Monday, December 29, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, even as the networks pull out, the US military announces another death over the weekend, the US military opens an investigation into what is being called a "military execution," and more.
Yesterday, a taxi driver agreed to take me to a west Baghdad neighborhood, as we arrived he stopped his car not far away from the main street of the block and told me: "I can't, forgive me"
He explained that he has a family and don't want to take any risk. I told him I am coming to this neighborhood on daily bases with many drivers but he said he can not trust the situation.
The neighborhood was, and still for many, a fearful place after all fighting against the American troops, Iraqi troops, sectarian killings, crimes and displacement.
I had to step down and to take another taxi.
Doctors, engineers, teachers, drivers and students do not go to many places because of fear remembering the situation in Baghdad is better than the last few years.
It made me think again and again why people don't trust the new situation but how can people trust the situation enough when blast walls are still surrounding neighborhoods?
Not only does the end of the month approach, so does the end of the year which leads to reflection (on everything but the status of their own outlets) from the press. Deborah Haynes (Times of London) contributes one of the better articles where she notes that despite the (small) drop in violence in 2008, "an average of 25 Iraq civilians were killed every day in Iraq in 2008. Since January, two British soldiers were killed in action in Ira and another two shot themselves. In contrast, 47 British troops died in 2008". Two shot themselves. That's Lee Churcher, the second one, who died December 11th. From that day's snapshot: "The British military announces a death (and it's strange how closely it resembles their most recent Basra death) . . . Today the British Military announced: 'It is with profound sadness that the Ministry of Defence must confirm the death in Basra yesterday, Thursday 11 December 2008, of a solider serving with 20 Armoured Brigade. At approximately 2200hrs local time, a report was received of a soldier who had suffered a gunshot wound within the Contingency Operating Base. Immediate medical assistance was provided but sadly the soldier died at the scene. No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that any third party was involved in the incident. An investigation by the Royal Military Police Special Investigations Branch is underway.' This is the second British military fatality in Iraq this month. December 4th David Kenneth Wilson died in Basra from a gunshot wound and, note, 'No enemy forces were involved and there is no evidence at this stage to suggest that anyone else was involved.' Today's announcement brings the number of British service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 178".
Meanwhile, Sunday 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." The total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war currently stands at 4219. The number for the month of December thus far is 12 and that illustrates how quickly things change. Up until December 20th, outlets were preparing their "ONLY TWO US SOLIDERS KILLED IN IRAQ FOR THE MONTH!!!!!" Over the last nine days, ten deaths have been reported. Harshing the mellow for those wanting to scream "Mission Accomplished!" And when those types pimp that 12 they might want to wait a day or two after the first since M-NF has a pattern of holding death announcements for the month until after they get those more pleasing pieces. October is only the most recent example of that. If you're late to the party, you can see "Robin Morgan's homophobic candidate" (the homophobic candidate is, of course Barack, and though it gets harder and harder for even the devoted to deny, pay attention to the Iraq portion) and pair it with "October's death toll? Want to run your corrections?" And, no, they didn't want to run to the corrections nor did they.
The impulse to roll in the latest waves of Operation Happy Talk may be irresistable for many outlets who may need some excuse to hide recent decisions. Brian Stelter (New York Times) reports that ABC, CBS and NBC (the broadcast networks) have further downrated their Iraq coverage and are instead moving staff to Afghanistan and Pakistan in anticipation of the death tolls president-elect Barack Obama will provide them with in the next year: "Joseph Angotti, a former vice president of NBC News, said he could not recall any other time when all three major broadcast networks lacked correspondents in an active war zone that involved United States forces." Stelter speaks with independent reporter Michael Yon (who goes back and forth between Iraq and Afghanistan) and Mike Boettcher of No Ignoring which is where the former NBC correspondent and his son Carlos report as embeds from Iraq. Stelter explains, "The staff cuts appear to be the latest evidenc eof budget pressures at the networks. And those pressures are not unique to television: many newspapers and magazines have also curtailed their presence in Baghdad. As a consequence, the war is gradually fading from television screens, newspapers and, some worry, the consciousness of the American public."
here's Workers World's "Iraq now, Vietnam then:"
Iraq now, Vietnam then
Published Dec 22, 2008 6:02 PM
The news from Iraq is starting to remind veteran political analysts of the events four decades ago in South Vietnam as successive U.S. puppet governments disintegrated under the weight of tremendous popular sentiment, with a liberation war knocking at the door.
The U.S. secret services then hatched and executed coups to remove some discredited, inept and well-hated puppet leaders. Their replacements had not yet exposed to the world their own corruption, favoritism and brutality that would soon make them just as inept and well-hated. Only 500,000-plus U.S. troops could keep them in power for more than a week.
Now in Iraq, with the continued U.S. occupation up for debate, cracks are exposed in the puppet regime. Bush's surprise visit humiliates him, the occupation and the puppet leader, Nuri al-Maliki. Within days, the Maliki faction arrests 24 high-level military security figures.
Al-Maliki's regime leaks charges to the New York Times that those arrested are secret Ba'athists--the ruling party in Iraq before the U.S. invasion--who were plotting a coup.
It's true that enough agents of the Iraqi resistance have infiltrated the regime to track military maneuvers. But the Ba'athists, who are part of the resistance, have said they don't believe a coup could succeed against the will of the U.S. occupation forces. They expect the resistance to wear down the U.S. until its forces leave. The "plot" story, then, is far-fetched.
Sure enough, two days after the Times story ran, the Iraqi military dropped the charges against the 24, calling them "patriotic officers." It turns out a Maliki-appointed security agency had charged and arrested the "patriotic officers."
Instead, al-Maliki himself is now under suspicion.
Because of his friendly relations with Iran, al-Maliki has lost favor in Washington. If there is a "coup plot," maybe the U.S. is behind it.
Speculation aside, there are some points--which were also true in South Vietnam--that these events have underlined:
The puppet regime is unstable, even more than it appeared up to now, and is torn apart by internal contradictions.
Despite all the propaganda about the U.S. "surge" working, there is no feasible pro-imperialist government than can run Iraq without large numbers of U.S. troops as an occupation army.
One way or another, Iraqi sovereignty will assert itself. There is no way the Iraqi people, even though horribly damaged by the U.S. invasion and occupation, will submit.
It is impossible for the U.S. to find an Iraqi political leader who is honest, courageous and capable to direct the puppet government. Any Iraqis with those characteristics joined the resistance long ago.
For the U.S. anti-war movement, it is time to move more forcefully into action. There is no way out except for the total withdrawal of U.S. forces, the recognition of the Iraqi resistance and payment of adequate reparations to the Iraqi people.
Articles copyright 1995-2008 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
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Today Nabeel Kamal and Huda Mohammed (Alive in Baghdad -- link has video and text) file a report on the reconstruction process in Amarah which is in the Maysan Province, an area that was deprived and targeted prior to the start of the illegal war. The province's governor explains:
Adel Mahawed Radi: In the name of Allah, Mericful and Compassionate, as is well known, during the ex-regime, the country was centralized, all governorates connected to one center, Baghdad, through the Ministry of Interior.
The head of city services, Ali Hassoon Atwan cites the inheritance of "many bad things" during the Saddam Hussein era and states this impacted 2006 and 2007 plans for constructing sewer and water systems. The engineer over the city's projects, Majeed Ibrahim Jabr, agrees with Ali Hasson Atwan's call but feels there are also additional issues. He says, "There are difficulties with deparmental complications and this can interfere with the sewer problems. Also the Maysan governoarte his limited finishing projects, such as damage to equipment or communications cables and also to phone booths due to sewage in most streets. The rain interferes with this. The biggest problem is the violations by citizens building phonebooths on the sidewalks, or by illegal homes, sometimes in the middle of the street!" In addition, the quality of the roads themselves is said to be a problem with most not being paved with either concrete or asphalt in the past and the asphalt brought in recently was not of good quality and cables had not been buried deep enough prior to the pouring of asphalt causing more problems.
Governor Adel Mahawed Radi: We demand truth in all governorates and more authority to decentralize the process and make a more stable system, we must give more authority to the governorates so we can improve our governorates' security situation or its services [. . .].
More provincial power was a demand on Saturday. Sunday Aref Mohammed (Reuters) reported on a 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. Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) report that al-Maliki's gearing up for the scheduled provincial elections (January 31st): "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."
Over the weekend Adam Ashton (McClatchy Newspapers) reported on the plans to turn Diyala Province over to Iraqis on January 1st where the big news was that despite the November 1st headlines of Baghdad taking over the "Awakening" Councils, approximately half the members are still under US control.
Meanwhile the December 10th death of Haedan al-Jabouri (that may not be the correct spelling) is in the news and the subject of a military investigation. Michael Ware (CNN -- link has video only) reported the latest events yesterday.
Michael Ware: Following a nighttime military operation outside of Baghdad two weeks ago, the US army is now investigating allegations an Iraqi man, a suspected al Qaeda member, was executed in cold blood by a secretive American unit. An Iraqi farmhouse after a recent raid by US forces. Items scatted by the soldiers search for weapons. An elderly mother mourns. Hadan, her son shot dead by the Americans in Madain on Baghdad's outskirts. It was Hadan the special forces had come for suspecting he was a bomb maker for al Qaeda. But now troubling questions have arisen from the operation, questions not of Hadan's life as a potential bomber but rather questions into his death at American hands. Questions grave enough that the US army has launched an inquiry probing claims the death was a special forces execution. The military released to CNN a few details of the night's operation, saying the shooting was provoked.
An unidentified voice reads from this December 10th M-NF press release: A man from the building initially complied with Coalition forces' instrucitons, but then returned inside the house. When he returned outside, he attempted to engage the forces with an AK-47. Perceiving hostile intent, the force engaged the armed man, killing him.
Michael Ware: But the dead man's brothers who witnessed the raid say that's a lie. Hadan, they say, was unarmed, his killing an American execution. The truth however is unclear. . . . But the Iraqi version is different. They say all [four] the brothers were stripped to their underwear and forced to lay on the ground, unable to move without the Americans permission, let alone grab a rifle. When Hadan did return inside, they say, it was the Americans who ordered him to do so.
Nurhi Subbi [translated]: The American forces ordered my brother to go back into the house.
Michael Ware: He was told to turn the lights on, says his brother named Nurhi, and the moment he turned on the lights, the soldiers open fired and then dragged him deeper inside the house.
If it was a military execution, take note, that would be the reality of "counter-insurgency" strategies. The press has refused to explore that and everyone's rushed to airbrush any realities out of it but that is "counter-insurgency" tactics and strategies. In other news, despite the claims of 'safer but not safe' Iraq, Saturday saw a bombing with mass fatalities. Usama Redha and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) reported at least 24 dead, "A mini-bus laden with explosives ripped the Kadhimiya neighborhood by Zahra square, which hosts a market and bust stop, police said." Sam Dagher (New York Times) offered, "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." Ernesto Londono and Azia Alwan (Washington Post) quoted survivor Ali Abdul Ameer whose wife and daughter were wounded in the bombing, "There is no security. How come a car like this full of explosives could enter this area?"
Moving to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baquba roadside bombing that left six people injured, a Basra sticky bombing that wounded the driver of a police vehicle, a Hilla sticky bombing that claimed the lives of 1 police officer and his wife and their daughter. Reuters notes a Mosul bomber who took 1 life as well as his/her own "in a grocery shop".
Today the Washington Post's Amit R. Paley and Andrea Bruce explore female mutiliation in Iraq. Andrea Bruce's photos are here and Amit R. Paley's text report is here. The two specifically explore seven-year-old Sheelan ANwar Omer whose mother promises her she's going to attend a party but instead is taken for a backroom circumcision by an insane woman wielding "a stainless-steel razor blade" and screaming, "I do this in the name of Allah!" as she mutilates Sheelan's genitals. Paley notes that over 60% of the females in the Kurdish region have undergone this butchering -- consistent with the numbers WADI was providing in 2005. WADI explains:
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is one important mechanism, among others, of tight social control over women. Through the work of Wadi's mobile team in Germain region, it has been discovered that FGM is common in this area. A pilot study shown that 907 out of 1544 women questioned in the survey were victims of FGM. Through this local survey a taboo has bees been broken. FGM had been considered an 'African problem', unspoken of in these parts of Iraq.
Following the evidence the FGM is widespread in Northern Iraq, WADI's staff initiated the first campaign against FGM in the country. Local mobile teams found out that FGM in Northern Iraq is usually practiced by female family members or traditional midwives on girls aged between 4 to 12 years. Instruments like razors and knives are used to cut girls' clitoris according to the "sunnat - excision". The wound is usually covered with ash, but no drugs are given. Sometimes girls have to sit into a bowl of icy water. Women justify this practice either by religion, tradition or medical reasons. Uncircumcised girls are not allowed to serve water or meals. Many women said that their daughter would not be able to be married uncircumcised. Most of the women are not aware of the long-term medical and psychological consequences of FGM.
WADI prepared two awareness films about FGM in close cooperation with local cinema directors and women's organizations. One film is used to spread awareness in Iraqi population. The film is shown daily by the mobile teams across Northern Iraq, giving information and an opportunity to discuss the problem. A second film will be shown in Europe in 2008.
WADI organized the first Iraqi conference against FGM in Arbil in February 2006, which was successful in attracting the interest of Kurdish Regional Government's (KRG) interest.
WADI's campaign "STOP FGM in Kurdistan" obtained more than 14 000 signatures for a petition to ban FGM presented to the Kurdish Regional Government. Recommendations for a law to ban FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan were prepared by local specialists and members of WADI´s mobile teams and presented to KRG in spring 2007. Wadi presented the law recommandations also to Kurdish women's parliament. The bill is now in the legislation process in the regional parliament.
In summer 2007, additional mobile teams were set in order expand the campaign and fight FGM in Northern Iraq. Until 2006, more than 4000 women took part in WADI's campaign against FGM. Supported by the Swiss Caritas, the Austrian Development Agency, the Roselo Foundation and the Iraqi Civil Society Programme, six teams are currently working all over Kurdistan. A comprehensive research of FGM and its practice in Iraq is now in preparation.
In February 2008 "A handful of ash", Wadi's documentary about FGM in Iraqi Kurdistan produced by a local director was presented in Germany for the first time. Additional screenings are scheduled for Mars in Switzerland and in Germany.
Those who would like or need audio can refer to Jessie Graham's The World (PRI) report on the female circumcision in the Kurdish region from January 2006. Nicholas Birch's "Female circumcision surfaces in Iraq" (Christian Science Monitor, August 10, 2005) noted the reaction of some to WADI's study: "When WADI presented the results of its survey in Vienna this spring, Mr. [Thomas von der] Osten-Sacken recalls, various Iraqi groups accused the group of being an agent of the Israelis. Even the Iraqi Kurdish authorities, who have backed efforts to combat FGM since the late 1990s, were rattled."
We'll explore the topic of Iraqi refugees futher tomorrow but Lourdes Garcia-Navarro (NPR's Morning Edition) reported last week on the number of Iraqis working with NPR who are applying for refugee status in the US: "Like many NPR Baghdad staffers, Mahdi is now on the last leg of a lengthy process. But as his departure becomes imminent, he is wondering whether he is doing the right thing. Producer Kais Al-Jaleili, on the other hand, wants to leave as soon as he can, despite what he has heard from other Iraqis who have already resettled in the U.S." And Reuters is highlighting Matthew Hay Brown's Baltimore Sun report on Iraqi refugees and how most observers (rightly) point out how little the US is doing (both in terms of assistance to countries taking in the refugees and in terms of the number the US is allowing to enter the United States). The report notes this important point, "Iraqi officials have offered payments and organized flights and bus rides from Cairo and Damascus for refugees to go back. But with continuing violence in the country and no effective system in place to resolve disputes between returning homeowners and squatters, neither the United States, the United Nations nor refugee advocates are encouraging returns." Again, we'll go into that topic tomorrow. (And tomorrow Matthew Hay Brown continues his series by exploring Iraqi refugees struggling in the US.)
A few non-Iraq related topics. First, Joshua Frank (Dissident Voice) explores the current attack on Gaza and the reaction of the president-elect:
"The president-elect was in Sderot last July, in southern Israel, a town that's taken the brunt of the Hamas attacks," David Axelrod told Chip Reid on Face the Nation. "And he said then that, when bombs are raining down on your citizens, there is an urge to respond and act and try and put an end to that. So, you know, that's what he said then, and I think that's what he believes."
If Axelrod is correct, and Barack Obama does indeed support the bloodshed inflicted upon innocent Palestinians by the Israeli military, there should be no celebrating during Inauguration Day 2009, only mass protest of a Middle East foreign policy that must change in order to begin a legitimate peace process in the region.
Independent journalist David Bacon latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) and at his website (and at many publications) he covers the labor movement in the US and in Mexico. For his coverage from Mexico (photos and text) including on the striking teachers who were met in Mexico City by the police in full S.W.A.T. mode, click here.
Meanwhile the music group I AM THREE is making a Bootleg recording from their European tour available online, available for download, free of charge. You can click here (and on the widget for the European tour) or here or here.
We're a site/community for the left. Net Right Daily is a site for the right. The Daily Grind is a news mailing you can sign up for from ALG News which is also right-wing. On the latter, BW with ALG News has been especially persistent (and nice) in e-mailing all community sites various ALG News items. Various people have mailed Net Right Daily items to community sites. Trina and I were discussing this and wondering about it? We've gotten some very rude e-mailings from on our side (the left) asking for help (try demanding it) and when we discussed it, others weighed in. The feeling is that the two outlets have been very polite and we're going to toss out a link. We wish the outlets all the best but we are a site for the left. Their persistance and their politeness (and professionalism) means they get the links in this paragraph. If you're looking for what the other side's saying, we would recommend those two. If you're looking to be enraged by what the right's up to, we would recommend those two.