Thursday, May 15, 2008

Awakening or Sawha it all translates as 'thug'

A youthful suicide bomber killed at least 23 people Wednesday in an attack against relatives of Col. Faisal Ismail al-Zobaie, a U.S.-backed police chief and former insurgent who has turned against his onetime comrades.
Zobaie, the police chief of Fallujah in Anbar province, said a bomber of about 12 years of age attacked the funeral of Zobaie's uncle. He said insurgents had seized his uncle, a school principal, on Tuesday, demanding to know whether the police chief was his nephew.
"When he said yes, they killed him in front of his students," said Zobaie, the subject of a Washington Post profile in March that chronicled the stern methods he employs against members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni insurgent group responsible for sectarian violence and attacks against U.S. targets.
Abu al-Laith al-Jubori, a leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, asserted responsibility for the attack at the funeral. He said in a telephone interview that the group was "proud that we carried out this operation by one of our youngest soldiers" and said it targeted leaders of the Awakening or Sawha movement -- predominantly Sunni groups that have joined with U.S. forces.
"Today's operation is a message to the Sawha members . . . who were gathering at the funeral of the uncle of the infidel" Zobaie, Jubori said.

The above, noted by Lloyd, is from Ernesto Londono and Uthman al-Mokhtar's "Child Bomber Kills 23 In Iraq" (Washington Post). Sawha or "Awakening" Council members are the thugs who terrorize local populations today. Prior to be putting on the US payroll -- at $300 a month per member -- they were attacking US service members. From the April 8th snapshot:

In his opening remarks, Petraues explained of the "Awakening" Council (aka "Sons of Iraq," et al) that it was a good thing "there are now over 91,000 Sons of Iraq -- Shia as well as Sunni -- under contract to help Coalition and Iraqi Forces protect their neighborhoods and secure infrastructure and roads. These volunteers have contributed significantly in various areas, and the savings in vehicles not lost because of reduced violence -- not to mention the priceless lives saved -- have far outweighed the cost of their monthly contracts." Again, the US must fork over their lunch money, apparently, to avoid being beat up.
How much lunch money is the US forking over? Members of the "Awakening" Council are paid, by the US, a minimum of $300 a month (US dollars). By Petraeus' figures that mean the US is paying $27,300,000 a month. $27 million a month is going to the "Awakening" Councils who, Petraeus brags, have led to "savings in vehicles not lost". Again, in this morning's hearings, the top commander in Iraq explained that the US strategy is forking over the lunch money to school yard bullies. What a proud moment for the country.

In other news, the front page of the New York Times, bottom corner on the right, contains a lovely picture of Beverly Leslie and Benji. Jim Rutenberg hasn't written of sitcoms in some time; however, I assume a Will & Grace spin-off is news and, certainly, it's good to know that the business associates are still together. The little drawf and the giant, ripe with comic possibilities.

Our Jordan notes Jordan "Unfinished Business" (

Jordan, a student at PSU, is a field organizer for Oregon for Hillary. Fourteen years ago, she met the then-First Lady in a meeting arranged by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. At just eight years old, Jordan had endured two heart operations, cancer and a kidney transplant. People like Jordan are the reason why Hillary is in this race.


On Friday I woke up at 4:30 in the morning -- I had jumped the gun by two hours. However it’s not every day you get to reunite with your life-long hero, hence my anxiousness. As an eight-year-old girl recovering from renal failure, I first met then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at the White House.

I am 22 now, and in less than four hours I would be meeting Hillary yet again. Only this time she was coming to my neck of the woods, Portland, Oregon, and not as First Lady, but as Senator Clinton, Democratic presidential hopeful. Our reunion would take place at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, a place that has given me a second chance at life on numerous occasions.

Upon seeing her at last, I met her half way as she greeted me with open arms. This was history coming full circle and I could barely contain my nerves. In an attempt to compose myself, I recalled the advice of my father who told me days prior, "Remember this isn't about you. Just remember what you are there for." I tried to keep in mind the bigger picture, and thus the larger-than-self meaning behind Hillary’s visit.

PhotoMore important than me was the Senator’s effort to revisit the cause she so vigorously championed during the time of our first meeting. Universal health care is as she said -- "unfinished business." I have the luxury of being relatively healthy now, and more so, have had the luxury of being insured, making my trials much easier for me and my family to deal with. The same can’t be said for 43 percent of the patients currently treated at Doernbecher.

As a former patient I now had the honor of guiding the Senator on a tour of the intermediate care ward. Her candor and grace immediately struck me, and her inquisitive nature made her effortlessly approachable. Watching the Senator reach out to one young man, clearly suffering from the effects of chemotherapy and radiation -- a distant memory in my mind -- prompted flashbacks, which further reinforced my sense of place and purpose.

PhotoAt 9:30 the visit culminated in a roundtable discussion in the main courtyard where dozens of doctors, patients and their families braved the cold to hear the Senator make her case for why every American must have health care. We heard from two mothers of ill children treated at Doernbecher -- two separate stories as case in point for how the current health care system has failed its people, and in this particular instance, its children. "How can we expect to achieve Universal Health Care if the stated goal is something far less?" Hillary asked of the hospital’s onlookers.

This is why I support Senator Clinton. She was ahead of her time when she first worked to achieve universal health care fourteen years ago and she has refused to give up since. I am thoroughly convinced that, above all, Hillary has a personal interest in seeing this come to fruition, and we know she won’t shy away from the fight ahead. I'm for Hillary because she's a fighter like me.

This month (in five days), Molly Bingham and Steve Connors' amazing documentary Meeting Resistance is released on DVD:

Available on DVD May 20th

Click here to read the press release

On-the-ground reporting with resistance fighters in Baghdad reveals a wholly different narrative than the one portrayed by many in the mainstream news.

"Meeting Resistance," is about the people and make-up of the Iraqi resistance. Since it was released in theaters last fall, we have shown the film in more than 80 U.S. cities, as well as to several key military audiences. We've made more than 200 appearances with the film to talk about our understanding of the conflict in Iraq and take questions from the audience. When the lights come up, we are greeted with the kind of silence associated with people trying to reconcile what they thought they knew with what they now understand. We've come to realize that our film is delivering a paradigm shift about the Iraq conflict--one audience at a time.

There are two wars in Iraq. "Meeting Resistance" explores the first war, the popularly supported resistance to occupation, which contains the majority of the organized violence that is happening in Iraq. Using primary source material, critical analysis and cross-referencing, we crafted a film that tells the story of that conflict. The second war is the civil war--an internal political struggle being waged over competing visions of Iraq's future, of which the country’s sectarian violence is a symptom, not a cause.

The View From Baghdad

"Meeting Resistance" is a journalistic documentary, not an advocacy or polemic film. Although we did not set out to challenge the narrative of the Iraq conflict--the one that has been constructed in Washington--our reporting eventually led us to do so.

U.S. military's briefings in the Green Zone during 2003 and 2004 told journalists that the violence against American troops came from "dead-enders" and "Ba'athi die-hards," from common criminals, religious extremists, foreign fighters, and al-Qaeda--characterized as "fringe elements". While some might fit some of these descriptions, the vast majority of those involved are citizens from the core of Iraqi society.

In time, we came to see the U.S. military's misnaming of the "enemy" as an intentional act--as a key part of their objective to control the "information battle space." They aspire to control the perception of the enemy's identity, and through the news media persuade the American public that these "fringe elements" of Iraqi society are the only ones who oppose the U.S. presence in Iraq. A military push (or surge) to isolate and eliminate them would accomplish a perceived "victory."

From the Pentagon to Iraq

The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq delivered to the White House in October 2003 was leaked in February 2006 by Robert Hutchings, the 2003-2005 chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Speaking in interviews, Hutchings revealed that the report said that it is composed of nationalists fighting for their country with deep roots in the society and that the U.S. military, if it remains in Iraq, will be fighting a counterinsurgency war for years to come, a conclusion that echoed what we had found in our on-the-ground reporting for "Meeting Resistance."

This spring, a New York Times' front-page investigation revealed the Pentagon's well-oiled "briefing" system for retired military analysts who are working for TV outlets and writing op-eds in ways that reflect and amplify the U.S. government's narrative. The reporting done by the Times underscores the critical importance the Pentagon ascribes to its efforts to control the "message," including how it defines the enemy.

If the predominant narrative about the Iraq conflict was truly based in reality, it would involve pointing out that the majority of Iraqis want a withdrawal of all foreign forces, and that the Department of Defense's quarterly reports to Congress, on average, show that from April 2004 to December 2007, 74 % of significant attacks initiated by Iraqis targeted U.S.-led coalition forces.

Americans would also find out that half of registered marriages in Baghdad in 2002 were mixed marriages between Sunni and Shia, Kurd and Arab, Christian and Muslim, and many of the tribes and clans and families are, in fact, mixed between Sunni and Shia. Also, nearly all of the Arab Iraqis polled oppose dividing the country along ethnic and sectarian lines, and the vast majority demands that Iraq have a strong central government, not the decentralized powerlessness imposed by the American-influenced constitution.

It is not that these points have never been reported, but the booming voice of "disinformation"--from which the Pentagon wants the American public to view the conflict--drowns much of this information out. Ultimately, our film has helped reveal the success of the Pentagon's strategy to obscure the real nature of the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, too many in the news media have been willing to allow that to happen.

Throughout the world's history, there have been occupations--and resistance to those occupations. Why then do Americans have such a difficult time grasping that our troops are unwelcome by the vast majority of the Iraqi population? And why has reporting by our mainstream news media generally failed to recognize and draw our attention to this central, core aspect of the violence?

Steve Connors and Molly Bingham are directors of "Meeting Resistance." Their film is distributed by First Run Features and available on DVD May 20th.

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