Monday, November 17, 2008

At least 14 dead in Iraq today

The U.S. military has barred Iraqi interpreters working with American troops in Baghdad from wearing ski masks to disguise themselves, prompting some to resign and others to bare their faces even though they fear it could get them killed.
Many interpreters employed by the U.S. government and Western companies in Iraq do everything they can to avoid being recognized on the job because extremists have tortured and killed Iraqis accused of collaborating with the enemy.

The above is from Ernesto Londono's "Mask Ban Upsets Iraqis Hired as U.S. Interpreters" (Washington Post). Being suspected of collaborating with the US is bad enough. Being known for it? Equally true is that there has been more concern in the UK for helping the collaborators than there has been in the US. The Times of London, for example, has regularly led the cry for collaborators to be granted asylum. It's not been that big of an issue in the US.

Violence saw an increase in Iraq last week -- not that it was ever absent. NPR's Corey Flintoff provided an overview of it in "Violence Rises In Iraq, But How Bad Is It?" (Weekend Edition, text and audio) and we'll note this section regarding the death tolls:

There's wide speculation as to why the casualty figures vary so greatly.
Some say numbers are exaggerated in an effort to discredit the government's claims that it's providing better security at a time when Iraq and the U.S. are trying to conclude a security agreement specifying how long U.S. troops can remain in Iraq.
Others say the government is low-balling the numbers to convince Iraqis that it has security under control in order to garner votes as Iraq prepares for provincial elections at the end of January.
Uncertain casualty figures make it hard for either side to make its case.

Violence continues today and Xinhau notes 1 "Awakening" Council member shot dead in Iskandariyah, an al-Mssyyab mortar attack that landed on a home and claimed the life of 1 person, an Amara car bombing ("near a U.S. and Iraqi military base) left eighteen people wounded. To that Reuters adds a Mosul bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left six people injured, 2 'suspects' were shot dead in a Mosul house, a Baghdad bombing left five people injured, a Mussayab roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left three people injured,
a second Mussayab roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left one more person wounded, 5 'suspects' were shot dead in Baghdad and 1 corpse was discovered in Iskandariya.

Noah notes two highlights. First up Mickey Z's "Nothing To Lose But Your Chains, Some Things Are Bigger Than Any Of Us" (Information Clearing House):

Let's face it: Things sucked under George W. Bush. Things will suck under Barack Obama. Things have sucked under every president. Nothing will change until we change our minds. We can’t be as indifferent as those before us. They didn't think enough about future generations so now we have to work twice as hard. It sucks, I know, but this not an issue of fairness. It’s about survival.
Some things in life are bigger than any of us. The anti-slavery movement recognized this. Today, the entire planet is enslaved…to profit-seeking corporations and the corrupt politicians they own (yes, including the Pope of Hope). Are this generation's abolitionists ready to step up and create change? Not ask for change, create change.
Why not embrace your outrage and frustration and let it challenge you, inspire you, and motivate you? Instead of channeling your ambitions toward climbing a mountain, running a marathon, or striving to make your first million before you’re 30, what greater goal could any of us ever aim for than to leave the planet much better off than how we found it?
You have nothing to lose but your chains...

And Noah also notes Chris Hedges' "America the Illiterate" (Information Clearing House):

We live in two Americas. One America, now the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world. It can cope with complexity and has the intellectual tools to separate illusion from truth. The other America, which constitutes the majority, exists in a non-reality-based belief system. This America, dependent on skillfully manipulated images for information, has severed itself from the literate, print-based culture. It cannot differentiate between lies and truth. It is informed by simplistic, childish narratives and clichés. It is thrown into confusion by ambiguity, nuance and self-reflection. This divide, more than race, class or gender, more than rural or urban, believer or nonbeliever, red state or blue state, has split the country into radically distinct, unbridgeable and antagonistic entities.
There are over 42 million American adults, 20 percent of whom hold high school diplomas, who cannot read, as well as the 50 million who read at a fourth- or fifth-grade level. Nearly a third of the nation’s population is illiterate or barely literate. And their numbers are growing by an estimated 2 million a year. But even those who are supposedly literate retreat in huge numbers into this image-based existence. A third of high school graduates, along with 42 percent of college graduates, never read a book after they finish school. Eighty percent of the families in the United States last year did not buy a book.
The illiterate rarely vote, and when they do vote they do so without the ability to make decisions based on textual information. American political campaigns, which have learned to speak in the comforting epistemology of images, eschew real ideas and policy for cheap slogans and reassuring personal narratives. Political propaganda now masquerades as ideology. Political campaigns have become an experience. They do not require cognitive or self-critical skills. They are designed to ignite pseudo-religious feelings of euphoria, empowerment and collective salvation. Campaigns that succeed are carefully constructed psychological instruments that manipulate fickle public moods, emotions and impulses, many of which are subliminal. They create a public ecstasy that annuls individuality and fosters a state of mindlessness. They thrust us into an eternal present. They cater to a nation that now lives in a state of permanent amnesia. It is style and story, not content or history or reality, which inform our politics and our lives. We prefer happy illusions. And it works because so much of the American electorate, including those who should know better, blindly cast ballots for slogans, smiles, the cheerful family tableaux, narratives and the perceived sincerity and the attractiveness of candidates. We confuse how we feel with knowledge.
The illiterate and semi-literate, once the campaigns are over, remain powerless. They still cannot protect their children from dysfunctional public schools. They still cannot understand predatory loan deals, the intricacies of mortgage papers, credit card agreements and equity lines of credit that drive them into foreclosures and bankruptcies. They still struggle with the most basic chores of daily life from reading instructions on medicine bottles to filling out bank forms, car loan documents and unemployment benefit and insurance papers. They watch helplessly and without comprehension as hundreds of thousands of jobs are shed. They are hostages to brands. Brands come with images and slogans. Images and slogans are all they understand. Many eat at fast food restaurants not only because it is cheap but because they can order from pictures rather than menus. And those who serve them, also semi-literate or illiterate, punch in orders on cash registers whose keys are marked with symbols and pictures. This is our brave new world.

Bonnie notes Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Ghosts of Network Bombs Past and Present" went up last night. The e-mail address for this site is

 the washington post
 mary beth sheridan
 ernesto londono