Thursday, November 6, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the treaty maybe moves forward but American citizens cannot have any details, Iraqi Christians feel betrayed by those who promised representation, Joshua Frank explores the War Hawks considered for cabinet positions and more.
At the Vatican today, a conference of Muslim and Christian leaders came to a close today. BBC (text and video) quotes Pope Benedict XVI stating, "Muslims and Christians have different approaches in matters concerning God but must consider themselves members of one family." The Pope completed his remarks with a request (video, not in text), "Let us work with all people, especially the young, to build a common future." AP's Frances D'Emilo notes that Archbishop Louis Sako (from "the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk") was among the religious leaders present. Dr. Seyyed Damdad (Dept of Islamic Studies at The Academy of Sciences in Iran) and Tariq Ramadan were among the Muslim leaders attending. Asia News reproduces the joint declaration those attending agreed to. Last month in Iraq, the exodus of Iraqi Christians from Mosul following attacks and threats garnered some press attention. IRIN reports, "About 400 Christian families, (some 2,400 individuals) have returned to their homes in the northern city of Mosul after a spate of threats and killings led them to flee in early October, according to officials." Today the Kurdish Globe interviews Nechirvan Barzani, the KRG's prime minister (Massoud Barzani is the region's president and also Nechirvan's uncle).
Nechirvan Barzani: There is an unfortunate history of attacks against Christians in Iraq by terrorist groups since the liberation of Iraq in 2003. For example, in August 2004, churches in Baghdad and later in Basra, Mosul, and Kirkuk were targeted by terrorists. Christians were assassinated, abducted, and pressured to convert or pay ransom. Such things continued until nearly 50,000 Christian families had no option but to flee. Of these, 20,000 families fled to the Kurdistan Region and settled in the Duhok and Erbil governorates. Other families settled in the towns around the Nineveh Plain, and the remainder left Iraq for Syria and Jordan. The Kurdistan Regional Government has provided as much assistance as possible to these Christian families. This assistance has included employing them within the Kurdistan Regional Government, reconstructing approximately 100 villages, and helping around 10,000 families with monthly stipends. The KRG has been helping Christian families with assistance through churches and cultural and community centers. When the exodus of Christians became know, the KRG allocated 250,000 ID to each family to help them until the federal government in Baghdad can find a permanent solution. Other KRG institutions, like the Parliament and the governorates of Duhok, Erbil, and Sulaimaniya, have also offered financial and material aid to those in need, through churches and civil society organizations. The KRG Council of Ministers convened to condemn attacks against the Christians. Even before this, many KRG cabinet members, parliamentarians, and governors visited locations where the displaced Christian families have fled.
Barzani goes on to reject the talk that the Kurds were behind the assaults and threats on the Christians stating, "The Kurds would politically lose most from these incidents, since the Arab proportion of the population would rise. Those wishing to lay the blame for these incidents on our doorstep are enemies of democracy, enemies of a federal Iraq. They wish to make blatantly false claims in order to undermine the basic rights of freedom, democracy, and fair representation." That may be but those pointing the fingers at the Kurds were not claiming that the assaults were meant to push Christians out of the area for all time. The assertion was that Kurds wanted to send in the Pershmerga and had created a situation that only they could be the 'heroes' and 'saviors' of. This would, the accusations argued, allow the Kurdish region to get a stronghold in an area that is not widely seen as up in the air as to who has dibs on it. True or false, that was the accusation. (At this point, no group has been found responsible for the attacks and threats.)
Meanwhile Baghdad's Bishop Shlemon Warduni speaks with Asia Times which reports: "The auxiliary bishop of Baghdad had far harsher words for the 'slashed representation' of minorities in the upcoming provincial elections. On Monday 3 November the Parliament approved a resolution, by 106 votes out of 150, to reserve only 6 seats for all minorities: three for Christians (Baghdad, Nineveh and Bassora), one each for Yazidis and Shabaks in Nineveh and the last to the Sabei, in the capital. 'It is pittance -- dencounces Msgr. Warduni - but we don't want it. We want equal rights'. The Chaldean bishop recalls the battle launched by the Church 'for the reinstatement of article 50 of the electoral law', which would have guaranteed 15 seats (out of a total of 440) to minorities, 13 to Christians, one to the Shabaks and the last to the Yazidis. 'We met with Premier al-Maliki, the president and the Muslim religious leaders among them the great Ayatollah al Sistani, the Sheiks and tribal chiefs. All of them promised the article would be reintroduced based upon the principal, enshrined in the constitution that all Iraqis are equal and enjoy equal rights. Evidently they preferred to give us this pittance; but we won't accept it, we want equal rights'." Alaa Majeed (UPI) explains, "Elections are one of those factors of the Iraqi Constitution that rely on transparent principles as a guide for the people. Democratic elections are an achievement in Iraq that will enable the people to decide for their future. The upcoming provincial elections, scheduled tentatively for January, give reason for the people to participate in forming a solid foundation for their country." Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) noted yesterday, "The elections will feature political races heavily influenced by Iraq's complex and sectarian conflicts. They could exacerbate tensions in southern Iraq between U.S.-backed Prime Miniter Nouri Maliki's nationalist Islamic Dawa Party and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the two main Shiite Muslim parties in the country. The results of the internal Shiite rivalry are likely to determine whether Iraq is broken up into semiauntonomous regions or retains a strong central government."
But some will not be participating due to a number of reasons. For religious minorities, it's the seat assignment which they find insulting and which is less than Article 50 guaranteed them (before it was stripped) and less than what the United Nations was recommending. Qassim Khidhir (Kurdish Globe) reports that the bill is now before Iraq's presidency council and "Christians, Shabaks, and Yazidis have warned the presidency council not to approve it. Nevertheless, the Iraqi presidency spokesman stated that the Iraqi presidency will still approve the bill despite the warning. Mahma Khalil, a member of Iraqi Parliament from the Kurdistan Alliance list who is a Yazidi, threatened that Yazidis will merge their territories with Kurdistan Region if the bill is approved."
From the elections to the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement. This morning AP reported that the US has 'officially' responded to Iraq's requests for amendments and Reuters quoted Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesperson for al-Maliki, stating, "America has responded and the Iraqi side has received the American response. They had some remarks on some of the amendments, which now requires meetings with the Americans to reach a common understanding." At the White House this morning, Dana Perino told the press, "We have gotten back to the Iraqis with a final text. Through this step we've concluded the process on our side, and now it is their court to move forward with their process." Asked about the ticking clock (December 31st the UN mandate expires), Perino responded, "We've been trying to get it done and we recongizne that there's a deadline for when the UN security mandate expires. But we're moving forward. Now they have our response to the request of the changes that they had. So they'll move forward now. I think their parliament is in session for the next two weeks. I don't know all the details in terms of how -- what the next steps are on their end, but we've returned a final text to them." Later this morning, the State Dept's spokesperson briefed the press. Robert Wood declared, "Yeah, we've gotten back to the Iraqis with a final text, and so the process has concluded on our side and we look forward to hearing back from the Iraqis. . . . We believe the process has -- on our side, has been concluded. So it's now the Iraqis' turn for them to move the document through their internal polticial process." He stressed that "the negotiating process has come to an end" but despite the US having 'finished' on their end ("the process has concluded") according to Wood, he refused to provide any details. He was no more specific on when Iraqis were informed of the official response: "Last night or early this morning."
Yesterday Ryan Crocker entertainined Iraqi officials at the fortress US Embassy in the Green Zone and Suadad al-Salhy and Katherine Zoepf (New York Times) explain that approximately "250 Iraqi officials, diplomats and dignataries" gather "Wednesday morning" where they were served "green-tinted fruit punch" and a huge sheet cake (which was dry -- not a detail in the paper). Gina Chon (Baghdad Life, Wall St. Journal) notes. "The U.S. embassy used the elections as the reason to have its first official function at the new embassy in Baghdad." Staying with so-called diplomacy, Joshua Frank (Dissident Voice) examines possible cabinet members in Barack's administration and we'll focus on The Problem From Hell Samantha Power because that War Hawk is so rarely called out:
Samantha Power, cheerleader for humanitarian intervention, also has Obama's ear and may even entice him to put U.S. forces in Darfur.
"With very few exceptions, the Save Darfur campaign has drawn a single lesson from Rwanda: the problem was the US failure to intervene to stop the genocide. Rwanda is the guilt that America must expiate, and to do so it must be ready to intervene, for good and against evil, even globally. That lesson is inscribed at the heart of Samantha of Power's book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. But it is the wrong lesson," writes author Mahmood Mamdani in the London Review of Books.
As Mamdani continues: "What the humanitarian intervention lobby fails to see is that the US did intervene in Rwanda, through a proxy … Instead of using its resources and influence to bring about a political solution to the civil war, and then strengthen it, the US signalled to one of the parties that it could pursue victory with impunity. This unilateralism was part of what led to the disaster, and that is the real lesson of Rwanda … Applied to Darfur and Sudan, it is sobering. It means recognising that Darfur is not yet another Rwanda. Nurturing hopes of an external military intervention among those in the insurgency who aspire to victory and reinforcing the fears of those in the counter-insurgency who see it as a prelude to defeat are precisely the ways to ensure that it becomes a Rwanda."
Prior to Our Modern Day Carrie Nation visiting England and imploding, Amy Goodman was all over Power and how amazing it was and how she was going to be the next Secretary of State (and as bad as Goody was on DN!, she was far worse on WBAI airwaves as she yammered on about Samantha endlessly in one Friday's pledge drive) and of course Jeremy Scahill was all up in some Samantha Power because the Bloody War Hawk had been acting as one of his unnamed sources. But then Power went to England and imploded. She talked smack about Gordon Brown (which never got publicity here -- apparently the US doesn't give a damn if Power insults a world leader who is one of America's closest's allies), called Hillary Clinton a "monster" (which got all the attention) and told the BBC Barack's 'promise' that US troops would be out of Iraq in 16 months wasn't for real. Samantha Power was not called out for those March remarks. Instead, Tom Hayden showed up July 4th wanting to know why they were ignored. Ask John Nichols (busy lying that Samantha and Hillary were close friends to excuse the "monster" remark), ask David Corn who shot down Samantha's remarks repeatedly in press briefings with the Hillary campaign, ask ALL THE LIARS WHO REFUSED TO CALL THE WAR HAWK OUT. As irritating as Tom-Tom can be and as much as he's sold out in 2008, it does bear noting that in 2007, he was among the few willing to call out Samantha Power or her running buddy and fellow counter-insurgency cheerleader Sarah Sewall. Whatever happened to that Tom Hayden? As Bananarama once sang, "He was really saying something . . . "
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 Baghdad roadside bombing targeting "Awakening" Council members that left 2 dead and five wounded, a Baghdad sticky bombing, a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed 1 life and left five people injured and another Baghdad bobming ("put in a rubbish bin") that resulted in five wounded, and a Mosul roadside bombing that left two Iraqi soldiers injured.
Reuters notes 1 person shot dead by US forces in Hawija.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 corpse discovered in Mosul and 1 outside of Kirkuk.
Yesterday (late) the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division – Center Soldier died of non-combat related causes Nov. 5." That brings the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4191.
Ralph Nader was this year's independent presidential candidate and Matt Gonzalez was his running mate. We'll note this from Team Nader:
Against all odds.
On $4 million total -- what Obama raised in one day.
Nader/Gonzalez overcame ballot access obstacles.
We put our shift the power agenda on 45 state ballots.
We set the world record for campaigning in 21 towns and cities in 24 hours during our Massachusetts Marathon.
We exposed Obama and Biden for the corporate politicians they are.
(And today, ABC News is reporting that Obama wants the militarist reactionary Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff.)
We drew the line.
And together, we chose to make a stand.
You stood with hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Against the corporate militaristic machine.
Our consciences are clear.
Our hands are clean.
We made the moral choice.
History will look back and say -- those Americans back in 2008 who supported Nader/Gonzalez -- they were right.
So, thank you fellow traveler.
Thank you for your donations.
And your hard work.
It has been a joy -- standing with you.
Fighting for justice.
The Nader Team
And Chris Floyd (Empire Burlesque) evaluates president-elect Barack:
To which we could add his bellicose saber-rattling at Iran, his promise to roll back "Russian aggression" and extend war-triggering treaty protection to an aggressive Georgian regime (which cluster-bombed its own people, as we learned this week), his advocacy of destabilizing and civilian-shredding military strikes in Pakistan, his opposition to gay marriage (and campaigning with gay-bashing preachers), and his support for extending the death penalty to cover non-fatal offenses, and so on.Any one of these positions would be roundly condemned by "progressives" if they were taken or advocated by George W. Bush -- as in fact many of them have been.
Indeed, one of the most remarkable things about this campaign is how Obama has managed to embody the deep and desperate thirst for change among millions of Americans -- hence the genuinely moving scenes of jubilation and revived hope that have greeted his victory -- while his actual positions in many if not most key areas track very closely with Bush's, if they are not actually identical with them.Take Iran, for example. Obama has taken what is regarded as a more nuanced position, holding out the promise of direct negotiations with Iranian leaders. Yet he has repeatedly stated what the outcome of these "negotiations" must be: Iran must "abandon its nuclear program." If it does not, then more and more draconian sanctions will be applied, with the clear threat of military action if these don't bring Tehran to heel. This is, chapter and verse, the precise policy followed by Bush, who has also repeatedly offered to "negotiate" with Iran as long as they agree to surrender on every point before talks begin.