Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Disappointed in Somerby

As C.I. noted earlier this week, Bob Somerby did the best media criticism of last month. (I will add "and outside of this community." C.I. solo and C.I. with Ava topped him.)

I say that because Betty and I talked today and we're wishing him well but not highlighting him for a bit. We'll keep reading him and when he's done with his new topic, we'll be happy to note him.

But we're not interested in factual problems and he's already got them with his new topic.

Bob's new topic is what is called the "birthers." Now we're doing (hoping to) a feature on them at Third this weekend.

Our position on them is the same as on the truth movement: We're not part of it but we don't tear you down and you may be right and you may be wrong but good luck with discoveries.

I do not attack the 'birthers'. I have not attacked the truth movement.

I am not part of either. I can't agree with either.

But I don't rip them apart.

And I have to wonder about those who do?

They're like the last defenders of the Warren Commission.

I'm talking about their nastiness and their refusal to get their facts right -- while accusing the 'birthers' of being wrong.

Bob writes of a columnist attacking the 'birthers', "He correctly scores cosmic loser Lou Dobbs for encouraging this destructive nonsense." I disagree with that and we're taking it to Third. You can read Trina's "Lou Dobbs doesn't need to be fired" before Sunday to know where we are headed.

Betty says if Bob goes way off the page and distorts the 'birthers,' she'll correct him. I'll back her up but probably not do it myself because he'll only have to go off once for me to walk away.

I'm really not interested in this nonsense. I'm not interested in the hate and the snark and the attacks.

It's just amazing that with all that's wrong in the country (an excuse the attackers love to use), they're focused on the 'birthers.' I thought real adults aimed their scrutiny at worthy topics, at people in power.

It's so much easier to trash the American public I guess. And I'm honestly disappointed in Bob Somerby because I wouldn't think him one for a pile on or for trashing the average people.

He blew it today in another way. He wanted to call out Maureen Dowd. C.I. already had. And C.I. had noted that Dowd reduced two journalists to (Dowd's phrase) "damsels in distress." That was offensive. Bob missed that. C.I. caught it and caught it first thing this morning, not in the afternoon.

Maybe that happens when your main focus is how 'stupid people are' as opposed to calling out the powerful?

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, we examine the useless and uninformed Senator Barbara Boxer who tosses out some Iraq crumbs on NPR, the assault on Camp Ashraf garners worldwide attention, Kurdistan set to become partners in an international oil company, and more.

We'll start with NPR's
The Diane Rehm Show. Today US Senator Barbara Boxer was the guest for the first hour, in part to promote her new thriller, written with Mary-Rose Hayes, Blind Trust. We'll note the section on Iraq -- very brief. Those opposed to the Afghanistan War will have much to dig around in the section that follows -- none of it good for Boxer. We're jumping in where she's been listing regrets and grabbing at Iraq.

Senator Barbara Boxer: I regret that even after voting "no" on the War on Iraq, I should have been down there every day making my voice louder and stronger.

Diane Rehm: Why didn't you?

Senator Barbara Boxer: [Sighs] I thought that I said enough when I voted "no" and I continued to speak but not loudly enough and not clearly enough and you know that's why I like this novel because Ellen's my hero, she does everything right I don't.

Diane Rehm: That's quite an admission.

Senator Barbara Boxer: Well it's true.

Diane Rehm: Alright. Speaking of Iraq, there is some talk that the US may, before it's planned deadline, pull its troops out and declare victory. What's your thought?

Senator Barbara Boxer: Well that is definitely some of the advice we're getting from some of our military people. I think it's time to leave, I thought it was time to leave before, so much blood and sweat and tears and guts have been left there and I just have a view of this that-that the people of Iraq have an opportunity now to-to build their own country --

Diane Rehm: They're still killing each other.

Senator Barbara Boxer: Well, you know what? The people of Iraq have to decide if they want a country or they don't want a country and we can't decide it for them.

And that was it. It made Barbara's short list of regrets but?

But it passes like the summer
I'm a wild seed again
Let the wind carry me
-- "Let The Wind Carry Me" written by
Joni Mitchell, first appears on her For The Roses

A caller brought her back to earth and Iraq but first Barbara had to make an ass out of herself. It's one thing to say that you're not going to speak to the 'birther' topic, it's another to say that and go on to accuse them of not having their facts and then offer up idiocy passed off as fact. I don't follow that issue but I'm damn well aware that John McCain's birth has been addressed by them and, in fact, they point to Claire McCaskill's actions (including an aborted one) within the Senate to back up their beliefs.
Ava and I began speaking to friends of Ann Dunahm's in 2007 and continued through 2008, we spoke to men who were friends with Barack Sr. in college. We do not believe he was born in Kenya. We heard one story repeatedly and consistently. Those who do believe he was born in Kenya should pursue that because this is still, Barbara Boxer's embarrassing performance today on Diane's show not withstanding, a democracy.

(Embarrassing performance? Examples include telling of trying to get a man kicked out of a public event for tossing fake money at her, referring to two journalists as "young women" over and over except to refer to one as a "mother" -- they have careers, Barbara, quit being so damn insulting, and her little grudge f**k against Bill and Hillary Clinton -- we're all sorry your daughter couldn't make her marriage work, quit being such little s**t about it, Barbara).

It's not our issue but, unlike Barbara Boxer, we don't need to tear down people who believe differently than we do. And we don't disgrace ourselves by coming off like a raving lunatic on NPR or, for that matter, by co-writing one book that bombed and inflicting another bad attempt at John Grisham on the American public. And someone who wants to lecture others on facts, should have them. Including on the name of the Feminist Majority Foundation. It's not a difficult name to remember, Barbara. But it's not difficult to follow the headlines and, as her Iraq answer revealed, she can't even do that. (And that's among the most recent statewide poll, PDF format warning
The Field Poll, found 43% supproting her re-election and 44% "not inclined to re-elect her." When you're that evenly divided and you're a sitting senator, you've done a great deal wrong.)

Senator Barbara Boxer: First of all, I have never heard Nouri al-Maliki ask us to stay so I don't know what particular speech he [the caller] was referring to. He said for a long time it's time for Americans to leave and I think it is. And what will guide me, obviously the reports on the ground from the military but my overwhelming belief that we have bled so much and done so much that I already say and I said a long time ago we gave the Iraqi people the chance to govern themselves, to rebuild and anyone who served there or any of the families who lost people there or any of those who were wounded there should know they gave their all to give the Iraqis a chance and now they have to take that chance and run with it.

This is the best my state can do? This passes for liberal? Barbara Boxer lying, LYING, about the Iraq War. Did you hear the Barbara say one damn word about the Iraqis who have died? And excuse me, but Barbara knows Nouri's a thug so is she being stupid or playing us for stupid when she says the Iraqi people have a chance at a government?
The Iraqi people have had a government imposed upon them by the US government. The Iraqi people would never, NEVER, elect a government of exiles to represent them. No one would. You wouldn't elect someone to the board of supervisors if their 'qualification' was they hid in another region because they were too scared to stand up. With each addition of highlights, Barbara loses more intelligence so maybe she truly is as stupid as she came off but it felt more like she was playing listeners for stupid. Reality,
Adil E. Shamoo and Bonnie Bricker (Foreign Policy In Focus) explain, "Parliament members are afraid to attend meetings. Iraq's nascent economy is deteriorating. Hundreds of armed militias are ready to fight for their own interests. This is Iraq today." But Barbara wants to turn it into a fledging democracy?

it appears she's not looking at the facts and let me do her snide little laugh at her because the stupid idiot is so out of touch that she's not aware of the speech. Reading list for the failed and failing author, Margaret Talev's "
Iraq's Maliki raises possibility of asking U.S. to stay on" (McClatchy Newspapers) and, Barbara, Anne Gearan covers al-Maliki's remarks for AP. From the July 23rd snapshot:

The articles repeatedly (and falsely) claim the US will be out of Iraq in 2011. That's not what's happening. It's not even claimed to be happening. Does no one listen to Adm Mike Mullen, Gen Ray Odierno or even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates? Reading the articles today, it doesn't appear that anyone does. Uh-oh. Reality slaps them in the face.
Aljazeera reports, "The Iraqi prime minister has admitted US troops could stay in the country beyond 2011." Yeah, he did it today and it's only a surprise if you've never grasped what the Status Of Forces Agrement does and does not do. The Washington Post, for example, has one person on staff who understands the SOFA completely. That's one more than the New York Times has. Drop back to real time coverage (Thanksgiving 2008) and you'll see the Washington Post could explain what it did and didn't do and get it right. No other US outlet can make that claim. (The Los Angeles Times hedged their bets but did appear to grasp it in an article co-written by Tina Susman.) McClatchy Newspapers? Oh goodness, Leila Fadel made an idiot of herself over the SOFA. Even more so than the New York Times (Elisabeth Bumiller -- in December and January -- offered some realities but they were lost on the other reporters at the paper). The Times just got it wrong. Fadel got it wrong and sang praises of it. It wasn't reporting, it was column writing passed off as such. Today, Nouri declared, "Nevertheless, if the Iraqis require further training and support we shall examine this at the time, based on the needs of Iraq." Sound familiar? It should. This month you should have heard Adm Mike Mullen make the same statement, you should have heard General Ray Odierno make it over and over beginning in May and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has made it many times -- generally he's asked when he's visiting a foreign country because US reporters don't really seem to care. One exception would certainly be Dahr Jamail who was on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday and explained, "We still have over 130,000 troops in Iraq. Troops are not being withdrawn from Iraq. They are being relocated to different bases, some of the bases still within cities, but they are not being withdrawn thus far." Dahr's latest book The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan has just been released this month. IPA provides this context from Global Policy Forum's James Paul: "For all the talk of 'U.S. withdrawal' from Iraq, the reality on the ground is starkly different. U.S. troops still patrol the cities, in flagrant violation of the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, while Washington remains hugely influential in the politics of the country. The gigantic U.S. embassy looms large in Baghdad, U.S. forces still hold thousands of Iraqi prisoners in the vast U.S. prison camp in the southern desert, dozens of U.S. military bases remain in place including the sprawling 'Camp Victory' complex in Baghdad and Washington continues to press towards its ultimate goal -- the de facto privatization of Iraq's vast oil resources."

So before you go to town on others for not knowing the facts, Barbara, how about you first explain how you, a sitting US Senator pretending to give a damn about Iraq and putting the war on your list of regrets, aren't even aware of what Nouri publicly stated less than three weeks ago while he was in DC? Your incompentence does not do a great deal to encourage a belief that the US Senate knows what it is doing. It does, however, explain why you have NEVER led on the issue of Iraq despite the fact that you -- not Hillary -- had the safest seat from which to do it. Our state has sent huge numbers of service members to Iraq and has seen a large death toll and an even large number of wounded. We have had tremendous leadership in the House, we've had none in the Senate. Want to explain that, Barbara? Want to explain how little you've done to end the illegal war while allegedly representing the people of California? Want to match your record (or lack of it) against US House Rep Lynn Woolsey or Maxine Waters or Diane Watson or . . . Get the point?

Boxers done nothing on the issue of the MEK, of course. Someone explain to her how many potential voters in California care about this issue and maybe she'll suddenly 'discover' it?
Last Tuesday, Nouri al-Maliki ordered the assault on Camp Ashraf, home to the MEK. The MEK has been in Iraq for decades. They are Iranian exiles welcomed into Iraq by Saddam Hussein. They are currently considered "terrorists" by the US. They were formerly considered such by the European Union and England; however, both re-evaluated and took them off the terrorist watch list. The US military protected the residents of Camp Ashraf during the first six years of the Iraq War. Matt O'Brien (Contra Costa Times) describes the group as having "an ideology that has blended elements of Islam, feminism and Marxism. To some Iranian-Americans and their political backers in the U.S. Congress, the terrorist label unfairly maligns a group of former militants who have cooperated with America and dedicated their lives to ending an Iranian regime that had oppressed them." Tim Cocks, Muhaned Mohammed and Sophie Hares (Reuters) report the latest involving the MEK at Camp Ashraf, Shirwan al-Waeli (Minister of State for National Security) declares that Iraq will evict them and, if it means sending them back to Iran, they'll do so. Mark Knoller (CBS News) reports a domestic protest in support of Camp Ashraf residents, "Iranian-American protestors have set up camp directly in front of the White House. They're urging President Obama to intervene on behalf of an Iranian enclave inside Iraq." Ken McLaughlin (San Jose Mercury News) explains, "The 3,500 residents of Camp Ashraf are members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, or People's Mujahedeen of Iran, a dissident group initially formed in the mid-'60s to help topple the regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. After the 1979 revolution that deposed the shah, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini turned against the group, executing more than 100,000 of its members and supporters -- and driving others into exile. Many of those exiles landed in the Bay Area, which has an Iranian-American population of more than 200,000." Ensieh and Parviz Yazdanpanah are among the Bay Area residents with relatives at Camp Ashraf and they tell McLaughling "that emails and phone calls have stopped since the July 28 raid". The National Iranian American Council notes US House Rep Bob Filner introduced a resolution last week calling out the assault on Camp Ashraf and that fellow Californian and Democrat US House Rep Howard Berman has called it out as have Republican US House Reps Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart both of Florida. The resolution (in PDF format form) is here and it is entitled "Deploring the ongoing violence by Iraqi security forces against the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq:"

Whereas on July 28, 2009, Iraqi troops and police carried out a violent raid against the residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, the longstanding home of an Iranian opposition group;
Whereas Iraqi troops fatally shot a number of Camp Ashraf residents and wounded scores of others; and
Whereas the United States Embassy Statement on Transfer of Security Responsibility for Camp Ashraf of December 28, 2008, states that, "The Government of Iraq has provided the US Government written assurances of humane treatment of the Camp Ashraf residents in accordance with Iraq's Constitution, laws and international obligations.": Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives --
(1) deplores the ongoing violence by Iraqi security forces against the residents of Camp Ashraf;
(2) calls upon the Iraqi Government to live up to its commitment to the United States to ensure the continued well-being of those living in Camp Ashraf and prevent their involuntary return to Iran; and
(3) calls upon the President to take all necessary and appropriate steps to support the commitments of the United States under international law and treaty obligations to ensure the physical security and protection of Camp Ashraf residents against inhumane treatment and involuntary deportation by Iraqi security forces.

In England,
Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports that a group of demonstrators on behalf of Camp Ashraf have announced they are going on a hunger strike including Farzaneh Dadkhad who has relatives at Camp Ashraf: "'I am here for Ashraf and I will continue this until I die,' Ms Dadkhad wailed, collapsed on a stretcher at the rally because she was apparently too weak to walk. It was impossible to verify her fasting claim. 'I am here so that my voice is heard by the US Government. They are responsible for what happened,' she said. In a message to Britain, she added: 'Why are you silent, why are you doing nothing? You must take action'." Toby Cohen (Religious Intelligence) quotes "Lord Cobertt of Castle Vale, chairman of the all-party British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom" stating, "It is a shame to this Government and to the American government in particular that so far they have not done anything to stop the violence. I don't care about the arguments about the status of those refugees, under international humanitarian law the actions of the Iraqi security forces are illegal and any other UN member state has the authority to take action. The British Government and the American government are especially complicit in those acts of violence. Why? Because we were the powers that gave protected person status to the residence of Camp Ashraf under the fourth Geneva Convention, and we cannot walk away." The National Council of Resistance of Iran notes, "Today is the seventh day of such strikes [to protest the treatment of the Camp Ashraf residents] in Berlin and Ottawa outside the U.S. ebmassies" and that "demonstrations, sit-ins and gatherings by Iranians against brutal attacks by Iraqi forces on Ashraf and killing and arresting of PMOI members in the Camp have been going on in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo in Sweden; Geneva in Switzerland; The Hague in The Netherlands; Melbourne in Australia; Vancouver in Canada; Paris in France, Copenhagen and Arhus in Denmark; and Rome in Italy."

Robert Evans and Jonathan Lynn (Reuters) report, "Iraqi authorities are blocking supplies of food and water going into" Camp Ashraf. They're blocking food and water. At 11:00 p.m. in Baghdad, it was ninety-five degrees. At eleven at night. The high during the day was 114 degrees. And Nouri's thugs are preventing water from being brought into the camp. The reporters quote Jean Ziegler ("a top adviser to the U.N. Human Rights Council") stating, "Preventing people getting food is a gross violation of international law . . . Thas has been going on for 10 days. It is totally scandalous." World Against Torture's General Secretary Eric Sottas is quoted decrying the "sort of passivity on the part of international bodies" and states, "Unless these unarmed and defenceless people are properly protected, this could happen again, perhaps worse." AFP quotes Eric Sottas stating, "The most practical thing would be that the Americans assume their responsibility and intervene again to ensure protection (and) that should late be transferred to an international force." They quote Jean Ziegler stating, "It's shameful. The United States and the European Union should be ashamed of what they did." Massachusetts' Stoneham Sun observes that "an attempt by the Iraqi government to assert control over a camp of Iranian exiles, who until February were under U.S. protection, turned violent. The U.S. reaction was instructive. In essence, it was: While we disagreed with the methods, it was a sovereign matter for the Iraqi government." Eli Lake (Washington Times) maintains the US is pressing for action and quotes an unnamed US official who emailed them the following, "Embassy officials met with representatives from the Government of Iraq [GOI] on July 29, to stress the importance of the GOI fulfilling its commitment to the United States Government to treat Ashraf's residents humanely and to propose permitting an assessment of injuries and deaths by U.S. forces. The GOI allowed a U.S. medical assessment team to enter Ashraf and subsequently approved joint U.S.-Iraqi medical assistance to injured MEK Ashraf residents." Amnesty International issued the following statement:

Iraq: Concern for detained Camp Ashraf residents
Contact: AIUSA media office at 202.544.0200x302
Amnesty International is urgently seeking information about 36 Iranian residents of Camp Ashraf who have been detained since Iraqi security forces seized control of the camp on 28 July 2009 and have been moved to an unknown location in Baghdad amid allegations that some or all of them have been beaten and tortured. According to Abdul Nassir al-Mehdawi, governor of Iraq's Diyala province, quoted by Reuters press agency, "Their cases are being investigated now. They are being charged with inciting trouble. We will deal with them according to Iraqi law; we won't send them back to Iran". It remains unclear, however, whether the 36 have been allowed access to lawyers, contact with their families or any medical treatment that they need.
Amnesty International is urging the Iraqi authorities to disclose the whereabouts of the 36, to allow them immediate access to lawyers, to investigate, fully and impartially, allegations that they were tortured or beaten while held at a provisional detention facility near Camp Ashraf before their transfer to Baghdad, and to ensure that they are being treated humanely.
Amnesty International is also continuing to urge the Iraqi authorities to establish an immediate, independent inquiry into allegations that Iraqi security forces used excessive force when taking control of Camp Ashraf last week. According to unofficial sources, at least eight camp residents were killed and many others injured. 'Ali al-Dabbagh, the spokesperson for the Iraq government, has acknowledged that seven camp residents were killed but said that "five of them threw themselves in front of Iraqi police vehicles" and that two others were shot by other Iranians when they sought to leave the camp. He said that two members of the Iraqi security forces were also killed.
Camp Ashraf, situated about 60km north-east of Baghdad, has hosted some 3,400 members or supporters of thePeople's Mojahedeen Organization of Iran (PMOI), an Iranian opposition organization, since the 1980s. They were formerly under the protection of US forces in Iraq but in recent months they have come under increasing pressure from the Iraqi authorities to relocate to other parts of Iraq or go abroad.
Public Document
# # #
For more information please call Amnesty International's press office in London, UK, on +44 20 7413 5566 or email:
International Secretariat, Amnesty International, 1 Easton St., London WC1X 0DW, UK

From the human rights organization to the US government's war think-tank, t
he RAND Corporation issued the following press release yesterday:

At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Coalition forces classified the Mujahedin-e Khalq, a militant organization from Iran with cult-like elements that advocates the overthrow of Iran's current government, as an enemy force.
The MeK had provided security services to Saddam Hussein from camps established in Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War to fight Iran in collaboration with Saddam's forces and resources. A new study from the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, looks at how coalition forces handled this group following the invasion.
Although the MeK is a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States, coalition forces never had a clear mission on how to deal with it.
After a ceasefire was signed between Coalition forces and the MeK, the U.S. Secretary of Defense designated this group's members as civilian "protected persons" rather than combatant prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions. The coalition's treatment of the MeK leaves it -- and the United States in particular -- open to charges of hypocrisy, offering security to a terrorist group rather than breaking it up.
Research suggests that most of the MeK rank-and-file are neither terrorists nor freedom fighters, but trapped and brainwashed people who would be willing to return to Iran if they were separated from the MeK leadership. Many members were lured to Iraq from other countries with false promises, only to have their passports confiscated by the MeK leadership, which uses physical abuse, imprisonment, and other methods to keep them from leaving.
Iraq wants to expel the group, but no country other than Iran will accept it. The RAND study suggests the best course of action would have been to repatriate MeK rank-and-file members back to Iran, where they have been granted amnesty since 2003. To date, Iran appears to have upheld its commitment to MeK members in Iran. The study also concludes better guidelines be established for the possible detention of members of designated terrorist organizations.
The study, "The Mujahedin-e Khalq in Iraq: A Policy Conundrum," can be found
here. For more information, or to arrange an interview with the authors, contact Lisa Sodders in the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 393-0411, ext. 7139, or

the pathologizing of gender that took place over the issue of female bombers? They were raped. They were this, they were that. There was nothing factual about any of their crap but some MPs in Parliament used that pathology to advocate 'centers' (prisons) for women whose husbands or fathers or brothers died. Because that is the only way any woman would bomb. Because bombing, they insisted, was just not a thing a woman would do. Of course a woman would do it. Their little sexist minds can't handle reality.So they must be spinning as details in a new case emerge. A would-be female bomber has been convicted. Natalia Antelava (BBC News) reports that 16-year-old Rania Ibrahim states "a relative of her husband had told her to wear the vest" and that, by the way, "she was sold into marriage" approximately five months before she was caught in a bombing attempt on August 23, 2008. Jamal Hashim and Ali I-Khaiyam (Xinhua) quote Rania Ibrahim stating, "I haven't committed any crime or any sin. I was the victim. They forced me to wear the explosive-belt. I didn't want to kill any human being." Forced into marriage. Not raped. No relatives died. Another slap in the face to the stereotyping.

Forced into marriage? Does anyone even care? It doesn't appear they do. For example, Iraq will not allow two men or two women to marry each other. In fact, they are assaulting their own gay and lesbian community. The LGBT community is 'wrong' and somehow 'criminal' for their actions. But the government's paying out $2000 to men to marry women who are Shi'ite or Sunni (if the male is Sunni, he's being paid to marry a Shi'ite, if he's Shi'ite, he's being paid to marry a Sunni). And where's the objection? And who's checking to see if, in a country where forced marriage is not uncommon, that the marriages are partnerships both mates want to enter into? No one's checking, no one's objecting. They won't even state the obvious that the man is being paid. They'll say the couple is getting the money.
Bushra Juhi and Deb Riechmann (AP) are the latest to play ASS. In the past, it's been Fox News trumpeting this garbage. Now it's AP. And we're apparently supposed to be charmed by this passage: "His wife, Samma Nasir, said shyly: 'He has chosen me despite my being Shiite'." Men are being paid and whether or not the women really have a choice in this isn't being addressed but US 'reporters' find it 'cute' and rush to coo over it. It's disgusting. And let's note that there are sects in Iraq where the women are kidnapped to force them out of their religion. but Deb and Bushra had other things to grin over, apparently.

Turning to today's reported violence,
Reuters notes an armed clash in Mosul which claimed the life of 1 police officer and 2 unknowns with four other people injured, a Ramadi car bombing which claimed the life of 1 woman and left three people (including two police officers) injured and, dropping back to last night, a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 5 police officers and left five more wounded. AFP adds that 11 pilgrims have been kidnapped from a minibus enroute to Karbala.

Meanwhile that government the US installed in Iraq is anti-every freedom. Last month
Khalid al-Ansary (Reuters) reported the Ministry of Culture is censoring books in 'free' Iraq and quotes the ministry Taher al-Humoud explaining that all publishers now must "submit lists of titles for approval". Yesterday Timothy Williams (New York Times) reported on efforts by Nouri "to ban sites deemed harmful to the public, to requier Internet cafes to register with the authorities and to press publishers to censor books." The Times has still not reported on the latest assault on journalism in Iraq. When Kurdistan was holding elections, the press was meeting with the judiciary about the problems they face. A draft law has been proposed and -- supposedly yea! -- it will provide a few pennies to the families of Iraqi journalists killed in Iraq. The pennies are a disguise. The law actually exists to control the press. It requires that they sign off to note reporting on anything that might 'endanger' Iraq's 'security'. The pennies are the sugar coating which attempts to sell this latest attempt to legislate censorship.

Losing a free press? It's not like the US is in much place to lecture since the domestic outlets rarely utilize the freedomes they have. Example, reporting on Iraqi "confessions." You expect better from
Liz Sly and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times). Maybe if Ned Parker wrote the article, it would be worth reading (it's actually a blog post at the paper). We know Iraqi journalist Atwar Bahjat was murdered. By whom? The Iraqi government has a confession which they aired -- it's really appalling how US outlets have failed to report on the aired confessions, on how often they air, how they are Iraq's 'reality' television. The Iraqi government has a confession. 'Confession.' They lie about everything. Even a shoe tosser suddenly has a 'confession' only, when he's allowed to speak, he doesn't. Torture. Torture doesn't bother Sly or Hameed. They run with the 'confession.' All that's known is that Atwar Bahjat was murdered in 2006 and that the Iraqi government claim to have her killer (and rapist) and that they are airing a 'confession' which, if pattern holds, was obtained via torture. Such a confession couldn't be admitted in a US court. But the reporters are happy to run with it.So are Timothy Williams and Rod Nordland (New York Times) who add the lurid details that Sly and Hameed may have had the good sense to leave out. Let's note how the confession doesn't add up (which doesn't mean it's not true but it does make it all the more suspect):The man, Yasser Mohammed Hamad al-Takhi, 25, was shown on Iraqi television in a videotaped confession describing how he and three other men, including one of his brothers, had set up a checkpoint on a road outside the city of Samarra to stop a car carrying the journalist, Atwar Bahjat, and two members of her crew. Mr. Takhi said he had been working for a Sunni armed group with ties to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown insurgent group that American intelligence agencies say has some foreign leadership. Ms. Bahjat, a journalist working for Al Arabiya, a satellite television station based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, had been returning to Baghdad after having covered the bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, an event that pushed Iraq into sectarian warfare.So you blow up a Shi'ite shrine and you do that . . . in public. Meaning, you do that to send a message. To send a message you need . . . the media. So you blow up a shrine and you also kill a reporter covering the bombing? Doesn't make sense. You might kill a reporter not covering it. But why kill a reporter whose amplifying your deed?Here's another thing to think about. When Nouri's toppled, and he will be at some point, and there's a truth commission in Iraq, it's going to be really interesting to find out how many Sunnis were wrongfully convicted, tortured into confessions and blamed. Remember last Tuesday's big bank robbery and how it was Sunnis and it was al Qaeda in Iraq and it was . . . Oh, it was Shi'ites. Working for the government.Yara Bayoumy and Tim Pearce (Reuters) explain what the Times of LA and NY forget to. Suspects were arrested days ago. A key detail. Arrested days ago and yesterday a confession begins airing? When someone confesses, the first thing you want to look at is the timeframe of the confession. You want to consider whether or not it's logical that a torture free confession took place based on the timeline. Based on the timeline, this would appear to be a forced confession. And the key detail: "Iraq previously accused a different man of murdering Bahjat."
Official results from the Kurdistan elections last month have still not been released. But
Robin Pagnamenta (Times of London) reports the region "is set to become one of the biggest shareholders in Heritage Oil in a variety of corporate marriages/mergers which would put it in bed with Turkish corporations. The deal requires the Kurdistan Regional Government "cancel a $1.1 billion . . . payment that Genel had been due to make to the KRG for its right to drill and produce oil in the region." Meanwhile Larry Kaplow (Newsweek) explores possible resolutions for oil-rich Kirkuk and observes:

According to the Iraqi constitution, written under U.S. supervision in 2005, Kirkuk residents are supposed to be able to decide their fate in a public referendum. The vote was required by the end of 2007 but has been delayed despite Kurdish protestations. In fact, the extra time has accommodated the return of thousands of Kurds displaced by Saddam Hussein's "Arabization" of the region. Arab leaders allege many more have come in too. No one knows the demographic breakdown of the cities Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen and a census -- with all its own controversial sidelights -- is scheduled for October. But the Kurds probably hold a majority, something that frightens the minority factions. That's probably why Barzani slyly stresses the referendum -- secure that the Kurdish will would triumph.
But the constitution does not spell out what the referendum question is. Barzani says it should be: "Do you want Kirkuk to be part of the Kurdistan region or not, or to be an independent region by itself?" He further said, "The people of Kirkuk are free to decide their future, whether they want to be part of the KRG or an independent region or to join another region."

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