Saturday, January 26, 2013




Finally, in the US, Aaron Swartz has passed away.  John Halle (Corrente) explains:
Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide on Friday, was by all accounts a remarkable person. But he was by no means a radical. In his brief role as an organizer with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, he was among those who were convinced that with sufficient pressure from its activist base, the Obama administration would eventually reveal its deeply obscured roots in traditional New Deal/Great Society liberalism.
It hardly needs to be said that those of us who argued against him at the time, as I did, take no pleasure in having been proven right in the years since. The most tragic indication came two years ago when the Obama justice department charged Swartz himself with a 12 count violation of the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for his attempt to acquire, via the MIT server, the JSTOR scholarly archive and make it available to the general public.
[. . .]
Those of us who only know of Swartz's work in passing shouldn't feel any compunction about doing so, and there is plenty of blame to go around.
Most conspicuously, there is the Obama administration, and its deep pocket contributors in the high tech, publishing and entertainment industries who have attempted to make what they call the "theft" and what Swartz regarded as the liberation of intellectual property a crime meriting the most severe punishment. A ridiculously disproportionate 35 year sentence was being aggressively pursued by Massachusetts Federal Attorney, Carmen Ortiz who likely viewed the prosecution as an opportunity to raise her profile within the party. The strategy seemed to be working: Massachusetts Governor and close friend of Obama Deval Patrick mentioned her as a likely successor.

JANUARY 15TH: "Aaron Swartz is a computer genius who took his own life because the Dept. of Justice was being used as a corporate enforcer/assassin."






Today Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's forces continued their assault on the Iraqi people who dared to exercise their Constitutional rights.  Yesterday Nouri's forces sent two protesters (and one reporter) to the hospital and that January 7th, Nouri's forces assaulted four protesters in Mosul.  And today?  In Falluja, Nouri's forces fired on protesters.  Kitabat reports Sheikh Abdul-Maliki al-Saadi accused Nouri of attempting to turn peaceful demonstrations into bloody attacks.  What happened?

There are various accounts.    Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "The shooting began, according to witnesses, after Iraqi soldiers ordered demonstrators to stop filming security force positions. Protesters, in turn, responded by the throwing tear gas and non-lethal explosive devices known as flashbangs, witnesses said." His is one of the strongest reports and a reminder that, even today, real reporting can be done.  And he Tweets.

Alsumaria reports that 5 protesters are dead and 31 more injured -- six of whom are children -- including 1 Alsumaria TV journalist.  They note that Mohammed Dulaimi used his sermon to call for the judiciary to protect the protesters from the military.  It also notes that the military first attempted to block the protesters from entering the square. Prensa Latina notes that there are accounts which state "that police officers surpassed a religious ceremony and sparked off protests." All Iraq News notes that the 5 killed were attempting to take part in a sit-in. AFP goes with, "The rally had been moving to an area in east Fallujah but was blocked off by soldiers, an army captain said. Protesters began throwing bottles of water at the troops who then opened fire, the officer said."  BBC News concurs, "The clashes erupted after the soldiers prevented people joining an anti-government demonstration in the mainly Sunni city after Friday prayers."   Reuters offers, "A local television channel showed demonstrators approaching the army vehicles and throwing stones and water bottles while troops tried to keep them away by firing in the air. But images also showed one soldier aiming his rifle at demonstrators."  Dar Addustour columnist As Sheik notes that the protesters and their demands have been repeatedly ignored and that it appears any pretext for aggravation has been seized upon by the security forces but that there must be no more Iraqi blood spilled at the hands of the military.  Kitabat explains that the violence is leading to growing chorus of calls for civil disobedience in Iraq.

Dr. Khaled Khalaf, with Falluja General Hospital, tells AFP that the death toll rose to six.  Al Mada reports that by 4:30 pm Iraqi time, Falluja General Hospital could count 6 dead and sixty injured -- all of the injured were protesters.  Hospital sources reveal to Al Mada that three of the dead died from gun shots to their heads.  The same sources state the death toll may increase because a number of the injured have vital injuries (including chest wounds, neck wounds and abdomen wounds).   The shootings did not end the protests, Al Mada reports, not even in Falluja.  A number of protesters stayed or returned in the afternoon and then they let the army know that they could throw stones.  Some of the video that's being pimped online, check the position of the sun in the video and note that it's a small number before you buy into the myth that poor, little Iraqi soldiers were attacked and then had to fire.

Who's the leader in Iraq?  Nouri al-Maliki holds the title of prime minister.  (Iraqi President Jalal Talabani remains in Germany seeking medical treatment after suffering a stroke a few weeks ago.)  But who offered leadership today and who offered clinical insanity?   All Iraq News notes that Shi'ite cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr denounced the violence in a statement and noted that the security forces are tasked with protecting Iraqi citizens and ensuring their safety.  Kitabat quotes the statement noting "We denounce and condemn today's armed assault on demonstrators in Falluja."  The events were a daily double for Nouri al-Maliki's paranoia.  All Iraq News notes his response was to immediately declare that the protesters in Falluja, the injured ones, were Ba'athists or al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. 
Amnesty International issued the following today:
Iraq must immediately investigate the killings of protestors in accordance with international standards, Amnesty International said today after several people died when troops in the city of Fallujah fired on anti-government demonstrators who had reportedly thrown stones at them.

Several others were said to be seriously injured during Friday's protest, the latest in an ongoing and largely peaceful campaign protesting against the government and its abusive treatment of detainees.

"The Iraqi authorities must ensure that the investigation they have announced into these killings is independent, impartial and that the methods and findings are made public.  Anyone found responsible for abuses – including anyone found to have used excessive force against protestors – must be brought to justice," said Ann Harrison, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International.
"The authorities should also ensure that security forces are trained and properly equipped to police demonstrations and other gatherings in a manner which respects human rights, including those where some protestors turn violent."
There were conflicting reports about what had caused the shooting by the Iraqi troops. However, subsequently further clashes erupted and army vehicles were burned. There have been claims that some Iraqi soldiers were also injured in the incident. 
The UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials both lay down clear standards for the policing of demonstrations and the use of firearms, including by armed forces.
Since last December tens of thousands of mainly Sunni Muslim Iraqis have taken to the streets expressing discontent with the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a Shi'a Muslim, at the continuing discrimination against them in Iraq. The daily and largely peaceful demonstrations took place mainly in predominantly Sunni Muslim provinces, including Anbar, Mosul and Salah al-Din.
The protests were triggered by the detention of several bodyguards of the Finance Minister Rafi'e al-Issawi, a senior Sunni Muslim political leader, on terrorism charges. The move was thought by many Sunni Muslims to be politically motivated. There are concerns that increasing sectarian tensions may result in further violence. 
There continue to be frequent bomb attacks by armed groups targeting civilians. For example, dozens of pilgrims for Shi'a Muslim festival of Arba'een were killed at the end of last month; this week several people were killed by car bombs in Baghdad and more than 20 people were killed by a suicide bomber at a Shi'a Muslim mosque in Tuz Khurmato.
Protesters continue to call for respect for due process and legislative measures - including an amnesty law and a review of anti-terror legislation - and for an end to human rights violations against prisoners and detainees in Iraq.

For years Amnesty International has documented cases of torture during interrogations while held incommunicado; deaths in custody in circumstances suggesting that torture was the cause; detainees being coerced into making "confessions"; and unfair trials, sometimes resulting in the death penalty.
A few days before the protests started, Amnesty International contacted the Iraqi government about dozens of reported cases of human rights violations against detainees and prisoners. The Iraqi government has yet to reply.
In one such case in 2012, four men were reportedly tortured while held incommunicado for several weeks at the Directorate of Counter-Crime in Ramadi, Anbar Province before their release in April 2012. Their "confessions" were then broadcast on local television.
During their trial, they told the Anbar Criminal Court that their "confessions" had been extracted under torture. A medical examination presented to the court of one of the men's injuries indicated bruising and burning consistent with his allegations. 
"As far as we know, no official investigation into these allegations of  torture is known to have been held," said Harrison.
"It is imperative that investigations into this – and the dozens of other cases that we have raised with the Iraqi authorities – are carried out as a matter of urgency, particularly as these men are now on death row.
"Perpetrators of abuse need to know that they will face the consequences of their actions, and victims have a right to truth, justice and reparation."
The four men were sentenced to death on 3 December 2012, convicted of offences under Iraq's Anti-Terror Law.

Ban Ki-Moon is the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the UN issued the following today:

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the recent wave of terrorist attacks across Iraq, which have killed hundreds of people and left many more wounded. He regrets the killing and injuring of a number of protestors today in Fallujah. Recognizing the right to peaceful assembly, he calls on all parties to exercise maximum restraint.
The Secretary-General renews his call of last December to Iraqi political leaders and Members of the Council of Representatives to engage in an inclusive dialogue, so as to strengthen the unity and security of the country. The United Nations, through the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), remains committed and stands ready to assist the people and the Government of Iraq in building a peaceful, democratic, and prosperous country.

In addition, Al Mada notes that 16 Iraqi civil society organizations declared their support for the protesters and called on Nouri al-Maliki to listen to their demands.  Kitabat reports the Chair of the Iraqi Institute for Strategic Studies, Sheikh Khamis al-Dagger, has declared that members of parliament should launch a boycott on all sessions of Parliament until the demands of the protesters are heard and he termed today's events "the Falluja massacre."  Though it's not a boycott of Parliament, Kitabat reports that Yassin al-Mutlaq issued a statement today declaring the National Dialogue Front (whose leader is Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq) is withdrawing from provincial elections to protest the goverment's refusal to listen to the demands of the demonstrators.  Meanwhile at the US State Dept today, spokesperson Victoria Nuland continued her war on the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: Staying in the region, Iraq?


QUESTION: A very quick question: According to reports, five protestors got killed today in Fallujah, Iraq. Have – are you able to confirm – during protests by the Iraqi security forces.

MS. NULAND: I'm not in a position to confirm numbers, but I will say that we are concerned about the use of deadly force during today's protests in Iraq. We understand that the Iraqi Government has now issued a statement indicating that they are initiating a very prompt investigation into the incidents, and that they have called for restraint by security forces. We obviously stand ready to assist in that investigation if asked, but we would also say that as the government and government forces show restraint, the demonstrators also have a responsibility to exercise their right to protest in a nonviolent manner, as well as to continue to press their demands through the political process.

Why have an investigation of any kind?  Didn't Nuland just declare from on high that the "government forces show restraint"?  She's a human rights nightmare.  Nouri and his wonderful forces?  Dar Addustur reports on the Lance Corporal just convicted in Basra for the rape and murder of a four-and-a-half-year-old girl?  Dar Addustour reports that Nouri imposed a curfew on Falluja and 'the Ministry of Defense' announced they would launch an investigation into what took place today.  The Ministry of the Defense?  I forget, who is the Minister of Defense?

Oh, that's right, Iraq doesn't have one.   Back in July, 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."  He was supposed to nominate them and have them confirmed by Parliament before December 2010 wrapped up but US President Barack Obama gifted Nouri with a second term via a contract (the Erbil Agreement) which meant Nouri didn't have to do the things -- like form a Cabinet -- that the Constitution demanded he do.  By not nominating someone to head the ministry, Nouri controls it.  That was his point in not nominating people to head the security ministries -- it was a power-grab. 

We'll note another Tweet about what took place in Falljua today:

In case you forgot, Iraq is no better off than it was a decade ago: Iraqi Army opens fire on protesters throwing rocks. 
View summary

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Friday, January 25, 2013








Today at the US Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, held a press conference to formally announce that women's role in the US military had been expanded as the Pentagon began down the road of ending the exclusion rule which refused to allow women to (officially) serve in direct combat roles. 

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: One of my priorities as Secretary of Defense has been to remove as many barriers as possible for talented and qualified people to be able to serve this country in uniform.  Our nation was built on the premise of the citizen soldier.  In our democracy, I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen to protect the nation and every citizen who can meet the qualifications of service should have that opportunity.  To that end, I've been working closely with General Dempsey and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  We've been working for well over a year to examine how can we expand the opportunities for women in the armed services?  It's clear to all of us that women are contributing in unprecedented ways to the military's mission of defending the nation.  Women represent 15 percent of the force, over 200,000.  They're serving in a growing number of critical roles -- on and off the battlefield.  The fact is that they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission.  Over more than a decade of war, they have demonstrated courage and skill and patriotism. 153 women in uniform died serving this nation in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Female service members have faced the reality of combat, proven their willingness to fight and, yes, to die to defend their fellow Americans.

Iraq War veteran Jessica Lynch released the following statement:

The announcement by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to allow women to enter combat roles is good news for our military. For years, women have been integral to our successes in the fight for freedom throughout the world. We as Americans must continue to not only support our men and women in the military but also become their advocates,  pushing our leaders to ensure those individuals have proper training and equipment.  The total support of our military - those in combat and those here at home -protects every American.

I want to make it very clear I am sick to hell of people bashing Jessica Lynch.  We have covered this repeatedly.  Jessica Lynch didn't lie to anyone.  She said she wasn't a hero, she poked holes in the Bush administration's story.  She did so at a time when he was riding high in the polls and she was attacked for it.  I find it disgusting that today I've already seen two women attack Jessica in columns.  She did not lie.  She has repeatedly stated that her friend Lori Piestewa was the hero and she has done every thing she can to honor her friend.  I believe Jessica's wrong, she is a hero.  Maybe not in Iraq, but when she came back to the US, she could have lied.  It would have been so easy.  Just go along with the White House's official story.  Instead she stood up to a popular White House and said, "This story is not true."  That took real bravery and character.  It's a real shame that anyone would feel the need to attack her.  And let me add to one of the attackers that maybe these sort of ill-advised attacks, for example, are why you lost your radio show.  And why no one listeners mounted an effort to save your show.

Kristen Moulton (Salt Lake Tribune) spoke to women veterans in Utah such as Iraq War veteran Tara Eal who states, "We went through the front lines and I was in combat.  I didn't have to knock down any doors and, thankfully, I didn't have to shoot anybody.  But I was shot at and my truck was shot at."  Dennis Hoey and Kevin Miller (Press Herald) speak with Iraq War veteran Angela Baker who states, "There are no front lines anymore.  When I was over there, every single one of us, man or woman, got shot at multiple times.  We saw combat because we were in a combat zone."  Bill Briggs (NBC News) speaks with a number of veterans including Afghanistan and Iraq War veteran Julie Weckerlein who states, "There is definitely a sense of 'it's about time.'  This decision means the military is finally removing that useless 'attached, but not assigned' verbiage that meant absolutely nothing on the field, with the boots on the ground."  Jake Tapper and Jessica Metzger (CNN) report on Afghanistan War veteran Candace Fisher and her reaction, "It's a formalization of what we've been experimenting with the last ten to twelve years in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I think that those two conflicts have probably given the Army a pretty good idea of whether or not an actual policy change was warranted."  US House Rep and Iraq War veteran Tulsi Gabbard spoke with News Nation (MSNBC -- link is video) today.

US House Rep Tulsi Gabbard:  . . . it is a moment of great significance.  It's very personal for me, obviously, not just for myself, but for all of my sisters who I've had the honor of serving with, for all the women who've ever worn the uniform, this change, this policy change from the DoD really gives an official recognition to jobs, sacrifices and service that women in uniform have been making for generations.  [Responding to comments that women aren't suited for the job] I have to smile a little bit when I hear you say those things that the critics are talking about.  I've heard people cite studies talking about how women are not well-equipped to serve in these different capacities and what goes through my mind as you're saying that are the incredible women that I've had the honor of serving with and those who I've heard great stories about.  Women like Sgt Leigh Ann Hester who was the first woman since WWII to earn a Silver Star.  She was a Military Police Sgt serving in Iraq in 2005 and she led her squad of MPs against a very, very hot insurgent attack, flanked the enemy, assaulted two trench lines and, at the end, saved American lives.  And it's stories like Sgt Leigh Ann Hester's and countless women who throw out every argument that the critics have said because it's real, these are patriots who are putting their lives on the line for our country selflessly and, guess what, they happen to be women.

Staff Sgt Kimberly Fahnestock Voelz died while serving in Iraq, killed December 14, 2003 in a bombing just outside Falluja.  Matt Miller (Pennsylvania's Patriot News) speaks with her mother Carol Fahnestock who states, "If they're up to it and they can do the work, why not?  I know that at the time few women were doing what Kimmy was doing.  She excelled at it.  She loved it." 

The Feminist Majority Foundation issued a statement today:

For Immediate Release:
January 24, 2013
Miranda Petersen

Statement of Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority Foundation On the Decision to Remove Combat Restrictions on Women Serving in the Armed Services

The Feminist Majority Foundation applauds the long awaited decision to remove the combat restriction on women in the military. This is a historic milestone in the fight for women's equality. The combat restriction has been a sham. Women have been and are currently serving in combat positions, but have received neither the recognition nor the chance for promotion that men have enjoyed. We urge in its implementation that all barriers based simply on the gender of members of the armed services be removed, and that they be judged simply upon their capabilities.
For years women in the military have been discriminated against because of a cultural war that has finally ended on the position of women in the military. The reality on the ground has finally become the reality of public policy.
In 1980, when I was the President of the National Organization for Women, I released the following statement: "Discrimination against women...produces in the armed services exactly what it produces in the society as a whole-wasted skills, talents and potential..." At that time, we also addressed the false position that women do not serve in combat roles, saying "The first myth to be dispelled is that women have not been in combat...Women have served and will continue to serve in combat environments under the same conditions, suffering the same risks and injuries as men." Finally, our nation is recognizing this basic fact and correcting this outrageous injustice that has denied women just benefits and recognition for far too long.
In the fight for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment it was frequently argued by opponents that women cannot have equal rights without sharing equal responsibility. We have had more than our share of responsibility. Now, because of the courageous service of women in the armed services, women in the military are finally getting the recognition they deserve.

Cindy Sheehan takes another side.  She rejects the inclusion arguing that it's going the wrong way.  Instead of opening roles to women, they should be restricting men out of combat as well (thereby ending military adventures and wars).  She writes:

As a woman and mother, I dismay on a daily basis that I didn’t better protect my son from the gore-soaked claws of the US Army; and more importantly, as a woman and mother (and now grandmother), I could NEVER, EVER in a million years kill another woman or her child (or, innocent man, for that matter--and all of the oppressed/occupied peoples are innocent).

The US military has long been a malevolent force in the world and war jackals like Leon Panetta sit safely ensconced in their ivory towers ordering the poor and disadvantaged children of others to go and do their filthy work. In my experienced opinion, adding more combat-able demographics is nothing to celebrate in a sane world.
In Bizarro-USA (the opposite of the USA we have currently), access to education; fulfilling employment with a decent wage; healthcare; a clean environment and sustainable energy (with foods free of GMO’s and other toxins) should be our basic human rights—not the one where the establishment confers the dishonorable right to murder, or be murdered for the Evil Empire.

To be really clear, Cindy's position is a feminist position.  It's "a" not "the."  My own position is just one position as well.  For myself, I've done dozens of things that probably many women wouldn't want to do (and that's just in bed! drum roll please) and other women do things I have no interest in.  I would never serve in combat, it's not something that interests me.  I do feel if it's something that interests another woman, she should have every shot at achieving that.  That doesn't make Cindy wrong and it certainly doesn't make me right.  Cindy raises serious issues and I'm glad she does that. I'm also glad that she's willing and able to present another feminist take.

Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 302 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.  AFP's Prashant Rao Tweets AFP's count:

218 dead, 650 wounded from violence so far this month in Iraq - tally:

Remember AFP has done a really great thing under Rao, they've put their count online.  The link goes to their count and you can check that out and pull it up.  They're being more open than anyone would expect so good for AFP and for Prashant Rao.

Today's violence includes the discovery of a woman's corpse in Dhi Qar.  News Network Nasiriyah report that she was 34-years-old and stabbed to death -- she is the third corpse discovered in three days to have been stabbed to death (a 20-something woman was discovered earlier this week and a 30-year-old woman). All Iraq News notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and injured three people, and a southwest Baghdad roadside bombing left two people injured. Xinhua reports a Balad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left five people injured, an Ishaqi bombing claimed 1 life (a man) and left "his mother wounded," 1 male corpse was discovered in Edheim (Diyalal Province) and two Diyala Province bombings left six people injured.  Alsumaria reports an armed Baghdad attack has left 3 police officers dead and that the assailants then set fire to the police car.

Today's violence also saw Nouri al-Maliki's thugs -- a thug's thugs -- fire on the peaceful demonstrators in Mosul -- fired yet again.  January 7th, Nouri's forces assaulted four protesters in Mosul.  Today All Iraq News reports that they sent two protesters to the hospital.  Alsumaria notes that journalist Sama Mosul Waddah Badrani was injured as he covered the protest and he, like the two protesters has been taken to the hospital. 
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Thursday, January 24, 2013








Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared before Congress today.  In the morning, she spun before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in the afternoon, she spun before the House Foreign Relations Committee.  Does Hillary live in a bubble?

This morning, her voice broke as she read (from her prepared remarks), "I stood next to President Obama as the Marines carried those flag-draped caskets off the plane at Andrews.  I put my arms around the mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters."

Yes, she did meet with various family members.  Equally true, a significant number of them have publicly rebuked her and the administration.  Pat Smith is the mother of the late Sean Smith.  She spoke with Anderson Cooper October 10th for CNN's Anderson Cooper 360Here and here for video, here for transcript.  Here's an excerpt of Pat Smith speaking about her son:

COOPER: Do you feel that you know what happened or are you still searching for answers? Have you been in contact with the State Department? Have they reached out to you and given you details of what happened?

SMITH: That's a funny subject. I begged them to tell me what was -- what happened. I said I want to know all the details, all of the details no matter what it is, and I'll make up my own mind on it. And everyone of them, all the big shots over there told me that -- they promised me, they promised me that they would tell me what happened. As soon as they figure it out.  No one, not one person has ever, ever gotten back to me other than media people and the gaming people.

"No one," Pat Smith stated, "not one person has ever, ever gotten back to me other than media people and the gaming people."  Charlie Woods is the father of the late Tyrone Woods.  October 26th, he spoke with Megyn Kelly on America Live (Fox News).

Charlie Woods: My son was an American hero.  And he had the moral strength to do what was right, even if that would professionally cost him his job, even if it would potentially cost him his life.  He was a hero who was willing to do whatever was necessary to respond to their cries for help.  If, in fact, those people from the White House were as courageous and had the moral strength that my son, Ty, had immediately within minutes of when they found there was the first attack, they would have sent, they would have given permission, not denied permission for those C130s to have gone up there.

The two parents above are not being partisan, they are being parents.  We will note that Kate Quigley told Erin Burnett (Erin Burnett Out Front) that her family was getting updates.  (Kate Quigley is the sister of the late Glen Doherty.)  The families of Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Sean Smith have largely been ignored/silence by the media.  Even worse, their loved ones have gone unnamed over and over in reports which usually read  "an attack that killed Chris Stevens and three other Americans."

Hillary did name all four.  She also repeatedly noted there was one DS Agent still in Walter Reed (the agent's name was not given).  But I didn't see anything that indicated this hearing was about that.  Instead, we got a lot of nonsense, a lot of, "You are so wonderful, Hillary."  That's garbage.  You were there to ask questions.  Four Americans are dead and I don't think "I am grateful" nonsense from senators recognizes the reality of those four deaths.  Senator Ben Cardin walked the line very well, taking a brief moment to note Hillary's accomplishments and not getting lost in it.  It's a real shame others couldn't do the same. Senator Robert Mendez was the acting Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Bob Corker is the Ranking Member.  ARB is Accountability Review Board.   Senator Barbara Boxer waxed on about how "you stepped up" -- I don't know that the hearing established that. 

One key exchange.

Ranking Member Bob Corker:  To my knowledge, no one has been held accountable.  Our staff had a meeting with one of the State Dept officials and I hate to use this word again but it was nothing short of bizarre as they talked about the communications.  These officials were screaming out for more security.  And I was just wondering if you might mention one reform that would be helpful so that you would have known of the needs of security that went undone.

Secretary Hillary Clinton:  Well obviously, I have, uh, thought about this almost constantly since that date, Senator, uhm, you know I do feel responsible.  I feel responsible for, uh, the nearly 70,000 people that work for the State Dept.  You know, I take it very seriously.  Uhm, the-the specific security requests, uhm, pertaining to Benghazi, you know, were handled by the security professionals in the department.  I didn't see those requests.  Uh, they didn't come to me.  I didn't approve them.  I didn't deny them.  That's obviously one of the findings that Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen made -- that these requests don't ordinarily come to the Secretary of State.

Ranking Member Bob Corker:  If we could -- I know -- I respect you tremendously but we have short amount of time.  They did come in to folks. 

Secretary Hillary Clinton:  That's right.

Ranking Member Bob Corker:  We did have  SST people on the ground at no cost to the State Dept.  They were asked to be extended by the ambassador.  Someone at the State Dept turned that down. They were at no charge -- 16 officers.  So I just wonder, what has happened inside to make sure that never happens again?

Secretary Hillary Clinton:  Well -- uh -- several things.  Not only are we, uhm, on the path to implement all of the ARB recommendations but we've gone beyond that.  Uhm, we did, uh, immediately do this high threat assessment using DoD assets as well as our own.  That had never been done before.  Uh, we have asked the Congress to help us, uh, reallocate funds.  The Senate has given us that authority -- we-we don't yet have it from the House -- so that we can get more Marine guards, we can get more diplomatic security guards, we can try to put more money into the maintenance, the upgrades, the construction that's needed.  I created the first ever -- it sounds like it should have been done years ago -- but first ever Department  Deputy Assistant Secretary for High Threats.  I'm also recommending that there be a regular process that includes the secretaries and the deputies in these decisions because nobody wants to sit where I am and have to think now about what coulda-woulda-shoulda happened in order to avoid this.  Now, as I said, we've had 19 ARBS.  Only two have ever been unclassified.  The one coming out of the East Africa bombings where there was full transparency, there was a set of recommendations, many of which have been implemented, along with recommendations from other ARBS.  But this Committee never had a public hearing about the 17 other ARBS because they were classified.  So we're-we're-we're putting into action, steps that we think will help the next Secretary be able to make these decisions, be part of these decisions, have more insight into what is going on and we would, obviously, welcome the opportunity to work closely with a subcommittee or a set of members to make sure that that's what's happening. 

That's a lot of words.  If you know Hillary, and I do, she's not a "uhm" and "uh" and "the-the" type person.  When she is that?  She's hiding.  That's reality.  You can admit that or not.

But if you're on the fence about whether she's spinning, grasp that she used a lot of words.  Ranking Member Bob Corker wanted to know -- and asked three times -- what she'd done that would ensure that the Secretary of State would be aware of the security needs and requests? 

And Hillary couldn't answer it.  She went on and on.  To the point that Corker pointed out time was limited and re-directed her.  She responded by going on and on and still not answering his question.  So he tried asking it for a third time.  And no answer.

That's not just disappointing, that's actually damning. 

If you need to contrast?  Senator James Risch asked her about what's going on in Algeria.  She couldn't talk about it in terms of what it is but she, explained, she could talk about this ongoing situation in terms of the information she's receiving (that "we don't have anyway to confirm it" at present).  Hillary didn't stammer once, she'd didn't pause and it wasn't until the end that she even fell into a "uh"  (and there she was recalling what someone in another department had done).  That question was out of left field.  It played to her strengths, she is very knowledgeable.  She is very smart.  She thinks on her feet.  She was pulling from news reports and briefings in her head, off the top of her head, and speaking eloquently and to the point.  Contrast that completely unprepared for moment and how well she mastered it with her refusal to answer Corker's very basic question -- one she was asked three times.

Another serious issue "we knew we were piecing together what a host nation was not able to do."  That Hillary speaking to Senator Marco Rubio.  Who's insane idea was it that Libya could provide security?  How many billions has the US government spent on Iraq's police and military?  But the protection of the US staff there is US military and contractors.  That issue has not been dealt with adequately by the press, by the Senate or by the State Dept.  Do not say, "Well host countries provide security."  No.  Not in Iraq.   According to Reuters timeline of the 2011 Libyan War,  October 23, 2011, Libya is declared "liberated."  The attack happened less than a year later.  In what world does the US government assume that a regime not even a year old can provide adequate security?  Don't distract with budgets or authorizations or other nonsense.  Answer clearly who made the decision -- in State or out -- that the militias in Libya could protect US diplomatic staff?

"What difference at this point does it make!" she shouted to Senator Ron Johnson at one point in the hearing looking unhinged, unprofessional and, quite frankly, uncaring.

It was supposed to be a dramatic moment that showed her heart.  She's a diplomat.  Johnson was doing nothing but agreeing with her but she wanted a big TV moment apparently.  Instead she's flying off the handle in a hearing where she's gotten more praise than any non-uniformed witness in the last six years.  It wasn't pretty.  Nor her attempts shortly afterwards -- during Senator Jeff Flake's line of questioning -- to laugh about the same topic ("we didn't [laughter] have a clear picture").  There are four people dead.  I don't need to scream that as she did at Senator Johnson.  But there are four people dead and America doesn't need your laughter, Hillary Clinton.  She did not conduct herself in a professional manner and as this haunts and taints her legacy, look for people to step forward and insist it was health related and she should have waited a week or two longer before testifying.  I'm not here to rescue her, I'm reporting what happened in the hearing and it was embarrassing.  Wally will be covering Johnson's questions at Rebecca's site tonight, Ava will cover another aspect of the hearing at Trina's site and Ruth's covering it at her site (Ruth's offering an overview of the testimony Hillary offered).

It's public here that I supported Hillary in her 2008 run for the presidential nomination, that I like her and I know.  I've also long shared that I can't stand Senator John McCain (Cindy McCain is a very sweet woman).  I stated here as early as 2006 that I would not be voting for him.  I would love to be reporting John McCain unleashed the crazy and Hillary was just amazing.  But that's not what happened.

Senator John McCain:  Four months -- or months -- after the Benghazi tragedy -- it's a tragedy when we lose four brave Americans, there are many questions that are unanswered and the answers, frankly, that you've been giving this morning are not satisfactory to me.  Were you and the President made aware of the classified cable from Chris Stevens that said the United States Consulate in Benghazi could not survive a sustained assault?  Numerous warnings -- including personally to me -- about the security were unanswered or unaddressed.  It took a CNN reporter looking through the Consulate to find Chris Stevens' last warning.  When were you made aware of that cable?  When were you made aware of the attack on the British ambassador? And the assassination attempts?  And the closing of the Consulates there?  And what actions were taken? What were the president's activities during that seven hour period?  On the anniversary of the worst attack in American history, September 11th, we didn't have the Department of Defense forces available for seven hours.  Two brave Americans died in the last hour.  With all these warnings, all these things took place, we didn't have a single Department of Defense asset apparently available to come to these rescue.  I categorically reject your answer to Senator Johnson about 'Well, we didn't ask these survivors who were flown to Ramstein [Air Base] the next day that this was not a spontaneous demonstration.'   You say that it was because an investigation was going on?  The American people deserve to know answers and they certainly don't deserve false answers.  And the answers that were given the American people on September 15th by the Ambassador to the United Nations [Susan Rice] were false -- in fact, contradicted by the classified information which was kept out of the Ambassador to the United Nations' report who, by the way, in the President's words, had nothing to do with Benghazi -- which questions why she was sent out to start with. Why is it that the administration still refuses to provide the full text of the e-mails regarding the deletions of references to al Qaeda and terrorism in the talking points?  Why do we care? Because if the classified information had been included, it gives an entirely different version of events to the American people.  Going to the American people and tell them what happened then you ought to have your facts straight -- including, the Ambassador said, "al Qaeda is decimated and our consulates and embassies are secure." So here we are, four months later, and we still don't have the basic information.  Now if you want to go out and tell the American people what happened, you should have at least interviewed the people who were there instead of saying 'No, we couldn't talk to them because an FBI investigation was going on.'  And, by the way, as I said at the time, I just happened to be on one of those talk shows, people don't bring RPGs and mortars to spontaneous demonstrations.  That's a fundamental.  And, of course, the president continued to say, days afterwards, September 12th, he made a reference to active terrorists, September 12th on 60 Minutes "too early to know," September 20th on Univision "we're still doing an investigation," September 24th on The View "we're still doing an investigation."  The President of the United States, as late as September 24th, two weeks later, did not acknowledge that this was an act of terror conducted by people who were at least somehow connected to al Qaeda.  And, finally, Madam Secretary, I strongly disagree with your depiction of what we did after [Libyan leader before the 2011 assault, Muammar] Gaddafi fell.  We did not provide the security that was needed.  We did not help them with border security.  We did not give them the kind of assistance that would have been necessary to help dismantle these militias that still, to this day, remain a challenge to democracy in Libya and freedom.  You knew Chris Stevens very well.  I knew him very well.  I knew him on July 7th, when I went to Libya to observe the elections.  And at that time, on July 7th, he expressed to me his deep and grave concerns about security particularly in Begnhazi.  And he continued to communicate with the State Dept -- and I don't know who else was privy to those cables -- of his deep concern about the security there and the need for additional assistance.  And I will argue -- [will argue] with facts -- that after that event took place, after the fall of Gaddafi, the so-called 'soft footprint' was partially to some degree responsible for the tragedy that took place.  The American people and the families of these four brave Americans still have not gotten the answers that they deserve.  I hope that they will get them. 

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013






Yesterday in the United States it was time for a for-show inauguration. The real inauguration took place on Sunday but celebrity Barack Obama couldn't compete with football and Honey Boo Boo so he was sworn in again on Monday and everyone pretended that was an inauguration. The White House noted Sunday (link contains photos), "Today, in two separate, private ceremonies, President Obama and Vice President Biden were officially sworn into office, marking the start of the second term." At Press TV, David Swanson observes:

In fact, he runs through a list of men, women, and children on Tuesdays, hung over from inaugurations or not, and picks whom to murder and murders them.
Meet the new boss who, upon his inauguration, declared that the right to life is unalienable. Let me be clear, that does not mean he cannot take yours.
We are not supposed to call it murder, of course, because it is properly assassination. Except that no public figures are being assassinated; 98% of those killed are not targeted at all; some are targeted for suspicious behavior without knowing their names; one type of suspicious behavior is the act of retrieving the dead and wounded from a previous strike; and those targeted are not targeted for politics but for resisting illegal occupations. Moreover, an assassination is a type of murder.
We're not supposed to call it murder, nonetheless, because it sounds more objective to call it killing. But murder is a type of killing, specifically unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought. Killing by accident is not murder and not what the president is doing. Killing legally is not murder and not what the president is doing - at least not as far as anyone knows or according to any interpretation of law put forward. Killing indirectly by encouraging poverty or environmental destruction or denial of healthcare may be things the president is doing, but they are not murder and not drone wars.

Or as Media Channel's Danny Schechter puts it at Z-Net, "Dr. King is remembered for 'I have a dream.' Barack Obama for 'I have a drone.' How sad is that?" The Center for Economic and Policy Research's Dean Baker observes at CounterPunch, "In 2008, President Obama ran on a platform of hope and change. After four years, the biggest change is that there is no hope."

As Susan (On the Edge) points out, "Anybody who had even remotely followed his career knew this guy was trouble."  But who will follow the money?  In his first term, not a lot of people did. Now he's attempting to ease one of the few out the door.  Saturday,  Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reported:

The mandate and funding of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which was established in October 2004 and is known as SIGIR, expires in March. It will mark the end of an effort to document and fix the myriad failings of the most ambitious U.S. rebuilding effort since the Marshall Plan. The extent to which U.S. military personnel abused their positions during the war is a part of the legacy of the deeply unpopular conflict that has gone largely unnoticed. 

Barack was sworn in for his second term yesterday.  In all the hagiography, did you find any reality?  The State Department is over billions of US tax dollars that are going into Iraq.  Who's watching that money?  The Inspector General of the State Department?

There is no Inspector General.  Barack refused to appoint one for four years.  For his entire first term there was no Inspector General for the State Department.  The last Inspector General was Howard Krongard who stepped down at the start of 2008.  The Inspector General is responsible for ferreting out abuse, fraud and mismanagement. 

September 11, 2012, there was an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi and a CIA annex.  Tomorrow Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  In the December 19th snapshot, we covered the [PDF format warning] unclassified report on the investigation led by former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Retired General Mike Mullen (former Chair of the Joint Chiefs).  December 31st, a second report [PDF format warning] "Flashing Red: A Special Report On The Terrorist Attack At Benghazi" was issued by the Senate Committee On Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.  Both reports fault State for not preparing and anticipating.  Maybe Hillary needs to be asked if lack of supervision -- such as not having an Inspector General -- allowed State to go soggy when they should have been strong?  Now if they failed at the basics of protection, why are we trusting them in other areas?

The posts of Inspector General were created for a reason.  What's very clear is that there is no sunshine in Barack Obama's administration.  The Inspector General of the State Department is an office that was established during President Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration.  For fifty years, all presidents were in compliance -- even Richard Nixon.  Barack Obama is the first one to go a term without appointing anyone to that position.  That's outrageous.  It's equally outrageous that the 'functioning press' has forgotten to mention these facts in the last four years.

For the current Fiscal Year, State requested $4.8 billion for Iraq (State and USAID).  That kind of money needs to be watch dogged.  Hillary Clinton should be asked to explain why it's not being watch dogged.

Turning to repeating versus reporting. AFP repeats that 400 prisoners and detainees have been released. That 'report' is based on what Nouri's government says. Missing from the AFP repeat is the fact that provincial governors are stating the Ministry of Justice refuses to hand over a list of the names of people allegedy released. The Voice of Russia repeats the claim made today in Baghdad by Deputy Prime Minister Hussein al-Shahristani that 888 prisoners have now been released.  No one wants to talk about -- or repeat? -- the reality that provincial governors have asked the Ministry of Justice for a list of those released but have been denied such a list.  When departments are unable to document their actions, the appropriate response is skepticism.   Need another reason to be skeptical?  Azzaman reports "that the female prisoners claimed to have been released by the Iraqi authorities at a ceremony attended by Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Shahristani did not return to their parents."  Where are those women?

In addition,  All Iraq News notes that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc is calling Nouri's release of 355 prisoners this week as proof that innocent people are populating Iraqi prisons and detention centers.  This has been the assertion of many protesters.  Over 400 women are imprisoned due to the 'crime' of being related to some man the government wants to arrest but can't find.  al-Shahristani may be seen as a trusted source by AFP and The Voice of Russia but not everyone sees him as so honest.  Alsumaria reports that Deputy Speaker Arif Tayfur has stated that Nouri's point-person on the protests, Deputy Prime Minister Hussain al-Shahristani is not negotiating with the protesters

Equally true, the prison-system needs to be cleared up immediately.  What's going on is not only illegal and inhumane, it's hurting Iraq's reputation.  Al Arabiya reported Saturday, "Twenty Saudi detainees in Iraqi prisons were tortured after the Iraqi national team lost the Gulf Cup football tournament to the UAE in a match supervised by a Saudi referee, according to Thamer Balheed, head of the Saudi detainees in Iraq."  True or false, that story was all over Arabic social media this weekend.  

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Sunday, January 20, 2013








Along with protests, this week also saw the assassination of Sahwa leader, Iraqiya member and Sunni Aifan al-Issawi  Jaber Ali (Middle East Confidential) offers, "The assassination arrived in a really critical moment since the country has been in political turmoil because of a long lasting protest mostly led by Sunnis that have been going on for weeks. In addition, Iraqiya, the country's largely Sunni bloc of lawmakers have decided to boycott Parliament sessions until the government agrees to organize proper security. Their main demand that is also backed up by senior opposition politicians is that Mr. Maliki resigns from his actual position."
Nouri is Little Saddam.  That point resonates throughout Toby Dodge's new book Iraq: From  War To A New Authoritarianism.   Dodge is a British political scientist and a member of the International Institute for Strategic StudiesJanuary 15th, he discussed his book at the Virginia Woolf Room at Bloomsbury House in London.  Excerpt.
Toby Dodge:  And I've identified three drivers of the violence that killed so many innocent Iraqis.  The first is undoubtedly the sectarian politics and those Iraqis among us will remember -- fondly or otherwise -- the huge debates that Iraqis had and Iraqi analysts had about the role of sectarian politics.  I'd certainly identify what we could call a series of ethinic entrapenuers, formerly exiled politicans who came back to Iraq after 2003 and specifically and overtly used religious and sectarian identity, religious ethnic identity to mobilize the population -- especially in those two elections in 2005.  Now the second driver of Iraq's descent into civil war was the collapse of the Iraqi state in the aftermath of the invasion  Now this isn't only the infamous disbanding of the Iraqi army and its intelligence services, this isn't only the driving out of the senior ranks of the if tge Ba'ath Party members, the dismembering of the state, 18 of the central government buildings were stripped when I was there in 2003 in Baghdad.  So much scrap metal was stolen from government buildings that the scrap metal price in Turkey Iraq and Iran, it's neighbors dropped as a result of the ill-gotten gain of the looters  was shipped out of the country.  But thirdly, the big issue that drove Iraq into civil war was the political system set up after 2003.  I've gone into that in quite a lot of detail and I've labeled it -- much to the horror of my editor -- an exclusive elite pact -- which basically meant that those former Iraqi exiles empowered by the United States then set up a political system that  deliberately excluded a great deal of the indigeanous politicians -- but anyone associated, thought to be associated with the previous regime, in a kind of blanket attempt to remake Iraqi politics.  Now the conclusions of the book are broadly sobering and pessimistic.  That certainly the elite pact has not been reformed in spite of Iraqiya's electoral victory in the 2010 elections, that sectarian politics and sectarian rhetoric that mobilized Iraqi politics from 2003 to 2010 has come back into fashion with the prime minister himself using coded sectarian language to seek to solidify his electoral base among Iraqis.  And basically the only thing that has been rebuilt since 2003 are Iraq's military and they now employ 933,000 people which is equal to 8% of the country's entire workforce or 12% of the population of adutl males.  However, running parallel to that, the civilian capacity of the Iraqi state is still woefully inadequate.  In 2011, the United Nations estimated that there only 16% of the population were covered by the public sewers network, that leaves 83% of the country's waste water untreated, 25% of the population has no access to clean, running water and the Iraqi Knowledge Network in 2011 estimated that an average Iraqi household only gets 7 and a half hours of electricity a day. Now in the middle of the winter, that might not seem like a big issue.  But in the burning hot heat of Basra in the summer  or, indeed, in Baghdad, Iraq has suffered  a series of heatwaves over the last few years.  Not getting enough elecriticy to make your fan or air conditioning work means that you're in a living hell.   This is in spite of the fact that the Iraqi and US governments have collectively spent $200 billion seeking to rebuild the Iraqi state. So I think the conclusions of the Adelphi are rather pessimistic.  The Iraqi state, it's coercive arm, has been rebuilt but precious little beside that has.  But what I want to do is look, this afternoon, is look at the ramifications of that rather slude rebuilding -- a large powerful army and a weak civil institutions of the state.  And I thought I might exemplify this by examining a single signficant event that occurred on the afternoon of Thursday the 20th of December 2012.  That afternoon, government security forces raided the house of Iraq's Minister of Finance, Dr. Rafaa al-Issawi.  Issawi is a leading member of the Iraqiya coalition that in 2010 won a slim majority of seats in the Iraqi Parliament -- 91 to [State of Law's] 89 on a 62% turnout.  Now the ramifications of attempting to arrest Issawi and indeed arresting a number of his bodyguards and prosecuting his chief bodyguard for alleged terrorist offenses cannot be overstated.  In the aftermath of the elections, there were a series of tortured, fractured, very bad tempered negotiations which finally resulted in the creation of another government of national unity and, much more importantly, let Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister since 2006, to retain the office of the prime ministership.  Issawi as MInister of Finance is probably the most important, most powerful Iraqiya politician to gain office in the country.  He won plaudits in his professional handling of the Ministry of Finance and attempted to push himself above the political fray not to engage in the rather aggressive, knockabout political rhetoric that has come to identify Iraqi politics.  So in arresting or seeking the arrest of Issawi and charging him with offenses of terrorism, clearly what Prime Minister al-Maliki is doing is throwing down a gauntlet, attempting to seize further power and bring it into the office of the prime minister.  Issawi, when his house was raided, rang the prime minister to ask him who had authorized it -- a call the prime minister refused to take.  He [Issawi] then fled seeking sanctuary in the house of the Speaker of Parliament, a fellow Iraqiya politician, Osama al-Nujaifi.  He then held a press conference where he said -- and this is a politician not prone to wild rhetoric, not prone to political populism -- he said, "Maliki now wants to just get rid of his partners, to build a dictatorship.  He wants to consolidate power more and more."  Now if this wasn't so disturbing, the attack on Issawi's house triggers memories of a very similar event almost 12 months before, on the same day that the final American troops left Iraq in December 2011, Iraqi security forces led by the prime minister's son laid seige to Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's house.  Hashemi was subsequently allowed to leave to the Kurdish Regional Government's capital of Erbil but a number of his bodyguards were arrested, two of them were tortured to death and the rest of them were paraded on television where they 'confessed' to activities of terrorism.  So basically now let me turn to explain what the raid on Issawi's house in December 2012 is representative of -- what I've called in the book, the rise of the new authoritarianism.  And this authoritarianism has been driven forward by Nouri al-Maliki  who was first appointed prime minister in the early months of 2006.  Now quite fascinatingly why Nouri al-Maliki was appointed was at the time he was seen as a grey politician.  He was the second in command of the Islamic Dawa Party -- a party that was seeking to maximize the vote of Iraq's Shia popluation but a party that had no internal militia, that had no military force of its own.  So it was seen by the competing, fractured ruling elite of Iraq as not posing a threat.  Now upon  taking office in April 2006, Maliki was confronted by the very issue that had given rise to his appointment, his inability to govern.  Under the Iraqi system in 2006, the office of the prime minister was seen as a consensus vehicle.  Maliki was sought to negotiate between the US Ambassador, the American head of the Multi National Coalition and other Iraqi politicians.  He wasn't seen as a first among equals.  What Maliki has done since 2006,  is successfully consolidate power in his own hands.  He first seized control of the Islamic Dawa Party, his own party, and then he built up a small and cohesive group of functionaries, known in Iraq as the Malikiyoun  -- a group of people, friends, followers, but also his family, his son, his nephew and his son-in-law and he's placed them in key points across the Iraqi state, seeking to circumvent the Cabinet -- the official vestibule of power in the Iraqi state -- and seize control of Iraq's institutions.
If you're not frightened for the Iraqi people, you're not paying attention.  If you're an American, you're being strongly encouraged not to pay attention by the US government that screwed up and destroyed the country of Iraq and by a guilty US press that sold the illegal war, has blood on its hands and doesn't have any desire to get honest about the realities in Iraq today.