Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The persecuted Sunnis

Hurriyet Daily News reports:

Yet, the U.S. is still reluctant about Maliki’s wish list, presented during his visit to Washington in October. Some in the Congress have doubts about Maliki’s close relations with Iran and also his intentions; whether he would use the delivered arms solely against the insurgents or Sunnis groups in general. The fall of Fallujah to ISIS control might pave the way for the delivery of additional U.S. weaponry, as it wants to find a solution without boots on the ground.

Nouri al-Maliki is Iraq's Prime Minister and chief thug.  He has spent 7 years attacking various groups of the Iraqi people -- most often, he attacks the Sunnis.


Because he is insane.  He is pathological.

He had disagreements with Saddam Hussein and fled Iraq.  After the U.S. invaded, Coward Maliki returned.

He had been out of the country for over two decades.

He only became the 'leader' because the U.S. government made him that.

And instead of being happy or working on a new Iraq, he has been hell bent on revenge and vengeance and that has kept Iraq from moving forward.

He does not need to be armed.  He needs to be removed from office.

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

Wednesday, January 8, 2014.  Chaos and violence continue, Barack wants to send Nouri more weapons, supposedly the House Foreign Affairs Committee has caved on the issue, the assault on Anbar continues, as does the assault on Iraqi journalists, and more.

We start with Bob Somerby because we grab our entry points where we can.  We last addressed him in the January 3rd snapshot.  He knows nothing about journalism.  He reveals that only more so today:

There was a time when “television personalities” like Gutfeld weren’t allowed on television. We the people got our news from two people—David and Walter.
Neither man was crazy or stupid or weirdly dishonest. They limited the dumbness to which we were all exposed.
They didn’t give us mounds of fake facts. For the most part, they didn’t invent ridiculous topics, then invent bogus facts about them.
But uh-oh! At some point, someone let Imus get on the air. After that, somebody hired Howard Stern.

We the people got our news from two people -- David and Walter?  Well, We The People had three networks -- four when the DuMont Network was around.  Walter is Walter Cronkite who began anchoring what is now the CBS Evening News in 1962, so let's use that as Bob Somerby's starting point for history.  At that time, "David," David Brinkley was the co-anchor of NBC's The Huntley-Brinkley Report (now NBC Nightly News) and right there you got a problem with Bob's 'analaysis' -- even before you get to ABC (in 1962, the evening news anchor was Ron Cochran), you've got more than two people since "David" and "Chet" were two people on one program.

What "mounds of fake facts" are Diane Sawyer, Scott Pelley and Brian Williams (not to mention PBS' The NewsHour's Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff) serving up?

They miss important stories all the time -- some times by accident, sometimes by intent.  Walter Cronkite, for example, didn't report on East Timor or, take another example, one Ava and I made in 2006:

Much is made of the fact that The New York Times killed their own story on the impending Bay of Pigs invasion. The Nation did report it. Where was broadcast news? As with the case of most stories over the years, no where to be found. That was in the glory period where profits and advertising dictated content far less than they would come to do. So the commentators would be wise to surrender the notion of a golden age.

I'm not arguing anyone is above criticism.  I am saying making your criticism accurate.  It is inaccurate to claim we had honesty on TV thanks to Walter or David.  Much was ignored, much was covered up.  The same continues today only more so because the networks -- even PBS -- no longer are willing to spend the money required for investigative journalism.

News, like scripted programming, costs money to produce.

So TV (and radio before) has long thrived on cheap staples: game shows, soap operas and talk shows.  Soap operas were as good as dead when Susan Lucci used Days of Our Lives in 1979 to up her All My Children salary.  Everyone then followed suit.  And the shows were more costly as a result.  Equally true the cast size expanded because you need more characters to fill out an hour long show than a 15 minute one. Ratings were dropping but it was the cost that has all but killed daytime soaps.  (I think they'll make a comeback, these things go in cycles.) The staples weren't just cheap, they paid for the expenses elsewhere on the network -- including the news costs.

Let's return to a moment of Somerby's long whine:

There was a time when “television personalities” like Gutfeld weren’t allowed on television. We the people got our news from two people—David and Walter. 
Neither man was crazy or stupid or weirdly dishonest. They limited the dumbness to which we were all exposed.
They didn’t give us mounds of fake facts. For the most part, they didn’t invent ridiculous topics, then invent bogus facts about them.
But uh-oh! At some point, someone let Imus get on the air. After that, somebody hired Howard Stern.

When did Don Imus host the evening news?  Or Howard Stern?

They didn't.

Somerby doesn't know what the hell he's talking about as usual.

Walter and David were anchors of evening news programs.

Somerby's so stupid he doesn't understand that MSNBC is a talk show network.  It's  Virginia Graham, it is Mike Douglas, it is Merv Griffin, it is Dinah Shore, it is Della Reese, it is Ricki Lake, it is Montel Williams, it is Ellen, it is Queen Latifah, it is Wendy Williams.

Johnny Carson may have been on TV, may have done an on air attack on Jim Garrison, may have done interviews but he wasn't a reporter, he was a talk show host.

More than anyone, TV talk shows were Phil Donahue.  Last month, he was a guest on NPR's On Being with Krista Tippett (link is audio and transcript).  Phil spoke of many of the firsts he accomplished with his talk show and I think most of us would see this as an advance and agree Donahue is the most ground breaking TV talk show host to this day.

By conflating reporting and journalism with cheaply made TV talk shows, Bob laments the decay of journalism.  But TV talk shows weren't mistaken for news in the 70s and shouldn't be mistaken today.

Donahue did an amazing talk show and I will praise it.  I will even allow that it made news.  But it was a talk show, it was not reporting.  Do not confuse the two.

Somerby wants to know when it all went wrong?  Maybe when his brain was no longer able to grasp the difference between reporting and chat shows?

But 1967 is when Donahue's show started.  1969 is when Wally George launched his hate-speech career via his first radio show. 1968 is when Don Imus got his first radio gig.


Where TV spills over from.  Where the original programming models were developed. People with a real sense of history -- that excludes Bob Somerby -- are well aware of Father Charles Coughlin who used his popular radio program first to promote FDR, then to denounce him, then to denounce him and the Jewish people, then to denounce him and the Jewish people while praising Hitler . . .  He attacked Communists and Socialists and many more and his program reached an audience ten times as big as Rachel Maddow's highest broadcast.  No one confused him with a news anchor -- except maybe Bob Somerby.

His nonsense is really insulting, confusing TV talk show hosts with reporters, at a time when so many reporters around the world are being killed. The close of 2013 saw many updates on the continued violence around the world but, as Dirk Adriaensens "2013: Another year of slaughter in Iraq claims the lives of at least 21 media professionals" (BRussells Tribunal) points out, as bad as it seemed it is actually far deadlier for journalists in Iraq than was previously known:

In Iraq, at least 404 media professionals have been killed since the US invasion in 2003, among them 374 Iraqis, according to The BRussells Tribunal statistics. The impunity in Iraq is far worse than anywhere else in the world.

Dr. Yasser Salihee (here with his wife Dr. Raghad Wazzan) gave up his job at Yarmouk Hospital to become a journalist.

In memory of Dr Yasser Salihee, an Iraqi special correspondent for the news agency Knight Ridder, killed on 24 June 2005 by a single bullet of an American sniper as he approached a checkpoint that had been thrown up near his home in western Baghdad by US and Iraqi troops. Since May 2005, Dr. Salihee had been reporting on the similarities between the death squads used in El Salvador to obliterate their “insurgency” and the US military’s creation of the “Wolf Brigade” that had been unleashed to eliminate the Iraqi Resistance. Salihee had been gathering evidence that US-backed Iraqi Ministry of Interior forces had been carrying out extra-judicial killings. We believe that he was assassinated because he came too close to the truth. There is serious doubt that the shooting was “an accident”. Nevertheless, the Committee for The ‘Protection’ of Journalists (CPJ) has thrown Dr Yasser Salihee in the dungeons of history.  He doesn't figure in any of their death lists.  

While Reporters Without Borders lists 11 Iraqi journalists killed in 2013 and the Committee for the Protection of Journalists lists 12, BRussells Tribunal reveals the actual number is at least 21.
These murders take place, as Dirk Adriaensens vividly explains, in a lawless nation where killing a journalist matters so little that investigations aren't even launched.
The Iraqi press sees this and knows this and yet still shows more bravery in reporting than western outlets in Iraq do. Nouri has provided no protection to journalists.  Instead, his forces have attacked and terrorized journalists.  Played a 'joke' of pointing a gun at a New York Times correspondent, kidnapped and beaten journalists who covered the February 2011 protests.  In 2006, his first moves as prime minister was to attack reporters.  He tried to arrest them for covering the violence.  He was humored by the world then and he's been humored ever since.
As a result, each year is deadlier for journalists in Iraq.
      3 January 2014 – The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom, expressed alarm today at the recent killing of six media workers in two separate incidents in Iraq and called for measures to bring those responsible to justice.

The Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Irina Bokova, has condemned the killing of Raad Yassin, Jamal Abdel Nasser, Mohamed Ahmad Al-Khatib, Wissam Al-Azzawi and Mohamed Abdel Hamid in an attack on Salaheddin TV in Tikrit, and of Omar Al-Dulaimy in the city of Ramadi.

“Once again I call on the authorities to do all they can to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice,” she said in a statement issued by the Paris-based agency, which adds: “The escalation of violence against the media in Iraq is intolerable as it poses a severe threat to national reconciliation and reconstruction.”

Omar Al-Dulaimy was killed on 31 December, while covering armed clashes in the city of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, where he worked as a correspondent for the Voice of Ramadi radio, a station broadcasting in Anbar province.

Five members of Salaheddin TV— chief news editor Raad Yassin, producer Jamal Abdel Nasser, cameraman Mohamed Ahmad Al-Khatib, presenter Wissam Al-Azzawi and archives manager Mohamed Abdel Hamid — were killed in a suicide attack on the headquarters of their television station in Tikrit on 23 December. 
From UNESCO, let's go to UNAMI's statement released today:
Baghdad, 8 January 2014 - The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, said that the UN is working closely with the Iraqi national and regional authorities as well as with humanitarian partners to ensure safe passage for humanitarian assistance and emergency supplies to both the stranded and displaced families of Anbar province.
“There is a critical humanitarian situation in Anbar province which is likely to worsen as operations continue. The UN agencies are working to identify the needs of the population and prepare medical supplies, food and non-food items for distribution if safe passage can be ensured. This remains a primary challenge. The situation in Fallujah is particularly concerning as existing stocks of food, water and life-saving medicines begin to run out. According to our preliminary assessment, over 5,000 families have fled the fighting and sought refuge in the neighbouring provinces of Karbala, Salahadine, Baghdad and elsewhere. The UN is working with the Ministry of Displacement and Migration to identify their needs and meet them immediately," Mr. Mladenov said.
Not a minor point.
People are dying and, just as in the two attacks on Anbar in 2004, the western press wants to pretend like no one's being hurt except some 'bad guys.'  In November 2004, they lied and pretended everyone was out when the US government attacked.  No one lied harder than the New York Times' Dexter Filkins who even won a little prize for his lies -- while failing to share it with the US military censors who revamped and then cleared his copy (explaining the 8 day delay for it to make it into the paper -- the press moved faster in the days of the Pony Express).
People died.
People are dying now.  
Anbar is a very populated province.  It is thought to have 1.5 million people (Iraq's not had a census in decades).  
Human Rights Watch realizes there are lives at risk.  They issued a statement which opens:
Iraqi government forces appear to have used indiscriminate mortar fire in civilian neighborhoods in Anbar province, and al-Qaeda fighters and armed men from local groups have deployed in and attacked from populated areas. Apparently unlawful methods of fighting by all sides have caused civilian casualties and severe property damage. A government blockade of Fallujah and Ramadi has resulted in limited access to food, water, and fuel for the population.
Based on numerous reports and accounts by local residents in interviews with Human Rights Watch, government security forces responded to attacks by al-Qaeda armed groups on the night of January 1, 2014, with mortar and gunfire into residential areas, in some cases with apparently no al-Qaeda presence. The security forces then surrounded the cities, witnesses said.
“The government urgently needs to deal with the threat from al-Qaeda, but killing their own citizens unlawfully is not the way,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Civilians have been caught in the middle in Anbar, and the government appears to be doing nothing to protect them.”
This is a tragedy for Anbar.  It is a tragedy for the Iraqi people.
This is from the Human Rights Watch statement:
In Fallujah, the army closed the main eastern, northern, and southern checkpoints, refusing to allow any people, medicine, or food to enter or leave the city through these checkpoints. Fallujah residents said that security forces allowed families with children to leave the city through the two other checkpoints, but only with “extreme difficulty,” and, as of January 8, have continued to refuse to allow single men to leave. Army forces continue to surround Ramadi, but residents reported that they were able to leave the city. On January 8, the Erbil governorate announced that 13,000 Anbari residents had fled into Erbil province.
Residents told Human Rights Watch that as of January 6, the army blockade and intermittent heavy fighting had prevented residents from getting sufficient food, water, electricity, and fuel. On January 3, the Iraqi Red Crescent reported that it sent convoys with food aid to both cities but could not enter because of heavy fighting. On January 5, Anbar’s provincial council described the humanitarian situation in Fallujah as “catastrophic.”
In a post on his Facebook page on January 8, a Ramadi resident, Omar al-Shaher, reported that al-Qaeda fighters had fought army forces that afternoon in the city’s Sharia 60 neighborhood. He said the army used drones to fire on the al-Hamiria bridge, which connects the neighborhood to desert areas outside the city. Al-Shaher said that Ramadi’s al-Malaab, Ziraha, Sharia 60, and Albu Jaber areas remained unstable and that residents feared that a “huge battle” was soon to come.
An employee in Fallujah’s main hospital reported that mortar fire from army shelling had killed 25 Fallujah residents and injured 190 since the fighting began on December 30, 2013, all resulting from the shrapnel, the employee said. The areas of the city the employee said the casualties came from are all areas where, according to residents, al-Qaeda was not present.
US President Barack Obama's denied giving Nouri armed drones so where did the armed drones come from?  Or is the press going to ignore that like they ignore so much?
'Analysts' ignore a lot as well.  The Brookings Institution postss:
Noting that the Obama administration tried to keep forces in Iraq in 2011, an offer rejected by the Iraqi government, [Michael] O'Hanlon said that "I'd be willing to see several hundred Americans or even a couple thousand of special operations persuasions, of intelligence backgrounds, go and help the Iraqis if the Iraqis can decide they want that help."
Would Michael be willing to see that?  If he's an analyst, he should probably first acknowledge that Special-Ops were sent back in during the fall of 2012.  September 2012, Tim Arango (New York Times) reported:

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.

If you can't be honest maybe you should just not say anything?
Then again, maybe we have to be grateful for partial honesty?
Retired US Col Peter Mansoor (Defense One) gets it partly right when examining the roots for today's problems:
Despite this promising beginning, the situation in Iraq began to spiral downward after the election of 2010 when the winner, Ayad Allawi, was sidelined in favor of another Maliki term in a backroom deal cut in Tehran. Sunni Arabs became disenchanted with the political process, increasingly dominated by an authoritarian prime minister who used the security forces and courts to pursue his political agenda. The withdrawal of the last U.S. combat forces from Iraq in 2011 gave Maliki a green light to further these policies; his pursuit of Tarik al-Hashemi and other Sunni politicians deepened Sunni discontent. The way was open for the revitalization of al-Qaeda in Iraq, once left for dead after the manifest successes of the Awakening and the surge.
Iran can be credited.  They strong armed cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr to drop his opposition to Nouri.  But that's not how Nouri got his second term.  There was still the problem of the votes and the will of the Iraqi people and a little thing called the Constitution.  Barack had US officials broker the extra-constitutional Erbil Agreement which went around all of that to provide Nouri a second term.  Mansoor's told half the truth and it's a sign of just how many lies are out there that I feel like shouting "THANK YOU!" to him at the top of my lungs.
He's targeted one Sunni politician after another.  But he's just accused of it?  He refused to the power-sharing agreement outlined in The Erbil Agreement but he's just accused of running a sectarian Shia-dominated regime?
Wow, thank goodness for the bravery of Al Jazeera America.  Next up, they're expose on tooth pastes that promise more than they deliver.
David Welna (All Things Considered, NPR) plays stupid as well, "At the White House earlier this week, spokesman Jay Carney wondered aloud just what the president's critics might want, beyond the Hellfire missiles and surveillance drones that are being sent to Iraq."
If you don't know what happened then maybe stop flapping your gums.  Had the White House not backed Nouri for a second term and sided with Iraqi voters, Ahmed Chalabi would be in charge.
Is he a nicer person that Nouri?

I don't know.  
But the US government consensus was he'd be a better and more inclusive ruler.  The Iraqi people spoke in the election of 2010 and spoke for a united Iraq which is why they chose a Shi'ite leader (Allawi) of a mixed political party (Shi'ite and Sunni). 
Sunni voters alone could not have allowed Iraqiya to beat State of Law.  It was Sunnis and Shias working together for the future of Iraq.  That was a powerful moment, it had been building in the 2009 elections.  The US could have backed up that powerful future.  Instead Barack spat on democracy and let a despot have a second term the people didn't give him.
And the results aren't surprising.  Barack saw the same CIA personality disorder analysis on Nouri that Bully Boy Bush saw.  These were the liabilities outlined if Nouri's paranoia and narcissism weren't 'managed.'
And Barack not only gave him a second term, he's armed him while Nouri's attacked Iraqis.  Nouri's over the Ministry of the Interior (in a power grab, he refused to nominate anyone to head the Ministry) and that's who targeted the gay and emo youth, went around to schools encouraging kids to kill them, said that they sucked blood and were vampires -- Now, of course, the Ministry denied it.  And that might have been end of story but both Alsumaria and Al Mada had copies of the official handout from the Ministry that was given to students on each of these 'teachable moments.'  That's only one example.
Nouri's a thug.  And Barack keeps arming him.  Josh Rogin (Daily Beast) reports:
As Iraqi army forces prepare to mount an offensive to take back control of the city of Fallujah from al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the Obama administration is in a full court press to urge Congress to allow the sale of dozens of Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters the Maliki government has been seeking for years. Both the House Foreign Relations Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee had been holding up the sales, out of concern Maliki will use them against his domestic political enemies. Senators in both parties also lament Maliki’s increasingly sectarian style of governing and his alleged cooperation with Iran to aid the Syrian regime.
The Daily Beast has learned that the House Foreign Affairs Committee has now dropped its hold on the Apache sales but one senior senator still refuses to allow it to go through – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ). Congressional aides said Tuesday that Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns has been lobbying Menendez to release his hold on the sales and Burns has also been reaching out to other senators who have problems with Maliki. 
I'm not calling Rogin a liar but if the House Foreign Affairs Committee has dropped their hold without making any conditions for Nouri to turn over the seven Ashraf hostages?  I think a number of people may not be serving on that Committee after the 2014 elections.

A Ramadi overpass was blown up, a helicopter was brought down,  154 people have been killed or wounded in Ramadi during the last ten days, and so much more in the violence Nouri's created.

Some of the other violence?  National Iraqi News Agency reports an attack on an Odhaim checkpoint left 3 security officers dead and four more injured, 1 Ministry of Electricity worker was killed in Mosul, a Mosul armed attack left 1 Iraqi soldier dead and another injured, a Samarra roadside bombing killed 1 police member, an armed attack in Shirqat left 8 students dead, a Balad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police lieutenant, a Siniah roadside bombing claimed the lives of 4 Sahwa and left a fifth injured, a Mosul home invasion claimed the lives of a former military officer and his wife, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police members and 1 civilian, 1 "Arab nationality" was shot dead by Baghdad Operations Command, an Adheim roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left three more police injured, a Tikirt bombing killed 3 police members, wounded another and "wounding a number of students," a Mosul suicide car bombing left two police officers and two civilians injured, an armed attack in Mansuriya left 1 farmer and his son dead,  yet another suspect billed as "an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) leader" was killed -- they sure have a lot of leaders -- in Baquba,  and an eastern Baghdad home invasion late last night/early this morning left 12 people dead.

At today's US State Dept press briefing Jen Psaki declared:

One other item just before we go to you, Matt. I wanted to read out a call the Secretary had yesterday with Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari. The Secretary and foreign minister discussed the situation in Anbar province and the Government of Iraq’s efforts to combat ISIL in coordination with local police and tribes. The Secretary noted the critical need for support from the local population and encouraged the Government of Iraq to continue its efforts to empower local officials and tribes to isolate ISIL and drive them out of populated areas.
He also emphasized the opportunity for the Government of Iraq to focus on political initiatives to increase political inclusiveness as an essential component of the CT campaign as the only path to long-term stability. He assured the foreign minister that we will continue to provide technical military advice and enhancing material support, and stressed that military efforts must be fused with political and economic efforts to isolate extremist groups.
Foreign Minister Zebari expressed appreciation for the support of the United States under the Strategic Framework Agreement for Iraq's struggle against terrorism. He also expressed appreciation for the international support for Iraq that has been – Iraq has been receiving in the fight against terrorism and its ongoing commitment to support the process of constitutional democracy in Iraq.

Both leaders – finally, both leaders noted progress on finalizing an agreement under discussion between Baghdad and Erbil on energy and revenue sharing, underscoring that this agreement should be concluded as soon as possible, as it will demonstrate that all Iraqis share equitably in the benefits of Iraq’s natural resources.

We'll address that tomorrow.