Monday, October 13, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces a death and Iraqi Christians continue to be targeted.
We're going to focus mainly on the crisis for Iraqi Christians. Today the United Nations' IRIN has issued a call for more humanitarian aid to assist Iraqi Christians fleeing their homes in Mosul. Iraqi Christians? From Friday's snapshot:
Yesterday at the White House, spokesperson Dana Perino was asked about Iraqi Christians "losing representation in Iraq's Muslim-dominated legislature" and Perino responded that "I think that that was resolved and the Christians' rights were restored." (Full answer: "I'll check, but I think you should double check, because I think that that was resolved and the Christians' rights were restored.") No, they were not. Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, "a separate bill" will be sent "to parliament to restore" Article 50. The bill may or not pass. But the provincial elections bill, which passed by Parliament, passed the presidency council and was signed into law by Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, eliminated Article 50 which guaranteed representation to religious minorities. Yesterday, Kim Gamel (AP) reported that in Mosul so far this month, 7 corpses of Iraqi Christians have been discovered, notes that a person's religion is listed on the state i.d., that there are approximately 800,000 Iraqi Christians still in the country, and quotes Chaldean Archibishop Louis Sako stating, "We are worried about the campaign of killings and deportations against the Christian citizens in Mosul." The Kurdish Globe reported yesterday that the Yazidis and the Christians continue protesting over the elimination of Article 50 and quotes Jamil Zeito ("head of the Seriaques-Chaldeans Public Council") stating, "We will demonstrate and protest until we achieve autonomous rights for Christians in our districts as well as fair representation for religious minorities, including Christians, in the provincial elections. The protests and demonstrations will not stop till we accomplish our fair rights; ignoring the rights of minorities indicates incomplete democracy in Iraq." And, as AINA reports, the issue has led to protests elsewhere as well such as the Iraqi embassy in Sweden where protestors gathered and Isak Monir ("spokesman for the Chaldean Federation in Sweden") explained, "Since the decision to exclude minorities representatives was taken by the Iraqi parliament the violence against Christians has increased remarkably. The groups who want Iraq cleaned from other ethnic and religious groups maybe felt that they are backed up by the parliament and consequently have begun to kill Christians again. They want a homogeneous Iraq -- cleaned from other ethnic and religious groups." Ethan Cole (Christian Post) notes the 3 Iraqi Christians killed on Tuesday in Mosul and he explains of Mosul "the city is a historic center for Assyrian Christians, who view it as their ancestral homeland. It is home to the second-largest community of Christians in Iraq, after Baghdad."
Things did not magically improve over the weekend and, in fact, got worse. The BBC explained: "Mosul's provincial governor said hundreds of Christian families had fled the city in the past week to seek refuge in outlying villages." Sunday Gulf Daily News reported, "Militants blew up three empty Christian homes yesterday in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, where more than 3,000 Christian families have fled in the past two days. The governor of northern Ninevah province, Duraid Mohammed Kashmoula, said more than 3,000 Christians have fled Mosul over the past week alone in what he called a 'major displacement.' This is despite months of US and Iraqi military operations to secure the city." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) added, "Fleeing Christians have sought refuge in monasteries and churches and with family members in other towns, an Interior Ministry official said." Patrick Cockburn (Independent of London) reports that 4,000 people have fled and quotes Ni'ma Noail explaining, "We left everything behind us. We took only our souls. Relatives in other cities and friends in Mosul, including Muslims, advised me to leave after recent events." Mosul is the third largest city in Iraq and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reminds, "Nineveh, whose capital is Mosul, has been a front line in the simmering conflict between Kurds and Arabs over northern Iraq's future boundaries. "
Friday's snapshot noted this report from Vatican Radio (link has audio):
Vatican Radio: Concern is growing once again over violence against Christians in nothern Iraq where, in the last week alone, seven of them have been killed in the city of Mosul. Attacks have tapered off amid a drastic decline in overall violence nationwide but these latest killings have sparked renewed fears. The Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, Luis Sako, has condemned the violence.
Archbishop Sako: In Mosul the situation is terrible especially for the Christians and many families left the city, children cannot go to the school and also people cannot go to work they are staying in their houses. Just a real tragedy for them. I made an appeal to the Mosul population because I am from Mosul -- I lived years in Mosul, in a parish -- and I had many, many relationships with Muslims most of them so I made a call and an appeal. This appeal has been delivered in all the local medias. This could be helpful to encourage Muslim moderates to react and to do something.
Today Atul Aneja (The Hindu) reports on the Pope, "In Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the violence against Christians in Iraq and India" and quotes the Pop stating, "I invite you to pray for peace and reconciliation as situations cause concern and great suffering. . . . I think of violence against Christians in Iraq and India." [Aneja also notes that "India's first woman saint," Sister Alfonsa, "was canonised" on Sunday.] Today Vatican Radio reports again on the situation (link has audio):
Vatican Radio: Scores of Christian families have fled Mosul in nothern Iraq, and police have been deployed to protect the lives and property of those who have chosen to remain as a wave of violent anti-Christian persecution engulfs the city.
Chris Altieri: More than a dozen of the faithful have been killed in a spate of the anti-Christian violence that broke out last week centered in Mosul, a city located 390 kilometers or 240 miles north of the Iraqi capitol Baghdad. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed on Sunday to protect Christians in the city as police were deployed following a surge of attacks that have prompted hundreds of families to flee. Maliki made the promise in a statement after receiving Christian officials in his office, pledging that security forces in Ninevah Province would take all necessary measures to provide security for Christians. Pope Benedict XVI condemned the violence Sunday on Saint Peter's Square saying he prays daily for all who suffer persecution for the sake of the Gospel. More than a thousand police have been deployed to protect Christian districts and churches in Mosul. Police commanders say there have been more than 14 arrests and one suspect was killed during a confrontation. Iraq's Christians number in the hundreds of thousands and have sought to avoid the sectarian bloodshed that has plagued the country since the US-led invasion in 2003. Christians have been targeted for kidnapping or killing and have fallen victim to random violence as well. In recent weeks, Christians have called for the restoration of quotas for religious minorities in a provincial election law passed last month. Maliki's government also supports the inclusion of quotas. I'm Chris Altieri.
Meanwhile Italy's AGI reports that "pamphlets have appeared on the city streets urging Christians to convert to Islam or pay 'yiziyah', an ancient tribute that the minority was forced to pay the Muslim authorities to avoid persecution, if they don't, those responsible for the threats offer only one alternative: leave or be killed." AP notes that the homes of three Christian families who had fled were blown up Saturday and "On Saturday, Bashir Azoz, a 45-year-old carpenter, said he was forced to flee his home in the city's eastern Noor area after gunmen warned a neighbor the day before to leave or face death." Azoz is quoted asking, "Where is the government and its security forces as these crimes take place every day?" Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) explains that Iraqi Christians "fled to Mousl" from Baghdad in 2007 due to the dangers they were facing and that "Archbishop Paulos Faraj Raho of Mosul was kidnapped and killed" in February. February 29th, the Archbishop and three companions were kidnapped: "Catholic World News states, 'Bishop Paulos Faraj Raho was seized by terrorists who attacked his car as he left the Holy Spirit cathedral in Mosul after leading the Stations of the Cross on Friday, February 29. Three companions who had been in the car with him were killed'." March 13th, the Archbishop was found dead, his body half-buried. Today Kim Gamel (AP) reports another Iraqi Christian was killed in Mosul -- this one shot dead after "gumen" broke into his Christian music store "late Sunday". Iraqi Christians are being targeted in Mosul. Luis Sako, the Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk, has referred to the assaults as "liquidation." Tariq Alhomayed (Asharq Alawsat) spoke with the Archbishop who maintains that "the population of Christians before 2003 was around eight hundred thousand, but the targeted violence against the Christian population in Mosul, Kirkuk, Baghdad and Basra has led to a mass-migration of some two hundred and fifty thousand."
For all the talk of help being provided, it doesn't appear to have arrived. Alissa J. Rubin and Stephen Farrell (New York Times) report that despite the Interior Minister announcing "two police brigades" were dispatched, "Sunday evening, local Christians said that they were awaiting the police reinforcements but that they had not yet seen them." The reporters notes that Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, met with Iraqi Christians in Baghdad and he stated, "The Iraqis stand in solidarity with the Christians." Mujahid Mohammed (AFP) reports that "the United Nations voiced concern at the community's plight" and that, on Monday, "An AFP correspondent said Mosul was filled with police manning checkpoints and patrolling churches and residential neighbourhoods in the multi-religious city while volunteer organisations, including the Red Crescent and various church groups, were handing out food and water." Which brings us back to where we started. IRIN quotes Jawdat Ismaiel ("provincial director of the office of the Ministry of Displacement and Migration") stating, "The most needed items are food, blankets and bed rolls. . . . We have distributed 350 items so far and we will distribute at least 200 more tomorrow."
While the humanitarian crisis continues, Damien McElroy (Telegraph of London) reports that the tag-sale on Iraqi oil continues: "Representatives of 35 companies have been given six months to apply for a 20-year right to operate oilfields that hold up to 40 per cent of the country's 115 barrels of proven reserves. Hussain al-Shahristani, Iraq's Minister for Oil, convened the meeting at a Park Lane hotel in central London. Aides said the location was deliberately chosen to demonstrate that Iraq had shed its old pre-occupations about foreign powers dominating the industry, which generates ninety per cent of its annual income." Corporate Watch calls today's meet-up "the formal launch of a round of bidding for some of Iraq's largest oil fields, with the aim of signing long-term contracts in June 2009. The Iraqi Oil Ministry claims these deals will be for risk service contracts -- in theory, a significant improvement over PSCs [Production Sharing Contracts]. But with such secrecy, it is impossible to know what the Iraqi government is signing away. What we do know is what the US and UK government, and Big Oil want, and the force -- enabled by prolonging the occupation -- that they will use to get it." England's The Sun reports the executives of "34 companies" attended today's meet-up with Iraqi Energy Minister Hussain al-Shahristani. Energy Intelligence states the bid is for oil fields (six) and gas fields (two) and that al-Shahristani is stating that the cabinet will approve the contracts "before the end of June." The Scotsman reports an estimated 80 people were protesting outside the meeting.
Tensions continued over the weekend between Iraq and it's northern neighbor Turkey. China's Xinhau notes, "The Turkish General Staff said in a statement posted on its website that this was the seventh time that the Turkish warplanes have bombed 31 PKK targets in northern Iraq since Oct. 4." BBC explains: "The Turkish government accuses Iraq of failing to stop the guerrillas - who are fighting for greater autonomy in south-east Turkey - from using the mountainous area as a safe haven." Hurriyet reports: "Turkish President Abdullah Gul is also expected to pay a visit to the neighboring country in the coming weeks, accepting an invitation from Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, himself a Kurd. Following the first contact between Turkish and Iraqi Kurdish officials, which was held after another PKK attack late in 2007, the northern Iraq administration took several steps but those were not satisfactory." Last Thursday's snapshot noted the meeting of the Higher Board of Counter-Terrorism in Turkey for "about six hours" and that it would meet again tomorrow. While Turkey's Higher Board of Counter-Terrorism is scheduled to meet Tuesday, that's not the only meeting planned for tomorrow. Reuters reports that a Baghdad meeting between Iraqi officials and a Turkish delegate is scheduled for tomorrow. Reuters also notes that, facing criticism from northern Iraq, Tureky's Prime Minister Erdogan has stated, "At the moment there is no need for a buffer zone." Reportedly officials from northern Iraq are not currently invited to attend the Tuesday meet-up in Baghdad.
Friday's snapshot noted 28-year-old journalist Diyar Abbass who was shot dead in Kirkuk. Leila Fadel (Baghdad Observer, McClatchy) writes, "Diyar was a young journalist who worked for The Eye, a privately owned Iraqi News Agency. He is one of 222 media workers who've been killed in Iraq since the start of the war, according to Reporters without Borders. His death is a tragedy and his life was a light. The more journalists that are killed or intimidated the more darkness there will be." Reporters Without Borders issued a statement "Ahmed was the 22nd media worker to be killed in Iraq since March 2003. What kind of political or spiritual victory can those who commit such horrible crimes hope to achieve?" The Committee to Protect Journalists also issued a statement from their deputy director Robert Mahoney: "We express our condolences to the family and colleagues of Diyar Abas Ahmed. We call on the authorities do everything in their power to track down Ahmed's killers and bring them to justice."
Diyar Abas Ahmed's death comes at a time when non-Iraqi outlets continue to cut back on their Iraq assignments. Ernesto London and Amit R. Paley (Washington Post) explained the problem Saturday:
In a stark indication of the changing media focus here, the number of journalists traveling with American forces in Iraq has plummeted in the past year. U.S. military officials say they "embedded" journalists 219 times in September 2007. Last month, the number shrank to 39. Of the dozen U.S. newspapers and newspaper chains that maintained full-time bureaus in Baghdad in the early years of the war, only four are still permanently staffed by foreign correspondents.
CBS and NBC no longer keep a correspondent in Baghdad year-round.
"It remains important and it remains interesting," said Alissa J. Rubin, the New York Times' acting bureau chief in Baghdad. "But what's in front of us now is almost a static situation. There's not a clear narrative line. The stories are more complex."
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left five people wounded.
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier died of non-battle related causes at approximately 5:50 a.m. Oct 12 in Baghdad." The announcement brought the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4182.
Turning to the US presidential race. Chris Hedges (via Information Clearing House) expresses this thought: "This is a defining moment in American history. The next few weeks and months will see us stabilize and weather this crisis or descend into a terrifying dystopia. I place no hope in Obama or the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is a pathetic example of liberal, bourgeois impotence, hypocrisy and complacency. It has been bought off. I will vote, if only as a form of protest against our corporate state and an homage to Polanyi's brilliance, for Ralph Nader. I would like to offer hope, but it is more important to be a realist. No ethic or act of resistance is worthy anything if it is not based on the real. And the real, I am afraid, does not look good." If you're asking "Polanyi?" -- Team Nader is already on it:
Fascism, like socialism, is rooted in a market society that refused to function.
A financial system always devolves, without heavy government control, into a Mafia capitalism -- and a Mafia political system.
A self-regulating market turns human beings and the natural environment into commodities, a situation that ensures the destruction of both society and the natural environment.
Who is this speaking?
It is the Hungarian intellectual Karl Polanyi, author of the influential book The Great Transformation (1944).
Polanyi fled fascist Europe in 1933 and eventually taught at Columbia University.
Remembering Polanyi, former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges writes today:
"I place no hope in Obama or the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is a pathetic example of liberal, bourgeois impotence, hypocrisy and complacency. It has been bought off. I will vote, if only as a form of protest against our corporate state and an homage to Polanyi's brilliance, for Ralph Nader. I would like to offer hope, but it is more important to be a realist. No ethic or act of resistance is worth anything if it is not based on the real. And the real, I am afraid, does not look good."
We live in difficult times.
But one man has shown the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the corporate state -- Ralph Nader.
For most of this year, Ralph has been barnstorming across the country -- bringing a message of hope and resilience to a troubled America.
And now it's time to step up and support Ralph Nader and the shift the power platform he has gifted to the American people.
Today, thanks to your help, we are within striking range of meeting our October Surprise Fund goal of $250,000 by midnight tonight.
We are less than $17,000 away.
Please, give $10, $50, $100 now -- whatever you can afford -- up to the legal limit of $2,300.
And if you donate $100 or more now, we will send you an autographed copy of Ralph's classic -- The Seventeen Traditions (HarperCollins 2007).
This 150-page hardcover book details the seventeen traditions that Ralph grew up with and is the closest thing so far to a Ralph Nader autobiography.
So, don't miss out on this limited edition offer. (This offer expires tonight at midnight.)
And we will meet our goal.
After you have contributed, check out Hedges' article here.
Onward to November
The Nader Team
Wednesday October 15, Ralph Nader will speak at Cooper Union (NYC) at six p.m. and the following day the independent presidential candidate at noon "Ralph will take to the street in front of the NYSE to protest the bailout at Federal Hall, 26 Wall St. NYC."
Ralph's running mate is Matt Gonzalez. John McCain is the Republican presidential nominee and his running mate is Sarah Palin. The McCain-Palin '08 campaign notes (link has video):
U.S. Senator John McCain delivered the following remarks at the McCain-Palin 2008 rally in Virginia Beach, VA:
Three weeks from now, you will choose a new President. Choose well. There is much at stake.
These are hard times. Our economy is in crisis. Financial markets are collapsing. Credit is drying up. Your savings are in danger. Your retirement is at risk. Jobs are disappearing. The cost of health care, your children's college, gasoline and groceries are rising all the time with no end in sight. While your most important asset -- your home -- is losing value every day.
Americans are fighting in two wars. We face many enemies in this dangerous world, and they are waiting to see if our current troubles will permanently weaken us.
The next President won't have time to get used to the office. He won't have the luxury of studying up on the issues before he acts. He will have to act immediately. And to do that, he will need experience, courage, judgment and a bold plan of action to take this country in a new direction. We cannot spend the next four years as we have spent much of the last eight: waiting for our luck to change. The hour is late; our troubles are getting worse; our enemies watch. We have to act immediately. We have to change direction now. We have to fight.
I've been fighting for this country since I was seventeen years old, and I have the scars to prove it. If I'm elected President, I will fight to take America in a new direction from my first day in office until my last. I'm not afraid of the fight, I'm ready for it.
I'm not going to spend $700 billion dollars of your money just bailing out the Wall Street bankers and brokers who got us into this mess. I'm going to make sure we take care of the people who were devastated by the excesses of Wall Street and Washington. I'm going to spend a lot of that money to bring relief to you, and I'm not going to wait sixty days to start doing it.
I have a plan to protect the value of your home and get it rising again by buying up bad mortgages and refinancing them so if your neighbor defaults he doesn't bring down the value of your house with him.
I have a plan to let retirees and people nearing retirement keep their money in their retirement accounts longer so they can rebuild their savings.
I have a plan to rebuild the retirement savings of every worker.
I have a plan to hold the line on taxes and cut them to make America more competitive and create jobs here at home.
Raising taxes makes a bad economy much worse. Keeping taxes low creates jobs, keeps money in your hands and strengthens our economy.
The explosion of government spending over the last eight years has put us deeper in debt to foreign countries that don't have our best interests at heart. It weakened the dollar and made everything you buy more expensive.
If I'm elected President, I won't spend nearly a trillion dollars more of your money, on top of the $700 billion we just gave the Treasury Secretary, as Senator Obama proposes. Because he can't do that without raising your taxes or digging us further into debt. I'm going to make government live on a budget just like you do.
I will freeze government spending on all but the most important programs like defense, veterans care, Social Security and health care until we scrub every single government program and get rid of the ones that aren't working for the American people. And I will veto every single pork barrel bill Congresses passes.
If I'm elected President, I won't fine small businesses and families with children, as Senator Obama proposes, to force them into a new huge government run health care program, while I keep the cost of the fine a secret until I hit you with it. I will bring down the skyrocketing cost of health care with competition and choice to lower your premiums, and make it more available to more Americans. I'll make sure you can keep the same health plan if you change jobs or leave a job to stay home.
I will provide every single American family with a $5000 refundable tax credit to help them purchase insurance. Workers who already have health care insurance from their employers will keep it and have more money to cover costs. Workers who don't have health insurance can use it to find a policy anywhere in this country to meet their basic needs.
If I'm elected President, I won't raise taxes on small businesses, as Senator Obama proposes, and force them to cut jobs. I will keep small business taxes where they are, help them keep their costs low, and let them spend their earnings to create more jobs.
If I'm elected President, I won't make it harder to sell our goods overseas and kill more jobs as Senator Obama proposes. I will open new markets to goods made in America and make sure our trade is free and fair. And I'll make sure we help workers who've lost a job that won't come back find a new one that won't go away.
The last President to raise taxes and restrict trade in a bad economy as Senator Obama proposes was Herbert Hoover. That didn't turn out too well. They say those who don't learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Well, my friends, I know my history lessons, and I sure won't make the mistakes Senator Obama will.
If I'm elected President, we're going to stop sending $700 billion to countries that don't like us very much. I won't argue to delay drilling for more oil and gas and building new nuclear power plants in America, as Senator Obama does. We will start new drilling now. We will invest in all energy alternatives -- nuclear, wind, solar, and tide. We will encourage the manufacture of hybrid, flex fuel and electric automobiles. We will invest in clean coal technology. We will lower the cost of energy within months, and we will create millions of new jobs.
Let me give you the state of the race today. We have 22 days to go. We're 6 points down. The national media has written us off. Senator Obama is measuring the drapes, and planning with Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid to raise taxes, increase spending, take away your right to vote by secret ballot in labor elections, and concede defeat in Iraq. But they forgot to let you decide. My friends, we've got them just where we want them.
What America needs in this hour is a fighter; someone who puts all his cards on the table and trusts the judgment of the American people. I come from a long line of McCains who believed that to love America is to fight for her. I have fought for you most of my life. There are other ways to love this country, but I've never been the kind to do it from the sidelines.
I know you're worried. America is a great country, but we are at a moment of national crisis that will determine our future. Will we continue to lead the world's economies or will we be overtaken? Will the world become safer or more dangerous? Will our military remain the strongest in the world? Will our children and grandchildren's future be brighter than ours?
My answer to you is yes. Yes, we will lead. Yes, we will prosper. Yes, we will be safer. Yes, we will pass on to our children a stronger, better country. But we must be prepared to act swiftly, boldly, with courage and wisdom.
I know what fear feels like. It's a thief in the night who robs your strength.
I know what hopelessness feels like. It's an enemy who defeats your will.
I felt those things once before. I will never let them in again. I'm an American. And I choose to fight.
Don't give up hope. Be strong. Have courage. And fight.
Fight for a new direction for our country.
Fight for what's right for America.
Fight to clean up the mess of corruption, infighting and selfishness in Washington.
Fight to get our economy out of the ditch and back in the lead.
Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.
Fight for our children's future.
Fight for justice and opportunity for all.
Stand up to defend our country from its enemies.
Stand up, stand up, stand up and fight. America is worth fighting for. Nothing is inevitable here. We never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history.
Now, let's go win this election and get this country moving again.
alissa j. rubin
the los angeles times