Monday, March 26, 2007

Other Items

The cityscape of Iraq's capital tells a stark story of the toll the past four years have taken on Iraq's once powerful Sunni Arabs.
Theirs is a world of ruined buildings, damaged mosques, streets pitted by mortar shells, uncollected trash and so little electricity that many people have abandoned using refrigerators altogether.
The contrast with Shiite neighborhoods is sharp. Markets there are in full swing, community projects are under way, and while electricity is scarce throughout the city, there is less trouble finding fuel for generators in those areas. When the government cannot provide services, civilian arms of the Shiite militias step in to try to fill the gap.
But in Adhamiya, a community with a Sunni majority, any semblance of normal life vanished more than a year ago. Its only hospital, Al Numan, is so short of basic items like gauze and cotton pads that when mortar attacks hit the community last fall, the doctors broadcast appeals for supplies over local mosque loudspeakers.
Here, as in so much of Baghdad, the sectarian divide makes itself felt in its own deadly and destructive ways. Far more than in Shiite areas, sectarian hatred has shredded whatever remained of community life and created a cycle of violence that pits Sunni against Sunni as well as Sunni against Shiite.

The above is from Alissa J. Rubin's "Sunni Baghdad Becomes Land of Silent Ruins" in this morning's New York Times. For those wondering if the Times had three Iraq stories today, no, they didn't. Wong wrote about Zalmay, Rubin wrote about the above and apparently no one could write about the events of yesterday -- that's one way to 'cover' Iraq. Let's note
Alexandra Zavis' "Blasts kill 5 U.S. troops; 2 Iraqis slain in clashes" (Los Angeles Times):

Five U.S. soldiers were killed Sunday in roadside bombings, four of them in a blast east of the capital, the military said.
The deaths came as clashes erupted in central Baghdad between Iraqi security forces and gunmen firing from the rooftops and alleys, killing at least two Iraqis and injuring six. They were among at least 27 Iraqis slain or found dead during the day. Busy city streets emptied as the fighting broke out in the afternoon in Fadhil, a notorious hide-out of Sunni Arab insurgents. Gunmen attacked Iraqi army patrols and the two sides traded fire for more than an hour, officials and residents said. At least two civilians were killed and three injured in the crossfire, they said. Three Iraqi soldiers also were wounded.
The fighting, the latest in a series of skirmishes in the area, came as thousands of U.S. and Iraqi troops comb some of Baghdad's most contested neighborhoods for fighters and weapons caches in the latest attempt to quell sectarian violence.

Now on A10 of the New York Times, you get a brief Reuters article (sub-article) of five paragraphs (all but the second paragraph are single sentence paragraphs -- the second paragraph is a whopping two sentences). So five dead, five US service members and it's apparently not enough to warrant an article in the New York Times. What is the magic number? 10? 16? Five are dead and the cover is Zalmay confirming what was long ago known (even though not a word in the paper) and Rubin's article about the continued conflict.

On long ago (and far away -- Carole King ref), click here for the November 27th segment of Democracy Now! where Tom Hayden discussed the then secret meetings that were going on. Excerpt:

Tom Hayden: Well it's very murky and we'll know enough in a few days, I suppose. Over the past several years but especially in the past month since the election there have been contacts at a deniable level, but definate contacts, between representatives of the armed Iraqi national resistance and the US over the possible conditions of a cease fire and a change of regime in Baghdad.

He also notes, "I don't think this is a plan to get out, I think this is a plan to reduce American casualties dramatically in order to stay in."

To note Kyle's highlight again (from an e-mail sent out to those who sign up for heads up from Dahr Jamail's website):

March, 2007 -- Dahr Jamail on Free Speech TV Show "SourceCode"
In this 10 minute piece, Dahr Jamail gives an Iraq update with exclusive video from Iraq. He describes some of the origins of the "sectarianism" that the US corporate media is so apt to point to when discussing the violence in Iraq, and shows how the US has been involved in fueling the sectarian tensions.

See the streaming WMV file (30 megs)
Download the high-res file (100 megs mpeg)
View the Streaming Flash file (30 megs)

Lastly, Abhilasha wrote "it's non-Iraq" but wanted to know if an excerpt could get in? Yes, because Arunhdati Roy was one of the voices who was right all along about the illegal war (though strangely, the men/boys making their "they were right!" lists somehow manage to leave Roy -- and pretty much every other woman -- off their lists). From Shoma Chaudhurty's "On India's Growing Violence: 'It's Outright War and Both Sides are Choosing Their Weapons':"

There is an atmosphere of growing violence across the country. How do you read the signs? In what context should it be read?
You don't have to be a genius to read the signs. We have a growing middle class, reared on a diet of radical consumerism and aggressive greed. Unlike industrializing Western countries, which had colonies from which to plunder resources and generate slave labor to feed this process, we have to colonize ourselves, our own nether parts. We've begun to eat our own limbs. The greed that is being generated (and marketed as a value interchangeable with nationalism) can only be sated by grabbing land, water and resources from the vulnerable. What we're witnessing is the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in independent India -- the secession of the middle and upper classes from the rest of the country. It's a vertical secession, not a lateral one. They're fighting for the right to merge with the world's elite somewhere up there in the stratosphere. They've managed to commandeer the resources, the coal, the minerals, the bauxite, the water and electricity. Now they want the land to make more cars, more bombs, more mines -- supertoys for the new supercitizens of the new superpower. So it's outright war, and people on both sides are choosing their weapons. The government and the corporations reach for structural adjustment, the World Bank, the ADB, FDI, friendly court orders, friendly policy makers, help from the 'friendly' corporate media and a police force that will ram all this down people's throats. Those who want to resist this process have, until now, reached for dharnas, hunger strikes, satyagraha, the courts and what they thought was friendly media. But now more and more are reaching for guns. Will the violence grow? If the 'growth rate’ and the Sensex are going to be the only barometers the government uses to measure progress and the well-being of people, then of course it will. How do I read the signs? It isn’t hard to read sky-writing. What it says up there, in big letters, is this: the sh*t has hit the fan, folks.
You once remarked that though you may not resort to violence yourself, you think it has become immoral to condemn it, given the circumstances in the country. Can you elaborate on this view?
I’d be a liability as a guerrilla! I doubt I used the word 'immoral' -- morality is an elusive business, as changeable as the weather. What I feel is this: non-violent movements have knocked at the door of every democratic institution in this country for decades, and have been spurned and humiliated. Look at the Bhopal gas victims, the Narmada Bachao Andolan. The nba had a lot going for it -- high-profile leadership, media coverage, more resources than any other mass movement. What went wrong? People are bound to want to rethink strategy. When Sonia Gandhi begins to promote satyagraha at the World Economic Forum in Davos, it's time for us to sit up and think. For example, is mass civil disobedience possible within the structure of a democratic nation state? Is it possible in the age of disinformation and corporate-controlled mass media? Are hunger strikes umbilically linked to celebrity politics? Would anybody care if the people of Nangla Machhi or Bhatti mines went on a hunger strike? Irom Sharmila has been on a hunger strike for six years. That should be a lesson to many of us. I've always felt that it’s ironic that hunger strikes are used as a political weapon in a land where most people go hungry anyway. We are in a different time and place now. Up against a different, more complex adversary. We've entered the era of NGOs -- or should I say the era of paltu shers -- in which mass action can be a treacherous business. We have demonstrations which are funded, we have sponsored dharnas and social forums which make militant postures but never follow up on what they preach. We have all kinds of 'virtual' resistance. Meetings against SEZs sponsored by the biggest promoters of SEZs. Awards and grants for environmental activism and community action given by corporations responsible for devastating whole ecosystems. Vedanta, a company mining bauxite in the forests of Orissa, wants to start a university. The Tatas have two charitable trusts that directly and indirectly fund activists and mass movements across the country. Could that be why Singur has drawn so much less flak than Nandigram? Of course the Tatas and Birlas funded Gandhi too -- maybe he was our first NGO. But now we have NGOs who make a lot of noise, write a lot of reports, but whom the sarkar is more than comfortable with. How do we make sense of all this? The place is crawling with professional diffusers of real political action. 'Virtual' resistance has become something of a liability.
There was a time when mass movements looked to the courts for justice. The courts have rained down a series of judgments that are so unjust, so insulting to the poor in the language they use, they take your breath away. A recent Supreme Court judgment, allowing the Vasant Kunj Mall to resume construction though it didn’t have the requisite clearances, said in so many words that the questions of corporations indulging in malpractice does not arise! In the ERA of corporate globalization, corporate land-grab, in the ERA of Enron and Monsanto, Halliburton and Bechtel, that's a loaded thing to say. It exposes the ideological heart of the most powerful institution in this country. The judiciary, along with the corporate press, is now seen as the lynchpin of the neo-liberal project.
In a climate like this, when people feel that they are being worn down, exhausted by these interminable ‘democratic’ processes, only to be eventually humiliated, what are they supposed to do? Of course it isn’t as though the only options are binary -- violence versus non-violence. There are political parties that believe in armed struggle but only as one part of their overall political strategy. Political workers in these struggles have been dealt with brutally, killed, beaten, imprisoned under false charges. People are fully aware that to take to arms is to call down upon yourself the myriad forms of the violence of the Indian State. The minute armed struggle becomes a strategy, your whole world shrinks and the colors fade to black and white. But when people decide to take that step because every other option has ended in despair, should we condemn them? Does anyone believe that if the people of Nandigram had held a dharna and sung songs, the West Bengal government would have backed down? We are living in times when to be ineffective is to support the status quo (which no doubt suits some of us). And being effective comes at a terrible price. I find it hard to condemn people who are prepared to pay that price.

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