Thursday, October 25, 2007

And the war drags on . . .

Soon after midnight last Sunday, a detachment of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) surrounded a 50-strong unit of the Turkish army near the village of Daglica in Hakkari province, three miles from Turkey's border with Iraq.
The operation was well planned. The PKK guerrillas first cut the electricity and telephone lines to the Turkish army post and then isolated it by blowing up a bridge. The besieged soldiers could see the PKK taking up positions through their night-vision equipment and monitored their radio communications.
When the PKK did attack it overran the outpost, killing at least 16 Turkish soldiers, wounding 17 and capturing eight whom the PKK still holds. The PKK claims only three of its men were slightly wounded and later released pictures of the Turkish prisoners.
It was the most effective PKK action for years and the Turkish government's reaction to it has re-launched the PKK as a political player in the region. It is no longer an irrelevant relic of its failed bid to lead the 15 million Turkish Kurds to independence which collapsed after its military defeat in the 1990s and the capture of its leader Abdullah Ocalan in 1999.
Sunday's attack had an explosive impact on Turkey because the Turkish army and its civilian supporters are eager to persuade Turks that the moderate Islamist government is insufficiently patriotic. For his part, the Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan had been skilfully threatening to send the army across the border but not in fact doing so.
Talking to PKK leaders in their headquarters in the Qandil mountains it is not clear how far they are trying to tempt Turkey into a trap by provoking it into invading northern Iraq. A Turkish invasion would be much in the PKK's interests since the Turkish army would become embroiled with the powerful military forces of the Iraqi Kurds.

The above, noted by Gareth, is from Patrick Cockburn's "PKK tactics may drive Turkey into a reluctant invasion" (Independent of London). You have the delegation of Iraqi diplomats meeting with Turkish officials in Turkey, Turkey's prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan set to meet with the Bully Boy in DC about the issue . . . next month. When The War Comes Home's Aaron Glantz report on the situation for Pacifica in April of 2004 is repeatdly mentioned, it's to underscore that this is not a new problem. The White House wants to play like it just popped up. It didn't. And they have consistently given promises throughout the illegal war that they were addressing it. They have never addressed it. Not when, in 2004, then US Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Meyers stated, "This is an issue the coalition forces inside Iraq take very seriously. Let me assure you that there is very close collaboration with Turkey and that they [the PKK] will be dealt with appropriately." Asso Ahmed and Yesim Borg (Los Angeles Times) report today that "Prime Minister Nouri Maliki promised on a visit to Turkey in November that he would shut down the PKK offices. However, they were never formally closed, and Maliki renewed the pledge this week, as Turkey threatened to send its military across the border to attack PKK sites in northern Iraq". That would be November 2006. Now al-Maliki's a puppet (of the US) and the Kurdish region of Iraq does what it wants. But the US administration has repeatedly given assurances that the issue was being addressed. That has not been the case. So to treat it, as some in the press are doing, as something that just popped up or something that the US couldn't have anticipated is wrong. It was anticipated. It was forseeable. Nothing was done about it. As if Iraqis and US service members (and other foreign fighters sent to Iraq by their countries) don't have enough to deal with already.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 3830. Tonight? 3837. Just Foreign Policy's total for the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war stood at 1,087,731. Tonight? 1,093,978.

The dying's stopped. That's the big talking point in the end of the month wrap ups. The dying hasn't stopped. And if Turkey invades, it will increase. But that's the talking point. It'll be interesting to see if McClatchy publishes their count for civilian deaths in October. If you missed it, they didn't in September. AP is already saying their count shows a big drop. McClatchy and Reuters actually report violence in real time. AFP also keeps a count. And don't forget that Petraeus has another dog and pony show before Congress shortly.

It'll be interesting to see if any members of Congress ask what's been done on his part -- prior to the last few weeks -- to address the PKK situation. Nothing was done, by anyone. But Condi Rice did declare, in her opening remarks on Wednesday to the House Foreign Affairs Committee, "The United States has enduring national interests in the Middle East: economic, geopolitical, security and moral values. For more than six decades, over the course of many administrations, American leaders of both parties have worked for peace and security in the region, not always perfectly, but consistently. The Middle East is now and will remain one of the most strategically important parts of the world for our national interest and for international security. Therefore, the United States will never retreat from our commitments in the Middle East." For more than six decades. But everyone wants to act like that problem just emerged and it will be addressed . . . now. (Yes, the remarks are nonsense from the first word, we're just emphasizing that one section.)

And maybe it will. Maybe if Turkey attacks or, if it doesn't, the press maintains the focus, it will be addressed. Otherwise the story will be allowed to fade the same way past promises by the administration have been allowed to just float away. Of course, the issue of Turkey and northern Iraq didn't even come up in today's State Department press briefing by Sean McCormack. No one in the press even asked.

Staying with the issue of the press but turning to a happier note, Ms. magazine is celebrating 35 years of publishing with the fall issue. "Then & Now" and "Voices Carry" are two selections they've made available online. We noted the first one at The Third Estate Sunday Review. We quoted (Yoko Ono) from the second one. In the print edition (which is on sale), Jeanne K.C. Clark's "Police Beat" covers how the Pittsburg police, under a federal consent decree, improved and then, when the consent decree was trashed, the number of women being hired quickly dropped and domestic violence became viewed as, to quote the deputy chief of officers, "People make mistakes." Caitlin Bevvino-Ring contributes "Freeing the Survivors" about women imprisoned for defending themselves against abuse. Next month NYC will be the location "for an intergenerational conference, Freedom On Our Terms." Along with a write up, it's also included on the calender and we'll note three events on the calender:

November 9-10
Western States Feminist Leadership Conference: "Standing With Our Sisters Here and Worldwide," Los Angeles, Calif.
Student feminist leaders from West Coase colleges gather to take action on sweatshop labor, human trafficking, the global gag rule and family planning.
Click here for more information.

November 10-11
"Freedom on our Terms: From Houston 1977-NY 2007," Hunter Collge, N.Y.
This conference celebrates the first national women's conference in 1977 and aims to "move history forward" by energizing and inspiring future feminist leaders. Rosie O'Donnell will give the keynote address, and participants will formulate five-year action agendas.
Click here for more information.

November 14
"Extraordinary Voices, Extraordinary Change," featuring Alice Walker. International Museum of Women, San Francisco.
Come listen to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and social activist, widely regarded as one of the most important feminist voices of the past half-century.
Click here for more information.

Sushma Joshi contributes "Uneasy Lies the Head . . . Nepal's child goddesses face changing times" about the quest for 'purity' and what happens when the pure turns into an adult? ("But the concept of 'purity,' embodied by a girl with ceremonial powers but no authority continues to rule Nepali women's lives.") I'm tired so I'll just note that Donna Brazile explodes a myth and shares how Ms. came into her life and the feminist sensibility she sees in "The Bra That Never Burned." (Looking at the time reminds I've got 3 and 1/2 hours sleep coming if I can wrap this up quickly.)

Back to Iraq. The abuse of imprisoning children in Iraq doesn't garner a great deal of attention. From the September 27th snapshot:

In prison news, Leila Fadel (Baghdad Observer, McClatchy Newspapers) reports on Tariq al Hashemi, Iraq's Sunni vice-president, visiting a prison for the young: "The camera panned through a narrow hallway where hundreds of young teen-age boys sat. Those Hashemi spoke to all had visible signs of abuse on their body. One showed acid burns on his back, another lifted his sleeves, and his shirt to show the purple and red bruising all over his body.
It aired on Sharqiya, an Iraqi station that has been banned from having an office in Iraq because it is anti-government. To the question, 'Why are you here?' They all answered 'I don't know'."

In the September 19th snapshot, this was noted:

As the numbers grow and families often have no idea that members have been imprisoned, Walter Pincuse (Washington Post) reports on a program entitled "religious entitlement" that the US military is using on the prisoners "some of whom are as young as 11" according Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone who brags that the programs will "bend them back to our will." The age should cause further alarm but the realities don't appear to even be sinking in.

It does get covered in spurts. A new report by IRIN, "IRAQ: Child prisoners abused and tortured, say activists," may allow it to finally garner the attention it deserves (but don't bet money on that):

Iraqi NGOs have raised concerns about the condition of children in local prisons, saying they are abused and tortured during interrogation.
"Children are being treated as adults in Iraqi prisons and our investigations have shown that they are being abused and tortured," said Khalid Rabia'a, a spokesman for the Prisoners' Association for Justice (PAJ).
"Our investigation started after families brought their five sons to our organisation looking for psychological help for their children who were recently released from prison, and what we found out was shocking," Rabia'a added. According to Rabia'a, child prisoners between 13 and 17 are being accused of supporting insurgents and militias. Most were detained during Iraqi army military operations in the Baghdad neighbourhoods of Adhamiya, Latifiya, Alawi, Doura and Hay al-Adel.
"The five children showed signs of torture all over their bodies. Three had marks of cigarettes burns over their legs and one couldn't speak as the shock sessions affected his conversation," Rabia'a said. "It is against international law that protects children and we call for interventions in all Iraqi prisons to save the lives of these children."

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