Dallas CBS reports that President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will be celebrating the Bully Boy Bush library, "They will attend the dedication ceremony Thursday for former President George W. Bush’s presidential library at Southern Methodist University. The ceremony will be a rare joint appearance for Obama and Bush, plus other living former presidents."
Brian Hughes (Washington Examiner) puts it a little more honestly:
President Obama, whose path to the White House was paved by being the anti-George W. Bush, will attend the opening of the 43rd president's library in Dallas Thursday, a visit that coincides with a growing willingness of the president to praise his predecessor and embrace his policies.
From the start of his national political career, Obama railed against the Iraq War and Bush's so-called war on terrorism, accusing the Republican of sacrificing American values in the pursuit of security. He said the former Texas governor protected the wealthy at the expense of the middle class, while ushering in the collapse of the U.S. economy.
Months into his second term, however, some analysts said the distinction between Obama and his former Republican foil is increasingly hazy, particularly on issues of national security.
He does not even pretend to be different these days. And he gets away with it. Who besides Cindy Sheehan stages actions against him?
A.N.S.W.E.R.? They just did a protest against drones but couldn't call President Obama out. This despite the fact that Mr. Obama is over The Drone War.
The Cult of St. Barack kids itself that they believe their hero is different but even they know there's no difference between a Barack Obama and a Bully Boy Bush.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
Sometime when we have reached the end
With the velvet hill in the small of our backs
And our hands are clutching the sand
Will our blood become a part of the river
All of the rivers are givers to the ocean
According to plan, according to man
There's a chance peace will come
In your life please buy one
-- "Peace Will Come (According to Plan)," written by Melanie, first appears on her Leftover Wine
Fed up with empty promises? Tired of the change that never came? Cindy Sheehan's not just talking about a better world, she's doing her part to create one with the Tour De Peace. Over the weekend, she noted:
I will continue this rolling vigil for peace and justice, whether I ride alone, or not; but it would be much better for me, and the children of the world, if this cause for peace and justice got as much support as the one we held in Crawford, TX received, wouldn't it? It would show our government and the terrorized people of the world that people in the US do oppose what the Empire is about.
The Tour De Peace finds her bicycling to DC. Today, she's finishing up in Arizona. Tomorrow she starts riding through New Mexico. Tomorrow evening, in Babe Ruth Park (Gallup, New Mexico) Cindy Sheehan's Tour De Peace will have a gathering at 6:00 pm. Hank Woji will be performing. Details here.
This week's broadcast of Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox includes her discussing the ride for peace with Abby Martin (RT's Breaking The Set). Excerpt.
Cindy Sheehan: We're trying to call attention to whistle-blowers, to the war economy, to the money spent on war. We're trying to call attention to the fact that there are War Crimes happening right now -- the previous administration committed War Crimes and crimes against humanity and the current administration is protecting those War Criminals while they're persecuting whistle-blowers and other social justice and peace activists also. And so, I'm upset with Obama, I'm upset with the empire as usual. But I'm more frustrated with the movement -- or the lack of movement in the movement. So DC is an important place, but we want to organize across the country. We want to rally people together to say that these wars are still happening, Obama has expanded Africa to the 35 or 36 countries where US troops are or drones are, and it's just pitiful the lack of response to it.
You can show your opposition to the war economy of empire and hang out with Cindy tomorrow in Babe Ruth Park.
In Iraq? Today did not bring the peace -- or even just a minor ease of tensions -- that so many no doubt hoped for. Tim Arango (New York Times) reports, "In what appeared to be a new phase in an intensifying conflict that has raised fears of greater bloodshed and a wider sectarian war, Iraqi soldiers opened fire from helicopters on Sunni gunmen hiding in a northern village on Wednesday, officials said." Those are weaponized helicopters that were supplied by the United States. National Iraqi News Agency cites with Kurdistan Alliance MP Ashwaq al-Jaf who states that the helicopters attacked Sulaiman Bek (Salahuddin Province) and that, "Kifri Hospital shortly received dozens of injured in Sulaiman Bek, after some villages were bombed by aircraft of Iraqi army."
Violence today was massive. All Iraq News notes a Tuz Khurmato car bombing claimed the lives of 3 people and left eleven injured, an armed clash in Tuz Khurmato claimed the lives of 4 members of the Iraqi military and 7 rebels, an armed attack on the Salam Bek left 6 police officers dead, a Tikrit bombing left 3 Iraqi soldiers dead and a fourth injured, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 1 life and left nine more people injured, an armed attack in Mosul left 1 Iraqi soldier dead, and a Tarmiya car bombing claimed 3 lives and left eight injured. NINA adds that 1 police officer and 3 of his bodyguards were shot dead in Tikrit (with another member of the police left injured), an attack in Falluja left three police members injured, a second attack in Falluja on a police patrol car left two officers injured, 2 rebels who attacked a Mosul army checkpoint were shot dead, when Nouri's thugs in Baiji attempted to attack the ongoing, peaceful sit-in they were greeted by armed rebels with 19 people being left dead or injured (on "both sides"), and an armed clash in Tikrit left 1 police officer and 7 rebels dead.
We're saying "rebels" and that's what they are now. The media allowed the US government to intimidate them on terminology at the start of the war. These are rebels. If you're not getting that, let's drop over to Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN):
On Wednesday, Sulaiman Pek was completely under control of militants, Ali Hashim, a member of the Salaheddin provincial council, told CNN.
Iraqi security forces withdrew from the town to prevent more bloodshed there, he said. Most of the gunmen are residents of the town, Hashim added.
So the city's controlled by it's own "residents." That's a rebellion. Last night, Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) offered, "The unrest led two Sunni officials to resign from the government and risked pushing the country's Sunni provinces into an open revolt against Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, a Shiite. The situation looked to be the gravest moment for Iraq since the last U.S. combat troops left in December 2011." That was a very good but what has taken place since that call, on the ground in Iraq, is not a revolt, actions across Iraq are too widespread for a revolt. That makes it a rebellion as anyone who studied political science (that includes me) damn well knows.
Saying "unknown assailants" and "gunmen" may have made some sense at one time. We've used the first term here repeatedly. But that's not what's being described today. Nouri would love those terms to be used because they're vague and they can be twisted to include 'foreigners.'
Sulaiman Pek is under the control of its local residents who rebelled against Nouri's forces -- rebelled against the forces and dispersed them. Those are rebels, that's a rebellion. It may be short-lived and gone by the end of the week or it may last for a longer period of time (might become a civil war) but terms do matter and the terms were defined long, long ago before Bully Boy Bush ever entered office and the press ever decided to take orders from him. The worst of the press, Dan Rather, isn't even an anchor anymore, thank heavens. September 17, 2001, 'brave' Dan declared on David Letterman's CBS talk show of Bully Boy Bush, "He makes the deicisions, and you know, it's just one American, wherever he wants me to line up, just tell me where, and he'll make the call."
Dan Rather is a coward and was always a coward. Every now and then someone will note something in an e-mail that Dan's done, something 'brave.' Not interested. If you're in the news industry, you'd be smart not to do what Dan did and that includes being a cowardly toady convinced that if you kept your mouth shut and let others (like Mary Mapes) take the fall, the network would stand by you. When you're reporting is challenged, CNN, CBS and the rest don't look at it in terms of journalism if the challenge is coming from the government, they look at it under a completely different standard -- and no journalist will ever win on those grounds. It's probably set-up that way, in fact. April Oliver and others learned it at CNN. Dan Rather still can't learn it despite being fired and suing (and losing to) CBS.
Terms are terms and they exist for a reason. It does matter what you call something. What took place today was a rebellion.
Using the wrong terms distorts reality and confuses on events. That's what happens in the report by Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) on Sulaiman Bek, "The clashes occurred when Iraqi security forces backed by helicopters stormed the town in the early morning hours, after dozens of militants seized the town late Tuesday night." Residents seized their own town? No, they asserted their rights as citizens. Then Nouri's forces came in shooting.
Why were they there to begin with? Salahuddin may not be independent but that's not their fault. They took the measures and Nouri illegally and unconstitutionally ignored them. Let's drop back to December 13, 2011:
Thursday, October 27th, Salahuddin Province's council voted to go semi-autonomous. The next step would be a referendum (that Nouri al-Maliki's government out of Baghdad would have to pay for) and, were the popular vote to back up the council and were the rules followed (always a big if with Nouri as prime minister), Baghdad would control only 14 provinces (of the 18). Friday, October 28th, residents of Anbar Province took to the streets advocating for their province to follow Salahuddin's lead. When Nouri finally issued a public statement on Salahuddin's move, what did he do? Play the B-card. Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) quoted a statement from Nouri declaring, "The Baath Party aims to use Salahuddin as a safe haven for Baathists and this will not happen thanks to the awareness of people in the province. Federalism is a constitutional issue and Salahuddin provincial council has no right to decide this issue." Yesterday Aswat al-Iraq reported, "Iraqi Parliament Speaker Usama Nujaifi today charged the Cabinet with violating the constitution by rejecting requests to refer Salahal-Din Province's request to declare itself a region to the Election Commission." How could Nouri be violating the Constitution? Back in October, Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) explained, "In actual fact, article 119 of the Iraqi constitution requires only that a referendum be held in a province following a request for regional status by one-third of the members of the provincial council, or one-tenth of the population." From the Iraqi Constitution:Per the Constitution, Salahuddin Province has already met step one. And met it back in October. Nouri's refusal to follow the next step is what puts him in violation of the Constitution.
One or more governorates shall have the right to organize into a region based on a request to be voted on in a referendum submitted in one of the following two methods:
First: A request by one-third of the council members of each governorate intending to form a region.
Second: A request by one-tenth of the voters in each of the governorates intending to form a region.
One or more governorates shall have the right to organize into a region based on a request to be voted on in a referendum submitted in one of the following two methods:
First: A request by one-third of the council members of each governorate intending to form a region.
Second: A request by one-tenth of the voters in each of the governorates intending to form a region.
The Kurdish Globe summarized these events as:
The provincial council of Salahadin last October unanimously supported making the province an autonomous region after the dismissal of faculty members from the University of Tikrit and mass arrests in Salahaddin province. Last October, the Baghdad Ministry of Higher Education dismissed 140 faculty members from the University of Tikrit in Salahaddin Province. The ministry pointed out that "it was simply following the parliamentary directive on "de-Baathification." Later, Iraqi security forces started an operation in the central and southern provinces, arresting former members of the Baath Party and accusing them of plotting a coup against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government after the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of this year.
So what you've got is Nouri attacking a province that declared its independence in October of 2011 and you've got him attacking it with helicopters shooting blindly on the area -- displacing families -- because residents are in control of a city?
Who's in control of Nouri because someone needs to yank the leash.
It's a shame there's no one in the administration who ever warned about the possibility that Nouri could attack his own people, it's a shame that -- Oh, wait. Then-Senator Joe Biden, now Vice President of the United States, addressed just that in a Senate hearing on April 10, 2008. You'd think he'd have something today -- especially since what Salahuddin and others were trying to do? Exactly the federation that Joe Biden proposed while in the Senate and while running for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. I know Joe and I like Joe and I'm having the same problem anyone who knows Joe is having right now: His silence. If you know Joe, you know he's never missed an opportunity to argue he was right. Apparently, he's now muzzled.
As we noted yesterday, the State Dept press corps on Wednesday had no questions about Iraq despite the slaughter in Hawija -- and despite spokesperson Patrick Ventrell noting Hawija in his opening remarks before taking questions. Apparently, having explored Sudan, Bejing, Egypt and everywhere but Atlantis yesterday, today they decided to briefly ask about Iraq.
QUESTION: On Iraq.
MR. VENTRELL: Michel.
QUESTION: Any reaction to the clashes that went on today between the Iraqi army and armed Sunni tribesmen that killed 28 people around the country?
MR. VENTRELL: I don't have an update from yesterday, other than to say you heard us -- well, the only update is I believe that the Iraqi Government has called for an investigation. So we do want a fair, transparent, timely investigation that has broad participation. But we were very clear yesterday that we condemn this violence and that we want the Iraqi people and their leaders to work through constitutional processes and their institutions to find concrete solutions. So I guess the update from yesterday is that they've called for an investigation. We welcome that. But we want it to be fair and transparent.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that the country could be headed toward a new round of sectarian violence?
MR. VENTRELL: We have been concerned and we've long expressed our concerns that there is a risk for sectarian conflict, but -- given Iraq's history, but that we're encouraging all leaders to move away from that and that there’s no place for sectarian conflict in a democratic state. And so you know what our goal is. It's to help maintain with our Iraqi partners that they have a unified, democratic, stable, and secure Iraq, and we want them to work through their issues in the political sphere. And so to the extent that there's this tension and violence, we'd much rather have the Iraqis sitting down and working through this in specific and concrete ways to work through their differences.
QUESTION: Any communications with the Iraqi Government in this regard?
MR. VENTRELL: Our officials from our Embassy have been in contact with senior Iraqi leaders to help defuse tensions, and that’s really been done out of Embassy in Baghdad.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) of Iraq, there was no sectarian conflict until the U.S. engagement of 2003. On this very point, are you leading any kind of reconciliation effort, and if not, why not?
MR. VENTRELL: I think I already answered this, Said, that we’re very clear that we’re against the sectarian conflict, we’re against sectarian violence, and we stand ready to help our Iraqi partners work through these things in the political sphere.
Yesterday's slaughter by Nouri's forces of peaceful protesters in Hawija is not forgotten in Iraq.
Kitabat notes that the Association of Muslim Scholars note that the government continues its assault on protesters only if its seeking to tear Iraq apart and the scholars are calling for this Friday's protests to be around the theme of national unity. Alsumaria adds that the Arab League also expressed their concerns about what is happening in Iraq, called for a full investigation into what happened in Hawija and for those responsible to be brought to justice. All Iraq News quotes from a statement by the Ministry of Human Rights, "Regarding the events in Hawija district and the peaceful gathering of people, we call on security forces to respect the freedom of opinions and the peaceful demonstrations since the Iraqi constitution granted Iraqi people the right to demand their legitimate rights under the law."
World Bulletin reports, "Deputy Prime Minister of Saleh Muhammed al-Mutlaq has submitted his resignation in protest of the ongoing violence in Iraq. On the other hand, Ayad Allawi, head of Iraqiya group, did not accept Al-Mutlaq's resignation, and asked him to follow up Hawijah case. Allawi assigned Al-Mutlaq for three weeks to work on Hawijah incidents as well as demands of protestors." All Iraq News quotes from Allawi's statement -- noting that and this, "Mutleq was also commissioned to monitor the political balance at the state departments. If there will be no progress in addressing these files after the end of the deadline, then the Iraqiya Slate will quit from the government and maybe from the entire political process."
Alsumaria notes Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) has announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in yesterday's assault. Kitabat reports thousands have turned out today for the funerals of yesterday's victims -- they count at least 34 funerals -- and that mourners chanted slogans. Sami al-Assi, a mourner, tells Kitbat that they don't want a commission or a committee or financial compensation, they want the killers punished.
Human Rights Watch issued a release today on yesterday's attack. We'll note this from the release:
Iraqi authorities should ensure that a promised investigation into a deadly raid on April 23, 2013, in Haweeja, near Kirkuk, examines allegations that security forces used excessive and lethal force. Government statements said armed men at a protest sit-in fired on security forces, killing three soldiers, but local sources and media reports said security forces attacked demonstrators without provocation, killing dozens of people. The government put the death toll at 27.
On April 23, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced the formation of a special ministerial committee to investigate the deaths. The government had previously announced investigations into killings by security forces of protesters in Fallujah and Mosul in January and March, but has so far not released any results nor has anyone been publicly held to account.
“The Iraqi authorities shouldn’t respond to the killings in Haweeja by once again failing to hold security forces responsible for unlawful killings of demonstrators,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Turning a blind eye to previous abuses has helped create the violent environment that today threatens to escalate across Iraq.”
The sit-in, local sources told Human Rights Watch, comprised around 1,000 people from Haweeja protesting what they characterized as the government’s unfair treatment of Sunnis. The protest, in “Sahat al-Ghira wa al-Sharaf” (“Pride and Honor” Square), began more than three months ago. There were no reports of earlier violence between protesters and security forces, who had surrounded the square since April 19, following an attack on a government checkpoint.
Sheikh Saadoun Findi al-Obeidi, one of the sit-in’s organizers, was not in the square during the raid but told Human Rights Watch he spoke to numerous protesters who were present. They told him that “SWAT” security forces, which report directly to al-Maliki, surrounded the protesters at dawn on April 23, and said the forces attacked the crowd at 5 a.m. An Iraqi Defense Ministry statement said the army responded to live fire, and an attack ensued in which 27 people were killed: three soldiers and “a combination of protesters and militants.”
“The protesters told me that the SWAT forces first sprayed the crowd with hot water, then started shooting directly at the people who were armed only with sticks,” al-Obeidi told Human Rights Watch. The security forces “knew that demonstrators didn’t have weapons,” he said.
Protesters reported to al-Obeidi that 50 demonstrators were killed and 120 injured in the clashes. As protesters tried to run from the square to escape the shooting, he said, security forces also arrested “large numbers” of people. The Defense Ministry admitted to detaining 75.
Local and international media reported that the security forces used helicopters, tear gas, and live ammunition in the raid, and that later in the day, there were several retaliatory attacks against security forces in Haweeja by unknown groups. According to the reports, some armed groups took control of government security checkpoints.
Any real investigation into the attack on Hawija needs to include what led up to it which means noting that just last week Nouri al-Maliki, while traveling through Iraq to campaign for various State of Law candidates ahead of last Saturday's provincial election in 11 of Iraq's 18 provinces, yet again verbally attacked the protesters. From Thursday's snapshot:
Kitabat reports that tribal leaders in Dhi Qar have signed a letter apologizing to activists. For what? For Nouri's "abusive verbal attack" on them. Nouri gave a little speech where he called the peaceful activists lawless rebels and threatened to use force against them. Peaceful protests have been going on across Iraq, peaceful protests against Nouri, since December.
They aren't the only ones condemning Nouri for those remarks. NINA notes that Osama al-Nujaifi's party has condemned the remarks and called for Nouri to stop verbally attacking demonstrators and return to Baghdad to oversea security issues. Osama al-Nujaifi is part of the Iraqiya political slate but this was his Motahedoon Coalition issuing the condemnation. Iraqiya also condemned the remarks. Maysoun al-Damlouji, Iraqiya spokesperson, is quoted by NINA stating, "Describing our honorable people who peacefully demonstrate across Iraq demanding their legitimate rights as conspirators is the ugliest words you can use against the oppressed people." Iraqiya MP Ahmed al-Alwani added that Nouri's attacks on demonstrators "incite sectarian strife."
Even Nouri's new bride Saleh al-Mutlaq is calling out the remarks leading Kitabat to wonder if the honeymoon is over for Nouri and Saleh or if this is just more propaganda from Saleh in an attempt to boost the votes for the National Dialogue Front?
Nouri has returned to Baghdad. Kitabat explains that he rushed back to Baghdad after his speech in Nasiriyah was interrupted with cries of "Liar!" when he began verbally attacking the protesters.
This is not a minor point. He did this in 2011 during that wave of protests and he's done to these protesters since December 21st when the latest wave began. What message has been sent to the military when their commander-in-chief repeatedly attacks peaceful protesters?
Last night, Mike noted Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) explaining the problems with Nouri's claims that those attacked were terrorists and Ba'athists:
Iraqi troops raided the camp early in the day, and the Defense Ministry claimed that they found rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles among the protesters. Mysteriously, none of these weapons appear to have been used by the protesters to protect themselves during the raid, and protest leaders say some of the slain were just run over by military vehicles during the advance on the camp.
Mike went on to observe of the US government, "The notion that we stand for freedom around the world is revealed yet again as a lie. We keep backing tyrants and despots." Ruth offered:
As much as the world mourned the bombing in Baghdad, we should be mourning the assault on the peaceful protesters in Hawija. I wished today Bully Boy Bush were still in the White House. I wished that because the press would have asked him to explain how that was "democracy" in Iraq? The press could, and should, but will not, ask President Barack Obama the same question. Not only did he vote for the war once he got into the Senate (yes, America, voting to continue to fund the war is voting for the war) but he also insisted Nouri al-Maliki get a second term even though the voters in 2010 said no, putting his State of Law in second place to Iraqiya.
Betty added, "Nouri's slaughtered those innocent people. He should be tossed in a cell and put on trial for what he ordered. He is nothing but a tyrant. And that's why the US needs to stop backing him. Stop forking over billions to him, stop providing him with weapons he turns around and uses on the Iraqi people." Rebecca also noted the refusal of the White House to call out Nouri:
when a tyrant who gets billions from the u.s. taxpayers every year attacks his own people, that's when aid gets ended. barack, you asleep?
you on another vaction? what's going on? you can't call it out? you're too much of a chicken to stand up to nouri al-maliki?
Kat was reminded of attacks on others who peacefully protested and bullies and thugs who led those attacks, "Today, George Wallace's name is Nouri al-Maliki. Today, he is the force of evil who tramples on the rights of those who just want to peacefully exist. There will always be faces of evil. And it's our job to make the right decisions and stand up against them. I cannot believe that this thug, this face of hatred and evil, has the backing of the US government, gets billions of our tax dollars."
We'll move over to the US and then end with England. Yesterday's snapshot covered a bit of the Tuesday Senate Budget Committee hearing and the plan was to pick up on that today or tomorrow. It'll have to be tomorrow, we're out of space. Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of that Committee and we'll note this from her office on a Senate Budget Committee hearing today:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Senator Murray Questions Navy, Marine Corps on Sexual Abuse
Recent report shows Marine Corps has highest percentage of reported female sexual assault
Navy Secretary Mabus: “I’m angry about it.”
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, expressed deep concern for the high rates of reported military sexual assault during a Defense Subcommittee hearing examining the Department of the Navy Fiscal Year 2014 budget request. Disturbing data about the rates of abuse was recently revealed in the Department of Defense’s “2011 Health Related Behaviors Survey of Active Duty Military Personnel.” The Pentagon survey showed the Marine Corps had the highest percentage of abuse reported, with nearly 30 percent of females saying they had been sexually abused during service. The Subcommittee heard testimony from The Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, and General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps.
“General Amos, in your testimony you described a number of good steps you have taken to combat military sexual assault in the Marine Corps,” said Senator Murray during the hearing. “You also discussed how sexual assault is entirely incompatible with the culture of the Marine Corps. But I was very concerned by a recent USA TODAY article which discussed the results of the Pentagon health survey. According to that report, of all the services, the Marine Corps has the highest percentage of female servicemembers reporting they were sexually assaulted. Do you have any thoughts on why this might be?”
Senator Murray also questioned Secretary Mabus about the new Department of Defense Instruction on Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program Procedures, released by Defense Secretary Hagel on March 28, 2013. “I have been asked if I’m concerned about sexual assault,” said Secretary Mabus during the hearing. “And my reply has been, ‘That is not an accurate description and I don’t think it applies to either General Amos or Admiral Greenert.’ I’m angry about it. This is an attack on our sailors and our Marines. And it’s an attack from the inside. It’s something we simply have to fix. If someone was walking around taking shots at random at our sailors and our Marines, we would fix it. And this is no less of an attack on the integrity and the structure of our force.”
Senator Murray’s exchange with Secretary Mabus and General Amos can be viewed here. (starting at 59:43)
During a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Tuesday, Chairman Murray announced she soon will be introducing legislation to help prevent military sexual assault and protect those affected.
Press Secretary | New Media Director
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
Mobile: (202) 365-1235
Office: (202) 224-2834
Also on the US, Raphael Satter and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) report that US citizen Shawki Omar is a Sunni in a Baghdad prison, currently on a two-month-plus hunger strike: "In emails and phone calls from her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, Sandra Omar said that her 51-year-old husband shared a poorly heated shipping container with a dozen other inmates. She said he and other Sunni prisoners were denied care packages, refused exercise and repeatedly beaten." US forces grabbed him on suspicion of 'jihad' (and a 'terrorist' via his second marriage) and then turned him over to the Iraqi forces (he's one of five Americans in Iraqi prisons currently).
Onto England. Yesterday, Melanie Hall (Telegraph of London) reported that the "useless devices, based on novelty golf-ball finders worth less than 13 pounds," were sold to "the Iraqi government, the United Nations, Kenyan police, Hong Kong prison service, the Egyptian army, Thailand's border control and Saudi Arabia" for "as much as 27,000 pounds." 13 pounds today would be about $19.86 US dollars. 27,000 pounds? $41,247.83 US dollars. A device that cost less than 20 dollars to make was sold at about a 2,000% mark up -- the greed and the duplicity are usually intertwined. But what was so worthless? The 'bomb detectors.' These are the devices that are a wand you hold and you then stand by or behind something (like a car) and basically jog in place and the wand, magically, let's you know if there's a bomb or not.
Dropping back to the June 8, 2010 snapshot:
In November of last year, Rod Nordland (New York Times) explained the 'bomb detectors' in use in Iraq: "The small hand-held wand, with a telescopic antenna on a swivel, is being used at hundreds of checkpoints in Iraq. But the device works 'on the same principle as a Ouija board' -- the power of suggestion -- said a retired United States Air Force officer, Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack, who described the wantd as nothing more than an explosive divining rod." They are the ADE 651s with a ticket price of between $16,500 and $60,000 and Iraq had bought over 1,500. More news came with arrests on January 22: "Caroline Hawley (BBC Newsnight -- link has text and video) reports that England has placed an export ban on the ADE-651 'bomb detector' -- a device that's cleaned Iraq's coffers of $85 million so far. Steven Morris (Guardian) follows up noting that, 'The managing director [Jim McCormick] of a British company that has been selling bomb-detecting equipment to security forces in Iraq was arrested on suspicion of fraud today'." From the January 25th snapshot:
Riyad Mohammed and Rod Norldand (New York Times) reported on Saturday that the reaction in Iraq was outrage from officials and they quote MP Ammar Tuma stating, "This company not only caused grave and massive losses of funds, but it has caused grave and massive losses of the lives of innocent Iraqi civilians, by the hundreds and thousands, from attacks that we thought we were immune to because we have this device." Despite the turn of events, the machines continue to be used in Iraq but 'now' an investigation into them will take place orded by Nouri. As opposed to months ago when they were first called into question. Muhanad Mohammed (Reuters) adds that members of Parliament were calling for an end to use of the machines on Saturday. Martin Chulov (Guardian) notes the US military has long -- and publicly -- decried the use of the machines, "The US military has been scathing, claiming the wands contained only a chip to detect theft from stores. The claim was based on a study released in June by US military scientists, using x-ray and laboratory analysis, which was passed on to Iraqi officials."
Today the BBC reports police raids took place at "Global Tech, of Kent, Grosvenor Scientific, in Devon, and Scandec, of Nottingham. Cash and hundreds of the devices have been seized, and a number of people are due to be interviewed under caution on suspicion of fraud." Michael Peel and Sylvia Pfeifer (Financial Times of London) add, "Colin Cowan, head of City police's overseas anti-corruption unit, said investigators were seeking further information from the public about the manufacture, sale and distribution of the devices. Det Supt Cowan said: 'We are concerned that these items present a real physical threat to anyone who may rely on such a device for protection'."
The wands didn't work, they were never going to work. The liar who sold them, and got rich off them, Jim McCormick, was convicted yesterday. Robert Booth and Meirion Jones (Guardian) report, "A jury at the Old Bailey found Jim McCormick, 57, from near Taunton, Somerset, guilty on three counts of fraud over a scam that included the sale of £55m of devices based on a novelty golfball finder to Iraq. They were installed at checkpoints in Baghdad through which car bombs and suicide bombers passed, killing hundreds of civilians. Last month they remained in use at checkpoints across the Iraqi capital."
That link goes to Peter Beaumont's Tuesday report for the Guardian. The report contains this paragraph:
The fact that the detectors were still in use as recently as last month is despite the fact that both Iraqi and US officials have known for two years that they are useless. Indeed, the Iraqi general who procured them through five corrupt and highly inflated contracts was arrested and jailed over his own part in the affair despite attempts by a former minister of the interior to grant him immunity from prosecution.
That paragraph's what's been picked up from the article by Arabic social media and by the Iraqi press including All Iraq News:
"The fact that the detectors were still in use as recently as last month is despite the fact that both Iraqi and US officials have known for two years that they are useless. Indeed, the Iraqi general who procured them through five corrupt and highly inflated contracts was arrested and jailed over his own part in the affair despite attempts by a former minister of the interior to grant him immunity from prosecution," he concluded.
Caroline Hawley and Meirion Jones (BBC -- link is text and video) note:
But his main market was Iraq, where lives depended on bomb detection and where the bogus devices were, and still are, used at virtually every checkpoint in the capital.
Between 2008 and 2009 alone, more than 1,000 Iraqis were killed in explosions in Baghdad. Thousands more were injured, including 21-year-old Haneen Alwan, who was two months pregnant and had gone out to buy ice cream when she was caught in a bomb in January 2009.
"My life was completely destroyed, everything gone in an instant," she said. "I lost the baby and my husband divorced me."
Richard Smith (Daily Mirror) explains of Jim McCormick, "He bought a £3.5million six-bedroom Georgian mansion from actor Nicolas Cage, homes in Florida and Cyprus, flash cars and a yacht he barely used. Detectives believe guards have been blown up while using the dodgy devices which landed the 57-year-old Scouser a £60million fortune." The Georgian mansion is Midford Castle which was built in the 1700s. McCormick was living like a king off the blood of others.
ITN's video report is here and it shows Superintendent Nigel Rock of Avon and Somerset Police discussing the device: "[. . .] is completely incapable of detecting explosives, drugs or any other substance. The court has heard evidence that the device has no basis in science. In fact, there are no working parts in that device. It is empty."
Transparency International's Leah Wawro observes, "The hundreds that are estimated to have died because of these useless devices are the most visible victims of this crime. But the impact of this type of systemic, high-level corruption extends beyond that immediate loss of life. A quick glance at the UNDP website for Iraq shows how bad services are for normal Iraqis: 75% identify poverty as the most pressing need; 20% of Iraqis cannot read or write; just 26% of the population has access to the public sewage network. Would those numbers, and lives, be different if that £55 million had been spent in a transparent way on education, infrastructure, and enterprise? How many lives could have been saved if the £55million the Iraqi government wasted were spent on effective bomb detection mechanisms?"
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