scandal 'truth or consequences'

abc's 'scandal' airs on thursday nights.

this was another great episode but a hard 1 to recap because every 1 was on it, even if only for a small scene.

 first lady mellie is reeling from fitz wanting a divorce (fitz is president fitzgerald grant iii - olivia is a p.r. whiz who worked on his campaign, brought life to it, and ended up falling for him).  mellie goes to cyrus (white house chief of staff) and goes to cyrus and tells him that fitz 'saw the light or baby jesus' after he was shot and now he wants a divorce.  cyrus goes to the oval office and tells fitz that besides his republican base never accepting olivia, he can't divorce his wife and remain president, he can't abandon the 1st baby (mellie's very pregnant - and the pregnancy was a tool to distract from rumors about fitz being unfaithful - a tape emerged last season of him having sex with olivia, audio tape, and his voice was very clear, the woman wasn't so clear, mellie went on tv and lied that it was her voice and announced her pregnancy to change the story; at that time she was not yet pregnant.).

meawhile david rosen at the attorney general's office has called in hollis (i usually call him 'southern lobbyist here) and confronts him on the vote rigging in the presidential election.  he says he knows it was done.  what does he know though?

this isn't on the show, this is me wondering.  he knows olivia pope was involved because of what he and abby pieced together and because abby got quinn off on murder when david was prosecuting her.  he knows hollis would be involved because hollis is the 1 whose computer programs and voting machines were used.

but does he know any 1 else?  does he know verna, now a supreme court judge, mellie and cyrus all signed off on it?  i don't think so.  he hasn't spoken to any 1 in the conspiracy. 

so he questions hollis who blows him off and says he suspects david knows how they turn bulls into steers.  but he has offered hollis a seat in the lifeboat.  there is only 1, he tells hollis and he'll offer the others the same seat in a week.

again, other than olivia, david doesn't know.

hollis goes screaming to olivia who tells him that she knows that he hired the assassin who shot the president.  he denies it. 

she goes to verna, now surpreme court justice.  she tells verna the deal that was offered hollis.  verna tells her that she's already paying for her sins (she's dying of cancer) and urges olivia to take the chance to save herself.

senator davis tries to help olivia, who's taken to her bed, but olivia tells him to go.  he then goes to her office and asks them to help before leaving with a line i bet we all wish we could use, 'i have to go, i have to be on the senate floor.' :D

huck, abby, harrison and quinn are worried about olivia.  they get together and agree to share all the invormation each has - except huck.  huck will just make a face if they are wrong.  but harrison is not sharing all nor is abby.  only quinn, really. but they agree 'no judgments.'  quinn explains she was lindsay dwyer.  huck kidnapped her after he drugged her - after the cytron bombing.  abby knows hollis doyle framed quinn.  he bombed cytron to kill quinn/lindsey's boyfriend jesse tyler.  jesse rigged the vote for hollis and got a million in exchange.  then jesse wanted five million more so hollis hired the female assassin (the same 1 that was used to shoot the president) to kill jesse and blame linsdey for it.  they made it look like there were problems in the relationship.  olivia sent huck to california when she got wind of it, he was to save her.  so he pulls her out of the hotel right when the assassin is calling the polcie and he gets quinn on verna's plane and off to d.c. where she awakes in a hotel with new i.d. and the name quinn. they make the connection that verna called in a favor to the judge who was hearing quinn's trial for murder. they fit it all together.

except mellie. 

huck goes to olivia and she says cyrus is trying to handle it.  huck tells olivia that cyrus has his own 'huck' who will kill hollis.  so olivia, at verna's urging ('you have a chance at redemption, take it') goes to david and tells him hollis was the 1 behind the assassination attempt on the president.

so they show up and search hollis' office and grab the phone that did call the assassin (becky) repeatedly and bring him in.

david tells olivia he needs more evidence.  and he tells her,  'but just so you know, this doesn't make us even. not even close.  it won't stop me from coming after you' on the election rigging.

cyrus is furious with olivia and convinced that election rigging will get out.  'you're telling them we're santa, we're the easter bunny [...] you're ruining christmas morning and the whole republic is going to come tumbling down.'

olivia and her team begin working on investigation to establish a payment by hollis to becky.

so they find out his payment to jesse and then look for the same account in becky's records (they're also talking to becky).  they find a 5 million payment the day after the assassination attempt but it's not from hollis.  olivia calls david.  hollis is let go.  hollis takes an elevator ride with cyrus' killer.

elsewhere, mellie goes into labor (i think the doctor started the labor at mellie's request) and this brings fitz to the hospital and back into mellie's arms despite his telling olivia he was divorcing mellie.

meanwhile, please note, neither olivia nor harrison told abby that they broke her and david up, that they 'surfaced' the lie that david beat up an ex-girlfriend and did so to break abby and david up.  (abby's 1st husband beat her as olivia knew.) 

it was a really intense episode.  we saw jesse and quinn fight and argue - when she wrongly thought he was having an affair.  the 'affair' was created by becky to give a reason for the bombing: jesse's girlfriend went crazy and bombed the place over an affair.

to get jesse's bank records (to find out what account hollis paid jesse from), quinn remembered walking in on jesse when he was arguing on the phone (with hollis) about payment and jesse got off the phone angry and knocked a coffee all over his laptop.  it was fried.  she took it in the next day.  and he died.  so no 1 ever picked it up.

so quinn picks it up now - real time.  she and huck use the payment info on the laptop hard drive to search for in becky's account.  they don't find it, though.

so 2 big issues.

1st, quinn has the laptop.  is she now going to use it to go after olivia and others?  i wouldn't put it past her.

2nd, hollis could have paid becky out of another account.  but if he didn't - as every 1 is assuming - then that means some 1 else tried to have fitz killed.  who was it?

top of my suspect list?  mellie.

let's close with c.i.'s 'Iraq snapshot:'

Friday, February 1, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, protests take place across Iraq, flooding continues, more families are being displaced as a result of the flooding, and more.

Protests took place throughout Iraq today with Al Mada reporting the numbers participating significantly rose from last week.  Hurriyet also observes, "The turnout appeared to be among the largest since the protests began in December."   Sofia News Agency reports, "In Adhamiyah, a mostly Sunni neighbourhood of north Baghdad, several hundred demonstrators resumed their weekly protest under heavy security measures at the Abu Hanifa mosque, calling for the release of prisoners they say are being wrongfully held."  Alsumaria reports Falluja saw tens of thousands turn out today and they took to the international highway (that connects Baghdad to Jordan) as The Voice of Russia notes. Today Reuters notes the protesters in Falluja chanted "NO" to Nouri al-Maliki.  Sameer N. Yacoub (AP) explains,  "The main rallies Friday took place in Fallujah and Ramadi, cities that straddle the highway running through Anbar province."  For a photo of thousands and thousands of occupying the highway in Falluja -- and the areas around the highway -- click on this Alsumaria pageClick here for a photo of the Falluja protest taken byThaier al-Sudani (Reuters).   And AFP's Prashant Rao provides links to more photos.

Pictures of Iraq's anti-government protests in Baghdad, Fallujah and Kirkuk by photographers:

Pictures of anti-government demos today in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Fallujah by photographers:

A spokesperson for the Falluja protesters, Khaled Hamoud, tells Al-Shorfa, "Today's demonstrations are no different from previous demonstrations in terms of the demands and rights we are seeking.  We hope that the government will meet them and we are determined to continue our peaceful demonstrations."  Morning Star quotes from Cleric Abdul-Hameed Jadoua who addressed the Falluja protesters telling them "the blood of martyrs was shed so that the dignity of our Iraq and our tribes will be restored. [. . .]  From this place, we tell the government that we do not want to see a soldier from now on, not only in Fallujah, but in all its suburbs and villages."   The Christian Science Monitor and Al Jazeera correspondent Jane Arraf Tweeted the following on the Falluja protest today.

Pick-up trucks full of young guys with flags heading for in what's expected to be huge protest after Friday prayers.

Prayers in - thousands still coming in ant-government protest - leaders appeal for non-violence.
View photo
-huge gathering for prayers on highway, calls to remember the martyrs, anti-Maliki chants and then all went home for lunch

Kitabat notes today's protests are a tribute to the Falluja martyrs who were killed last week.

Friday, January 25th, Nouri al-Maliki's armed thugs in Falluja fired on protesters killing at least seven (Alsumaria reported Saturday that another of the victims has died from wounds raising the death toll from six to seven)  and sixty more were left injured. Today Kitabat reports four more victims of last Friday's violence have died bringing the death toll to 11.  Protesters in Falluja were marching and taking part in a sit-in when the military opened fire on them.  Anbar Province has sworn out arrest warrants for the soldiers.  Rami G. Khouri (Daily Star) sees similarities between Egypt and Iraq:

The same applies to the tens of thousands of demonstrators in Iraq, who, like their Egyptian counterparts, are protesting the killing of demonstrators by the security services as well as a wider sense that the central government is not addressing the socio-economic and political rights of all citizens with diligence or fairness. In both cases, many ordinary citizens feel that one group is trying to monopolize power and seize control of the state. The Iraqi and Egyptian leaders have both acted with an authoritarianism that remind us of their predecessors’ policies in many ways., which Arabs now wish to leave behind them for good.

 Dar Addustour notes that Nouri met for six hours mid-week with armed forces commanders to discuss/anticipate today's protests.  Kitabat explains that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis took part in protests today throughout Anbar Province, Kirkuk Province, Nineveh Province, Diyala Province and Salahuddin following morning prayers. Dar Addustour quotes from Sheikh Abdul Hamid Jadou's sermon where he said that the prime minister needed to hear the protesters.  The Sheikh declared that positions don't last, the world does not last but God watches and Nouri needs to do the right thing.  Alsumaria notes that protesters in Kirkuk marched calling for government to implement their demands and calling for loyalty to the Falluja martyrs and that the heads of the tribal clans in Anbar, Salahuddin and Nineveh Province are declaring Nouri needs to listen to the protesters.    Al Jazeera reports:

Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf, reporting from Fallujah, said many had walked for hours to attend Friday's protest and had turned the highway into a mosque for the weekly prayers.
"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is under increasing pressure to listen to their demands," she said, adding that a lot of the protesters, mostly young men, were unemployed and that a lot of them have been in jail.
"They feel they've been neglected by the Shia government," she said.

World Bulletin observes, "The protests are evolving in the most serious test yet for Maliki and his fragile government that splits posts among Shi'ite, Sunni and ethnic Kurds, who were already deadlocked over how to share power for more than a year."  In a report for the Christian Science Monitor, Jane Arraf explains:

The Anbar demonstrations began in December, with protesters demanding an end to perceived targeting of Sunni Muslims after the arrest of the Sunni finance minister’s bodyguards on terrorism charges. But it is the arrests of dozens of Iraqi women that have infuriated many in this fiercely tribal area. That anger has spread to Sunni areas in Baghdad and to provinces farther north, and both Al Qaeda in Iraq and mainstream political figures have been quick to join the fray.

Human Rights Watch's "Iraq: A Broken Justice System" was released yesterday and noted:

Most recently, in November, federal police invaded 11 homes in the town of al-Tajji, north of Baghdad, and detained 41 people, including 29 children, overnight in their homes. Sources close to the detainees, who requested anonymity, said police took 12 women and girls ages 11 to 60 to 6th Brigade headquarters and held them there for four days without charge. The sources said the police beat the women and tortured them with electric shocks and plastic bags placed over their heads until they began to suffocate.
Despite widespread outcry over abuse and rape of women in pre-trial detention, the government has not investigated or held the abusers accountable. In response to mass protests over the treatment of female detainees, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a pardon for 11 detainees. However, hundreds more women remain in detention, many of whom allege they have been tortured and have not had access to a proper defense.

On the topic of the call to release prisoners, this call has been a constant of the recent wave of protests and was also a part of the 2011 protests.  Iraqis disappear into the 'legal system' and their families can't find them.   Article IV allows the security forces to arrest relatives of suspects.  Relatives who are not charged with anything languish in detention centers and prisons.  The Sunni population feels they are especially targeted by Nouri -- both with regards to arrests and with regards to being put to death.

Dropping back to the November 12th snapshot:
Staying with violence, as noted in the October 15th snapshot, Iraq had already executed 119 people in 2012.  Time to add more to that total.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported last night that 10 more people were executed on Sunday ("nine Iraqis and one Egyptian").  Tawfeeq notes the Ministry of Justice's statement on the executions includes, "The Iraqi Justice Ministry carried out the executions by hanging 10 inmates after it was approved by the presidential council."  And, not noted in the report, that number's only going to climb.  A number of Saudi prisoners have been moved into Baghdad over the last weeks in anticipation of the prisoners being executed.  Hou Qiang (Xinhua) observes, "Increasing executions in Iraq sparked calls by the UN mission in the country, the European Union and human rights groups on Baghdad to abolish the capital punishment, criticizing the lack of transparency in the proceedings of the country's courts."

AFP reported yesterday that already this year Iraq has executed 91 people -- yes, we're still at the start of 2013 -- 88 men and 3 women.  The United Nations Secretary-General has personally called on Iraq to put in place a moratorium on executions but Nouri al-Maliki has rejected that.  Iraq's recent prison breaks have often been tied to executions.  Most press outlets (non-Iraqi) simply report that some death row prisoners escaped. But often, the escape follows the news that prisoners will be moved to Baghdad (to be executed). 

Today, All Iraq News adds that Nouri al-Maliki gave an interview where he insisted that all legitimate demands of the protesters will be listened to if they show patience.  Patience?  Like when he asked them to be patient in 2011 and give him 100 days to fix corruption and other problems.  100 day are finally over and he hasn't done a damn thing but lie and use his lies to get people off the street. 

It's gonna rain
It's gonna rain
It's gonna rain down tears
Of heartaches and fears
It's gonna rain
It's gonna rain
I know for sure
'Cause you don't reach for me no more

-- "Clouds," written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, first appears on Chaka Khan's Naughty album

Just like Nouri's going to solve the problems of the protesters, he's also heading a committee to solve the problems of the rainfall.

So much rain in , green zone cut off from rest of city by lake-size moat. Whatever will we do without them?
Earlier week, Aswat al-Iraq reported people in the capitol were saying that "Baghdad was drowned in a lake of mud and dirty water."
All Iraq News notes that the highest rainfall in recent days has been in Tuz Khurmato.  That's in Salahuddin Province and that's the province, All Iraq News notes, where three villages are sinking.  2,000 homes have also sunk in Tikrit in what's being called "The Tikrit Disaster.All Iraq News notes that a village in Salahuddin Province was threatened yesterday when a dam collapsed and that 1500 families have been relocated by the Iraqi Red Crescent Society due to the flooding.  Alsumaria speaks with Salahuddin Province Governor Ahmed Abdullah al-Jubouri who explains that in the entire province, 6000 families have been evacuated from their homes -- six-thousand families.  The flooding is due to the rain, yes, but it's also due to the fact that Nouri refuses to spend money to improve the sewers and other infrastructure.  So when heavy rains fall, the water pools.  It's not diverted anywhere, it doesn't drain.  When heavy rains fall for several days in a row -- as has happened this week -- you end up with serious problems.  For example, the Tigris River is flooding.  Alsumaria reports that Salah Abdul Razzuq, Governor of Baghdad, has called for citizens residing on and near the banks of the Tigris to evacuate their homes because the last two days alone has seen the river's water levels rise approximately 75%. 

Again, this is about Iraq's crumbling infrastructure.  Iraq is not a poor country.  What other country with less than 30 million people can claim a federal government budget of 100 billion in US dollars?  The money is there to fix the infrastructure and do other needed things.  It's just not being spent as it needs to be.  It just seems to go quickly into the bank accounts of various Iraqi figures.  100 billion dollars for 2012 in a country of less than 30 million? The government could have just given every citizen 3 million in US dollars and still had sizable pocket change. Instead, Kitabat reports that you can find everyone scavenging in Baghdad through the waste -- the standing waste.  Children dig through it hoping to find toys and adults dig through it looking for anything they might sell to bring in some needed income for their family.  This standing waste, in the country's capital, is an embarrassment and it's health menace.  For public health reasons alone, it should have been dealt with years ago.

Meanwhile Alsumaria notes an armed attack in a Mosul home that's left 1 Iraqi soldier dead.  On the topic of violence, it is the end of the month and Prashant Rao (AFP) Tweets:

Iraq death toll spikes in January - data: The grim spreadsheet:

Iraq Body Count tabulates 341 violent deaths in Iraq for the month of January.

We go back to Twitter for news of Iraqi Christians:

  1. Vatican: Abp. Louis Sako elected Patriarch of the Chaledean Church... -

Online at the official site, The Vatican's posted:

(Vatican Radio) Pope Benedict XVI has granted ecclesiastical communion, in accordance with Canon 76 § 2 of the code of canons of the Eastern Churches to His Beatitude Raphael I Louis Sako, canonically elected Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans in the Synod of Bishops of the Church, held in Rome January 28, 2013.
The Synod of Bishops of the Chaldean Church, convoked by the Holy Father under the presidency of Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, canonically elected the Archbishop of Kirkuk, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans on January 28th. The new patriarch succeeds Cardinal Emmanuel III Delly, and has chosen the name of Louis Raphael Sako I".
Born in Zakho (Iraq) July 4, 1948, Patriarch Sako completed his primary studies in Mosul, before attending the local seminary of St. John, run by the Dominican Fathers.
Ordained a priest on June 1, 1974, he undertook the pastoral service at the Cathedral of Mosul until 1979. Sent to Rome, he attended the Pontifical Oriental Institute, receiving his doctorate in Eastern Patristics. He later received his doctorate in history from the Sorbonne in Paris. On returning to Mosul in 1986, he was appointed parish priest of the Parish of Perpetual Help.
From 1997 to 2002 he held the office of Rector of the Patriarchal Seminary in Baghdad. He then returned to Mosul took over pastoral care of the Parish of Perpetual Help until the election as Archbishop of Kirkuk September 27, 2003. He received episcopal ordination on 14 November.
He has published several books on the Fathers of the Church and several articles.
Apart from Arabic and Chaldean, the Patriarch speaks German, French, English and Italian.
More to follow...

Alsumaria covers the news and adds that Archbishop Sako is the author of over 200 articles and 20 books on religion and theology.   AFP covers the news here.  In 2000, the US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services prepared a fact sheet entitled "Iraq: Chaldean Christians" which included the following:

Chaldean and Assyrian Christians have the same ethnic and linguistic background, though as Eastern Rite Catholics, Chaldeans recognize the primacy of the Roman Catholic Pope while Assyrian Christians, who are not Catholic, do not (Journalist 17 May 2000; Minority Rights Group International 1997, 346). The Assyrians and Chaldeans are non-Arab, though the Iraqi government defines them as Arab, purportedly to increase identification of Iraqi Christians with the largely Sunni-Arab regime in Baghdad. The Kurdish government in northern Iraq refers, at least to Assyrians, as Kurdish Christians (USDOS 9 Sept. 1999).
[. . .]
1994 figures state that 220,945 of Iraq's Christians are Chaldean, though this number may now be down to 200,000 (UK Immigration & Nationality Directorate Sept. 1999). News sources state that there are anywhere from 500,000 to two million Christians in Iraq, of which Chaldeans reportedly predominate (Associated Press 26 Dec. 1998; The Economist Intelligence Unit 10 Feb. 2000; Knight-Ridder Tribune News 18 Feb. 1998). The US Department of State cites "conservative estimates" which place over 95 percent of Iraq's population, estimated at 17,903,000 in 1991, as Muslim, while the remaining less than 5 percent is broken down among Christians, Yazidis, and Jews (9 Sept. 1999).

Turning to the United States where Senator Patty Murray is the Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.  Today her office issued the following:

Friday, February 1, 2013
CONTACT: Murray Press Office
(202) 224-2834

Senator Murray's Statement on New VA Study on Veterans Suicides

(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray released the following statement after the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released a study that provides more accurate information on veterans suicides.  The two-year study incorporates information from 42 states and includes data on the suicide deaths of veterans who were not previously recorded because they had not sought care or benefits from VA.  This is an important advancement that will help VA better understand veterans mental health needs and do more to combat the epidemic of veteran suicides.  In August 2011 Senator Murray wrote to the National Governors Association urging Governors across the country to provide information to the VA to help them track the scope of veterans suicides.

"This data provides a fuller, more accurate, and sadly, an even more alarming picture of veteran suicide rates.  And while I am encouraged that VA has worked to collect the information needed to better understand the problem we face, this must lead to action.

"I encourage VA and DoD to quickly implement the Mental Health ACCESS act that I recently pushed through Congress and that was signed into law this month.  That law will help streamline and improve suicide prevention programs while offering veterans and their family's new avenues to mental health care.

"VA also needs to do mroe to quickly bring on additional mental health professionals to deal with the shortage veterans face, particularly in rural areas.  We cannot accept as unavoidable that VA facilities have month-long wait times for appointments or that at-risk veterans feel that they have nowhere to turn.

"We also need to do more to reach out to the families of veterans so that they recognize warning signs, know where to go for help, and have a support network of other veterans and their families to lean on.

"This must not only be a top priority for the VA, it has to be a top priority for the nation as a whole if we are going to begin to make progress in reversing this deeply troubling trend."

Matt McAlvanah
Communications Director
U.S. Senator Patty Murray
202-224-2834 - press office
202--224-0228 - direct

Yesterday we covered the Senate Armed Service Hearing on US President Barack Obama's nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.  Last night, Wally reported on the hearing in "Hagel's all mushy (Wally)," Kat covered it with "Lindsay Graham" and Ava covered it with "Congress was as bad as the press today."  Yesterday, we noted Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was getting praised for a 19 word sentence and she didn't deserve praise.  Ruth's "Applause for Senator Blumenthal" report on Senator Richard Blumenthal and she included this exchange on assault:

Senator Richard Blumenthal:  And I would like the same kind of commitment that you've expressed very persuasively on the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell on the issue of sexual assaults.  This issue bedevils the military.  I don't know whether you've seen an excellent documentary entitled The Invisible War?

Chuck Hagel:  Yes.

Senator Richard Blumenthal:  And I know you're familiar with this issue.  I commend you for what you've said to me privately.  And I would ask that your commitment not only to the prosecution and holding accountable people who are involved in this criminal conduct but also to the victims so that they receive the kind of services that in the civilian world, many of them do through victims' advocates in the courts and similar kinds of roles played.  So both to prosecution -- vigorous, zealous -- but also to protection of the victims, can you commit to that?

Chuck Hagel:  Absolutely, I'll commit to that.

And now back to Iraq.  Various outlets today turned out the notion that al Qaeda in Iraq wanted to back the protesters and were calling for the protesters to take up arms.  Kitabat notes that the protesters rejected the notion.  MWC adds, "Protest organisers in Ramadi, Fallujah and elsewhere, however, said that they had no links to the group, and that they aimed to hold only peaceful demonstrations."


Hagel's all mushy (Wally)

Wally filling in for Rebecca tonight.  Chuck Hagel used to be a Senator.  Now he's Barack's nominee to be the Secretary of Defense and he appeared before the Senate Arms Committee today for his confirmation hearing.

He was an awful nominee.

I don't think anyone can deny it.

As C.I. reports in the snapshot, Hagel fumbled and paused frequently.  He was unprepared for even the most basic questions.

Watching it, I kept wondering, "Is this going to play better on TV?"

I have no idea.  I haven't caught any coverage of it.

But I know that what happened in that room, if you were in the room, was appalling.

Hagel made Chris Hill look smart.  That's how dumb he came off.  We were talking about that and trying to think who was worse than Hill out of all the various nomination hearings we'd attended.  Even Brett McGurk was a better nominee.

There were times when Hagel seemed almost comatose, leaving you to wonder how he manages to do the job if he does get confirmed?

I was also disturbed by another point.  Hagel's got a variety of views.  Some of them I disagree with, some of them I agree with.  But it didn't matter what the view, whenever he was asked to defend one, he couldn't.  How can you not defend your own views?

He's over 60 years old, was a senator and he can't clearly make a case for what he believes.  He's mushy where he should have strength.  It's one thing to be asked to defend someone else's views but to be unable to speak clearly on your own views?

That doesn't speak well for leadership.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Thursday, January 31, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraq confirms they are holding a Le Monde journalist, flooding throughout Iraq, a dam breaks, people are evacuated, former US Senator Chuck Hagel (Barack's nominee to be US Secretary of Defense) appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and more.

In the moment that probably best captured 'support' for Chuck Hagel and his 'team skills' in today's Senate Armed Services Committee, 85-year-old John Warner was pulled out of mouthballs to drone on about Hagel ("of how he will serve the president") this afternoon.  Warner left the Senate four years ago.  And, if you know Warner (I do), you know if he's talking his time in the Senate, he can't shut up about his attendance record.  Some might point out with that voting record, attendance is better focused on.  But that's what Hagel had to offer for his defense, a retired US Senator, someone who only got into the Senate to begin with because of Elizabeth Taylor, someone who thought small and played the country mouse in the big bad Senate.  That was what Hagel was reduced to: A geriatric with no notable achievements singing his praises.  The hair deserves remarking on as well. Hagel probably thought he was wearing a longer Caesar cut but with it bushing out on the sides it looked more like a modified Bea Arthur from The Golden Girls era but with a tad more length in the back, it could have been a Maude.  But it seemed more Golden Girl, especially as he stumbled throughout the hearing, often taking long pauses to complete his thought in the midst of a sentence.  Is Hagel mentally up to the challenge of being Secretary of Defense? 

We've noted before the position needs someone with passion and energy and, for that reason, stated that former US House Rep and Iraq War veteran Patrick Murphy should be considered and US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice should be considered for the post.  Those aren't the only two.  But watching today as Hagel looked like Bea Arthur and testified like Deputy Dawg, the issue of energy level needs to be raised.

In the questioning, Committee Chair Carl Levin was most concerned with the issue of the relationships between the governments of Iran and the US and whether Hagel could reconcile his various positions over the years on sanctions.  Hagel stated he was for sanctions -- when they were multi-lateral.  But he admitted he had opposed unilateral sanctions in the past.

Senator Chuck Hagel:  As to my records on votes in the Senate regarding unilateral sanctions, I have differed on some of those.  I have voted for some as well.  Uh, it was always on a case-by-case basis when I, uh, voted against some of those unilateral sanctions on Iran.  It was a different time.  For example, I believe one was in, uh, 2001, 2002.  We were in a different place with Iran during that time.  Matter of fact, uh, I recall the Bush administration did not want a renewal -- a five-year renewal of ILSA [the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996] during that time because, uh, they weren't sure of the effectiveness on sanctions.  That, uh, wasn't the only reason I voted against it.  It was because I thought that there might be other ways to, uh, employ-employ our, uh, vast ability to harness power and allies.  It was never a question of did I disagree with the objective.  The objective is, I think, very clear uh-uh to both of us.  Uhm, I recall for example in, uh, 2008, Secretary of State [Condi] Rice sending a letter to the Finance Committee, Senator [Max] Baucus requesting that, uh, a sanction resolution, unilateral, in the Finance Committee, not come out of the, uh, Finance Committee because the Bush administration at the time was working with the, uh, Russians specifically but with the Security-Council of the United Nations to try to get international sanctions which, I think, that effort in 2008 led to the, uh, 2010 international sanctions

Committee Chair Carl Levin: Can you give us your view on the size of the US force which might be necessary, or would be necessary, after 2014?  The so-called 'residual force,' if you have an opinion on the size.  You indicated in your opening statements, two missions for that residual force.  Can you also give us your opinion of the size of the Afghan National Security force after 2014 and whether you agree with me and Senator Lindsay Graham on this Committee and others that we ought to reconsider the position that the Afghan National Security Force should be reduced by a third starting in 2014 -- to about 230,000 from what it's current goal is which is about 350,000.

Chuck Hagel:   Uh, as you all, uh, know now, General Allen has presented his options to the president for the president's consideration.  As far as I know, as of this morning, the president had not made a decision, uhm, uh, on what a residual force -- numbers-wise -- would look like?  I have not been included inn those discussions, so I-I don't know other than knowing that he's got a range of options as you do.  But I would say that from what the president has told me, what Secretary Panetta has told me,  that that decision will be made to assure resourcing the mission and the capability of that mission.  As to, uh, what kind of a force structure should, uh, eventually be in place by the Afghans, I don't know enough about the specifics to give you, uh, a good answer other than that I think that has to be uh-uh a decision that is, uh, made certainly with the president of Afghanistan, uh, what we can do to continue to support and train and, uh, protect our interests within the scope of our  ability to do that.  Obviously, the immunity for our troops is an issue which was an issue in Iraq.  All of those consider -- considerations will be -- will be important and will be made if I'm confirmed and in the position to give the President advice on that.  I will, with consultations of our commanders on the ground and our chiefs, give him, the best, uh, options that we can provide.

Hagel was willing to say anything.  Fortunately for him, the senators were, with few exceptions, willing to play along and nod.  Far too much time was spent on Israel -- that includes some very annoying testimony from Senators Jack Reed and Kay Hagen who seemed to be in a competition over who would win Most Loyal To Israel (Hagan won by a hair, if only because she could boast of the most recent visit).  Senators -- and those were just two of them -- felt the need to discuss Israel and what Hagel had told them privately and how they were so glad to know that it would be an act of war for Palestine to declare the area their own, that Hagel favored a two-state solution and all the other sop that's always tossed out.

I find Hagel's remark referring to the "Jewish lobby" objectionable.  I've stated that before.  Hagel addressed that (more than once) in his testimony.  He said, on the record, that he mispoke and that it was one time.  For me, that one time on the record (answering on the record) was more than enough.  I found him to be believable on that issue because he spoke in what I took to be an honest manner. Also true, he proved himself to be a very poor speaker throughout his testimony.  When Senator Bill Nelson (I know Bill and like Bill) wasted everyone's time giving Hagel a make up test (after he failed to answer Senator John McCain's basic question), Hagel insisted his opposition to the 'surge' in Iraq, "We lost almost 1200 dead Americans in the surge."  The 'surge' was an escalation, an increase, in the number of US troops on the ground in Iraq following the 2006 elections.  The 'surge' was a failure.  We'll talk about that in a moment but "We lost almost 1200 dead Americans in the surge"?  We lost those dead Americans?  And we're not searching for them still?  "We lost almost 1200 Americans in the surge" is how you word what he was attempting to say.

Let's go back to the surge.  It allowed Iraq to be noted for a few seconds by a body that did nothing to stop the Iraq War.  Hagel did nothing to stop it and that's on him. 

Senator John McCain:  Senator Hagel, members of this Committee will raise questions reflecting concerns with your policy positions.  They're not reasonable people disagreeing, they're fundamental disagreements.  Our concerns pertain to the quality of your professional judgment and your world view on critical areas of national security including security in the Middle East.  With that in mind, let me begin with your opposition to the surge in Iraq.  2006, we lost -- Republicans lost -- the election and we began the surge and you wrote a piece in the Washington Post called "Leaving Iraq Honorably."  In 2007, you said it's not in the national interest to deepen its involvement.  In January, 2007, in a rather bizarre exchange with Secretary Rice, in the Foreign Relations Committee, after some nonsense about Syria and crossing the border into Iran and Syria because of the surge and a reference to Cambodia in 1970, you said, "When you set in motion the kind of policy the president's talking about here, it's very, very dangerous.  Matter of fact, I have to say, Madam Secretary, I think the speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.  If it's carried out, I will resist it." And then, of course, you continued on and on for months afterwards talking about what a disaster the surge would be, even to the point where it was clear the surge was succeeding.  In March 2008, you said, "Here the term quagmire could apply.  Some reject that term, but if that's not a quagmire, then what is?"  Even as late as August 29, 2011, in an interview -- 2011 -- in an interview with the Financial Times, you said, "I disagreed with the president -- Obama --  his decision to surge in Iraq, because I disagreed with President Bush on the surge in Iraq."  Do you -- do you stand by that -- those -- those comments, Senator Hagel?

Senator Chuck Hagel:  Well, Senator, I stand by them because I made them and --

Senator John McCain: -- stand by --  Were you right? 

Chuck Hagel:  Well --

Senator John McCain:  Were you correct in your assessment?

Chuck Hagel:  Well I would defer to the judgment of history to sort that out.  But I'll --

Senator John McCain: I think -- this  Committee deserves your judgment as to whether you were right or wrong about the surge.

Chuck Hagel: I'll explain why I made those comments and I believe I had but --

Senator John McCain: I want to know if you were right or wrong?  That's a direct question, I expect a direct answer.

Chuck Hagel:  The surge assisted in the objective.  But-but if we review the record a little bit --

Senator John McCain: Will you please answer the question?  Were you correct or incorrect when you said that the surge would be the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam?  Were you correct or incorrect?

Chuck Hagel:  My --

Senator John McCain: Yes or no?

Chuck Hagel:  My reference to the surge being  --

Senator John McCain: Are you going to answer the question, Senator Hagel?  The question is: Were you right or wrong?  That's a pretty straighforward question.

Chuck Hagel: Well --

Senator John McCain: I would  -- I would like to answer whether you were right or wrong and then you are free to elaborate.

Chuck Hagel:  Well I'm not going to give you a "yes" or "no" answer on a lot of things today.

Senator John McCain:   Well let the the record show that you refused to answer that question.  Now please go ahead.

Chuck Hagel:  Well, if you would like me to explain why --

Senator John McCain: No, I actually would like an answer.  Yes or no?

Chuck Hagel: Well I'm not going to give you a yes or no. I think it's --

Senator John McCain: Okay.

Chuck Hagel:  -- far more complicated than that.  As I've already said, my answer is I'll defer that judgment to history.  As to the comment I made about the most dangerous foreign policy decision since Vietnam?  Was about not just the surge but the overall war of choice going into Iraq.  That particular decision that was made on the surge -- but more to the point, our war in Iraq -- I think was the most fundamentally bad, dangerous decision since Vietnam.  Aside, uh, from the costs that occurred in this country, uh, in blood and treasure, aside from what that did to, uh, take our focus off of Afghanistan -- which in fact, uh,  was-was the original and real focus of a national threat to this country -- uh, Iraq wa-wa-was not -- I always, uh,  tried to frame all the different issues before I made a decision on anything.  Now just as you said, Senator, we can have differences of opinion, uh,  --

Senator John McCain: But --

Chuck Hagel: -- that's essentially why I took the position I did.

Senator John McCain: It's a fundamental difference of opinion, Senator Hagel.  And Senator Graham and I and Senator [Joe] Lieberman -- when there were 59 votes in the United States Senate --  spent our time trying to prevent that 60th.  Thank God for Senator Lieberman.  I think history has already made a judgment about the surge, sir, and you're on the wrong side of it.  And your refusal to answer whether you were right or wrong about it is going to have an impact on my judgment as to whether to vote for your confirmation or not.  I hope you will reconsider the fact that you refused to answer a fundamental question about an issue that took the lives of thousands of young Americans.

Chuck Hagel: Well, Senator, there was --there was more to it than just flooding a zone.

Senator John McCain: I'm asking about the surge, Senator Hagel.

Chuck Hagel: I know you are and I'm trying to explain my position.  The beginning of the surge also factored in what General Allen had put into place in Anbar Province -- the Sunni Awakening.  We put over, as you know, a hundred thousand young --

Senator John McCain: Senator Hagel, I'm very aware of the history of the surge and the Anbar Awakening and I also am aware that any casual observer will know that the surge was the fundamental factor, led by two great leaders, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker.
Chuck Hagel:  Well I don't know if-if that would have been required and cost us over a thousand American lives and thousands of  wounded.

Senator John McCain: So you don't know if the surge would have been required?  Okay, Senator Hagel, let me go back -- to to Syria now.  More than 60,000 people have been killed in Syria.  Do you believe --

The surge was a failure.  That Hagel can't answer the question -- regardless of where he stands -- is disturbing.  If you can't answer that basic of a question, what questions will you be able to answer before the Congress?  We are aware that if Hagel's confirmed, he'll be appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to provide testimony many times in the future, right? 

I say the surge was a failure.  The US military did what was asked of them.  And the military was supposed to provide stability and security.  They did that.  Ethnic cleansing -- popularly called "a civil war" -- had taken place (2006 through 2007) and violence went down.  Some will argue that it went down because the ethnic cleansing was over.  No.  As we've seen since, it has not been over.  The ethnic cleansing that takes place also creates a 'surge' in refugees -- Iraq becomes the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East during this period.  Over 4 million external refugees, many displaced internally within the country as well.  Others try to tie in the Sahwa ("Awakening") and point that the purchasing of loyalty (resistance fighters paid to stop attacking US equipment and US troops) and that can be a factor as well.  But the US military was given a task and they performed it and they achieved their goal.

So why is the surge a failure?  Bully Boy Bush did not just send more troops over to Iraq.  He also gave 12 benchmarks to measure 'success' and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to those benchmarks.  The surge had two parts, the military would provide security and stability and, during this calmer period, US diplomatic staff would work with Iraqi politicians so that the needed political actions could take place.  What was needed?  That was defined in the benchmarks.  (No surprise, the US government was most interested in an oil and gas law.)

The US military did what was asked of them and they were successful in that task.  But the space they successfully created was not utilized.  Bully Boy Bush was not speaking publicly about the ethnic cleansing.  He was concerned -- by his own remarks -- with creating the space that he just knew would allow Iraq to move forward.  That did not happen.

Is that what Hagel believes?  We don't know because he wouldn't answer.  He wouldn't answer what McCain rightly pointed out was a very basic question.  That's really bothersome.  If you can't defend your statements, how are you going to defend a department?  If you can't answer a basic question the Congress asks, how are you going to answer tough questions from the Congress if confirmed?  If you care so little about being upfront with the American people (and members of Congress are the representatives of the American people) during your nomination period, are we supposed to believe that you'll suddenly be more interested in being upfront after a confirmation vote?

Hagel's confirmation hearing put to rest (for me) the issue of the "Jewish lobby."  It also provided a number of senators with the time to compete for the title of Israel's BFF.  But it also provided Hagel and Hagel -- his low energy level, his inability to answer basic questions -- actually raised more issues and questions than a confirmation hearing is expected to.

Senator Claire McCaskill moved quickly through her questioning and was probably one of the three strongest in the hearing of any senator.  (The weakest?  Senator Joe Manchin who couldn't stop whining or whimpering about wishing he could have served in the Senate with Hagel -- at one point his voice quivered on this topic and you had to wonder if Manchin has Daddy issues.)  We'll jump in near the end of McCaskill's exchange for a question that will determine his tenure if he's confirmed and for an important issue that will be a huge issue in the next four years.

Senator Claire McCaskill:  . . . and some people on the Committee are going, "Oh, here she goes on contracting," but auditability of the Defense Dept.  I know that you've stated in some of the advanced policy questions that you want to hold people accountable on auditability.  I don't think most Americans realize that as we face shrinking budgets and as we want to secure  the pre-eminance of our military and not hollow out the spending  at the Defense Dept, that auditability is a crucial ingredient to us being able to figure out whether all the money being spent there is being spent like Americans would want it to be spent.  Can you reassure me that auditability -- as prescribed by law, coming through this Committee -- that it needs to happen no later than 2017 -- can you make a commitment to me today on the record, that that will be a priority of yours, making sure that, as Secretary Panetta did and Secretary Gates before him, that auditability will be an essential priority in your time at defense?

Chuck Hagel:  As I told you, Senator, I will.  Uh, I make that commitment to this Committee.

Senator Claire McCaskill:  And then turning to contracting, I have yet to have, uhm, provided to me other than raw numbers that we spent any data that would indicate that major infrastructure rebuilding as part of a counter-insurgency strategy works.  There are many things that work in a counter-insurgency strategy and one of them, as it was originally posed to me, back some six years ago on this Committee by General Petraeus was that the CERP Funds -- the Commander Emergency Response Program -- that walking around money to fix plate glass windows and neighborhoods, that that was an essential part of the COIN strategy.  That morphed into our military building major infrastructure projects without really any data ever to indicate that the billions of dollars that we were spending was in fact advancing our mission -- our military mission.  In addition to that, it is clear if you want to look at Iraq and the failures that Iraq represents in some ways, one of the failures is the crumbling investments that this country made in Iraq -- the health centers that never opened, the water parks that sit crumbling, the power facilities that were blown up before they even had an opportunity to operate.  I can go down billions of dollars of waste because we didn't do the analysis on sustainability after we have left.  I am convinced that we have made the same mistakes in Afghanistan and I would like your response to this issue of major infrastructure building while we are in a conflict being conducted by our military -- not by AID, not by our State Dept -- and whether or not you would make a commitment to come back to this Committee with a report analyzing whether or not there is data to support that aspect of the COIN strategy?

Chuck Hagel:  Well I will make that commitment and, uh, it is part of the larger, uh, series of questions and, uh, factors always involved, uh, when, uh, a nation gets uh-uh clearly committed as we were -- still are -- in Afghanistan and were in Iraq for years.  When you are at war, the highest first priority is to take care of your people and uh, and, uh-uh, as a result of that, uh, all the rest of the-the normal latitude and guidance, uhm, theory and policy, uh, is secondary.  And so I think in both of those wars, uhm, because we got ourselves in so deep with so many people and, uh, the welfare of our men and women was, uh, paramount, we tried a lot of things.  We had never been this way before.  We had never seen anything like these two situations.  And, uh, as a result, and you know, our Special Inspector Generals have come up with billions and billions of dollars that are unaccounted for, uhm, corruption, fraud, waste, abuse.  Uh, it really is quite astounding. 

And we'll stop him there.  He's committed to a report of some form -- if confirmed -- about the infrastructure building's impact on the invaded land and the issue of open accountability with regards to spending.  If he is confirmed, those are two of the metrics by which he should be measured while he holds the post of Secretary of Defense.

While Joe Manchin (dubbed "Joe Manchild" by one friend in the press who covered today's hearing) whimpered about the lost or stolen time he could have spent with Hagel, he ignored the most pressing issues.  Hagel should have been asked over and over -- the way he was about Israel -- about something that actually has to do with the job: the crises in DoD.  That's the suicide crisis and that's the rape and assault crisis. 

The only one to spend any time on either of these issues was Senator Kirsten Gillibrand but even she had to waste  everyone's time.  Israel, Afghanistan and personnel issues, she ranked as the three topics -- in that order -- she wanted to ask about.  But she quickly launched into Iran.  Iran and Israel were covered at length in the long hearing before Gillibrand ever spoke.  But maybe she just had to insist she had "been one of the strongest advocates" for Israel?  You know what the military needs, they need a strong advocate for the victims of assault and rape.

And though Gillibrand is getting applause for her glancing comments on the issue of assault and rape, she was not their strong advocate in the hearing today unless you just do the "by comparison" verdict.  From Iran and Israel, she went to Egypt, and "okay, for my last minute, with regard to Afghanistan, we've heard . . ." 

Easy, cheesy applause greeted Gillibrand's nonsense.  Bridgette P. LaVictoire (Lez Get Real) can't quote Gillibrand so I'll assume she's working from the same press release we were sent.  But unlike LaVictoire, I attended the hearing and I know what Gillibrand said.  The Service Women's Network rushed to applaud Gillibrand who really only succeeded in reminding most of us that Carolyn Maloney would have made a better US Senator.   Here's what they're applauding:

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand: My last question that I'll submit for the record but you and I have talked about it obviously the personnel in our military is our most important asset.  And when we hear reports that there are upwards of 19,000 sexual assaults in the military against women, it's unacceptable.  Uhm, we also have finally repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell but it's difficult for a military spouse to even go to a commissary and be on base or be notified if a spouse is killed in action. I would need a strong commitment from you that you will treat our military families and look after them in the way that you would look after your own.  I want you to be concerned about every man and woman in the military, that their well being is being looked after and seeing real advocacy and leadership, not status quo, not implementing whatever we put forward but actually fighting for them every single day. 

Chuck Hagel:  Well you have my complete commitment on that.

For eight minutes, she went on about everything else before getting to her so-called "last question."  19 words.  She got applauded for 19 words. She spent more than that vouching for sleep overs and pillow fights with Israel.  Come on, let's get serious.  19 words deserves a press release?  She wasted her time and everyone else's.

If assaults matter -- and I believe they do -- you spend something more than 19 words on them in a hearing.  Again, Iran and Israel were covered at length over and over.

Maybe I'm supposed to dance for joy because Gillibrand did mention it?  If she'd given it serious time, maybe so.  But she really made a mockery out of the whole thing, if you ask me.

If every website in the world is covering what Hagel thinks of Israel (and today I'm sure many were), then the last thing that's needed is one more doing the same.  Equally true, if senator after senator is asking the same questions, you need to spend your time asking something different.  Gillibrand deserves no praise for her performance in the hearing.  You will not read reports about her 'question' or her 'statements' due to some press conspiracy to cover up rape and assault.  The reason you won't read about it or hear about it is because she didn't take it seriously.  19 words?  That's embarrassing.

They should have applauded Senator Richard Blumenthal who took more time on this topic.  Blumenthal is Ruth's Senator and she'll be covering it at her site tonight.

Turning to Iraq, this morning Alsumaria reported  that Reporters Without Borders and Iraq's JFO (Journalistic Freedoms Observatory) are demanding the release of French journalist Nadir Dendoune.  From Monday's snapshot:

As we noted this morning, Nadir  Dendoune, who holds dual Algerian and Australian citizenship was covering Iraq for the fabled French newspaper Le Monde's monthly magazine.  His assignment was to document Iraq 10 years after the start of the Iraq War.   Alsumaria explains the journalist was grabbed by authorities in Baghdad last week for the 'crime' of taking pictures.  (Nouri has imposed a required permit, issued by his government, to 'report' in Iraq.)  All Iraq News adds the journalist has been imprisoned for over a week now without charges.

Iraq's Journalistic Freedoms Observatory and Reporters Without Borders issued a joint-statement noting Nadir Dendoune holds Algerian, Australian and French nationalities and that while they do not know the date of his arrest, they know he made a January 28th phone call from custody to a friend to pass on that he'd been arrested.   They call for his release and urge that the government be forthcoming about the details of his arrest and imprisonment. Yesterday, the Committee to Protect Journalists finally issued a statement on the matter:

"The arbitrary jailing of a journalist is a vestige of the Saddam Hussein regime that is completely out of place in Iraq's democracy today," said CPJ's Middle East and North Africa Coordinator Sherif Mansour. "Nadir Dendoune should be released immediately."
The Iraqi Syndicate for Journalists condemned Dendoune's detention, calling it a violation of Iraqi law and the constitution and saying that it distorted the country's image in front of the international community.

  • For more data and analysis on Iraq, visit CPJ's Iraq page here.

This morning, AP reported that Ministry of the Interior spokesperson Saad Maan Ibrahim confirms that they are holding Nadir Dendoune.  Reporters Without Borders issued the following:

Reporters Without Borders and the newly-formed Nadir Dendoune Support Committee call for the immediate release of Nadir Dendoune, a visiting reporter with French, Algerian and Australian triple nationality who has been held in a Baghdad prison for the past eight days.
Dendoune arrived in Iraq on 16 January to do a series of reports for the French monthly Le Monde Diplomatique and the magazine Le Courrier de l’Atlas. According to the French foreign ministry, he was arrested on 23 January while photographing a water installation in the southwest Baghdad neighbourhood of Dora.
He has been held ever since without being charged. Officially, he is alleged to have been taking photos of sensitive locations without permission. He has not yet been allowed to receive a visit from French consular officials based in Baghdad although a request has been made by the French embassy. He managed to call a friend in France yesterday to report that he had been jailed.
Reporters Without Borders and its partner organization in Iraq, the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, wrote yesterday to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki requesting more information about the circumstances of Dendoune’s arrest and the charges against him.
The letter was handed in directly to the Iraqi authorities in Baghdad. The two organizations asked the prime minister to do everything in his power to ensure that Dendoune is released as soon as possible.
The NGO Human Rights Watch has released "Iraq: A Broken Justice System" today and become the first in English to seriously address the treatment of women and girls in Iraqi prisons and detention centers has been the motivating factor for outrage in Iraq for months now and one of the main underpinnings of the protests:

Most recently, in November, federal police invaded 11 homes in the town of al-Tajji, north of Baghdad, and detained 41 people, including 29 children, overnight in their homes. Sources close to the detainees, who requested anonymity, said police took 12 women and girls ages 11 to 60 to 6th Brigade headquarters and held them there for four days without charge. The sources said the police beat the women and tortured them with electric shocks and plastic bags placed over their heads until they began to suffocate.
Despite widespread outcry over abuse and rape of women in pre-trial detention, the government has not investigated or held the abusers accountable. In response to mass protests over the treatment of female detainees, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a pardon for 11 detainees. However, hundreds more women remain in detention, many of whom allege they have been tortured and have not had access to a proper defense.

They also note:

Iraq’s leadership used draconian measures against opposition politicians, detainees, demonstrators, and journalists, effectively squeezing the space for independent civil society and political freedoms in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2013.
The number of violent civilian deaths in Iraq increased in 2012, for the first time since 2009. Thousands of civilians and police were killed in spates of violence, including targeted assassinations, amid a political crisis that has dragged on since December 2011. Alongside the uptick in violence, Iraqi security forces arbitrarily conducted mass arrests and tortured detainees to extract confessions with little or no evidence of wrongdoing.
“As insurgent groups targeted innocent Iraqis in a multitude of coordinated attacks throughout the year, Iraq’s security forces targeted innocent civilians in mass campaigns of arbitrary arrests and abusive interrogations,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “After decades of dictatorship, occupation, and terrorism, the Iraqi people today face a government that is slipping further into authoritarianism and doing little to make them safer.”

Al Mada reports preparations are beginning already for tomorrow's protests and that organizers are speaking of solidarity with the Falluja martyrs. (Last Friday saw the Falluja Massacre -- seven people dead and sixty injured when the military opened fire on the protesters.)  All Iraq News reports that the Falluja Criminal Court has announced arrest warrants for military personnel involved in the shootings.

From yesterday's snapshot:

Meanwhile in Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki is stripping political rivals of their protection according to charges made to Alsumaria.  Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, a leader in the Sahwa forces, told the network that he had lost his bodyguards and when he asked why he was told it was on the orders of Nouri al-Maliki.  What seems to be happening is this:  government forces providing protection to various politicians throughout Iraq are being ordered by Nouri to return to Baghdad out of some fear -- real or imagined -- on the part of Nouri that he's about to be overthrown.

The Iraq Times sees the removal of the bodyguards as Nouri attempting to punish Abu Risha for his backing of the protests.  Abu Rhisa tells Kitabat that the protests will continue until the legitimate demands are met.  In violence this morning, Alsumaria reports a Mosul bombing has left two federal police officers injured and a Diyala explosion killed 1 shepherd.

Lastly, the rains continue in Iraq.  Alsumaria reports that rain's expected in Baghdad today and for the next three.  This is not a minor issue.  Not only have Baghdad streets been flooded, there have been dangers of electrical shocks, street lights have been out, outside of Baghdad there have been homes collapsing and much worse.  All Iraq News notes that 1500 families in Baiji (Salahuddin Province) have been evacuated from their homes due to flooding and they are currently in tents and receiving food and aid from the Iraqi Red Crescent Society.  All Iraq News notes a dam collapsed in Salahuddin Province (a village near Tikrit) and the provincial government is evacuating residents in Samarra.  If you click here, you can watch an Alsumuria video of the flooding in Baghdad.  In most places, the water comes up to the knees.