Thursday, September 28, 2023

Easy Broccoli-Rice Casserole in the Kitchen

 Tim e-mailed asking for an easy broccoli-rice casserole recipe.  Okay, I don't think you can do much easier than this recipe from Campbell's Soup:


  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 16 ounces frozen chopped broccoli (about 5 cups)
  • 1/3 cup reduced fat (2%) milk
  • 1 can (10 1/2 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup or 98% Fat Free Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1 jar (8 ounces) pasteurized process cheese sauce
  • 3 cups cooked long grain white rice (use leftover cooked rice or start cooking the rice before assembling the other ingredients)
  •        Step 1

    Heat the oven to 350°F.  While the oven is heating, heat the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until tender-crisp.

  • Step 2

    Stir the broccoli in the skillet and cook until tender-crisp.  Stir in the milk, soup, cheese sauce and rice.  Cook and stir until the cheese sauce is melted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour the broccoli mixture into an 11x8x2-inch baking dish.

  • Step 3

    Bake for 30 minutes or until the mixture is hot.

  • Now here's a video recipe from Matteo Lane for Spaghetti Aglio e Olio.

    Now let's note this from Jane Wise (WSWS):

    Mega chicken processors Tyson Foods and Perdue are under investigation for child-labor law violations in their Parksley, Virginia plants after a report in the New York Times Magazine last week revealed that migrant children were working the midnight shift cleaning and sanitizing the chicken processing equipment.​​ The investigation is the most recent revelation of the exploitation of migrant children and trampling of child-labor laws by major, multinational corporations in the United States.

    The allegations of child-labor law violations against Tyson and Perdue are only the most recent levied against meat processing companies this year in the United States. As the World Socialist Web Site reported last February, JBS Foods, Tyson, and Cargill were among companies staffed by Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI) based in southwestern Wisconsin is one of a number of staffing agencies funneling underage children into the darkest recesses of the food production supply chain. 

    While PSSI was fined $1.5 million for employing 102 children at 13 US meatpacking plants where they cleaned the facility on the overnight shift, the companies that profited from the childrens’ labor were not investigated. 

    According to OSHA, workers who clean slaughterhouses and meat packing plants face hazards that include floors that are slippery with blood, and other animal waste, powerful machinery used for cutting through flesh and bone, and caustic chemicals and high pressure hoses used to clean and sanitize the equipment and floors. 

    Workers suffer musculoskeletal injuries, chemical burns and are exposed to biological agents such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Poultry workers face increased risk of lung cancer, thought to be the result of inhaled chemicals and viruses.

    The Department of Labor has extended its investigation to the contractors hired by Perdue and Tyson in Virginia to clean the plants. Fayette Industrial, which works with Perdue, and QSI, which works with Tyson, say they were not aware of the federal investigations. Both companies stated they have policies against child labor. 

    Crazy Tulsi Gabbard took a moment from breaking the Miltary Code of Justice by trashing her commander in chief (she is active in the reserves and is not allowed to shred her commander in chief online) to Tweet this garbage:

    When we feel the pressure to conform to the insanity of a God-less culture driven by a totalitarian power elite, we must ask ourselves: who are we trying to please? Whoever we are trying to please, that is who we serve. God gives us free will to choose - will we serve Him

    She's a raving loon and I don't need 'spiritual' advice on God from a cult member, thank you very much.

    Go tell it to your cult, Tulsi.  She's a member of a cult.  She was raised in it.  Her 'god' is Guru Chris.  She's such a liar.   Go tell it to Guru Chris, Tulsi, and to your Science of Identity Foundation.

    She can shovel the crap on Fox "News," but no thinking person should mistake her for religious, she's just another panhandler at the airport.

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

    Wednesday, September 27, 2023.  Over a hundred dead in Iraq from a fire at a wedding, Joe Biden takes to the picket line, Moms For Bigotry continue their attempt to destroy the country, education and democracy, and much more.

    Last week, as Iraq's Prime Minister addressed the United Nations General Assembly and as he he met with various leaders, the press largely ignored him and Iraq.  This morning?  Iraq's all they seem able to talk about.

    Kathyn Armstrong (BBC NEWS) notes, "Footage posted online showed the couple on the dance floor before flaming chunks begin falling onto the dance floor.  Firefighters could be seen climbing over the wreckage of the building in search of survivors on Wednesday morning."  Farid Abdul Wahed (AP) addds, "Authorities said that flammable building materials also contributed to the latest disaster to hit Iraq’s dwindling Christian minority. In the fire’s chaotic aftermath, officials offered conflicting death tolls and security officials said they had detained staff at the wedding hall as part of their investigation."  Holly Johnston, Mina Aldroubi and Sinan Mahmoud (THE NATIONAL) put the death toll currently at 115 with another 150 injured and  Omar Abdulkader (CBS NEWS) notes, "Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani ordered an investigation into the blaze and asked the country's interior and health ministries to provide assistance, his office said in a statement posted online."


    Turning to the United States, let's give Joe Biden some credit.  Joey Garrison and Michael Collins (USA TODAY) report:

    President Joe Biden walked the picket line with the United Auto Workers outside Detroit, telling them to "stick with it," in a historic visit Tuesday 12 days into the union's strike against the nation's three largest automakers.

    Biden, visiting a General Motor redistribution center, said workers deserve more of a share of the profits from Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Stellantis. It marked the first time a sitting president has joined a picket line of workers on strike in the middle of a labor dispute.

    Do you get it?  Nope?  Let's again note Joni Mitchell, a song I like to retitle "The Last Time I Saw Barack."

    You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
    All those pretty lies, pretty lies
    When you gonna realize they're only pretty lies?
    Only pretty lies, just pretty lies"
    -- "The Last Time I Saw Richard," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album BLUE.

    "All those pretty lies, pretty lies, when you gonna realize they're only pretty lies?"

    From Senator Barack Obama's November 3, 2007 speech in South Carolina while he was on the campaign trail was full of lies, "just pretty lies."  For example:

    One year from now, we can stop sending hundreds of millions of dollars to dictators for their oil while we melt the polar ice caps in the bargain. I will raise our fuel standards, and put a cap on carbon emissions to reduce then 80% by 2050. We'll tell polluters that they have to pay for their pollution, because they don't own the skies, the American people own the skies. And we'll use the money to invest in the clean, renewable fuels that are our future. That's the change we can offer in 2008.

    No, he did not put a cap on carbon emissions to reduce them by 80% by 2050.  Didn't happen.  Change you can believe in if you're really foolish.

    When I am President, I will end this war in Iraq. I will bring our troops home within sixteen months. I'll finish the fight against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. And I will lead the world against the common threats of the 21st century - nuclear weapons and terrorism; climate change and poverty; genocide and disease. 

    He killed more people with drones than anyone before him.  He never withdrew all troops from Iraq -- not in 16 months, not in his first term, not in his second term.  US troops remain on the ground in Iraq.  He didn't finish the fight in Afghanistan and it was Joe Biden, as president who brought US troops hom.

    I don't want to see that the oceans rose another few inches and the planet has reached the point of no return because we couldn't find a way to stop ourselves from buying oil from dictators. I don't want to see that.

    Well that wasn't a broken promise.  He didn't promise to make sure the oceans didn't rise "another few inches," he just said he didn't want to see it.  By the way, it's risen about three inches since Barack gave that speech. 

    "I don't want to see homeless veterans on the street." Again, not a broken promise.  He just didn't want to see it.  It was 2009, after being elected president, that Barack made the promise to end homelessness.  Spoiler alert: Didn't happen.  From the editorial board of THE NEW YORK TIMES, August 5, 2016, "Broken Promises to Homeless Vets:"

    Speaking to disabled veterans on Monday in Atlanta, President Obama discussed his administration’s efforts to end “the tragedy, the travesty” of veteran homelessness. He proudly declared the glass half full. “We have now reduced the number of homeless veterans by 47 percent,” he said. The number of homeless veterans is now under 40,000.

    What Mr. Obama did not say, in an address that also boasted about the success of the Department of Veterans Affairs in expanding disability benefits, cutting health care backlogs and improving mental health care, was that the upbeat statistic actually reflects shrunken ambition and mission failure. Mr. Obama’s V.A. has been promising to vanquish the problem since 2009, the year Eric Shinseki, then the secretary of veterans affairs, announced a plan to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2014.

    Mr. Shinseki resigned in 2014, undone by health care scandals on his watch, but the administration, undaunted, announced another campaign that year, called the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. New name, new strategic emphasis -- enlisting state and local governments and philanthropies -- but the same promise: a home for all down-and-out veterans in all 50 states by 2015.

    There is no excuse for that failure.  No one twisted his arm for that promise.  Having made it, he should have ensured the issue was resolved.  Instead, he broke a promise to veterans.  To be clear, I don't think veterans are any better than the rest of the population.  And I do believe we should be addressing homelessness throughout the country -- not just veterans.  But the reason I advocate for them with regards to, for example, healthcare is because the government made a promise and then it refused to live up to it.  It's the same thing with homeless veterans.  They didn't sign up thinking, "I won't be homeless."  If they did, some were mistaken.  But in 2009, Barack promised that veterans homelessness would be ended by 2014.  That was a promise from the sitting president of the United States.  He made it and it's now a debt owed.

    The VA claims that, today, there are 67,495 homeless veterans -- that's most likely an undercount.  

    There is no excuse for that after Barack's 'promise.'  This could have been dealt with.  68,000 homes being built would have strengthened the economy -- due to the costs for labor and materials.  And who was going to argue against it?  Lauren Boebert or some other idiot.  Most Americans would have said, "Build the damn homes."  Because a promise was made and the government needs to keep it's promises.  

    But it was always just pretty words, just pretty words for Barack which is why we called him "Mr Pretty Words" and why we repeatedly cited "The Last Time I Saw Richard" when Barack was in the White Hose.  From the November 3, 2007 speech, let's note one more part:

    When I am President, I will end the tax giveaways to companies that ship our jobs overseas, and I will put the money in the pockets of working Americans, and seniors, and homeowners who deserve a break. I won't wait ten years to raise the minimum wage - I'll raise it to keep pace every single year. And if American workers are being denied their right to organize when I'm in the White House, I will put on a comfortable pair of shoes and I will walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States.

    So many lies -- minimum wage was raised only once -- July of 2009.  Hasn't been raised since.  "I'll raise it to keep pace every single year."

    Just pretty lies, only pretty lies.

    And he never put on his shoes and walked a picket line.

    Yesterday, Joe Biden walked a picket line and, again, "It marked the first time a sitting president has joined a picket line of workers on strike in the middle of a labor dispute."

    One more time from USA TODAY's report:

    The visit followed a public invitation from UAW President Shawn Fain to Biden last Friday, as UAW expanded its strike to 38 sites across 20 states. Fain greeted Biden at the Detroit airport and rode with Biden in the president's limousine to greet striking auto workers.

    "Our president chose to stand up with workers in our fight for economic and social justice," Fain said, thanking Biden. "It’s a historic day, a historic moment in time.”

    Again, credit for that.

    For THIRD,  Ava and I wrote "Thoughts on Woke (Ava and C.I.)" and it notes the increase of hate and Nazis in Florida.  William Spivey (LEVEL) points out:

    It's no accident that Nazis are growing in numbers in Florida. Many Republicans here talk the same language and hate the same people. DeSantis is at war with the LGBTQ community, Black people, and immigrants, and so are they. The same can be said for the most infamous resident of Mar-a-Lago, who put like-minded people like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller in the White House.

    On Nazis, in 1988, Lindsay Wagner made the TV movie EVIL IN CLEAR RIVER.  I thought she gave a praise-worthy performance.  But the movie?  Well written but I just didn't see it as realistic. Her character's son is spouting some fake 'facts' and she discovers the teacher -- a real 'coach' Tommy Tuberville type -- is lying to the students about the Holocaust.    It's realistic today.   Nazis are all over the place and we all have to be Lindsay fighting them.  For example, Katharine Fung (NEWSWEEK) reported earlier this week:

    A Holocaust denier is running for a school board election in Minnesota.

    Vaughn Klingenberg, who is a candidate for Roseville Area Schools board, has made several comments discussing his beliefs that the Nazis did not want the Holocaust and that they were actually trying to "save" Jewish people.

    In a July appearance on VT Radio's "Uncensored Alternative Foreign Policy Talk" podcast, Klingenberg described the Holocaust being orchestrated by "big Zionist Jews" to persecute "little Jews" and claimed that "the Jewish religion is an ideology based on victimization."

    The Holocaust has been recognized as the genocide of European Jews by Nazi Germany and described by the National WWII Museum as the "deliberate, organized, state-sponsored persecution and machinelike murder of approximately six million European Jews and at least five million Soviet prisoners of war, Romany, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and other victims."

    The hate merchants never give up selling the hate.  It can be very upsetting trying to make it through a day in this country lately.  UNBRANDED ENTERTAINMENT notes:

    On a recent episode of Dax Shepard’s 'Armchair Expert' podcast, Jonathan Van Ness burst into tears defending the transgender community. Shepard and the hairstylist were discussing The New York Times and Van Ness called out the publication for sharing anti-trans content. The podcast’s host said, “Some people are very uncomfortable about teenagers transitioning… the person’s not gonna change their mind?” He added, “To even question it makes you an enemy. I don’t think that’s the way forward." Van Ness said that it felt like they were talking to their dad. "I’m not calling you a transphobe. You can not be transphobic and still have thoughts that espouse trans misogyny and espouse transphobic ideologies or beliefs and not be transphobic", responded Van Ness. Van Ness began to cry, as they are “emotionally exhausted” from having to constantly fight for kids who “just wanted to be included”.

    It is upsetting.  The hate's made me cry many times out of frustration and out of sadness for what some people -- who have harmed no one -- have to live with and live through.  But we can push back on the hate merchants.  And some people -- basic citizens as well as politicians -- are showing us how.  AP reports:

    California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Monday to ban school boards from rejecting textbooks based on their teachings about the contributions of people from different racial backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities.

    Newsom called the measure “long overdue.”

    “From Temecula to Tallahassee, fringe ideologues across the country are attempting to whitewash history and ban books from schools,” Newsom said in a statement. “With this new law, we’re cementing California’s role as the true freedom state: a place where families — not political fanatics -- have the freedom to decide what’s right for them.”

    The bill takes effect immediately.

    As part of the effort to spread their hate, Moms For Bigotry and other hate groups have declared war on education.  They ban books, they rewrite history, they attack education.   Katrina vanden Heuvel (THE NATION) notes:

    They don’t just air grievances. Their website offers free trainings for parents to help them testify to school boards—or even get elected to them. They advocate for bathroom bills and teacher restrictions and laws requiring school staff to out queer students to their parents. And of course, they’re pushing for book bans—though the organization’s executive director would have you believe these aren’t real bans, because you can still purchase the books in question “via booksellers or the Internet.”

    Citizens Defending Freedom is even less subtle—their site boasts endorsements from disgraced former Trump adviser Mike Flynn and disgraced current MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. They successfully campaigned for the Texas State Board of Education to dissociate from the American Library Association (which they call a “woke organization”), and want other states to do the same. One chapter recently challenged over 100 books as “age-inappropriate” for Fort Worth’s school libraries, including The Handmaid’s Tale—even though banning The Handmaid’s Tale sounds like something out of The Handmaid’s Tale.

    Then there’s Moms for Liberty. When it launched in 2021, the organization was originally focused on fighting against Covid-19 protections—like mask and vaccine mandates—in schools. Now they spend their time electing school board members who share their concerns, and flooding board meetings with parents who are outraged that their kids are reading books about interracial relationships, hurricanes, and male seahorses carrying eggs.

    When Moms for Liberty gets a book banned, not only does it deprive one district of that specific text; it can set a dangerous standard. Earlier this year, the group successfully banned a graphic-novel version of The Diary of Anne Frank from a Florida high school—which included passages about puberty that other adaptations omitted. Flash-forward to last week in Texas: a teacher was fired for assigning the same book to her eighth grade reading class.

    Never mind that those eighth graders are the same age Frank was when she wrote her diary, experiencing puberty themselves and asking similar questions about their bodies—including, as Frank wrote, curiosities about “the little hole underneath.” Parents are supposed to pretend that exposure to that level of graphic detail will permanently warp the minds of their 14-year-olds.

    Meanwhile, in February, a South Carolina high school teacher assigned her AP English students Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me. Two students objected to the book’s discussion of Blackness in America, and reported their teacher to a school board member who was endorsed by Moms for Liberty. Because a state proviso explicitly prohibits lessons that make students “feel discomfort” about their race, the curriculum was immediately abandoned, and the books taken away.

    You're supposed to want more for the next generation -- for them to do better, for them to be smarter and more educated.  Not the hate groups.  No, Moms For Bigotry want the US to fall behind every other nation in the world when it comes to education.  They've declared war on the truth and they throw lies at facts.  They'll run this nation into the ground if they aren't confronted and called out.  The sad thing is, they don't even grasp how ridiculous they look to the children they pretend they're trying to 'protect.'  The kids are starving for knowledge and grasp that this world has some serious problems to address.  

    Today’s children and young adults care more about climate change than they do most issues as temperatures have reached record highs and the number of weather-related disasters continues to rise.
    Yet research suggests the learning materials students are consuming in school have in some cases muted their coverage of climate change. Students told USA TODAY treatment of the issue has remained limited in schools even as their demands for such education have grown.
    “Everything I learned about climate change was self-taught,” said Amara Ifeji, 21, now a senior at Northeastern University in Boston and an environmental justice advocate. Her low-income high school in Maine didn’t require climate change instruction for students in her particular science, technology, engineering and math program, let alone instruction that addressed the uneven impacts on people of color.

    While a number of states have changed their standards and curricula to address climate change, she worries about all the students at schools that lack the resources or the political will to make it a formal and interdisciplinary part of the learning experience. Polls have found a majority of teachers still don’t talk about the topic in class, usually saying it's outside their wheelhouse.

    The following sites updated:

    Wednesday, September 27, 2023

    Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken with Black Beans and Corn in the Kitchen



    From Sunday, that's  Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS  "Bo Ho?" and I would never have thought a member of Congress would behave that way in public -- jerking off her date in a theater.  How very sad.  Of course, she's one of those 'family values' creeps who attacks everyone else to try to feel better about herself.

    Missy notes Skinny Taste's recipe for Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken with Black Beans and Corn:


  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn
  • 15 ounce can reduced sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts halved lengthwise, 16 oz
  • 1/2 teaspoon adobo seasoning, or salt to taste
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/4 cups chunky mild salsa
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar, reduced fat Sargento
  • chopped cilantro for garnish
  • optional, serve with avocado and brown rice
  • Instructions:

  • Combine corn and beans and put them in the slow cooker.
  • Season the chicken with adobo (or salt), garlic powder and cumin then place in the slow cooker and top with salsa.
  • Cover and cook LOW for 6 hours.
  • Top with cheese, cover and cook until melted, about 5 minutes.  Garnish with cilantro.
  • To serve, transfer the chicken and vegetables with a slotted spoon and serve over rice or cauliflower rice.

  • Some Catholic schools in Cleveland, Ohio, have issued notices that appear to break with the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland's policy on LGBTQ+ individuals.
    Alumni of the Magnificat High School in Cleveland recently created a petition opposing a new LGBTQ+ policy from the diocese saying, "We are deeply troubled by the potential harm that this policy may inflict upon our LGBTQ+ students. One critical issue that must be addressed is the elevated risk of mental health challenges, including suicide, faced by LGBTQ+ youth who experience rejection, discrimination, or a lack of acceptance from their communities, including their schools."
    [. . .] news obtained a number of letters that numerous independent Catholic schools in the city sent to parents opposing the new policy from the diocese.

    "In a time when our adolescent youth, and young women in particular, are facing mental health crises, we remain deeply concerned about the heightened risk of mental health challenges—including depression, self-harm, and suicide—faced especially by LGBTQ youth, and we will continue to accompany them, to stand with them and accept them with love, respect, compassion, and sensitivity," Magnificat High School President Moira Clark said in a letter to parents, according to

    Newsweek reached out to the Magnificat High School via email for comment.

    Similarly, KC McKenna, the president of the St. Edward High School sent a letter to parents saying, "We will always operate in the best interest of our students and do not plan to make any changes to the pastoral ways in which we support LGBTQ+ students at St. Edward High School because of this policy," reported.

    Good for them.  There is no place in the Church for hate. 

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

    Tuesday, September 26, 2023.  Donald Trump appears to have lost his mind, Joe Biden gets caught in another tall tale, Human Rights Watch notes the US government never took accountability for Abu Ghraib and never made amends, and much more.

    Starting with former US President Donald Trump. As noted in THIRD's  "The Trump Crazies," "Adam Kinzinger thinks Donald Trump is going insane,  we think Trump's flock is."  And further proof that Donald is going insane?  William Vaillancourt (THE DAILY BEAST) notes:

    While recalling his 2016 campaign for president during a speech Monday in South Carolina, Donald Trump mixed up his Bushes, referring to Jeb Bush as the one who “got us into the Middle East,” despite the fact that it was former President George W. Bush who ordered the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq two years later. According to Trump, “everyone thought Bush was going to win” the South Carolina primary in 2016. “They thought Bush because Bush supposedly was a military person. Great,” he said. “He got us into the Middle East. How did that work out, right? But they all thought that Bush might win—Jeb. Remember Jeb?” Bush, the former governor of Florida, ended up receiving just under eight percent of the vote in South Carolina, while Trump won the primary against five other major candidates with a plurality of about 32 percent. In his speech, Trump also knocked Bush’s campaign logo—“Jeb!”—for omitting his last name.

    For the record, Jeb Bush never served in the military.  He didn't enlist and then go AWOL like Bully Boy Bush, he just didn't serve.  Why would Donald make those statements?  Again, it's very strange.  Far less strange, a report from Tori Otten (THE NEW REPUBLIC):

    Former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday completely—and hilariously—destroyed one of Republicans’ main arguments to prove that Joe Biden is corrupt.

    Republicans launched an impeachment inquiry into Biden, after months of insisting that the president is guilty of criminal wrongdoing. The GOP has yet to produce any actual evidence of their claims. But one of their main talking points is that Poroshenko fired former Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin after Biden pressured him to do so.

    Fox News host Brian Kilmeade played Poroshenko a clip of Shokin saying Biden wanted him fired because he had been investigating the oil company Burisma Holdings while Hunter Biden served on the board.

    “First of all, this is [a] completely crazy person,” Poroshenko replied without hesitation, referring to Shokin. “This is something wrong with him. Second, there is not one single word of truth.”

    Where did the GOP get this talking point?  Tori Otten seems unaware.  From Joe Biden's own mouth.

    If Poroshenko is telling the truth -- I have no idea -- it actually makes even more sense.

    If Poroshenko is telling the truth, Joe made another baseless brag which is totally in keeping with so many of his other statements.

    Biden later publicly disclosed that on another trip to Kyiv he told Ukraine’s new leadership that Shokin needed to be removed, warning that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees until Shokin was replaced. (Biden did not say when he made the threat, but he addressed the Ukrainian Parliament in Kyiv on Dec. 9, 2015, and dangled the prospect of future U.S. aid if the country rid itself of the “cancer of corruption.”)

    “I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,” Biden recalled in remarks at an event hosted in January 2018 by the Council on Foreign Relations. “Well, son of a bitch. He got fired.”

    So another tall tale from Joe?

    • The US government has apparently failed to provide compensation or other redress to Iraqis who suffered torture and other abuse by US forces at Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons in Iraq two decades ago.
    • Iraqis tortured by US personnel still have no clear path for receiving redress or recognition from the US government though the effects of torture are a daily reality for many Iraqi survivors and their families.
    • In August 2022, the Pentagon released an action plan to reduce harm to civilians in US military operations, but it doesn’t include any way to receive compensation for past instances of civilian harm.

    (Baghdad) – The United States government has apparently failed to provide compensation or other redress to Iraqis who suffered torture and other abuse two decades after evidence emerged of US forces mistreating detainees at Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today.

    After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US and its coalition allies held about 100,000 Iraqis between 2003 and 2009. Human Rights Watch and others have documented torture and other ill-treatment by US forces in Iraq. Survivors of abuse have come forward for years to give their accounts of their treatment, but received little recognition from the US government and no redress. Prohibitions against torture under US domestic law, the Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the United Nations Convention Against Torture, as well as customary international law, are absolute.

    “Twenty years on, Iraqis who were tortured by US personnel still have no clear path for filing a claim or receiving any kind of redress or recognition from the US government,” said Sarah Yager, Washington director at Human Rights Watch. “US officials have indicated that they prefer to leave torture in the past, but the long-term effects of torture are still a daily reality for many Iraqis and their families.”

    Between April and July 2023, Human Rights Watch interviewed Taleb al-Majli, a former detainee at Abu Ghraib prison, in addition to three people with knowledge of his detention and his condition after his release who wished to remain anonymous. Human Rights Watch also interviewed a former US judge advocate who served in Baghdad in 2003, a former member of Iraq’s High Commission for Human Rights, and representatives of three nongovernmental organizations working on torture. Human Rights Watch also reviewed media and nongovernmental reports, as well as US government documents including US Department of Defense investigations into alleged detainee abuse.

    In May, Al-Majli told Human Rights Watch that US forces subjected him to torture and other ill-treatment, including physical, psychological, and sexual humiliation while detaining him at Abu Ghraib prison between November 2003 and March 2005.

    He said he was one of the men in a widely circulated photo at Abu Ghraib that shows a group of naked, hooded prisoners on top of one another in a human pyramid, while two US soldiers smile behind them. “Two American soldiers, one male and one female, ordered us to strip naked,” al-Majli said. “They piled us prisoners on top of each other. I was one of them.”

    Al-Majli said that US forces detained him while he was visiting relatives in Anbar province in 2003.

    “On the morning of October 31 [2003], US forces surrounded the village my uncle lived in,” al-Majli said. “They took boys and old men from the village. I told them I’m a guest from Baghdad, I live in Baghdad and just came to visit my uncle. They put a cover on my head and tied my wrists with plastic zip ties, then loaded me into a Humvee.”

    After a few days at Habbaniya military base and at an unknown location in Iraq, US forces moved al-Majli to Abu Ghraib prison. “It was then the torture started,” he said. “They took away our clothes. They mocked us constantly while we were blindfolded with hoods over our heads. We were completely powerless,” he said. “I was tortured by police dogs, sound bombs, live fire, and water hoses.”

    While Human Rights Watch is unable to conclusively verify al-Majli’s account, including whether he was one of the men in the “human pyramid” photo, his story of detention at Abu Ghraib is credible. Al Majli presented corroborating evidence, including a prisoner identity card with his full name, inmate number, and cell block, which he said US forces issued him at Abu Ghraib after taking his photo, iris scan, and fingerprints. Al-Majli also showed Human Rights Watch a letter he obtained in 2013 from the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, a governmental body with the mandate to protect and promote human rights in Iraq, confirming his detention at Abu Ghraib prison, including his date of arrest (October 31, 2003), and listing the same inmate number as his prisoner identity card.

    He said he has kept them all this time as proof of what he endured.

    During the US occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2011, authorities held thousands of men, women, and children at Abu Ghraib prison. A February 2004 report to the US-led military coalition by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said that military intelligence officers told the ICRC that an estimated 70 to 90 percent of people in coalition custody in Iraq in 2003 had been arrested by mistake.

    Al-Majli said that after 16 months at Abu Ghraib, he was released without charge. Though he gained his freedom, he said he found himself physically ailing, penniless, and traumatized. While he was detained, he said, he began biting his hands and wrists to cope with the trauma he was experiencing, and has continued ever since. Raised, purple welts were clearly visible across his hands and wrists.

    “It became a mental health condition,” he said. “I did it in jail, and after I left jail, and I keep doing it today. I try to avoid it, but I can’t. Until today, I can’t wear short sleeves. When people see this, I tell them it’s burns. I avoid questions.”

    More than the pain he suffered himself, al-Majli laments the negative effect it has had on his children: “This one year and four months changed my entire being for the worse. It destroyed me and destroyed my family. It’s the reason for my son’s health problems and the reasons my daughters dropped out of school. They stole our future from us.”

    For two decades, al-Majli has sought redress, including compensation and an apology, for the abuse he suffered. Unable to afford a lawyer or access the US embassy in Baghdad, al-Majli sought help from the Iraqi Bar Association, which turned him away, telling him it did not handle cases like his. Al-Majli then went to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, but all it could do was issue him a letter confirming he is in their records as a former detainee at Abu Ghraib. He said he did not know how to contact the US military and raise a claim.

    Human Rights Watch wrote to the US Department of Defense on June 6, 2023, outlining al-Majli’s case, providing the research findings, and requesting information on compensation for survivors of torture in Iraq. Despite repeated follow-up requests, Human Rights Watch has not received a response.

    “I didn’t know what else I could do or where else to go,” al-Majli said. Human Rights Watch was not able to find any legal pathway for al-Majli to file a claim seeking recompense.

    “The US secretary of defense and attorney general should investigate allegations of torture and other abuse of people detained by the US abroad during counterinsurgency operations linked to its ‘Global War on Terrorism’,” Yager said. “US authorities should initiate appropriate prosecutions against anyone implicated, whatever their rank or position. The US should provide compensation, recognition, and official apologies to survivors of abuse and their families.”

    20 Years of US Silence

    In 2004, then-US President George W. Bush apologized for the “humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners” at Abu Ghraib. Soon after, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress that he had found a legal way to compensate Iraqi detainees who suffered “grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty at the hands of a few members of the United States armed forces. It’s the right thing to do, and it is my intention to see that we do.”

    Human Rights Watch has found no evidence that the US government has paid any compensation or other redress to victims of detainee abuse in Iraq, nor has the United States issued any individual apologies or other amends.

    Some victims have attempted to apply for compensation using the US Foreign Claims Act (FCA). The law allows foreign nationals to obtain compensation for death, injury, and damage to property from “noncombat activity or a negligent or wrongful act or omission” caused by US service members. However, it includes a so-called combat exclusion: claims are not payable if the harm results from “action by enemy or U.S. forces engaged in armed conflict or in immediate preparation for impending armed conflict.” Furthermore, for al-Majli and other survivors of detainee abuse during the invasion and occupation, filing a claim under the Foreign Claims Act is not an option because claims must be filed within two years from the date of the alleged harm.

    Human Rights Watch was unable to find public evidence that payments have been made under this law as compensation for detainee abuse, including torture. In 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union obtained documents detailing 506 claims made under the Foreign Claims Act: 488 in Iraq and 18 in Afghanistan. The majority of claims relate to harm or deaths caused by shootings, convoys, and vehicle accidents.

    The only case of a Foreign Claims Act payment relating to detention in those documents was for a claimant who was paid US$1,000 for being unlawfully detained in Iraq, with no mention of other abuse. Five other claims were for abuse in detention, but they are among eleven claims that do not contain the outcome, including whether payment was made.

    The US Defense Department did not respond to repeated requests for information as to whether the US government made Foreign Claims Act or other compensation payments to survivors or families of those who died of detainee abuse in Iraq.

    Jonathan Tracy, a former judge advocate who handled claims of harm in Baghdad in 2003, told Human Rights Watch he did not know of any Foreign Claims Act payments to torture survivors by the Army. “If any of the survivors received a payment, I would doubt the Army would have wanted to use Foreign Claims Act money because it could be interpreted as an admission on the government's part,” he said.

    A US submission to the UN Committee Against Torture from May 2006 reported that 33 detainees had by that date filed claims for compensation to the US Army, 28 of which were from Iraq.

    The submission stated that “no compensation has been provided to date, however, compensation has been offered in two cases.” Subsequent submissions to the Committee Against Torture do not contain updates to these figures, nor specify whether those payments were made. Notably, according to the document, neither of the two recommended payments was listed as compensation for torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

    Other Iraqis have attempted to find justice in US courts. But the US Justice Department has repeatedly dismissed such cases using a 1946 law that preserves US forces’ immunity for “any claim arising out of the combatant activities of the military or naval forces, or the Coast Guard, during time of war.”

    So far, the only lawsuits able to advance have targeted military contractors. Those cases, too, face considerable obstacles. One such case, Al Shimari et al. v. CACI, has been slowly making its way through courts since June 2008. The lawsuit was brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a US-based nongovernmental organization, on behalf of four Iraqi torture victims against CACI International Inc. and CACI Premier Technology, Inc. The lawsuit asserts that CACI, which the US government hired to interrogate prisoners in Iraq, directed and participated in torture and other abuse at Abu Ghraib.

    CACI has attempted to have the case dismissed 18 times since it was first filed. On July 31, 2023, a federal judge refused CACI’s most recent motion to dismiss the case, which finally appears to be heading to trial.

    Criminal Investigations into Detainee Abuse in Iraq

    The US Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) opened at least 506 investigations into alleged abuses of people in the hands of US and other coalition forces in Iraq between 2003 and 2005, according to a US Department of Defense document reviewed by Human Rights Watch. The document details investigations into 376 cases of assault, 90 cases of deaths, 34 cases of theft, and 6 cases of sexual assault allegedly committed by US and coalition forces.

    These US Army criminal investigations paint a stark picture of the scale and range of abuse that was alleged inside US-controlled prisons in Iraq. The most high-profile cases – like the killing of Manadel al-Jamadi – and hundreds more cases of abuse that never made headlines are outlined with clinical descriptions of violence.

    The investigations concerned 225 allegations of assault and sexual assault in US-controlled detention facilities, involving at least 318 potential victims and 426 alleged abusers.

    38 of those investigations upheld the allegations or found the accused guilty.

    In 57 cases, investigators were unable to find sufficient evidence to prove or disprove the allegation or were unable to identify the suspect. In 79 cases, investigators declared the allegations unfounded. However, cases reviewed by CID highlighted several shortcomings in investigative processes, including a failure to identify and follow leads, failure to locate and interview witnesses, over-reliance on medical records without corroborating evidence, and failure to photograph or examine crime scenes. For example:   

    In cases in which Army officials interviewed the victims and knew their identities, it appears that no attempt was made to couple punishments of abusers with compensation or other forms of redress.

    Nineteen allegations of abuse were written off as standard operating procedure, leading the CID to conclude that the “offenses were unfounded” or “did not occur as alleged”:

    Figure 2: Case summary written by the Criminal Investigation Division of the US Army published on 13 January 2006
    Figure 2: Case summary written by the Criminal Investigation Division of the US Army published on 13 January 2006.
    Figure 3: Case summary written by the Criminal Investigation Division of the US Army published on 13 January 2006
    Figure 3: Case summary written by the Criminal Investigation Division of the US Army published on 13 January 2006.

    Finally, 16 cases involved allegations of abuse committed by forces other than the US Army. Such cases were referred to investigators of the alleged abuser’s branch of the military, such as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), for further investigation. For example:

    Figure 4: Case summary written by the Criminal Investigation Division of the US Army published on 13 January 2006
    Figure 4: Case summary written by the Criminal Investigation Division of the US Army published on 13 January 2006.

    A Climate Enabling Torture

    When the photos of detainee abuse in Abu Ghraib went public, then-President Bush sought to minimize the systemic nature of the problem by calling it “disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values.” But investigations including by Human Rights Watch have found that decisions taken at the highest levels of government enabled, sanctioned, and justified these acts. Abu Ghraib was but one of several US military detention centers and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “black sites” worldwide where US forces, intelligence agents, and contractors carried out torture and other ill-treatment, or so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

    When the first detainees arrived at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, from Afghanistan in January 2002, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld labeled them “unlawful combatants,” seeking to deny them protections under the Geneva Conventions. The same month, the Bush administration intensified its efforts to circumvent domestic and international prohibitions on torture, with the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issuing memos that sought to legally justify torture and protect those engaging in it.

    Denying detainees these protections enabled Rumsfeld to expand the list of interrogation techniques for use against prisoners at Guantanamo between December 2002 and April 2003.

    Subsequent US government investigations, including the 2004 Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review Department of Defense Detention Operations (also known as the Schlesinger report), found that “the augmented techniques [approved by Rumsfeld] for Guantanamo migrated to Afghanistan and Iraq where they were neither limited nor safeguarded.”

    The use of these techniques violated the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of prisoners under the laws of armed conflict and international criminal law.

    The Bush administration limited the scope of these policies and practices in subsequent years, including by reducing the list of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” but stopped short of banning torture. In January 2009, then-President Barack Obama rescinded all Bush-era memos allowing torture. However, he stated that his administration would prosecute neither the authors of the memos nor those who carried out the acts described in them in the belief that they were legal.

    The Legacy of Abu Ghraib

    Ninety-seven US soldiers implicated in 38 cases of abuse that the US Army Criminal Investigation Division investigated in Iraqi detention centers between 2003 and 2005 received punishments.

    Just 11 of these soldiers were referred to a court martial to face criminal charges, where they were found guilty of crimes including dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault, and battery. 9 of the 11 served prison sentences. Fourteen others received nonjudicial punishments (e.g., a fine, reduction in rank, letter of reprimand, or discharge from the service). Reports of disciplinary action were pending for 72 individuals as of the document’s publication date, January 13, 2006.

    There is no public evidence that any US military officer has been held accountable for criminal acts committed by subordinates under the doctrine of command responsibility.

    Human Rights Watch reports in 2005 and 2011 presented evidence warranting substantial criminal investigations into high-level government officials for the roles they played in setting interrogation and detention policies following the September 11, 2001 attacks, including former President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (now deceased), and CIA Director George Tenet. Additional Human Rights Watch research outlined the systematic nature of torture in Iraq, and the high level of command at which it was condoned.

    Every US administration from George W. Bush to Joe Biden has rebuffed efforts for meaningful accountability for torture.

    Some steps have been taken to change policies and introduce stricter controls on the treatment of people in US custody abroad. Congress passed new laws, including the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits subjecting anyone in US custody or control, “regardless of nationality or physical location,” to “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” as defined by the Senate reservation to Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture. The Defense Department also established various offices and positions related to “Detainee Affairs,” and initiated a department-wide review of detainee-related policy directives.

    In August 2022, the Pentagon released a 36-page action plan aimed at reducing risks to civilians in US military operations. The plan directs the Defense Department to incorporate civilian harm issues into its strategy, planning, training, and doctrine; improve and standardize investigations of civilian harm; and to review and update guidance on responding to civilian harm. However, the plan fails to include a mechanism for reviewing past instances of civilian harm that have gone unaddressed, uninvestigated, and unacknowledged for 20 years.

    See, that's the thing about attention seekers like Sy Hersh.  They follow someone else's work on the issue (in the case of Abu Ghraib, Charles J. Hanley of the ASSOCIATED PRESS) and refuse to credit them.  Make it all about themselves.  Take up all the oxygen in the room.  Then moving on to stealing credit for the work of someone else instead of ever taking the time to write an update on the story they (falsely) claim to have owned.  But if Sy had done a follow up, he never would have had time to barnstorm the country with that pedophile at his side.  

    On NPR's MORNING EDITION today, Ruth Sherlock reports on the US government's refusal to keep its word to the survivors of Abu Ghraib.  

    As long as we're noting some of the damage done by the US government to Iraq, let's note this from an article ASHARQ AL-AWSAT published an hour or so ago:

    Iyad Allawi was not pro-American. He did not recognize their right to tailor the new Iraqi political scene as they wanted. Moreover, his meetings with a number of US officials were not fruitful. In parallel, no language of understanding was found with Tehran. He did not accept its terms, while the Iranian capital failed to tolerate his approach.

    On March 7, 2010, general elections were held in Iraq. The “Iraqiya” list, led by Allawi, won 91 seats, while the State of Law coalition, led by Nouri al-Maliki, obtained 89 seats.

    According to the applicable interpretation of the constitution, Allawi was supposed to be entrusted with the task of forming the new government. Al-Maliki was able to get from the Federal Supreme Court another interpretation of the article that talks about the largest bloc. A severe political crisis erupted that lasted about nine months, and ended in Al-Maliki’s favor.

    I asked Allawi about the parties that prevented him from forming the government, he replied: “We achieved victory in the elections despite everything we were exposed to. Five hundred people were subjected to procedures under the pretext of “de-Baathification.” Among them were a number of our candidates. They assassinated nine persons. They closed entire regions to prevent our supporters from voting, and yet we were ahead of them by three seats. In fact, I was surprised by what happened. I did not expect the American and Iranian stances to reach this point. America and Iran prevented me from forming a government. They worked together.”

    Allawi continued: “During that period, then-US Vice President Joe Biden visited Baghdad about three times a month. His concern was that I would give up in favor of Al-Maliki. He asked me to assume the presidency of the republic, and I told him that the people elected us to form the government, so how could I become president of the republic without a job or work (the nature of the position is quasi-protocol)... Biden repeated his demand, and I replied: “By God, if you do not allow me to become prime minister, terrorism will grow stronger... as will hatred for the regime...”

    “During that period, US-Iranian negotiations were taking place in Muscat. The American delegation was headed by Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor under then-President Barack Obama. The Iranian side conveyed to the Americans a threat, stating that Iran will stop negotiations and cause problems in Iraq if Iyad Allawi becomes prime minister.”

    “The truth is that I met Biden about 20 times. I’ve known him since he was in charge of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. His personality is shaky, and he is a liar and a hypocrite,” Allawi stated.

    I asked the former premier whether the US destroyed Iraq, he replied: “Yes, America ruined Iraq.”

    The multiple visits by Joe to Iraq during this time ended up producing The Erbil Agreement which overturned the March 2010 election results and gifted Nouri al-Maliki a second term as prime minister.  To get the various political leaders to agree to that, The Erbil Agreement also contained promises from Nouri such as he would implement Article 140 of the Constitution (which would determine whether Kirkuk was part of the KRG or part of the Baghdad-based government).  Nouri used the legal contract to get a second term as prime minister and then, two months later, had his spokesperson state publicly that the contract was illegal and he was not bound to it.

    Back in 2010, parts of the following paragraph used to appear regularly in the snapshots and we'd add to it as needed:

    March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, twenty days and counting. Thursday November 25th, Nouri was finally 'officially' named prime minister-designate. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explained, "In 30 days, he is to present his cabinet to parliament or lose the nomination." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) added, "Even if Mr. Maliki meets the 30-day deadline in late December -- which is not a certainty, given the chronic disregard for legal deadlines in Iraqi politics -- the country will have spent more than nine months under a caretaker government without a functioning legislature. Many of Iraq's most critical needs -- from basic services to investment -- have remained unaddressed throughout the impasse." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) offered, "He has an extremely difficult task ahed of him, these next 30 days are going to be a very tough sell for all of these parties that all want something very important in this government. It took a record eight months to actually come up with this coalition, but now what al-Maliki has to do is put all those people in the competing positins that backed him into slots in the government and he has a month to day that from today."

    The November 10th power sharing agreement is The Erbil Agreement.   Dropping back to the November 25, 2010 snapshot:

    Thug Nouri brokered a deal with -- among others -- Moqtada al-Sadr to remain as dictator of Iraq.  Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports, "The Mahdi Army has also in effect seized control of cellblocks at one of Iraq's largest detention facilities, Taji prison.  Within months of the U.S. hand-over of the prison in March, Mahdi Army detainees were giving orders to guards who were either loyal to or intimidated by them, Iraqi and U.S. officials say  [. . .] Senior Sadr supporters are being brought into the Interior Ministry at high-level positions, according to Mahdi Army members and Iraqi officers. One Sadr commander who is being given the rank of brigadier general said he knew of 50 others who were being recruited for officers' positions."  And if there's anything more frightening than the current Iraq prison system it's grasping that the Mahdi Army is more or less in charge of some of them. Paul Walsh (Minneapolis Star Tribune) reports that the Minnesota National Guard is sending 80 members to Iraq and the question should be why?

    The government in Iraq is nothing but exiles installed by the US. It's not a real government, it's not of the people -- easily demonstrated when the people's voice was rejected this month. So why is the US military being used to prop up this corrupt regime? And when does it end?

    The 'government' lacks the consent of the governed. So to keep these exiles in place, the US military will have to stay on the ground in Iraq for years to come?

    That's not democracy, that's thwarting the will of the people.

    And it did real damage.  Iraqiya was not the party that was supposed to get the most votes.  It was brand new.  It wasn't built around one sect.  It had a woman as its primary spokesperson.  It had Shias, Sunnis, Christians, Muslims, it was about unity and pulling together.  And the voters responded to that.  Iraq would be on a different trajectory today if the US had honored the votes of the Iraqi people. 

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