Tuesday, December 31, 2013

60s alternative music?

Community member Goldie sent me this Spin article on the top alternative albums of the 1960s and wondered what I made of it?

First, I hate articles where I have to repeatedly click.  You have to in this article to go to the next album. So that's 100 clicks just to see what made the list.

Second, Frank Zappa's band We're Only In It For The Money?

How do you putt Freak Out!?

Freak Out! is a fine album but they're better musicians on the Money album and they're much more original -- even when mocking the Beatles.

Third, Nico's Chelsea Girl I'll agree with.

Fourth, but if you're putting Fairport Convention on the "alternative album" list, where's Buffy St. Marie?

Fifth, I'm a huge fan of Love to this day and I love the Forever Changes album.  But how is that an alternative album?  It is not alternative music and it was released on Elektra which was already part of the Warner Brothers label.

Sixth, where's Laura Nyro?

Her music qualifies as alternative and her first album is released on a small label (it would later be re-released by Columbia Records).

What I see is not anyone who loves music.

I see an article written by someone who has read kitsch articles on the sixties.

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

Monday, December 30, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri attacks Ramadi, the AP lies and it's lie can be refuted with a photograph (and we do so in the snapshot), Nouri's going after Sunni politicians again, and much more.

Friday, December 21, 2012, protests against the government corruption, the lack of public services, the 'disappeared' in Iraq's 'legal' system, the rape and torture of girls and women in prisons and detention centers kicked off.  Friday, December 20, 2013, the protests reached the one year mark -- one year of continuous protests despite Nouri and his forces efforts at intimidation, their attacks and so much more.  One year of  continuous protests.  Remember Egypt and how the western press fawned over the protests and the protesters?  How entire divisions of US news networks foreign coverage reporters descended upon Egypt?

Yeah, nothing like that happened with Iraq.

The western press ignored the one year mark.  When Nouri made it clear that he didn't want the press to cover the protests, what happened?

The big brave western press went into hiding and it was left to Iraqi reporters -- for Al Mada, National Iraqi News Agency, Kitabat, Iraq Times, Dar Addustour and others -- to do the coverage the western outlets were too scared or too craven to do.

The scared little reporters for AFP and AP and the rest just played dumb, looked for the blankys while sucking their thumbs and whimpering.

Again, it was so far from the big bad western press that stormed Egypt to cover what was happening there.

Sunday, December 22nd, Nouri yet again called peaceful protesters 'terrorists' and announced he would stop the protests.

He wanted to attack last Tuesday but a last minute flurry of meetings by various officials and political blocs caused Nouri to withdraw the forces he had encircling the Ramadi protest square.  Then came Friday.  From that day's snapshot:

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.  

We still can't get to today yet.

That's Falluja on Saturday as tons poured into the street to protest Nouri's latest stunt.

They were protesting the Saturday dawn raid that Nouri's forces carried out on an MP.  MP Ahmed al-Alwani was illegally arrested.  But there's more.  Alsumaria reported that his home was stormed by Nouri's SWAT forces at dawn and that 5 people (bodyguards and family) were killed (this included his brother) while ten family members (including children) were left injured.

By now, we all know the drill.

What is al-Alwani?

Yes, he's Sunni.

And he's also, we all know this, a member of Iraqiya.

If you're targeted by Nouri, then you are both things.

Or, as conservative Max Boot (Commentary) put it today, "If it’s the end of December or the beginning of January, it must be time for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to arrest another prominent Sunni politician."

The people of Anbar did not respond well to Nouri breaking the law and arresting an MP.

We'll come back to the arrest but we need to get to today.

Nouri's latest stunt has resulted in a response from many members of Parliament.  Al Mada reports 44 MPs with the Motahidon Alliance have submitted their resignations to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi because of today's attacks on the protesters in Anbar.  Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq is stating all MPs from the Iraqiya bloc should resign right now to trigger an immediate election.
Yes, today he ordered his forces to attack peaceful protesters.
As you look at the western coverage, you should see it as an education.
Today, a lot of people wrongly think the press told the truth during the Civil Rights Era.  That if, for example, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was staging a sit-in and the peaceful activists were attacked, the press reported reality: "Dr. King and other protesters were exercising their Constitutional rights and behaving in a legal manner when blood thirsty thugs . . ."
That didn't happen.
In the lie of 'objectivity,' the press pretended that laws didn't exist and that it was perfectly normal -- or at least not worth questioning -- when police officers violated people's legal rights.
We didn't, for example, get the truth from the New York Times then and we don't get it now.  Instead we get Yasir Ghazi reporting or 'reporting' for the paper, "Heavy fighting erupted on Monday between government security forces and tribal gunmen when the police moved to dismantle a Sunni protesters’ camp in Ramadi, west of Baghdad in Anbar Province, police and local officials said.  At least 17 people died in the clashes, according to a security official."
Oh, is that what they did?
They just moved to dismantle.
With tanks, helicopters and mortar rounds.  Al Mada cites an Anabar police source explaining Nour had the army storm Falluja following tank shellings and mortars being shot at the protesters.  The source states an unknown number of people are wounded and dead.
All of that's just 'dismantling.'
And of course, let's not bring up the ugly reality that the protesters were within their legal rights to be at the square.
Or that their Constitutional rights were violated.
But, hey, at least Nouri caught his 'terrorists,' right?
Oops.  AFP reports

Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's spokesman Ali Mussawi said military sources confirmed tents at the protest site had been removed and the highway reopened.  This was done "without any losses, after Al-Qaeda and its members escaped from the camp to the city and they are being pursued now,' Mussawi told AFP.  He was repeating an assertion made on December 22 by Maliki, who said, "the sit-in site in Anbar has turned into a headquarters for the leadership of Al-Qaeda".
Wow.  The Anbar sit-ins were overrun with 'terrorists' but Nouri shut them down today and, strangest thing, not a single terrorist.  
Here are three plain speaking outlets -- two western and Rudaw. Kamal Namaa, Ahmed Rasheed, Alexander Dziadosz and Andrew Heavens (Reuters) report, "Fighting broke out when Iraqi police moved to dismantle a Sunni Muslim protest camp in the western Anbar province on Monday, leaving at least 13 people dead, police and medical sources said."  Rudaw explains, "As Iraqi forces launched a reportedly deadly crackdown on a months-long protest in the city of Ramadi in the predominantly Sunni Anbar province, Sunni MPs reacted by announcing mass resignations as other leaders called on protesters to resist and soldiers to disobey."  Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes, "Today, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki underscored how little he’s learned, responding to a sit-in protest in Ramadi with heavy-handed police action that killed at least 17 people, 12 of them unarmed civilians."

These murders brought to you by the largess of US President Barack Obama.  Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) explains:

Rashid Fleih, a leader of the Anbar operations, told Al-Monitor that the Iraqi army had received US equipment and supplies to be used in the battle against groups affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The New York Times revealed Dec. 25 that Washington will supply Iraq with a map showing the locations and origins of al-Qaeda in Iraq, besides 75 Hellfire air-to-land missiles and 10 ScanEagle reconnaissance drones. This information was confirmed by the prime minister's spokesperson, Ali al-Moussawi, in a statement released Dec. 27.
Barack arming Nouri with weapons to use against the Iraqi people is in violation human rights agreements as well as the Leahy Amendment.  In a bit of synchronicity, the editorial board of the Toledo Blade pointed out this morning:

Nearly two years after the United States supposedly ended its military involvement in Iraq, President Obama apparently has decided to provide extensive military aid to the country. It shouldn't happen.
The aid is intended to strengthen Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's predominantly Shiite government against Sunni opponents who are bitter at having been excluded from his post-American occupation regime.
Yes, that's exactly what the weapons were wanted for and what they were used for today -- in violation of the Leahy Amendment.
The Associated Press is in violation of journalism.  The outlet 'informs,' "There have also been other Sunni sit-ins, in cities such as Kirkuk, Mosul and Samarra, but rallying there has died down over the past months and it was not immediately clear if the camp sites there would be dismantled as well."
I'm sorry, you're lazy ass reporters were at the Samarra protest when?
You're  cowardly correspondents saw what?
Died down, have they?
That's Samarra.  I pulled that from Friday, December 27th snapshot. Click on the "7h" above (for 7 hours) and you'll be taken to the photo at the Iraqi Spring MC Twitter feed and see that it's December 27th.
Died down, have they?
It's bad enough that you were too cowardly to go to the protest out of fear upsetting Nouri but now you think you can lie?
You think you can declare that Samarra has died down?
And you think you can get away with it?
No, the protests have not died down and anyone following Arabic social media is damn well aware of that but I guess that's too much for  AP as well.
Rudaw notes that the Association of Muslim Scholars have called out Nouri's assault,  "We hold the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki responsible for what happens in Anbar between the people of the same nation.  We prohibit anyone from participating in military operations against the citizens."

Rudaw also notes, "The scholars also demanded that all Sunnis involved in the political process withdraw from the so-called Document of Honor, because 'Maliki has proved that he does not respect treaties or covenants'."  Let's get back to the resignations noted earlier in the snapshot.  Al Mada reports 44 MPs with the Motahidon Alliance have submitted their resignations to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi because of today's attacks on the protesters in Anbar.  All Iraq News notes the spokesperson for the Motahidon Alliance held a press conference and stated that the resignations are taking place and "that the war in Anbar is unconstitutional and violate all patriotic terms."  KUNA covers it here. Liu Dan (Xinhua) reports, "The MPs from the Sunni Motahidoon (United) Alliance also demanded the withdrawal of the army from cities in the Anbar province and the release of Ahmad al-Alwani, a Sunni lawmaker who was arrested on Saturday, the bloc's spokesman Dhafer al-Ani said at a televised press conference."  Matt Bradley (Wall St. Journal) points out, "Mr. Awlani was an early supporter of the year-old Sunni protest movement against Mr. Maliki and his Shiite-dominated government."

UNAMI issued the following today:

Baghdad, 30 December 2013 – The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Nickolay Mladenov, today expressed his concern about the situation in Anbar Province and called for restraint and political engagement.

“I am concerned about the current developments in Anbar and call on all to remain calm and to abide by the agreements reached in in the course of the last two days. Political disputes must be resolved through dialogue and through an inclusive political process that allows all components to feel engaged in building the democratic future of the country”.
“The government has a Constitutional responsibility to protect all citizens from terrorism, while observing the rights of ordinary Iraqi citizens, providing for their humanitarian needs, and showing maximum restraint in the use of force”.
“I call on all political leaders to abide by their commitments, including the ‘The National Honour Code’, and to immediately come together to discuss the serious challenges facing the country. As Iraq prepares for elections next year, all parties and coalitions should put forward their platforms for the future and remain fully engaged in the democratic political process”.
“The United Nations will continue to work with the Government and the people of Iraq to support democratic developments and stands ready to assist in facilitating dialogue,” Mladenov said.

Borzou Daragahi and Amina Ashraf (Financial Times of London) explain, "Ayad Allawi, opposition leader and former prime minister, presented Mr Maliki on Sunday with a list of demands, including the removal of military forces from the protest camps, negotiation with the demonstrators and the release of Mr Alwani from prison on the grounds of parliamentary immunity."

Where to go next?

Let's go back to Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq.

Al Mada reports al-Mutleq revealed that the government has cut off all internet and telephone communication for and among Anbar residents.

That's a detail not being reported in the western press.  Communications are being jammed.  Considering Nouri repeatedly whines -- and lies -- that he can't stop Iranian flights to Syria because he doesn't have fighter jets, it is interesting that Nouri has the power to do that.

(Lie?  Yeah, he's been lying forever. He can block any flights he want.  Even Michael Knights made that point to Congress this month by noting that Nouri prevented Turkey from flying to the KRG so when Nouri wants to stop flights he does.)

Okay, Saleh.   Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq is stating all MPs from the Iraqiya bloc should resign right now to trigger an immediate election.

Saleh came into Parliament (and to his Deputy Prime Minister post) because Iraqiya won the 2010 elections.  He's now estranged from Iraqiya which will most likely not be a major grouping in the planned April 30, 2014 elections. (Barring a decision on the part of al-Nujaifi -- among others -- to run on the Iraqiya ticket, Iraqiya will not be a major entity in the elections.)   He is correct that resignations could trigger an immediate (say within 30 days) election per the Constitution but when in Nouri al-Maliki's two terms as prime minister has the government followed the Constitution?

But the Constitution isn't followed.

Were it to be?

Right now?

The UN and the Independent High Electoral Commission would both say the it would be difficult to get the ballots printed, the poll workers trained, etc.

They would say that.

But if they wanted to, they could pull it off in 30 days.

The danger here would be that they moved for immediate elections and Nouri used powers he didn't have to delay the elections.

This would mean Iraq was without not only a president (Jalal Talabani has now been out of the country for over a year) but also without a Parliament.

Mushreq Abbas (Al-Monitor) argues today's attack was part of Nouri's campaigning:

Fourth, Maliki, who's seeking a third term, cannot go into the parliamentary elections at the end of April without a real achievement on the ground. The fact is that Maliki’s greatest achievement during his reign was to re-impose the rule of law by military force after the 2006-2008 civil war. A security achievement would greatly help his election chances. His breaking up the Sunni sit-ins may also serve this purpose.

Nouri's violence in Anbar didn't end the other violence in Iraq today.

National Iraqi News Agency reports 2 Mosul bombing targeted MP Jassim Mohammed Hussein and left at least two of his bodyguards injured,  two children were kidnapped in Kirkuk, an armed attack in Balad left Lt Col Nouri al-Azzawi injured, a Qayyarah sticky bombing left army Colonel Raad Yassin Amash killed, 1 Baijia suicide  car bomber took his own life and that of 1 police officer and the police officer's son, a Mosul car bombing left 4 people dead and four people injured, a Kirkuk car bombing left six people injured, an armed clash in Falluja left 8 people dead and forty injured, Sheikh Qais al-Jubouri was shot dead in Muqdadiya, a Baquba bombing left two police members injured, an al-Hamdania attack left 1 Kurdish force and 1 woman dead, an attack on a Mosul federal police checkpoint left 1 police member dead, a Mosul garage bombing left three people injured, a Tikrit car bombing targeting the Vice Chair of Salahuddin Province  left four of his bodyguards injured , and a Tuz Khormato car bombing claimed the lives of 2 police members and left four more injured.  All Iraq News adds a Kirkuk motorcyle bombing left four children injured, 3 corpses of Iraqi soldiers were discovered dumped in the streets of Beiji, an armed attack in Shurqat left 5 Iraqi soldiers dead, and a mayor and 1 teacher walking in Mosul were shot dead,

That's a ton of violence.

And the thing is, when Nouri targets one area, historically, violence increases elsewhere.  This was true in his first term and it's been true in his second.

So it's not likely that Nouri's attack on Anbar is going to reduce violence.  Kirkuk?  Not in Anbar.  Tikrit?  Not in Anbar.

All Nouri's doing with these uncalled for assaults is making it easier for the resistance, the militants, the insurgents and any terrorists that might be in Iraq to hide out.

As we've noted here for years, the success of those groupings -- and the success of prison breaks -- results from the fact that people are sympathetic and they're sympathetic because they see Nouri targeting Sunnis and it creates a bond.

It also exposes Nouri as a liar.  The Erbil Agreement is the only reason he has a term.

The US government brokered that contract and offered bribes to get political leaders to sign the contract.

Nouri didn't win a second term.

His State of Law lost to Iraqiya.  Ayad Allawi should be the prime minister if the Constitution were followed and the votes of the Iraqi people honored.

But Barack wanted Nouri to have a second term so they went around the votes, they went around the constitution and democracy and created a legal contract that gave Nouri a second term.

Why did people sign on to the contact?

Because they were given things in the contract in exchange for giving Nouri a second term.

The western press, especially the US press, doesn't want to discuss this.

Even when it's discussed in the US.

President Massoud Barzani: As far as the second part of your question, the Erbil Agreement.  In fact, the agreement was not only for the sake of forming the government and forming the three presidencies -- the presidency, the Speakership of Parliament and premier.  In fact, it was a package -- a package that included a number of essential items.  First, to put in place a general partnership in the country.  Second, commitment to the Constitution and its implementation, the issue of fedarlism, the return of balance of power and especially in all the state institutions,the establishment in [. . .] mainly in the armed forces and the security forces, the hydrocarbons law, the Article 140 of the Constitution, the status of the pesh merga.  These were all part of the package that had been there.  Had this Erbil Agreement been implemented, we would not have faced the situation that we are in today.  Therefore, if we do not implement the Erbil Agreement then there would certainly be problems in Iraq.

That's KRG President Massoud Barzani speaking in DC April 5, 2012 (covered in that day's snapshot and the April 6, 2012 one).

What does he mean that it wasn't implemented?

He means Nouri used it to get a second term, told everyone in November 2010 that he needed some time to implement the other aspects (the promises he made in the contract) and then he never did.

That's Nouri's pattern.

He's a known liar.

He makes promises he has no intentions of ever keeping.  Over and over he does that.

The contract was supposed to guarantee a power sharing government.

This was important why?

Because Nouri lost.

He shouldn't be in charge.

But by refusing to honor The Erbil Agreement, he has 'won' an election he lost.

It's outrageous and it goes to the outrage so many -- Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurds -- feel against him.

I doubt his stunts are going to help him.

Nouri's not a new face.

He's a known factor.

And he's got four months to try to remake himself.

That's not enough time even if he avoided stunts like his murderous attacks Saturday or today.

All his attacks do is remind Iraqis of how badly he's harmed the country in his second term.

From the April 6, 2012 snapshot:

Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is currently on a diplomatic tour of the surrounding region having already visited Qatar and currently Saudia Arabia.  Raman Brosk (AKnews) reports that State of Law is arguing that al-Hashemi should not be allowed to re-enter Iraq and Iraqiya's spokesperson Maisoun al-Damlouji is responding, "This is not acceptable at all.  Hashemi is the vice president of the Republic and he will return to the region." In December, after most US troops left, Nouri al-Maliki upped the political crisis by insisting that Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post and that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi be arrested on charges of 'terrorism.'  Both al-Mutlaq and al-Hashemi are members of Iraqiya (both are also Sunni) which is the political slate that won the most votes in the March 7, 2010 elections.  Nouri's State of Law slate came in second to Iraqiya.  The two slates are political rivals.  As an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers observed at Inside Iraq this week:

In a press conference Maliki said that he had a criminal file on Hashimi that he had been sitting on for three years, and was now ready to prosecute him.  For the objective observer, the timing of this announcement was telling. [. . .] Confessions of Hashimi's security personnel were aired on state television and an arrest warrent for Hashim himself was issued and also made public on state TV -- All this publicity on Maliki's side in order to burn the bridges and make any political deal impossible in this country where government is glued together with political deals.

He sat on a file for three years?

That's not encouraging and it makes it all the more obvious that his attacks on Tareq al-Hashemi weren't about the law but about the conflict between political rivals.

Saturday, Nouri's thugs went into MP Ahmed al-Alwani's home, killing people, wounding people (including children) and arresting the MP despite the legal immunity from arrest that he enjoys as a Member of Parliament.  Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi was calling for an investigation into the arrest..

Sunday, Tamim al-Jubouri (Al Mada) reported today that the Parliamentary committee tasked with investigating the arrest was unable to do so.  Nouri's SWAT forces refuse to allow these Members of Parliament to leave Baghdad to travel to Anbar and speak to witnesses.

The deaths are on Nouri's hands.  There's no excuse for the deaths, there's no excuse for wounding children.  Thug Nouri unleashed his thugs and murder happened.

jason ditz

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 (AllGov.com) 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