Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cornelius Eady

We had a theme post for tonight: Find a collection of poetry and write about it. I took my granddaughter to the library with me because she loves to go. We spent forever in the children's section and then I was pressed for time to pick out something for the theme.

I grabbed Victims Of The Latest Dance Craze just because the title seemed interesting. For good measure, I grabbed two more and then we headed for the checkout desk with my three volumes and my granddaughter's picture books.

"Are you a fan of Cornelius Eady?" the librarian asked me?

They were all his books -- my three. I didn't realize that. I told her I was working on an assignment.

But if I were talking to her now, I would say, "Yes, I am."

I had no idea who Cornelius Eady was. Knew nothing about him. Dove into Victims Of The Latest Dance Craze and fell in love. Wasn't expecting that at all.

Here's a bit of "Seduction."

I am never alone in this world.
Here are the famous silhouettes on the
window shade
And the reason they embrace:

The romantic ballad on the record player
That spills out of the window
Cracked a third of the way open

And down the block, where everyone else is dreaming
or trying to dream,
Off the walls of the Baptist church,
Off the man who leans on the pharmacy at the corner
waiting for the phone to ring,
Off the empty seats of the ice-cream parlor,

And I could continue but I think you get the idea. He's incredibly talented. And I said "you get the idea" but let me note the end of "Seduction."

It doesn't matter. Tonight, as I watch from above
We all fall in love
As would anyone who crosses the lovers' path
As their shadows glide across the front porches,
Brushing against the stoops,
Too busy to notice they're locked in the beat
Or that a light goes out above their heads.

I just love his use of language. Here he is from "Waffle House Girl" writing about a waitress:

She was slow with our orders, jumbled
The items the way you'd blow a good punchline.

I tore through the collection and loved it. Started on Brutal Imagination but couldn't put it down (and loved it). Which leaves me with The Gathering Of My Name to read tomorrow. (Unless I peak tonight.)

I love coming across a writer I hadn't heard of and discovering someone who really feeds the soul. You can read about Eady at Poets.org. And please read his writing. He's so talented. From "Birthing," "I am in the back of her mind, Not even a notion." (And if you're already a fan of his writing, you beat me to it. Shame on you for not e-mailing me to share your love for his writing!)

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, close to 500 people died in Iraq's January violence, a Palestinian is tortured to death by Thug Nouri al-Maliki's forces, Iraq drops significantly on Reporters Without Borders Press Index, Nouri wants to sue the Guardian yet again, the documentary This Is Where We Take Our Stand debuts in NYC tomorrow and DC on Wednesday, and more.
The Iraq War destroyed the lives of many in Iraq, women, Christians, Jews and Palestinians among them. In 2006, Ken Ellingwood (Los Angeles Times) observed, "The civil war convulsing the country has raised worries about the fate of the approximately 20,000 Palestinians in Iraq, who are targeted by kidnappers and Shiite Muslim death squads because of what many Iraqis see as the group's favored status under former President Saddam Hussein." Ali Kareem (ICR) offered this background on Iraq's Palestinian population in 2009:
Many Palestinian families have roots in this country dating to the creation of Israel in 1948 and its subsequent wars with its Arab neighbours. Others came more recently. Following his defeat in the first Gulf War in 1991, Saddam Hussein encouraged the migration of thousands of Palestinians to Iraq, promising jobs and preferential treatment in an effort to portray himself as a champion of oppressed Arabs.
According to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, Baghdad was home to some 30,000 Palestinians at the time of the US-led invasion in 2003. Less than half remain in the city now.
Last fall, Saed Bannoura (International Middle East Media Center) explained that from a high of 35,000, the population had declined to approximately 7,000. A huge drop like that happens only because a population is living in fear and feeling that the government will not protect them. That has been the case for Palestinians in Iraq. The current prime minister is Nouri al-Maliki who has been prime minister since April 2006 and has done nothing to protect the Palestinian population. In fact, from 2006 to 2010 refugee camp Al Tanf housed hundreds of Palestinians who were caught in the desert, unable to move forward to Syria (Saddam Hussein did not consider them residents in or citizens of Iraq, they were "bretheren" and, as such had no legal documents that the Syrian government would recognize at the border) and unable to go back to their homes. They were left there by Nouri with no efforts made to assist them. The United Nations would set up temporary tents for the refugees. But Nouri did nothing. Offered no aid. Offered no verbal comfort. Just didn't give a damn. And when the Palestinians are attacked, the killers and kidnappers are never brought to justice. Nouri makes no public statements decrying the targeting. The message to Iraq's thug population has been, "Attack them. You will not face punishment."
And that thug population includes the security forces Nouri al-Maliki commands. 30-year-old Palestinian Emad Abdulsalam died last week. Ahlul Bayt News Agency reports the man was arrested in Doura three days ago and was tortured non-stop by Iraqi forces which notes the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq "said that Palestinians have been the target of 'Death squads and militias' over the past six years under the very eyes of the government." The International Middle East Media Center gives his name as Imad Abdul-Salaam Abu Rabee and notes that Iraqi police grabbed him after he left work and was heading home. Imad's family sought out a forensic center in Baghdad which determined "that their son was killed under interrogation." The International Middle East Media Center notes:

It is worth mentioning that Abu Rabee' is married and a father of two children. His brother was killed by insurgents in Baghdad last year. He was born and raised in Iraq; his family is from the Al Boreij refugee camp, in the Gaza Strip.
Sa'ad voiced an appeal to the Palestinian Authority to act on resolving the plight of the Palestinian refugees in Iraq as soon as possible as they are being attacked and murdered by the Iraqi Police and by several militias in the country.
Ma'an News adds, "[The Society for Palestinian-Iraqi Brotherhood Imad Abdul Salam] Khalil said Palestinian refugees in Iraq have been targeted for sectarian reasons. International rights group Amnesty International says Iraqi forces use arbitrary detentions and torture to quell dissent." Nouri's forces have tortured another person to death. And it comes right as Nouri was hoping the news cycle would be dominated by the 16 "confessions" against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi which state-TV Iraqiya has been in a frenzy over. [Aswat al-Iraq: "Noteworthy is that the semi-official al-Iraqiya TV Satellite Channel had carried out an urgent report on Sunday, reporting that 16 members of Tariq Hashimy's bodyguards were charged with having been involved in terrorist acts, a report that was condemned, because it did not represent anything new in the series of charges against Hashimy and his bodyguards and office elements."]
Imad Abdul-Salaam Abu Rabee's death is part of the violence in today's news cycles. Reuters notes a Muqdadiya clash in which one police officer and one "civilian" were left injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left two Sahwa injured, 2 Mosul roadside bombings left one police officer and his son injured, a Mosul sticky bombing injured a police officer, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured a military officer and a Shirqat sticky bombing injured a police officer. So that's 1 death and nine injured for today.
Let's go over the monthy totals -- the number wounded are in parentheses. January 1st, 9 were reported dead (21). January 2nd, 0 were reported dead (3). January 3rd, 3 were reported dead (13). January 4th, 9 were reported dead (17). January 5th, 75 were reported dead (80). January 6th, 3 were reported dead (20). January 7th, 7 were reported dead (25). January 8th, 3 were reported dead (20). January 9th, 20 were reported dead (59). January 10th, 12 were reported dead (3). January 11th, 6 were reported dead (14). January 12th, 6 were reported dead (25). January 13th, 6 were reported dead (32). January 14th, 53 were reported dead (157). January 15th, 21 were reported dead (0). January 16th, 0 were reported dead (0). January 17th, 10 were reported dead (5). January 18th, 6 were reported dead (5). January 19th, 4 were reported dead (8). January 20th, 6 were reported dead (5). January 21st, 7 were reported dead (1). January 22nd, 7 were reported dead (6). January 23rd, 2 were reported dead (5). January 24th, 20 were reported dead (86). January 25th, 1 was reported dead (1). January 26th, 14 were reported dead (8). January 27th, 37 were reported dead (0), January 28th, 7 reported dead (10). January 29th, 7 were reported dead (20). January 30th, 10 reported dead (11). January 31st, 1 reported dead (9).
Check my math (always), that's at least 371 reported dead and 669 reported injured. Many deaths aren't reported in Iraq. Iraq Body Count currently lists "450 civilians killed" as of Monday for the month of January and that's about seventy more than they had for January 2011. (Go with their number, it's not covering every death but it's more comprehensive than our snapshots.) So comparing January in the two years, violence is not dropping, it has in fact increased.
During that entire year, please note, Iraq has had no Minister of Defense, no Minister of Interior and no Minister of National Security. Nouri al-Maliki has refused to nominate anyone and have Parliament vote. From the December 21, 2010 snapshot:
Shashank Bengali and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report point out the Cabinet is missing "the key ministries responsible for security and military affairs for now, because lawmakers haven't agreed on who should fill them. There's still no deal, either, on creating a yet-to-be named strategic council -- a U.S.-backed initiative aimed at curbing al-Maliki's powers -- which lawmarkers said could be weeks away." Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) explain, "Maliki appointed himself acting minister of interior, defense and national security and said the three powerful positions would be filled with permanent appointees once suitable candidates have been agreed on."
A Minister of a Cabinet is someone nominated by Nouri and approved by Parliament. Without the approval of Parliament, they are not a minister. Why does that matter? Nouri can't fire a member of his Cabinet without Parliament's approval. But 'acting' ministers (named by Nouri) are not approved by Parliament, are not real ministers and serve at the whim of Nouri. It's a power grab on Nouri's part as is his failure to name a "national strategic councill."
That is part of the Erbil Agreement. The US-brokered that agreement with Iraqi political blocs to end the political stalemate that had desceneded on Iraq and lasted eight months. Nouri signed off on that agreement. It's that agreement that allowed him to become prime minister. He created the stalemate after his State of Law came in second to Iraqiya and Nouri refused to give up the post of prime minister. The White House backed Nouri and that's the only reason Nouri remains prime minister. The White House talked Iraqiya and its leader into accepting the post of heading the "national strategic council." And yet, the day after the Erbil Agreement was reached, when Parliament held its first real (and full) session of Parliament, Nouri's State of Law announced they couldn't create it right away but it would come. A large number of Iraqiya's 91 MPs walked out at that point. They should have stuck to that walk out but they returned. And waited and waited. Nouri now says that the council can't be created. He claims the Erbil Agreement -- the thing that allows him to be prime minister right now -- is unconstitutional. The current political crisis is fueled by Nouri's refusal to follow the Erbil Agreement. Alsumaria TV reports today, "President of Kurdistan Region Masoud Al Barzani assured, on Monday, that Kurds may no longer play the mediator role in solving Iraq's issues. Barazani added that bases upon which the current government was formed are not being respected. The current government was formed to reinforce true partnership, comply with Iraqi Constitution, and fix disputes between Erbil and Baghdad, Barzani revealed."
He is prime minister because the White House chose to back him. And they knew he was a thug. The whole world did by that point. In fact, when the Cabinet was (partially) named at the end of December 2010, Liz Sly (Washington Post) was noting:
That Maliki has an authoritarian streak has been amply demonstrated over the past 4 1/2 years, critics say. Maliki, originally selected in 2006 as a compromise candidate assumed to be weak and malleable, has proved to be a tough and ruthless political operator who cannily subverted parliament to cement his authority over many of the new democracy's fledgling institutions.
In his role as commander in chief of the armed forces, he replaced divisional army commanders with his appointees, brought provincial command centers under his control and moved to dominate the intelligence agencies.
The widely feared Baghdad Brigade, which answers directly to Maliki's office, has frequently been used to move against his political opponents. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused him of operating secret prisons in which Sunni suspects have been tortured.

And thug Nouri had the support of the Bush administration before he had the support of the Barack administration. The "compromise" candidate Sly refers to? Iraqis didn't select him. They wanted Ibrahim al-Jaafari. The US told the Iraqi Parliament no in 2006. The Bush White House approved of Nouri. In 2010, the Barack White House made clear that there would be no new prime minister -- despite the will of the Iraqi voters and the Iraqi Constitution -- the Barack White House made clear that Nouri would remain as prime minister. They knew he was a thug. Democracy in Iraq and the Iraqi people mattered less to them than their oil puppet.
As the death toll mounts and does so under yet another US-installed puppet. William Fisher (The Public Record) notes:

Human Rights Watch is charging that, despite U.S. government assurances that it helped create a stable democracy, the reality is that it left behind a "budding police state" -- cracking down harshly during 2011 on freedom of expression and assembly by intimidating, beating, and detaining activists, demonstrators, and journalists.
The organization's Middle East and North Africa director, Sarah Leah Whitson, warns that "Iraq is quickly slipping back into authoritarianism as its security forces abuse protesters, harass journalists, and torture detainees."

Last week, the Associated Press quoted Human Rights Watch's Sarah Leah Whitson stating, 'Iraq is quickly slipping back into authoritarianism. Despite U.S. government assurances that it helped create a stable democracy (in Iraq), the reality is that it left behind a budding police state'." She was referring to what Human Rights Watch found and documented in their [PDF format warning] World Report: 2012.
Thug Nouri and his climate of thuggery leads to attacks on minorities, attacks on demonstrators, attacks on the press, you name it. How does Nouri respond to the press? It depends if they're Iraqi (violence) or foreigners (law suits). That becomes clear yet again today. Iraq Streets reports:
according to a Sumeria news web site the editor of an Iraqi newspaper has threaten to start a law suit against Baghdad sceuirty operations ,after a group of Iraqi forces beats a news papers seller in his stand in the street in the 28th of Jan 2012 , because he was selling a news paper that had used a cartoon drawing of Baghdad Operations spokesman's Qassim Atta after he was promoted to a general and transferred from his position as a spokesman , the forces thought the cartoon was disrespectful and beats the papers man who was admitted later to hospital ,general Atta has no comment of knowledge of what happened,but according to sumaria many iraqi journalists thought this is a new deterioration of the bad treatment to journalism and freedom of speech in Iraq…
So that's his treatment of the press in his own country. Foreign press? He yet again wants to sue England's Guardian newspaper. Yesterday, CNN's Jomana Karadsheh Tweeted on his latest threat:
jomana karadsheh @JomanaCNN

#iraq PM Maliki's office in a statement threaten legal action against the @guardian for a Dec editorial & deny pm quote.

jomana karadsheh @JomanaCNN

The editorial "retreat from Baghdad" quoted Maliki saying he was 1st Shiaa 2 Iraqi 3 Arab 4 Dawa member. Office denies this. #iraq

The editorial was actually calling out Barack's notion that the Iraq War was over ("The war was over, Barack Obama repeatedly declared") and ran December 14th. This is the section Nouri wants to sue over:
Even with an election campaign in full flow, the chasm that opened up between words in Fort Bragg and one day in the life of Iraq was unbridgeable. Wednesday December 14 was relatively quiet: two car bombs in Tal Afar, killing three and wounding 35; bombings and shootings in Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad. A war that is over? Or take the decision on Monday of Diyala provincial council to declare itself independent from central government. Or take the answer that the prime minister Nouri al-Maliki gave last week when asked to describe who he thought he was -- first a Shia, second an Iraqi, third an arab, and fourth a member of the Dawa party. What chance for a nation state, if its prime minister places his confessional identity above his national one? Can any of the above be deemed solid, stable or representative?
A Shia first, for those not grasping, sends a message of sectarianism -- continued sectarianism and sect warfare in Iraq. And a foe of the free press forever. Last week, Reporters Without Borders published their latest Press Freedom Index:

After rising in the index for several years in a row, Iraq fell 22 places this year, from 130th to 152nd (almost to the position it held in 2008, when it was 158th). There were various reasons. The first was an increase in murders of journalists. Hadi Al-Mahdi's murder on 8 September marked a clear turning point. Another reason was the fact that journalists are very often the target of violence by the security forces, whether at demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, or in Iraqi Kurdistan, a region that had for many years offered a refuge for journalists.

That's what the US White House is backing. And hopefully tomorrow we'll talk about the money the US is wasting in Iraq. For now we'll note this from Ahlul Bayt News Agency:
An Iraqi political analyst says the US is still going ahead with a plan to "disintegrate" Iraq by escalating the current political crisis in the Arab country.
"The US is still pursuing the plan of disintegration of Iraq and therefore is against reaching a solution by political groups for resolving the political crisis of Iraq," said Qahtan al-Khafaji on Friday.
Khafaji, a professor of political sciences at Baghdad University, said that the US is trying to blame Iraqis for the current situation in the country but "the Americans are the main cause of the crisis in political process of Iraq."
The political crisis continues in Iraq. Jane Arraf speaks with Marco Werman (PRI's The World) about it today noting that it was "the biggest political crisis since Saddam Hussein was toppled." (We'll note it tomorrow, as I dictate this snapshot into one cell phone and juggle two others, I'm also listening to NPR's live coverage of the Florida primary because Ava and I are covering it Sunday at Third. And those wanting a preview? Besides the co-anchor, we've only heard from one woman an hour and 23 minutes in.versus over 11 men. In addition, we're about to speak to a group. So The World will wait until tomorrow.) As Jane Arraf observed earlier this week in a Tweet, "National conference seems still long way off."

Al Mada reports
'recovering' President Jalal Talabani and Nouri met yesterday and agree on a national conference now. Unlike weeks ago, when Nouri had demands (including that it not be called a "national conference" and that the guest list be restricted.) Oh, Nouri still has demands, it turns out, and he's making them, but Jalal's office insists that the two are agreeing.
Following various photo ops with US President Barack Obama in mid-December, Nouri returned to Iraq and began targeting his political rivals more than ever. Tareq al-Hashemi is one of Iraq's two vice presidents. (They have a third vice president slot vacant.) He is in the KRG and a guest of Talabani's while Nouri demands he be arrested on charges of terrorism. Aswat al-Iraq reports al-Hashemi has issued a statement:

A statement, issued on Tuesday by the Temporary Media Office of Hashimy, stressed that "at a time when we condemn the cheap practices by the Prime Minister, which he carries out in a feverish means against his political opponent, through theexpansion of the accusation circle and the chasing of innocent members of Hashimy's bodyguards and office employees, we call on President Jalal Talabani for immediate interference to put an end to the Prime Minister's acts and violations of the Constitution and the laws".
"His continued violations against human rights, have caused dishonor for Iraq and forced Amnesty International to issue its statement from 2 days ago regarding the 2 female employees in Hashimy's office, Rasha and Bassima," the statement added.

AP reports that Iraqiya rejoined the Parliament today but the boycott of attending Cabinet meetings continues. Dar Addutour reports that a meeting to determine Iraqiya returning to Cabinet meetings has been postponed and that one of Iraqiya's terms is that Saleh al-Mutlaq be part of the return. Nouri demanded in December that Deputy Minister al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post.

Meanwhile AFP reports on US President Barack Obama's YouTube fest yesterday and his assertion that there was nothing wrong with the drones flying over Iraq. He is quoted declaring, "The truth of the matter is we're not engaging in a bunch of drone attacks inside of Iraq. There's some surveillance to make sure that our embassy compound is protected." That's dishonest. It's going beyond the embassy compound, for one thing. For another, Iraq's objecting to the helicopters and other US air traffic taking place. Yesterday's snapshot noted State Dept's spokesperson Victoria Nuland's remarks about drones. She was asked about if Iran or another country had a non-weaponized drone flying through Central Park what would happen and she stated no country had ever made such a request. Clearly, the US made no such request to Iraq. However, let's get to what would happen, I checked with a friend at the Justice Dept. Whatever foreigner was flying a drone in Central Park would be arrested, facing questions and facing terrorism charges. It would be incumbent upon him or her to prove that this was not a rehearsal for an armed drone which may or may not be used for a biological attack. In the current climate, it is thought that anyone arrested for such a thing would plead out to the lowest charge possible because he or she could never make a strong case -- even if they were innocent -- in court that would prove their innocence.

In the US, Joanna Molloy (New York Daily News) reports on an Intersections International event where veterans, last Friday, discussed their experiences in Iraq:
"No matter what culture you're raised in, you're taught 'Thou shalt not kill,' " said Brian Iglesias, a Marine platoon commander turned filmmaker. "Then you go to war, and it's different."
Former Marine Byll Potts, who said he had lived out of his car for two years after getting laid off from his job in 2008, read a line from his poetry book, "I'm Just Saying."
"Back in our towns, half smiles behind frowns, no job or a place with lock and key . . . Do you really see me?" he read.
And a film is about to get its NYC debut. David Zeiger directed the award winning documentary Sir! No Sir! about resistance within the ranks during Vietnam. His new documentary is This Is Where We Take Our Stand about the 2008 Winter Soldier hearings. Iraq Veterans Against the Wars notes a benefit screening ($15 a ticket) in NYC on February 1st, 7:00 pm, at the IFC Center and:

The film will also air on PBS around the country, thanks to generous support from the National Educational Television Association. Due to the controversial nature of the film, many local PBS stations will relegate 'This is Where We Take Our Stand' to their smaller and less widely available affiliates. We urge you to contact your local PBS station and encourage them to air the film on their major channel. http://thisiswherewetakeourstand.com/?p=376

Premiere screening of This Is Where We Take Our Stand: The Iraq Veterans Against the War who risked everything to tell their story.
Thursday February 2, 2012 from 6pm to 8pm.
Bus boys & Poets (14th & V NW)
The long awaited full length movie about Winter Soldier 2008, This Is Where We Take Our Stand: The Iraq Veterans Against the War who risked everything to tell their story will premier in DC at Busboys & Poets.
Following the film director David Zeiger (Sir No Sir) & one of the main characters, Geoff Millard, will answer questions.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Employment and votings

the arm grab

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Arm Grab" is above and it went up last night.

A number of e-mails are about voting. Let me answer it by steering you to Patrick Martin's piece for WSWS:

The report from the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, released in mid-January, is a blueprint for the subordination of every aspect of American society to a single goal, boosting corporate profits.

Obama appointed the panel last year, under the leadership of Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric. Among the companies represented on the council are Xerox, American Express, DuPont, Southwest Airlines, Procter & Gamble, Boeing, Intel, Citigroup, Comcast and UBS.

Two union leaders, Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Joseph T. Hansen of the United Food and Commercial Workers, also were appointed. So reactionary and pro-corporate was the report that the two union executives had to issue a public dissent in an effort to cover up their collaboration. This “opposition” is of course combined with all-out support for the Obama administration, which commissioned the report and now will implement its recommendations.

The “Road Map to Renewal” issued by the council details proposals for education, job training, tax credits and tax cuts for specific groups of corporations, and deregulation of business, many of which were incorporated into Obama’s State of the Union Address.

I will not vote for Barack Obama. I think it's clear that I could vote for Mitt Romney. (Again, he was my state's governor. I do know a bit about him.) (I did not vote for him for governor.)

Could I vote for other Republicans? I could vote for Ron Paul (and would so so gladly).

I'm not sure about Newt and it's a no on Rick Santorum who cries too much in public and who gets too emotional when talking about same-sex sex.

I could vote for Cynthia McKinney with great enthusiasm.

I have no problem considering a Green or third party or independent candidate.

I can also see just not voting in the presidential race.

But I won't vote for Barack or be scared into voting for him.

I'm sorry, I was raised to respect the Constitution. His drone wars, his illegal war on Libya (violation of the War Powers Act), his decision that he can assassinate any American, etc.

All of this is more than a "policy disagreement." We disagree on ObamaCare. He loves it and I see it as a give-away of the American people to the corporations. (I favor single-payer, universal health care. What Barack's done is take national what Mitt did in my state. It does not work. I know that first hand.) But that's a policy disagreement.

My issues with Barack go to the Constitution, the rule of law, the right to a jury of your peers, war and much more. I will not reward his illegal conduct by voting for him. It goes against everything I believe in.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Monday:

Monday, January 30, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, glee in the empire over the hydrocarbons law, at least 18 Sahwa have been killed since December 19th, the drones over Iraq, Iraqi Christians are worse off due to the war according to a US clergy member, AP reports negotiations with Iraq on US troops will continue, Iraqiya ends their boycott of Parliament, and more.
Though US President Barack Obama has repeatedy attempted to portay the Iraq War as a success, reality has refused to play along. David Kerr (Catholic News Agency) reports today, "U.S. Military Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio says the collapse of Iraq's Christian population is among the legacies of America's invasion in 2003." He is quoted stating, "Yes, you can say in a certain sense that the invasion of Iraq did provoke this tremendous diminution of the Christian population in that country." Catholic Culture quotes him stating, "Before they were a minority that was protected but now they are a minority that is not protected." Meanwhile Mohammed Tawfeeq and Frederik Pleitgen (CNN) report Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is calling out Barack's description of Iraq as "free, stable and democratic," asking, "What sort of Iraq are we talking about? How the Americans will feel proud? How the American administration is going to justify to the taxpayer the billions of dollars that has been spent and at the end of the day the American saying, 'Sorry, we have no leverage even to put things in order in Iraq'?" In addition, Al Sturgeon (Sioux City Journal) weighs in with his opinion on whether the Iraq War was "'worth it?' Unless you can check reasoning and logic at the door, the answer seems to be a resounding 'no.'" Actress Kim Schultz wrote the play No Place Called Home to draw attention to the Iraqi refugee crisis. At Policy Mic, she points out:
Over 4 million Iraqis have been displaced since the 2003 invasion, a war that would not have taken place without the Bush administration's violent overreaction to 9/11. That's 4 million people; about 1 in 5 Iraqi citizens have been displaced. After travelling across the country to perform my play, I've learned that most Americans don't know this. And at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the invasion. 100,000. These are big numbers.
Almost 3,000 innocent Americans died on 9/11, a tremendous loss. Yet the carnage in Iraq is far greater, and the 100,000+ innocent lives lost in Iraq in the wake of our invasion get scant attention, if any. These people were real mothers, sons, and daughters. What day commemorates the Iraqi father shot on the street? Or the kidnapped and beheaded uncle? Or the murdered Iraqi child?
Most Americans don't know these numbers or the stories behind the numbers, because it doesn't fit the narrative we tell ourselves about our war of "liberation," or what the news media told us about Iraq.
Last week, Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) was reporting on something troubling western rulers, "The political crisis engulfing Iraq's power-sharing government threatens to further dealy a landmark draft of its long-delayed oil law -- five years after the first version was submitted to parliament. [. . .] The first hydrocarbon draft law was agreed by Iraq's diverse political blocs in 2007, but it's approval has been held back by infighting among Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish political groups, worrying investors seeking more guarantees for the industry." The war that was about oil couldn't let the hydrocarbons law remain in a state of limbo. CNN reports: US Vice President Joe Biden spoke today with Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and spoke on Friday with Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi:

"The two Iraqi leaders described deliberations under way among all Iraqi political factions and parties in the run-up to a proposed national conference led by President Jalal Talabani," the White House statement said. "The vice president discussed with both leaders the importance of resolving outstanding issues through the political process. The vice president and Iraqi leaders agreed to stay in close touch as events unfold."

In addition the White House, the Iraqi Parliament also released a statement. KUNA reports, "A statement by the parliament said Biden and Al-Nujaifi, who is a member in the Iraqiya List, discussed ways of narrowing the gaps between the parties to end the political conflict. They also discussed the national conference that would bring about participation of political forces to discuss the political process."
After much intervention from the US, Al Rafidayn reports Iraqiya spokesperson Maysoon al-Damluji announced Iraqiya was ending their boycott of Parliament. The paper notes deep divisions continue between the various blocs. Unlike the New York Times' sad report, Al Rafidayn does note the Erbil Agreement and the failure (by Nouri) to implement it. Aswat al Iraq adds, "The Chairman of Iraq's al-Ahrar (Liberals) Bloc, Bahaa al-Aaraji, has highly assessed the decision of al-Iraqiya Bloc, led by former Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, to resume attending the Iraqi Parliament's sessions and its acceptance of its call, calling on the Bloc to end its boycott to attend the sessions of the Council of Ministers as well." Al Mada reports that Iraqiya made its decision following a three hour meeting of various Iraqiya members. They are seeing their return to Parliament as a gesture of goodwill and state that the political crisis ends only by returning to the Erbil Agreement and releasing the innocnets who have been arrested while resolving the issues regarding Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq. Nouri has issued an arrest warrant for the vice president on charges of 'terrorism.' He's also demanded that al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post. Both al-Hashemi and and al-Mutlaq are members of Iraqiya which bested Nouri's State of Law in the March 2010 elections. At the US State Dept today, spokesperson Victoria Nuland declared (link is text with video option):
Well, first of all, we are encouraged by the decision of the Iraqiya bloc to end their boycott and to return to work at the Council of Representatives and also by the statements of other key blocs inside Iraq welcoming that decision. We're also encouraged that President Talabani has pledged to lead a process that's going to prepare a national conference that's going to focus on a political solution that protects the interests of all Iraqis within their constitution.
Our understanding is that the consultations leading to that conference are still ongoing. I think we've said here and elsewhere that we have been active, whether it's at the level of Vice President Biden, Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Jeffrey, in encouraging all of the Iraqi leaders to participate in this dialogue. We've been talking to all of them about their interest in preserving a unified Iraq and protecting their hard-fought constitution.
Alsumaria TV notes that only the boycott of Parliament has been ended and nothing has been said about the boycott of the Council of Ministers. But, of course, the Cabinet was no longer involved in the hydrocarbon process. Making that clear is Reuters report today that, "After five years in the making, Iraq's parliament could have a first reading of a landmark oil law by early February, a senior Iraqi energy official said on Monday."
RTT adds, "The development comes amid a Shia-Sunni power struggle triggered by a warrant issued for the arrest of Sunni Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi on terror charges. Hashemi is a senior leader of the Iraqiya bloc headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi." CNN has a video interview with al-Hashemi.
Tareq al-Hashemi: This case is politically motivated from the beginning. [. . .] For the prime minister to be chief in command [commander in chief], Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior and the Chief of Intelligence and the Chief of National Security, what else you could do that? My country, in fact, because of this unbelievable power consolidation that we are heading back to restore the same regime that prevailed before 2003.
Dar Addustour reports State of Law MP Nahida Daini is defending Nouri's failure to name a Minister of Defense by stating Nouri has left the post vacant because he is afraid of a coup. If you were afraid of a coup, you might actually fill the security ministries (Interior, Defense and National Security) but instead Nouri has left them vacant (despite the Constitutional requirement that a Cabinet be named in 30 days for someone to become prime minister). He's left them vacant for a year and a month. Soon to be a year and two months. Because, Daini insists with an apparent straight face, Nouri fears a coup. Daini does admit that the Erbil Agreement has been ignored.
The excitement over the oil law possibly coming to a vote may cause many outlets to ignore the targeting of al-Hashemi as well as the plight of 2 Iraqi women. Amnesty issued the following:
Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to reveal the whereabouts of two women arrested earlier this month, apparently for their connection to the country's vice-president.
Rasha Nameer Jaafer al-Hussain and Bassima Saleem Kiryakos were arrested by security forces at their homes on 1 January. Both women work in the media team of Iraqi Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi, who is wanted by the Iraqi authorities on terrorism-related charges.
Al-Hashimi has denied the charges, saying the accusations are politically motivated.
"The arrest of the two women appears to be part of a wider move targeting individuals connected to Tareq al-Hashemi," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa.
"The Iraqi authorities must immediately disclose the whereabouts of Rasha al-Hussain and Bassima Kiryakos. At the very minimum they should have immediate access to their family and a lawyer.
"The circumstances of their arrest and their incommunicado detention when we know that torture is rife in Iraq can only raise the greatest fears for their safety," she said.
Security forces detained the two women without arrest warrants, informing the women's families that they were being taken away for questioning, without explanation.
Bassima Kiryakos called her husband on 20 January and informed him she was to be released the following day but neither woman has been heard from since.
Bassima Kiryakos was previously arrested and beaten in December but released without charge after three days in detention.
The two women worked for Vice-President Tareq al-Hashimi,who is accused of ordering his bodyguards to commit acts of terrorism.
"It is up to the authorities to provide convincing evidence that the two women have committed a crime. Otherwise they should be immediately released," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
A warrant for Tareq al-Hashimi's arrest was issued on 19 December shortly after his Sunni-backed al-Iraqiya party announced it would boycott Parliament, accusing Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's government of being sectarian.
Al-Hashimi is currently in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, a semi-autonomous area controlled by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
In December, state run TV channel Al-Iraqiya broadcast "confessions" by men said to be al-Hashemi's bodyguards saying that they had killed police officers and officials from ministries in exchange for payoffs from al-Hashemi.
This was followed by a wave of arrests of Sunni politicians.
On 19 January, the Iraqi authorities reported they had arrested Ghadban al-Khazraji, the deputy governor in charge of investment in Diyala province and a member of the Islamic Iraqi party. Several of al-Khazraji's bodyguards were also arrested.
In the last few years, hundreds of detainees have been shown on the Al-Iraqiyqa channel making "confessions" admitting responsibility for various terrorism related offences.
These confessions have invariably been extracted under torture and other ill-treatment. Many people were convicted by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq on the basis of these confessions.
While not bothering to cover this, the New York Times also misdirects on drones in Iraq this morning but are we surprised that the paper would intentionally get that wrong? Does any US paper have closer ties to the CIA? No. And the CIA and the FBI operate in Iraq. Strangely Ted Koppel can tell you that while the New York Times refuses to do so. Which is not to say the State Dept isn't operating drones in Iraq. They are. We covered that (an dobjected to it) when it was presented as wonderful to Congress. In addition, Turkey gave space on the Iraq border to the CIA for a base and they are supposed to receive drones in exchange for providing the land for the base. Iraq, which cannot patrol its own skies due to training and a lack of planes, has many drones flying over it. And that may be why Iraqis are objecting and noticing the drones especially. The State Dept indicaes to the paper that it is them but that's what the State Dept would do if it were FBI or CIA drones. Mark Thompson (Time magazine) sums it up best, "Somehow, the State Department has been able to shoot itself in the foot with an unarmed drone." At the US State Dept today, spokesperson Victoria Nuland took questions and offered statements on the use of drones in Iraq.
MS. NULAND: Okay. Let me tell you what I can on this situation. First of all, let me say that the State Department has always used a wide variety of security tools and techniques and procedures to ensure the safety of our personnel and our facilities. We do have an unmanned aerial vehicle program used by the State Department. These are tiny little things. They are not armed. They are not capable of being armed. And what they are designed to do is help give us pictures over our facilities to help in their protection. The operation of this program is extremely limited in scope. It is only going to even be considered in critical threat environments. I'm not going to get into the where for obvious reasons. We don't get into our precise security posture anywhere around the world. So I'm not going to divulge details. But just to repeat, we are talking about very limited use in critical threat areas of tiny, little, unarmed, unmanned aircraft which cannot shoot anything. They only take pictures to help us with embassy personnel and facility security.
QUESTION: How big is a tiny, little thing?
MS. NULAND: I haven't seen them, but I've seen pictures of people holding them.
QUESTION: Are we talking about, like, mosquitoes?
MS. NULAND: No, we're talking about like the size of --
QUESTION: That's not tiny.
MS. NULAND: -- my podium. Yeah, like that. Like that.
QUESTION: But when you said they are used to give us pictures over our facilities, is that – is it the case that they are only used over U.S. facilities? Or do they also get used, for example, when U.S. officials may travel?
MS. NULAND: They can be used to protect facilities and personnel, personnel who are moving.
QUESTION: So not just over U.S. facilities?
MS. NULAND: They can be used over the facilities or to track personnel who are moving, yes.
QUESTION: Not in the facilities, though, right, who are moving?
MS. NULAND: They can't see inside walls. No, they cannot. No, they don't have --
QUESTION: No. But I -- it goes to my next -- no, but my next question is sort of directly relevant. Either countries that are sovereign -- and some of us remember the sort of great enthusiasm with which a former administration talked about how Iraq had regained its sovereignty after the U.S. invasion -- either a country that is sovereign has control of its airspace or it doesn't. And so if you are letting these things not fly just over your embassy or your facilities, as you suggested, but in fact, they can roam elsewhere in the country, do you have any agreement or authorization from the Iraqi or from any government in the world to do that, to essentially give you access to their airspace?
MS. NULAND: Well, let me just make a general statement in response to that, Arshad, and I think you will understand that, again, to protect operational security I'm not going to get into details. But we, the State Department, always work closely with host governments on the physical protection of our facilities and our personnel, and this was part and parcel of that.
QUESTION: But you can work closely with somebody and still not have their explicit agreement for you to use their airspace, correct?
MS. NULAND: Suffice to say that this is part and parcel of a larger security program where it is necessary and we do work closely with host governments.
QUESTION: Well, in each instance, and I'm not asking you where these are used and I understand you don't want to talk about exactly where they're used, but in each instance when they are used, do you obtain the agreement of the host country for use of their airspace?
MS. NULAND: In the context of our larger security posture, we always work with host governments.
QUESTION: That's not a yes. I mean, you can work with them. It doesn't mean you've gotten their permission.
MS. NULAND: We are talking about something that started as a pilot program, something that is now being bid out and looked at for broader use. So some of the questions that you are probing for are premature; but in the context of our general consultations with governments on security, those are ongoing and we always consult with hosts.
QUESTION: Does the -- consultation is a very different thing from obtaining their permission.
MS. NULAND: I understand. I don't have anything further on your precise question.
QUESTION: Last one on this for me, if I may.
QUESTION: What -- does the U.S. Government permit any foreign country to use unmanned aerial vehicles over -- in its airspace?
MS. NULAND: To my knowledge, Arshad, we have never received such a request from a foreign country.

Nuland would go on to deny any knowledge that the drones were resulting in any anger on the part of Iraqis.

Last Friday, a US helicopter went down in Baghdad (emergency landing) and a second US helicopter instantly landed and took away the people in the first helicopter. The helicopter incident is important to Iraqis. Dar Addustour notes that Parliament's Security and Defense Committee will be addressing the issue this week and they see it as a clear violation of the Strategic Framework Agreement that the US currently operates in Iraq under. So the sick and addictive relationship between the two countries leaders continues.

If I lay my head down on you, would it be, would it be too late?
'Cause I can't blame you, baby, it's me that done wrong
'Cause I broke the skies that shine above
But I can't live, oh, without you, love you,
And it's hard to breathe when you're not near
But I can't lie here beside you, beside you
'Cause you steal my soul when you leave
Set me free, baby, set me free
-- "Free," written by Jamie Scott and Tommy D, appears on Grafitti6's just released Colours
(Disclosure, I just plugged a friend's band and while I will make nothing off the sale of the albums and singles, I do have a charity bet with a friend in London on how big Graffiti6 will be this year in the US. If I win, he donates a sum to Amnesty International, if he wins, I donate to the Actors Benevolent Fund. Stream the "Free" video and I think you'll agree Jamie Scott should make a big impression here in the US -- for his singing, for his songwriting and, yes, for his looks.)
Dar Addustour also notes that a spokesperson for Nouri's Cabinet has announced there are approximatey 50,000 Sahwa ("Awakenings," "Sons Of Iraq") and that they are mainly in 9 provinces and that they wil move to dispense with them despite calls by military commanders to keep them. Sahwa's been targeted for some time but they've especially been targeted since December 18th. From the 19th of December to today, there have been at least 20 reported attacks targeting Sahwa and 18 have been killed with eight more left injured (if you include family members of Sahwa, the number killed and wounded increases). Before the announcement today, Dan Morse (Washington Post) had reported on the difficulties Sahwa face in finding government jobs. If Nouri's plan to dispense with them is carried out, finding employment will probably continue to be a huge problem for Sahwa. Susan Ryan (The Journal) notes AKE's John Drake has compiled figures which see Iraq averageing "56 violent attacks a week" for 2011. Reuters notes today's violence includes a Wajihiya bombing targeting a police officer's home left one person injured, a Baquba bombing targeted a court official (no one was killed or injured), a Baquba roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more injured, a Baquba suicide car bombing claimed the lives of 3 police officers with three more people left injured, 1 police officer and his father were shot dead in a Mosul drive-by shooting, 1 government worker was shot dead in Mosul, 1 suspect was killed and an Iraqi soldier injured in Mosul, a Rabia clash left 1 person dead and one Iraqi soldier injured, a Baquba roadside bombing injured on Iraqi soldier and a Basra grenade attack left 1 police officer dead and another injured.

Robert Burns (AP) reports this morning Michele Flournoy, outgoing Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, explained to reporters that talks will be kicking off shortly between the US and Iraq -- part of the reason the White House strong-armed Ayad Allawi on Friday and over the weekend -- and "to start thinking about how they [Iraqis] want to work with" US troops. Which is completely expected despite the failure of press outlets to pay attention in November. See the November 15th "Iraq snapshot," November 16th "Iraq snapshot," November 17th "Iraq snapshot," Ava's "Scott Brown questions Panetta and Dempsey (Ava)," Wally's "The costs (Wally)," Kat's "Who wanted what?" and Third's "Enduring bases, staging platforms, continued war" and "Gen Dempsey talks "10 enduring" US bases in Iraq." One key exchange.

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: Senator, as I pointed out in my testimony, what we seek with Iraq is a normal relationship now and that does involve continuing negotiations with them as to what their needs are. Uh, and I believe there will be continuing negotations. We're in negotiations now with regards to the size of the security office that will be there and so there will be -- There aren't zero troops that are going to be there. We'll have, you know, hundreds that will be present by virtue of that office assuming we can work out an agreement there. But I think that once we've completed the implementation of the security agreement that there will begin a series of negotiations about what exactly are additional areas where we can be of assistance? What level of trainers do they need? What can we do with regards to CT [Counter-Terrorism] operations? What will we do on exercises -- joint-exercises -- that work together?

Senator Joe Lieberman: Right.
Secretary Leon Panetta: We -- we have these kind of relationships with other countries in the region and that's what we're going to continue to pursue with Iraq.
Senator Joe Lieberman: And in fact, just using the term that both of you have used, that would be a normal relationship. A normal relationship would not exlcude the presence of some American military in Iraq, correct?
Secretary Leon Panetta: That's correct.
Senator Joe Lieberman: So what I hear you saying, assuming that this question of immunities can be overcome, do you, Mr. Secretary, personally believe that it's in the interests of the US to have some military presence in Iraq as part of an agreement with the Iraqis?
Secretary Leon Panetta: I believe -- I believe there are areas where we can provide important assistance to the Iraqis but again I would stress to you, Senator Lieberman, I know that you have been there that in order for this to happen we've got to be able to have them basically say, 'These are our needs, this is what we want, these are the missions that we want accomplished.' And then we can assist them in saying we can provide this in order to accomplish those missions. It's got to be a two-way street.
Still in the US, reminder, the first ever Burn Pit Symposium takes place next month.

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deplyoment to Iraq & Afghanistan
February 13, 2012

sponsored by
Office of Continuing Medical Education
School of Medicine
Stony Brook University

Health Sciences Center, Level 3, Lecture Hall 5
Anthony M. Szema, M.D., Program Chair
Stony Brook
Medical Center

This program is made possible by support from the
Sergeant Thomas Joseph Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.


* Register with your credit card online at:

* Download the registration form from:
fax form to (631) 638-1211

For Information Email:

1st Annual Scientific Symposium on
Lung Health after Deployment to Iraq & Afghanistan
Monday, February 13, 2012
Health Sciences Center
Level 3, Lecture Hall 5

Program Objective: Upon completion, participants should be able to recognize new-onset of lung disease after deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

8:00 - 9:00 a.m. Registration & Continental Breakfast (Honored Guest, Congressman
Tim Bishop

9:00 - 9:30 Peter Sullivan, J.D., Father of Marine from The Sergeant Thomas Joseph
Sullivan Center, Washington, D.C.

9:40 - 10:10 Overview of Exposures in Iraq, Anthony Szema, M.D., (Assistant
Professor of Medicine and Surgery, Stony Brook University)

10:10 - 10:40 Constrictive Bronchiolitis among Soldiers after Deployment, Matt
King, M.D. (Assistant Professor of Medicine, Meharry Medical College,
Nashville, TN)

10:40 - 11:10 BREAK

11:10 - 11:40 Denver Working Group Recommendations and Spirometry Study in
Iraq/Afghanistan, Richard Meehan, M.D., (Chief of Rheumatology and
Professor of Medicine, National Jewish Health, Denver, CO)

11:40 a.m. - Microbiological Analyses of Dust from Iraq and Afghanistan, Captain Mark

12:10 p.m. Lyles, D.M.D., Ph. D., (Vice Admiral Joel T. Boone Endowed Chair of
Health and Security Studies, U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI)

12:10 - 12:20 Health Care Resource Utilization among Deployed Veterans at the White
River Junction VA, James Geiling, M.D., (Professor and Chief of Medicine,
Dartmouth Medical School, VA White River Junction, VT)

Graduate students Millicent Schmidt and Andrea Harrington (Stony Brook
University) present Posters from Lung Studies Analyzed for Spatial
Resolution of Metals at Brookhaven National Laboratory's National
Synchrotron Light Source

1:20 - 1:40 Epidemiologic Survey Instrument on Exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan,
Joseph Abraham, Sc.D., Ph.D., (U.S. Army Public Health Command,
Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD)

1:40 - 2:10 Overview of the Issue Raised during Roundtable on Pulmonary Issues
and Deployment, Coleen Baird, M.D., M.P.H., (Program Manager
Environmental Medicine, U.S. Army Public Health Command)

2:10 - 2: 40 Reactive Oxygen Species from Iraqi Dust, Martin Schoonen, Ph.D.
(Director Sustainability Studies and Professor of Geochemistry, Stony
Brook University)

2:40 - 2:50 BREAK

2:50 - 3:15 Dust Wind Tunnel Studies, Terrence Sobecki, Ph.D. (Chief Environmental
Studies Branch, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research
and Engineering Laboratory, Manchester, NH)

3:15 - 3:45 Toxicologically Relevant Characteristics of Desert Dust and Other
Atmospheric Particulate Matter, Geoffrey S. Plumlee, Ph.D. (Research
Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

3:44 - 4:15 In-situ Mineralogy of the Lung and Lymph Nodes, Gregory Meeker, M.S.
(Research Geochemist, U.S. Geological Survey, Denver, CO)

Continuing Medical Education Credits

The school of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brook, is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians.
The School of Medicine, State University of New York at Stony Brooke designates this live activity for a maximum of 6 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)TM. Physicians should only claim the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Rice Casserole in the Kitchen

Lisa wants a rice recipe "using cheese. Anything with it is fine but I've got, yes, government cheese and a lot of it. I'm also on a tight budget so I'll be using rice."

Okay. You could cook rice and, while it's still hot, transfer it to a bowl and stir some cheese in -- the hot rice would melt the cheese and you'd have 'cheesy rice.'

But to give it at least some sort of vitamins, also consider this recipe.

Cook rice (about 3 cups) and set aside.

Melt one teaspoon of butter or butter substitute in a skillet. Add 1 can of crushed tomatoes (15 ounces) and one can of corn. Cook, stirring, for three minutes. Add rice. Stir for three minutes. Then transfer to a casserole dish.

Preheat oven to 375. Add 1 envelope of onion soup mix to the casserole dish, add a 1/2 cup of water (hot from the tap). Stir. Add cheese to rice (you can save a small amount to top the casserole, if you'd like). Pop in the oven for 3o minutes. It's done. (If you're adding a small amount of cheese to the casserole, pull it out after 25 minutes, add cheese to the top and pop back in for 5 more minutes.) If you're not big on corn (Lisa is), substitute an 8 ounce can of mushrooms.

Now let's talk ObamaCare. I am for universal, single-payer health care. That's not ObamaCare. ObamaCare takes an option we had (to purchase insurance) and makes it a law that we purchase it. It was a give-away to the corporations, a give-away of citizens. I don't support ObamaCare. I didn't support it when it was RomenyCare. It didn't work in my state. I'll come back to RomneyCare in just a minute but first, this is from Jennifer Haberkorn's POLITICO piece:

The Obama administration on Friday told the Supreme Court that if the justices rule that the health reform law’s mandate is unconstitutional, they don’t need to get rid of the entire law.

Only two provisions — those requiring insurers to accept everyone regardless of health status and to apply “community rates” — must go if the mandate is knocked down, Justice Department lawyers wrote in a brief to the court.

Notice, that the Justice Dept is allowing ObamaCare may be illegal. Also notice that when they fear it will be knocked down, who do they rush to rescue? The inusrance companies. Not the people. But ObamaCare was never about the people.

Mitt Romney and RomneyCare. I hate RomneyCare. It's a failure.

Mitt was my governor. I have no need to pretty up what he did with RomneyCare. I didn't vote for him. But I will also add that some of the attacks from Democratic Party operatives with, for example, The Nation or Democracy Now? They're liars. Don't believe their garbage.

Mitt was not the devil. Mitt was an okay governor. I don't plan voting for him for president but if he should win and if he's a president in the way he was a governor, a lot of this screaming and fretting is really stupid. He's to the right of me but he's not a monster.

Amy Goodman and those liars need to make him a liar. If they don't, then they have nothing to offer the Democratic Party.

But he's not a monster by any means. He's also not creepy or anything else people might say. If he became president, I would oppose about 80% of the things he did but I would not be living in fear every day because he's a madman!!!! He's not. And, repeating, anyone telling you that is a liar.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:

Friday, January 27, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, a Baghdad funeral is targeted with a bombing, the media keeps undercounting the dead in Iraq since December 18th, new conditions of a national confrence in Iraq, and more.
Today in Baghdad, a funeral procession was attacked by a suicide bomber. Mohammed Tawfeeq and Joe Sterling (CNN) quote Hamit Dardagan, Iraq Body Count, stating, "The situation is worsening. Sectarian politics in Iraq in Iraq is setting the stage for armed conflict."
Throughout the Iraq War, there have been non-stop waves of Operation Happy Talk. Efforts which have consistently failed leaving the US official who produced the spin looking like an idiot. Reality will always slap you in the face, when it comes to Iraq. That is the lesson of every year of the Iraq War and occupation. As Iraq's former Ambassador to the UN Feisal Istrabadi explained December 13th to Warren Oleny on KCRW's To the Point:

The critical mistake the Obama administration made occurred last year when it threw its entire diplomatic weight behind supporting Nouri al-Maliki notwithstanding these very worrisome signs which were already in place in 2009 and 2010. The administration lobbied hard both internally in Iraq and throughout the region to have Nouri al-Maliki get a second term -- which he has done. Right now, the betting there's some question among Iraq experts whether we'll ever have a set of elections in Iraq worthy of the name. I mean, you can almost get odds, a la Las Vegas, on that among Iraq experts. It's a very worrisome thing. What can they do in the future? Well I suppose it would be helpful, it would be useful, if we stopped hearing this sort of Happy Talk coming from the administration -- whether its Jim Jeffrey in Baghdad, the US Ambassador or whether it's the president himself or other cabinet officers. We're getting a lot of Happy Talk, we're getting a lot of Happy Talk from the Pentagon about how professional the Iraqi Army is when, in fact, the Iraqi Army Chief of Staff himself has said it's going to take another ten years before the Iraqi Army can secure the borders. So it would help, at least, if we would stop hearing this sort of Pollyanna-ish -- if that's a word -- exclamations from the administration about how swimmingly things are going in Iraq and had a little more truth told in public, that would be a very big help to begin with.
"We're getting a lot of Happy Talk," Istrabadi noted. And it's not helpful no matter what US official it comes from -- whether its James "Jeffrey in Baghdad, the US Ambassador, or whether it's the president himself or other cabinet officers." And it was the US Ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, who got slapped upside the face by reality today due to insisting, in an interview Gulf News published yesterday, that the political crisis had nothing to do with the current wave of violence, "These attacks are not a result of the political crisis as they are planned months in advance; they are very carefully put together by Al Qaida." Operation Happy Talk is just one of the many things Barack's administration has continued from the Bush administration. It was laughable during the previous administration, it's just pathetic now. Nine years of continuous lies from the government and Jeffrey is supposed to be the face of the United States in Iraq.

(If you're confused, the attack on today's funeral procession was not "planned months in advance." Nor is most of the violence.)

Adrian Blomfield (Telegraph of London) reports, "A suicide bomber killed at least 32 people on Friday by driving an explosives-laden vehicle into a Shia Muslim funeral procession in Baghdad, heightening fears that Iraq is in the grips of sectarian conflict." KUNA notes, "The car exploded on Markaz street, targeting a funeral of a man who was killed in Al-Yarmouk district on Thursday, a police source said." Kareem Raheem, Patrick Markey and Myra MacDonald (Reuters) quote an unnamed Baghdad security official stating, "The suicide car bomber failed to arrive at the Zaafaraniya police station so he blew himself up close to shops and the market." The Daily Mirror notes, "Half of the victims were policemen guarding the march". Raheem Salman and Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angeles Times) add, "Among those killed Friday, witnesses reported, was a woman who sold fish from a cart at the intersection. Rescuers put the woman's corpse in her cart and took the remains to the hospital, a witness said."

Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Authorities believe Col. Norman Dakhil may have been the target of the bomber. Dahkil and his family were in the procession making their way to the hospital to collect bodies of three relatives, including his brother, when the bomb exploded, police said." Ali A. Nabhan and Munaf Ammar (Wall St. Journal) add, "The suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into the crowd, which included the pallbearers at a funeral for an Iraqi army commander's brother, who was assassinated along with three others on Thursday, according to a Ministry of Interior official." Sebastian Usher (BBC News) was on the NPR hourly news break this morning stating that many details were not clear at this time and that the funeral was for a real estate agent. Al Bawaba notes, "The funeral was held for an Iraqi man, his wife and son who were killed yesterday in the predominantly Sunni Yarmouk district of the capital." Al Rafidayn identifies the realtor as Mohammed al-Maliki (they do not give the names of his wife and son who were also buried after being killed last night "by gunmen." Salam Faraj (AFP) provides this view of the attack, "Helicopters flew overhead as a heavy security presence cordoned off the site of the explosion, while distraught witnesses screamed in anguish, surrounded by the remains of the dead, their clothes and shoes, and chunks of twisted metal. Outside the hospital, groups of men called out names, searching for missing relatives." Bushra Juhi (AP) notes that the death toll has risen to 32 (per hospital officials) and quote grocer Salam Hussein describing "human flesh scattered around and several mutilated bodies in a pool of blood." Lu Hui (Xinhua) reports hospital sources state the toll might rise, "Many of the injured are in serious condition, which could make the death toll higher, said the official. "
Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) states, "The attack Friday was the deadliest in a month and came as part of a wave of attacks that has left more than 200 people dead since US forces withdrew on Dec. 18, reports Al Jazeera." Doesn't that seem like an undercount? It is one. All this week that claim's been made. So let's take a look at it because, on its face, it doesn't seem correct (because it's not). We're referring to the violence covered by the press and noted in the snapshots. We'll start with December 19th but only reported violence from the 19th (on December 19th, the press was also reporting violence from the night of December 18th, we're leaving that out of the count). In addition, we're ignoring the Turkish bombing on the border of Iraq that left 5 dead -- that's not in the count. We're focusing on the dead in Iraq from violence (other than Turkish war plane bombings) and in parenthesis is the number injured, FYI. Also 'credited' for the "more than 200"? The Los Angeles Times today credits AFP for that (false) figure.
December 19th, 2 were reported dead (5). December 20th, 0 were reported dead (0). December 21st, 3 were reported dead (4). December 22nd, 75 were reported dead (213). December 23rd, 0 were reported dead (0). December 24th, 5 were reported dead (5). December 25th, 3 were reported dead (12). December 26th, 8 were reported dead (37). December 27th, 2 were reported dead (1). December 28th, 2 were reported dead (15). December 29th, 0 were reported dead (0). December 30th, 0 were reported dead (0). December 31st, 0 were reported dead (0). January 1st, 9 were reported dead (21). January 2nd, 0 were reported dead (3). January 3rd, 3 were reported dead (13). January 4th, 9 were reported dead (17). January 5th, 75 were reported dead (80). January 6th, 3 were reported dead (20). January 7th, 7 were reported dead (25). January 8th, 3 were reported dead (20). January 9th, 20 were reported dead (59). January 10th, 12 were reported dead (3). January 11th, 6 were reported dead (14). January 12th, 6 were reported dead (25). January 13th, 6 were reported dead (32). January 14th, 53 were reported dead (157). January 15th, 21 were reported dead (0). January 16th, 0 were reported dead (0). January 17th, 10 were reported dead (5). January 18th, 6 were reported dead (5). January 19th, 4 were reported dead (8). January 20th, 6 were reported dead (5). January 21st, 7 were reported dead (1). January 22nd, 7 were reported dead (6). January 23rd, 2 were reported dead (5). January 24th, 20 were reported dead (86). January 25th, 1 was reported dead (1). January 26th, 14 were reported dead (8).
So what did we get? Check my math (always). 391 is the number killed from December 19th through yesterday's reporting cycle. Now add in today's death totals and you get over 400. Yes, 400 is "more than 200," in fact, it's twice 200. And calling over 400 dead "more than 200 dead" is leaving a false impression with your reader. Please note, those aren't all the deaths, those are just the deaths that we noted from press reports (meaning I may have missed some deaths) and, in addition, all violent deaths do not get reported on in Iraq. And calling over 400 deaths only "more than 200" is cutting the truth in half.
Violence didn't end with the bomb attack on the funeral. Barbara Surk (AP) reports, "Minutes after the explosion, gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint in Zafaraniyah, killing two police officers, according to police officials." In addition, Reuters notes 1 electrician was shot dead in Mosul and 1 Iraqi soldier and 1 civil servant in Mosul.
Prensa Latina explains, "The current escalation of violence is associated with political frictions between the government, led by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. Al-Maliki issue[d] a warrant for the arrest of al-Hashemi, who is under protection of Iraqi Kurdistan, for alleged terrorist acts in 2009, and also . . . . [is attempting] to make the Parliament withdraw its vote of confidence on Sunni Deputy Prime Minster Saleh Al-Mutlaq." Middle East Online adds, "The United States and United Nations have urged calm and called for dialogue but oft-mooted talks involving Iraq's political leaders have yet to take place."
The only hope for resolving the political crisis was said to be the national conference that President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for since the end of December. Last week, things appeared promising for a national conference at least being held. One planning meet-up had taken place and another was scheduled for Sunday January 22nd; however, last Sunday's meet-up (which was hoped to be the final planning session) was postponed due to Talabani having to fly to Germany for spinal surgery. Since then, Nouri and his State of Law have insisted that if anything take place, it not be called a "national conference" and that participants be limited to Nouri, Talabani, al-Nujaifi and the leader of blocs in Parliament. Al Rafidayn reports that Moqtada al-Sadr has declared he will not participate and that he can't be forced to. Whether this means no one from his bloc will participate or not isn't clear. Dar Addustour also covers al-Sadr's statements which he issued online in reply to a question from one of his followers. Al Mada quotes Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh talking down the national conference and stating that it will be a failure if it raises the issue of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. (Nouri wants him tried for treason; he wants Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq stripped of his post. al-Hashemi and al-Mutlaq are members of Iraqiya which bested State of Law in the March 2010 elections.) The report also notes that State of Law's push to replace Saleh al-Mutlaq with former Speaker of Parliament Mahmoud al-Mashhadani does not have the full support of the National Alliance (a Shi'ite coalition made up of many actors including the Sadr bloc and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq).

The political crisis has many roots but at the heart is the failure to follow the agreement that ended the eight month political stalemate which followed the March 2010 elections. Nouri refused to allow anyone else to be prime minister. During this time, Iraqiya should have been allowed to build a coalition but Nouri blocked it. During this time, Moqtada al-Sadr and others were vocal that they didn't want Nouri to be prime minister. But he had the backing of the White House so the will of the Iraqi voters and the Constitution didn't matter. To get the country moving forward, all political blocs except State of Law made major concessions in the US brokered Erbil Agreement of November 2010. It allowed Nouri to continue as prime minister. It was supposed to mean a number of other things but after Nouri was named prime minister-designate, he trashed the agreement and refused to honor it.

Some online sycophants of Nouri al-Maliki, worshipers of authoritarianism, insist that the agreement must be trashed, that it's "unconstitutional." The aspect that's against the Constitution, the only aspect, is the section that made Nouri prime minister. Not surprisingly, the self-styled 'analysts' never object to that or suggest that section was unconstitutional. Yet they expect to be taken seriously as analysts and honest brokers. Only in your all male circle jerk, boyz, only there.

Al Mada notes that a spokesperson for KRG Prime Minister Barham Salih that the Erbil Agreement must be part of the national conference and that it must be followed. The Kurdish blocs have been calling for that for months.

In other news of announcements, Al Mada notes that the Badr Brigade (Shi'ite militia) has declared that there are still people who need to be targeted in Iraq, foreigners and embassies, and has called on the Promised Day Brigade, the League of Righteous and the Hezbollah Brigades not to lay down their arms but to stand with the Badr Brigade agasint the foreign countries with embassies in Iraq. The Turkish Embassy in Baghdad was attacked last week. The United States has the largest embassy in Baghdad (it's a compound) as well as consulates throughout Iraq. Kuwait is specifically mentioned in the article. In addition, many other countries -- including France, England, Australia and Russia -- have embassies in Iraq and many foreign dignitaries visit.

In another sign of risks, Alsumaria reports that a US helicopter was forced to make "an emergency landing this morning" and that "another US helicopter landed and evacuated it.

On diplomacy, the White House received a visitor this week according to Al Mada but there's no release on it from the White House. Al Mada reports that Iraq's new envoy to the US, Ambassador Jaber Habib Jaber, spoke with Barack and that Barack was full of praise for Nouri and "convinced" that Iraq would resolve the political crisis.
While Barack downplays the crisis, at least someone in the administration makes statements that appear to recognize this is a serious issue and a serious moment for Iraq. Yesterday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a departmental townhall (link is transcript and video -- and, in the left hand corner of the video, the speech is signed for those with hearing issues).
QUESTION: Good morning, Madam Secretary. My name is Behar Gidani, and the last time I stood before you I was an intern, and now I'm a program analyst, so it's quite an honor to be here before you again today. (Applause.)
QUESTION: My question is regarding foreign policy, if I may. As a Kurdish American, much of my interest focuses on the current state of Iraqi political affairs. Given what's going on or what's happened since the American troop withdrawal, with Hashimi fleeing to the Kurdistan region, I was wondering what the role of U.S. diplomacy is right now with that situation, and what you hope you will see in the future to ensure Iraqi security and democracy and stability continue.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I'm delighted that you've gone from intern to full-fledged employee in such a short period of time, and we're delighted, and that's exactly the kind of movement of young people into our ranks that I'm thrilled to see.
Look, there is no doubt -- all one has to do is follow the media -- that there's a lot of political contention in Iraq right now. The United States, led by our very able, experienced Ambassador Jim Jeffrey -- I don't know if the man has slept more than an hour or two, because he is constantly, along with his able team, reaching out, meeting with, cajoling, pushing the players, starting with Prime Minister Maliki, not to blow this opportunity. Let me just be very clear: This is an opportunity for the Iraqi people of all areas of Iraq, of all religious affiliation, of all backgrounds -- this is an opportunity to have a unified Iraq, and the only way to do that is by compromising.
And one of the challenges in new democracies is that compromise is not in the vocabulary, especially in countries where people were oppressed, brutalized over many years. They believe that democracy gives them the opportunity to exercise power and, even though it's not the specific individual -- Saddam Hussein is gone -- he oppressed the Shia, he terribly abused the Kurds, including chemical attacks -- he's gone, but people's minds are not yet fully open to the potential for what this new opportunity can mean to them. And unfortunately, there's a lot of line-drawing going on and boundary-imposing between different political factions.
So we are certainly conveying in as strong a message as we can that these political difficulties and disagreements have to be peacefully resolved for the good of all Iraqis, and that everyone has a chance to grow the pie bigger, to have more freedom, more economic prosperity by working together.
And it's not easy. It's unfortunately one of the challenges we face everywhere in the world right now. With the great movement toward democracy, which we welcome and applaud, it has upended a lot of the historical experiences that people have held onto, and there is a need to get moving beyond that. But it will take time. The United States will be firmly in the role of advising and mentoring and playing the go-between in every way that we possibly can. But at the end of the day, Iraq is now a democracy, but they need to act like one, and that requires compromise.
And so I'm hoping that there will be a recognition of that, and such a tremendous potential to be realized. Iraq can be such a rich country -- it's already showing that with the oil revenues starting to flow again -- but problems have to be resolved. They cannot be ignored or mandated by authoritarianism; they have to be worked through the political process. (Applause.)
Now let's turn to the issue of women and former Minister of Women's Affairs Nawal al-Samarraie who publicly stood out and decired the discrimination within the government during Nouri al-Maliki's first term as prime minister. February 6, 2009, she was in the news when she resigned because her ministry was not properly funded (a meager monthly budget of $7,500 a month was slashed to $1,400) and she states, "I reached to the point that I will never be able to help the women." That was very embarrassing for Nouri. So naturally the New York Times worked overtime to ignore it. (See Third Estate Sunday Review's "NYT goes tabloid.") NPR's Corey Flintoff covered it for Morning Edition (link has text and audio).

Nouri didn't care for Nawal al-Samarraie or the needed attention she raised. Which was reflected in his second term when he tried to erase women completely. From the December 22, 2010 snapshot:

Turning to Iraq, Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) note, "A special gathering of the nation's parliament endorsed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a second term in office, with lawmakers then voting one by one for 31 of the eventual 42 ministers who will be in his cabinet." AFP notes that all but one is a man, Bushra Hussein Saleh being the sole woman in the Cabinet. And they quote Kurdish MP Ala Talabani stating, "We congratulate the government, whose birth required eight months, but at the same time we are very depressed when we see the number of women chosen to head the ministries. Today, democracy was decapitated by sexism. The absence of women is a mark of disdain and is contrary to several articles of the constitution. I suggest to Mr Maliki to even choose a man for the ministry of women's rights, as you do not have confidence in women." Ala Talabani is the niece of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. Imran Ali (Womens Views On News) reminds, "The new constitution stipulates that a quarter of the members of parliament be women and prohibits gender discrimination." Apparently concern about representation doesn't apply to the Cabinet (and, no, Nouri's attempts at offering excuses for the huge gender imbalance do not fly).

42 posts to fill and Nouri couldn't think of a single woman? And wouldn't have if Iraqi women hadn't gotten vocal on the issue. (And note that Nouri increased the Cabinet from 31 in his first term to 42.) December 22nd, AFP reported on women's status in Iraq and how it has fallen from a high for the region to a nightmare (my term) today. Excerpt:
Safia al-Souhail, an MP who ran in March 2010 elections on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's State of Law slate but has since defected and is now an independent, said US forces made some progress, but did not do enough in the immediate aftermath of the invasion.
"They were always giving excuses that our society would not accept it," she said. "Our society is still wondering why the Americans did not support women leaders who were recognised by the Iraqi people."
She lamented that Maliki had completed a recent official visit to Washington without a single woman in his delegation, describing it as a "shame on Iraq". Indeed, only one woman sits in Maliki's national unity cabinet, Ibtihal al-Zaidi, the minister of state for women's affairs.
We bring that up because Nouri did finally find a woman and named her to be Minister of the State for Women's Affairs. The woman is Dr. Ibtihal al-Zaidi. And Al Mada reports the lovely doesn't believe in equality stating equality "harms women" but she's happy to offer government dictates on what women should be wearing. No, she's not a minister. She's many things including words we won't use here but she's not friend to women and that's why Nouri picked her. A real woman fighting for other women? Nouri can't handle that. A simpering idiot who states that women should only act after their husband's consent? That gender traitor gets a ministry. She's currently at work devising a uniform for Iraqi women.

We noted American gender traitors in a snapshot this week and Trina's "Diane," Rebecca's "continuing c.i., i grab goodman," Elaine's "Grab bag" and Ann's "2 women, 4 men" followed up on that. We were noting silences of American women who should have been speaking out for Iraqis especially now that a new Human Rights Watch report had found that Iraq was turning into a police state. Along with that major finding (which we noted earlier this week), the report, [PDF format warning] World Report: 2012 also noted realities for Iraqi women today:
Iraq adjudicates family law and personal status matters pursuant to a 1959 Personal Status Code. The law discriminates against women by ranting men privileged status in matters of divorce and inheritance. The law futher discriminates against women by permitting Iraqi men to have as many as four polygamous marriages.
On October 6 Iraq's parliament passed legislation to lift Iraq's reservation to article 9 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Atricle 9 grants women equal rights with men to acquire, change, or retain their nationality and pass on their nationality to their children.
Violence against women and girls continued to be a serious problem across Iraq. Women's rights activists said they remained at risk of attack from extremists, who also targeted female politicians, civil servants, and journalists. "Honor" crimes and domestic abuse remained a threat to women and girls, who were also vulnerable to trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced prostitution due to insecurity, displacement, financial hardship, social disintegration, and the dissolution of rule of law and state authority.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced mainly in Kurdish areas of northern Iraq and several official and non-governmental studies estimate that the prevalence of FGM among girls and women in Kurdistan is at least 40 percent. On June 21 Kurdistan's parliament passed the Family Violence Bill, which includes several provisions criminalizing the practice, as well as forced and child marriages, and verbal, physical and psychological abuse of girls and women.
The rights of women have been destroyed in Iraq. It may take generations for them to return to the legal rights that they had prior to the US invasion of Iraq. That story probably won't be told by too many US outlets but you can always count on the nonsense. Case in point, Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) conducts an interview with Adnan al-Asadi whom Nouri has put in charge of the Minster of Interior. Not noted in the article -- so probably not raised in the interview -- al-Asadi has no powers. He was not presented as a nominee to the Parliament, he was not voted into office by the Parliament. Legally, he heads no ministry and Nouri can strip him of the post (with no input from Parliament). He serves at the whim of Nouri, the puppet has a puppet. Somewhere in an article on violence, Schmidt and the New York Times should have had the guts to note that the security ministries still have no heads -- Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of National Security. But, as we've already noted this week, the paper of US-government record has always sucked up to and covered for Nouri. Al Mada reports that Iraq's Integrity Commission has released a list of the most corrupt ministries in Iraq. At number four: Electricity. At number three: Trade. At number one: Defense. And at number two? Interior. No, Schmidt didn't cover that in his report either. How does one interview the 'acting minister' of the ministry just ranked the second most corrupt in Iraq by the independent governmental Integrity Commission and 'forget' to inform readers of the ranking? One manages that feat only when filing for the New York Times.
Let's go legal. Wednesday's snapshot included:
Today in Iraq, many look to the US today as a result of yesterday's sentencing. Stan Wilson and Michael Martinez (CNN) reports Staff Sgt Frank G. Wuterich, who entered a guilty plea, will not serve any time for his part in the Haditha killings which claimed 24 lives November 19, 2005. Raheem Salman and Patrick J. McDonnell (Los Angeles Times) quote a teacher in Haditha, Rafid Abdul Majeed, stating, "The Americans killed children who were hiding inside cupboards or under beds. Was this Marine charged with dereliction of duty because he didn't kill more? Is Iraqi blood so cheap?" Fadhel al-Badrani (Reuters) quotes Ali Badr stating, "This sentence gives us the proof, the solid proof that the Americans don't respect human rights." AFP reports, "The Baghdad government vowed on Wednesday to take legal action after an American marine was spared jail by a US military court over the massacre of 24 unarmed civilians in the Iraqi town of Haditha in 2005." James Joyner offers his opinion of the verdict at The Atlantic while Gulf News' editorial board concludes, "Prosecutors have just committed a final indignity against the victims of Haditha." Salman and McDonnell observe, "Overall reaction in Iraq to Wuterich's plea appeared somewhat muted Tuesday, reflecting, Iraqis say, an already deeply rooted skepticism about the U.S. justice system. Iraqis are also distracted by a political crisis that some fear could result in renewed sectarian warfare: At least 10 people were killed Tuesday in bombings in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood, a Shiite Muslim stronghold."
Do you see an opinion in there from me? No, you do not. We didn't follow that case here. What prevents us here from following an Iraq legal case? Not me knowing anyone on the legal teams of either side but if I act as a sounding board (only to listen to an idea later not pursued) for a friend who's on that case. I did that. I did not comment here for that reason. That has always been the policy here. I have covered cases here where I knew someone on the prosecution or the defense -- and they never got any slack from me -- but if I've only agreed to allow someone to bounce something off me, I don't comment on the case. I have no comment on the above -- so those who keep e-mailing bothered by my comment better figure out what comment I made because I made no comment on that case here. (Haditha was addressed here when the story broke. That's before the just decided case. In terms of the legal arguments, the plea bargain, etc., I have made no comment.)
We're not done with that case. Aswat al-Iraq notes that Iraqi Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is calling for the case to be reviewed. There's nothing to review now. When statements in the pargraph from Wednesay were being made (and more were made than what I included in the paragraph), I understood the emotions involved. But I really didn't think someone would try to pursue something that couldn't be pursued.
The plea bargain was signed off on by both sides. The judge has implemented it and done the sentencing. A ruling has been made. He can't be retried and, unless there's proof that the plea bargain was violated in some way, there's nothing to re-open. What's more bothersome to me is that there's talk in Iraqi media -- that I would have thought would have died down by now -- of the soldier being transferred to Iraq for another hearing. That will not happen. Anyone pursuing that is wasting their time. The US does not allow double jeopardy. The soldier has been tried and punishment has been handed out. (Iraq also doesn't allow double jeopardy, per their Constitution, FYI.) The US government would never transfer the soldier over to Iraq for a trial. Just as they refused to transfer soldiers over to face charges in Italy for actions in Iraq, they will not allow it to happen. Even more so with this soldier, because he's already been tried and, in the eyes of the legal system, been punished. The only avenue left -- and this is not a comment on the case which is now closed -- is civil court. In the US, charges could be filed, civil charges not criminal, requesting payment for damages -- and it would have to be in the US because the soldier will not go to Iraq (I wouldn't if I were him either) and it would be very difficult for an Iraqi court to get the US to agree to a lien on what would be a trial in absentia. Family members could sue for damages in a US civilian court. They'd no doubt use his confession as evidence. That's better than just a guilty verdict, he confessed and he made a statement of remorse that's now in the court record. There is no criminal avenue that can be pursued now. The only legal option currently would be for family members to file charges in a civilian court, file for damages as a result of the loss of the loved ones. That would be the only option left and it could go either way before a jury. But this nonsense of wasting everyone's time on this topic as you insist that criminal charges will come about or his punishment will be changed, that's not happening and you're wasting everyone's time with your fantasy.
Lastly, and still on legal, Law and Disorder Radio -- a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) -- topics explored include an update on Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Michael Ratner: Heidi, we all heard the good news over the last few weeks that Mumia was taken off death row and is no longer facing the death penalty. I know there are other issues you want to talk about with Mumia and I know you just had a visit with Mumia. So why don't you tell us what's going on with Mumia, where is he, how was your visit?
Heidi Boghosian: Mumia was transferred from the facility SCI Greene where he'd been on death row for 17 years -- 17 of the past 30 years -- in that facility and he was transferred to SCI Mahanoy which is in Frackville, Pennsylvania.
Michael Ratner: SCI means?
Heidi Boghosian: State Correctional Institution. It's about two and a half hours from New York so it makes it a lot easier to visit him than in the other location.
Michael Ratner: Is that where you visited him? In his new location?
Heidi Boghosian: I've been to his new location three times.
Michael Ratner: Wow.
Heidi Boghosian: Yes. And it's actually a medium security facility. The problem is that Mumia's held in what's called Restrictive Custody in the Administrative Housing Unit there. So he was literally taken off death row and moved into solitary confinement where he is shackled and handcuffed whenever he leaves his cell, his number of weekly visits has been reduced to one and that's just for one hour -- that doesn't include legal visits which can last for several hours.
Michael Ratner: Let me ask, and I want you to go on, when you visit him, he comes into the room or where ever you visit him in shackles?
Heidi Boghosian: Yes. And it's noteworthy that years ago at SCI Greene, he also was in shackles until [Bishop] Desmond Tutu visited him a few years ago and complained that this was inhumane treatment because essentially he's behind thick plexi-glass in a small 4 by 6 roughly foot holding unit and there are little perforated holes on the side so you can hear each other. But, so now he's back in the shackles. His phone call privileges have been --
Michael Ratner: Wait a second. You talk to him through a wall?
Heidi Boghosian: Yes, you're sitting on one side of a thick plexi-glass partition. So you're in the same room but it's divided in half by plexi-glass. So, anyway, his phone call privileges have been reduced. He can only have, I think it's ten stamps and envelopes a week. And, as a writer, you can well imagine that Mumia writes probably at least ten letters a day so this is a dramatic change. He doesn't have his radio or TV.
Michael Ratner: Books?
Heidi Boghosian: I think he only has four books. At first, he had none, then they allowed him four. The National Lawyers Guild along with the Human Rights Research Fund, which is co-chaired by Kathleen Cleaver and Natsu Taylor Saito, sent a letter to the Department of Corrections on January 11th calling for him to be moved into General Population as he was supposed to have been when he left SCI Greene. And we cited, as listeners probably know, that for over a century the US Supreme Court has recognized the psychological damage that results from being held in solitary. There was a case in 1890, In re Medley, Also the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America, a few years ago, found that the increasing use of punitive segregation is not only counter-productive but it often results in violence in the facilities and also contributes to post-release recidivism and Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rappoorteur on Torture just a few weeks ago called for a ban on solitary confinement longer than 16 days, reiterating that it amounts to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment. As a result, the people's movement has really been calling the facility. We are disheartened to note that there were rumors Mumia was going to be moved into general population as of last Thursday and that has -- of this airing -- not happened.
Michael Ratner: Tell me, Heidi, he's not been moved yet and what can people do?
Heidi Boghosian: People can call. We'll put a link to the website that has all this information but they can basically [. . .]
And we'll stop there because yesterday saw an update. From Free Mumia:
As of 1/27/12, Mumia Abu-Jamal has officially been transferred to General Prison Population after being held in Administrative Custody ("The Hole" or Solitary Confinement) at SCI Mahanoy, Frackville, PA for seven weeks. This is the first time Mumia has been in General Population since his arrest in 1981.
This comes within hours of the of delivery of over 5,500 signed petitions to Department of Corrections headquarters in Camp Hill, PA and a compliant filed with the support of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez.
PLEASE NOTE that while this is a victory in transferring Mumia out of the torturous Restricted Housing Unit (RHU), we call upon the closure of ALL RHU's! Furthermore, we call upon the IMMEDIATE RELEASE of Mumia Abu-Jamal and are not disillusioned by this transfer. Free Mumia!

Write to Mumia to send him some love!
Mumia Abu-Jamal

SCI Mahanoy
301 Morea Road
Frackville, PA 17932