Throughout Iraq, U.S. military personnel were served special Christmas Eve meals and many gathered for church services. Personnel more accustomed to barking orders did their best on traditional hymns and Christmas songs.
At a midnight Mass at the base at Al Asad, Catholic chaplain Paul Shaughnessy reminded the Marines and others that even H.G. Wells, who famously rejected Christianity for Darwinism and atheism, believed Christ was the greatest man in human history.
Wells admired Christ not out of faith but because of his message of brotherhood and peace, Shaughnessy told the 100-plus troops ranging from top officers to privates.
"I know for a lot of you, it's the second or third Christmas here in Iraq," Shaughnessy said during his homily. "It's probably appropriate [that] we're in the Holy Land, or close to it anyhow."
The above is from Tony Perry's "IRAQ: It's Christmas and they're away from home, again" (Babylon & Beyond, Los Angeles Times) and it's the sixth Christmas that US forces have been occupying Iraq. Expect the years to continue to add up. Remember, Barack couldn't pledge that all US troops would be out of Iraq by 2012 if he was elected president. We'll come back to elections but Missy Ryan (Reuters) reports on Iraqi Christians and we'll highlight this section:
Amira Daoud, a housewife dressed in smart suede boots and a fur-trimmed jacket, was relieved that the number of bombings and attacks has slowed over the past year.
Yet she takes a practical approach to her daily life: "Of course, there's still kidnapping. Everyone says to themselves that this could be their day. So we take precautions."
The displacement of Christians was one reason that attendance at the Sacred Heart church is still a fraction of what it was before 2003, Sheikh said.
With mass underway, hymns waft out of the plain concrete building topped by a simple dome.
Inside, parishioners young and old are packed in pews before an altar garlanded by flowers and lit by softly twinkling lights. Shiny angels dangle around a homemade nativity scene.
Despite the festive scenes
If you want numbers, Ryan's got that covered. That highlight was chosen mainly to allow an Iraqi to speak for themselves. There's much more in the report. And now we return to elections . . .
Provincial elections are scheduled in Iraq for January 31st and Mohammed al Dulaimy files "Thousands of candidates may complicate Iraq's provincial elections" (McClatchy Newspapers) which details many candidates in each race and explains:
The provincial council elections will bring new blood into local governing bodies that were filled by political blocs in Iraq's 2005 elections. They'll also give national parties a local toehold to advance their agendas.
That's why posters of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki blanket Baghdad's streets even though he isn't running for office next month. The banners are meant to build support for his Dawa party.
The above may seem so basic that some reporters elect to omit it and focus on other things; however, for people to grasp what al-Maliki's opponents mean when they refer (repeatedly) to his attempted power grabs, the above is basic information that needs to be stressed.
Already today 7 people are dead from car bombs in Baghdad in Muqdadiya. Depending on other news out of Iraq, there will or will not be a snapshot today. "I Hate The War" will be done tonight.
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the los angeles times
mohammed al dulaimy