Friday, December 26, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, a prison break takes place in Ramadi, Iraqi Christians celebrate Christmas in select areas within the country and as exiles, Barack prepares to trash the Constitution, and more.
In the day's big news, Jamal Naji and Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "Prisoners in a western Iraqi jail staged an armed revolt Friday morning that lasted for at least two hours. Ten police men and six prisoners were killed in the battle that ensued. Three Al Qaida in Iraq prisoners escaped and are on the loose, Iraqi police said." Some reports lower the death toll to thirteen (from sixteen). The BBC dubs it a "shoot-out" and then adds "Ramadi police have imposed a curfew across the city following the incident. Police are searching through houses in the city for the escaped militants." Kimi Yoshino (Los Angles Times) reports that there were four escapees but one "turned himself in without incident". Al Jazeera notes "police were going from house to house with photos of the fugitives on Friday morning." Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) explains, "The jailbreak comes as U.S. officials are shutting down their detention facilities across the country and as U.S. troops are sharply reducing their presence in Anbar province, a predominantly Sunni territory that was the cradle of the insurgency. Ramadi is the capital of Anbar." NPR (text only currently) notes that the US handed over responsibilites for the prison, al-Forsan, to the Iraqis last September and that today's events "could call into question the timetable for relinquishing U.S. control over the country." That is also when security tasks/control of Al Anbar were handed over to the Iraqis (from the US).
In diplomacy news, Iraq's Sunni vice president Tareq al-Hashemi visited Turkey last Saturday. al-Hashemi just concluded a visit to Syria. UAE Daily News notes that "he met with Preisdent Bashar al-Assad, Vice President Faruq al-Shara, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem and Interior Minister Bassam Abdel Majid" and emphasized "the security agreement between Iraq and the US in addition to the conditions of Iraqi refugees in Syria." Xinhau also reported that al-Hashemi conveyed his thanks for the hosting of Iraqi refugees and added, "The Syrian government says that there are about 1.2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria now, down from a number of 1.5 million two years ago." Meanwhile al-Maliki just finished a visit to Turkey. It did not go well. He breezed in dismissing concern over the PKK and mouthing remarks about bi-lateral trade and how there were so many issues that Iraq and Turkey had to address, important issues. As Carole King sings in "Chalice Borealis" (which she wrote with Rick Sorensen), "Didn't turn out quite the way you wanted, how were you to know?" So when the news shortly after he arrives is that the PKK in northern Iraq has just killed three Turkish soldiers with seventeen more injured, it demanded a statement and he had nothing to offer but mealy mouth words. Repeating, he came into Turkey dismissing the need to address the PKK (despite Iraq's president and vice president both visiting Turkey in the last seven days to address the issue of the PKK and other issues)and, when the news broke of the dead and wounded soldiers, he fell back on soundbytes he's been using since 2007. It was not a diplomatic success. But Turkey was only one stop on his tour of diplomacy. Or was supposed to be. Dalya Hassan and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) inform that the planned trip to Iran has been cancelled and no one is sure why that is: "The cancellation prompted speculation among Iraqi officials that Maliki changed his plans for a possible visit to Baghdad by President-elect Barack Obama, or because of the tumult in parliament that followed the resignation this week of its abrasive and sometimes strident speaker. Others suggested that Maliki was simply required to be in Baghdad ahead of the implementation of a new agreement that, starting Jan. 1, regulates the once almost unquestioned authority of the U.S. military here." Hurriyet reports, "Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that the central Iraqi government was not a party to the issue of disarmament of the terrorist PKK organization. His remarks came in response to questions if he discussed a concrete plan with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to combat the PKK during their bilateral meeting Wednesday." However, as Iran's Press TV points out, when Talabani visited a few days ago, he stated "that both the government in Baghdad adn the autonomous Kurdish administration were determined to end the presence of the PKK in the north." And China's Xinhua notes today, "Commenting on Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's statement and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's visit to Turkey, [Turkish] Gen. [Metin] Gurak said that 'we hope that Iraqi authorities could contribute to the fight against the PKK." Deciphering: The General references what Talabani said on his recent vist but is just noting al-Maliki's say-nothing visit. Balita-dot-ph observes that Iraqi is considering puchasing "50 train sets from Turkey" and that, "In the upcoming days, Iraqi, Turkish and Syrian transportation ministers would convene either in Istanbul or Baghdad in order to discuss new joint projects".
Meanwhile, possibly because it was Christmas, Iraqi Christians were actually in the news. Larisa Epatko (PBS' NewsHour) did an online "update" (text only) where they report on the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (see the December 19th snapshot): "The USCIRF said non-Muslim religions in Iraq, particularly ChaldoAssyrian and other Christian groups, Sabean Mandaen: a small religious sect tied to John the Baptist, and Yazidi: a relgion with influences from Islam and Christianity, are experiencing targeted violence and have had to relocate to other parts of Iraq or other countries." Missy Ryan (Reuters) reported on Iraqi Christians celebrating in Baghdad and quoted Amira Daoud who "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." Today Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports on Iraqi Christians in Mosul and notes that those who have returned (a small number) cite the Chaldean's Church's Rev Basman George Fatouhi and three nuns, including Sister Autour Yousif, who had remained behind in Mosul "working against the tide to keep their faith alive. Durign the depths of the crisis in October, they were not only providing moral and spiritual support, but often venturing out at great risk to buy food and provisions for families who were too scared to even go to the market. They have also been determined to maintain church services in some of the most dangerous parts of the city. On numerous occasions the pair have found themselves carrying out the grim task of collecting the bodies of Christians from the morgue because their families were too afraid to do it." Kimi Yoshino and Ali Hameed (Los Angeles Times) quote Issa Zakariya, a Chrisian in Mosul, stating, "Years ago, we were spending Christmas congratulating our friends and relatives in Mosul, but today everything has changed. But despite all that, the flavor of Christmas still exists and the dream of Santa still exists in the hearts of the children. I just hope peace and safety come back to Iraq." Meanwhile Liz Sly (Chicago Tribune) reports on Iraqi Christians who've fled the country for their own safety, "At the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in this working-class Christian suburb east of Beirut, Rev. Joseph Malkoum preaches to an Iraqi congregation that expands every Sunday, swelled by the ranks of Christians fleeing Iraq. In recent weeks, he has noticed an increase in the number of new faces crowded into the pews as a surge in violence directed against Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul fuels a fresh wave of refugees."
Mosul is covered in Alissa J. Rubin's analysis (New York Times) of current conditions in Iraq where she notes the rumors that some of the violence aimed at Iraqi Christians is coming from Kurds with the hope of pushing them to support the Kurdish Regional Government extending beyond its current boundaries. Rubin explores how al-Maliki is seen to be consolidating his power and doing so at the expense of others. She explores his "controversial" program of putting tribal councils on his personal payroll. For those paying attention in April, this is what Joe Biden was publicly warning against. Rubin notes that, despite the amnesty for Sunnis, the bulk remain imprisoned, she offers that along with talks of coups in Iraq, there is talk of holding a no-confidence vote to replace him: "But unless there is a consensus about a successor, the government could drift for months as it did after the elections in 2005, when there were several months of discussions about who would become prime minister, and in 2006, when the previous prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was removed." She explains all of this drama and intrigue takes place as provincial elections approach. They are currently scheduled for January 31st. Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reported earlier on the provincial elections and noted that they would "give natioanl 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."
In other Iraqi political news, UPI reports, "Communist parties in Iraq are resuming their campaign after several years by embracing youthful energy in the run-up to provincial elections, Sot al-Iraq said Friday. The Communist platform of unity and equality among the various social classes is impossible under the crisis caused by the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Their solidariy, however, differs from other parties as they do not differentiate or support any one plaform over the other. The Communist Party emerged out of the southern Wasit province to embrace a dream of equality, hoping the bloodshed of its martyrs would usher in a new hope for tomorrow, the news service said."
Along with the prison break, Iraq saw other violence today . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Bahgdad home bombing that claimed 1 life and left two people wounded (all family members), a Baghdad roadside bombing that left six people wounded (four are police officers), a Baquba roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers, with two more and two military officers wounded (total of four people wounded) and, dropping back to Wednesday, a Falluja roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 3 "children and their mother." Reuters states the Baghdad home bombing death was the father and that the two injured were the man's sons.
CNN reports 1 truck driver was shot dead in Falluja by the Iraqi police and his "truck was rigged with explosives."
Yesterday, the US military announced: "A U.S. Soldier died of wounds as a result of an indirect fire attack near Mosul, Iraq Dec. 25." ICCC's count for the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war stands at 4217. Eight deaths since last Friday (the deaths began on Saturday) and little interest on the part of the media.
Turning to the US political scene, earlier this month ETAN called out talk of Dennis Blair being appointed Director of National Intelligence by president-elect Barack Obama:
"President-elect Barack Obama's rumored selection of Admiral Dennis C. Blair for Director of National Intelligence is unacceptable," the East Timor and Indonesia Action Network (ETAN) said today.
"During his years as Pacific Commander, Blair actively worked to reinstate military assistance and deepen ties to Indonesia's military despite its ongoing human rights violations in East Timor and consistent record of impunity," said John M. Miller, National Coordinator of ETAN.
"His actions demonstrate the failure of engagement to temper the Indonesian military's behavior and his actions helped to reinforce impunity for senior Indonesian officials that continues to this day," added Miller. He undermined the Clinton administration's belated efforts to support human rights and self-determination in the Indonesian-occupied territory and opposed congressional efforts to limit assistance."
"It is unfathomable that Obama would consider appointing someone to such a prominent position who has shown so little concern for human rights in the past. Can we expect someone who has sought to undermine efforts to link human rights to military assistance to be a champion of reform? We don't think this is the kind of change people are expecting," said Miller.
In April 1999, just days after Indonesian security forces and their militias carried out a brutal churchyard massacre, Adm. Blair delivered a message of 'business-as-usual' To Indonesian General Wiranto, then Commander of the Indonesian armed forces. Following East Timor's pro-independence vote, Blair sought the quickest possible restoration of military assistance, despite Indonesia's highly destructive exit.
Barack has long cozied up to those responsible for and encouraging of that slaughter in East Timor. ETAN's full release can be read here or here. Tom Burghardt (Dissident Voice) sounds the alarms on Blair as well and the section that may most stand out is this:
Obama's choice for ODNI is well-placed to continue the mercenary "tradition" of intelligence outsourcing and what one can only describe as the corporatization of government. According to the Journal, some of the "tougher intelligence issues" the incoming Obama administration seeks to resolve "is weighing whether to propose the creation of a domestic intelligence agency," modeled after Britain's MI5.
Marjorie Cohn, Naomi Wolf and all the others who embarrassed themselves by public slobbering over Barack Obama and insisting he would 'save' the Constitution, when do you plan to get your lazy asses and call the above out? Now the Gitmo attorneys made fools out of themselves as well but they've already been publicly punked and no longer rush to assure how dreamy Barack is. But let's see some of these 'brave voices' for the Constitution step up to the damn plate. They could be counted on to DELUDE themselves and schill for Barack. Can they now try standing up for the Constitution of the United States of America or is that too damn hard? Bill Clinton could not -- at any time during his eight years in office -- have gotten away witha d omestic intelligence agency (currently against the law) but Barack might be able to because so many 'leaders' are chicken s**t when it comes to calling him out. So come on Marj, you could distort reality to attack Hillary and advance Barack. Let's see you address the Constitution, big girl, let's see you protect it. Naomi, you made an utter fool out of yourself. Your racism in Fire With Fire was nothing compared to what you did in 2008. So if you're not zonked out on drugs or 'love,' how about you step up to the damn plate and call out this attack on the Consitution?
And those are only two of the many public fools -- idiots who damn well should have known better but felt running a fan club was more important than protecting the Constitution and our civil liberties.