Saturday, February 22, 2014

Oh, Laura Flanders, why do you have to lie?

A number of you may remember that the idiot Nicholas Kristoff allowed Mia Farrow's daughter to use New York Times space -- or misuse it.

And that set off a large debate about what was acceptable for a journalist to do for a friend.

The point of disclosure was made.

So Laura Flanders types the following in her latest:

[. . .]  said justice would look like respect for native women, and their land and water.  Richmond CA, Mayor Gayle McLaughlin said that justice would be people holding corporations to account.  Anti-incarceration activist Susan Burton said justice would look like fewer people locked up and more living free from assault and addiction. Community organizer Ashley Franklin said her just world would include safe and affordable public transport. Actress Olivia Wilde imagined more movies with more kinds of smart women, leading.  You get the idea.

Do you see the problem?

"Actress Olivia Wilde"?

She is actually Olivia Cockburn -- daughter of Leslie and Andrew Cockburn.

Andrew Cockburn is the uncle of whom?

That's right: Laura Flanders.

If she's typed "Actress (and my cousin) Olivia Wilde," who would have cared?

But by failing to make that disclosure, she looks like an idiot and a liar.

If you're wondering what the column was about, use the link to read it, it was about that awful 'play' by the awful Eve Ensler.

Vagina Monologues.

Does anyone need to hear that crap ever again?

That stupid 'play' is so 90s and the world's pretty much over it.

The only time it makes news these days is when they fire an actress or, worse, force one out  -- like they did to Maria Conchita Alonso last month.

That's when you saw that it wasn't a play.

A play doesn't need an ideologically unanimous cast.

They knew -- or should have known -- Maria leaned right before they invited her.

Then they refused to stand by her.

V-Day's really not even Democratic.  Most women involved are Socialist or Communist.

And it was the Socialist claque that got behind this awful 'play' to begin with.

And Laura (Socialist) is such a disappointment.

She wants to make a literary allusion so she runs to . . . E.M. Forester.

In her supposed Up With Women post.

She runs to a man when she could have used Margaret Atwood or Faye Weldon -- women and feminists -- to have made the same point.  How very sad Laura's become.

On the Tawdry Mia Farrow scandal, make a point to read this.

Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Friday, February 21, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's assault on Anbar continues, the US continues to waste billions in Iraq, Nouri needs vigilantes, and much more.

As Al-Monitor's Amal Sakr pointed out earlier this month, over 9.5 million Iraqis -- out of 34.7 million -- "are living below the poverty line." Iraq's chief thug and prime minister Nouri al-Maliki's on year eight, the end of his second term, and he's done so very little to help improve the Iraqi economy or create jobs.

That's all changing, however.

This week, Nouri introduced a new jobs program.

And if he can get people to carry around video camera or use their cell phones to film, he can create even more jobs by turning the whole thing into a television program.

He could make a programming bloc of it, pairing it with the forced confessions which already air on Iraqi TV.

The program could be called Who Wants To Be A Vigilante?

In a country marked by poverty, Nouri's grand idea?

Vigilante justice -- which is more justice than the country currently has, granted.

Al-Shorfa reports Nouri's attempting to turn the country into bounty hunters.  Kill a 'terrorist' and you'll get 20 million dinars (that sounds better in Iraqi currency, in US dollars it's $17,172.53) and 30 million dinars ($25,758.80) if they capture the 'terrorist' alive.

Anyone else bothered by this?

Apparently not.

White House hasn't said a word.

So if you are an Iraqi in Iraq and you have someone you dislike, grab your gun, find them and shoot.

All you have to do is claim the person was a 'terrorist.'

You might get a reward.

But certainly you won't get prison because Nouri's not doing 'Most Wanted.'  No, he's not providing a list of ten people for you to hunt down.

He's leaving it up to you to determine who is and who isn't a 'terrorist.'

And, hey, mistakes get made.

So you kill an innocent person or two.

Again, is anyone else bothered by this?

Vigilante justice in Iraq.

There are thousands of people on death row in Iraq right now -- at least 50 are foreign nationals from other countries.  There have been repeated cries for a moratorium.  These are ignored.

And Iraqis are encouraged to embrace and cheer on executions.

Into this environment, you want to turn the country into vigilantes?

At what point is the US government going to assist the Iraqi government with supporting rule of law?

Those of us who had to sit through those awful 2011 Congressional hearings where the State Dept offered one tight-lipped official after another -- who could never explain what the billions they were getting for Iraq were going to be spent on -- well know, the State Dept was going to work on so many issues.  Rule of law was one.  Women's rights was another.

They boasted loudly -- in generalities.

Well, as  Human Rights Watch recent report entitled (PDF format warning) "'NO ONE IS SAFE: Abuses of Women in Iraq's Criminal Justice System" proves, the State Dept clearly failed at attempts to improve the lives of women or the rule of law.

Fiscal Year 2012 is the most recent year USAID has posted numbers for.  In FY2012, USAID spent $13.5 million of US tax payer dollars -- spent them in Iraq on strenghtening what?

The rule of law and human rights.

The big ticket item for that year?  $148.4 million -- US tax payer money -- was spent in Iraq on "Democracy and Governance."

Talk about money wasted.  Sadly, it's not refundable.

The State Dept never gets asked about any of those problems.

It's hard to tell if the US press is just an enabler or a co-conspirator.

At any rate, it was just weeks ago that Nouri made the same appeal but without cash.

There was no embrace of it so now Nouri's tossing money and hoping that will put over the plan.

The plan, please note, that reveals what a total failure Nouri al-Maliki is.

With all the weapons provided by the US and other foreign governments, with all the 'intelligence' the US military is currently providing Nouri, with command of the Iraqi forces, the unconstitutional Tigris Operation Command, SWAT, the federal police and so much more, he still can't defeat the people he's defined as the 'enemy' (the ones others call Iraqis).

Mike Phipps (BRussells Tribunal) observes:

The pernicious narrative, peddled by the Iraqi Government and picked up in the mainstream media, that Al-Qaeda had taken over Fallujah, was a long way from the truth. But it helped to secure an immediate delivery of arms to the Iraqi regime from its US puppeteers to help quell the protests in Anbar.
For protests is what they are. They began over a year ago, demanding the freeing of tens of thousands of detainees held without charge by the security forces. Brutal torture and rape - regardless of gender - are widespread in Iraq’s jails. Last year alone, the state executed 169 people, putting it third in the league behind China and Iran.
The Iraqi Government’s accusation of an external Al-Qaeda takeover was made to justify a ferocious siege and bombardment of the Fallujah and Ramadi.  As Iraqi activist Haifa Zangana has pointed out, “Al-Maliki selectively chooses not to mention the regime's own militias: Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Iraqi Hezbollah, the Badr brigades, factions of the Mahdi army and the Mokhtar army. The latter's leader has bragged on Baghdadiya TV, about their responsibility for several attacks. No investigation has been done and no one was arrested. There is also hardly any mention of the Iraqi Special Forces inherited from the occupation, especially trained by Colonel James Steele under US ambassador John Negroponte and attached now directly to al-Maliki's office. Above all, there is no mention of the plethora of foreign-led special operation agents, private security contractors, and organised networks of professional killers, some of whom, many Iraqis believe, are protected by the regime, in the shadow of the US' biggest embassy in the world, in the fortified green zone in Baghdad.”
Government shelling of the towns in Anbar Province has been intense. Human Rights Watch has accused the regime of “indiscriminate mortar fire in civilian neighbourhoods” and “killing its own citizens unlawfully”. Hundreds of people have been killed and more than 200,000 displaced.
The Pentagon is considering following up its arms shipments with the deployment of more troops in the region to train Iraqi forces. This would be fitting, given the atrocities the US military inflicted on this unhappy country along with a deliberate sectarian set of state institutions. It is almost ten years since the first round of collective punishment was inflicted on Fallujah - by US forces.
The 2004 bombardment was a war crime. NGO's and medical workers estimated that between 4,000 and 6,000 mostly civilians were killed. In addition, 36,000 of the city's 50,000 homes were destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines, and up to 200,000 residents were forced to flee.
Months later, the US admitted that it had used white phosphorous as a battlefield weapon in the assault on Fallujah. A documentary on the Italian RAI channel showed images of bodies recovered afterwards, which it said proved the incendiary, similar in effect to napalm, had been used against men, women and children who were burned to the bone. Unconfirmed reports suggest the Iraqi regime is using similar munitions this time around.

Xinhua reports that Nouri's forces are boasting that they've retaken Sulaiman Bek and killed 48 rebels.  That might pass for 'success' to the extreme stupid.  But those paying attention to the seven-week-plus operation Nouri's launched -- a campaign of terror on Anbar -- are fully aware that, when the Anbar assault was launched weeks ago, Sulaiman Bek was controlled by the Iraqi government.  And those paying attention are also aware that Sulaiman Bek is not in Anbar Province, it's in Salahuddin Province.

In other words, Nouri's assault on Anbar can seen as causing Nouri's government to lose control of Sulaiman Bek and exposing the utter weakness of Nouri's leadership.

Those really paying attention are probably also remembering that five days ago, February 17th, Nouri's forces were boasting that they'd retaken Sulaiman Bek.

Maybe this time their boasts are accurate?


AFP observes:

Authorities have tried everything from wide-ranging operations against militants and offers of training and jobs for tribesmen who fight for the government, to restricting vehicle use in the capital.

But nothing has yet succeeded [. . .]

But nothing has yet succeeded.

The Washington Post's Liz Sly Tweets:

The USAF is contracting to build a base at Balad for Iraq's F-16s

So much wasted money.  The only money well spent is done by humantiarain organizations.  For example, the International Committee of the Red Cross has done a great deal:

What ICRC did in Iraq in January 2014

  • More than 4,000 households involving some 26,000 people, displaced as a result of the recent violence in Al-Anbar province, received food and basic household necessities;
  • Water tanks were distributed to improve access to drinking water for nearly 700 people in Al Rahhaliya who fled their homes escaping violence in Al-Anbar province;
  • Some 35,000 patients benefited from medical treatment provided in 13 ICRC-supported primary health-care centres;
  • Al-Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad received on-site support from an ICRC surgeon in order to improve its emergency services capacity;
  • More than 2,200 patients received care at ten ICRC-supported and one ICRC-operated physical rehabilitation centres.

  • Meanwhile Isabel Coles and Jane Bair (Reuters) report that, despite claimes from Hussain al-Shahristani (Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister for Energy) earlier this week, the Kurds have not reached any agreement with Baghdad regarding exporting oil.  KRG spokesperson Safeen Dizayee is quoted stating, "Absolutely we have not reached any agreement to export oil via SOMO.  The dialogue and discussions are still under way."

    Nouri's failures are many.  He's attempting to coherce the Kurds on the oil by using the 2014 budget as a club.

    That's right, it is February of 2014 and Iraq's still not passed a budget.

    It only gets worse.

    Kitabat reports Nouri made noises this week about the budget and specifically about a possible 35 billion deficit.

    How does Iraq have a deficit?

    They bring in tens of billions each month in oil revenues and Nouri spends none of that on the people -- 8 years he's been prime minister and potable water (drinkable water) is still an aspiration in Iraq not a fact and he's also failed to deliver on electricity as well.  In fact, USAID announced this week they'll be working on electricity.  That's more US tax dollars going to Iraq.  Iraqi News reports:, "The USAID in Iraq assured its cooperation with the Ministry of Electricity to provide an uninterrupted supply of the electric power to Iraq."

    For years, the US government wasted US tax dollars on the Sahwa until Senator Barbara Boxer wisely pointed out, in April 2008, that the Iraqi government not only should be footing the bill for their own security costs but also that they had the money to spend.

    April 8, 2008, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing and then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen David Petraeus offered testimony.  Senator Barbara Boxer raised the issue of the "Awakening" Council and how "you are asking us for millions more to pay off the militias and, by the way, I have an article here that says Maliki recently told a London paper that he was concerned about half of them".  Boxer noted that the US was spending $182 million each year ($18 million a month) to "Awakening" Council members and "why don't we ask the Iraqis to pay the entire cost of that program"?

    And why isn't Nouri asked to pay for the cost of fixing the electricity?  Why are the US tax payers getting stuck with this bill?

    35 billion dollar deficit?

    Well Nouri's only son has no job and driving those fancy sports cars in England requires money for gas and registration and, yes, purchase of those vehicles.  And the manor in the London countryside that Nouri's son-in-law just purchased this month?  That also costs money.

    Nouri can't steal all the money he and his worthless family need -- steal it from the Iraqi people -- without creating a deficit.

    Iraq has a surplus of oil, corruption and deaths.

  • Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count notes 666 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports one Iraqi soldier was injured by a sniper in Yathrib, a Saadiya battle left 1 rebel dead, Dijlah Operations Command announced they had killed 48 suspects, Babil security states they killed 7 suspects in Aliskandariyah and Jorfisskhar, and an al-Zab bombing left one child injured.

    That's 56 dead and two people injured which takes the death toll for the month thus far to over 700.

    We'll close with this:

    Press Release by office of Struan Stevenson,
    President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq,
    19th February 2014

    For Immediate Release - 19th February 2014
    A high-level conference involving some of the most prominent political and religious leaders in Iraq, was held in the European Parliament, Brussels, on Wednesday 19th February. Organised and chaired by Struan Stevenson, MEP, President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq, the conference focused on human rights in Iraq and featured speeches from Sheik Dr Rafe Al Refaei - Grand Mufti of Iraq, Saleem Abdullah Al-Jabori - Chair of the HR Committee in the Council of Representatives, Haidar Mulla - Member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir - KRG Head of Department of Foreign Relations, Yonadam Kanna - Chair of the Labour and Social Affairs Committee in the Iraqi Council of Representatives, Kamel Zozo - Syriac Assyrian Chaldean Movement,  Elisabetta Zamparutti - 'Hands Off Cain' NGO,  Btrus Sliwa - Head of the KRG's Independent Human Rights Board, Dr Abdul- Razzaq Rahim al- Shemmeri- Spokesman for the Herak Delegation from Al Anbar Governorate, Dr Sabah Al-Mukhtar - President of the Arab Lawyers Union, UK, Dr Mohammad Taha Hamdoon, Spokesman of the Popular Movement in Iraq, Dr Moneir Hashm Al-Aobyde, Spokesman for the Movement of Baghdad and many others. The eminent speakers were welcomed by Dr. Charles Tannock MEP, Foreign Affairs Spokesman for the ECR Group.

    Many Iraqi guests had travelled to Brussels to participate in the conference, which follows the publication of a highly critical report on Iraq by the European Parliament's Directorate-General for External Policies - entitled "Iraq's deadly spiral towards a civil war". A resolution condemning the on-going violence and abuse of human rights in Iraq is also under preparation in the European Parliament and will be debated in Strasbourg next Wednesday, 26th February. The draft resolution refers repeatedly to the damning report on the abuse of women in Iraq published recently by Human Rights Watch.

    Speaking after the Conference, Struan Stevenson MEP said:     

    "Last November, I was in Iraq. I met with many leading politicians, religious leaders and with courageous men and women who had led popular uprisings and protests in Al Anbar and 6 provinces of Iraq and in many Iraqi cities. The message from all of them was identical. They told me that lawlessness, terrorism, corruption and the systematic abuse of human rights are each a daily feature of life in Iraq. They told me that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is rapidly becoming another Saddam Hussein and that modern Iraq is a dust bowl of violence and bloodshed. More than 9,500 people died last year in bomb attacks and assassinations in an increasingly ugly insurgency that threatens to take the country back to the civil war that erupted from 2006-2008. Over 1000 have died already this year.

    "It was these same people, people from different ethnic backgrounds, from different faiths and creeds, but who share a desire to see freedom, democracy, justice and peace restored to their country, who urged me to organise today’s conference, so that they could come to the European Parliament and reveal the truth about Iraq to the West. I am deeply grateful to them and thank them for the expense, effort and courage they have expended to come here today.

    "They told us in graphic detail how Maliki is using the Iraqi military in a genocidal campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Sunni population of Ramadi and Fallujah, aided and abetted by a generous supply of missiles, rockets, drones and other weaponry from the US, which he uses to slaughter his own people, on the pretext that they are terrorists. The US has even decided to sell and rent Maliki Apache helicopters which he will use to massacre men, women and children in Al Anbar. It is an outrage.

    "I am also appalled at the treatment of the 3000 refugees in Camp Liberty who are incarcerated in prison-like conditions and where the Iraqis are even restricting supplies of food and preventing emptying of sewage tanks, causing the camp to flood with polluted sewerage water and risking health. These defenceless people have been repeatedly attacked by Maliki's forces, including the horrific massacre of 52 of their colleagues in Camp Ashraf last September, when 7 hostages were seized, 6 of whom are women and nothing has been heard from them since. The limp-wristed response from the west has simply encouraged further atrocities of this kind.

    "It is time the West woke up to the tragedy of Iraq. It was the US and the UK - George W. Bush and Tony Blair - who invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam, declaring: "Mission accomplished". They boasted that they had left behind "a functioning democracy", when in fact they left behind a basket case. It was the US who colluded with Iran to return Maliki to power after the last election, even although he had lost that election by 2 seats. Now, in breach of the Erbil Agreement, Maliki has retained control over the Defence, Intelligence and Interior Ministries in his own office and he has even created new, independent security 6 intelligence organisation that is answerable only to him, giving him despotic powers.

    "There is still time for the West to reassert its authority and make amends for its disastrous intervention in Iraq. The UN, US and EU must tell Maliki that his whirlwind of bloodshed, violence, corruption and abuse will no longer be tolerated. Unless there are free and fair elections on 30th April that can restore a semblance of democracy to Iraq and provide the beleaguered people of that country with a non-sectarian, secular government, committed to the restoration of the rule of law and respect for human rights, then the economic umbilical cord to the West must be severed."

    In his address to the conference Dr Rafe Al Refaei - the Grand Mufti of Iraq, said: "Maliki is following a heinous policy of indiscriminate bombings of innocent people. The people of Al-Anbar did not start the war. We did everything to reach a peaceful settlement. Maliki forces attacked the peaceful rallies. They have bombarded the houses of innocent people. My own brother was killed last week in the bombardment and was not from al Qaeda or from Daesh.   When Maliki launched his so-called war against terrorists in the desert in Anbar province not a single combatant of al Qaeda was killed. The only people killed were innocent shepherds.  What is happening in Fallujah is genocide. 1000 civilians have been injured. Events in Iraq have taken a very dangerous turn. It could lead to a civil war in which all Iraqi people will lose. The European Parliament should deal with this matter. We've been handed on a golden platter to the Iranian govt."

    Saleem Abdullah Al-Jabori - Chair of the HR Committee in the Council of Representatives said: "We called on the international community to come to our rescue, but we were faced with just talk and no action. Now Iraqi women's tears have dried up. We're sick of unfulfilled promises. But all of this has not put an end to bloodshed in Iraq. All of the violations are serious, all are important. They are issues of international governance and international law. We Iraqis are the ones who suffer. Investigators use torture to obtain confessions. We need to adopt legislation that will put a stop to violations of prisoners. A person can be detained for years on false accusations. But HR violations will not lead to the eradication of terrorism. Our committee has managed to get many women released from prison. Iraq is rich in diversity, but the killing still goes on. There are around 10 car bombs every day. The Iraqi media should be given more freedom to report the truth. Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced in al Anbar Province. A generation has lost all of its rights."

    Haidar Mulla - Member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives said: "Mr Stevenson has increased the influence of the EU in Iraq and in particular, he has increased the importance of HR. We had hoped that Iraq would become a democracy after the fall of the previous regime. But our HR record is not something we should be proud of. Our task is difficult and complex. We have to pave the way for a culture that respects HR. Until now GoI did not implement article 19 on HR. This is not a gift to the people. It is their right.  Currently there is a ratio of one military personnel to 27 civilians and even so we cannot live peacefully. We have a political crisis and we have to deal with it politically."

    Btrus Sliwa - Head of the Independent KRG Human Rights Board said: "The Ministry of HR was abolished in 2009 because it was being politically influenced. The government set up an independent board not linked to any political body. There is a high rate of domestic violence against women in parts of Kurdistan which we have legislated to stop. There are also now an estimated 200,000 IDPs in Kurdistan as well as over 200,000 refugees from Syria."

    Dr Abdul-Razzaq Rahim Al Shemmeri - speaker for the Herak Delegation from the al-Anbar Governorate said: "This is my first time in the EU and I have come to bring the true voice of Anbar to the European Parliament. Why do you turn a blind eye to the Shia militias who slaughter our people? The Sunni movement entered the conflict through the demonstrations and sit-ins which started in 2012. But it was clear from the start that there was no political will to deal with the demonstrators in a peaceful way. Maliki's army invaded the places where the demonstrators were gathering. The crimes being committed there are similar to Bosnia, Herzegovina. Anti-terrorist forces were sent by the GoI in 2013 to arrest leaders of the so-called terrorist movement in Anbar under the pretext of fighting terrorism. Maliki resorted to threatening us, stating it was a rebellion under influence of foreign forces. He told his forces to finish us off before we finished him off!"

    Dr Sabah al-Mukhtar - UN Permanent Representative, Arab lawyers Union, said: "Sending foreign troops to spread democracy turns the concept upside down. HR abuses occur in every country, but Iraq has a unique situation. Maliki abuses all of the human rights of all of the people, all of the time. Iraq is also bottom of the transparency international list of corrupt states, behind even Somalia and Sudan. Why did the Americans liberate Iraq and then hand it over to the mullahs in Iran?

    Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir - KRG Head of Department of Foreign Relations, said: "HR is not a privilege. It is a basic right. We care about HR because as Kurds we have a long experience of suffering. Our democracy is in its infancy. No-one can claim they are perfect. Respect for HR is what we care about in Kurdistan. We have a culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. This has led to prosperity for the people and an economic boom. Diversity is the source of our strength. We have also provided shelter for IDPs and refugees. The KRG also focused on women and children to address issues that empower and protect them. Women must be part of society and properly protected in all walks of life. Unlike  the federal government in Baghdad, we have always welcomed UN HR reports. As Kurds we will not accept the status of 2nd class citizens. We'd like to see all of Iraq become like Kurdistan."

    Kamel Zozo, representing the Syriac Assyrian Chaldean Movement said: "Iraq is a country for all of us. As Christians we've been there since the creation of Iraq. Now we are filled with bitterness and sadness when we see what has happened to the ethnic minorities. The system of government in Iraq is now a despotic one. Christians are doomed to extinction. This is the land of our fathers and forefathers and yet we are being driven from it. We must enact necessary laws to give us protection. Plans to change the demography of Nineveh and other regions are directly targeting the Christian community. We are being pushed into an unknown future.  Can I request that EP pays attention to the minorities in Iraq."

    Elisabetta Zamparutti - Italian politician in the Radical Movement and Treasurer of "Hands off Cain" NGO, said:  "Executions began again after a suspension in August 2005.  Over 600 people have been executed since then, 117 last year alone. Iraq is now 3rd behind China and Iran for the number of executions it carries out. There are wooden gallows working overtime in the old intelligence HQ building in Baghdad, where Saddam was hanged. No records of these executions are kept. The justice system in Iraq is broken. Those executed are not represented properly. Evidence taken from secret informants cannot be challenged in court. We need to reflect on the situation in Iraq today."

    Struan Stevenson MEP
    President of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq

    Thursday, February 20, 2014

    Shame on Times Colonist

    The Times Colonist has a rather long article on Ani DiFranco.

    I was thinking about writing something nice about her this week.

    And then I read the 'article.'

    Here's how it opens:

    Ani DiFranco has been thinking a lot lately about the line that separates life and art, and how a writer and performer such as herself is expected to navigate such tricky terrain without leaving behind some collateral damage.
    More to the point, she has been trying to determine the amount of licence an artist has when it comes to writing personal songs about friends and family. She understands that there is such a thing as too much information, but that doesn’t seem to placate DiFranco.
    “Is there some kind of territory where art for art’s sake has a right to be?” DiFranco asked rhetorically, down the line from her home in New Orleans. “To express and create works of art, and not have them be taken literally?”

    If you're thinking the recent scandal comes up at that point, nope.


    She was going to hold a 'retreat' on a former plantation that glorifies slavery.

    It caused a huge uproar.

    She was called out all over the internet.

    And forced to cancel.

    And that was just last month.

    But the Times Colonist doesn't even bother to include it.

    That's reporting?

    I'm not calling Ani a racist.

    I said when this was going on that I didn't think she was.

    I don't think she had enough control over what was going on, I also know the money's no longer there and she can't make too many waves as a result, but to act like it never happened?

    Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

    Thursday, February 20, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, the assault on Anbar Province continues, Moqtada al-Sadr's retirement continues to gather attention, we drop back to a US Congressional hearing this month where it became clear how little human rights and women's rights matter, and much more.

    Before the month ends, I'm going to try to work in a few of the hearings we attended this month there hasn't been room for.  That includes the February 11th House Armed Services Committee.  The witnesses were the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Elissa Slotkin and Vice Admiral Frank Pandolfe, the Director for Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5), Joint Staff.

    This hearing was appalling.  Reflecting on it in the weeks since, the strong words I wrote in the margins of my notes -- all 'four' letter type words, regardless of the actual letter count -- still seem appropriate.

    We got the message from the US government, for example, that women don't matter in the Middle East, don't matter to the US government.  We got the lying on everything.  As usual the US government says, for example, "the Iraqis" when they don't mean the people, they just mean the (US-installed) leader.

    We got just how hypocritical they are and, as I wrote at one point, "And that's why I won't be supporting Joe Biden if he runs in 2016."  And I won't.  I'm sorry, I love Joe, but the US government loathes the Iraqi people so Joe's not getting my support.  Well get to it.

    First, let's not the laughable opening remarks of Anne Patterson and wonder if she believes her own lies?

    Anne Patterson: Iraq has, regrettably, been experiencing escalating levels of violence. The two-way flow of Sunni extremists between Syria and Iraq has had a direct bearing on high-profile attacks in Iraq. In 2011 and 2012, about 4,400 Iraqis civilians and members of the security forces were killed each year -- many in attacks led by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, formerly known as al Qaeda in Iraq . Last year, ISIL began shifting resources from Syria to Iraq in search of new opportunities consistent with their broader ambitions. By the summer of 2013, the number of suicide attacks in Iraq had climbed from an average of 5 to 10 per month to approximately 30 to 40 per month. These attacks were calculated, coordinated and unfortunately, increasingly effective and were directed not only at Shia civilian targets but also Sunni and Kurdish targets. On January 1st, ISIL launched its most brazen attack yet, and occupied portions of the Anbar cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. The Iraqi government, working together with local leaders in Anbar and with important U.S. support has pushed back; Ramadi now faces isolated pockets of resistance from anti-government fighters , and the government hopes to clear 4 terrorists from Fallujah predominately by using local tribal forces . But this violence has had a devastating effect on the people of Iraq. The United Nations reports at least 8,800 civilians and members of the security forces were killed in violent attacks across Iraq in 2013. The need for political leaders to overcome mistrust and reach compromises on essential political reforms is urgent. We continue to press upon Iraq’s government the importance of working with local Sunni leaders to draw the nation together in the fight against ISIL. The United States will continue to support the people of Iraq and their government to secure the city of Fallujah. We also continue to work closely with Iraq's leaders to help them build a longterm political, economic and security strategy and to support the national election scheduled for April 30, 2014. I would like to thank the Congress for its support for the much needed military equipment we have been able to provide to Iraq. To combat the very real extremist threats, Iraq needs a professional and well equipped army that can provide the capability for the government to engage extremist groups proactively long before they enter the cities.

    As any honest observer of Iraq well knows, not all the violence -- not even half the violence -- of last year was done by 'al Qaeda'; however, all the violence is attributable to the thug Nouri al-Maliki who took a process that was supposed to bring all the blocs together in a power-sharing government but instead found Nouri practicing one power grab after another while using the tools his office possesses or that he's assumed to destroy rivals.

    He has lied and he has attacked.  In that regard, he was well trained by his US masters.

    But this is why Iraq is where it is right now.

    In 2010, the White House demanded a second term for Nouri despite Nouri losing those elections.  The White House used the Kurds to front this agreement, the legal contract known as The Erbil Agreeement.  Both Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Kurdistan Regional Government Massoud Barzani stood behind the agreement because they believed the White House that this contract was not only going to be legal but it would be enforced because it had the full backing of the US President.

    So the Kurds went about selling it to the other political blocs and convincing them this was a genuine agreement and one the US government would ensure was enforced.

    The contract gave Nouri a second term in exchange for various demands (such as his implementing Article 140 of the Constitution, putting Ayad Allawi in charge of an independent national security body, etc.) and Nouri used The Erbil Agreement to get that second term and then he wiped his ass with it and refused to honor it.

    And the Kurds and others waited for the White House.  In November of 2010, Allawi walked out of the Parliament in its first session and only returned that day after Barack Obama asked him to do so over the phone and swore to him -- swore to him -- that The Erbil Agreement would be honored.  (Nouri was already, in that first session of Parliament, declaring that he would have to wait to implement The Erbil Agreement, that's why Allawi walked out.)

    The Kurds and the others waited and waited.

    And neither Nouri nor the US government honored the agreement.  By the summer of 2011, the Kurds, Allawi's Iraqiya and Moqtada al-Sadr joined in public calls for Nouri to implement The Erbil Agreement.

    The deceit and backstabbing of the White House didn't end there.

    As Nouri refused to honor the contract, Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, joined Moqtada, the Kurds and Allawi in exploring a no-confidence vote on Nouri.  They did what the Iraqi Constitution told them to.  And they got the signatures needed to call for the vote in Parliament.

    What did the White House do?

    Pressured Jalal Talabani (it never takes much pressure, he's always had a collapsible spine) and Jalal folded like a cheap suit.  He refused allow the vote to take place.  He made up excuses and lies and then insisted he had to leave the country because chicken ass could do what the US government told him to do but couldn't hang around for the fall out.

    The betrayal has been intense.

    Grasp what took place in 2010, the voters unseated Nouri.  But Barack wouldn't allow that to happen. And that's why Barack's hands are just as bloody as Nouri al-Maliki's are.  He ensured the tyrant stayed in power and he refused to demand that the power-sharing contract (one he ordered negotiated) be honored.

    When a people have voted out a violent dictator but he stays in office?  When their other political leaders go through legal procedures to remove him from office but the Constitutional measure are not honored?  When the people take to the streets to protest and they're ignored?

    What the hell is left but violence?

    If you need something more than my take, in August the International Crisis Group issued "Make or Break: Iraq’s Sunnis and the State" and this was their take on Hawija:

    As events in Syria nurtured their hopes for a political comeback, Sunni Arabs launched an unprecedented, peaceful protest movement in late 2012 in response to the arrest of bodyguards of Rafea al-Issawi, a prominent Iraqiya member. It too failed to provide answers to accumulated grievances. Instead, the demonstrations and the repression to which they gave rise further exacerbated the sense of exclusion and persecution among Sunnis.
    The government initially chose a lacklustre, technical response, forming committees to unilaterally address protesters’ demands, shunning direct negotiations and tightening security measures in Sunni-populated areas. Half-hearted, belated concessions exacerbated distrust and empowered more radical factions. After a four-month stalemate, the crisis escalated. On 23 April, government forces raided a protest camp in the city of Hawija, in Kirkuk province, killing over 50 and injuring 110. This sparked a wave of violence exceeding anything witnessed for five years. Attacks against security forces and, more ominously, civilians have revived fears of a return to all-out civil strife. The Islamic State of Iraq, al-Qaeda’s local expression, is resurgent. Shiite militias have responded against Sunnis. The government’s seeming intent to address a chiefly political issue – Sunni Arab representation in Baghdad – through tougher security measures has every chance of worsening the situation.
    Belittled, demonised and increasingly subject to a central government crackdown, the popular movement is slowly mutating into an armed struggle. In this respect, the absence of a unified Sunni leadership – to which Baghdad’s policies contributed and which Maliki might have perceived as an asset – has turned out to be a serious liability. In a showdown that is acquiring increasing sectarian undertones, the movement’s proponents look westward to Syria as the arena in which the fight against the Iraqi government and its Shiite allies will play out and eastward toward Iran as the source of all their ills.
    Under intensifying pressure from government forces and with dwindling faith in a political solution, many Sunni Arabs have concluded their only realistic option is a violent conflict increasingly framed in confessional terms. In turn, the government conveniently dismisses all opposition as a sectarian insurgency that warrants ever more stringent security measures. In the absence of a dramatic shift in approach, Iraq’s fragile polity risks breaking down, a victim of the combustible mix of its long­standing flaws and growing regional tensions.

    Why is it that US officials never want to talk reality?  Because doing so would mean taking accountability.

    Need another source?  Here's Anthony H. Cordesman and Sam Khazi (CSIS) from two days ago:

    Iraq’s main threats, however, are self-inflicted wounds caused by its political leaders. The 2010 Iraqi elections and the ensuing political crisis divided the nation. Rather than create any form of stable democracy, the fallout pushed Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki to consolidate power and become steadily more authoritarian. Other Shi’ite leaders contributed to Iraq’s increasing sectarian and ethnic polarization – as did key Sunni and Kurdish leaders.
    Since that time, a brutal power struggle has taken place between Maliki and senior Sunni leaders, and ethnic tensions have grown between the Arab dominated central government and senior Kurdish leaders in the Kurdish Regional government (KRG). The actions of Iraq’s top political leaders have led to a steady rise in Sunni and Shi’ite violence accelerated by the spillover of the extremism caused by the Syrian civil war. This has led to a level of Shi’ite and Sunni violence that now threatens to explode into a level of civil conflict equal to – or higher than – the one that existed during the worst period of the U.S. occupation.

    This struggle has been fueled by actions of the Iraqi government that many reliable sources indicate have included broad national abuses of human rights and the misuse of Iraqi forces and the Iraqi security services in ways where the resulting repression and discrimination has empowered al-Qaeda and other extremist groups. As a result, the very forces that should help bring security and stability have become part of the threat further destabilized Iraq.

    Their votes were rendered meaningless by US President Barack Obama, their Constitution was rendered meaningless by US President Barack Obama.  And their protests?

    In March of last year, activists in Samarra put their message on display.

    From Samarra من سامراء

    "Obama, If you Cannot Hear Us Can you Not See Us?"

    That's a pretty clear message.

    Barack is not an inspirational world figure.  He has betrayed freedom and democracy in Iraq and continues that even to this day.

    "It's important for people to remember that this didn't happen in a vacuum," the always ridiculous  the ridiculous US House Rep Joe Courtney declared.  Ridiculous because real history -- like what we just went over -- doesn't matter to him.

    He made that comment wasting everyone's time on a fantasy recap of the failed 2011 SOFA -- fantasy events that he couched with maybe he had it wrong and that Slotkin tried so hard to help him be right but he ignored the many life preservers she tossed him because he preferred to drown in a sea of ignorance.

    The SOFA, the obsession never dies.

    Committee Chair Buck McKeon:  Last week, we received testimony that al Qaeda is a growing threat particularly in Iraq and Syria. And you've referred to that.  Given the failure to achieve a Status Of Forces Agreement with Iraq which could have provided for residual US presence in the region, the rise of al Qaeda and the associated instability in that region, what lessons can we learn from the experience and how we should transition in Afghanistan

    Elissa Slotkin:  Okay.  Uhm.  Well.  Obviously, we watched the, uhm, events going on in Iraq right now very closely.  Anyone like myself who served there feels -- The only reaction is to feel emotionally when you see what's going on in Anbar.  Uhm, I do think that, uhm, the idea that if we negotiated a follow on settlement with the Iraqis and had a SOFA and  a remaining force, the idea that that force would be able to prevent what is going on is, uh -- I'm not sure that that would be possible.  You know, at the height of the American presence in Iraq, at the height of the surge, 170,000 troops, we had levels of violence that we are seeing right now in Anbar.  So I'm not sure that uh-uh a remaining force of 10,000 would be able to prevent this.  More importantly, I do think that our overall goals in the region are to support partners and allies as they manage their own threats -- manage threats within their own borders.  That is our goal in many states in the regions and Iraq being one of them.  That's why some of the accelerated weapons transfers that you have been seeing have been going on.  We've been pushing very hard to get the Iraqis what they need to take on those threats, learn the lessons they need to learn to manage those issues within their own territory.  Uhm, uh, in terms of what it teaches us for Afghanistan, uhm, I'm not sure the situation is analogous.

    If it's not analogous, we don't have room for it.

    The hearing made clear that trash and lying rule in the United States.

    Right now, there's a lot of pompous remarks from US President Barack Obama, decrying human rights abuses in this or that area.  But he doesn't call out Iraq.  He never does.

    Human rights abuses are legendary now in Iraq.

    But it's a US client-state ruled over by a US installed puppet (first installed by Bully Boy Bush who demanded Nouri be named prime minister in 2006 and then by Barack who demanded that, despite Nouri losing the 2010 parliamentary election, Nouri get a second term).

    Human rights don't mean a damn thing to this presidency.  They rarely do matter to any US presidency.  The occupant of the White House will bellow and finger point as enemy countries while looking the other way when it comes to allies and client states.

    And women should especially pay attention because women's rights don't mean a damn thing to the US government.  Doubt it?  Note this exchange, note it real good.

    US House Rep Thornberry:  Ambassador, I want to get back to this subject of credibility that the Chairman raised earlier.  And part of what really bothers me is Ms. Slotkin's answer to the Chairman's first question, she said essentially, 'Well there was a lot of violence in Anbar before the surge, so there's really no lesson to be -- to be learned there because our troops wouldn't have made any difference any way.'  But what -- Well, first, of course, there was a tremendous amount of sacrifice for our folks as well as Iraqis required to change the situation in Anbar.  Secondly, the hope was that some sort of a continued engagement and advisory would increase their capability and keep them focused on the real enemy, the terrorists, not devolve into sectarian struggles.  And so I want to get  -- And the fact that we're not there?  I kind of wonder does that not effect the way other countries see us?  As whether we're a reliable partner or not? [. . .]

    Anne Patterson:  Uh, I -- I do think -- Let me say, I do think we're a reliable partner and I think our presence is-is very extensive.  Let me take the example of Iraq and what we've done recently.  Uh, we have made an extraordinary effort with the help of this Committee and other, uh, Committees in the Congress to give them the  weaponry and the, frankly, the intelligence support that they need to meet this, uh, this-this renewed threat, uh, from ISIL.  And it was critically important that we supply Hellfire Missiles, uh, because they had attempted to go after these camps in the dessert with thin-skinned helicopters and, uh, by ground and had been unable to do so.  So our arming them came at a critical point to enable them to go after the terrorists.  We also have, uh, tried to step up training.  We're planning to step up training.  We have an enormous foreign military sales and foreign military financing program with Iraq.  So I think it's very difficult to say that we've abandoned the Iraqis because I think we're very, uh, intensely engaged there.  And as to your broader question, sir, yes, I think we're going to need to be involved in these countries -- whether it's Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iraq or Egypt for decades to come -- and not just in the military sense.  The key element in all these countries is going to be job creation for the enormous number of young men that are coming into the labor force and basically have no prospects or are in a built-in element of instability.

    Job creation for men.

    Clearly, the Middle East needs more female suicide bombers.  They already exist.  But they clearly need to increase their numbers or they're not get the focus of the US government.

    Anne Patterson, a woman in the Anne Slaughter sense of the word -- meaning she remembers her gender when she has a book to sale or is in trouble -- is happy to pimp the need for jobs for men.  Only for men.  If that was the policy in the United States, Anne Patterson wouldn't have a job, let alone "my forty year career."

    There is something truly sick about Anne Patterson and the glee with which she spoke of weapons and a weapons financial aid program.

    Anne Patterson keeps saying "they."

    It's not "they," it's Nouri.  The Iraqi people aren't being helped by the US government.

    The always impotent Richard Becker of A.N.S.W.E.R. recently sent out a group  e-mail:

    March 19, 2014, marks the 11th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. During the next six weeks the [A.N.S.W.E.R.] newsletter will feature key articles from the ANSWER Coalition archives that ANSWER and associated groups published before and during the invasion, and throughout the U.S. occupation of Iraq. This is a critical period of U.S. history and the voices of those who led the mass anti-war and anti-occupation movement during this period are largely erased from the U.S. mainstream media. Please read and share this important article originally published in April 2006 about a key moment in the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Share it with young people who were not yet teenagers when the Bush administration invaded Iraq in one of the greatest war crimes in modern history.

    The War Crimes didn't stop.  They don't stop just because an impotent coward by the name of Richard Becker can't call them out.

    It's the ultimate in political masturbation to whine about Iraq in 2006 when the Iraqi people are suffering right now and suffering despite the fact that they voted out Nouri al-Maliki in 2010 only to have the US government demand that Nouri get a second term.

    The people suffer and A.N.S.W.E.R. doesn't do a damn thing except whine about how the peace movement isn't getting credit for past work.

    Want to know why that is?

    Because it's in the past and the rest of us are desperately dealing with today.

    We don't have the time or the inclination to masturbate over 2006 the way Richard Becker does.

    And if A.N.S.W.E.R. really wants recognition, they might try standing up for the Iraqi people who are suffering in Iraq.

    Nouri's being armed.

    Despite the fact that Nouri is the one killing people and destroying Iraq.

    There is, for example, the April 23rd massacre of the sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll rose to 53.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).

    A.N.S.W.E.R. had no outrage over that.  Maybe that's why it and other so-called peace organizations are seen as ridiculous today?  Because they refuse to speak up.  If Bully Boy Bush were still occupying the White House, they'd be all over it. But Barack?  They're too busy nuzzling at his crotch to call him out.

    And that's why no one takes them seriously.

    No one smart takes Hank Johnson seriously.  Any intelligent person is aware that Cynthia McKinney held that seat and argued for peace and justice from it.

    Johnson felt the need to (briefly) speak in that stoned manner of his about Iraq at the Feb. 11th hearing, "The extraction of our forces from the unfortunate war in Iraq, uh, and unfortunately for them and for us they did not, uh, enable us to sign a Status Of Forces Agreement over there, uh, so we had to come on out and the same thing will happen to Afghanistan if we don't, uh, agree to the, uh, very reasonable terms of the Status Of Forces Agreement."

    Cynthia would never have argued for US troops to stay in Afghanistan or lamented the departure of the bulk of them from Iraq.

    Hank Johnson, like Richard Becker, wastes everyone's time.  Neither man will address the reality of Iraq today.

    Iraqis don't have that luxury of pretense.  Take a survivor of the Hawija massacre.  The BRussells Tribunal carried a translation of one activist who was an eye-witness to what went down:


    I am Thamer Hussein Mousa from the village of Mansuriya in the district of Hawija. I am disabled. My left arm was amputated from the shoulder and my left leg amputated from the hip, my right leg is paralyzed due to a sciatic nerve injury, and I have lost sight in my left eye.
    I have five daughters and one son. My son’s name is Mohammed Thamer. I am no different to any other Iraqi citizen. I love what is good for my people and would like to see an end to the injustice in my country.

    When we heard about the peaceful protests in Al-Hawija, taking place at ‘dignity and honor square’, I began attending with my son to reclaim our usurped rights. We attended the protests every day, but last Friday the area of protest was besieged before my son and I could leave; just like all the other protestors there.

    Food and drink were forbidden to be brought into the area….

    On the day of the massacre (Tuesday 23 April 2013) we were caught by surprise when Al-Maliki forces started to raid the area. They began by spraying boiling water on the protestors, followed by heavy helicopter shelling. My little son stood beside me. We were both injured due to the shelling.

    My son, who stood next to my wheelchair, refused to leave me alone. He told me that he was afraid and that we needed to get out of the area. We tried to leave. My son pushed my wheelchair and all around us, people were falling to the ground.

    Shortly after that, two men dressed in military uniforms approached us. One of them spoke to us in Persian; therefore we didn’t understand what he said. His partner then translated. It was nothing but insults and curses. He then asked me “Handicapped, what do you want?” I did not reply. Finally I said to him, “Kill me, but please spare my son”. My son interrupted me and said, “No, kill me but spare my father”. Again I told him “Please, spare my son. His mother is waiting for him and I am just a tired, disabled man. Kill me, but please leave my son”. The man replied “No, I will kill your son first and then you. This will serve you as a lesson.” He then took my son and killed him right in front of my eyes. He fired bullets into his chest and then fired more rounds. I can’t recall anything after that. I lost consciousness and only woke up in the hospital, where I underwent surgery as my intestines were hanging out of my body as a result of the shot.

    After all of what has happened to me and my little son – my only son, the son who I was waiting for to grow up so he could help me – after all that, I was surprised to hear Ali Ghaidan (Lieutenant General, Commander of all Iraqi Army Ground Forces) saying on television, “We killed terrorists” and displaying a list of names, among them my name: Thamer Hussein Mousa.

    I ask you by the name of God, I appeal to everyone who has a shred of humanity. Is it reasonable to label me a terrorist while I am in this situation, with this arm, and with this paralyzed leg and a blind eye?

    I ask you by the name of God, is it reasonable to label me a terrorist? I appeal to all civil society and human rights organizations, the League of Arab States and the Conference of Islamic States to consider my situation; all alone with my five baby daughters, with no one to support us but God. I was waiting for my son to grow up and he was killed in this horrifying way.
    I hold Obama responsible for this act because he is the one who gave them these weapons. The weapons and aircrafts they used and fired upon us were American weapons. I also hold the United States of America responsible for this criminal act, above all, Obama.

    He does what Richard Becker cowardly ass can't, he holds Barack responsible.

    It's 2014.  If the American peace movement wants to be taken seriously, it should be active today, not planning a p.r. blitz for next month about what they did eight years ago.

    And let's move back to Joe.  I like Joe Biden.  He is a nice person, he is a caring person.  He's a bad Vice President, a very bad one.  But note, my expectations are probably too high.  With the US government electing to arm Nouri with more weapons, I think Joe should resign in protest over that. 
    His failure to do so, for me, means he shouldn't be president.  Because he knows better but chooses to go along, I don't think he has the strength to be president.
    Back on April 10, 2008, we attended the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing and reported on it here including this:

    "Just understand my frustration," Biden explained.  "We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist."  Senator Russ Feingold wanted to know if there were "any conditions that the Iraq government must meet?"  No, that thought never occurred to the White House.  "Given the fact that the Maliki government doesn't represent a true coalition," Feingold asked, "won't this agreement [make it appear] we are taking sides in the civil war especially when most Iraqi Parliamentarians have called for the withdrawal of troops?"

    The only thing that's changed since then is that Biden is not Senator Biden, he's Vice President Joe Biden.
    Nouri's government still doesn't represent a true coalition.  In fact, that's more true in his second term than it was in his first term.
    The US government is now taking sides in a civil war -- Nouri's war on the Iraqi people.
    Joe might have a shot at the presidency is he had the strength to resign in protest.  He doesn't have that strength which means it's very likely he would lose the election if he were the Democratic nominee.  Democratic Party Vice Presidents, over the last decades, have lost because they either looked weak or were weak.  (Include Al Gore in that, he won the election but was too weak to fight for it.)
    The only way Democratic Vice Presidents have been sworn in as president in the last 70 or so years is because the sitting president died (FDR died allowing Truman to become president and then run for re-election as a sitting president; the same with JFK's assassination elevating LBJ to president).  In my opinion, when you're too weak to stand up for your publicly voiced beliefs, you're too weak to be president.
    Nouri is terrorizing the Iraqi people.  He is committing War Crimes which include collective punishment and attacking Falluja hospitals with bombs and mortars.
    Maliki’s use of the army against the civilian population of Anbar constitutes the defeat of the policies Iraq has been following since 2003 and cements the divorce between the people of Iraq and the current sectarian government.
    This new round of bombing has already produced 300,000 displaced, adding to the tragedy of the millions of Iraqi citizens already displaced by the failed and brutal US occupation.
    While states are legally obliged to refrain from assisting other states to undertake internationally criminal acts, the United States is upping its supply of arms and military advisors to Iraq, along with intelligence cooperation. A new US “Surge” is in the making and will only bring more death and destruction.
    Maliki’s government cannot wantonly kill civilians and claim a “State of Law”:
    — Collective punishment is illegal under international law.
    — Shelling water and electricity facilities, religious buildings, and hospitals are war crimes and crimes against humanity.
    — The scale and target of the Maliki military strikes and shelling is utterly disproportionate and illegal and criminal in the face of the legitimate demands of the Anbar tribes.
    — The lack of proportionality itself constitutes a war crime and crime against humanity.
    — It is paramount for people everywhere to mobilise now to save Fallujah’s and Anbar’s civilians, understanding that their suffering mirrors the impact of the fascist sectarian regime that the US occupation created.

    We appeal to all individuals of conscience, to all those who support human rights, to all progressives who believe in democracy and the right to self-determination, to the UN Security Council, to the president of the UN General Assembly, to members of the UN General Assembly, to the European Commission and member states, to the European Parliament and peoples, to Islamic and Arab states and people and their organisations, and to all human rights, anti-war and civil society organisations to:
    1. Order the Iraqi government to stop its use of wanton shelling, air force attacks, and heavy artillery against the civilian population in keeping with the responsibility of states to protect civilians under the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention and its additional protocols.
    2. Constitute an independent investigative committee to document the war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Anbar and submit its findings to the International Criminal Court.

    Abdul Ilah Albayaty
    Hana Al Bayaty
    Ian Douglas
    Eman Ahmed Khamas

    We call on all to join us, sign and spread this appeal. To endorse, email to:
    Abdul Ilah Albayaty is an Iraqi political analyst. Hana Al Bayaty is an author and political activist. Ian Douglas is an independent political writer who has taught politics at universities in the US, UK, Egypt and Palestine.

    Nouri's assault on Anbar has not ended violence in Iraq.
    Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 629 violent deaths so far this month.

    National Iraqi News Agency reports a mortar attack on an al-Musaiyiab (Babylon Province) market has left 17 people dead and sixty-five more injured, and an al-Dujail roadside bombing left 4 Sahwa dead and three more injured.  This afternoon, KPFA's Mark Mericle noted on the newsbreak before Doug Henwood's Behind The News that the death toll in the al-Musaiyiab mortar attack had risen to 22  (click here to stream that newsbreak).



    Cleric and movement Moqtada al-Sadr announced his political retirement Saturday.  Tuesday, he delivered a speech which  CounterPunch has posted in full. Of the speech, Mustafa Habib (Niqash) explains:

    In order to clarify his decision, al-Sadr then made a televised speech on Tuesday in which he said his decision was irreversible.
    Besides criticizing the current government and judiciary in that 11-minute speech, al-Sadr also stressed the importance of participating in the upcoming elections, in order to bring about the change that Iraq needed.
    Al-Sadr’s decision was unexpected – most political observers were waiting for a showdown at Iraq’s general elections in April, between the Shiite Muslim Prime Minister, al-Maliki, and other Shiite Muslim leaders like al-Sadr.
    And almost immediately various parties gave different reasons as to why al-Sadr might be retiring.
    At first some thought it was a tactical move, designed to show how bad things had become. After all, al-Sadr has said he would retire from politics before but then changed his mind.
    Some said that al-Sadr was disappointed with those close to him, including politicians in his own party who had recently voted for a law giving local MPs various financial privileges – al-Sadr has always been an advocate of social welfare and has had many supporters from lower income areas like Sadr city, and he was opposed to this law. As was the leading Shiite Muslim authority in the land, the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who told Iraqis not to vote for those MPs that supported the law.
    However this hardly seems enough to make al-Sadr retire: he is powerful enough within his movement that he could dismiss anyone in his party he chose, if they behaved inappropriately.
    Others felt it was a good move by al-Sadr, in that he was moving toward a separation of church and state and allowing new political leaders to come forward.

     Sami Moubayed (Gulf News) notes:

    Arabs are not used to early retirement. Moqtada’s decision was shocking — to say the least — and has opened a Pandora’s Box for war-torn Iraq. The announcement took the Iraqi political scene by storm. Moqtada is king of the patron-client system in Iraq. Thousands rely on his protection in the complex world of Iraqi politics. Hundreds of his supporters dot the landscape as civil servants, soldiers, officers, teachers, MPs and cabinet ministers. They feel orphaned and vulnerable without him. They are now an easy target for the wide assortment of enemies that Moqtada has made since 2003, ranging from Al Qaida and the Baathists onto current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki, who is glad to see the end of Moqtada. Although originally marketed as a prime opponent of Iraqi Sunnis, back in 2005-2006, Moqtada has since evolved rapidly, positioning himself as champion of moderation, coexistence and Sunni rights, in addition to being an ally of secular figures like the former Iraqi premiere, Ayad Allawi.

    In the piece, Moubayed wonders what if this resignation is a bluff?  He offers Moqtada might be wanting people to beg him to return.  Moubayed seems unaware that there have been many requests from politicians -- including Ayad Allawi -- for Moqtada to rethink retiring.  In addition, Tuesday,  NINA reported:

    The officer of public relations and ceremonies at the office of the leader of the Sadrist movement, Amer al-Husseini stressed that the decision of Mr. Muqtada al-Sadr is irreversible and his followers have to obey this matter without discussion or demonstration .
    Al-Husseini statement came after he received dozens of protesters who came from Sadr City to ask their leader to reverse his decision, showing their support.
    Husseini told the demonstrators outside the home of cleric Muqtada al- Sadr, "Muqtada al-Sadr appreciates you for coming and values your position and confirms that the decisions made must obey and he insists on it, for the benefit of the people and the nation, and you should not discuss or protest ."

    If he was looking to be wooed to return, I don't think it makes a lot of sense for him to order the disperstion of his followers who are beseeching him to return.  Joel Wing (Musings On Iraq) weighs in on Moqtada today and seems to feel similar to Moubayed:
    Rather than being an act of disgust at Iraq’s political system, this latest move by Moqtada al-Sadr appears to be a calculated move to prepare his party of this year’s election. Various members of his list have showed their devotion by symbolically retiring with Sadr. Hundreds of his followers have gone out into the streets to display their loyalty. Sadr has told them that they should all vote this year. If he doesn’t reconstitute his list before the April balloting he will most likely tell his movement who to vote for as he did in 2009 when the Sadrists did not run as an official party. He has also made it clear that this year’s election is all about the prime minister. In his speech he made it clear that Maliki is to blame for all of Iraq’s problems. While in 2010 Sadr threw his weight behind the prime minister, which assured him of a second term, this year Moqtada believes that he can make a real challenge to his rule. This was shown after the 2013 provincial vote when Ahrar worked with other parties to shut out Maliki’s State of Law from several of the new local governments. Finally, Sadr’s announcement and subsequent speech has gained all the headlines not only in Iraq, but in the region and internationally. This has given him far more attention than a regular campaign could have. Two months from now observers can see whether this decision paid off or not.