Monday, April 23, 2007

Iraq snapshot

Monday, April 23, 2007.  Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki attempts to revoke a 'building permit,' War Crimes get reported but does anyone notice, and Santa Cruz students win a victory.
Starting with construction -- non-reconstruction.  Friday the US military announced a 'new idea' they'd build a three mile wall to divide one neighborhood from another.  As Elaine noted: "'Balkanizatin' may be the accepted term in use but what's going on, like so much of the 'security measures' in Iraq reflect what the Israeli government does to the Palestinians."  To no one's suprise but the US military, Iraqis noticed it too.  Dean Yates and Ibon Villelabeitia (Reuters) reported yesterday that Nouri al-Maliki was halting the construction "around the district of Adhamiya" and that some of the resident of the neighborhood "have compared the wall to barriers erected by Israel in the occupied West Bank."  Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reports today that al-Maliki, announcing the stoppage, comapred the walls to "other walls" but "did not specify in his remarks what other walls he referred to.  However, the separation barrier in the West Bank being erected by Israel, which is Israel says is for protection but greatly angers Palestinians, is a particularly delicate issue among Arabs."
Rubin notes that the Giddiest Gabor in the Green Zone, Little Willie Caldwell, declared that the US military has no "strategy of building walls or creating 'gated communities'" and Rubin goes on to note that, despite this piece of fluff, "American military officials said last week in a statement that the Adhamiya wall was 'one of the centerpieces of a new strategy'."  Karin Brulliard (Washington Post) reports that this "walling off at least 10 of Baghdad's most violent neighborhoods and using biometric technology to track some of their residents" is "creating what officers call 'gated communities'".  Officers are calling it "gated communities" now, US military officers, and despite what Little Willie says, they were doing so last week.  Construction began on April 10th and only began to be reported last week.  Brulliard draws this comparison: "The gated communities concept has produced mixed results in previous wars -- including failure in Vietnam, where peasants were forcibly moved to fortified hamlets only to become sympathizers of the insurgency."  Reuters offers three other comparisons: the Berlin War, Israeli West Bank Barrier and the Northern Ireland Peacelines. Danny Schechter (News Dissector writing at Common Dreams) notes, "That's what the war for Iraqi Freedom has come to.  The US is now emulating the Israelis by building a wall to separate two neighborhoods in Baghdad.  It's apartheid time in Mesopotamia.  Any and all pretense to promoting freedom and human rights is off the agenda as a desperate Administration uses all necessary means -- and not in the Malcolm X sense -- to prevent the inevitable and secure as much of the oil that it can."  [Danny Schechter's documentary In Debt We Trust will be shown at Ithaca College tomorrow, April 24th, the even is free, starts at 7:30 p.m. and Schechter will be present at Park Hall Auditorium to discuss the film.]
Meanwhile IRIN reports, "Baghdad specialists and citizens have hit out against the US strategy of building walls around Sunnie districts that are surrounded by Shia areas.  They say such barriers would worsen the lives of thousands of Iraqis and would increase violence."  They also note al-Maliki's Sunday announcement that the construction of the wall would stop but "it appears his statement has been ignored as locals say the walls continue to be built by US troops."
Nouri al-Maliki is the puppet of the occupation, he is prime minister in title only because the US government continues to call the shots.  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports that "hundreds of Adhamiya residents marched in the neighborhood today to demand that the partially completed structure be taken down.  'No to the sectarian wall' read some of the banners they carried."  CNN cites police estimates of 7,000 Iraqis participating in the march.   Alissa J. Rubin, with NYC help from Jon Elsen, reports (at the International Herald Tribune -- owned by the Times) that "American and Iraqi officials appeared Monday to be moving away from" the wall.  It should be noted that though Ryan Crocker (US ambassador to Iraq) says that al-Maliki's order will be respected.  Multiple outlets (including AFP) note Brigadier General Qassim Atta who, time and again, mocks Iraqi politicians and states that the walls will go up, that the press has misreported them and implies the puppet has no power.  While the last isn't news, that the head of the Iraqi military would show such disdain is rather amazing considering that al-Maliki is supposed to command them.  It may remind some of the August 2006 reports that the military was planning a coup against al-Maliki.
Despiate Atta's disdain, foreign press, such as the BBC, is much more likely to note the wall is a US project while domestic press tries to dance around the issue (hard to do when the nominal prime minister has called for the construction to cease and it continues).  The BBC notes that the "US military, which is behind the project" and that's pretty clear as is the noting of the fact that the US military is working around the clock ["US troops, protected by heavily-armed vehicles, have been working at night to build the 3.6m (12ft) wall."]  which sort of exposes the lie that the lack of electricity, potable water, et al couldn't be fixed because (a) it takes time and (b) it's just so darn dangerous.  Clearly, when the US administration wants something, the US military does it.  So what's going on?  The wall isn't about safety for Iraqis.  It's about walling them in.  The biometric devices were used in Falluja as well (after the November 2004 slaughter of Falluja reduced the modern city to rubble and turned inhabitants into refugees -- many of whom still live in tent cities to this day).  Those devices haven't done a damn thing to stop the violence there.
As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted today, "In Fallujah, the chair of the City Council was assassinated on Saturday.  Sami Abdul-Amir al-Jumaili is the fourth chair of the Fallujah city council to be killed in the past 14 months.  He took the job a month ago."  China's People's Daily has photos of the funeral and notes that Abdul-Amir al-Jumaili "was gunned down . . . as he was walking outside his home in central Falluja".
Last week, the deadliest day in Iraq took place (Wednesday) with very little attention.  Certainly it received not even half the attention that the Virginia Tech shootings (last Monday) did.  This is Naomi Klein:
When I was twenty-three, I had my first media job as a copy editor at a newspaper.  The newspaper closed at 11 P.M., but two people stayed until 1 A.M. in case a news story broke that was so significant it was worth reopening the front page.  On the first night that it was my turn to stay late, a tornado in a southern U.S. state killed three people, and the senior editor on duty decided to reopen the front page.  On my second night, I read on the wires that 114 people had just been killed in Afghanistan, so I dutifully flagged down the senior editor.  Remember, I was young, and it seemed to me that if three people warranted reopening the front page, then 114 people would surely classify as a major news event.  I will never forget what the editor told me.  "Don't worry," he said, "those people kill each other all the time."
Since Septemeber 11, I've been thinking again about that incident, about how we in the media participate in a process that confirms and reconfirms the idea that death and murder are tragic, extraordinary and intolerable in some places and banal, ordinary, unavoidable, even expected in others.  
Because, frankly, I still have some of that naive twenty-three-year-old in me.  And I still think the idea that some blood is precious, some blood is cheap is not just morally wrong but has helped to bring us to this bloody moment in our history.  
From a speech given by Klein included in Fences and Windows (Picardor, 2002), a  collection of many of her columns which have appeared in the Guardian of London and Canada's Globe & Mail.  Klein's next book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, will be released September 8, 2007.  We saw the same thing play out last week.  Cindy Sheean (writing at AfterDowningStreet) noted that Bully Boy decided that he needed to skip the yucks at the White House Correspondent's Dinner this weekend . . . out of respect for the 30+ who died at Virginia Tech.  The deaths of Iraqis and US service members didn't bother him.  In fact, he was yucking it up at the February 24, 2004 Correspondents Dinner. "Those weapons of mass destruction must be somewhere," he joked as slides of himself were displayed looking throughout the White House.  Ha-ha-ha, the press responded, soiling their own reputations if not their drawers.  That must be the an example of how Bully Boy is a "man who can be very funny when he wants to".  So writes Docker Boy and Don Imus Apologist David Carr in today's New York Times (C1 -- no link, we don't link to trash) who explains that his sweet Bully Boy "was in no mood" for yucks "after the massacre at Virginia Tech".  (Docker Boy, it bears noting, also seems unaware that Todd S. Purdum wrote for the New York Times before moving on to better pastures in the form of Vanity Fair.)  So the Bully Boy -- sensing which way the media looks and grasping that David Carr isn't just the Media Village Idiot, he's also the unwashed's crowd's chronicler -- postures and poses over the Virginia Tech shootings while the lives of Iraqis and US troops matter as little to the mainstream press as they do to the Bully Boy. 
Though it received little attention (and certainly didn't result in op-eds being commissioned or hours of cable TV), Ali al-Fadhily (IPS) reports that last week's slaughter in Iraq is being dubbed "Bloody Wednesday" and -- STOP THE PRESSES -- he manages to speak with a woman.  If you missed it, the few stories that were filed on the bombings may have noted that women (and children) were among the dead, but from the Times of New York to the smallest of the dailies, they couldn't seem to find a single woman in Iraq.  The woman tells al-Fadhily, "I do not believe it is al-Qaeda any more.  I do not care any more, I am just losing my loved ones.  The last explosion hit my husband now he is disabled, and this one took my son's life."  "I do not believe in al-Qaeda any more" is not to be read as implying she once supported the organization -- the woman is stating she doesn't believe the easy answers always provided as to who is responsible.  While she doesn't care, "many people around Baghdad are blaming the occupation forces and the U.S.-backed government."  Not for failure to prevent the slaughter, but for the bombings themselves.  Are they responsible?
Well it's not unheard of (see Latin American) but what it says without question is that Iraqis are turning more and more against the illegal war and the occupation of their country by foreign forces.  And who would have thought that could happen?  Increasing his unfavorables yet again, the only polling trick the Bully Boy's ever been able to pull off in the long term.
Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London via CounterPunch) reports that "As Iraqis bury the 230 people killed or found dead on Wednesday, ominous signs are appearing that the Shia militas have resumed their tit-for-tat killings.  There is a sharp increase in the number of dead bodies found bearing signs of torture, with 67 corpses discovered dumped in Baghdad in the first three days of the week.  People in Baghdad, both Shia and Sunni, do not dare move bodies left lying in the rubbish outside their doors though they sometimes cover them with a blanket.  One corpse was left lying for days in the centre of a main commercial street in the Sunni bastion of al-Adhamiyah in east Baghdad.  He was believed to be a victim of al-Qa'ida in Iraq, which has been killing Sunni who belong to other guerilla groups or are associated with the government.  Local people say that US and Iraqi forces stationed in a newly renovated police station in al-Adhamiyah as part of the security plan seem unaware of what is happening around them."
The violence continues.  Amy Goodman noted that "at least 60 people" died in Iraq Sunday.  That includes the 23 Yazidis shot dead in Mosul (covered here).  IRIN notes, "Members of the Yazidi religious minoirty have asked the Iraqi government and international NGOs to protect them after gunmen on Sunday killed 23 Yazidis in Mosul, northern Iraq. . . . Yazidis are members of a culturally Kurdish, syncretistic religious group, which is neither Christian nor Muslim, who worship an angelic figures considered by some Muslims and Christians to be the devil.  The group is pre-Islamic."  Put that together with Alissa J. Rubin on the topic and myself on the topic earlier this morning and you still don't have a comprehensive overview of the religion.  But note that it is not just Shias and Sunnis.
Rubin (New York Times) reported Sunday on the US military's complicity in torture in Iraq noting Captain Darren Fowler's praise for Iraqi soldiers' actions -- the actions included torture -- and when the torture became known, Fowler told Rubin, "What I don't see, I don't know, I can't see.  The detainees are deathly afrid of being sent to the Iraqi justice system, because this is the kind of thing they do.  But this is their culture."  No, it's not.  But rewarding that behavior -- this isn't just a case of looking the other way -- does popularize it and that's exactly what the US has done.  Complicity in torture leaves one open to charges of war crimes; however, the US military has their own actions to worry about as well.  As reported by The Socialist Worker, Ahmad Fadil al-Jumayli, a 9-year-old boy, is being held by the US military because they suspect his father belongs to the resistance.  Due to that belief, "the soldiers seized the boy and told the headmaster that the father had to turn himself in if he wanted his son to be freed."  To be clear, no ifs, no ands, no buts, that is a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions, that is a War Crime.  As even Alberto Gonzales had to admit (New York Times, "The Rule of Law," May 15, 2004, A27): "Both the United States and Iraq are parties to the Geneva Conventions.  The United States recognizes that these treaties are binding in the war for the liberation of Iraq.  There has never been any suggestion by out government that the conventions do not apply in the conflict."  The Fourth Geneva Conventions makes clear that civilians cannot be used as hostages.  Holding a nine-year-old boy in attempt to 'smoke out' his father is in violation and it is a War Crime.
BBC reports on a car bombing "outside an office of the Kurdistan Democratic Party" in Tal Uskuf killed at least 10.  Reuters notes an additional 20 were wounded. BBC notes "residents were in deep shock as it was the first time it had been hit in the four years of Iraq's anti-US insurgency."  AFP reports, "A suicide bomber blew himself up outside the Al-Yasmin restaurant near the capital's fortified Green Zone, killing seven people and wounding 14, a security official said.  The walled zone houses the US embassy and the Iraqi parliament where a suicide bomber triggered his explosive vest on April 12, killing one lawmaker.  Two more car bombs exploed in a parking lot a short distance from the Green Zone, immediately opposite the Iranian embassy and also close to the Iraqi defence ministry building."  Reuters notes that one of the two car bombs resulted in the death of one person and left four wounded.  In addition, Reuters notes a roadside bombing near Mahaweel that left three injured and a Ramadi bombing the left 20 dead and 35 wounded.  CBS and AP note that Ramadi bombing as well as another one where 7 ("including a child") were injured.
Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports a bombing in Baquba where "a car blew up in the middle of a crowd of policement.  The gathering included the police chief, Safa Atimimi, who was among the 10 people killed."
Reuters notes police Colonel Abdul Muhsin Hassan was shot dead in Mosul and a Baghdad attack in Ur where US troops were fired upon "trying to emplace cement barriers" (that would be the walls), a police officer shot dead in Iskandariya (another was wounded),
In Baghdad, 11 were reported discovered on Saturday and 11 on Sunday.  Monday's count?
No word on Baghdad but Reuters reports the corpses of 3 police officers were discovered in Shirqat.
Today, the US military announced: "An MNC-I Soldier died at approximately 12:45 pm Monday after an improvised explosive device exploded near his location in Muqudadiyah."
In activism news, as Indybay Media notes, the USCS Students Against War had a strong victory last week when they suceeded in forcing the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine corps recruiters out of the UC Santa Cruz job fair to be held tomorrow. Natalaie McaIntyre states, We've upheld our community's values of tolerance and nonviolence despite federal attempts to impose militarism on our daily lives.  If every school prevented recruitment, if every port stopped shipping weapons, if every community refused to accept war profiteers as neighbors, war would be impossible."
Meanwhile, in Will They Cave News, Richard Cowan (Reuters) reports that US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced that veto threat or not, Congress will put forward "a war funding bill setting March 31 as the goal for pulling most U.S. troops out of Iraq."  This follows Garrett Reppenhagen, Michael T. McPhearson and Kevin Martin's open letter (at Truthout) noting that the Bully Boy "is playing a game of political chicken with Democratic Congressional leaders over nearly $100 billion to fund his war policies ina supplemental appropriations bill.  The president threatens to veto the bill after a House-Senate conference committe reconciles the differences in their separate bills, passes the reconciled version in both Houses and then sends it to the White House.  Bush predictably opposes any and all challenges by Congress to his warmaking authority, and the conference report will likely retain some mix of benchmarks, timelines for partial troop withdrawal in 2008 and other conditions from the House and Senate versions of the supplemental."  They note that should Bully Boy respond with a veto, Congress should "use it as an opportunity to end the war and bring our troops home now, not in 2008.  They should not bother attempting to override Bush's veto (which requires a 2/3 majority in both Houses and has next to no chance of occuring), nor should they come back with a weaker bill -- it is already too weak and full of loopholes that could leave tens of thousands of US troops in Iraq indefinitely -- nor a bill for short-term funding of the war."
Garett Reppenhagen is with Iraq Veterans Against the War, Michael McPhearson with Veterans for Peace and Kevin Martin with Peace Action.
Finally, in news of war resisters, The Deserter's Tale continues to be awarded strong review.  The book, written by US war resister Joshua Key with Lawrence Hill, has most recently been review by John Wright (Australia's Courier-Mail) who writes: "So, what can be going on in Iraq for someone by then already used to mayhem, fights and automatic weapons to flee?  Unfortunately, this 'disturbing' to say the least, impossible-to-put-down-adults-only book tells you. . .   I wasn't prepared for Key's graphic descriptions of what actually seems to be going on there."  Home from Iraq on leave in December 2003, Joshua Key self-checked out of the US military after witnessing war crimes and realizing that the war was based on lies.  The Deserter's Tale is the story of what he saw while serving in Iraq and how he came to the decision that the right from wrong he was taught was more important than simply following orders.  Joshua, Brandi key and their children went underground after he self-checked out before Key learned of Brandon Hughey, Jeremy Hinzman and other war resisters who had self-checked out and moved to Canada.  The Keys moved to Canada and Joshua Key is currently appealing the supposed (and laughable) refugee committee's decision as to whether or not he will be granted asylum.  Road from Ar Ramaid: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Mejia by Camilo Mejia is the next book out of the gates by a war resister --- The New Press will publish it May 1st.
Joshua Key and Camilo Mejia are part of a movement of war resistance within the military that also includes  Ehren Watada, Dean Walcott, Linjamin Mull, Augstin Aguayo, Justin Colby, Marc Train, Camilo Mejia, Robert Zabala, Darrell Anderson,  Kyle Snyder , Corey Glass, Jeremy Hinzman, Joshua Key, Mark Wilkerson, Camilo Mejia,  Patrick Hart, Ricky Clousing, Ivan Brobeck, Aidan Delgado, Pablo Paredes, Carl Webb, Jeremy Hinzman, Stephen Funk, David Sanders, Dan Felushko, Brandon Hughey, Clifford Cornell, Joshua Despain, Katherine Jashinski, Chris Teske, Matt Lowell, Jimmy Massey, Tim Richard, Hart Viges, Michael Blake and Kevin Benderman. In total, thirty-eight US war resisters in Canada have applied for asylum. 
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at Center on Conscience & War, The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline, and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters.

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