Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Wednesday, November 12, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, 2 or 4 US soldiers are dead, Iraqi refugees who make it to Michigan continue to struggle, truth tellers John Pilger and Paul Street show the play 'left' how it's done, and more.
Faisal Sidiq and Zoe Magee (ABC News) report that 4 US soldiers were shot dead in Mosul -- reportedly following "an argument" with an "Iraqi soldier, Barazen Mohammed, and an American colleague" which led Mohammed to allegedy shoot dead the 4 and then he was shot dead.  The deaths bring to 4197 US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war with 7 for the month thus far.  Gregory Viscusi and Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) notes that "at least two" US soldiers are dead and argue that it wasn't "clear what prompted the incident and whether the Iraqi soldier killed himself or was shot by American forces" and they quote US Sgt Chris Stagner stating, "The situation is fluid and we are investigating."  Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) cites US Navy Commander Abram McGull stating the US service members "were dismounted, going back to their convoy" and that two are dead and six are wounded.  Tim Cocks (Reuters) notes two US service members dead and adds, "A local morgue said it had received the body of the Iraqi soldier, riddled with bullets."  Sam Dagher (New York Times) adds, "While the deaths of the [2] American soldiers were confirmed by the United States military, the circumstances surrounding the Mosul shooting remained in dispute."  James Hider (Times of London) offers, "The Iraqi Interior Ministry said the soldier opened fire after he had been publicly slapped by an American colleague. Many Iraqi men, especially in the military, are intensely proud and conscious of any perceived slight to their honour."
Meanwhile George Frey (AP) reports that US army Sgt. Michael P. Leahy Jr. will move straight to a court-martial following his decision to waive his Article 32 hearing into the deaths of four Iraqis who were shot dead while they were bound and blindfolded and then their corpses were dumped in a canal.  Frey notes, "Leahy is the fifth of seven soldiers implicated in the incident to face a judge since August."  Last week Seth Robson (Stars and Stripes) provided an overview of the cases and he noted, "Leahy is also charged with premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit premeditated murder and obstruction of justice in the deaths of the four detainees in March or April."
We'll come back to the topics of violence and justice but this morning, the United Nations World Food Programme issued this press release entitled "New Report Says Iraq Food Security Better But Situation Still Volatile:"

Baghdad, 12 November 2008 -- The number of people without adequate access to food in Iraq has fallen dramatically, according to the findings of a joint assessment carried out by the Iraqi Government and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
The assessment -- which shows a significant improvement in food security - found some 930,000 people were without adequate access to food last year, down from around four million in 2005. 
The Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Assessment (CFSVA) was carried out in late 2007 in collaboration with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as a follow-up to the last food security survey in mid-2005. 
"We can give a cautious welcome to these figures," said Edward Kallon, WFP Country Director for Iraq. 
"I say cautious, because 930,000 is still far too many for a relatively wealthy country. Moreover, there are a further 6.4 million people who would slide into food insecurity if it were not for safety nets, such as the Public Distribution System (PDS)." 
Under the Government-run PDS, every Iraqi is entitled to a monthly food basket to fulfill their nutritional needs. However, frequent shortfalls and delays in the distribution of certain commodities have made it difficult for vulnerable households to manage their monthly food needs. 
As well as surveying the food security of 26,000 people across the country, the CFSVA also examined the nutritional status of 24,000 children under five. It found an improvement in national acute malnutrition rates and little change in chronic malnutrition rates. However, in five districts, stunting rates among children were described as alarming. 
"This report gives us crucial insights into the current state of food security in Iraq," said Dr Mehdi al-Alak, chairman of the Central Organization of Statistics and Information Technology of the Iraqi Ministry of Planning. "And that, in turn, is vital for the country's economic recovery, reconstruction and improvements in basic services." 
"For the first time, we have a comprehensive report covering all parts of the country. This makes it an extremely valuable tool for working out policies and strategies in the future," said Dr. Jamal Ameen, the head of Kurdistan Region Statistics Office. 
WFP is currently providing food assistance to 750,000 of the most vulnerable among the estimated 1.5 million people displaced inside Iraq since February 2006, who do not have continuous access to a PDS ration because they are unable to register in the places where they are currently living. 
Kallon attributed the reversal of declining food security to increased economic activity across the country, stimulated by a marked improvement in security and the humanitarian efforts of the international community. "But the situation remains volatile and any deterioration could undermine the whole process," he said. 
The report recommends continued food assistance to the most vulnerable in collaboration with the Iraqi government's efforts to reform the PDS. It calls for support to initiatives to improve mother and child nutrition and caring practices, scaling up micronutrient programmes and providing food for education in the poorest areas, with a particular emphasis on girls' school enrolment and attendance.

Related, as noted in yesterday's snapshot, Khaled Yacoub Oweis (Reuters) reported Syria refused to allow a World Food Program ship to unload rice "at the country's main port" due to "the percentage of cracked rice in the cargo" (according to a Syiran official).  The rice was intended for some of the estimated 194,000 refugees from Iraq currently living in Syria.  Staying with the topic of refugees, Barbara Ferguson (Arab News) reports on the process for Iraqis who make it to the United States, "Once in the US, for example, refugees must over time reimburse the US government for the cost of their plane ticket, usually well in excess of $1,000.  Though some are given small stipends, they lament that they start life in the US already in debt.  In the US, many new arrivals say life hasn't improved much.  Many subsist on food statmps, housing supplied by refugee services, and get whatever medical care they need from Medicaid. . . . The immediate resettlment -- finding a house, giving three months' worth of cash assitance -- is the easy part.  The hard part comes afterward, when the money has run out, the economy is still bad and affordable is hard to come by."  At the White House today, spokesperson Dana Perino said the Bully boy was "very well aware of" Michigan's 9% unemployment rate.  NPR's Jamie Tarabay (Morning Edition) reported yesterday on the Iraqi refugees in Michigan and notes that "the economy is so bleak that the State Department no longer wants to allow Iraqis to settle in Michigan unless they have immediate relatives already living there.  Iraqi engineer Raed Jabro has been looking for a job in Detroit for four months now and told Tarabay, "It's not easy to find a job now."  Rawa Bahou is an Iraqi widow living in Detroit with her three young children and she explains that after leaving Syria (where she and her family were refugees for three years), she was settled in Atlanta despite having family in Detroit, "We stayed in an apartment they rented for us.  I didn't go out.  I closed the door, rang my in-laws to come get me." The city's Chaldean federation is headed by Joe Kassab and he makes clear that the refugees are not putting a strain on any government system, "Those who aren't working, their families are supporting them.  They are not a burden on the government or the state.  They are a clannish people.  They live among each other, and if I lose money, I have my cousin -- my ungle going to help me."  Of all Iraqi refugees, Marc J. Sirois (Pakistan's Daily Star) notes the US has "been dowright stingy, for instance, about helping to care for hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees."  Johanna Berrigan (CounterPunch) reports on the refugees who've sought shelter in Syira and Jordan.  Of a 2007 trips, she writes, "Throughout the trip, the works of war came vividly to life in the stories and sorrowful eyes as each person spoke.  They eagerly and openly shared with us their experiences of the war in Iraq, the circumstances under which they were forced to flee, the indignities, uncertainty, and suffering that they continue to endure.  We spent time with individuals and families whose lives have been utterly devastated by the invasion and occupation of Iraq.  The Iraqi people are barely eking out an existence in these countries were they cannot claim residence and don't know when or if they will be resettled to a third country.  One man expressed it rather poetically, yet tragically, 'we cannot touch the sky, we cannot touch the earth, we are nowhere, we are in limbo without hope, all we want is peace.'  Neither Jordan nor Syria is a signatory of the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees which guarantees certain minimal rights.  Niether government refers to the Iraqis in their countries as 'refugees,' but rather as 'guests.'  Both countries are concerned that the Iraqi refugess will become a long term presence." 
Hamid Ahmed (AP) reports a Baghdad car bombing claimed 4 lives today (fifteen more wounded) and it was "the third consecutive day of morning rush hour blasts in the Iraqi capital" which also included a roadside bombing that left seven wounded while, in Mosul, two Iraqi Christians (sisters) were shot dead outside their home and their mother was left wounded. Louise Ireland (Reuters) notes, "In Wednesday's incident, gunmen killed one woman outside her home, then stormed the house, killing her sister and wounding their mother."  Sam Dagher (New York Times) identifies one sister as Lamai Subaih Daoud (and the mother of three young children) and notes the other was twenty-three years old.

As the report released Monday by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted (this is the link, click on language of choice -- such as "English" -- and remember it's PDF format):

Starting in August, attempts at intimdation aginst Christians in Mosul were reported with a dramatic increase in violence in the first two weeks of October. Over 2,200 families, more than 10,000 individuals, have reportedly fled their homes and most have sought temporary shelter in the Ninawa plains, leading my Special Representative to publicly express concern and strongly condemn the killing of civilians on 12 October. The development comes at a very sensitive time, and against a backdrop of heightened political tensions regarding the unresolved issues of minority representation in the provincial elections and disputed internal boundaries.

Didn't puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki swear the assaults had resulted in stronger measures to ensure protection? Some of the over 2,000 families have returned to the area and it appears some may flee for their own safety again. 
In other violence . . .
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left seven wounded, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 2 lives (ten more wounded), another Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded two people, another Baghdad car bombing that claimed 12 lives and left at least sixty more people wounded, a Mosul car bombing at the home where the 2 sisters were shot dead which resulted in three police officers being wounded (the bombing followed the shooting), a Kirkuk sticky bomb that wounded four people, a Mosul car bombing that wounded one Iraqi soldier and a Mosul roadside bombing that left one person wounded.  Reuters notes the Kirkuk sticky bomb targeted (and wounded) "Christian plitician Ashur Yalda" (and also wounded two of his bodyguards).
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person shot dead in Irouba.
Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.
At the US State Dept today, deputy spokesperson Robert Wood was asked of the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agrement and he responded, "My understanding is that the Iraqis are studying the text, and we await to hear back from them.  We think it's, you know, a good agreement that serves both countries' interests.  China's Xinhua quotes Ali al-Adeeb speaking to the Iraqi press on the treaty and stating, "Washington's response over the Iraqi proposed amendments on Status of Forces Agreement only have some positive points, but it seems not enough for the Iraqi side"; and they quote Iraq's Minister of Finance Bayan Jabr Solagh stating, "The cabinet will meet either on Saturday or on Sunday to review the last version of the SOFA draft and then will vote."  People's Weekly World Newspaper  quotes Iraq's Communist Party secretary of the central committee (and Iraqi MP) Hamid Mejaeed Mousa stating, "Our party is seeking, with others, to amend the agreement, because it is unacceptable in Iraqi society in its current draft.  It will also not pass in the Parliament in this format, and we will be the first to reject it. . . .  There has to be an agreement that ensures the evacuation of the foreign troops . . . their evacuation cannot take place by total rejection.  It must be regulated by an agreement between the two sides.  In all countries, regardless of the situation where there are foreign troops, their exit does not take place by only ignoring mutal dialogue and talks, but through an agreement.  What matters, therefore, is the content of such an agreement, and what the principles and basis were for concluding it.  That is the correct approach."  Real News Network files a report on the treaty:
The Iraqi government has made more demands for more changes to the Status of Forces Security Agreement with the United States. The government of Prine Minister Nouri al-Maliki had already demanded changes to the agreement last month and last week the US sent an amended draft proposal back for approval. But even with the US acquiescence to Iraqi demands on Tuesday, Iraqi government spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh told the London based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, "The US reply to the Iraqi amendments is not satisfactory and there are many points that still need clarification and amendment." The agreement must be approved by the Iraqi parliament before the 31 December 2008 deadline of the U.N. mandate that allows US troops to operate legally within Iraq. Without an agreement the US would have to go back to the Security Council to get an extension.
The report includes an analysis by Gareth Porter whose work at IPS we've noted often [such as "Witnesses Describe Ballot Fraud in Nineveh" (IPS) from November 2005.]  Real News Network is always video and usually text as well.
While the treaty remains iffy, one thing was approved today.  The Saudi Gazetter reports al-Maliki's cabinet signed off on the $67 billion 2009 budget and that it now goes to the Parliament (which will ratify or turn thumbs down).
At the State Dept today Wood also noted that Tayyip Recep Erdogan, Turkey's Prime Minister, was in the US for an economic meet up with the White House and that Secretary of State Condi Rice will be meeting with him during the visit.  Turkey and northern Iraq are in continous conflict and it is a rare day when the Turkish military's airplanes are not bombing northern Iraq.  Whether that topic will figure into any talks or not is not being dicussed.  Another Iraqi neighbor is in the need.  Khaled Yacoub Oweis (Reuters) reports that despite the US assault on Syria October 26, the Syrian government has decided it will go through with a planned conference on November 22nd.  The conference has invited Iraq, its neighbors, the US, the UK and others.
On the change of emperors in the US, Paul Street (Black Agenda Report) weighs in with a must read and we'll excerpt this from it: 
An old friend used to be a very smart Marxist and was an early member of SDS -- a real New Leftist.  She refused to be given -- yes, refused to be given -- a copy of of my very careful and respectful book on the Obama phenomenon.  "I can't read that," she said.  Some of the names on the back of the book (Adolph Reed Jr., Noam Chomsky, and John Pilger) are former icons of hers (she introduced me to the writings of Adolph Reed, Jr. in the mid-1990s.) but now she's in love with Obama.  "It's the best thing that could happen," she says about his election.  She's repudiated her radical past and agrees with centrist American Enterprise Institute (AEI) "scholar" Norman Ornstein's recent ravings on how "the left" must not press Obama for very much right now (Ornstein's AEI-funded admonitions have recently been broadcast again and again across America's wonderful "public" broadcasting stations ("N" PR and "P" BS) because of, you know, "the economy" and all. 
Paul Krugman in the New York Times (a left-liberal Obama critic during the primary campaign) says there's "something wrong with you" if you weren't "teary-eyed" about Obama's election.  Yes, numerous other radicals and I need to be put under psychiatric care because we didn't cry over the militantly bourgeois and openly imperialist Obama's presidential selection. 
We have the increasingly unglued white anti-racist Tim Wise screaming "Screw You" to Obama's harshes radical critics -- this after recklessly charging racism against working-class whites and Hillary Clinton supporters who had any issues with (the racially conciliatory) Obama. 
[. . .]
The local bookstore, run by progressives (left-liberal Edwards supporters during the Iowa Caucus), is willing to sell my book but "too scared" to have an author event. 
Few if any of these people have bothered to read a single solitary word of Obama's blatantly imperial, nationalist, and militarist foreign policy speeches and writings.  And my sense is they never will.  They do not care about such primary sources in the ongoing history of the Obama phenomenon. 
For the last two years talking to many liberals and avowed "progressives" I know about Obama -- who I picked to be the next president in the fall of 2006 (I thought he was too simultaneously irresistible to both the power elite and the liberal base not to prevail) -- has been like talking to Republicans about George W. Bush and the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and 2004; no room for messy and inconvenient facts.  
I am hearing people of color identify with the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq in ways that would be unimaginable without Obama.  This may be the worst thing of all.
Paul Street's book is Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics [Link takes you to]  Independent journalist John Pilger (at Dissident Voice) continues his truth telling:
No serious scrutiny of this is permitted within the histrionics of Obama-mania, just as no serious scrutiny of the betrayal of the majority of black South Africans was permitted within the "Mandela moment." This is especially marked in Britain, where America's divine right to "lead" is important to elite British interests. The once respected Observer newspaper, which supported Bush's war in Iraq, echoing his fabricated evidence, now announces, without evidence, that "America has restored the world's faith in its ideals." These "ideals", which Obama will swear to uphold, have overseen, since 1945, the destruction of 50 governments, including democracies, and 30 popular liberation movements, causing the deaths of countless men, women and children.
None of this was uttered during the election campaign. Had it been allowed, there might even have been recognition that liberalism as a narrow, supremely arrogant, war-making ideology is destroying liberalism as a reality. Prior to Blair's criminal war-making, ideology was denied by him and his media mystics. "Blair can be a beacon to the world," declared the Guardian in 1997. "[He is] turning leadership into an art form." 
Today, merely insert "Obama". As for historic moments, there is another that has gone unreported but is well under way -- liberal democracy's shift towards a corporate dictatorship, managed by people regardless of ethnicity, with the media as its clichéd façade. "True democracy," wrote Penn Jones Jr., the Texas truth-teller, "is constant vigilance: not thinking the way you're meant to think and keeping your eyes wide open at all times."