Akram Abdulzahra now keeps his revolver handy at his job in an Internet cafe. Haidar Hussein, a Baghdad bookseller, just bought a fully automatic assault rifle and has been teaching his wife how to shoot.
Iraq has long been awash in guns. But after the bombing of a sacred Shiite shrine in Samarra in late February, sectarian tensions exploded, and more Iraqis than ever have been buying, carrying and stockpiling weapons, adding an unnerving level of firepower to Baghdad's streets.
The average price for a Russian-made Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle, which is perfectly legal here, has jumped to $290 from $112 in the past month, according to several gun dealers. Bullets have climbed to 33 cents each from 24 cents.
Hand grenades, which are not legal but are easy to get, run $95. Pre-Samarra, they were about half that. The swiftly rising prices are one clear sign that weapon sales are hot.
Militia ranks are swelling, too, with growing swarms of young, religious, mostly uneducated men taking to the streets with automatic weapons slung over their shoulders.
The above is from Jeffrey Gettleman's "Sectarian Strife Fuels Gun Sales in Baghdad" in this morning's New York Times. Factor it in with the other news in "And the war drags on . . . ."
Brenda notes the news from Edward Wong and Kirk Semple's "Iraq's Premier Is Asked to Quit as Shiites Split:"
Iraq's dominant Shiite political bloc fractured Sunday when its most powerful faction publicly demanded that the incumbent Shiite prime minister resign over his inability to form a unified government. The split came as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Jack Straw, the British foreign minister, paid an urgent visit to Iraqi leaders here to convey in the most forceful terms yet that their patience for the country's political paralysis was wearing thin.
It was not clear whether the joint visit by Ms. Rice and Mr. Straw, the top emissaries of the two countries that led the invasion of Iraq three years ago, played a direct role in the splintering of the Shiite bloc, and whether that schism would lead to forward movement on forming a new government, which has been stalled for months.
So it was a two-fer for Condi. She got to move the narrative away from the many protests that greeted her (shadowed her) and she got to provide some "input" to the *non-sovereign* Iraq? And why shouldn't she? Hasn't the US done a bang up job on the illegal occupation?
Well no, it hasn't. (But then it never intended to.) Martha notes Ellen Knickmeyer's "U.S. Plan to Build Iraq Clinics Falters: Contractor Will Try to Finish 20 of 142 Sites" (Washington Post):
A reconstruction contract for the building of 142 primary health centers across Iraq is running out of money, after two years and roughly $200 million, with no more than 20 clinics now expected to be completed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says.
The contract, awarded to U.S. construction giant Parsons Inc. in the flush, early days of reconstruction in Iraq, was expected to lay the foundation of a modern health care system for the country, putting quality medical care within reach of all Iraqis.
Parsons, according to the Corps, will walk away from more than 120 clinics that on average are two-thirds finished. Auditors say the project serves as a warning for other U.S. reconstruction efforts due to be completed this year.
Winning hearts and minds, liberation, freedom . . . Not quite.
As the planned disaster continues, see Naomi Klein's "Baghdad Year Zero" (Harper's magazine),
is it time to consider other options? That's the focus of Carl's highlight, Ronald Aronson's "The Left Needs More Socialism" (The Nation):
It's time to break a taboo and place the word "socialism" across the top of the page in a major American progressive magazine. Time for the left to stop repressing the side of ourselves that the right finds most objectionable. Until we thumb our noses at the Democratic pols who have been calling the shots and reassert the very ideas they say are unthinkable, we will keep stumbling around in the dark corners of American politics, wondering how we lost our souls--and how to find them again.
I can hear tongues clucking the conventional wisdom that the "S" word is the kiss of death for any American political initiative. Since the collapse of Communism, hasn't "socialism"--even the democratic kind--reeked of everything obsolete and discredited? Isn't it sheer absurdity to ask today's mainstream to pay attention to this nineteenth-century idea? Didn't Tony Blair reshape "New Labour" into a force capable of winning an unprecedented string of victories in Britain only by first defeating socialism and socialists in his party? And for a generation haven't we on the American left declared socialist ideology irrelevant time and again in the process of shaping our feminist, antiwar, progay, antiracist, multicultural, ecological and community-oriented identities?
People who espouse these and a dozen other arguments against the relevance of socialism today may regard it as quaint that Bolivia's new president, Evo Morales, leads the Movement Toward Socialism Party, or that Venezuela's Hugo Chavez intends to create a "new socialism of the twenty-first century." After all, socialist parties elsewhere, such as in France, Spain and Germany, or indeed Brazil's Workers Party and Chile's Socialist Party, have no intention of introducing anything like socialism in their countries. Still, the newest significant formation, indeed, today's equivalent of the nineteenth-century International Workingmen's Association, calls itself the World Social Forum. The name reminds those who believe "another world is possible" that it can come about only if it is global, only if it is guided by a loosely organized "forum" rather than a top-down party--and only if its character is social.
Back to Iraq, Keelan notes Brian Conley's "The Sadness of Friends in War Zones" (Alive in Baghdad) on the coverage of Jill Carroll's release:
Unfortunately I fear this may result in distracting the media from current issues facing journalists in Iraq. This week one journalist who has been held for nearly a year by the United States will begin trial, while, in Kurdistan, a Kurdish-Austrian journalist has recently begun his sentence, commuted from thirty years to one and one half years, for defaming Massoud Barzani.
On my own end, I continue to worry each day about my friends in Iraq, each day I have not heard from them, I worry they may have been one of the senseless victims of today’s carbombings or US and Iraqi government assaults.
I received this in an email recently from one colleague of mine in Iraq, I am withholding his name out of respect for his family, and due to the very real possibility that he will receive retribution of some kind:
the situation in Iraq became very very dangerous now and my friend he is Iraqi journalist try to leave Iraq and i told him i will never leave my job because my job now became very important for all Iraqi more than before ,and i hope i can keep my life safty as long as i can
The Los Angeles Times has a photo essay of wounded American troops. (Those would be casualties, in case Wong and Semple confused anyone yesterday as they misused the terms "fatality" and "casuality.") This is the story that the mainstream really hasn't covered. (You could argue it took Cher's call to C-Span for anyone in the mainstream media to pay attention. I would argue that.)
Here are the dates for this week's Un-Embed The Media Tour:
* Amy Goodman in New York, NY:
Tue, Apr 4
*TIME: 12:15 PM
Women War and Peace (class)
The Event is Free and Open to the Public
For more information:
Please Call Barbara Winslow at:
718-951-5476 or 212-844-9447
Reception is at 12:15
Event starts at 1:30
* Amy Goodman in New York, NY:
Thu, Apr 6
*TIME: 7 PM
Amy Goodman Speaking at Center School
The Center School
270 West 70th St.
New York, 10023
For more information:
* Amy Goodman in Baton Rouge, LA:
Fri, Apr 7
*TIME: 7:30 PM
Media-ocracy How the American Media Compromises Democracy
D. Jensen Holliday Forum
Louisiana State University
For more information:
The D. Jensen Holliday Forum is located in the
Journalism Building on the corner of North Stadium and Fieldhouse Drive.
Friday, Democracy Now! aired "EXCLUSIVE...Noam Chomsky on Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy" and this was the first of a two-part interview; however, I don't know that part two airs today (a question in several e-mails). What airs today will probably be determined by what needs coverage. So be sure to listen, watch, or read (transcripts) of Democracy Now! today.
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