Tuesday, October 14, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees issues a call, the US military announces another death, and more.
Today UNHCR's Ron Redmond, speaking in Geneva, addressed the issue of Iraq's Palestinian refugees noting:
UNHCR has issued an urgent appeal for the resettlement of Palestinian refugees. Most have been stranded for over two years in two camps at the Iraq-Syrian border and in Baghdad, while a small group has been stranded in Al Hol camp in Syira. Of the estimated 34,000 Palestinians in Iraq in 2003, less than 15,000 remain in Iraq -- including 2,943 Palestinian refugees currently living in the border camps at the Iraq-Syrian border. Of those in the border camps, 358 families (1,278 persons) are considered to be highly vulnerable -- having life-threatening diseases, needing urgent medical treatment or fearing persecution if they return -- and therefore are in urgent need of resettlement. The majority fled Baghdad since 2003 because of threats, torture, detention, or after friends and family members were killed. The steady drain on financial resources has forced middle class families into the ranks of the poor, needing housing, food, medical, and cash assistance.
The United Nations News Centre notes, "Living conditions at the camps are very difficult and continue to deteriortate, with refugees facing searing heat in the summer and freezing termperatures in the winters. There is also little security and limited medical services available to camp residents." Iraq is the largest refugee crisis in the world. And those who account for the nearly five million internally and externally displaced refugees are a diverse group. The UN's IRIN notes the disabled Iraqi refugees today including Jaafar Hamza whose family moved to Egypt in 2007 and whose father, Hami, explains, "We came here because the situation in Iraq was unbearable. Not only were we in danger, but Jaafar was suffering the most." His mother, Om Omar, adds, "Jaafar is completely dependent on us. We have to feed him, carry him to the washroom and anywhere he needs to be taken. He is getting older and heavier and I don't know how long we can provide for him. Doctors say his condition is permanent; he needs special care." In one of the most high profile reports on the disabled in Iraq, Lara Logan (CBS News) reported in June 2007 on US soldiers coming across a Baghdad orphanage where 24 special-needs boys were being abused. In that instance, some of the children were left by parents or a parent with the hopes that the institution would provide the care they couldn't. One father expressed how he had thought his son would be safer there than in the war zone that was his neighborhood. No one had any idea that the boys would be stripped of clothing and abused. The conditions are not getting better and, in fact, Sapa-AFP explain that, in Karbala, 200 doctors "have closed their clinics in protest" since yesterday due to death threats. For those who've forgotten, September's wave of Operation Happy Talk found the puppet government inflating the number of doctors who had returned and insisting it was safe and Iraq was back on track medically. Meanwhile Elizabeth Ferris and Navteg Dhillon (Guardian of London) note the young refugees, "As Iraq takes important steps towards national reconciliation and economic development, no one is paying attention to young Iraqi refugees. Their plight is largely portrayed through a sectarian lens. But when the focus shifts to the age of those uprooted, it is clear that a large number are young men and women, struggling with displacement at the prime of their life. Rather than building their future careers and families, their plans are on hold and their hopes are in limbo." Ferris is with the Brookings Institute and last week she called attention to the Iraqi refugees with regards to voting noting, "Participation of Iraq's refugees and IDPs in the provincial elections is critical to a legitimate electoral process, national reconciliation, and regional stability. Many of the Iraqi refugees currently living in harsh conditions in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, and the Gulf were displaced because they favored a secular Iraq. To exclude these Iraqis from the process is to let the militias' efforts to rid the country of secularists, intellectuals, Catholics, Yezidis, and many other minority groups win."
Religious minorities were dealt a huge setback when a bill on provincial elections passed the Parliament after it removed Article 50 that protected minority rights. The presidency council signed the bill into law. The Yazidis were the focuse of Campbell Robertson (New York Times) today as he noted that "Kurdish security forces moved into Qahtaniya and other Yazidi villages, having already made a fortress of Sinjar" and quoted the KRG's Internal Affairs Minister Karim Sinjair revealing, "We could throw all the Arabs out of the city. But the Americans told us we have to wait." Not, "We were told 'no'." He states they were told they would have to wait. The Kurds have made one power grab after another and Robertson does a fine job of sketching that out including how Qahtaniya would not directly seen made for a power grab due to its surrounding areas; however, it could be used as "a bargaining chip for political negotiations over the status of Kirkuk". From the Yazidis to the current crisis in Mosul, the attacks on Iraqi Christians which has led to many fleeing and added to the number of refugees. Al Jazeera reports, "Muslim scholars have spoken out against a spate of attacks against Christians in northern Iraq" and quotes Ekmeleddin Ihasanogul of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference stating that the attacks were "unprecedented in the history of Iraq" and that the government needs to "prosecute the culprits who are behind these acts." Deborah Haynes and Tim Albone (Times of London) explore theories developing, "Some Christians blame al-Qaeda for the attacks while others speculate that Kurdish elements might be involved as part of a political ploy to coerce minority sects into supporting Kurdish parties before forthcoming provincial elections. This allegation is strongly denied by the Kurdish authorities." The reporters note that the Kurds, in turn, blame the Baathists. Emmanuel Brikha (Australia's Streem) explains, "An Iraqi Sunni MP of Iraq Osama al-Najifi has strongly blamed the Kurdish militia groups, saying they are responsible for the murder and displacement of thousands of Assyrian Christians. He also blamed the Kurdish intelligence agencies in playing a part in organising and carrying out the murder campaign alongside militias. Al-Najifi claims the militias want to change the demographic balance of Mosul, which is located in Nineveh Province, a province highly populated by Assyrians, to serve Kurdish interests." Others blame al Qaeda in Iraq (which has issued a denial). At this point, no one knows who is responsible for the slaughter. Jerry L. Van Marter (Church Executive Magazine) reports, "Religious leaders around the world, including those in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), are asking their members to pray for the Christian community in Iraq and particularly the northern city of Mosul, where more than two dozen Christians have been murdered in recent days by militant Sunnis." Marter quotes Rev. Duncan Hanson ("area coordinator for Europe and the Middle East for the Reformec Church in America") stating, "The Mosul church is the oldest in Iraq, having been established in 1840. Our congreagation has had a long and glorious succession of pastors. Over the years these pastors also ministered to the Muslim community. It was out of the Mosul church that God sent missionaires to Baghdad, Basra and elsewhere to plant new congregations. We Iraqi Reformed and Presbyterian people call Mosul our 'mother church'." ZENIT quotes Carlidnal Emmanuel III Delly ("patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and archbishop of Baghdad") declaring today that the "situation in some parts of Iraq is disastrous and tragic. Life is a Calvary. Peace and security are lacking, just as the fundamental elements in daily life. Electricity, water, fuel continue to be lacking; telephone communication is always more difficult; whole roads are blocked; schools either closed or in a continuous danger; hospitals function with a reduced staff; the people fear for their own safety. All fear kidnapping, abduction and intimidation." Stephen Mirarchi (National Catholic Register) notes that some are calling it "the holocaust of the Christians" and adds:
Father Ninous Ibraheem knows about that panic.
He remembers how two years ago, having made the precarious journey from Syria to Iraq without incident, he prepared to offer Mass in Dora, the Christian area in southern Baghdad.
Immediately after Mass, Father Ninous walked into the church's courtyard to the blast of a car bomb. Another was detonated moments later as it rolled through the fleeing congregation. At the same time, another church within walking distance suffered the same terror.
It's a risk Father Ninous takes every time he returns.
The next time he went back, in February of this year, only one church of the original 13, St. Shmoni, remained. "One of them was turned into a mosque," he said through a translator, his voice full of exasperation. "It became routine that people thought there was no one doing services."
Meanwhile Reuters reports, "Iraq's government pledged on Tuesday to send senior officials to the north of the country to tackle violence against Christians which has led thousands to flee their homes fearing for their lives." Yeah, that song and dance has been performed since this weekend. With little to no results. Pulling back to the topic of refugees in general, Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that of the 8% of Iraqi refugees who have returned to their Baghdad homes, "Many Iraqi families have returned to their old homes in peace, but a disturbing trend already is emerging: They're being targeted and attacked, and in some cases killed, for trying to go home. Some have been threatned. Others have found explosives tied to trying to go home. Some have had their homes blown up." Sunday, the New York Times offered a very bad offering of Operation Happy Talk pushing the good times are coming and the refugees are so happy and Iraqi children are in school (not the ones killed in the Sunday explosion reported the following day). The article didn't even note that the UNHCR continues to maintain that it is not safe for Iraqis to return. Nor did it note that it was using figures from the Iraqi government -- or that those figures are in dispute. The same day Basil Adas (Gulf Daily News) was reporting: "Baghdad: A dispute is raging between the United Nations and the Iraqi government on the number of Iraqi refugees living abroad - particularly in Jordan, Syria and Egypt - who have returned to Iraq. While the UN report said that the number of returning refugees is less than the number of those departing, Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf, director of the operations at the Interior Ministry, denied this." But the Times went with the 'trust worthy' puppet government and not the United Nations.
Turning to the issue of treaties. Saturday the Washington Post's Ernesto Londono interviewed Gen Ray Odierno (top US commander in Iraq) and asked what happens if an agreement is not in place by the end of the year? The UN mandate that authorizes the occupation expires December 31st. Odierno replied that "we must have a political framework for our presence here in Iraq. So that's really a policy issue, it's a national policy issue, so you still have to work with Washington to determine what our next steps are if we don't get a SOFA agreement. But we either must have something like a UN Security Council resolution that -- or some sort of bilateral agreement with the Government of Iraq for our continued presence. So it's got to be one or the other or something that is agreed upon between the two governments." Asked if he was optimistic, Odierno replied, "Um, it's unclear." And then swtiched to being "somewhat confident" before adding "I can't predict the future on that." Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "Time's running out for reaching a security agreement with the U.S., and an accord is unlikely before the end of this year, Iraq's Sunni Muslim vice president [Tariq al Hashimi] said Monday." Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) explains that the UN mandate could be extended but that "Russia or others" on the UN Security Council might oppose the deal while another theory is "a simple handshake agreement between Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Bush to leave things as they are until a new deal, under a new U.S. administration, can be negotiated." Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reports that some are saying the stalled process on the SOFA (really a treaty) is due to the various players including the Parliament and Parker mentions Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan region. Barzani got an invite to the big meet-up in Baghdad today (sort of). Today's Zaman notes that the Turkish delegation was headed by the country's envoy to Iraq, Murat Ozcelik. World Bulletin explains the Turkish delegation was invited to a meet-up, just not the big meet-up -- meaning Barzani got his own meeting and the scheduled one with Nouri al-Maliki took place and did so without Barzani. At the big meet-up, al-Maliki declared, "We are ashamed that the PKK is using Iraqi soil. This menace has to be eradicated and what needs to be has to be done to that end." al-Maliki's statement may have prompted (or maybe it was US arm twisting) the KRG to issue a statement today condemening the PKK's attack on Diyarbakir, Turkey stating that it "serves no political purpose and has brought only tragedy to the people of Diyarbakir and throughout Turkey. Thomas Seibert (The National Newspapers) reminds:
For much of the past several years, Turkish politicians accused Mr Barzani of raising tensions in the region and of protecting members of the PKK. Only last year, Mr Barzani caused a storm of protests in Ankara by warning that if Turkey was to meddle in decisions about the future of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, which is claimed by Iraq's Kurds, the Kurds themselves would stir up unrest in Diyarbakir, Turkey's main Kurdish city. Mr Erdogan accused Mr Barzani of "overstepping his line", while opposition leader Deniz Baykal said Mr Barzani was acting against "Turkey's territorial integrity and national sovereignty". In October last year, Mr Erdogan said Mr Barzani was "aiding and abetting" the PKK.
The last time an official Turkish delegation held talks with Mr Barzani was in 2004, one year after the US invasion of Iraq, the Turkish news channel NTV reported. Before the cold spell in their relations, Ankara and the Iraqi Kurdish leader were in close contact for much of the 1990s, when both Mr Barzani and the other main Kurdish leader in the region, Jalal Talabani, the Iraq's president, were given Turkish passports to be able to travel abroad.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded three people, a Baghdad car bombing ('sticky bomb') that wounded three police officers and, dropping back to Monday, a Tuz Khurmatu bombing that left five people wounded. Reuters notes a Kirkuk bombing on a Kirkuk "secondary pipeline" and a Mosul bombing that left two police officers injured.
Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in Mosul.
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Baghdad.
Today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier dies of wounds at approximately 5 p.m. at a Coalition force's Combat Support Hospital Oct. 14. The soldier was wounded when enemy attacked his patrol with small-arms fire in western Baghdad at approximately 4 p.m. The Soldier was quickly transported to the medical facility by air medevac; however, the Soldier later succumbed to the wounds." The announcement brings to 4183 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war (seven for the month thus far).
Turning to the US presidential race. The first three links are dealing with a topic that is offenisve. You've been warned. Members of the Cult of Barack have a new uniform they sported over the weekend. A t-shirt proclaiming Governor Sarah Palin is a c**t. With a photo of the t-shirt, Joseph (Cannonfire) explains, "The left has turned into an emetic morass of human sewage. When you go into the voting booth, picture the faces of the smug, haughty young creeps pictured in the photo above. They represent the new Democratic party. They are the reason why this lifelong Dem left the party. If you reward the Obots with your vote, you are saying: 'I want the Democratic party to keep acting like that'." Jake Tapper (ABC News -- in the safest version) covers the story and asks, "Why would these four think this is acceptable discourse?" BIG WARNING on Ben Smith because an innocent looking link in his piece will take you to nudity. He quotes Barack Cultist Rhiannon Volpe who declares, "I personally am a register Liberatrian, supporting Obama this year." She thinks those shirts are acceptable (and she designed and sold them) because, hey, in Cult of Barack, anything goes. The ones wearing those shirts in Philadelphia? That crowd included a man calling for Palin to be stoned. That never worried Amy Goodman or the beyond-pathetic Robert Parry. Mari A. Schaefer and Amy S. Rosenberg (Philadelphia Inquirer) report the threat was, "Let's stone her, old style." Meanwhile social worker and pro-life feminist Angela Kays-Burden (Christian Science Monitor) expresses her opinion, "The White House Project, a nonprofit organization, states that support from other women is critical to increasing the number of women in politics. But, in general, feminists have led attacks on one of their own who is close to shattering the ceiling. To them, Palin's pro-life position alone is proof that she is not fit to lead." At The Confluence, Riverdaughter addresses where she stands regarding the bullying from the Cult of Barack:
Many of us PUMAs are perfectly comfortable in our own skin with our own decisions. We don't want others pestering us about Obama anymore. We aren't interested in poll results. Obama supporters who come here to try to depress turnout or convert us are wasting their time. We simply do not care what you think of us. We have been called stupid, old, uneducated, ridiculous females, a shrieking horde of paranoid holdouts, racists, traitors and Republicans. Oddly enough, this has not made us want to vote for Obama.
The world will go on, no matter what we're called. And if Obama loses on Nov. 4, I will be the first to say, "Good!" You can blame me, scream at me, jump up and down throw a fit, ostracize me, I really don't give a flying fig. I will live through it and so will the others on the many dozens of blogs like this one.
It is regrettable that we have grown apart but I'm sure we will both survive. And the next time the party tries to pull this $#%^, I hope they will think twice as to whether it was worth it.
Now, masslib and people who gave in to peer pressure can say that Obama is going to win but I have enough emails from the party that suggest that plans to launch a full out attack to pressure us into voting for Obama. If he were doing that well, the upcoming psychological warfare would be unneccesary. So, please stop the annoying pro-Obama blather. We aren't buying it and we don't care.
Klownhaus adds, "We Conflucians may indeed be the last paranoid band of shrieking hold-outs, but we damn sure ain't gonna quit now." On the polling, Jake Tapper (ABC News) observed yesterday, "That's not what lots of smart folks in the Obama campaign think. They believe Obama's poll numbers are artificially high, McCain's are artificially low, this race will come down to two or three points, and anything could happen." As Ava and I explained Sunday:
Polling is not an exact science and the only poll that matters is the election vote. Polling works as an indicator (when it works) and not for who's going to win the election but for where campaigns should and should not invest time.
But it does not work when an egg head class has repeatedly told the American people that those who will not vote for Barack are racists. We've tried to figure out why idiots push that nonsense? Maybe they think it will intimidate on election day? Most likely, it won't. Most likely, people will say, "I voted for Barack" and won't vote for him. How many? No one knows. But when so many idiots have pushed to make a vote for anyone other than Barack a vote for racism, you can't expect to get honest answers in the polling.
Someone should have called them out on it a long time ago. We're told (by friends with the Barack campaign) that they're aware of the problem and it's created a huge issue for the campaign. They're trying to figure out what's the magic number to lead by. They have no clue -- not because they're idiots but because Idiot Rothschild, Idiot Herbert and so many others have made it impossible to get an honest answer from the most basic polling question of whom are you going to vote for?
Smart observers have already grasped that even exit polls on election day will now be in question due to idiots turning "who are you going to vote for?" into a loaded question. If Barack loses (we have no idea who will win), some of the harsh words should be aimed at the people who repeatedly attempted to make it vote-for-Barack-or-be-a-racist. It was stupid. And it never should be allowed to happen again. If Barack loses (and he may win, we're not saying he's going to lose), a large part of the blame will have to go to those who so poisoned the well that his campaign was denied accurate polling numbers. (That's not arguing that the problems in the primaries don't matter. In this, we're speaking of the general election phase and how the polling is damaged -- a fact that became very clear as the primary process wrapped up.)
Today the McCain-Palin campaign announced the endorsement of Latino business leaders:
Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate and Matt Gonzalez is his running mate. 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." Team Nader notes the blackout on the campaign by some outlets (blackout and distortions):
While local AP bureaus have done an excellent job in many states covering the Nader/Gonzalez campaign, we have noticed what can only be described as a 'lights out' policy from AP's Washington, DC national political desk.
After waiting six months for a national AP news story, we get a third party story that is really about Barr ("Bailout angst provides a push for Libertarian Barr.")
You couldn't even dedicate resources inside AP to research our campaign and write up the story, though given the present state of repair, Mr Runyan was probably less biased than what you would have offered from in house.
We are running third place, polling 100% higher than Barr according to Ipsos, have been warning on the financial crisis for two decades, and have a thoughtful alternative proposal to the bailout that would work for Americans. Nader is also polling 4-8 per cent in six swing states and has raised almost $4 million dollars--about four times as much as Barr.
And for that, we get a squib marginalized by a headline.
The AP's treatment of this campaign to date will go down in history as a blight on your professionalism--allowing personal animosity to black out your role of informing people of the important things that are happening. Your sports writers did a considerably better job in Beijing than your politics desk is doing this election in Washington, DC. There were ample reports about Americans who won bronze medals, coming in third place, exactly where Nader is sitting right now. To add insult to injury, the Olympics is only 2.5 weeks, and we have been in this contest for over six months. When did it become the role of the press to only write about winning candidates, winning corporations, and winning sports teams, completely blacking out everything else no matter how thoughtful, interesting, or relevant to the discourse and development of the nation?
It is simply unbelievable that you have done nothing on Nader's bailout plan.
As the most relied upon news organization for print media in the world, one would expect a shred of professionalism for the third-highest ranked Presidential candidate.
Every day, we hear from people that say they did not even know Nader was running. When he pulls in more than a million votes on November 4th, and many more people see his name on the ballot for the first time in print (as his name will be before roughly twice as many voters this time), they will wonder what in the heck the news media was doing for them to have not yet heard he was running. One national story all campaign does not a newswire make.
I hope you take the opportunity to return to your proud traditions which are quickly turning into receding laurels.
As the government continues to do a new multi-billion dollar bailout each week, the least you could do is a story on Nader's alternative plan to the bailouts. See below a release detailing it.
Not a happy camper,
National Media Coordinator
202 471 5833
Feel free to reach out to Donna, and ask why she hasn't done one national story on us since launch, a story on the bailout, and Nader's alternative plan, email@example.com, 202-641-9421
If Donna is not responsive, try the Washington Bureau chief, Ron Fournier, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-641-9402
In addition, Team Nader is launching a "What's your breaking point?" series where you are invited to share your stories with the campaign (via Communications Director Loralynne Krobetzky -- email@example.com).
the new york times
the times of london
mary beth sheridan