Friday, August 02, 2013






Today is a new day and, in fact, the first day of August.  Now that July is over, death tolls are being released for the month's violence in Iraq.  Iraq Body Count is missing Thursday the 31st but for the other 30 days, they note their total is 968  AFP offers 875  -- Prashant Rao is not in Iraq currently.  When he's in Iraq, the spreadsheet is done regularly.  The fact that he's been out of Iraq may account for the huge undercount.  Yesterday, Iraq's government ministries released their total:  989.  This morning,  the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued their totals for violent deaths and the number of people left injured in July:

Baghdad, 1 August 2013 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of 1,057 Iraqis were killed and another 2,326 were wounded in acts of terrorism and violence in July.

The number of civilians killed was 928 (including 204 civilian police), while the number of civilians injured was 2,109 (including 338 civilian police). A further 129 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed and 217 were injured. 

“The impact of violence on civilians remains disturbingly high, with at least 4,137 civilians killed and 9,865 injured since the beginning of 2013,” the Acting Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Mr. Gyorgy Busztin, warned. “We haven’t seen such numbers in more than five years, when the blind rage of sectarian strife that inflicted such deep wounds upon this country was finally abating. I reiterate my urgent call on Iraq’s political leaders to take immediate and decisive action to stop the senseless bloodshed, and to prevent these dark days from returning.”

Baghdad was the worst-affected governorate in July with 957 civilian casualties (238 killed and 719 injured), followed by Salahuddin, Ninewa, Diyala, Kirkuk and Anbar (triple-digit figures).

Babil, Wasit and Basra also reported casualties (double-digit figures).

Since UNAMI began publicly releasing their monthly tolls, this is the quickest they've done so and they accomplished that under the leadership of  Gyorgy Busztin who is serving as the acting UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in Iraq.  In terms of the numbers, many outlets are announcing a Hawija moment, such as Yang Yi (Xinhua), "However, April 23 was a turning point in the Sunnis' protests when security forces backed by helicopters stormed a rally in the city of Hawijah, some 220 km north of Baghdad, killing and wounding dozens of protesters."  The April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

The massacre in Hawija was a major event and many outlets and observers have pointed to it as some form of a turning point.  Though it surely hardened resolve against Nouri -- as all governmental  slaughters against innocents hardened opinions against leaders -- the reality is the violence was already on the rise in Iraq.  We'd been noting the increase throughout 2012 and throughout 2013 prior to the April 23rd massacre.  Iraq analyst Kenneth J. Pollack (a centrist) pointed out this week:

2012 saw a 10 percent increase in Iraqi deaths (from 4,100 in 2011 to nearly 4,600 in 2012), the first annual increase since 2006. 3 This year is s haping up to be even worse. Iraq could experience as much as a 100 percent increase in violent deaths over 2012, with roughly 3,000 killed in the first six months of 2013 already -- roughly 1,000 in May alone -- according to the United Nations.

Again, I don't doubt that the massacre on the innocents of Hawija hardened resolve but violence was already increasing before Nouri used his US-trained SWAT forces to attack the people.  This point has been bungled by many (including Thomas E. Ricks).  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) probably puts it better than anyone in the press when observing today, "The killings significantly picked up after Iraqi security forces launched a heavy-handed crackdown on a Sunni protest camp in the northern town of Hawija on April 23. A ferocious backlash followed the raid, with deadly bomb attacks and sporadic gunbattles between insurgents and soldiers -- this time members of the Iraqi security forces rather than U.S. troops."  Reporter Jane Arraf is a longtime observer of Iraq so when she offers an analysis, it's worth considering her judgments.  Today she offers one for the Christian Science Monitor which includes:

Despite the Iraqi government’s attempt to combat a record wave of bombings, the attacks across central and southern Iraq are paralyzing the country, leaving many Iraqis to suffer through a long hot summer with neither public services nor security.
But seven years after an Al Qaeda bombing of a Shiite shrine touched off a civil war, attacks aimed at reigniting a sectarian battle have failed to provoke wider conflict. Although the country continues to reel from the explosions, enough has changed since 2006 that even continued attacks are unlikely to bring Iraq back to the brink of war, officials and many analysts say.

It's really difficult to ascertain what she's saying -- other than she thinks Iraq is not going to move into civil war.  The analysis would have benefited from another page.  Her argument needs more room.

It's especially needs more room since it's contrary to the US government's take -- a take that is neither discussed nor mentioned in passing the column.

Dropping back to the July 23rd snapshot:

"Iraq is now back in a civil war, US officials tell NBC," Richard Engel announced this morning.  And that's not surprising except for the fact that if US officials believe Iraq is "back in a civil war," you'd think they'd be addressing that and asked about it in press briefings.  Engel reported that fact on this morning's Today show.  Hours later at the White House press briefing, no one bothered to raise the issue and, even later, at the State Dept press briefing no one raised the issue.

The same evening, on Nightly News with Brian Williams, Richard Engel reported on Iraq.

Richard Engel: Iraq is back in a civil war -- bad for Iraqis.  More than 600 killed just this month in bombings and Sunni versus Shi'ite vengeance.  And bad for Americans -- after all nearly 4,500 US troops died to bring stability to this strategic, oil rich country A trillion dollars was spent, hundreds of thousands of American troops were deployed and deployed again.  But now Iraq is tearing itself apart again.  al Qaeda in Iraq won a big victory this weekend, perhaps enough to reconstitute itself.  They staged a major prison break, a major assault on Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib Prison.  Hundreds of militants were freed from their cells.  Iraqi officials today said at least 250.  al Qaeda in Iraq puts the number even higher at 500.  Militants stormed the prison, car bombs blasting open the gates, as suicide bombers rushed in and reinforcements fought off guards with mortars and assault rifles.  Nothing good seems to come from Abu Ghraib.  It was Saddam Hussein's dungeon.  After his fall, it held US detainees and became infamous for graphic images of prisoner abuse and humiliation.  And now a prison break releasing militants who will likely target the Iraqi government but who also have years of training fighting American troops. Richard Engel, NBC News.

The US government saying Iraq is in a civil war does not make it so.  (For the record, I happen to agree with the assessment.)  But if Jane Arraf is going to argue a counterpoint a week after the US government's position is known, the column would be stronger if she would acknowledge that.   To provide a counter-argument to that position would be even better but even acknowledging the position would have improved her analysis.  (And her analysis may be 100% correct or a majority correct.  I have no idea.  But I do agree with the assessment of the US government -- and not because "IT'S THE US GOVERNMENT!" -- the US government is often wrong.  But the violence has been on the increase and I'm not a Nouri apologist.  Jane Arraf frequently is.)

Earlier, we were noting Kenneth Pollack on the violence for the last two years.  Pollack made his points earlier this week, when the Brookings Institute released his analysis entitled (PDF format warning) "The Fall and Rise and Fall of Iraq."   Excerpt.

The problems reemerged after Iraq’s 2010 national elections. Ayad Allawi’s mostly - Sunni Iraqiyya garnered slightly more votes than Maliki’s overwhelmingly Shi’a State of Law coalition. But Maliki refused to believe that he had lost, and refused to allow Allawi to take the first shot at forming a government. He pressured Iraq’s high court to rule that he could get the first chance to form a government.
Rather than insist that Allawi be given the first chance, as is customary in most democracies and was clearly what was best for Iraqi democracy, the United States (and the United Nations) did nothing. Ten months of bickering, backstabbing and political deadlock followed. In the end, the Iranians forced Muqtada as - Sadr to back Maliki, uniting the Shi’a behind him. At that point, the Kurds fell into place, believing that the prime minister had to be a Shi’a, and Iraqiyya’s goose was cooked. But so too was Iraqi democracy.
The message that it sent to Iraq’s people and politicians alike was that the United States under the new Obama Administration was no longer going to enforce the rules of the democratic road. We were not going to insist that the will of the people win out. We were willing to step aside and allow Iraq’s bad, old political culture of pay - offs, log - rolling, threats and violence to re - emerge to determine who would rule the country -- the same political culture that the U.S. had worked so hard to bury.
It undermined the reform of Iraqi politics and resurrected the specter of the failed state and the civil war. Having backed Maliki for prime minister if only to end the embarrassing political stalemate, the Administration compounded its mistake by lashing itself uncritically to his government. Whether out of fear of being criticized for allowing him to remain in office in the first place, or sheer lack of interest and a desire to do what required the least effort on the part of the United States, the Administration backed Maliki no matter what he did -- good, bad or indifferent.

You cannot divorce the violence from Nouri al-Maliki.  Yes, he is prime minister but he's also in charge of more than that.

The 2010 parliamentary elections saw Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya beat Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law.  It was a major (press) upset since so many (in the press) had been saying not only that State of Law would come in first but that it would do so by a huge margin.  NPR's Quil Lawrence could be heard, right after the election, announcing State of Law's victory.

But State of Law didn't win.  Someone might want to ask Quil if he was paid by the hour for that whoring?  What happened was not surprising.  As we've noted repeatedly since the results of 2010 were announced, they confirmed the trend of the 2009 parliamentary elections -- both results were a move against sectarianism towards a broader based Iraqi national identity.   Pollack makes the same assessment in his analysis this week so maybe everyone who wanted to argue that reality with me over the course of the last three years will take Pollack's word for it now? (I'm not referring to drive-by e-mails from visitors, I'm referring to the members of the press who wanted to argue the meaning of the results with me.)

Nouri refused to step down even though, per the Constitution, Ayad Allawi was now supposed to be named prime minister-designate and then, if he could assemble a Cabinet in 30 days, he was to be named prime minister.

But Nouri wouldn't step down.  For eight months he refused to do so.  Prior to the 2010 elections, General Ray Odierno, then the top commander in Iraq, had seen this as a likely outcome and had warned that the US should not only prepare for the possibility but should plan how to ensure democracy triumphed.  But the White House didn't want to listen.  The idiot Chris Hill was in the midst of his disaster turn as US Ambassador to Iraq and Hill was bad mouthing Odierno to the White House and insisting that he needed support (which translated as Hill wanting the White House  to tell Odierno to stop talking to the media -- Hill's real beef was that his own press presence wasn't more important and high profile). As Nouri turned a demand for a recount into a long political stalemate where he would not leave the office he had lost, then-Secretary Robert Gates was made aware of the problems with Hill (who was lazy, too cozy with Nouri, anti-Sunni and more eager to plan 'fun functions' for staff than to do diplomatic work), He went to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with those facts and how Odierno's observations had been ignored.  The two of them then met with US President Barack Obama to explain the problems.  This is when the White House stops backy the idiot Chris Hill and asks for his resignation. Hill did not want to leave. That needs to be underscored because he's repeatedly treated today -- by outlets like NPR -- as if he's some sort of genius on Iraq.

He didn't know the facts about Iraq before he was confirmed for the post.  When Hill was nominated the press was all over itself, licking one another, purring and cooing, humping and moaning.  I had no opinion of Hill until I attended the confirmation hearing (see the March 25, 2009 snapshot and the March 26th one) and it became very clear that he was uninformed, ignorant and full of himself (with no reason to be).  It was also conveyed to me (as I noted here before the confirmation point) that Hill's own State Dept personnel record made a strong case for him not being named ambassador.  All of this was ignored and, as a result, any headway in terms of diplomacy that Ambassador Ryan Crocker had made in 2008 and early 2009 was lost.  Hill didn't know Iraq, didn't want to know Iraq.  We pointed that all out ahead of his confirmation.

Let's again note John Barry's "'The Engame' Is A Well Researched, Highly Critical Look at U.S. Policy in Iraq" (Daily Beast):

Washington has little political and no military influence over these developments [in Iraq]. As Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor charge in their ambitious new history of the Iraq war, The Endgame, Obama's administration sacrificed political influence by failing in 2010 to insist that the results of Iraq’s first proper election be honored: "When the Obama administration acquiesced in the questionable judicial opinion that prevented Ayad Allawi's bloc, after it had won the most seats in 2010, from the first attempt at forming a new government, it undermined the prospects, however slim, for a compromise that might have led to a genuinely inclusive and cross-sectarian government."

If you read that book, you'll find many of the things we pointed out in real time.  Hill's disrespect for the Iraqi people, for example.  We noted it repeatedly here.  The book reveals that it was not just an open secret among the US diplomatic staff (which is why I knew about it) but that Hill even showed the disrespect in front of Iraqis.  At one point, he's trashing the country and its people and doing so in front of an Iraqi.  You think that didn't get out?

Recommended: "Iraq snapshot"
"1057 violent deaths in Iraq for July, the UN says"
"Temporary asylum for Ed Snowden"
"The real criminal is Barack"
"Dave Lindorff and an Orange Tabby"
"can they just let us have our food?"
"Mistresses' 'All In'"
"Non-expert Elizabeth Dibble lies for the proseuction"
"Few really focused on Brad"
"Mistresses: All In"
"The Nail Biter"
"Ed gets asylum and we get good news at last"
"Princess Barack and the TV"