Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The trove of Jewish artifacts

The Associated Press has an article on the display of the trove of Jewish artifacts being displayed in D.C. currently.  These are the artifacts Saddam Hussein stole from the synagogues in Iraq.

And President Barack Oama, supposedly sensitive to cultural issues because of an African father, wants to hand them over to Iraq.

As Jewish News Service notes, "Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants to stop the State Department from returning 2,700 Jewish books and ancient documents to Iraq. 'This treasured collection belongs to the Jewish community and should be made available to them,' Schumer said, according to the New York Daily News. "  Galit Lev Harir (St. Louis Jewish Light) notes:

The archive is scheduled to be sent back to Iraq in June 2014. There is no precedent, however, to suggest that the Iraqi government will act to preserve this important archive. In fact, there is good reason to believe that the Iraqis may desire to erase any historical records related to the history of Jews in Iraq.

I implore readers of the Light to help safeguard this historical treasure. Please write our elected representatives and ask them to act to prevent the transfer of the archive to the Iraqi government. Either the archive could continue to be maintained in the U.S., or alternatively, it could be transferred to the Babylonian Jewry Heritage Center in Or Yehuda, Israel, which is the only museum in the world dedicated to preserving the cultural heritage of the 2,500-year-old Jewish community of Iraq.

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

Wednesday, October 30, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri meets with Biden, Nouri's involvement in the attacks on the Ashraf community gets attention, as do his other misdeeds, his fluffer returns to fluff for him, the Pope offers a prayer for Iraqis,  the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee holds a hearing and Chair Bernie Sanders makes a statement that undercuts the work of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and much more.

Julian E. Barnes (Wall St. Journal) reports, "Top officials from the government of Iraq met Wednesday morning with Vice President Joe Biden over ways to address the rising levels of al Qaeda violence in the country, administration officials said. A senior administration official said Wednesday the intensifying violence is a threat to Iraq, regional stability and U.S. interests. The official said that Iraqi forces lack the capability to effectively counter al Qaeda and its camps in western Iraq."  Iraq's prime minister and chief thug, Nouri al-Maliki, is in the US and Reuters notes he met with Biden today for two hours.

US President Barack Obama is set to meet with Nouri on Friday at the White House.  Human Rights Watch publishes an open letter to Barack today which includes:

Human Rights Watch is extremely concerned by the deepening crisis in Iraq, including the harsh crackdown on a range of government critics, which has intensifiedin the two years since Prime Minister al-Maliki’s last state visit. Immediately upon returning from Washington in 2011, al-Maliki ordered the arrests of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and a number of his staff, one of whom died in police custody and whose body displayed signs of torture. The arrests kicked off a year in which security forces under his direct command threatened government critics and used state institutions—some of which the US had a role in setting up, like the Integrity Commission and Inspectors General in the Interior and Defense ministries—to arrest and charge political opponents without disclosing the evidence against them.
Over the past two years, the government dramatically escalated use of the death penalty despite serious flaws in the justice system, executing 65 people already this month and 140 so far in 2013. At least one of those executed in October had a court judgment declaring him innocent shortly before he was executed.
Equally disturbing is the fact that al-Maliki’s government has not implemented promised key legal reforms, such ending the use of secret informant testimony and coerced confessions as a basis for convictions. Authorities exploit vague provisions in the Anti-Terrorism Law to settle personal or political scores, while judges and investigating officers collude to prolong the time detainees are held and ignore their allegations of abuses. Suspects have little or no access to an adequate defense, and are frequently detained for months and even years without charge.
Over the last two years Iraqi security forces illegally detained and tortured scores of peaceful protesters as well as men and women living in areas in which the government believes armed groups operate. This past February Human Rights Watch viewed the physical signs of torture on more than 20 women in Baghdad’s Central Prison for Women and on death row. Court documents in the case against a woman executed earlier this month showed that two courts had dismissed charges against her due to a medical report documenting security forces had severely tortured her to induce her to confess to terrorism.In June 2013 the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) reported that large numbers of detainees, particularly those arrested under Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law, complain that they were “subjected to a range of abuse, mistreatment and torture in order to extract confessions” during detention and interrogation.
Iraq does face serious security threats, but the government’s failure to make urgently needed reforms and hold officials accountable for terrible abuses like torture has made Iraq less safe, not more. In fact, the government’s heavy-handed approach is contributing to greater instability and exacerbating sectarian tensions. Violence this year worsened considerably after security forces stormed a camp of peaceful protesters in Hawija in April, killing 51 people. Attacks by armed groups, which claimed over 5,740 lives already between January and September, have internally displaced another 5,000 Iraqis from Basra, Thi Qar and Baghdad, and within Diyala and Ninewa. The escalation in executions after trials in which people are convicted on the basis of coerced confessions and secret evidence—for the most part in the name of counterterrorism—have done nothing to address the crisis. On the contrary, numerous Iraqis, Shia and Sunni, have told Human Rights Watch that authorities’ failure to hold perpetrators accountable regardless of their sect has polarized Iraq’s population, particularly in Sunni areas where people see the government’s failure to hold Shia-dominated security forces accountable as confirmation that policies remain rooted in sectarianism.
 The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called Iraq’s border restrictionsof Syrians seeking asylum cause for “major concern.” Despite Iraq’s insistence they would continue to admit “urgent humanitarian cases” and family reunification cases, authorities severely limited the number of Syrians allowed to enter beginning in August 2012. In September, the Interior Ministry threatened to close al-Waleed camp, where 5,000 Syrians currently reside. New arrivals virtually ceased in late March, when Iraq’s Interior Ministry closed its al-Qaem border crossing, effectively violating the customary international law principle of non-refoulement. Of the over 200,000 Syrian refugees in Iraq, all but 5,000 of entered through border crossings the Kurdistan Region Government de facto controls.
Many Iraqis—civilians and government and security authorities—have told Human Rights Watch that they believe the security gains US troops and their allies made after the surge have been undermined. The US has largely turned a blind eye to the terrible abuses Prime Minister al-Maliki’s government is helping to perpetuate. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal cited senior administration officials in reporting that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other US intelligence and security personnel were cooperating with Iraqi security forces that have allegedly committed abuses.

  Nate Rawlings (Time magazine) uses the visit to note:

But Iraq’s current crisis is not purely the work of al-Qaeda and extremists slipping in from Syria—and some would argue Maliki himself is in part at fault OK?. While exacerbated by the Syrian civil war, the violence is largely the result of domestic sectarian and political rifts. The current crisis arguably began in December 2012, when the government raided the home of a prominent Sunni politician, leading to anti-government protests in the heavily Sunni Anbar Province. In the spring, government security forces clashed with Sunni gunmen, sparking a cycle of violence that has continued into the fall.
Maliki recently acknowledged that Iraq suffers from a “crisis of its entire political system,” and few would disagree. Another op-ed this week in the International New York Times, co-written by Emma Sky, a British Middle East expert who served as a political adviser top U.S. commanders in Iraq (who Petraeus lauded in his piece as “brilliant”), eviscerates Maliki and argues he triggered the current crisis, chiefly, by not integrating Sunnis into the political process.
But Sky, and her co-author Ramzy Mardini, a research analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, argued that Maliki is not the root of Iraq’s ills, and that if he were defeated in next year’s elections, “the primacy of survivalism in Iraqi political life” will continue. Maliki was an unlikely prime minister who won the post, in part, because then U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad argued he would be independent of Iran. In the years since, Maliki and his Shi’a State of Law coalition have been criticized for failing to bring Sunnis into the governing quorum and launching authoritarian crackdowns against Sunni politicians.  “Mr. Obama shouldn’t mistake Iraq for a liberal democracy,” Sky and Mardini wrote. “At best, it’s a democracy without democrats.”

That's a good effort from Nate and stronger on the facts than most American reports but before we explain what's missing, let's deal with Nouri's fluffer.  Patrick Cockburn (CounterPunch) is as crazy as his dead brother, the denier of global warming Alexader Cockburn.  In his latest garbage Patrick Cockburn insists:

The civil war in Syria is reigniting the sectarian civil war in Iraq. A vast area of eastern Syrian and  western Iraq is turning into a zone of war. Well-armed and well-organised al-Qa’ida-linked movements are launching attacks with  suicide bombers from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Tigris River. 

Unlike Patrick, we don't have a break from Iraq.  We don't get to forget Iraq for several months as we shift to Syria or some other country.  Which means we actually pay attention.  And you have to do that or you will lose track of what's going on.  I worry that our focus on Nouri's visit means we're not including important stories from within Iraq.

Reality, when nobody in the US media gave a damn about what was going on Iraq, we were saying here  violence was increasing, pay attention to Iraq.  But no one wanted to notice, everyone was too busy.  The violence in Iraq has nothing to do with Syria with the possible exception that violent Iraqis -- Shi'ite and Sunni -- who want Iraq to take a side in Syria may take that anger and frustration out in Iraq.  Patrick's only US media via CounterPunch and Antiwar Radio but he's focused on everything except Iraq and he's been an apologist for Nouri for seven years now.

Nate Rawlings is right about December 2012 forward but he's unaware of what happened before.  For example the targeting of December 2012 echoes the targeting of December 2011 with Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.

But how did Iraq get to this point.  Unlike Patrick Cockburn, Mohammed Tawfeeq is a real reporter. Back in July of 2012, 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."

Now according to the Iraqi Constitution, if you can't appoint a full Cabinet, you can't become prime minister (someone else is named prime minister designate and given 30 days to build a Cabinet).  But US President Barack Obama wanted Nouri to have a second term and that required tossing aside the votes of the Iraqi people and spitting on the Iraqi Constitution to create The Erbil Agreement -- a legal contract which gave Nouri his second term.  If the Constitution had applied, Nouri would not be prime minister.  More importantly, if the Constitution had applied, Nouri would have had to have created a cabinet (in full).

You can't fail to name people to head the security ministries and not have problems.  Nouri refused to nominate people to head the security ministries because this was a power grab.  Each year, violence gets worse but Nouri's term is almost over and he will have ended it by refusing to have a Minister of Defense, etc.

The Erbil Agreement was brokered by the US government to give Nouri a second term as prime minister.  To get the leaders of other political blocs to sign off, this was a power-sharing agreement which made various promises.  Nouri used the contract to get his second term, stalled on delivering his end of promises and then flat out refused.

It's not December 2012 that the breakdown takes place.  The Erbil Agreement is the poison apple.

By the summer of 2011, tired of being patient, the Kurds, Moqtada al-Sadr and Iraqiya are calling for The Erbil Agreement to be implemented as promised.  Nouri refuses.  Violence is increasing but no one notices apparently.  Then people are tired of asking.

That's when the move begins to unseat Nouri.

In May of 2012, after over a month of threatening, the groups had their signatures.  Enough for a vote of no-confidence.  They handed them over to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani whose only job was to present the petition to the Parliament.  If he had, a vote would take place.  If just the MPs who signed the petition had voted no confidence, if no one else had, Nouri wouldn't be prime minister today.

The US government and Nouri applied strong pressure to Jalal and he's got no spine, he's always been worthless.  So he announces that some people who signed the petition have changed their minds or there are forgeries or there are this or there are that.

Fat ass Jalal's only job was to deliver the petition.

But if he had, a vote would have been called immediately and Nouri would have been out of office.

Violence again increases.

It's not surprising.

You're an Iraqi, you went and voted.  You voted for the winning party: Iraqiya.  But you saw your vote didn't count.  And you tried to be patient with the process.  But you see MPs sign on for a no confidence vote to remove Nouri.  And even though they play by the rules and even though they get the signatures required, it means nothing.

That's the message Barack Obama has sent the Iraqi people: Your vote doesn't matter, your Constitution doesn't matter.

In the face of that, of course people will resort to violence.  Of course they will.  This has been the same story throughout the beginning of time.  That's the point Jackson Btowne makes in "Lives in the Balance:"

Or the people who finally can't take any more 
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone

It is not a mystery.

Granted, there are some who will crawl across cut glass before they will ever hold Barack accountable but his actions with regards to nullifying the 2010 elections in Iraq commanded all that followed.

The increase in violence is in relation to Iraqis attempting to escape Nouri but being denied all legitimate attempts.  When every available legal recourse is taken from you, violence can be seen as a viable option.

What Patrick Cockburn works to hide and conceal, a few can shine a light on.  David Petraeus was once the top US commander in Iraq.  During that time he oversaw the so-called 'surge' (influx of additional US troops into Iraq) and the creation of the Sahwa ("Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq" are two other names).  At Foreign Policy, he offers:

Various actions by the Iraqi government have undermined the reconciliation initiatives of the surge that enabled the sense of Sunni Arab inclusion and contributed to the success of the venture. Moreover, those Iraqi government actions have also prompted prominent Sunnis to withdraw from the government and led the Sunni population to take to the streets in protest. As a result of all this, Iraqi politics are now mired in mistrust and dysfunction.

Let's move over to the Ashraf community.  Camp Ashraf in Iraq is now empty.  All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty) as of last month.  Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were  welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks.  The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one.  As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). That's the attack Lara Logan reported on.  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."  Those weren't the last attacks.  They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept.  (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.)   In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions."  So the US has an obligation to protect the residents.  3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf.  They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part.  A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday.   That was the second attack this year alone.   February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah.  Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured.  Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release."  They were attacked again September 1st.   Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents.

US House Rep Ted Poe has a written about the attacks on the Ashraf community for The Hill and he notes:

In June 2011, I and other members of Congress met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Iraq to discuss U.S.-Iraqi relations. The meeting that was supposed to last 20 minutes but went for two hours came to an abrupt halt when our delegation asked to see the camp where these opposition members lived. The camp had been attacked just two months prior, resulting in the death of 36 unarmed residents. Al-Maliki’s mood immediately changed, and he said that there was no way that we were going to see the camp. Al-Maliki did not allow us to go because he had something to hide.
Two years and three attacks later, there are troubling signs of at least complicity, if not outright involvement, by the government of Iraq in this latest attack. There are more than a dozen checkpoints manned by Iraqi security forces on the road to the camp. There are also armed Iraqi guards surrounding the camp, ostensibly there to protect the residents. The idea that the assailants could get past all of the checkpoints and carry out an approximately three-hour attack on the camp without the knowledge of the government of Iraq is difficult to believe.
The State Department condemned the attack and asked the government of Iraq to investigate. Given the history of the previous attacks and the circumstances of this latest attack, that’s like asking Al Capone to run the IRS. When I was a prosecutor, the first thing you did in opening an investigation was interview the witnesses, but more than a month after this most recent attack, the Iraqi government has yet to interview any of the 42 survivors. That’s because there is no investigation. It is all a sham. The Iraqi government cannot be trusted to keep these refugees safe.
On Nov. 1, al-Maliki will come dragging the sack to collect more of our taxpayers’ money as he meets with the president. The U.S. must do a better job of holding the government of Iraq accountable; there should be real consequences for the lack of protection of these unarmed, innocent civilians. 

AFP reports today:

Calling for a UN investigation into the attack, the Aachen-based Rights for Migrants group said interviews with the 42 survivors of the attack on Camp Ashraf, in central Diyala province, "unequivocally puts Iraqi forces at the scene."
It alleged Iraqi police moved blockades guarding the camp to allow access to about 120 armed attackers, who were dressed in uniforms identical to those worn by a special Iraqi forces division and spoke with Iraqi accents.
"For two hours, the attackers scoured the camp, killing 52 and destroying millions of dollars in property. Every individual killed was shot in the head or neck, and many were handcuffed before being executed," the report said.

While issues are being raised in the US press about Nouri's visit, there are also opinions being offered in the Iraqi press.  All Iraq News reports MP Hussein al-Shirifi has issued a statement regarding Nouri's visit to the US:

This visit is rejected and we do not welcome it because America occupies Iraq and destroyed its infrastructure in addition to creating terrorism that kills Iraqis daily. Will the Iraqi government call for the rights of the Iraqis who were killed by the US soldiers? and will the crime of Black Water Security Company be discussed?

Hussein al-Shirifi is with Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc.

Let's take a look at violence in Iraq.  AFP reports, "Three suicide bombings killed 14 Iraqi security force members overnight, officials said"  Sinan Salaheddin (AP) adds, "a bomb exploded near an outdoor market in the afternoon in Baghdad's western suburbs of Abu Ghraib, killing three shoppers and wounding nine."  Also overnight,  Press TV notes  "in a village outside the city of Mosul, situated about 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, three Iraqi security forces and four civilians were killed after a bomber exploded his explosives-laden car near a checkpoint."   Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Attackers targeting security forces staged a coordinated assault on a police checkpoint west of Mosul, Iraq, killing at least nine people and wounding 25 others Wednesday in the latest spasm of violence in an increasingly restive country."  National Iraqi News Agency reports an Abu Sayda roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left four more injured, a Falluja armed attack left 1 police officer and 1 police member dead, 2 brothers were shot dead outside their Mosul home, a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 Ministry of Interior employee, a Tikrit home bombing (police officer's home) left one civilian injured, a Kirkuk armed clash left three police officers injured, an Albu-Ajeel Village roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer while leaving two people injured, 2 Baquba bombings left three people injured (one s a police officer) and a Muqdadiya bombing injured "a woman and her two children."

On violence, BBC News offers, "Since the beginning of 2013, there have been just 16 days in which there were no deaths from violence in Iraq, the most recent of which was 24 May, according to figures compiled by the AFP news agency."  We try to be nice.

The AFP count is a good thing.  It serves as a check on the official figures Nouri's ministries release each month.  We had noted they were an undercount.  We had noted that for years.  Prashant Rao started the AFP count and suddenly reports can note the official figures are an undercount.  That's great and I'm not being sarcastic.  If the AFP count never accomplished anything else that's something.

For some reason, the last six weeks have seen media outlets -- such as NPR -- suddenly noticing that AFP is keeping a count.  And we were kind and let them have their moment to shine.  But now the BBC is using them.  And fools like W.T. Whitney Jr. (CounterPunch) are rah-rah over them.

They are a reference point, they are nothing more.  Iraq Body Count remains the  best count.  The AFP count suffered last year and this year whenever Prashant was out of Iraq because other AFP employees didn't necessarily feel the need to update.

So you need to be very careful, when using the AFP count.  On May 24, 2013, there were no reported deaths.  But it was a Friday which should make you cautious as well.  Friday's have been the worst for reporting violence.  The Friday in question?  Even worse since reporters were arrested that day:

But as BBC allegedly reports on violence, they rush to insist, per AFP -- they state -- no one died on May 24, 2013.

We've said it many times before, the dead are probably the lucky ones.  Being challenged or disabled is no treat anywhere but it is especially brutal in a war zone.  Did violence take place on May 24th?  Yes it did.  From that day's snapshot:

Too bad all the fairy tales in the world won't chase away the ongoing violence.  All Iraq News notes 1 person was shot dead in Mosul yesterday.  Alsumaria adds that a Mosul attack today left one police officer injured and an armed attack on a Baghdad police station has left seven police officers injuredNational Iraqi News Agency reports an assassination attempt in Awja on Col Akrahm Saddam Midlif which he survived but which left two of his bodyguards wounded, a Falluja attack left two people injured (drive-by shooting), a Baquba bombing left a Sahwa injured, and late last night there was an attempted assassination on Diyala Province Governor Omar Himyari in Hamrin which left one of his bodyguards injured.  Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 653 violent deaths so far this month.

That's 13 injured (we're not counting the attack on Omar Himyari in Hamarin which left a bodyguard injured due to it taking place Thursday night).  And AFP records how many injured for that day?

Zero.  Which means BBC got very lucky because AFP didn't fill out the 24th.  It happens there were no deaths.  But you're reporting on violence and there were 13 people left injured that day.  But AFP took the 24th off and never filled in it.

You need to be very careful about citing AFP.  Prashant Rao has repeatedly explained on his Twitter feed that they may miss some deaths.  It's a reference.  That's all it is.  A stronger count will always be Iraq Body Count.

And while we're being critical of the AFP count, let's also note that  that they do not include civilians as a category.  If you'll deduct all their categories ("Police," "Soldiers," "Sahwa," "Kurdish Security Forces" and "Militants") from the day's total, you can have a number for civilians.  That AFP did not feel civilians rated as their own category is very messed up.  

Civilians do get attention and sympathy from one figure today.  Catholic World News reports, "Pope Francis issued an appeal for prayers for peace in Iraq at the close of his regular weekly audience on Wednesday, October 30."   Vatican Radio (link is audio and text) quotes the Pope saying,  "I invite you all to pray for the dear nation of Iraq, unfortunately affected daily by tragic episodes of violence in order that Iraq might find the way that leads to reconciliation, peace, unity and stability."In Italy today,  Rome Reporrs explains, "At the end of the Wednesday's General Audience, Pope Francis met with the delegates of the many religious groups that call Iraq home. He met with Christian, Shia and Sunni Muslim leaders, as well as Sabeans and Yazidis."  Prensa Latina adds, "The Iraqi delegation, comprised of Shiite, Sunni, Christian and other religious representatives, participates, since Tuesday, in a meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, headed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.  During the meeting, both parties analyzed the situation of religious communities in Iraq and the relations among them and the possible creation of a Permanent Committee for Dialogue of Baghdad and the Vatican."

"Okay," declared US Senator Bernie Sanders this afternoon, "we've got a lot of work in front of us, let's get going."  He is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Senator Richard Burr is the Ranking Member.  Today was a legislative hearing where people testify about their bills.  So we heard from senators.  We heard from others as well -- and we shouldn't have.

Chair Bernie Sanders:  Before I discuss a few of the bills I have on today's agenda, I want to briefly touch on the issue of the administration's views.  Let me be kind of to the point on this one, I understand that as a result of the government shutdown and a lot of the pressure on the VA  they have not gotten all their comments and views in.  We also understand that in the past, they really have not been prompt in their responses to the legislation that we have proposed.  So let me just say this to them, the job of this Committee and what we were elected to do is to represent the people of this country and, in particular, the veterans of this country.  And if the VA is not responsive in getting their comments in, that's fine, doesn't impact us at all, we're going to forward.  But clearly the VA is going to have to implement the policies developed by this Conmittee and this Congress and we want to work with them.   But our job is to legislate and we're going to go forward with or without the cooperation of the VA and the administration.

There is nothing good about that statement. That statement doesn't cut and should not be made by any chair.  Congress has rules.  If they're going to waive them for the VA, they're going to have to waive them for everyone.

And on the House Veterans Affairs Committee?  They're fighting to get statements on time, to get questions answered promptly.  Sanders has no right to say, "It doesn't matter."  That's embarrassing.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is an embarrassment.  Under him, the VA refuses to even turn in written testimony promptly.

Here's how you deal with that, you don't let the VA testify.  I'm not noting them or their testimony because the VA's failure to do what is required means they shouldn't be allowed to testify.  This is not a new problem.  It began emerging just before Sanders became Chair.

And it's been noticeable throughout actually.  Forget the written statements for a moment, Eric Shinseki's first obvious failure was knowing for months that the VA system would be overwhelmed in the fall of 2009 and some veterans would not get tuition checks.  He refused to inform Congress.  This has happened over and over.

From the House VA Committee's website:

Trials in Transparency is designed to highlight one of the committee’s top oversight challenges: getting timely information from Department of Veterans Affairs officials.
This page will be updated on a weekly basis and will keep a running record of outstanding information requests made to VA by both Democrat and Republican members of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
VA is currently sitting on nearly 100 separate requests for information made by the committee, some dating back more than a year. The leisurely pace with which VA is returning requests – and in some cases not returning them –  is a major impediment to the basic oversight responsibilities of the committee.
VA’s unanswered questions have created mounting frustration for committee members, and prompted Chairman Miller to take the unprecedented step of writing weekly letters to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki listing the number of outstanding information requests and asking for “accurate information in satisfaction of these requests.”
Notable Outstanding Info Requests:
Quick Facts (As of October 28, 2013):
Number of Outstanding Requests: 11
Three Oldest Outstanding Requests: June 5, 2012; July 10, 2012; and July 23, 2012
Requests Pending since 2012: 12 

Even if the Senate VA Committee no longer gives a damn whether VA responds or not, it is still not appropriate for Sanders to take that position when it undercuts the House VA efforts to obtain information.  The two need to work together, they do not need to be at cross purposes.  If Sanders is unable to help the House Committee, he should at least refrain from harming it.

From today's hearing:

Senator Bill Nelson:  The first one is a no brainer. It's naming the Bay Pines Hospital in Pinellas County, Florida after the longest serving Republican member of the House of Representatives who we just lost last week, Bill Young. His record as Appropriations Chairman and as Defense Appropriations Chairman, the way he lived his life where he and his wife who literally adopted a Marine who was back from the war and have raised him as their son, and the way that he has reached out to veterans -- so much so, that the Florida delegation and I conferred last week, before his funeral -- while we were still in recess, the House was in session -- and the House took it up and has already passed it, naming the Bay Pines VA Hospital after Bill Young.  That's the first piece and if you all see fit to move that legislation, it would be a timely -- a timely thing for the family.  Veterans Conservation Corps.  This is for post-911 veterans coming home who are unemployed.  They would be employed -- not unlike the old CCC -- for up to one year with a possible one year extension.  It obviously has a price tag of about a couple of million dollars.  The question is: What is the value to society of employing veterans for worthwhile things in our national parks and schools?  And I can go into as much detail as you want but that's the idea.  And the third piece of legislation is what this Committee has already pushed: Electronic Health Records coming out of the Dept of Defense active duty as they then go into the VA health care system.  And of course you know the difficulty there.  And this tries to set a timeline that is achievable and tells the VA and the DoD  set your goals, set your milestones, achieve them, and then have the full implementation of the electronic health records that will allow a seamless transfer which is what we all want.  Those are my three pieces of legislation

Let's go to that third bill:

Official Summary

Servicemember's Electronic Health Records Act of 2013 - Amends the Wounded Warrior Act to require the Secretaries of Defense and Veterans Affairs, in implementing electronic health record systems that provide for the full interoperability of personal health care information between the Department of Defense (DOD) and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), to ensure that: 
(1) a health data authoritative source that can be accessed by multiple providers and that standardizes the input of new medical information is created by the Departments within 180 days, 
(2) the ability of patients of both Departments to download their medical records is achieved within 180 days, 
(3) full interoperability of personal health care information between the Departments is achieved within one year, 
(4) acceleration of the exchange of real-time data between the Departments is achieved within one year, 
(5) the upgrade of the graphical user interface to display a joint common graphical user interface is achieved within one year, and 
(6) current members of the Armed Forces and their dependents may elect to receive an electronic copy of their health care records beginning not later than June 30, 2015. Requires the Secretaries to assess the feasibility and advisability of establishing a secure, remote, network-accessible computer storage system (commonly referred to as cloud storage) to: 
(1) provide members of the Armed Forces and veterans the ability to upload their health care records, and 
(2) allow DOD and VA medical providers of the Departments to access such records.

I applaud Senator Bill Nelson for that bill.  Why, though, is it necessary?

Because the VA and DoD were supposed to have done this long ago.  What happened was Eric Shinseki got then DoD Secretary Robert Gates to agree on the computer system they would both use.  And then Shinseki dropped the ball (intentionally, from what I'm told).  Leon Panetta then becomes DoD Secretary and Shinseki starts all over.  We have to pick a system!  Leon is fine with whatever, his attitude is, "Let's just get it started."  But Shinseki doesn't.  Now Chuck Hagel is VA Secretary and Congress has some questions about the progress on this system that was supposed to have started back in 2009 and Eric LIES to Congress and pins the blame on Hagel.  Hagel's so busy and they haven't been able to pick out a system.  That's finally been done thanks to very few who have held Shinseki accountabile.

This is part of the VA stonewalling and not answering or informing Congress.  Again, Sanders should not have made the remarks he did.

We'll close with this from Senator Patty Murray's office:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            CONTACT: Murray Press Office
Wednesday, October 30th, 2013                                                                                  (202) 224-2834        
VETERANS: Murray Applauds Passage of Veterans Cost-Of-Living Increase
Bill will result in more money in the pockets of millions of veterans across the country
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that a bill she co-sponsored to provide a Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for America’s veterans passed the U.S. Senate Monday by unanimous consent.  The COLA for veterans will match the annual increase provided to Social Security recipients which CBO estimates will be 1.5 percent. The Veterans COLA affects several important benefits, including veterans’ disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation for surviving spouses and children.  It is projected that over 4.2 million veterans and survivors will receive compensation benefits in Fiscal Year 2014.
“Particularly in this difficult economy, our veterans deserve a boost in their benefits to help make ends meet,” Senator Murray said. “We have an obligation to the men and women who have sacrificed so much to serve our country and who now deserve nothing less than the full support of a grateful nation.  A COLA increase will help bring us one step closer to fulfilling our nation’s promise to care for our brave veterans and their families.”
The COLA is designed to offset inflation and other factors that lead to the rising cost of living over time.  The COLA rate is based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index. 
Kathryn Robertson
Deputy Press Secretary 
Office of U.S. Senator Patty Murray
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

RSS Feed for Senator Murray's office



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Over 2 million are losing insurance

CBS News reports (in text and video):

CBS News has learned more than two million Americans have been told they cannot renew their current insurance policies -- more than triple the number of people said to be buying insurance under the new Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
 There have been estimates about hundreds of thousands of people losing coverage, CBS News' Jan Crawford reported on "CBS This Morning." CBS News has reached out to insurance companies across the country to determine some of the real numbers -- and this is just the tip of the iceberg, Crawford said. The people who are opening the letters are shocked to learn they can't keep their insurance policies despite President Obama's assurances to the contrary.
 The White House is on the defensive trying to explain it, after Mr. Obama repeatedly said, "If you like your doctor or health care plan, you can keep it."

Hey, do we all remember Bobby Booby Somerby trashing lies or 'lies' about ObamaCare in the last two weeks?

Of course, he avoids this reality. 

But then, three weeks ago he was going to blow the lid of Rachel Maddow, remember?

And then he pulled back and never wrote that promised series -- not just one post, a series.

He mocks Joan Walsh -- and she is awful -- but the reality is Mr. Somerby is just as bad and will circle the wagons and play dumb whenever he fears the Democratic Party might get some negative press.

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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri leaves Iraq for the US, US Senators send an open letter to US President Barack Obama expressing concerns with Nouri, Human Rights Watch issues a release noting Nouri's attack on freedoms and Iraqis but no one at the State Dept press briefing today thought to even ask about Iraq, there have been over 1,000 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month,  US House Rep Mike Rogers either lied or is making decision on false information, National Intelligence Director James Clapper's failure to understand an oath should result in his stepping down from office, and more.

US House Rep Mike Rogers thought he was on to something today.  He was only flaunting ignorance  in the House Intelligence Committee hearing today.  He flaunted the most in his opening, written statement which he introduced into the record but did not read from.  From that statement:

In 1929, the Secretary of State shut down the State Dept's cryptanalytic office saying, "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail."  The world was a dangerous place back then, with growing and aggressive military threats from Japan and Germany, both bent on world domination.  Those threats eventually dragged us into a world war that killed millions.  We didn't have the luxury of turning off intelligence capabilities as threats were growing back then, and we can't afford to do so today.

Rogers is the Chair of the Committee and that's so sad.  He's referring to The Cipher Bureau which many Americans won't know about but I seriously question whether Rogers knows what he's talking about.  The Cipher Bureau kicks off operations October 1, 1919. It's closed October 31, 1929.  Rogers 'explains' the State Dept shut it down and the (unnamed) Secretary of State declared, "Gentlemen don't read each other's mail." The Secretary of State was Henry Stimson and he never "said" that.  He (and McGeorge Bundy) wrote it in  On Active Service in Peace and War -- first published in 1948 and available for reading online for free at The Internet Archive.

Rogers makes it sound as if the unnamed Stimson closed The Cipher Bureau and made that declaration as he did so.

None of that is accurate.  The US military closed The Cipher Bureau.  All Stimson decided was that the State Dept would no longer foot half the bill for the cost.  This left the US Army with the full cost and they are the ones who would say "no" and The Cipher Bureau would be closed.

If Rogers wants to call out the US military's decision, he should have the guts to do so and not hide it behind an attack on the State Dept which is incorrect.  More likely, he's not lying, he's just choosing to speak on a topic he knows nothing about.

That's even more dangerous to the nation since he is the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

We're not done with the lies or errors in that one paragraph.

Rogers is arguing that The Cipher Bureau -- and illegal spying -- are needed and basing that on WWII.  His 'logic' argues that had The Cipher Bureau not been closed, WWII might not have happened or been less deadly.  The Cipher Bureau -- and illegal spying today -- can protect us.

He's making that claim so the press should have taken his claim seriously and investigated it.

You know they didn't.

We will.

Ranking Member  Dutch Ruppersberger:  The most important thing we can do here today is let the public know the true facts so that we can engage in a meaningful process of reform that will enhance transparency and privacy, while maintaining the necessary capabilities.  [. . .]  Today, we are holding this open hearing so we can continue to get out the facts --

Facts are important.  They weren't too Dutch and he's lucky he's Ranking Member.  That makes him less important than the Chair so we'll focus on Rogers' nonsense.

Actress Carole Lombard died January 16, 1942.  This was after the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, of course, she was on a WWII War Bond Tour when she was killed in a plane crash.  (In previous wars, efforts were made to pay for it -- as opposed to Iraq and Afghanistan with the kill-now-pay-later policy.)  What does this matter?  It upset her fans, it upset her husband Clark Gable and it cut short one of the most promising comedic careers in film.  But it also matters in terms of Rogers' claims.

Carole last film is the classic To Be Or Not To Be.  The comedy, set in Poland, takes on the menace of Hitler.  Carole didn't finish the film and, then minutes later, hop on the plane she died in.   The director Ernst Lubitsch signed his United Artist contract to direct the film on August 5, 1941.  That's before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

So Carole and Ernst and Jack Benny and others were just psychics about what was coming?


Long before Pearl Harbor, it was known what was taking place.   Hitler didn't operate in secret.  (Though papers like the New York Times largely stayed silent as Jews across Europe were being exterminated.)

Rogers is insisting that because of the 1929 closure of the spy agency, America had no idea what was going on around the world.

No spy agency was needed.  Rogers may try to argue, "Well I mentioned Germany but I was really thinking Japan which I also mentioned."  Oh, you don't want to go there.

Japan grew more powerful, historians argue, not because of the closure of The Cipher Bureau but because the head of that bureau, Herbert Yardley, wrote about the bureau in The American Black Chamber (1931) and that Japan immediately responded to the revelations in the book by increasing their own cryptography skills.

In addition, Henry Stimson, whom Rogers publicly smeared without naming, was also Secretary of War (now called Secretary of Defense) from 1940 to 1945.  But before that?  He was the author of the US policy with regards to Japan and China.  This policy came to be in 1932 and is known as The Stimson Doctrine.   Via Knox College:

Washington, January 7,1932
Please deliver to the Foreign Office on behalf of your Government as soon as possible the following note:
With the recent military operations about Chinchow, the last remaining administrative authority of the Government of the Chinese Republic in South Manchuria, as it existed prior to September 18th, 1931, has been destroyed. The American Government continues confident that the work of the neutral commission recently authorized by the Council of the League of Nations will facilitate an ultimate solution of the difficulties sow existing between China and Japan. But in view of the present situation and of its own rights and obligations therein, the American Government deems it to be its duty to notify both the Imperial Japanese Government and the Government of the Chinese Republic that it cannot admit the legality of any situation de facto nor does it intend to recognize any treaty or agreement entered into between those Governments, or agents thereof, which may impair the treaty rights of the United States or its citizens in China, including those which relate to the sovereignty, the independence, or the territorial and administrative integrity of the Republic of China, or to the international policy relative to China, commonly known as the open door policy; and that it does not intend to recognize any situation, treaty or agreement which may be brought about by means contrary to the covenants and obligations of the Pact of Paris of August 27, 1928, to which Treaty both China and Japan, as well as the United States, are parties.

From Princeton University:

Named after Henry L. Stimson, United States Secretary of State in the Hoover Administration (1929–1933), the policy followed Japan's unilateral seizure of Manchuria in northeastern China following action by Japanese soldiers at Mukden (now Shenyang), on September 18, 1931.[2] The doctrine was also invoked by U.S. Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles in a declaration of July 23, 1940 that announced non-recognition of the Soviet annexation and incorporation of the three Baltic statesEstonia, Latvia, and Lithuania[3]—and remained the official U.S. position until the Baltic states gained formal international recognition as independent states in 1991.
It was not the first time that the U.S. had used non-recognition as a political tool or symbolic statement. President Woodrow Wilson had refused to recognise the Mexican Revolutionary governments in 1913 and Japan's 21 Demands upon China in 1915.
The Japanese invasion of Manchuria in late 1931 placed U.S. Secretary of State Henry M. Stimson in a difficult position. It was evident that appeals to the spirit of the Kellogg-Briand Pact had no impact on either the Chinese or the Japanese, and the secretary was further hampered by President Herbert Hoover’s clear indication that he would not support economic sanctions as a means to bring peace in the Far East.[4]
On January 7, 1932, Secretary Stimson sent identical notes to China and Japan that incorporated a diplomatic approach used by earlier secretaries facing crises in the Far East. Later known as the Stimson Doctrine, or sometimes the Hoover-Stimson Doctrine, the notes read in part as follows:
Stimson had stated that the United States would not recognize any changes made in China that would curtail American treaty rights in the area and that the "open door" must be maintained. The declaration had few material effects on the Western world, which was burdened by the Great Depression, and Japan went on to bomb Shanghai.[4]
The doctrine was criticized on the grounds that it did no more than alienate the Japanese.[6]

The State Dept did not close the bureau.  Keeping the bureau open would not have prevented WWII if public knowledge and events hadn't already done so.  The Stimpson Doctrine is said to have alienated the Japanese.  Whether it did or not, 1931's invasion made clear expansion goals.  These goals were no more secret than what Hitler was doing.

The reality is that when the bureau closed in 1929, there was no real loss to US safety.  For 12 years, no real loss.  Then comes the Pearl Harbor attack and the US gets into the war everyone else was already in.

Rogers believes shutting down the spy bureau in 1929 led to WWII.  Or else he's lying.  But if he honestly believes what he's maintaining?  That's very frightening because he's making decisions about spying and safety and he's basing them on a false and illogical fantasy.

The first panel included James Cole (Dept of Justice), the NSA's Keith Alexander, NSA's Chris Inglis and National Intelligence embarrassment James Clapper. The second panel attorneys Steven Bradbury and Stewart Baker and professor of law Stephen Vladeck.

For obvious reasons, no one was put under oath.  Clapper is, after all, a serial liar who lied to Congress -- an offense which warrants criminal penalty and removal from office.

Rogers was more interested, as Clapper began his first lies, with removing a man from the hearing due to a sign -- it was on pink paper (construction paper size) and had "STOP SPYING ON US" written across it.  As the man observed as he was escorted out, Rogers had not said anything about signs in the hearing.  Rogers had called, at the start of the hearing, for no outbursts.   As he was escorted past Clapper, the man declared, "Stopped spying on us."

Clapper's unfit for office and, if Barack Obama had any character at all, Clapper would be immediately removed from office.

I say that because he lied to Congress last year?  Or lied about WMD back during the lead up to Iraq?

No, I say that because of the remarks he made in the hearing today.

National Intelligence Director James Clapper:  And I think there are some principles we already agree on.  First, we must always protect our sources, methods, targets, partners and liason relationships.  We must do a better job in helping the American people understand what we do and why we do it and most importantly the rigorous oversight that helps ensure we do it correctly.  And third, we must make-take every opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to respond- to respecting the civil liberty and privacy of every American.

Do you see the problem?

Yeah, he stumbles on number three which is very telling.

But even more important, about number three?

That's his oath of office.

He just put his oath of office, his swearing or affirming to uphold and obey the Constitution, as number three on his list.

That's not how the government works.

And that's part of the problem.

Not just that the press will look the other way on his ranking of priorities, not just that Barack won't call for Clapper to resign, but that there's an attitude in the government on the part of people executing the laws that the laws don't matter, that the supreme law of the land, the Constitution, can be ranked third in importance.

James Clapper would be immediately removed from office if we had a functioning president in the United States.

The thrust of the hearing for Clapper and company, their oft repeated talking point, was that NSA whistle-blower Ed Snowden's revelations have done much damage but, at the same time, human error's been the only problem, no law breaking.

No, Ed Snowden's revelations matter because the law has been disregarded.  That's what's been demonstrated over.

In addition, Clapper (and the idiot Dutch as well) need to stop vouching for how each and every employee of the NSA is so wonderful.  Some may be.  But when you've used illegal spying to stalk someone, you're not wonderful, you're not special.  Sadly, you're also not a former NSA employee because the NSA has refused to treat the misuse of spying to stalk as a fireable offense. Those NSA employees -- still with the NSA - they don't deserve praise.

Okay,we've served up the broccoli and other vegetables.  We don't have time for candy.  Candy like US House Rep Jan Schakowsky's nonsense exchange with Alexander.  I'm sure there are flunkies who will rush to praise 'brave' Jan.  I'm not one of them.

I find it disgusting that, if her assumption is (and it was) that Alexander was praising NSA employees as patriots and questioning the patriotism of others (he stated that was not his intent), Jan's focus is on herself and her peer group.

If she truly thought he was holding NSA employees above other Americans?  Her role is to defend the American citizens not whine about how she feels she and other members of Congress just got insulted. There's naval gazing but this went beyond it and  was more like Schakowsky was performing a public gynaecological exam on herself.

Geoffrey Aronson (Al-Monitor) delivers a few slaps to the American people:

  The United States would prefer to be oblivious to Iraq's current troubles, which mark the latest indication of Washington's failed effort there. Americans are famously inattentive to foreign affairs, and few are interested in being reminded — as the Erdogan government never tires of arguing — that the key strategic result of the campaign to unseat former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has been to consolidate Iranian (read Shiite) influence on the Euphrates for the first time in a millennium.
There’s a sense of almost absolute detachment from events in Iraq, as though the departure of US troops after the crowning failure of reaching a status of forces agreement closed the door on US interest there. The self-comforting narrative, “America did its best for Iraq; it’s not our problem if they can’t get their act together,” regularly places Iraqi events on newspaper back pages and all but out of contemporary US consciousness.

Aronson can criticize the media and the government but before he slams the American public, he might need to grasp that people everywhere depend upon their media to inform them.  When the media fails to do so -- and the US media has failed, it's really not the public's fault.

November 1st, Barack meets with Iraqi Prime Minister and thug Nouri al-Maliki.  In a sign of just how inept the Dept and the press both are, no one asked about Iraq in today's State Dept press briefing.  This despite the controversial nature of the visit which includes an open letter sent to Barack today by several US Senators.  Senator John McCain's office notes:

Oct 29 2013

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Carl Levin (D-MI), James Inhofe (R-OK), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Bob Corker (R-TN), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today sent the following letter to President Obama about Iraq as Prime Minister Maliki visits Washington.
The text of the letter is below.

October 29, 2013

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

We are deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in Iraq. As Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visits Washington this week, we urge you to press him to formulate a comprehensive political and security strategy that can stabilize the country, enable Iraq to realize its vast potential, and help to safeguard our nation’s enduring national security interests in Iraq.

By nearly every indicator, security conditions in Iraq have dramatically worsened over the past two years. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has returned with a vengeance: It has regenerated the manpower, terrorist infrastructure, resources, and safe havens to sustain and increase the tempo and intensity of attacks and to penetrate deeper into all parts of Iraq than at any time in recent years. Indeed, an analysis this month by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy found, “In 2010, the low point for the al-Qaeda effort in Iraq, car bombings declined to an average of 10 a month and multiple location attacks occurred only two or three times a year. In 2013, so far there has been an average of 68 car bombings a month and a multiple-location strike every 10 days.” The United Nations estimates that more than 7,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq thus far this year—a level of violence not seen since the worst days of 2008.

What’s worse, the deteriorating conflict in Syria has enabled al-Qaeda in Iraq to transform into the larger and more lethal Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which now has a major base for operations spanning both Iraq and Syria. As the situation in both countries grows worse, and as ISIS gathers strength, we are deeply concerned that Al-Qaeda could use its new safe haven in Iraq and Syria to launch attacks against U.S. interests and those of our friends and allies.

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Maliki’s mismanagement of Iraqi politics is contributing to the recent surge of violence. By too often pursuing a sectarian and authoritarian agenda, Prime Minister Maliki and his allies are disenfranchising Sunni Iraqis, marginalizing Kurdish Iraqis, and alienating the many Shia Iraqis who have a democratic, inclusive, and pluralistic vision for their country. This failure of governance is driving many Sunni Iraqis into the arms of Al-Qaeda in Iraq and fueling the rise of violence, which in turn is radicalizing Shia Iraqi communities and leading many Shia militant groups to remobilize. These were the same conditions that drove Iraq toward civil war during the last decade, and we fear that fate could befall Iraq once again.

We therefore urge you to take the following steps as Prime Minister Maliki visits Washington:
First, we believe the Prime Minister’s visit is an important opportunity to reengage with the American people about the continuing strategic importance of Iraq. Though the war in Iraq is over, Americans need to understand that the United States has an enduring national security interest in the development of a sovereign, stable, and democratic Iraq that can secure its own citizens and territory, sustain its own economic growth, resolve its own internal disputes through inclusive and pluralistic politics, and cooperate as a strategic partner of the United States—a vision of our relationship that was best expressed in the 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement.

Second, we urge you to make clear to Prime Minister Maliki that the extent of Iran’s malign influence in the Iraqi government is a serious problem in our bilateral relationship, especially for the Congress. Published reports demonstrate that the Iranian regime uses Iraqi airspace to transit military assistance into Syria to support Assad and his forces. Furthermore, attacks against the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq are reprehensible, especially because the Iraqi government pledged to protect these people. Prime Minister Maliki must understand that actions such as these need to stop. Not only do they make it difficult for Iraq’s friends in the United States to build public support, especially in the Congress, to enhance our strategic partnership, but they also undermine Iraq’s standing as a responsible member of the international community.

Third, we encourage you to step up our counterterrorism support for Iraq. It is in our national security interest to enhance the effectiveness of Iraq’s security forces, especially through greater intelligence sharing. However, in addition to our aforementioned concerns, we must see more evidence from Prime Minister Maliki that U.S. security assistance and arms sales are part of a comprehensive Iraqi strategy that addresses the political sources of the current violence and seeks to bring lasting peace to the country.

This leads us to the final and most important point that we urge you to stress with Prime Minister Maliki: If he devises and implements a real governance strategy for Iraq, the United States is ready to provide the appropriate support to help that strategy succeed. Iraq’s challenges will never be solved through security operations alone. Indeed, as the United States learned through its own hard experience in Iraq, applying security solutions to political problems will only make those problems worse.

It is essential that you urge Prime Minister Maliki to adopt a strategy to address Iraq’s serious problems of governance. Such a strategy should unite Iraqis of every sect and ethnicity in a reformed constitutional order, based on the rule of law, which can give Iraqis a real stake in their nation’s progress, marginalize Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other violent extremists, and bring lasting peace to the country. To be effective, an Iraqi political strategy should involve sharing greater national power and revenue with Sunni Iraqis, reconciling with Sunni leaders, and ending de-Baathification and other policies of blanket retribution. It should include agreements with the Kurdistan Regional Government to share hydrocarbon revenues and resolve territorial disputes. And it requires a clear commitment that the elections scheduled for next year will happen freely, fairly, and inclusively in all parts of Iraq, and that the necessary preparations will be taken.

If Prime Minister Maliki were to take actions such as these, he could cement his legacy as the leader who safeguarded his country's sovereignty and laid the foundation for the new Iraq. In this endeavor, Prime Minister Maliki and our other Iraqi partners would have our support, including appropriate security assistance, and we would encourage you to provide U.S. diplomatic support at the highest levels to help Iraqis reach the necessary political agreements before the 2014 elections. However, if Prime Minister Maliki continues to marginalize the Kurds, alienate many Shia, and treat large numbers of Sunnis as terrorists, no amount of security assistance will be able to bring stability and security to Iraq. That is not a legacy we want for Prime Minister Maliki, and that is not an outcome that would serve America’s national interests.


John McCain
Carl Levin
James M. Inhofe
Robert Menendez
Bob Corker
Lindsey Graham

Before he meet with Barack on Friday,  Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) notes that Nouri "will meet Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel with senior U.S. generals on Thursday."  The editorial board of Gulf News notes:

It is a disaster that Al Maliki’s answer to all this is to use more force. He is heading to Washington in two days, and he is wrong to say that he hopes to prioritise getting more US military help to fight Al Qaida affiliates. Unfortunately, this is supported by the US ambassador in Baghdad, who has said that the US needs to “highlight the urgent need for the approval and quick delivery of military sales”.
Force is not the answer. A minimum of security is required, but Iraq’s widespread tribal and sectarian violence has to be tackled in a much more wide-ranging manner.  

Nouri departed for the US earlier today.  Tova Dvorin (Israel National News) reports, "At an airport news conference before his departure, Maliki urged US leaders to 'supply Iraq as quickly as possible with weapons of an offensive nature to combat terrorism and chase the armed groups'."

Today the New York Times published a column with Nouri al-Maliki's name on it (the White House helped craft the column -- as 2 NYT-ers passed on and one State Dept friend verified).    The intent of the column, according to a State Dept friend, is to make Nouri more relatable.
Because most Americans can identify with slaughtering innocents?  Or letting your corrupt son terrorize Baghdad?
The column opens with:

Imagine how Americans would react if you had a terrorist organization operating on your own soil that killed dozens and maimed hundreds every week. For Iraqis, that isn’t a hypothetical question; Al Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliates are conducting a terrorist campaign against our people.
These terrorists aren’t just Iraq’s enemies. They are also America’s enemies.

Barack decided otherwise and that's why he backed al Qaeda in Iraq in Libya and is backing them in Syria.

Nouri was installed by the US government as prime minister in 2006.  In 2010, Barack ordered the overturning of Iraqi votes and the creation of The Erbil Agreeement to give Nouri a second term after he lost the 2010 election to Iraqiya.  This trip is all about Nouri wanting a third term.
In other words, he's begging,  "Please, mighty US government, I am impotent and small and powerless.  Save me!"

Nouri (with White House assistance) writes:

And despite the terrorist threats we face, we are not asking for American boots on the ground.

But he was.  As 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.        

Nouri (and the White House):

Iraqis understand and respect the difference between terrorist attacks and peaceful protests. While resisting terrorists and militias, our government is responding to peaceful protesters by engaging in extensive dialogue through the formation of high-level coordinating committees, and we are working to address the demands of protesters.

They might.  Does Nouri?  He's labeled them terrorists and Ba'athists.  And, he's let his forces attack and kill them.   January 7th, Nouri's forces assaulted four protesters in Mosul,  January 24th,  Nouri's forces sent two protesters (and one reporter) to the hospital,  and March 8th, Nouri's force fired on protesters in Mosul killing three.  All of that and more appeared to be a trial run for what was coming, the April 23rd massacre of a peaceful sit-in in Hawija which 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 (and the White House) really think Americans are idiots judging by the column and its many lies.  Human Rights Watch issued a press release today which includes:

 Iraq’s crackdown on peaceful government critics and an epidemic of executions should be top agenda items during the prime minister’s state visit to Washington, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to President Barack Obama. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is scheduled to meet with Obama on November 1, 2013.

Iraqi officials say that Maliki’s priority will be to accelerate US provision of arms, intelligence, and other counterterrorism support, including the immediate delivery of drones and F-16 fighter jets. But Obama should make clear that his administration will prohibit security aid, especially arms, equipment, and training for security forces, unless the Iraqi government ends its widespread use of torture.

“Iraq is plagued by terrorist attacks that are killing civilians in record numbers, but relying on torture and executions after unfair trials only makes the situation worse,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “Obama needs to send a clear message to Maliki that the US will not support his assault on human rights.”

The government has dramatically escalated use of the death penalty, especially in the name of fighting terrorism, executing 65 people already in October and 140 so far in 2013. At least one of those executed in October had a court judgment declaring him innocent shortly before he was executed.

Immediately following Maliki’s visit to Washington in December 2011, the prime minister ordered the arrests of Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and several of his staff, one of whom died in police custody and whose body displayed signs of torture. The arrests kicked off a year in which security forces under Maliki’s direct command threatened and harassed government critics and used state institutions to arrest and charge political opponents without disclosing the evidence against them. The US had a direct role in setting up some of those entities, like the Integrity Commission and inspectors general in the Interior and Defense ministries.

Over the past two years, Maliki’s security forces have routinely detained and tortured scores of peaceful protesters as well as men and women living in areas where the government believes armed groups operate, exploiting vague provisions in Iraq’s Anti-Terrorism Law to settle personal or political scores. These abuses are compounded by judges and investigating officers who collude to prolong the time detainees are held and ignore their allegations of abuses. Suspects with little or no access to an adequate defense are frequently detained for months and even years without charge.

Obama should press Maliki to introduce legislation repealing the Anti-Terrorism Law, which broadly mandates the death penalty for “those who commit...terrorist acts” and “all those who enable terrorists to commit these crimes” in article 4. Articles 1 and 2 define “terrorism” extremely broadly, including acts that do not involve violence or injury to people such as disruption of public services, enabling authorities to use the law to punish nonviolent political dissent. The authorities frequently use the law’s ambiguous provisions to target people on the basis of tribe or sect.

Public security has worsened drastically in Iraq in 2013 after security forces stormed a camp of peaceful protesters in the northern town of Hawija in April, killing 51 people. Attacks by armed groups, which claimed over 5,740 lives between January and September, have internally displaced another 5,000 Iraqis from Basra, Thi Qar, and Baghdad, and within Diyala and Ninewa.

The escalation in executions after trials in which people are convicted on the basis of coerced confessions and secret evidence – mostly in the name of counterterrorism – has done nothing to address the crisis. Obama should address authorities’ failure to failure to hold those responsible accountable regardless of their sect. Numerous Iraqis have told Human Rights Watch the government’s approach has polarized Iraq’s population, particularly in Sunni areas, where people see the government’s failure to hold Shia-dominated security forces accountable as confirmation that the prime minister’s policies remain rooted in sectarianism.

Nouri's visit comes as the death toll in Iraq for October passes the 1,000 mark.  Iraq Body Count notes that, through yesterday, there have been 1007 violent deaths.

And today?  National Iraqi News Agency reports a Baghdad sticky bombing injured one military colonel, a Baghdad roadside bombing left 1 military officer dead and four soldiers injured, 1 Christian woman was shot dead in Mosul, 2 people were killed in a Latifya bombing, a Mosul roadside bombing left 3 soldiers dead in Mosul (two more left injured) and a Tuz Khurmatu bombing left six people injured.  All Iraq News adds that an armed Masafi attack left 1 Iraqi soldier dead, an armed attack in Mosul left one Iraqi soldier injured, another armed Mosul attack left 1 woman and her husband dead, and a Tikrit bombing left 2 Iraqi soldiers dead and three more injured.

On violence, Nouri leaves Baghdad (for the US) and, All Iraq News reports, "The Ministry of Interior ordered to withdraw the security regiment tasked of protecting the building of Baghdad Governorate."