Sunday, December 28, 2008

And the war drags on . . .

Today's New York Times includes Sam Dagher's "Car Bomb Near Baghdad Shrine Kills 24, as Iraqi Shiites' Holiest Month Approaches" which covers yesterday's Baghdad car bombing:

Jalal Hussein, 56, had just parked his car, after dropping off his wife and daughter at the gate, when the bomb exploded a few yards away, creating a huge ball of fire that consumed several vehicles and many pedestrians. He said the bodies and limbs of victims, including many children and women, were scattered everywhere.
"It was an unexpected massacre of simple people going to visit the shrine," said Mr. Hussein, who was wounded in the shoulder.

The Washington Post's Ernesto Londono and Aziz Alwan offer:

Ali Abdul Ameer, 28, stayed behind at the scene after his wife and daughter were loaded into ambulances.
"There is no security," he said, standing near his wrecked car. "How come a car like this full of explosives could enter this area?"

31 Iraqis dead and at least seventy-five reported wounded over the weekend. The US military announced another death. A province wants to break free from the puppet government out of Baghdad, al-Maliki tries to buy votes and months away from the sixth anniversary of the illegal war with nothing that truly passes for 'progress.'

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4211 and tonight? 4219. Today the US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier died of wounds from an improvised explosive device explosion in northern Baghdad Dec. 28." Just Foreign Policy's counter estimates the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war to be 1,305,837 up from 1,297,997 (where it was stuck for more than week).

In some of the reported violence . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing left two people wounded, a Falluja car bombing claimed 2 lives and left six people injured and a Mosul "suicide bomber" killed himself and 4 other people (twenty more wounded). Saturday Mohammed Al Dulaimy noted two Mosul roadside bombings that left four people wounded and a Baquba bombing that wounded three people.


Saturday McClatchy's Mohammed Al Dulaimy noted 1 corpse was discovered in Baghdad.

Meanwhile two Iraqi provinces make the news. Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the Diyala Province will be turned over to Iraqis on January 1st:

Two leaders of the Sunni Sons of Iraq movement there died in the past month under suspicious or violent circumstances. Bashir Jawrani died in a hospital after he was arrested by Iraqi police, and Sattar al Hadidi was shot to death outside a mosque two weeks ago.
"All Sons of Iraq leaders consider themselves wanted by the government’s security forces," said Hajj Khalid al Luhaibi, a Sons of Iraq leader in Diyala who was arrested and detained for four days last year.
About 95,000 members of the Sons of Iraq nationwide are moving from U.S. to Iraqi leadership in phases over the next few months. More than half of them had already made the transition when the Iraqi government took control of the movement in Baghdad province two months ago.

If the central government in Baghdad "took control of the movement . . . two months ago," then half of the "Awakening" Council members would not still need to be absorbed. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) did the best reporting on the non-hand over of the "Awakening" Council. Her paper's Ned Parker and Raheem Salman explore Basra in the leadup to the provincial elections scheduled for January 31st:

The last provincial elections, in 2005, sparked an ugly cycle of assassinations and political violence, in which most political parties were implicated. The next elections could either shatter or bolster the stability established since March, when Maliki ordered the Iraqi army and national police to crack down on armed groups.
"The potential for violence is certainly there," says Norwegian historian Reidar Visser, an expert on the Shiite south.
As the election nears, Maliki is busy maneuvering. He has tapped local leaders to organize tribes in support of the central government. And under Maliki's direction, the national government has funded $100 million worth of reconstruction projects in Basra, bypassing the provincial council. The national government also has started paying unemployment benefits in the province.

And that's far from the only thing going on in Basra. Aref Mohammed (Reuters) reports on yesterday's protest ("thousands") in Basra where "three thousand people" called for Basra to be "a semi-autonomous state" similar to what the Kurdistan region has. al-Maliki may have to work harder to buy votes.

New content at Third:

Truest statement of the week
Truest statement of the week II
Truest statement of the week III
A note to our readers
Editorial: Democracy or fan club?
TV: 2008, the lows and really lows
The 2008 Bronze Boobies
The New York State Annie Riots
The Princess Brat Chronicles
Best and worst in hardcover music journalism
Music 2009
2009 in DVDs
'Iraq now, Vietnam then' (Workers World)
US anthem "When The Money's Gone"

Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Princess Brat Speaks" went up this morning. This week, the year-in-reviews go up here. Ruth's finished her public radio review already and Martha and Shirley have finished their book review. Kat and I aren't doing ours until January 1st barring some miracle that provides either of us with additional hours in each day. So the plan currently is for Martha and Shirley's piece to go up Tuesday morning and Ruth to go up Wednesday morning. That's the plan. Pru notes Mark Brown's "Harold Pinter 1930-2008" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Harold Pinter, who died on Christmas Eve, aged 78, was, arguably, the greatest English playwright of the 20th -century. From early dramas, such as The Birthday Party (1958) and The Caretaker (1960), through such remarkable works as The Homecoming (1965) and No Man’s Land (1975), to the powerful One for the Road (1984), his theatre was startlingly original, breathtakingly poetic, disconcertingly ambiguous and profoundly humane.
In many ways the successor to his friend and mentor Samuel Beckett, Pinter constructed plays which were often deceptive in their domesticity. Just as Beckett's abstract locations enabled him to speak to something seminal and universal in human experience, so Pinter's rooms were places in which conversations became carefully observed power games and physical movements and gestures were of extraordinary import.
Pinter wrote (in 1958) that, in the theatre, "a thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false." His explorations of that idea through his characters continue to offer us remarkably deep and complex insights into our own lives.
Pinter's early career as a stage actor gave him a profound understanding of the theatre. However, his writing talents extended beyond the stage. His screenplays, such as The Servant (1963) and The French Lieutenant's Woman (1980), earned him critical acclaim. His voice was expressed in poetry, too, where his succinct wit was often employed to powerful political effect.
Pinter’s artistic genius was inseparable from his fierce sense of political justice. In 1948, during conscription, he refused to don the "s**t suit"(as he called the British Army uniform); as Michael Billington recounts in his fine biography of Pinter, only a combination of an unusually lenient magistrate and the willingness of his father to pay his court fines kept the young Pinter out of prison. An active anti-fascist since his youth, Pinter, who was Jewish, famously laid out a racist loudmouth who was spouting anti-Semitism in a London bar in the 1950s.
This political awareness and commitment would lead to Pinter becoming one of the most robust and scintillating spokespeople on the British left. This was particularly clear in his brilliantly expressed abhorrence of the imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israeli oppression of the Palestinians (Pinter was a founder member of Independent Jewish Voices, an organisation which challenges the assumption by Israel and its supporters that they speak for all Jews).
It was much to the chagrin of New Labour, and the entire British establishment, that Pinter received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005. His acceptance speech – which he had to record in London, due to ill-health – is a superb piece of prose, offering wonderful artistic insights and, in greatest measure, devastating and incisive political commentary. As so often, the chief target of his penetrating intelligence and dark satire was US imperialism, which, Pinter repeatedly reminded the world, was responsible for the greatest mass murder seen since the Nazi Holocaust.
It was my privilege and honour to know Harold Pinter. We met when he agreed to be interviewed by me for a newspaper article following the attacks in the US on September 11, 2001; an interview in which he warned against the impending disaster of the US/British invasion of Afghanistan. The signed copy of his plays Celebration and The Room which he gave me on that occasion remains my prized possession.
Pinter and I were in touch on a number of occasions after that. On each occasion, he exhibited the combination of generosity, intelligence and love for language that characterised both his art and his politics.
When his friend, the great American playwright, Arthur Miller died, Pinter said of him: "[H]e was a highly dignified and an extraordinarily formidable man, an independent man… He was so honest and a man of rare integrity in his writing." Words which apply equally to Harold Pinter himself.
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