BI-PARTISANSHIP RETURNED TO D.C. AS DEMOCRATS JOINED WITH REPUBLICANS IN THE HOUSE TO BACK A BILL THAT COULD "GUT" OBAMACARE.
REACHED FOR COMMENT, CELEBRITY IN CHIEF BARRY O IMMEDIATELY GRABBED CREDIT AND STATED, "I HAVE ALWAYS SEEN MYSELF AS AN ENGINE FOR CHANGE AND I'M GLAD THAT I WAS ABLE TO BRING THE TWO SIDES TOGETHER. WHATEVER HAPPENS NEXT IS JUST GRAVY."
FROM THE TCI WIRE:
Brett McGurk lies as well. In the hearing, he lied, for example, when he spoke of Iraq's Minister of Defense. The man he named? Not the Minister of Defense. Nouri is. Nouri did a power grab. Back in July 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." Those posts have remained vacant. They were supposed to be filled at the end of 2010. But filling them meant Nouri couldn't control them so he defied/broke the Constitution and claimed the positions as his own.
Brett lied so often. Let's go to money.
US House Rep Brad Sherman: I want to focus on finances. How much money did we give Iraq this year? How much do they get from oil? And are they pumping oil as quickly as they can or are they constraining their production in accordance with OPEC rules?
Brett McGurk: In terms of money, we're not really giving Iraq much money at all anymore. Our assistance levels have gone down dramatically.
US House Rep Brad Sherman: But it's still well over a billion?
Brett McGurk: Uh, no. I believe that the most recent request is now of under a billion. It's gone from 1.5 billion last year to, uh, FY13 [Fiscal Year 2013] to about 880 million. And I can again brief you on the glide path in terms of our overall presence. In terms of oil, it's actually quite the opposite. The Iraqis have done everything they can to get as much oil onto international markets as possible --
US House Rep Brad Sherman: So they are pumping as much as possible.
This thread was continued with US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher who made a series of statements about the "$880 million in aid" and how it came not only after so many deaths but also "after spending almost a trillion dollars over a decade."
Brett McGurk: Congressman, thank you, I just want to clarify, the 880 million dollars is our operating request for, uh, the current budget -- for sustaining our presence in Iraq and doing various things we do there.
US House Rep Dana Rohrabahcer: That's right. So why should we do that?
Brett McGurk: Well we have vital interests at stake in Iraq. Whether you measure it from al Qaeda in Iraq, whether you measure it from the oil production, whether you measure it from just the overall stability of the region. I think withdrawing from Iraq, in terms of our overall diplomatic presence and what we're doing, would have a really devastating consequences to our longer term interests.
So that we all get what was just said, the US State Dept, from the mouth of Brett McGurk, just declared Iraqi oil is a "vital interest" of the United States government and part of the US government's "longer term interests." In other words, we have confirmation that Iraqi oil -- "vital interest" -- was one reason the US went to war on Iraq.
Second, Brett's playing with the numbers. He could have -- as a State Dept friend told me -- have used "about $600 million" as well. The State Dept is requesting $1.18 billion. That's not including USAID's request. The RAND Corporation, just last week, noted the request in Ending the US War In Iraq. Kerry presented the request to Congress last April. They've not amended the request. Brett was being a liar. No surprise there.
Brett's lies were never ending. We could spend two more snapshots just documenting the lies from the hearing.
We'll note this one, "I would point you to an important op-ed the Iraqi ambassador wrote on our Veterans Day, thanking all the sacrifice in Iraq."
Nouri wrote only one column in the last weeks. It was for the New York Times. The Assyrian International News Agency is among those who reproduced the column. Two US newspapers ran it on Veterans Day but it has nothing to do with veterans. Nouri never mentions veterans and only brings up service members in two sentences (paragraph three) to say he doesn't want US troops.
I thought I'd somehow missed Nouri's column. That I'd missed it and no outlet had noted it. But I checked and there is no other column -- only the one he wrote for the New York Times (published online October 29, 2013).
Brett couldn't stop lying.
And maybe he lied about the whereabouts of the 7 Ashraf hostages kidnapped in September? I don't know. I know what he said and he said in an open hearing so why didn't it get reported? Oh, that's right, we're the only ones in the United States reporting on this hearing.
While the US press filed nothing on the hearing, the US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents issued a statement:
During a hearing on November 13, 2013 by the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, Brett McGurk, when faced with repeated questions by several subcommittee members over the breach of commitments by the US Government and Iraq to protect thousands of Iranian dissidents in Iraq, resulting in the murder of 112 defenseless residents of Camp Ashraf, attempted to exonerate the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of any role in the execution-style murder of 52 residents of Camp Ashraf and the abduction of seven more on September 1st.
Mr. McGurk, to the astonishment of Members of Congress, downplayed the seriousness of this massacre and the daily deadly violence in Iraq, as being ordinary and inevitable. Mr. McGurk did nothing to allay the concerns of anxious families and relatives of the residents, in attendance at the hearing. Nor did he highlight the detrimental sectarian policies and incompetence of the Iraqi Prime Minister as the main causes of the carnage in the country. Instead, Mr. McGurk suggested to the Iraqi people that the only way to stay safe is to leave Iraq.
McGurk minimized the Iraqi government's role in the September 1 massacre. A plethora of evidence and expert testimony, however, make it clear that highest levels of the Iraqi government, including the Prime Minister, were involved in the planning, execution and cover-up of this crime against humanity.
Camp Ashraf is sealed off from the outside by chain-lined fence with barbed wire on top, leaving only two entry gates for the Camp, guarded by an Iraqi army brigade at the west gate and by a Rapid Deployment Unit on the east gate.
Camp Ashraf is under 24/7 guard of 1,200 Iraqi forces in the midst of a highly militarized zone, with hundreds of units of Iraqi army within a 20 mile radius. There are dozens of check points on the only highway that leads from Camp Ashraf to Baghdad to the south and to Kirkuk to the north. As such, U.S. military officers who served in Iraq have stated unequivocally that it is absolutely inconceivable that more than 100 heavily-armed men with a large load of explosives to have carried out this murder without the approval of the highest authorities in Iraq. These officers who trained the Iraqi forces have stated that the assault force employed US tactics and equipment in the attack.
According to statements by European Ministers, as well as past and present United Nations officials and eyewitnesses, the seven hostages, including six women, have been detained and interrogated by the Iraqi army's Golden (dirty) Division in Baghdad. On September 12, Kamel Amin, Spokesman of the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry, told Radio Free Iraq, "Security forces arrested these individuals [seven hostages] for attacking them [security forces]."
Hundreds of Camp Liberty residents in Iraq as well as their relatives and friends in Europe, Canada and Australia have been on hunger strike for the past 77 days. Many are at a critical physical stage and may not survive if the hostages are not released immediately.
The US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents (USCCAR) calls on President Obama to intervene personally and demand that the Iraqi government release the hostages at once and return them to Camp Liberty. Only in this way, can the US Government atone for betraying its promises and commitments to protect the residents of camps Ashraf and Liberty.
The statement is mistaken.
That's not their fault, no one reported on the hearing and we were saving Sheila Jackson Lee for Thursday and then I kicked her back to Friday to see if anyone would report what happened?
They did not.
The 7 hostages that the US Committee for Camp Ashraf Residents are calling for Nouri to release?
They are not in Iraq.
If the US government is telling the truth, the seven are no longer in Iraq. This was revealed in the final exchange of the hearing, when US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee joined the Subcommittee and, after taking a brief break, began her five minute round of questioning. Two notes. "[. . .]"? We don't have time to include their praise of one another and maybe if that praise hadn't been used to waste time then Sheila Jackson Lee would not have had to ask for more time? Second "pointed purse"? I have no idea. I turned to Ava and asked, "Did she just say 'pointed purse'?" That's what Ava heard as well. Who knows what she said, that's what it sounded like. With that, here's the exchange.
US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee: [. . .] But there are hostages in Iraq that we must have now. There's documentation that those hostages are there by our French allies, by the United Nations and other supportive groups and information. I can't imagine with the wealth of sophisticated intelligence authorities that we have, that we have funded who have a vast array of information about Americans cannot pinpoint where starving Iranians, loved ones [are] whose families are trying to save their lives after being on a hunger strike for 73 days. And so I would ask this question of you, already knowing about your heart and your concern, I will not judge you, I already know that you're committed to getting this right/ Will you -- will you demand of Maliki, not next week or months from now, but can we expect in the next 48 hours a call to the head of the government of Iraq demanding the release of these hostages and demanding their release now? Or the documented, undeniable evidence that they are not held in Iraq? Second, would you be engaged with -- or the Secretary [of State John Kerry] be engaged with -- and I have spoken to Secretary Kerry, I know his heart -- with Maliki to demand the security of those in Camp Ashraf for now and forever until a relocation to a homeland, a place where their relatives are or where they desire to be? [. . .]
Brett McGurk: [. . .] We can pinpoint where the people are and I'd like to follow up with you on that. The seven are not in Iraq. But I will guarantee in my conversations with Maliki on down, the safety and the security of Camp Ashraf, Camp Liberty, where the residents are, the government needs to do everything possible to keep those poeople safe but they will never be safe until they're out of Iraq. And we all need to work together -- the MEK, us, the Committee, everybody, the international community -- to find a place for them to go. There's now a UN trust fund, we've donated a million dollars and we're asking for international contributions to that fund for countries like Albania that don't have the resources but are willing to take the MEK in. And we need to press foreign captials to take them in because until they're out, they're not going to be safe and we don't want anyone else to get hurt. We don't want anymore Americans to get hurt in Iraq, we don't want anymore Iraqis to get hurt in Iraq and we don't want any more residents of Camp Liberty to get hurt in Iraq and until they're out of Iraq, they're not going to be safe. This is an international crisis and we need international help and support.
US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee: May I follow -- May I just have a minute more to follow up with Mr. McGurk, Secretary McGurk? And I hear the passion in your voice but let me just say this. We're in an open hearing. You know where they are. Who is going to rescue them? Whose responsibility will it be to get them from where they are into safe haven? Because otherwise, we're leaving -- we're leaving Maliki now without responsibility. We're saying, and you're documenting that they're not there. Let me just say that when my government speaks, I try with my best heart and mind to believe it. But I've got to see them alive and well to believe that they're not where I think they are, they're in a pointed purse. I'm glad to here that but I want them to be safe but I want them to be in the arms of their loved ones or at least able to be recognized by their loved one that they're safe somewhere. So can that be done in the next 48 hours? Can we have a-a manner that indicates that they are safe?
Brett McGurk: I will repeat here a statement that we issued on September 16th and it's notable and I was going to mention this in my colliquy with my Congressman to my left, that within hours of the attack, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Score issued a statement praising the attack. We issued a statement on September 16th calling on the government of Iran to use whatever influence it may have with groups that might be holding these missing persons to secure their immediate release. And I can talk more about details and the status of these individuals. And I've briefed some members of the Subcommittee. I'd be happy to follow up.
I don't possess Sheila Jackson Lee's alleged ability to see into the heart of people. But I do know the law. If seven hostages were taken out of Iraq by whatever forces, the US government has to rescue them or pursue it. That's because Genevea didn't and doesn't end -- the law covering the US government's obligations to the Ashraf community -- until the Ashraf community is safely out of Iraq. 7 hostages kidnapped and taken out of the country? The US has failed and must secure their release. The US has failed.
I loathe Bully Boy Bush, my life's much better with him out of the White House. But somehow when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House, no one was murdered in Camp Ashraf and no one was kidnapped from it.
Protests continued today in Iraq. Since December 21st, ongoing protests have been taking place in Iraq. Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) explained the reasons back in February:
Protests are raging throughout Iraq...thousands upon thousands are demanding the following :
- End of Sectarian Shia rule
- the re-writing of the Iraqi constitution (drafted by the Americans and Iranians)
- the end to arbitrary killings and detention, rape and torture of all detainees on basis of sect alone and their release
- the end of discriminatory policies in employment, education, etc based on sect
- the provision of government services to all
- the end of corruption
- no division between Shias and Sunnis, a one Islam for all Iraqi Muslims and a one Iraq for all Iraqis.
The protests in Anbar, Fallujah, Sammara, Baquba, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Mosul...and in different parts of Baghdad stress over and over 1) the spontaneous nature of the "popular revolution against oppression and injustice" 2) its peaceful nature i.e unarmed 3) the welcoming of ALL to join the protests regardless of sect or ethnicity as ONE Iraqi people and 4) and the March to Baghdad.
Layla Anwar and Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi are among the few who can publicly note what led to the protests. The western press likes to reduce it to one event. The arbitrary arrests have not ended and, as they continue, they continue to inflame an already tense situation. Human Rights Watch notes today:
Baghdad residents told Human Rights Watch that between November 7 and 11, SWAT and counterterrorism forces carried out mass arrests in the Dora and Adhamiyya neighborhoods. A tribal leader said that a security force he could not identify raided homes and conducted random arrest sweeps in Adhamiyya, arresting more than 30 people without warrants, insulting them and calling them “humiliating names,” then turned them over to a battalion from the army’s 44th brigade, 11th division. Interior and Defense Ministry officials told Human Rights Watch in February and May that it is illegal for Defense and Interior Ministry security forces to detain suspects, rather than transfer them to the custody of the Justice Ministry.
The tribal leader told Human Rights Watch that he and other elders from the neighborhood visited the battalion to request the detainees’ release. “They let some of them go, but this has become the norm,” he said. “Every Ashura, security forces come, raid the neighborhood, arrest people, and hold them for a while. Once Ashura is over they release most of them, but they are never charged.”
He said that the army battalion commander told him that, after Ashura, “The people who are wanted will stay and the others will be released.” A lawyer working with him told Human Rights Watch that most of the people “were arrested randomly, without warrants” and that some were laborers from outside Baghdad. The lawyer said he had heard that security forces conducted similar operations on the same days in Baghdad’s Tarmiyya and Dora neighborhoods, also majority Sunni, but that he did not know how many people they arrested.
Another Adhamiyya resident told Human Rights Watch that on November 7, security forces began conducting raids in the neighborhood that continued until November 10, the date of the interview. “We can see them everywhere [right now], but we don’t know how many people they are arresting,” she said.
A resident of Dora told Human Rights Watch that on November 7, “a huge number” of SWAT forces dressed in black surrounded the neighborhood at 10 a.m. and raided “every single house” in an operation that lasted until 5 p.m. “They brought at least five trucks,” she said, “and arrested so many young men – at least 50 of them. They put them in the trucks and took them away. The women were coming out and crying, and none of the men have returned.”
She said the families of the arrested men are “terrified” and do not know where their relatives are being held. “People are afraid to leave and afraid to stay in their homes,” she said. She said many of the people arrested “looked very young” but did not know whether they were under 18.
A teacher from Hitt, a majority Sunni city in in Anbar province, told Human Rights Watch that between 5 and 6 a.m. on November 10, SWAT forces surrounded entire neighborhoods in the city and arrested dozens of young men over the course of several hours. The teacher said she saw security forces “everywhere” in the streets and watched them arrest two people. Several students told her later that day that SWAT forces arrested several of their family members, in at least one instance taking a student’s uncle and all of her cousins from their house, she said.
A local news correspondent living in Ramadi told Human Rights Watch that residents and tribal leaders told him security forces from theJazeera and Badiya Operations Command arrested 90 people from Falluja, 63 from Hitt, and 42 from rural areas in Anbar on November 9 and 10.
On November 9, Anbar police chief Hadi Resij, announced that local police and SWAT forces had arrested 43 people in the Shouhadaa neighborhood that evening during a “security operation” south of Falluja, apparently referring to one of the several arrest sweeps that witnesses described to Human Rights Watch. He said all those arrested were “leaders of al-Qaeda,” but did not offer any evidence given that none of the detainees have faced trial. Human Rights Watch was unable to reach other Interior and Defense Ministry officials for comment.
Iraqi Spring MC notes protests took place in Falluja, Mosul, Samarra, Baiji, Rawah, Tikrit, Ramadi, The protests are regularly ignored by the western media. They do have a Tweet this morning:
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