Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kerry pressed on Benghazi

This morning, I attended the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Commitee.   The Committee Chair is Ed Royce.  He is a Republican, if labels matter to you, because Republicans hold the majority in the House.  (Democrats have the majority in the Senate.)  (Had President Barack Obama focused on the economy and not pushed ObamaCare for two years, Democrats would likely still be in control of both houses.)

When C.I. asked me if I wanted to go to hear Secretary of State John Kerry testify, I thought, "Sure."  I have fun in D.C. and why not hear our new Secretary of State testify.  It was not until last yesterday that C.I. asked me who I expected to hit the hardest on Benghazi?

Benghazi?  I was surprised.  I had not even thought he might be asked about it.  (Was I ever wrong.)

I cover the story in this community.  September 11, 2012, the US consulate/compound in Benghazi, Libya was attacked.  Four Americans were killed: Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith and U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

There have been hearings.  I do not feel that there have been a lot of answers.

I do feel that a lot of people get really nasty and unhinged when I write about it.  I wrote about one hearing where they discussed the video feed of the attacks.  It is a rare week that someone does not discover that post and rush to e-mail me in order to inform me that I am a liar.

I am a liar?

Then so is Secretary Kerry.

This is from today's hearing.

Chair Ed Royce: This Committee has been frustrated in obtaining documents and other information from the Department concerning the Benghazi terrorist attacks.  Of course, our investigation pre-dates your tenure so I am hopeful we will be able to resolve this as you get your team in place so that we can move forward on this important issue. 

Secretary John Kerry:   On the subject of Benghazi, look, I-I -- I'm -- I was on the other side of the podium the day, just a short time ago, when that was a big issue and we held hearings in the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate and we wanted materials and we got a lot.  In fairness, I think the administration has testified 8 times, has briefed 20 times, Secretary Clinton spent five hours answering questions for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 25,000 documents have already been turned over, video of the actual event has been made available to members to see.  If you haven't seen it, I urge you to see it because it is enormously helpful in understanding events and the flow of what happened.  And the people who were all involved have all been interviewed and not only interviewed, but those FBI interviews were made part of the record and in an unprecedented way have been made available to the Congress in order to read those-those testimonies.  So if you have addition questions or you think-think there's some document that somehow you need, I'll work with you to try to get it and see if we can provide that to you --

Chair Ed Royce:  Yeah but my -- I have to just disagree for a minute.  Instead of handing over copies of the documents and records that we've requested, as has always been customary practice in the past, the Department has insisted that the Committee staff sift through thousands of pages of material in a room in which they are monitored by the Department.  And they can't remove any or make electronic copies of those documents.  Mr. Secretary, these are unclassified documents that relate to the critical issue of embassy security and the Department is literally spending thousands of taxpayers' dollars a week to slow the progress of the Committee's review.  So this has resulted in a great deal of wasted time of the and money.  I think it runs contrary to the administration's promise of increased transparency.   And I hope you will reconsider the Department's position on this issue. 

Secretary John Kerry:  Well I didn't know that there was a position that does what you're describing.   There's certainly no position by me to delay anything and I was not aware that -- If there's anything that's appropriate to turn over -- What I want to check, Mr. Chairman, is what is the historical precedent with respect to investigative document, FBI document, which we don't control.  I just want to find out what the story is on that. I'll work with you.  And you'll have me up here again and if I haven't worked with you, I'm sure I'll know about it so I promise you we'll work together to try to do that.

"Video of the actual event."  Yes.  I believe C.I. was the first to report on that.

Let me emphasize the issue of the unclassified pages that are being kept in a room.  This is like the 9-11 classified intelligence, remember?  Remember how Sandy Berger shoved some of the papers in his pants and left the room with them?

Those were classified papers.  I did not support the Bully Boy Bush administration making people go through that.  I certainly do not support it today -- and these are not even classified papers.

To Secretary Kerry's assertion that all of this has been done?  I would point out a lot has been done -- too much in the sense that they are buried under paperwork but not getting what they are requesting.

This was clear throughout the hearing.  U.S. House Representative Dana Rohrabacher was very clear he was displeased and he was very clear that he did not believe Hillary Clinton provided real answers when she testified.  U.S. House Representative Joe Wilson, by contrast, praised former-Secretary Clinton for her efforts but he did not feel that the Committee was getting cooperation.  U.S. House Representative Ted Poe was unhappy that, all these months later, questions still were not answered.

The issue of the cable Ambassador Stevens sent saying that the Benghazi compound was not secure was a sore spot for many.

Especially raw was the fact that the Committee still did not know the names of those who would have read that cable.  On that issue, Secretary Kerry said that the aspect pertaining to that was still ongoing but when that process was complete, the Committee would be supplied with names.

He seemed honestly taken aback that Benghazi was an issued.  He said he would task someone on his staff to deal directly with Committee Chair Royce on getting documents that can be provided.

He was also pressured on the issue of the people responsible for the attacks.  He said that progress was being made there and a case being built, "There's video, as you all know.  We have identified people."

There is video.  You caught that, right?

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, at least 11 people are killed including Falluja's Attorney General, Nouri's paranoia gets some attention, Congress raises questions about Camp Ashraf and about the lack of oversight at the US State Dept, a think tank finds widespread use of torture by the US,  a country artist distorts Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks, and more.

We'll start in DC.

US House Rep Ed Royce:  And needless to say, given Washington's chronic budget deficit, wasteful spending is intolerable.  But even good programs must be subject to prioritization.  We can't do everything.  Along those lines, it is inexcusable that the State Department has been operating for four-plus-years without a presidentially-nominated, Senate-confirmed Inspector General.  This Committee is committed to its responsibility for overseeing the spending and other operations of the State Department -- and that is a bipartisan commitment I am pleased to join Mr. Engel in carrying out.

Ed Royce is the Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and he was speaking at this morning's hearing  on the State Department's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2014.  Appearing before him was Secretary of State John Kerry.   Engel is US House Rep Eliot Engel who is the Ranking Member.  Other than his remarks beating the drums on Iran -- and praising US President Barack Obama for the same ("Over the past four years, President Obama has unified the international community against this threat and signed into law the strongest-ever sanctions against the regime in Tehran."") -- his opening remarks really don't require noting here nor do even of his remarks during questioning.  If you believe a House members greatest duty is to serve Israel, then I've short changed you.  If you believe a US House member needs to be covering US issues, Eliot Engel has short changed you. 

The issue Royce raised is not a minor one.  We first noted it December 7, 2011 when US House Rep Jason Chaffetz raised it in a hearing.  We've noted this lack of oversight many times since including last month with "Media again misses story (lack of oversight)."  Maybe if the press had covered it, the position wouldn't have remained vacant for this record length.

Chair Ed Royce:  I'd also like to call your attention to the State Department's Inspector General's Office.  This is the key independent office looking at waste and fraud.  Mr. Secretary, as of today, there has been no permanent State Department Inspector General for over five years.  This includes President Obama's entire first term.   The Committee raised this issue in a bi-partisan letter sent to you in February and we would like to see an immediate appointment to this position.

Secretary John Kerry:  On the IG, you're absolutely correct.  We're -- we're trying to fill a number of positions right now, the IG among them.  The greatest difficulty that I'm finding now that I'm on the other side of the fence is frankly the vetting process.  And I've got some folks that I selected way back in February when I first came in and it's now April and I'm still waiting for the vetting to move.  I've talked to the White House.  They're totally on board.  They're trying to get it moved.  So I hope that within a very short span of time, you're going to see these slots filled.  They need to be.  And that's just the bottom line.  It's important and I commit to you, we will.

Chair Ed Royce:  I think this is the longest gap that we've had in the history of this position.  So if you could talk to the President about this in short order, we would very much appreciate it. 

Secretary John Kerry:  I don't need to talk to the President, we're going to get this done.  We know it and we're trying to get the right people.  Matching person to task and also clearing all the other hurdles, as I am finding, is not as easy as one always thinks.  But we'll get it done.  

For those obsessed with whether Hillary Clinton will run for president or not, right there's one hurdle for her.  She will either have to divorce herself -- a real break -- from Barack Obama or she'll have to tell the American people that there was no independent oversight -- oversight required by law -- of her entire four year term because she didn't want any.  If she choose the latter, it's going to be real hard for her to then assure people that she will have an open presidency.  If she fails to divorce herself from Barack, this feeds into the media's existing notions of her as secretive and controlling.  They will bring the health care fiasco, they will bring up everything.  The only answer for her is to put the blame where it goes: On Barack Obama.  And she'll need to do that before she announces her run.  The longer she would wait to do that, the more it would fall into the media narrative of "She'll say anything to be elected!"  In Monday's snapshot, I called the Green Party out for the sexist attack on Hillary.  And I will continue to call those things out.  I also noted that she's not above criticism and that, should she choose to run and should we be up and running still here, I'll be one of her harshest critics.  Not because I want to but because, unlike the press, I paid attention.  I know the issues from her time at State that could  cripple a run for the presidency.

With respect to John Kerry's remarks to the Committee?

The administration has a vetting problem?  Who could have ever guessed that?  Maybe Isaiah who, February 15, 2009, offered "The Rose Ceremony" featuring Judd Gregg, Nancy Killefer, Bill Richardson and Tom Daschle.  Yeah, it was obvious back then there was a vetting problem.  That's only become more obvious with recent examples including Brett McGurk (Barack's third nominee to be US Ambassador to Iraq who never made it out of the nomination process).

Forgetting that there was no independent oversight of State in Barack's entire first term, this position doesn't require a massive search.  If there's someone wanted for the post, then vet him or her.  However, for the last years, Harold W. Geisel (Deputy Inspector General) has done the job without the title and without the pay.  Also without the independence that having the title would grant him.  If there's no one in mind for this position, why isn't Geisel handed it?

Or is the White House saying that for four years, they've had someone doing that job that wasn't capable of doing it?

This is an important issue.  Another issue raised in the hearing was the Ashraf residents.  Background, approximately 3,400 people were at Camp Ashraf when the US invaded Iraq in 2003.  They were Iranian dissidents who were given asylum by Saddam Hussein decades ago.  The US government authorized the US military to negotiate with the residents.  The US military was able to get the residents to agree to disarm and they became protected persons under Geneva and under international law.

Despite that legal status and the the legal obligation on the part of the US government to protect the residents, since Barack Obama was sworn in as US president, Nouri has ordered not one but two attacks on Camp Ashraf resulting in multiple deaths.  Let's recap.  July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observes that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."

Under court order, the US State Dept evaluated their decision to place the MEK on the terrorist list and, September 28th, they issued the following.

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
September 28, 2012
The Secretary of State has decided, consistent with the law, to revoke the designation of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) and its aliases as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under the Immigration and Nationality Act and to delist the MEK as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under Executive Order 13224. These actions are effective today. Property and interests in property in the United States or within the possession or control of U.S. persons will no longer be blocked, and U.S. entities may engage in transactions with the MEK without obtaining a license. These actions will be published in the Federal Register.
With today's actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK's past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992. The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members.
The Secretary's decision today took into account the MEK's public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade, and their cooperation in the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, their historic paramilitary base.
The United States has consistently maintained a humanitarian interest in seeking the safe, secure, and humane resolution of the situation at Camp Ashraf, as well as in supporting the United Nations-led efforts to relocate eligible former Ashraf residents outside of Iraq.

February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were attacked at the new 'home' of Camp Liberty.

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: And lastly, Mr. Secretary, I have two questions for written reply to allow the Camp Liberty residents in Iraq to go back to Camp Ashraf.  The double-layered T-walls that were protecting the camp were removed and now the residents are vulnerable to armed attacks as they were on February 9th when 8 residents were killed.  Will the US ask the Iraqi government to adequately protect the residents in Camp Liberty?

Ros-Lehtinen had a series of questions.  We'll pick up Kerry's response in the middle, when he gets to Camp Ashraf.

Secretary John Kerry:  Was the Camp Ashraf for written [reply]?

US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:  It was for written but if you'd like.

Secretary John Kerry:  Well I'll just tell you very quickly, I met with Prime Minister [Nouri al-] Maliki a few days ago.  This concern there about what's happening at Camp Liberty was very much on our minds in terms of security.  We are working with them now in terms of trying to do interviews.  We've actually run into some problems with that.  There was an Albanian offer to take some people.  That was turned down.  So we're working through a complicated situation.  I'll give you a full written answer on that.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher also noted the Camp Ashraf residents and the attack that killed eight people, how "the structures that were protecting them have been taken down.  Are we -- The question is, are we going to hold the Maliki government responsible for their safety and, if there is another attack, and more of them are murdered, are we going to -- will the administration withdraw its request for aid to a regime that's murdering innocent refugees in a camp that we helped put there?"

Secretary John Kerry: I raised this issue -- I raised this issue directly with the prime minister when I was there a couple of weeks ago.  We are deeply engaged in this.  I am very concerned about the potential of another attack.  We are trying very hard to find a place to resettle everybody.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher: Okay.

Secretary John Kerry: I'll tell you [cross-talk] the answer is we are looking for accountability and we are working very hard to provide safety.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  Accountability for the Iraqi government is important on this issue

Secretary John Kerry:  It's the Iranian government that I believe was behind the attacks.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  Well I would have --

Secretary John Kerry:  But we need the Iraqi government to provide security.

US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher:  Maliki's coziness to the mullahs in Iran is disturbing and this may reflect that.

Ruth will be covering an aspect of the hearing at her site tonight.  Ava will fill in for Trina tonight and cover another part of today's hearing.

Yesterday, the Constitution Project released a report that's over 500 pages.  The who?  The Constitution Project is a bi-partisan think tank created in 1997 by Virginia Sloan.
JSOC is Joint Special Operations Command.  Their report is entitled "Detainee Treatment." The task force for this issue was: Chair Asa Hutchinson, Chair James R. Jones, Sandy D'Alemberte, Richard Epstein, David P. Gushee, Azizah Y. al-Hibri, David R. Irvine, Claudia Kennedy, Thomas R. Pickering, William S. Sessions and Gerald E. Thomson.

The report finds widespread abuse.  Again, it's over 500 pages.  We're focusing on the Iraq section.

As early as June 2003, due to the work of the Iraq Survey Group, reports emerged of abuse of Iraqis carried out "by the JSOC task force or CIA."  What were a few reports at the start of that month quickly became much more and "[b]y the middle of June [. . .] the abuse reports had become 'a pattern'." A JSOC official insisted that these reports were false, "it's all untrue."

It was all true.  As the Abu Ghraib scandal would later reveal, it was all true.  Ibrahim Khalid Sami al-Ani could tell you it was false as well.  He was picked up by JSOC US forces July 2, 2003.  "Freedom" did come.  By that point, he had experienced "the partial amputation of his right thumb; the complete loss of use in his right forefinger, severe burns on both the palm and back of his left hand, resulting in the partial loss of use of his hand; and burns on both of his legs, feet and abdomen, requiring multiple surgeries.  His medical records and photographs corroborated these allegations, as did statements from U.S. troops stationed at Camp Cropper."  Why isn't JSCO being held accountable?  On the official documents, they "used pseudonyms."

The report also explains:

Some of JSOC task force’s harsh treatment was explicitly authorized. According to the DOD inspector general and the Senate Armed Services Committee, the JSOC task force's written standard operating procedures (SOP), dated July 15, 2003, authorized sleep deprivation, loud music, stress positions, light control, and the use of military dogs.13 Although not in the written SOP, nudity was also commonly used, reportedly with the knowledge of the JSOC task force's commander and legal advisor. The July 15, 2003, interrogation policy was unsigned, although the task force commander's name was on the signature block. The commander, Brigadier General Lyle Koenig, told Senate committee staff that he did not recall approving or even seeing an interrogation policy, though he did acknowledge that he knew about some of the harsh techniques in use. But two task force legal advisors -- one who served in July and August 2003, and another who arrived in late August -- said that they had repeatedly showed the policy to the commander and tried to get his signature on it. 17 The Senate committee reported that according to the second task force legal advisor, it got to the point where he would print out a fresh copy of the policy every night and give it to [redacted] aide. The Legal Advisor said that he knew the Commander had received copies of the policy from his aide, but that he had a habit of repeatedly "losing" the draft policy. He said the exercise became "laughable."  In addition to the specific authorization of abusive techniques, the JSOC task force took the position that, contrary to later official statements in the wake of Abu Ghraib, detainees in its custody were not protected by the Geneva Conventions because they were "unlawful combatants." In the summer of 2003, General Koenig, then the head of the JSOC task force, asked Colonel Randy Moulton, the commander of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), for help with interrogation. Moulton later testified to Congress that "before I sent the team over, I talked to the task force commander and asked him what the legal status was. I was told they were DUCs [Detained Unlawful Combatants] and not covered under the Geneva Conventions." 

But they knew what they were doing was wrong and was illegal and must be kept hidden.  That was obvious when Lt Col Steven Kleinman was sent to Iraq and saw abuse taking place, objected to it and documented it. The response was to threaten him, attempt to steal his camera, sharpen knives in front of him while advising him "not to sleep too soundly," and other threats.

We are pressed for time and space so instead of going over Abu Ghraib -- which is noted in the report -- I'll refer you to Seymour Hersh's May 10, 2004 expose for The New Yorker.  

Let's move to after Abu Ghraib.  They found that US detention facilities continued to have 'issues.'
Detainees not only self-reported abuse, they revealed something very telling and disturbing.  To be released, they were forced to sign statements insisting that no abuse had taken place.  From the report:

 Each former detainee interviewed by Task Force staff said that before his release, he signed a paper attesting that he had not been mistreated. Translated from Arabic, the form reads: 

I know that one of my rights is to give notice of any mistreatment and I know that one of my rights is to complain about any mistreatment I got during the period of my arrest. And I understand that no one will punish me because of this notification. And I know also that any notification with regard to this issue will not have an effect on the order to release me. 
Choice 1: I did not suffer from any mistreatment. [check box] 
Choice 2: I suffered from mistreatment during my period of arrest. [check box] 

All those interviewed said they believed the assurances on the release form that they could report abuse without suffering any consequences were meaningless. They said that they had no choice but to say they had not been mistreated. To do otherwise, they believed, would have been foolish.

This is exactly what Nouri's goons forced people to sign in Iraq today.  And that's if they're lucky about singing.  If they're not lucky, they don't even get to see what they sign.  Hadi al-Mahdi was an Iraqi filled with the hope of a new Iraq.  He used his hope in his career as a journalist and in his calling as an activist.  September 8, 2011, this critic of Nouri al-Maliki was assassinated in his own home and no effort has ever been made to find the killer or killers.  Months before that happened, Hadi was covering the 2011 protests.  February 25, 2011, when they kicked off, he was there.  Afterwards, he was at a Baghdad cafe with journalism friends eating lunch.  That's when Nouri's goons with badges showed up, attacked them with the butts of gun rifles and abducted them in broad daylight.   NPR's Kelly McEvers (Morning Edition) interviewed Hadi for Morning Edition after he had been released and she noted he had been "beaten in the leg, eyes, and head." He explained that he was accused of attempting to "topple" Nouri al-Maliki's government -- accused by the soldiers under Nouri al-Maliki, the soldiers who beat him.  Excerpt:
Hadi al-Mahdi: I replied, I told the guy who was investigating me, I'm pretty sure that your brother is unemployed and the street in your area is unpaved and you know that this political regime is a very corrupt one.
Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was later put in a room with what he says were about 200 detainees, some of them journalists and intellectuals, many of them young protesters.
Hadi al-Mahdi: I started hearing voices of other people.  So, for instance, one guy was crying, another was saying, "Where's my brother?" And a third one was saying, "For the sake of God, help me."
Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was shown lists of names and asked to reveal people's addresses.  He was forced to sign documents while blindfolded.  Eventually he was released.  Mahdi says the experience was worse than the times he was detained under Saddam Hussein.  He says the regime that's taken Sadam's place is no improvement on the past. This, he says, should serve as a cautionary tale for other Arab countries trying to oust dictators. 
Hadi al-Mahdi: They toppled the regime, but they brought the worst -- they brought a bunch of thieves, thugs, killers and corrupt people, stealers.
This started under the US.  Nouri gets away with it today because the US government gave the go-ahead for at the start of the illegal war.

Violence continues in Iraq.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) counts four bombings today in Baghdad alone.  All Iraq News reports a western Baghdad car bombing has claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and left six more injured.  Alsumaria adds a Baghdad roadside bombing killed 1 person, a Mosul roadside bombing has left one police officer injured, a Kirkuk shootings has left one police officer wounded, and overnight in Baghdad one person was shot deadAFP offers, "A roadside bomb targeted a convoy carrying an MP from the secular, Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc in Madain, south of Baghdad, wounding four people but not the politician, while a magnetic 'sticky bomb' on a civilian car wounded two people in Mansur in west Baghdad, they said." AFP also notes, "Gunmen armed with pistols shot dead Muthanna Shakir, a former translator for American forces, in his restaurant in Samarra, north of Baghdad, while a magnetic 'sticky bomb' killed a secondary school teacher in Ramadi, west of the capital, police and doctors said." So that's 6 reported dead and 14 reported injured today.   

But the violence didn't stop there.  NINA notes 4 suspects were shot dead in Tikrit, a Falluja car bombing has left three police officers injured,  and Marouf al-Kubaisi was shot dead in Falluja.  He was the Attorney General of Falluja.  That brings today's reported death toll to 11 dead and 17 injured.    National Iraqi News Agency reports 1 farmer and 1 Sahwa were kidnapped in Tikrit.  Iraq Body Count counts 82 deaths when the tolls of Monday and Tuesday are combined.  They count 269 violent deaths for the month so far through Tuesday.

UPI offers an analysis of what continued violence could result in:

Indeed, Oxford Analytica postulates that if the security crisis continues to worsen at the rate it is now, Maliki, a longtime ally of Iran, could face an intensified regional effort to topple his Shiite-dominated coalition.
Baghdad fears overlap between the fortunes of the Syrian rebels and protest movements in Iraq's predominantly Sunni provinces such as Anbar, Nineveh and Salaheddin," which border Sunni-majority Syria where the regime of President Bashar Assad is under growing threat, Oxford Analytica observed.
"Maliki's inner circle has a genuine and deep-seated fear of a coup attempt, which they believe will coincide with Assad's fall and will be backed by the region's Sunni states."

  Nouri's fear of a coup is long-standing and was documented as far back as 2006.  It's part of his paranoia.  Or maybe he's psychic?  Maybe in 2006, before he had managed to turn huge sections of the country against him, he knew that the day was coming.  It has arrived.  His failure to provide security only adds to that.

Back in July, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support."  Violence has been increasing for the last two years.  As it has increased, positions that should have been filled by the end of 2010 have never been.  Nouri's refused to nominate people to head the security ministries.  That power-grab puts him in charge of all security.  He can't point to a Minister of Interior and say, "That's why the police are failing."  He is the Minister of Interior.  He can't point to a Defense Minister and say, "That's why the army is failing."  He is the Minister of Defense.  

The worsening security situation rests on his shoulders and no one else's.   Abdul Rahman al-Rashed (Eurasia Review) explains of Nouri:

We see an image of an Iraqi dictator who is consolidating his hold on power in a terrifying manner. Prime Minister Al-Maliki does not hesitate to use all means to stay in a position of authority, even with regard to local elections, like the provincial ones. There are several means adopted by Al-Maliki to eliminate his rivals, like using security detectives, courts and state institutions to pursue them, falsely accusing them of terror and corruption allegations. Al-Maliki also used money, which he has in plenty, in order to gain protection and sabotage the political life of the country. He has also not spared any of the state organs, like radio and television stations, in his bid to market his party and its candidates and to prevent competitors from gaining a foothold -- a move displaying flagrant violation of electoral laws. Above all, Al-Maliki previously confiscated all governmental seats, effectively becoming the entire Cabinet! A minister for defense, security, finance, intelligence and even the Central Bank governor. He established an administration in his office that falls under his command and that runs all ministries of sovereignty and he also allocated huge funds to the body.

Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Al-Monitor) explores recent violence:

The first development signified that al-Qaeda, which will probably have claimed responsiblity for the operation by the time this article goes to press, sent a very clear message that it was capable of reaching any target it wanted to strike. In this case, that target was a city in the extreme southern and Shiite dominated part of the country that seldom falls victim to major security attacks.
The message brings to the forefront the true nature of the support environment through which al-Qaeda operates. It raises questions of whether it is really centered in the Sunni part of Iraq, or rather spread in different environments where it infiltrates and exploits security weaknesses wherever they may be.
The significance of the second development, where a car bomb successfully reached Baghdad airport, lies in the fact that it had to cross at least three main checkpoints without being detected. And if the car originated far from the airport or from another province, as security communiqués seem to indicate, then it would have had to traverse at least 20 checkpoints to reach its target at the entrance to the airport!
This fact is appalling, and invites the same question that has followed every other bombing in Iraq: How can an organization which is supposedly “besieged,” as security reports indicate, whose members and leaders are apprehended by the dozens every day, execute all these attacks, simultaneously in wide-ranging areas of Iraq?
This question, in turn, leads to the third previously mentioned point as to why the security forces never were able to offer any justification for the lapses in security, and never announced the discovery of any facts, except to say, a day or hours even after each bomb attack, that the perpetrators had been apprehended.
It thus is only logical for the inhabitants of Baghdad, whose city was rocked by seven simultaneous car bomb explosions, and more than 40 such explosions since the beginning of the year, to ask: Why are the Iraqi security forces transforming our lives into a daily hell of waiting for hours at checkpoints that conduct perfunctory half-hearted searches on blocked-off streets, amid useless fortifications?

Katie Nguyen (AlertNet) explores the impact of violence on mental health today and reminds:

The only mental health survey of recent years, the Iraq Mental Health Survey carried out in 2006-2007, recorded the damaging effects of the violence on Iraqi people.
It showed that mental health disorders were prevalent in 13.6 percent of Iraqis aged 18 and above. Anxiety disorders were the most common type of mental disorder followed by mood disorders, which might manifest themselves as depression.
The survey showed that 56 percent of the population had been exposed to trauma. The most common causes were raids by police or the army, followed by shooting, internal displacement, being a witness to killing, exposure to bomb blasts and the death of a close relative or friend.

Someone should explore the impact of violence on the mental health of reporters because you have to wonder about those who insist upon using the extreme violence of 2006 and 2007 as the yardstick to measure violence in Iraq today.  It allows many to avoid noting that violence has been increasing in Iraq for the last two years.

Tomorrow, we'll try to cover a Monday Congressional hearing.  The events of Monday (Boston) sent me as reeling as anyone else.  We put together a snapshot as quickly as possible and I wasn't in the mood to review my notes on that day's hearing or to include it.  Tuesday?  Counter-insurgency had waited all last week and had to be included.  Today, we're noting Kerry and the torture report.  So hopefully, we'll be able to cover Monday's hearing tomorrow. If not, and the other reason I didn't fret over not including it Monday, Dona will quiz us on it Sunday at Third as she did last Sunday in "Congress and Veterans" -- the hearing was on the same topic.

Part of covering Iraq is correcting the record.  Repeatedly.  Today, for some unknown reason, someone takes a swipe at the Dixie Chicks.  "Backing other causes like global warming and mining practices, ____ says she has not suffered the 'Shut Up and Sing Syndrome' that visited the Dixie Chicks after lead singer Natalie Maines spoke out about the war in Iraq during a concert.  'The one choice I try to be clear about is that when I do my show, I do my show,' she said."  That's Kathy Mattea's whose career has all the life of Theda Bara's.  The whole angle of Gordon Glantz's article for Mainline Median News is that Mattea's 'back' because of her album Coal.  That album came out in 2008.  That's five years ago.  And the highest it made it was 64 on the country charts.  Last year, she released Calling Me Home, an album of bad covers, that made it to 54 on the country charts.  Neither indicates any real motion in the career.  Neither album was even certified gold (half a million sold -- the lowest certification for sales).  I've always felt she had terrible phrasing, poor breath control and a problem staying in tune -- details that make her cover of Nanci Griffith's "Love At The Five and Dime" painful for me to listen to.  But we've been here for almost nine years and I've never shared my thoughts on Mattea -- and not just because, like most of America, I forgot about her roughly 20 years ago.  If she hadn't lied I wouldn't be noting her today.

Natalie Maines did not stop a concert to lecture the audience on the Iraq War.  I'm sorry that Kathy Mattea's such an idiot.  Although I suspect it's less stupidity and more cowardice.  I've seen this dance from the 'big girl' before.  It's a lumbering and awkward dance but she's big boned.  The Dixie Chicks were performing in London.  Outside the venue and inside the venue were signs against the war -- brought by the audience.  It was March 10, 2003.  Natalie didn't bring some new topic into the room.  She acknowledged the audience -- as any real concert performer would -- and the signs they had.  "Just so you know, we're on the good side with y'all.  We do not want this war, this violence, and we're ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas."

So for Mattea to try to score points off the Dixie Chicks with a crappy, revisionist tale of,  "The one choice I try to be clear about is that when I do my show, I do my show"?  It's dishonest and so is she.  She needs to go back to her EZ-bake activism where she pretends she did a damn thing.  She plays in the article like she did something brave for AIDS, that she lost friends in the 80s and that got her active.  In 1992, she wore three red ribbons to the CMA Awards and gave the name of three friends.  Wow.  That's 'activism.'  (That was sarcasm.)  She recorded one song on Red Hot + Country, a 1994 charity album.   Like most of the Red Hot albums (there was a whole series), there was no major art to be found there but it was the era of charity albums -- jam once and get off the hook forever!  Kathy's bravery?  In 1994, Jack Hurst (Chicago Tribune) reported, "Another reason Mattea presumably has stayed low-key on the Red, Hot & Country album, whose proceeds go to the cause, is to prevent her Red, Hot & Country involvement from obscuring her current solo album, Walking Away a Winner. Walking Away has spawned a pronounced resurgence in her impact on the hit charts."   Low-key?  Silent. 

She's always been a coward.  And these days, when a reporter talks with pride of her 'activism,' Kathy gets a little nervous and has to make sure anyone reading knows she's not that active, she's not one of them crazy Dixie Chicks!  So she lies about them to try to make herself look better.

Natalie Maines spoke up.  I will always applaud her for that.  I do not put up with those who attacked her back then and I do not allow people to get away with lying about her today.  Kathy Mattea should be ashamed of herself.  Natalie's debuts her first solo album May 7th.  It's called Mother (after the Pink Floyd song which she covers).

Bradley Manning is a whistle blower and a political prisoner.  We noted this morning:

At the end of the month (April 30th), there will be an event about the importance of whistle blowing to a society at St. Joseph's College (starting at 6:30 pm) with Sarah Leonard (Dissent and New Inquiry)  and Chase Madar (author of The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story Behind the WikiLeaks Whistleblower).  For Chase Madar's book, click here and link goes to Barnes and Noble.  Not Amazon?  Amazon shows the book as "out of print" -- even as a download.  (On the St. Joseph's College event, we'll note it in the snapshot.  A friend asked me to note it and I said sure but there's nothing at St. Joseph's College about it.  So I called him back and he said the event is on and scheduled and he'd e-mail me something later today.  We'll include that info in the snapshot.)

My friend e-mailed this press release for the event to be held at the college's Tuohy Hall from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm -- and you can read it online here:

Sarah Leonard and Chase Madar explore why whistleblowers are usually less popular than war criminals
On Tuesday, April 30th The New Inquiry, Verso and Brooklyn Voices present a discussion between The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story Behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower author Chase Madar and Sarah Leonard, New Inquiry Editor and Associate Editor at Dissent. The discussion will be part of the Brooklyn Voices series, a program of St. Joseph's College, in partnership with Greenlight Bookstore and the Brooklyn Rail. In the past three years, Wikileaks has released thousands of classified documents about the Iraq War, the Afghan War and American statecraft in general, the basis for thousands of important stories in major media across the world. The source? A 25-year-old US Army Intelligence Private First Class from Crescent, Oklahoma by the name of Bradley Manning. After three years of pretrial detention, his court martial will begin June 3rd of this year. He faces 22 charges including espionage and Aiding the Enemy, carrying a possible life term.
The case of Bradley Manning is both a coda and a key to the long debacle of America's militarized response to the 9/11 attacks. What are the consequences of charging–and perhaps convicting–Pfc. Manning with the capital offense of “Aiding the Enemy”? Why aren't the New York Times and other Establishment media vigorously defending the source of so many of their important stories? What power does information have to change policy and halt wars? What power doesn't it have? And why are whistleblowers usually less popular than war criminals?

Chase Madar and Sarah Leonard will discuss.

This event is free and open to all.


CHASE MADAR is a civil rights attorney in New York who writes for The London Review of Books, Le Monde diplomatique, TomDispatch, CounterPunch, The Nation, The American Conservative (where he is a contributing editor), and the National Interest
SARAH LEONARD is an editor at The New Inquiry. She is also an editor at Dissent magazine, and a co-editor of Occupy!: Scenes from Occupied America (Verso, 2011).
THE NEW INQUIRY is a space for discussion that aspires to enrich cultural and public life by putting all available resources—both digital and material—toward the promotion and exploration of ideas. The New Inquiry is a 501(c)3 non-profit and is not affiliated with any political party, government agency, university, municipality, religious organization, cadre, or other cult. TNI was co-founded by Mary Borkowski, Jennifer Bernstein, and Rachel Rosenfelt.
BROOKLYN VOICES was created in collaboration with Saint Joseph's College, Greenlight Bookstore and the Brooklyn Rail. Its aim is to promote and enhance the creative vitality of these institutions' home neighborhoods of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill by providing local writers, artists and intellectuals with a forum in which to discuss and present their works to neighbors, patrons and students.