Friday, April 03, 2015

Laura Nyro

Gone too soon, the great Laura Nyro's incredible music has made a lasting impact.

I always thought Laura Nyro's life would make for a very fascinating film.

Then I read Michele Kort's hideous biography and realized the film would need a real writer.

Laura was at her most famous when she walked away and basically went into seclusion.

It would be several years before she returned to recording.

Her life was non-linear so that might make a film difficult as well.

But I think it would be fascinating.

She was the singer-songwriter that all the other artists wanted to record.

The only time she broke into the top 100 pop chart was with a cover of Carole King's "Up On The Roof."

Everyone else had hits with her songs -- Barbra Streisand ("Stoney End"), Blood, Sweat & Tears ("And When I Die"), Three Dog Night ("Eli's Coming"), the Fifth Dimension ("Wedding Bell Blues," "Stoned Soul Picnic," "Save The Country," etc) -- everyone but her.

She was gifted beyond belief.

I think she would be a fascinating topic for a film.

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

Thursday, April 2, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, militias loot in Tikrit, Amnesty International fears far worse than looting is taking place, there is no deal with Iran but some spin and some lie, a convicted felon -- released only months ago and now a registered sex offender -- gets published by The Huffington Post -- thanks, Arianna, for stabbing women in the back, the Ashraf community continues to be under attack, Hillary Clinton's 'skill' with regard to that community does not speak well for her alleged leadership, and much more.

The US government has been seeking a treaty with the Iranian government.

Some would have you believe the moment arrived today.

US Secretary of State John Kerry:  We, our P5+1, EU partners, and Iran have arrived at a consensus on the key parameters of an arrangement that, once implemented, will give the international community confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful. And over the coming weeks, with all of the conditions of the 2013 Joint Plan of Action still in effect from this moment forward, our experts will continue to work hard to build on the parameters that we have arrived at today and finalize a comprehensive deal by the end of June.

Did you follow that?

Because a lot of people -- including supposed journalists -- did not.

There is no deal.

Parameters of a deal?

That's not a deal.

The negotiations will continue.

They may or may not lead to a deal.

Cedric and Wally grasped that this afternoon "Barry calls a maybe 'historic'" and "THIS JUST IN! ALL HAIL THE MAYBE HISTORIC DEAL THAT MIGHT BE REACHED IN 3 MONTHS! OR NOT!" joint-post:


. . . MIGHT . . .

. . . BE REACHED . . .

. . . IN . . .

. . . THREE MONTHS . . .





On The NewsHour (PBS -- link is video, text and audio), Judy Woodruff put it this way, "The United States and five other nations say they have achieved a political framework for a final agreement with Iran."

Again to John Kerry:

US Secretary of State John Kerry:  Our political understanding arrived at today opens the door for a long-term resolution to the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Now, we have no illusions about the fact that we still have a ways to travel before we’ll arrive at the destination that we seek. We still have many technical details to work out on both sides and still some other issues that we acknowledge still have to be resolved; for example, the duration of the UN arms and ballistic missile restrictions on Iran and the precise timing of and mechanism for the conversion of the Arak reactor and Fordow site. And of course, once we’re able to finalize a comprehensive deal, the process of implementation then remains in front of us as well. But that’s a good challenge to have, frankly.

There is no deal.

There may be one at some point.

There's not one now.

I'm real sorry to be the one to tell Phyllis Bennis to put the vibrator down and stop shrieking in ecstasy but someone has to.

Phyllis can take comfort in the fact that her public madness has been trumped.

No, Phyllis is many things (a number of them good) but she is never trash.

Trash wrote this:

The deal recently concluded between Iran and the so-called "P-5 plus 1" nations (the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) is designed to prevent Iran from being able to rapidly acquire fissile material in quantities suitable for use in a nuclear weapon. According to President Obama, the agreement is a "good deal" that "shuts down Iran's path to a bomb." The devil is in the details, of course, which won't be finalized until June 30,

I didn't realize trash was out of prison.

Turns out, he got paroled back in December.

Arianna allowed her website -- bearing her name -- to publish those scribbles by that piece of trash.

The Huffington Post offers this tagline to the column:

Scott Ritter served as a weapons inspector for the United Nations in Iraq from 1991-1998 and is the author of Target Iran published by Nation Books.

It should include that he "was convicted of six counts, including felony unlawful contact with a minor.  Sentenced to up to five and half years, he was sent to Laurel Highlands state prison in Somerset County, Pa., in March 2012."  And he served 2 years and 9 months before being paroled.

Scott Ritter is filth.  He's a sex offender who supposed to be getting treatment as part of his parole.  I wonder how writing -- which will surely lead to speaking -- is supposed to protect anyone because he's not supposed to have contact with underage females.

I don't understand.

He gets a pass because he's a White man?

He's a convicted pedophile.

Arrested multiple times and convicted.

No one should publish his 'writing.'  It's dull and plodding.

But if it is to be published, it needs to be published with a notice that he's a convicted predator.

Long before the conviction, years before, we took a strong stand against Scott Ritter and the people who enabled him.

We noted that Katrina vanden Heuvel would feel less inclined to publish him if it was her teenage daughter he was targeting.  We noted Amy Goodman's stamp of approval could enable him to continue the behavior and she'd be responsible if some young girl was harmed.

They enabled him.

They lied for him.

They insisted that there was a conspiracy against him.

There was no conspiracy, Ritter was not innocent.

He was a predator and he got caught yet again.

And this time he got convicted.

There is no reason to publish his writing.

But those stupid enough to do so need to identify him as a predator.

Those stupid enough to publish him make clear that (a) they don't value the safety of women and girls and (b) they think when a predator is White you give him a pass.

He has nothing of value to offer.

And that's demonstrated by the fact that he's writing about a deal that's done when it's not done.

Christopher Dickey and Tim Mak (Daily Beast) explain:

But Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif all emphasized a basic truth: the deal’s not done yet, and while what came out of Lausanne was a better and more complete framework than many diplomats expected when they went in, nothing has been signed, sealed and delivered.
It will be a miracle, in fact, if the deal outlined today can be wrapped up by the end of June, the deadline that’s been announced. Not only are the technical details to be resolved enormous and complicated, attacks on the whole process are likely to be relentless.

On the topic of spin, Tikrit.  Margaret Griffis ( reports, "It is unclear how successful the operation in Tikrit has been. Tours of the city have been canceled, and reporters are not allowed to wander by themselves. Also, many of the militiamen believe that the U.S. military has been ineffectual in the operation and even helping the militants."

AFP reports the US government continues its attempt to grab the glory regarding the 'liberation' of Tikrit and quotes a US official declaring, "Air support became the key factor in this."  And maybe Haider al-Abadi can delcare, for the third day in a row, that, today, Tikrit is liberated?  And, who knows, maybe today will be the day when there are no reports of battles in Tikrit?

How little will any of that actually matter?

Maybe the answer to that can be found with regards to the corpse discovered dumped in southern Baghdad today.  Alsumaria reports the man was a Sahwa and had been kidnapped at a checkpoint run by men in "military uniforms" who kidnapped the man and stole his car.  Hours later, they dumped his dead body in the streets.

Sahwa are predominately Sunni (we say "predominately" based on David Petraeus' testimony to Congress in April 2008).  The killers were most likely Shi'ite.  Whether they 'stole' the military uniforms (a laughable claim that's been made throughout the Iraq War) or were given them or were actually Iraqi military forces, it's Shi'ite on Sunni violence and anything that happened in Tikrit yesterday or the day before didn't lessen that.

"We are very concerned by reports of widespread human rights abuses committed in the course of the military operation in the area around Tikrit."

That's Amnesty International's Donatella Rovera speaking to AFP today.

Rovera also notes, "We are investigating reports that scores of residents have been seized early last month and not heard of since, and that residents’ homes and businesses have been blown up or burned down after having been looted by militias. There have also been reports of summary executions of men who may or may not have been involved in combat but who were killed after having been captured."

National Iraqi News Agency notes:

Vice President Iyad Allawi urged on Wednesday the army men to stay away from revenge and arrests, marginalization and the completion of military progress achieved in Tikrit.
Allawi praised - in a statement reported by his press office on the occasion of Liberation of Tikrit city from the control of the IS organization – the role of the Iraqi army who confronted the terrorist organizations and contributed to their defeat, stressing the importance of moving away from revenge and arrests, marginalization and slogans that cause damage to preserve the victory achieved and complete progress achieved down to the final victory on this IS extremist organization.
He stressed the need to respect the people of Salah al-Din province, as they are an integral part of the Iraqi people, adding that the Iraq war against terrorism embodied the national unity of the Iraqi people.

And those lovely thugs the US government keeps trying to sell to the press as the answer to a new Iraq?

AFP reports what took place yesterday in Tikrit:

Pro-government militiamen were seen looting shops in the centre of the Iraqi city of Tikrit on Wednesday after its recapture from the Islamic State jihadist group in a month-long battle.

The militiamen took items including clothing, shampoo and shaving cream from two shops in central Tikrit before driving away.

Iraqi Spring MC Tweeted about the militia looting and offered a photo:

: تكرار حالات السلب والنهب التي تنتهجها القوات الحكومية والميليشيات التابعة لها عند دخولها مناطق النزاع.
47 retweets18 favorites

Alsumaria notes that southern Baghdad also saw a group wearing military fatiques set up a check point and steal a car and 450 million dinars.

That's approximately $381,760 in US dollars.

All Iraq News notes a Baghdad car bombing left 1 person dead and thirteen injured.  Margaret Griffis ( counts 78 violent deaths across the country today.

How bad is it really in Iraq?

Alsumaria reports Nouri al-Maliki, former prime minister of Iraq, forever thug and one of Iraq's three vice presidents today, has declared that what's happening in Iraq now poses a regional threat.


Not when he created and fostered this strife?

Nouri will never take accountability for his actions but even he can't pretend things are peachy and jolly in Iraq.

In other news, a group of demonstrators in Dhi Qar Province today attempted to meet with Minister of Health Adela Hammound who was visiting the province.  Their issue?  Failure to pay them for their work.  The conversation?  Alsumaria reports it was carried out with bullets as the Minister refused to meet with them but her security forces fired shots -- either in the air or at the protesters -- what was being shot at is now the subject of a formal investigation.  Iraq Times notes the city's committee has issued a statement declaring that shots were fired but they were fired in the air and any injuries that resulted were accidental. However, Alsumaria quotes the Minister stating that her security forces did not fire any weapons.

We'll note this Tweet.

  • A twitter campaign to demand the release of a Camp Liberty resident taken hostage by Iraqi forces - starts now

  • Donya is talking about a member of the Ashraf community.

    As of September 2013, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty).  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9, 2013, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1, 2013.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.  In addition, 7 Ashraf residents were taken in the assault.  November 2013, in response to questions from US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, the  State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Brett McGurk, stated, "The seven are not in Iraq."

    The September 28, 2012 change in designation?

    Tom McCarthy offers "Hillary Clinton: foreign policy is her strong suit -- but it could be her undoing" at the Guardian.

    Her 'strong suit' saw her repeatedly refusing a court order regarding the designation of  the MEK.

    That's part of her foreign policy.

    It's not a part that speaks well for her ability to make a decision or for her ability to comply with a court order in a timely fashion.

    July 17, 2010, Glenn Kessler (Washington Post) reported, "A federal appeals court Friday ordered the State Department to review its decisions to label an Iranian opposition group as a foreign terrorist organization, strongly suggesting the designation should be revoked."

    It was over two years before Hillary announced the designation.

    Again, it doesn't speak well for her ability to make a decision or for her ability to comply with a court order in a timely fashion.

    Nor does it speak well for her that she was unable to re-settle 3,000 dissidents during her time as US Secretary of State.

    As for the Ashraf member being Tweeted about, Shahriar Kia (News Blaze) explains:

    On Monday, 16 March 2015, Mr. Safar Zakery, a truck driver and a member of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran residing in Camp Liberty near Baghdad International Airport, was hit by an Iraq SWAT Humvee in a suspicious road accident. Traffic police at the site to investigate the matter immediately said the SWAT Humvee was responsible for the accident.
    Despite the fact that Safar Zakery was innocent, the Karkh investigative court - under the influence of three Iraqi army intelligence officers in contact with the Iranian regime's embassy and in charge of Camp Liberty's management team - had Mr. Zakery illegally arrested and imprisoned.

    The illegal arrest and continued detention of Safar Zakery are under orders issued by Iraqi national security advisor Falih Fayyadh. He is implementing his policies through his three agents by the names of Sadeq Mohamed Kadhem, Major Ahmed Khozeir and Captain Heidar Azzab Mashi, all having major roles in the crackdown and massacre of Ashraf and Liberty residents from 2009 onward.


    Thursday, April 02, 2015

    Taylor Swift?

    I asked if I was missing anything so far this year and a number of e-mails came in about Taylor Swift's latest album (which actually came out in 2014).

    I have listened to 1989.

    And it's not a bad album.

    Taylor's a hit maker.

    That's why she's all over the radio.

    And I love "Shake It Off."

    But I just can't take an album like that.

    Not a whole album.

    It's a little too sterile.

    Which is too bad because she had major songwriting talent.

    I'll hear people sing her songs -- Ava and C.I. do a great road trip version of "Style" that re-invents the song completely and I saw a young woman on BBC do this amazing reworking of "I Knew You Were Trouble" -- and I'll realize how great they are.

    But they don't do it in the same hit making style she does.

    They play with the song, they explore it.

    I feel like Taylor rushes through these songs.

    They're hits.

    There's no denying that.

    But they just don't feel lived in the way they do when other people sing Taylor's songs.

    She would be a much better recording artist if she would breathe and take a step back.

    However, she wants to be a hitmaker and that might destroy the radio airplay.

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

    Wednesday, April 1, 2015.  Chaos and violence continue, for the second day in a row the Iraqi government announces victory in Tikrit (they, no doubt, really mean it this time), fighting continues in Tikrit, the US government tries to spin events to make themselves the winner, the Ashraf community remains under attack, Canadian MP  Jack Harris observes "mission creep" has been replaced with "mission leap," and much more.

    There's still no deal with Iran though the US government continues dithering at the table despite swearing they'd walk away on Tuesday if there was no deal.

    Does it matter?

    Columnist Mubarak Al Duwailah (Qatar's The Peninsula) thinks so:

    Look at what is happening around us! What is stopping America from checking the Iranian expansion in Iraq? What is preventing America from putting an end to the persecution of Sunnis in Iraq? Why doesn’t America stop the forced displacement of Arabs in Iraq from their cities and neighbourhoods? Why does the West, under American leadership, let Iran and Hezbollah support Bashar Al Assad’s regime?

    Yeah, it matters.

    And when members of the US Congress begin focusing on the latest assault on the Ashraf community in Iraq, it's going to matter a lot more.

  • Shahriar Kia (News Blaze) explains:

    On Monday, 16 March 2015, Mr. Safar Zakery, a truck driver and a member of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran residing in Camp Liberty near Baghdad International Airport, was hit by an Iraq SWAT Humvee in a suspicious road accident. Traffic police at the site to investigate the matter immediately said the SWAT Humvee was responsible for the accident.
    Despite the fact that Safar Zakery was innocent, the Karkh investigative court - under the influence of three Iraqi army intelligence officers in contact with the Iranian regime's embassy and in charge of Camp Liberty's management team - had Mr. Zakery illegally arrested and imprisoned.

    The illegal arrest and continued detention of Safar Zakery are under orders issued by Iraqi national security advisor Falih Fayyadh. He is implementing his policies through his three agents by the names of Sadeq Mohamed Kadhem, Major Ahmed Khozeir and Captain Heidar Azzab Mashi, all having major roles in the crackdown and massacre of Ashraf and Liberty residents from 2009 onward.

    We're going to go into the Ashraf community at length in one of the next two snapshots.  For now, we'll note that Baghdad remains a puppet of Tehran when it comes to the Ashraf community.

    And we'll note that Congress doesn't care for the White House's excuses and Brett McGurk, awhile back, was able to spin Congress to a degree on Ashraf but they've since woken up to his lies and know that he is not to be trusted on this issue.

    And if you need another real world implication from the never-ending and over-the-barrel 'negotiations,' right at this moment is that the US State Dept is paralyzed to the point that it can't even handle a daily press briefing.

    For the second day in a row, the State Dept was unable to pull off a press briefing.

    If they can't handle something that basic, should we expect anything out of them?

    Not everyone's silent.

    "Here we come to you, Anbar! Here we come to you, Nineveh, and we say it with full resolution, confidence, and persistence."

    That's Iraq's Minister of Defense Khalid al-Obeidi as quoted by the AP.

    And yes, he does sound a bit like Howard Dean.

    AP notes he dubbed today in Tikrit a "magnificent victory."

    They're far too kind to note that yesterday was also dubbed a victory.

    BBC News does note that, claims aside, "Troops are still fighting to clear the last remaining IS holdout in the city, but Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was filmed raising an Iraqi flag there."

    Haider Tweeted a photo.

    Prime Minister Al-Abadi raises the Iraqi flag in the center of Tikrit
    128 retweets109 favorites

    Alsumaria has a photo essay on Tikrit here.

    Also noting that fighting continues is AFP:

    A top leader in the Badr organisation, one of the most prominent Shia militias in Iraq, admitted that Tikrit had not been completely purged of ISIL fighters.
    "Snipers are still there and many buildings are booby-trapped," Karim al-Nuri told AFP news agency in the northern Tikrit neighbourhood of Qadisiya.

    A commander for the Ketaeb Imam Ali militia said his men were involved in a firefight in the north of the city as late as 11:00am (0800 GMT).

    AFP also notes that the claim of victory was previously made yesterday.

    That points made even more clearly in an AFP report entitled "Iraq forces hunt diehard militants after Tikrit victory claim: Coalition and militias say it is premature to claim victory."

    But it's not premature, apparently, to start trying to claim glory and credit.

    The State Dept's Brett McGurk Tweeted:

    As is liberated, we're training 10000+ Iraqi soldiers for coming offensives vs. .
    29 retweets 20 favorites

    Considering that taking a city took 31 days (and counting), I'm not really sure it's a point of pride to brag responsibility for training the Iraqi soldiers.

    Matt Bradley and Julian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) explain the way the US government is trying to spin things:

    Policy makers in Washington have long been conflicted over the Shiite militias, warning that using them to liberate Sunni-populated areas threatened to worsen sectarian tensions. But they acknowledged that with the Iraqi security forces weakened by Islamic State invasion, the militias were needed to defend the U.S.-allied government in Baghdad.
    On Wednesday, military officials reiterated the U.S. would continue to work with Shiite militias, as they did in Tikrit, as long as they were under Iraqi, not Iranian, control.

    U.S. officials say they deliberately used the Tikrit operation to drive a wedge between Iran and Iraq while opening space for groups such as Mr. Assadi’s who passionately want to defeat Islamic State but are less beholden to Iranian interests.

    Jim Michaels (USA Today) tosses some perspective over those lofty claims:

    The United States' hopes of using the successful outcome of the offensive to drive a wedge between the Shiite-led Iraqi government and the militias may not be realistic, however.
    "U.S. officials are delusional if they believe they can convince Iraq's government to remove these militias from ongoing military operations against the Islamic State," said Ali Khedery, a former special assistant to five U.S. ambassadors in Iraq. "There's been a lot of wishful thinking going on."
    The militias are tied to powerful politicians in the government and have been armed and financed with government money, according to experts on Iraq.
    "The militias are embedded in the state institutions and they're getting more and more entrenched," said Richard Welch, a retired Army colonel who spent years in Iraq running reconciliation efforts.

    Also pouring cold water on the idiotic claims of US officials, Tirana Hassan (Foreign Policy) who explains what happened in the last 'liberation' by militias:

    While we don’t know exactly how events in Tikrit will play out, we do know how the operation last summer ended in Amerli, which had been under siege for three months. In that battle, Iraqi authorities, along with U.S. and coalition forces, turned a blind eye to the abusive conduct of Shiite militias after the Islamic State abandoned the area. The apparent indifference of the United States and coalition forces paved the way for a wave of destruction, as the militias targeted Sunni Arabs and other minorities in the surrounding area.
    Our research on the operations around Amerli revealed how the operation to clear and secure a 300-mile area around the town quickly morphed into a campaign of revenge attacks. Pro-government militias and volunteer fighters, along with Iraqi security forces, purposefully burned Sunni villages to the ground, destroyed homes with explosives, and looted entire villages, leaving them virtually uninhabitable.

    Under the guise of fighting the Islamic State, the marauding militiamen waged their own sectarian war with complete impunity. While Amerli is a Shiite Turkoman village, the majority of the surrounding villages were home to Sunni Arabs and several mixed Arab and Turkoman communities that the militias accuse of being Islamic State collaborators and sympathizers. The families from these surrounding villages told me that the militias drove them from their homes — and in the days after my visit, reports continued to flow in from desperate families describing how militiamen took away their brothers and sons and destroyed more of their homes. These were families caught between the horrors of the Islamic State and the vengeance of out-of-control Shiite militias.

    Hamdi Alkhshali, Jomana Karadsheh and Don Melvin (CNN -- video report) examine the 'legacy' of the Islamic State in Tikrit and feel that it is "booby traps, IEDs and fear."

    On the topic of violence, UNAMI released the following today:

    Baghdad, 1 April 2015 – According to casualty figures released today by UNAMI, a total of 997 Iraqis were killed and another 2,172 were injured in acts of terrorism and violence in March*. 

    The number of civilians killed was 729 (including 42 civilian police), and the number of civilians injured was 1,785 (including 98 civilian police).

    A further 268 members of the Iraqi Security Forces (including Peshmerga, SWAT and militias fighting alongside the Iraqi Army / Not including casualties from Anbar Operations) were killed and 387 were injured.
    Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 1,290 civilian casualties (362 killed, 928 injured). Diyala suffered 51 killed and 75 injured; Salahadin suffered 34 killed and 48 injured, and Ninewa 20 killed and 15 injured.
    According to information obtained by UNAMI from the Health Directorate in Anbar, the Governorate suffered a total of 939 civilian casualties (237 killed and 702 injured). This included 58 killed and 391 injured in Ramadi and 179 killed and 311 injured in Fallujah. 
    “I am shocked to see that Iraqis continue to bear the brunt of appalling numbers of casualties caused by successive waves of violence, which are threatening with additional suffering and misery”, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Ján Kubiš said. 
    “The United Nations calls upon the Government of Iraq to do all it can to ensure that civilians’ safety and security is protected in line with fundamental human rights principles and humanitarian law”, the UN Envoy further stated.

    *CAVEATS: In general, UNAMI has been hindered in effectively verifying casualties in conflict areas.  Figures for casualties from Anbar Governorate are provided by the Health Directorate and are noted above. In some cases, UNAMI could only partially verify certain incidents.  UNAMI has also received, without being able to verify, reports of large numbers of casualties along with unknown numbers of persons who have died from secondary effects of violence after having fled their homes due to exposure to the elements, lack of water, food, medicines and health care.  For these reasons, the figures reported have to be considered as the absolute minimum.

    So that's at least 997 plus the 237 killed in Anabar.

    Margaret Griffis ( provides a daily count and released her numbers for the month:

    At least 6,081 people were killed and 1,874 more were wounded in the month of March. These estimates are conservative, and the actual number of casualties could be much higher. In particular, the Iraqi government has resisted releasing credible military casualty numbers, but anonymous sources sometimes reveal that military casualties are much higher than being reported. The number of dead and wounded militants could go either way. There is no independent confirmation of their casualties, and the military could be exaggerating their victories. compiled 1,913 dead and 1,241 wounded in the column during March. These figures were gleaned from media sources and do not include enemy casualties. Adding militant casualties, the figures are 6,081 dead and 1,530 wounded.

    Violence also includes Iraq's use of the death penalty.  There are said to be 500 people on death row in Iraq with 150 expected to be executed in 2105.  On this topic, Pakistan's Nation newspaper reports:

    Governments around the world are using the threat of terrorism — real or perceived — to advance executions, Amnesty International states in its annual report on the death penalty.
    Some 2,466 death sentences were handed out last year, representing a 28 per cent increase on 2013, the rights group said on Wednesday.

    In Canada, some are crying foul.  Steven Chase (Globe and Mail) notes that the country's prime minister, still Stephen Harper who's apparently serving some form of a life sentence, forced a vote on extending "Canada's combat mission [in Iraq] by 12 months" and, only two days after the vote, did Minister Jason Kenney reveal that this move will cost Canadians $406 million in addition to the $122 million previously announced.

    The Liberal Party's Joyce Murray is quoted stating:

    There’s absolutely no excuse for the minister to announce the cost only days after the debate was over.  This was the kind of thing [Canadians] should have been informed about.  It's irresponsible they were not released before the debate.

    Stephen Harper is the leader of Canada's Conservative Party.  Jack Harris of the New Democratic Party argues that the money could have been utilized better by focusing on the needs of the displaced.

    He said more in a speech in Parliament today.

    MP Jack Harris:  The Foreign Affairs Minister, the Defense Minister and the Prime Minister have all stated that ISIL poses a direct threat to Canada. When the Prime Minister says, "We will deal with the threat to this country as long as it is there.  We will not stop dealing with it before that," we know we are in this for the long haul.  Because we have to look at how this government has defined the threat. The Minister of Foreign Affairs said in a speech this morning that Canadians are "under siege."  "Under siege," Mr. Speaker.  The Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of National Defense and the Prime Minister have repeatedly said that ISIL has declared war on Canada.  This organization has declare war on Canada. And the Minister of Defense actually invoked Canada's independent right of self-defense and international  law as a justification for the actions being taken by Canada. Now these overblown statements by the  most senior leaders of the Canadian government risk the credibility of Canada in the international world and the government at home; and are clearly designed to raise the level of fear among Canadian citizens.  What kind of respect and reputation in foreign affairs can Canada expect with this kind of leadership on the most serious matter of state going to war in foreign countries.  We do know, of course, that terrorists exist in Canada.  That is not new.  But neither the attacker on Parliament Hill nor Saint-Jean-sur-Richellieu were sent here by any foreign entity.  As pointed out in one of Canada's most foremost national newspapers, the Globe & Mail, "despite attempts by the Prime Minister to closely tie ISIS to the terrorist threat in Canada, the actual connections are thin to non-existent."  But instead of dealing with the actual threat by engaging in a robust and well resourced anti-radicalization and counter-radicalization programs here at home by working with the Muslim community instead of alienating them and by preventing the flow of funds to ISIL, confronting the dire humanitarian situation in a significant and increased manner, by doing all those things that my colleague the Member for Ottawa Centre [Paul Dewar]  emphasized in his speech this morning and are contained in the NDP amendment, instead of doing all those things, Mr. Speaker, this government is going down the road of war from mission creep to mission leap with no clear goals, no honesty with the House of Commons and the Canadian people, no clear end or exit strategy, with dubious legal justification and no end game.  In fact, in a television appearance the other day, the Minister of Defense stated that the strategy of defense has gone from one of containing ISIL to defeating it.  And we just heard the same thing from the Parliamentary Secretary.  The Minister of Foreign Affairs said something else today.  But when the Minister of Defense was asked what happens in the event that Canada reaches the objective of defeating ISIL, he admitted that he'd need to look for a crystal ball.  That'll give you some idea about where this government thinks this is going and how it's going to lead to an actual resolve that they are proposing.  The objectives keep changing depending upon who is speaking.  And without a clear objective, the uncertainty about this mission and its length is obvious.  Neither  can we trust what this government will do  in the course of this military action.  We found that out in the last six months as the mission 'evolved ' without Canadians knowing about it at the time and 'evolved' contrary to the express promises of the  Prime Minister.  But this time, he's given us a hint.  On Tuesday, in the House, the Prime Minister said, "We have made important deployments.  These deployments could easily be changed."  He also opened the door to further expansion, saying, "We must avoid, if we can, taking on ground combat responsibilities in this region.  We seek to have the Iraqis do this themselves."  With this government's record, that's far from reassuring. 

    Another country whose people may have been misled by those in the ruling power is New Zealand whose Voxy reports:

    The truth is slowly emerging over New Zealand’s involvement in Iraq, after months of the government denying New Zealand First MPs were right about the depth of our involvement.
    "Kiwi soldiers are now training in Australia," says Ron Mark, New Zealand First Defence Spokesperson.
    "The sad truth is that we know more about what the New Zealand Defence Force is doing than hapless Minister of Defence Gerry Brownlee does.
    "On Tuesday, it was ‘up to 50 troops’ training in Australia but yesterday that number grew to 100.