Friday, December 27, 2013


As expected, John Miller has left CBS News.  Cynthia Littleton (Variety) reports:

John Miller, the CBS News correspondent behind a heavily criticized “60 Minutes” report on the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program, has formally resigned from the Eye to rejoin the New York Police Department.
Miller has moved back and forth from journalism to law enforcement throughout his career. He’s returning to an unspecified role at the NYPD at the behest of his former boss William Bratton, who has been named New York City police commissioner by Gotham mayor-elect Bill de Blasio.

Journalism is not something people should be allowed to move back and forth too.

For example, Jay Carney can do whatever he wants after he leaves the White House but it should not be reporting and do not claim 'expertise.'


And that is true of Republicans and Democrats.

With people's trust in journalism at an all time low, the industry should have come up with a new ethics policy.

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

Friday, December 27, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, the protests continue, Nouri threatens this was the last Friday of protests, 9300 Iraqis have died in violent deaths so far this year, we look at the press mythology around Barack, and more.

So before the year ends is anyone going to call the press on their b.s.?

Poor Rupert Cornwell.  All that time in his talented half-brother's large shadow left Cornwell with a soggy brain incapable of analytical thought, incapable of anything but parrot-like repetition. British Cornwell wants to turn US President Barack Obama into a visionary and he's not about to let something like facts get in the way.  The elderly fop chatters, "The last US troops left Iraq in 2011, and only a handful are likely to remain in Afghanistan after December 2014."  Poor little piss ant -- so many years of writing and he has not one damn thing to show for it.  Don't wake him from his early senility but all US forces never left Iraq and, in fact, another special-ops unit was sent in back in fall 2012.  Tim Arango (New York Times) reported at the end of September 2012, "Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence."

Let's emphasize one more time for the very slow and very stupid:

At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.        

So Rupert apparently thinks he's prefect again in the midst of his first boy-on-boy crush.  And he can't stop salivating over Barack's alleged miracle powers of leadership.

But wait . . .

There's the other narrative.  The one where al Qaeda in Iraq is running all over Iraq and all over Syria.  Sarah Birke published a post on that today at The New York Review of Books.  Excerpt:

Talk to any Syrian you meet on the Syrian-Turkish border these days, and in less than five minutes the conversation is likely to turn to Da’ash—the Arabic acronym for the rebel organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, or ISIS. Linked to al-Qaeda, the fearsome group has swept across northern Syria, imposing sharia law, detaining and even beheading Syrians who don’t conform to its purist vision of Islam, and waging war on rival militias. In early December, the group killed a foreign journalist, Iraqi cameraman Yasser Faisal al-Joumali, who was reporting in northern Syria. Even using the word Da’ash—seen as derogatory by the group’s members—is punishable by eighty lashes, a twenty-three-year-old wounded fighter from a rival Islamist group told me from his bed in a Syrian-run makeshift clinic in Turkey.  
[. . .]
ISIS originated as an Iraq-based al-Qaeda affiliate, al-Qaeda in Iraq. The organization is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, an ambitious Iraqi extremist who has overseen relentless attacks in Iraq, causing civilian casualties, and who was designated a Global Terrorist by the US State Department in October 2011, with a $10 million bounty on his head. As the war in Syria progressed, al-Baghdadi saw an opportunity for al-Qaeda, and in January 2012, sent some footmen to found Jabhat al-Nusra with the aim of creating a new transnational state ruled by sharia law and a belief in using violence to get there. 

Now I don't personally believe the Sky Is Falling narrative that so many preach on 'al Qaeda in Iraq.'  I think it's an imprecise term that is misapplied to breed fear and to justify violence and excuse it.  As long as, for example, Nouri can scream "al Qaeda! al Qaeda!" he's under no obligation to own up to what he's done.

So not taking the press narrative seriously means I've yet to write a piece about, "Barack Obama blew Iraq!  He should have . . ."

But what's the press' excuse?

They keep pimping this great threat from al Qaeda in Iraq.

I don't believe it.  But they pimp it so they must believe it.

Mustafa Habib (Niqash) has a report today which opens:

The Sunni Muslim extremist group, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has made it clear that it wants to annex Sunni Muslim areas of Iraq. One of the biggest Iraqi military operations in recent history has now been launched against them. But it doesn’t seem to having any impact on the group.  
The last few weeks in Iraq have been good to the extremist organisation, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The Al-Qaeda affiliated group managed to attack and assassinate a number of high ranking Iraqi army officers and policemen in a number of provinces, including Ninawa, Diyala, Baghdad and Anbar. All of these are known as places where the organisation, also called ISIS or Daash, keeps bases. They are also areas where a large proportion of the population is Sunni Muslim. Al Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim extremist organisation and it often targets Shiite Muslims – although recently it has also attacked Sunni Muslims it considers to be cooperating with the Iraqi government.

A few weeks previously, at the beginning of December, ISIS clearly stated that its ambition was to annex the Anbar province, which shares a border with Syria. The extremist group already has control over various areas in Syria and it seems it wants to add this part of Iraq too. 

Habib's not the first to write about that claim.  We've ignored it before.  I don't take it seriously.

What I see -- and I could be wrong -- or a variety of groups making attacks but they are at cross purposes with one another and should they try to build within Iraq they would have huge squabbles, huge fights.  They are not a group -- they are groups that are linked loosely.  Syria provides them another mutual target.   Even so, if you've paid attention, you've noticed that they can't even really get along as they conduct attacks in Syria.

But that's where I stand.

Where the press stands is that al Qaeda in Iraq is a nightmare group which has increased its power in Iraq and gone on to Syria (and Libya -- for the few who bother to note the horror that is Libya today).

Guess what boys and girls, if you want to run with that allegation, then you have to blame Barack.

You can't have it both ways.  If al Qaeda is on the rise in Iraq after the (bulk) of US troops withdrew, then this is, in fact, on Barack.

He clearly made a huge error.

I'm not saying he did.  But I don't buy into the mythical al Qaeda in Iraq.

He can't have been brilliant on the Middle East if al Qaeda in Iraq is truly on the rise.

You're going to have to reconcile your two assertions are in conflict, they're at cross purposes.

If al Qaeda in Iraq is on the rise, Barack's to blame for that.

And he's to blame for arming Nouri.  From yesterday's snapshot:

Fortunately, not all outlets have correspondents from the kiddie table.  Elise Labott and Tom Cohen (CNN) get it right regarding who is providing arms, "Two years after bringing home U.S. troops from Iraq, the Obama administration is sending Hellfire rockets and ScanEagle surveillance drones to help government forces fight al Qaeda affiliates growing in influence, a State Department official confirmed to CNN on Thursday."  Paul Richter (Los Angeles Times) also gets it right, "The Obama administration has begun sending Hellfire missiles and surveillance drone aircraft to Iraq to help the government battle an expanding threat from local Al Qaeda-affiliated militants, U.S. officials said, the first such assistance since the American withdrawal from Iraq in 2011."

Congress wasn't notified of these arms.  The Arms Export Control Act's Section 36(b) requires that the President of the United States informs Congress in writing of all defense articles sold to foreign governments before the sale goes through.  That's the law.
So was these sold or was this another 'gift' that the US taxpayer is paying for?
[. . .]
UPI notes the 75 Hellfire Missiles arrived in Iraq last week and that "more are expected." Rethink Afghanistan puts the cost of a single Hellfire Missile at $58,000.  75 of them?  Check my math, but that comes to $3,750,000.  A nearly four million dollar 'gift' has been purchased with the American taxpayer dollars.  And that's not counting the drones.  There aren't specific numbers being reported regarding the drones, so we'll just note the US Air Force put the price of one system (4 drones and the reporting device) at $3.2 million in 2006.  We're now at the price tag of $7 million dollars.

Noel Brinkerhoof ( explains today:

The Iraqi military will receive 75 Hellfire missiles from Washington. Costing nearly $70,000 a piece, the delivery represents an early Christmas gift for arms maker Lockheed Martin. The company also made out with the order to manufacture Aerostat surveillance balloons, three of which were provided to the Iraqi government by the Obama administration.
Other U.S. arms merchants stand to benefit as well from President Barack Obama’s efforts to support al-Maliki.
The administration intends to ship 10 ScanEagle reconnaissance drones in March to Iraq. This shipment will mean more revenue for Boeing.

Nicole Fray (GovConWire) adds, "William Hartung, director of research organization Center for International Policy, said in the report that the U.S. has provided Iraq with about $35 billion worth of weapons and services since 2005."

Gordon Lubold was an idiot writing for the Christian Science Monitor and he's an idiot writing today for Foreign Policy about the missiles and drones.  He's standing on quicksand -- pimping al Qaeda in Iraq as a huge threat but trying to also pretend no mistakes were made by Barack.  It doesn't work that way.  In his article, James Jeffrey strokes his like War Hawk.  The only one who makes even a moment's sense is neocon Kimberly Kagan:

Other analysts were not that impressed by the arms sale to remedy Iraq's worsening security situation. . Kim Kagan, president of the Institute for the Study of War, a longtime advocate of an aggressive security policy in Iraq, said she thinks the administration is continuing to confuse materiel assistance for bona fide military cooperation.  "The U.S. does not seem to be imposing pressure on Prime Minister Maliki to refrain from using his security forces for political ends, such as suppressing the Sunni protest movements, the camps of which the [Iraq Security Forces] have surrounded over the past several days," she told Foreign Policy via e-mail.

Also sharing today?  Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch) offers this take on Iraq:

In March 2003 the majority of Iraqis from all sects and ethnic groups wanted to see the end of Saddam’s disastrous rule even if they didn’t necessarily support the US invasion. But the government now in power in Baghdad is as sectarian, corrupt and dysfunctional as Saddam’s ever was. There may be less state violence, but only because the state is weaker. Its methods are equally brutal: Iraqi prisons are full of people who have made false confessions under torture or the threat of it. An Iraqi intellectual who had planned to open a museum in Abu Ghraib prison so that Iraqis would never forget the barbarities of Saddam’s regime found that there was no space available because the cells were full of new inmates. Iraq is still an extraordinarily dangerous place. ‘I never imagined that ten years after the fall of Saddam you would still be able to get a man killed in Baghdad by paying $100,’ an Iraqi who’d been involved in the abortive museum project told me.

It's a shame that appears buried inside a Patrick Cockburn report as opposed to opening a report or even being the sole focus of a report.

It's Friday in Iraq.  Last week, the ongoing protests hit the one year mark.  They've been ongoing since December 12, 2012.

Nouri responded by (again) declaring them terrorists and announcing his planned assault on Ramadi's sit-in. Sunday,  W.G. Dunlop (AFP) reported Nouri has declared the sit-in in Ramadi is a 'terrorist' cell:

The protest site is located in the Anbar city of Ramadi, but is nowhere near where the clashes took place.
"I say clearly and honestly that the sit-in site in Anbar has turned into a headquarters for the leadership of Al-Qaeda," Maliki, a Shiite, said in remarks broadcast Sunday on Iraqiya state TV.

Tuesday, December 24th, Nouri had his forces cut off roads leading out of Ramadi and to surround the protest yard.  All Iraq News reports that Nouri's forces withdrew from the protest yard but  Iraq Times noted that this was followed by an air drop of leaflets and that Nouri's forces were receiving support from the US military.  Leaflet droppings advising to protesters to leave are a lot like the 2003 pre-invasion leafleting the US government did over Iraq.

 Did that send the protesters into hiding?


That's Samarra today.

-بهاء احمد16عاما في الثالث متوسط-الذي -ضمن حملتها الجديدة-داخل محل يعمل فيه في

And that's 16-year-old  Ahmed Bahaa killed in Anbar today by Nouri's forces.

That's what Barack's backing.  That's what the White House is giving arms for.

The murder of Iraqis whose only crime is exercising their legal rights.

Here's Ramadi's sit-in today.

Iraqi Spring MC reports helicopters were flying over the Ramadi square.

Al Mada reports that Maliki was denounced at Anbar protests for his threats (we'll get to today's threats in a moment) and that he was denounced for his militias which are not held accountable for their terrorism.  In Samarra, Nouri was denounced for arming and paying Shi'ite militias to terrorize and kill Sunnis while at the same time Nouri insists that he's fighting terrorism.

Only one English-language outlet reports on today's protests.  Omar al-Jaffal (Al-Monitor) files a major report which includes:

Mohammed al-Bajari, the official spokesman for the sit-in in Fallujah, said, "The sit-ins will continue." He added, "The protesters will not leave the sit-in squares until their legitimate demands are met, oppression ends and the innocent people are released from prison."
Bajari clarified that the protesters "will not comply with the orders of political parties or failed politicians, [nor will they respond to] threats by militias." He alluded to preparations for "civil disobedience and internationalizing the issue via international courts."
Bajari noted, "Those present in the squares have tribal connections, which would exacerbate the crisis in the event that the protests were subjected to any attack." He stressed, "[The right to] peaceful sit-ins are guaranteed by the constitution. Citizens have the right to protest as long as the constitution guarantees this right." He also pointed out, "Any [measures that are] non-peaceful will lead to bloodshed."
Bajari explained, "The Glory and Dignity Army was only formed in the city of Ramadi. It does not direct weapons at the army or the police, but rather at militias — which I won't name — that are trying to eliminate the sit-ins."
Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports Nouri al-Maliki again threatened the protesters today.  He declared this will be their last Friday protest and that he will burn the tents in the protest squares down.  He declared that the protesters were guilty of sedition.  Sedition?  Nouri as William Bligh?  I can see it.  Kitabat notes that he made these remarks in a televised interview.  Kitabat also notes Nouri's been insisting 30 terrorist leaders are hiding in protest tents.  
A number of Iraqi politicians, however, are rejecting Nouri's declarations of violence.
National Iraqi News Agency reports that Anbar Province Governor Ahmed Khalaf al-Dulaimi declared today, "The sit-ins squares do not represent threat to the country’s security, the big danger comes from desert areas in Anbar where armed groups are concentrated and from their; they launch their terrorist attacks against innocent civilians."  Ahmed al-Alwani is an Iraqiya MP who chairs Parliament's Economic Commission. Kitabat notes that al-Alwani dismissed Nouri's charges as beig without merit or value.  He declared that peaceful protests were guaranteed in Iraq's Constitution.  Al Mada adds that Kurdistan Alliance MP Hamid Buffy said there was no legal justification for breaking up the Anbar Province protests and compared using military force to break up the protests to the slaughter in Hawija.
That April 23rd massacre of a peaceful sit-in in Hawija  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 dead.  UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).
Nouri's a thug and he's a killer. And this is who Barack's in bed with.

Iraq Body Count notes that, through yesterday, there have been 869 violent deaths this month so far with 9300 violent deaths for the year so far.  Earlier this week, RT interviewed Iraq Body Count's Lily Hamourtziadou.  Excerpt.

RT: You've been researching the victims of terrorism in Iraq for a long time. Where do you get the information and how credible is it?

Lily Hamourtziadou: Our research is daily and what we do is we check many media sources, any media source that is available to us in English or in Arabic. We collect any information we have on civilian casualties on a particular day. We have a very large database that contains names, ages, places where attacks have taken place, as well as who the perpetrators were if they are identified. And that enables us to monitor the violence, to provide some statistics and to see whether it is increasing or decreasing, who is doing the killing, who the targets are.

RT: Is there something the media and the general public don't know about the situation in Iraq?

LH: What most people don’t understand is that the violence in Iraq is daily. Normally we turn on TV and if there happens to be a major attack, it is reported and we hear about it. But the daily violence we don’t hear about. At the best of times in Iraq, 300-400 civilians lost their lives in a month that was at its quietest. That is completely unacceptable. We won’t accept it in the UK, in the USA or anywhere else in the world and now we have come to disregard it or not be interested in it, but through my work I have come to know.
Iraq Body Count notes that, through yesterday, there have been 869 violent deaths this month so far with 9300 violent deaths for the year so far.

This week also saw AFP's WG Dunlop do media rounds.  Sometimes billed as "William," sometimes as "Will."  It was "Will" who went on NPR's Morning Edition this week.  Has anyone ever been duller or less informed?  He only came to life when talking about the lack of electricity.  But he was on to talk about violence.  He didn't mention the slaughter in Hawija.  He didn't mention the slaughter of journalists.  He didn't do much of anything but promote AFP's 'count.'

For years, we noted the Iraqi government's count was an undercount.  As I would point out, UN friends would pass that along.  Finally, in 2012, Prashant Rao began a count at AFP.

The good from that was it demonstrated the Iraqi government was lying about the deaths.  And, to his credit, Prashant worked that into a report.

But the bad is that not everyone fills out the count each day.  And the other bad is, they only report deaths that the police tip them off to.

Iraq Body Count should be considered the standard because they have been doing their job since the start of the illegal war and they continue to.  They base their count on media reports.

I'll trust the media over Iraq's police force.

If Dunlap's going to be a guest discussing violence, he needs to note the shortcomings of the AFP count. To Prashant's credit, he publicly allowed that they did not get all the deaths due to their method for recording deaths.

elise labott
the los angeles times