded into one room, executed. U.S. troops then blew up the house and left. We were talking with the police officer who was first on the scene earlier today. He explained the scene of arriving. He said they waited until U.S. troops had left the area and it was safe to go in. When they arrived at the house, it was in rubble. I don't know if you've seen the photos of the remains of the house, but there was very little standing. He said they expected to find bodies under the rubble. Instead, what they found was in one room of the house, in one corner of one room, there was a single man who had been shot in the head. Directly across the room from him against the other wall were ten people, ranging from his 75-year-old mother-in-law to a six-month-old child, also several three-year-olds -- a couple three-year-olds, a couple five-year-olds, and four other -- three other women.
Lined up, they were covered, and they had all been shot. According to the doctor we talked to today, they had all been shot in the head, in the chest. A number of -- you know, generally, some of them were shot several times. The doctor said it's very difficult to determine exactly what kind of caliber gun they were shot with. He said the entry wounds were generally small and round, the exit wounds were generally very large. But they were lined up along one wall. There was a blanket over the top of them, and they were under the rubble, so when the police arrived, and residents came to help them start digging in, they came across the blankets. They came across the blankets. They picked the blankets up. They say, at that point, that the hands were handcuffed in front of the Iraqis. They had been handcuffed and shot. And the Iraqi assumption is that they were shot in front of the man across the room. They came to be facing each other. There is nothing to corroborate that. The U.S. is now investigating this matter, along with the Haditha matter. That's kind of where we stand right now.

And here's how Democracy Now! covered it in their headlines on March 16, 2006:
US Strikes Blamed for Death of Iraqi Family Members
Meanwhile, a US military attack in the Iraqi town of Balad is being blamed for the deaths of at least a dozen members of the same family. The dead include five children and six women. The Associated Press is reporting the family's house was flattened by an airstrike from a US helicopter. The victims were wrapped in blankets and driven to the Tikrit General Hospital. Ahmed Khalaf, the brother of one of the victims, said: "The dead family was not part of the resistance, they were women and children. The Americans have promised us a better life, but we get only death."
What is new is a development emerging today. Lara Jakes and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) lead with, "Negotiations to keep U.S. troops in Iraq came under new strain Friday in the wake of WikiLeaks' release of a U.N. letter alleging that an Iraqi family was handcuffed and shot in the head in a 2006 raid by American forces -- not accidentally killed in an airstrike." Donald Macintyre and Jerome Taylor (Independent) note, "The incident is raised in a letter from Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Mr Alston's letter to US officials, which went unanswered, challenges the American military version of events. It says that autopsies carried out in the nearby city of Tikrit showed the victims had been handcuffed and shot in the head. They included a woman in her 70s and a five-month-old. The US military had said that the troops seized an al-Qa'ida suspect from a first floor room after fierce fighting left the house in ruins. US officials originally said five people had been killed, although they later accepted a higher toll of 11." Annie Gowen (Washington Post) adds that Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson Ali al-Moussawi is stating that the investigation into what happened in Ishaqi will be reopened as a result of the cable. We'll ignore the rhetoric of the spokesperson and note Nouri has some sort of a viral outrage that comes and goes. Now he's outraged. But this slaughter happened a month before he became prime minister-designate (the first time, April 2006) and a month after he was prime minister (May 2006), the US military released their white wash report. In fact, from the June 2nd headlines on Democracy Now!:
Iraqi PM: US Killings of Iraqis "Daily Phenomenon"
Meanwhile, Iraq's Prime Minister has lashed out at the US military over what he has called the "daily phenomenon" of US attacks on Iraqi civilians. In an interview with the New York Times, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said many troops "do not respect the Iraqi people." Maliki went on to say: "They crush them with their vehicles and kill them just on suspicion. This is completely unacceptable."

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