Wednesday, October 15, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, Steven D. Green has a defense 'strategy', Iraqi Christians continue to flee attacks, PBS' The NewsHour demonstrates it believes in functioning democracy, and more.
Starting with the puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki. Deborah Haynes and Richard Beeston (Times of London) interviewed al-Maliki for "Time to go home, Nouri al-Maliki tells Britain". The transcript of the interview has a portion that caught the attention of Today's Zaman because it deals with the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. From the transcript:
[Times of London]:What about Kirkuk, is this a serious problem facing your Government? The area is controlled by Kurdish militias, can you ever imagine re-imposing Government authority by force?
[al-Maliki]: Kirkuk is a city that belongs to the federal government and is outside the boundaries of the Kurdistan region. The existence of any force that is not formal and governmental is considered, as you said, outside the legal rules and goes by the principle of militias. Kirkuk is a very sensitive area. Our opinion about Kirkuk is that it will not be solved by using force to impose a solution ... It is shared by Turkomans, Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and a small ratio of Christians…The only suitable solution, at this time, is to treat it as a special case, like being an independent region ... The different ethnic groups accuse each other of bringing in people from outside the province and granting them residency. The province is under Kurdish control at the moment … The others, the Turkomans and the Sunni Arabs, accuse the local government of manipulating the census and the figures… It is better to have a solution between the groups based on consensus…
al-Maliki's statement is rather clear on what is a murky situation. He maintains that the oil-rich city of Kirkuk is part of the federal government in Iraq and not part of the Kurdistan Regional Government in the north. A bill for provincial elections over the summer led to a walk-out by Kurdish members of the Parliament. From the July 23rd snapshot:
Turning to Iraq and starting with the latest in the provincial elections bill -- CNN reports it has been rejected today. Yesterday, the Kurdish bloc in the Iraqi Parliament staged a walk-out over a bill regarding the alleged provincial elections that allegedly would take place October 1st. The walk-out means the already much postponed provinicial elections may be postponed further. Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) covers the political process backdrop for yesterday's actions: "Some Iraqis think that the offensives that Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki launched in the southern cities of Basra and Amara and the Baghdad slum of Sadr City were to weaken his political rivals, the Sadrists, who controlled those areas. The possibility of a months' long delay in the elections could fundamentally alter the priorities of local and national politicians." Ned Parker and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) zoom in on the backstory/history, "The contentious issue was among several points that have delayed a vote on the law that would pave the way for the first local elections since January 2005, when most Sunni Arabs and many Shiite followers of cleric Muqtada Sadr boycotted the vote. U.S. officials believe the participation of such groups could go a long way toward righting the balance of power in provincial politics, in which a small number of parties, mainly Kurdish and Shiite Muslim, have dominated." Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) focuses on the struggle for the oil-rich Kirkuk, "The disagreement centered on the multiethnic city of Kirkuk, one of several areas in Iraq where there are competing claims over which province a city or district belongs in. The question for Kirkuk is whether it should be absorbed into the Kurdistan region -- a particularly charged question because the city sits on some of the largest unexploited oil reserves in the country. Both Arabs and Kurds lay claim to the area. At bottom, the disagreement is also about the ethnic identity of Iraq and about Arab frustration with the Kurds. Although the Kurds are a minority, they have proved adept at turning the political process to their advantage, often to the chagrin of larger ethnic and religious groups." Last December, Stephen Farrell (New York Times) reported on the attempts of the Kurdish region to take control of Kirkuk (with something other than the security forces they currently utilize) -- forcing Kurds out of the Kurdish region and into Kirkuk to live in "the squalor of the Kirkuk soccer stadium." CNN quotes this statement from President Jalal Talabani's office today, "The president, who does not agree with such a law, which was voted on by 127 deputies who do not represent half of parliament, is confident that the presidency council will not pass it." Al Jazeera points out, "Wednesday's move, which comes after protests by Kurdish and some Shia MPs, is likely to delay the elections, which have been encouraged by US officials as a key step toward repairing Iraq's sectarian rifts."
In September an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers noted that Kurds made up only 40% of Kirkuk's population and wondered if "is it right to cause a state to collapse into entitites to realize your dream?" Months later, to pass the bill on provinincial elections and get it signed into law, the Parliament had to set aside the issue of Kirkuk. Reporting yesterday on the Kurds attempts to 'expand' their region into Qahtaniya, Campbell Robertson (New York Times) 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." This not only complicates things between the KRG's government and Baghdad's, it also comes at a time when tensions between Turkey and northern Iraq are running hight. Today UPI notes "published leaked images taken by a Turkish spy drone that appeared to show rebels of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, massing in the Aktutun area near the Iraq border hours before a devastating Oct. 3 attack on a Turkish army outpost, the newspaper Today's Zaman reported Wednesday." That attack has been the justification for Turkey's most recent bombings on northern Iraq (and the October 3rd attack enraged the Turkish population). Zerin Elci (Reuters) notes that Turkish Gen Ilker Basbug ("chief of Turkey's armed forces") issued a denial today that "the army had received any information on" the attack before it took place. World Bulletin describes Basbug as speaking "harshly" and notes that he stated he was fully confident and investigation would prove that the military had no advance knowledge of the PKK attack.
Meanwhile David Sapsted (The National) reports on a Cambridge meet-up between Muslim and Christian leaders today (which was the final day of the three-day conference) where Sheikh Ali Gomaa (the Grand Mufti of Egypt) declared of the ongoing attacks on Christians in Iraq, "This is something that both Christianity and Islam reject. We hope to leave this world a better place for our children and grandchildren, a place where there is mutual co-operation." Ecumenical News International reports the Middle East Council of Churches issued a statement today: "The MECC is following with worries the latest news of the painful incidents which are taking place in Mosul in the past two weeks against the Iraqi Christians and are manifested in acts of violence, killings and forced displacement. The MECC condemns such violent demonstrations against innocent Christians who were attacked by strangers and insurgents. . . . The MECC affirms the historical fact that Iraqi Christians are a major component of the Iraq national ethnic groups. They have taken part in building their old civilization, and are taking honest part in rebuilding their nation today." Sam Dagher (New York Times) notes, "A church in the northern city of Mosul was bombed Tuesday as Christians continued to leave the city to escape recent violence that has been directed at them. . . . On Tuesday, a homemade bomb placed at the door of the Miskinta Church in the Old City district of Mosul detonated and caused some damage to the building but no casualties, Monsignor Warduni said." Dagher spoke with Shukria Youssef whose sister, a nun, remains in Mosul at an orphanage: "As long as there are people my sister and the other nuns will not leave. They consider themselves spiritual soldiers." AP reports that Jawdat Ismaeel has tabulated the number of Christian families who have left "Mosul since last week" and it is "1,390 -- or more than 8,300 people." AFP reports that US military spokesperson Patrick Driscoll blame the attacks on al Qaeda in Iraq today. As noted yesterday, no one yet knows who is responsible. Afif Sarhan (Islam Online) stays with the known and speaks with Iraqi Christians. Tony Bardinin who explains, "We are feeling like Gypsies moving from one place to another and are seen as criminals rather than victims. Our children are sick, out from schools and we cannot even claim help because we don't know who is with or against us." Yehia Nawadisin states, "It is clear that only few people want us out from Iraq. Muslims have been our friends for centuries and now, one more time, they are proving that by helping us and giving their love and support." AGI reports that, as the violence continues, "Authorities ordered further road blocks in a number of Christian neighborhoods." Vatican Radio continues to cover the crisis (link has audio):
Vatican Radio: Some 140 Iraqi refugees living in Syria headed home today on a free trip organized by the Iraqi government, which cited improved security in their country. The Iraqi Embassy says it is planning several such trips in the coming weeks. A significant number of Iraqi refugees are Christian. Several thousand have also fled the Arab south of the country for the relatively safer Kurdish north. This is causing tensions with the majority Muslim Kurds, who had already been accused of stepping on the rights of the area's native Christian minority. Catholic MP Edward Leigh on return from his visit to northern Iraq with Jubilee Campaign told us the situation of the Christians in the region
Edward Leigh: There's mixed evidence. I mean, some Christians have undoubtedly been welcomed in the north and they've had to flee to the north. And originally the Kurds and the Christians worked quite closely together under Saddam because there are all these villages mixed up together in northern, mountainous Iraq. And the Kurds rebelled in 1988 and Saddam came in and bombed them. And many of the Christians fled the villages as did the Kurds. I think one of the problems now is because the Christians are being persecuted so badly by Arabic extremists in Baghdad, I think Christians have fled up to the north and I suspect that's created some tension with the Kurds. And the Kurds themselves have been coming to the north and coming from other areas perhaps in Iran and Turkey. So there is tremendous pressure for land and the Kurds undoubtedly have the upper hand. They control the government, they control the police, they control the army -- it's pretty well a state-lette. I don't think the writ of the Baghdad government really extends much in Kurdistan or even the Ninevah plains and when I was in the Ninevah plains -- which is not really part of Kurdistan -- everywhere the Kurds have checkpoints. They are the military presence and the Christians are undoubtedly a small minority increasingly being squeezed between the Sunnis and the Shias and the Kurds.
Turning to the US, CBS and AP report, "A federal judge has set a hearing to decide whether to bar from trial statements a former Army soldier made after being arrested on sexual assault and murder charges. U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell scheduled the hearing for Oct. 29 in Louisville after a request from attorneys for 22-year-old Steven D. Green." Abeer Qassim al-Janabi is not making any special requests from the court. That's because she's dead. She was gang-raped by US soldiers while her sister and parents were murdered in the next room and then she was murdered. The other US soldiers had their day in court and confessed to their crimes. They fingered Green as the ring-leader. Because Green had already been discharged from the military, he faces a civilian court. March 12, 2006 was when the war crimes against Abeer and her family took place. Over two years later, Green's attorneys continue to delay justice. His trial has already been postponed for a quilting bee (no, that's not a joke from me -- although it might be one from the justice system) and, as noted in the July 14th snapshot, Russel Carollo (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) reported that "Green's attorneys notified prosecutors that they may use insanity as a defense." Brett Barrouquere (AP) reports that Green "faces 16 charges that include premediated murder and aggravated sexual assault. He has pleaded not guilty and claims he was insane at the time of the 2006 attack." AP notes that the trial is now scheduled for April. No word on whether another quilting bee could yet again derail it. Click here for a video of Jane Fonda addressing the Media Reform Conference (January 2007) and discussing Abber.
Jane Fonda: I want to share a story. I wonder how many know the name, Abeer Qassim al-Janabi. How many people? Raise your hands. Not many. Abeer was a 14-year-old girl, living with her family about 50 miles south of Baghdad, trying to grow up as best she could in a country ravaged by violence and war. That is, until March 12, 2006, when she was killed. On that night, five American soldiers, dressed all in black, burst into the home where Abeer lived with her family. After spending the evening drinking whiskey mixed with energy drinks and playing cards, the soldiers allegedly decided to execute the crime they allegedly had been planning for weeks. The men took turns raping 14-year-old Abeer before shooting her. In the next room, her mother, her father, and her five-year-old sister were executed. When the men were done, apparently they drenched the bodies in kerosene and set them on fire. Then they went back to the base and grilled up some chicken wings for dinner. It was months before this crime came to light.
When did it come to light? In June of 2006. Prior to that the crimes were committed by 'insurgents'. Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reported on how Justin Watt (who was not part of the conspiracy) came forward with what he had been hearing. This was while US soldiers Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker were missing and, though the two were not involved in the war crimes, they were the ones chosen for 'punishment' as The Sunday Telegraph revealed in December 2006. Mechaca and Tucker get no special requests to the court. Like Abeer, they're dead. Like Abeer, they were guilty of no crime. Green has certainly managed to elude his day in court while a number of deaths have piled up.November 8th, 2006, Green entered a not guilty plea in a federal court in Kentucky. In November 2006, Ryan Lenz (AP) reported that James P. Barker testified to Lt. Col. Richard Anderson that Steven D. Green came up with the plan and, of the rape of Abeer, that "[Paul] Cortez pushed her to the ground. I went towards the top of her and kind of held her hands down while Cortez proceeded to lift her dress up." Those who were still in the military admitted to their part in the conspiracy. They have been sentenced.
In April 2009, Green is scheduled to stand trial. And he plans to offer an insanity defense. Back in 2006, at the Article 32 hearing for those still serving, Capt. Alex Pickands summed up the soldiers' actions: "Murder, not war. Rape, not war. That's what we're here talking about today. Not all that business about cold food, checkpoints, personnel assignments. Cold food didn't kill that family. Personnel assignments didn't rape and murder that 14-year-old little girl." And it was planned, with Green studying her and making her uncomfortable. Julie Rawe and Aparisim Ghosh (Time) reported in June 2007, "Abeer's brother Mohammed, 13, told TIME he once watched his sister, frozen in fear, as a U.S. soldier ran his index finger down her cheek. Mohammed has since learned that soldier's name: Steven Green."
In fairness to Green, he got in a moral waiver and shouldn't have been let in. But then, no foreign forces should be in Iraq period. Addressing how the US changes the dynamic, Ralph Nader spoke yesterday with Ray Suarez of The NewsHour (PBS -- link has text, audio and video):
Ray Suarez: What would you do about Afganistan the Republican and Democratic nominees opposing you in this race, have come out with different plans what's yours?
Ralph Nader: Mine is: More soldiers in Afghanistan on the Pakistan border is going to destabilize Pakistan. The National Intelligence Estimate of Mr. Bush just came out with a statement saying there's never been more violence in chaos in Afghanistan since 9-11. So we have to look to wise people, like Ashraf Ghani who was finance minister for Karzai, the president, and who was a professor here in this country, a native Afghani who says you've got to connect with the tribal leaders and give them and their people jobs, public works, security. And that will be the buffer against the people who just want chaos. Let's put it this way: Nobody conquers Afghanistan. The British didn't do it. The Soviet Union didn't do it. We're not going to do it. It's the scar on the conscience of Obama and McCain that they are ready to get us into a massive quagmire. And if Pakistan is destabilized, it's going to make Iraq look like small potatoes -- even with the million Iraqis and 4200 soldiers who've died in that conflagration.
Ray Suarez: And can you extricate the United States from Iraq?
Ralph Nader: Six month negotiated withdrawal with modest autonomy between Shi'ites, Sunnis and Kurds under unified Iraq of all US soldiers and corporate contractors. Continued humanitarian aid and UN sponsored elections. That should do it because that would knock the bottom out of the insurgency. You know, given the time, I have to ask people to contact our website for more details -- VoteNader.org -- where we have this elaborated. We invited volunteers. We invite donations. We take no money from commercial interests. But I know this area. My parents came from Lebanon at age nineteen. We know the language. We know the authority of the religious leaders, that the tribal leaders are still intact. And that's what we have to do. Any diminution of violence in recent months in Iraq have been due to realignments between these authority figures. And that's what we have to support; not more preferring one sectarian group over another, wheeling-dealing hundred dollar bills, the intrigue and the revenge killings. And, also, there's no way to knock the bottom out of the insurgency, which will ebb and rise according to circumstances, then to eliminate the occupation of their country and to give Iraq back to the Iraqis and their oil back. And it would help if the US government would support the peace movements in Israel and Palestine which have worked out a two-state solution, which was somehow prohibited from appearing in Congress. They're off-limits to the two- party campaigns, Obama and McCain. And it's disgracefully cowardly for these two people who are smart. I know them. They know what it takes to make peace between the Israelis and Palestine people. A majority of Jewish-Americans, Arab-Americans want a two-state solution. So do the majority of the Israelis and the Palestinians. And, instead, both major candidates support the hard-liners. You don't make peace by supporting the militaristic repression, occupation and colonization of Palestine. .
That's real change and it's actually a plan to end the illegal war. Until people get honest, expect more violence and chaos, death and destruction. Such as . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left four people wounded, two more Baghdad roadside bombing that left six people wounded, and another Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 2 lives (police officers) and wounded two people; 4 Mosul roadside bombings resulting in fifteen people being wounded, and Baghdad mortar attacks on the Green Zone, the Baghdad airport and a Baghdad neighborhood and the last resulted in 2 deaths with six people wounded.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 people shot dead in Diyala Province (another wounded) and 1 person was shot dead in Mosul (four more wounded).
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad and, last night, "a mass grave containing the remains of at least 20 people" was discovered in Karbala ["The dead people were Shiite shepherds who were kidnapped by the Qaeda about 18 months ago in Nikhaib (south west of Ramadi and west of Karbala), police and medical sources said."].
As noted already Ralph Nader was on The NewsHour yesterday. Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate. Today, 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." Ray Suarez asked Ralph about the bail-out last night.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, we've just come through these remarkable weeks, where the Treasury, the Fed, and Congress have been working to cobble together a plan.
The presidential candidates, the Republican and Democrat in the race, say they reluctantly went along with these bailout packages because of the urgency of the situation. What did you make of the bailout plans?
RALPH NADER: The right word is "cobble." It's the wrong kind of plan, and they have to readjust now with injections into the banks. But what they should have done, because Washington had Wall Street over the barrel, Wall Street wanted a $700 billion bailout. And what Congress should have done is add to Bush's blank check with comprehensive regulation to prevent this; criminal prosecution resources for the culprits on Wall Street; more power to the shareholders to control their company and restrain their bosses' excesses, real taxpayer equity, with good conditions and, finally, making them pay for it.
If you make the speculators pay for their own bailout, then there's a relief throughout America that there's some fairness coming out of Washington. A 0.1 percent tax on security derivative transactions in one year -- it's going to be $500 trillion of transactions in one year -- is $500 billion. So that alone would make a sense of equity. And you wouldn't put it on the backs of the taxpayer. England has that kind of tax, by the way, for years. FDR had it. We helped finance the Civil War with it. But after World War II, it was scrapped. So people go into a store in all your areas where your show shows, and they buy necessities of life, and they pay 6 percent or 7 percent sales tax. Tomorrow, someone in Wall Street can buy a billion dollars of Exxon derivatives, pay no sales tax. That's where the fairness has to go.
John McCain is the Republican presidential candidate and Sarah Palin is his running mate. McCain-Palin '08 announces:
ARLINGTON, VA -- Tuesday in the Oval Office, U.S. Senator John Warner was privileged to join with other members of Congress, the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as the president signed the annual $542 billion dollar defense bill into law. The National Defense Authorization Bill annually fulfills the constitutional responsibility to provide for our nation's armed forces. This was the 30th consecutive defense bill Senator Warner has worked on with other senators.
Subsequently, in response to press inquiries, Senator Warner praised John McCain's leadership on defense issues and stressed the importance of his contributions, as the committee's ranking member, in structuring this bill.
"Having worked with John McCain for more than 20 years on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I know that, as President of the United States and commander in chief, he will continue working with Congress to ensure that the annual defense bills will adequately provide for our men and women in uniform the best equipment and training in order to protect America's freedom around the world."
Senator Warner also pointed out the importance of this bill to Virginia's overall economy.
Virginia is home to 31 military installations, approximately 130,000 active-duty personnel and some 80,000 Department of Defense civilian employees. (Source: Department of Defense)
The Department of Defense Authorization Bill signed today invests more than $50 billion in direct defense spending in Virginia, which translates into jobs, added research and development, procurement and acquisition of new equipment, and maintenance and upgrading of military installations. Of particular interest is the continuation of a strong naval shipbuilding and repair program. (Source: Department of Defense)
Senator Warner continued, "As a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I know how critical defense spending is for Virginia's economy.
"Virginia is proud to be home to 814,000 veterans, whose past service helped build the foundation for today's U.S. military serving in Virginia and worldwide. There are provisions in this bill which continue to recognize military retirees' service to country, particularly in the field of health care.
"As I retire after 30 years in the Senate, I am absolutely confident that John McCain, as our next president, will continue his leadership and dedication to the needs of today's men and women in uniform, and to those of future generations."
And they note that the New Hampshire Union Leader has just endorsed John McCain for president with an editorial which opens, "In this time of great uncertainty, America needs an experienced, decisive leader with clear vision and a steady hand to guide us through. That man is Sen. John McCain."
Tonight, McCain debates Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. No other presidential candidates will be allowed on the stage because democracy is just too gosh darn important to actually practice it. It's like good china. You hide it away for very special occasions. Otherwise, someone might break it! (You can, however, watch The New Adventures of Old Christine every Wednesday night on CBS' first half-hour of prime time.) Team Nader notes:
Well, Ralph Nader appeared on the PBS NewsHour last night for ten minutes.
Which was better than nothing.
Nothing is what Ralph got from PBS this year up until now.
No Jim Lehrer.
No Diane Rehm.
No Terry Gross.
But thanks to thousands of your phone calls and e-mails, the NewsHour relented.
And Ralph was given a chance last night.
To make the argument -- Jail Time for Corporate Crime.
Of course, when Americans think of crime, they think first of street crime.
But that's a bit unfair, don't you think?
Given the wave of corporate crime that has swamped Wall Street and tanked the economy?
So, today we launch a new fundraising widget.
And to open up the fundraising drive, we're making this offer to you -- our loyal supporters.
If you donate $100 now to Nader/Gonazalez, we will ship to you our corporate crime package -- two great books on how big business is robbing you blind -- plus a DVD featuring tomorrow's Nader/Gonzalez Rally on Wall Street.
First we have the 260 page book -- Gangster Capitalism by Michael Woodiwiss.
Woodiwiss makes the argument that the lethal tenets of organized crime have worked their way into the operating models of corporations and governments.
And that the politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats are actually beating the wise guys at their own game -- shifting the rules to broaden and legitimize criminal behavior in a far more dangerous and sinister manner.
The other book is the 302-page hardcover classic The Cheating of America by Charles Lewis, Bill Allison and the Center for Public Integrity. This book is about how corporations and the super-rich don't pay their fair share of taxes.
So, donate $100 now, and we'll ship you these two eye-opening books -- Gangster Capitalism and The Cheating of America -- plus the Wall Street Rally DVD. (This offer ends October 24, 2008 at 11:59 p.m.)
Understand Gangster Capitalism.
Then organize to control it.
By the way, in the event you missed Ralph's appearance on the PBS NewsHour last night, check it out here.
Onward to November