Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, January 6, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, women's rights remain under attack in Iraq, Blackwater mercenaries have court dates, and Ron Jacobs attempts to set the record straight regarding the treaty.
At a time when broadcast networks leave the ongoing illegal war in Iraq and when all the beggars of Panhandle Media avoid the issue, Ron Jacobs shows up at CounterPunch to address Iraq and the treaty:
While no one has suggested that this transfer of control is tantamount to the evacuation of US and allied forces from Saigon in 1975, the overall tone of the US mainstream media is that it is a step in that direction.  This is patent nonsense.  The nation of Iraq will not be rid of US military influence until every last US soldier is gone.  This means troops considered combat forces along with those in support, intelligence and advisory roles.  In case Americans have missed it, this fact will not exist on the ground for a long time.  This means, quite simply, that there is plenty of time for things to go in a direction unfavorable to Washington's designs.  Should this occur, the likelihood of the recently negotiated Status of Forces Agreement existing in its current status diminishes rather quickly.  For those unfamiliar with the actualities of the agreement, there is a section that allows either Washington or any Iraqi government to abrogate the agreement at any time.  As for the rest of the agreement, US military officials are already on record calling into question elements of the agreement that limit their troops' ability to conduct raids, move freely about the country, and defend US bases.
When it comes to Washington, the Bush administration has also questioned the interpretation of various parts of the agreement and has left it open for its successor to do the same.  These questions seem to stem from the Pentagon's resistance to the limitations on its mobility and perceived mission a strict interpretation of the agreement would require.  Unless the Obama administration makes it clear that it will listen to US voters and begin the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq immediately, then the Pentagon will continue the occupation despite the opposition of the US and Iraqi people.  Unfortunately, Mr. Obama has made no indication that he will fulfill the hopes of those that want all US troops home now.  Like every other president of the US, he seems to have tuned out the voters and tuned in the generals.  It is up to us to reverse that situation.
And while it's good that Jacobs is writing about it, it's sad that it couldn't have been written about when there was still an effort in Congress to stop the treaty masquerading as a SOFA back in November.  Or when everyone was pushing the notion that this one-year contract with two options for renewals and the ability to cancel any details was being treated as "US HAS TO LEAVE IN 2011!"  It's especially sad that he's the only one writing of it this month but that goes to how little anyone cares about Iraq -- including UPFJ.  As for later in the article when Jacobs attempts to write about what US troops can do, he needs to review the treaty because there are outs in it for the US military in the shooting of Iraqi journalist Hadil Imad.  (And the US military is aware of it which is why their story conflicts with eye-witnesses who saw Hadil shot.  The US version is crafted to avoid liability.)
In legal news, Gene Johnson (AP) reports that Andrew Moonen has received notification from federal prosecutors that he will be  charged in a December 25, 2006 shooting in Baghdad.  Mike Carter (Seattle Times) reported this morning that the Justice Dept was said to be seeking "a grand-jury indictment against" Moonen who was working for Blackwater when he shot dead Raheem Khalif -- a bodyguard for Iraq's Shi'ite vice president Adil Abd al-Mahdi
 that the 2006 shooting in Baghdad where a Blackwater contractor shot "the bodyguard [Raheem Khalif] of the Iraqi vice president after a drunken Christmas party" will finally result in charges -- in the US and that the Justice Dept is seeking "a grand-jury indictment against 28-year-old Andrew Moonen".  Meanwhile Raheem Salman and Kimi Yoshino  (Los Angeles Times) report that the five Blackwater employees involved in the September 16, 2007 Baghdad slaughter were expected to be arriagned in federal court. One of the five men is Evan Liberty.  Jason Claffey (Foster's Daily Democrat) reports William Coffield (Liberty's attorney) stated he would move to dismiss: "Coffield said the type of diplomatic security Blackwater provided was a 'state function' that did not relate to DOD's mission. 'We didn't believe there was any probable cause of the indictment'."  Meaning that since Blackwater was working for the US State Dept and not the US Defense Dept, Coffield does not believe that the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act should apply.  (I'm not arguing that, that is Coffield's argument and a judge will have to rule on it because this is new ground for the courts.)  Sarah Jennings (Chattanooga's Channel 9 News) notes all five were expected to enter not guilty pleas today.  Which, CBS and AP report, the five did and the outlets also note: "In advance of the arraignment, the judge has unsealed the arrest warrant for Ridgeway, reports CBS News producer Stephanie Lambidakis. The government believes the document knocks down defense claims that the convoy was fired upon, reports Lambidakis. The government says they don't believe the radio logs released by defense lawyers in which a guard reports incoming fire. That guard was apparently in the 'belly of the vehicle' and didn't see anything first-hand."  The radio logs are most likely a creation and it's amazing that no one's noticed that.  (As noted here in December.)
In Iraq, the latest attack on women's rights takes place under the guise of security, always under the guise of security.  AFP reports that ALL women are banned "from visiting a Baghdad district which is home to the city's most famous Shi'ite tomb" and why is that?  Because of the Sunday suicide bombing which, you may remember, Sam Dagher and Mudhafer al-Husaini (New York Times) maintained Monday was carried out by a man despite statements to the contrary.  So you've got confusion as to the gender of the bomber. But you've also got the fact that no men were banned from shrines and these bombings have been going on for over five years now.  Regardless of whether Sunday's bomber was or was not a woman, there's never been a similar effort to ban just men.  It's only women that get screwed over and always while being told that it's for the 'security' of all.  It's not for security.  It has nothing to do with security and when you grasp that this is a pilgrimage and that the pilgrims come from all over Iraq and outside of Iraq, this is blatantly offensive.  It is yet another effort to curtail the mobility of women and even in the 'logic' being offered, there's no excuse for it.  They have still not established the gender of Sunday's bomber.  Dagher and al-Husaini as well as LAT's Usama Redha and Kimi Yoshino provided statements by Iraqis outraged by the lack of security.  What you have is a band-aid measure that will not fix a damn thing but the government wants to scapegoat someone and, just like their allies in the US, the Iraqi government will gladly scapegoat women.  And Reuters is now reporting: "Initial reports said Sunday's bomber was female, although the government later said he was male."  But who's being barred from worshipping?  Monday, the United Nation's Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, made a point of condemning the attacks on pilgrims and decreeds bombings like Sunday's "appalling and unjustified crimes."  Will de Mistura call out the barring of women from worship or is he only interested in speaking up for the male pilgrims?
 Statistically female bombers really are not an issue (August 21st, LAT was reporting that "the number has jumped to 30" for the year 2008 -- still not a huge number) but if Iraq's so alarmed, well maybe they should pay more money?  "Awakening" Council members are also known as Sons of Iraq and they do have Daughters of Iraq but they pay them over 20% than they do men.  If they are saying female bombers are just so earth shattering and such a great threat, maybe they shouldn't have been so sexist and cheap?  Maybe they should paid women doing the exact same work the exact same amount?  And "they" is the US.  The US military set up that pay scale, the US military endorsed and embraced sexism.
Dropping back to the June 6th snapshot and Badkhen is Anna Badkhen who was filing that report for the San Francisco Chronicle::
Badken observes: "The US military pays each member $300 a month to man thousands of checkpoints throughout Iraq.  The Americans have credited Sons of Iraq for the waning Sunni insurgency and the decline in sectarian violence in Baghdad.  But questionable loyalties, often brutal conduct and an uncertain future make these groups a wild card in the ongoing effort to stabilize Iraq.  In April, Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said these U.S.-funded militias may one day 'turn their guns on us'."  But that cautionary note is dismissed by the White House and, on Friday, Jim Frederick (Time Magazine) reported on the lastest twist to the "Awakening" Council: Female recruits!  US Capt Michael Starz told Frederick that "this is an employment program" and that "many of the women around here are widows and have no way of supporting themselves."  What a load of crap. 
If the concern was providing women with opportunities, the US could have done so long ago, could have fought to protect and ensure women's rights instead of installing radical thugs in the puppet government.  Most importantly, while the men make $300 a month, they're paying the women eight dollars a day -- that would be two dollars a day less than their male peers while claiming that there "are widows" who "have no way of supporting themselves."  The US government wants credit for 'creating' employment opportunites for Iraqi women but the US is paying them $2 less a day than the males while claiming that the women needs these jobs because they're supporting themselves and children.  Can you say "exploitation"? The real reason the US is using women, as Capt Starz readily admits is that female bombers are now an issue.  The women are being trained to 'inspect' and search other women.  And apparently that's not a job important enough to warrant equal pay -- at least not according to the US.  And the reason for including Senator Boxer's April remarks was to make it clear that the US government is the one paying the "Awakening" Council members, nothing has changed on that since April.  So the US government is sending the message in Iraq that a woman's work is worth 20% less than a male's. If that figure sounds familiar, Nancy Clark (Womens Media, link has audio) was noting that figure last year: "Women are paid 80 cents for every dollar men are paid and that does NOT include any part-time workers! If it did, it would be even lower."  The women in Iraq are being asked to do the exact things the males are being asked to do and the US government is sending the message that, for the same work, it is okay to pay a woman 80 cents while paying a man a dollar. Capt Starz tells Frederick that the increase in female bombers means, "It is a critical security issue that we find a way to have women searched at high-traffic areas."  It's 'critical' but, apparently, work but apparently not critical enough to offer the same rate of pay.  Repeating, US tax dollars are paying for this program.  (US Ambassador Ryan Crocker repeatedly bragged in April, before Congress, that paying them off meant attacks on US service members was down.  It's the hand-over-your-lunch-money-to-the-bully-and-you'll-be-safe-in-the-playground 'strategy.')  Should it be funded by the US?  I don't think so but as long as the US funds it, it certainly doesn't need to endorse gender discrimination.  But that is what's taking place. 
And, pay attention, the US put it in place.  That's June.  If today the puppet government wants to say it takes so long to search women (which AFP quotes them doing today), well then they damn well should have hired more women back in June.  The female suicide bombers result in alarmist headlines (here for US News & World Reports) because, "Oh goodness!  It's a woman!"  As if Pirate Jenny was an obscure character from a never heard of play?  As if Pirate Jenny doesn't have her roots in any revolution (including the American revolution).  But, "Oh no, it's a woman!"  So when a female bomber executes a bombing, it's a big deal to the press.  When a man does, it's a single sentence and there's no hand wringing or pondering WHY?????   It's obvious why and the one's pretending otherwise are the same ones pretending that something good can yet come from this illegal war.  And it's pretty obvious that there is HUGE sexism involved in the coverage.  This summer Time offered up "The Mind of a Female Suicide Bomber."  I'm sorry, are female bombers unheard of in illegal wars and occupations?  They become the norm.  And pretending otherwise is not only historically ignorant and sexist, it's damaging to anyone's grasp of what is actually taking place on the ground in Iraq.  They're attempting to make it some sort of pathological sickness in the minds of some woman when this is a natural response to a people occupied, under attack and prevented from self-governance.  There's nothing pathological about it.  Historically, it is a common response.  Mythologically, even more so.  Will Time next offer us "The Mind of Areto"?  Was there any difference in Areto attempting to avenge the murder of Hippolyte and Iraqi women today attempting to avenge the murders of their famillies?  Aztec mythology includes many similar examples, such as La Llorona who acts to avenge the murders of her children.  It's really disgusting that we rush to pathologize a normal response on the part of women that has been historically charted and culturally taught.  The sickness is not inside the women in Iraq who decide to wear a bomb, the sickness is the illegal war and continued occupation and you have to historically and culturally ignorant or else a liar who hopes others are historically and culturally ignorant to push these women's responses off as something unheard of and completely unexpected.
By contrast, think about the "biggest" Iraq "news."  Meaning the tid-bit that caught everyone's attention and produced water cooler talk.  A reporter throws his shoes.  A male reporter.  He had a thriving career.  He had to know he was risking throwing that away.  Did we get "Inside the Mind of the Shoe Tosser"?  No.  No, there was never an effort made to pathologize him (or any male suicide bombers, for that matter).  All the clucking is dishonest and needs to stop.  Those doing it are either liars or the most uneducated and uninformed people in the world. Grasping that reporters are, for the most part, glorified general studies majors, World Civ is taught for a reason.  It's not a set of facts to be remembered, there are lessons to impart from it.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that claimed the lives of 4 police officers (two more wounded), a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 1 life (three more wounded) a Mosul suicide car bombing that left seven wounded (and the driver dead -- will the press spend hours wondering about his state of mind, will they tut-tut -- no because he's a "he") and a Tuz Kharmatu roadside bombing that wounded two police officers as they "were trying to defuse it".  KUNA cites Iraqi police for reports of a grenade attack in southern Baghdad that wounded three American service members.
Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul pharmacy invasion which resulted in the death of "the chemist running the pharmacy" and, dropping back to Monday, "Subhi Hassan Mohammed, a PUK official" and 1 body guard were shot dead (another bodyguard was injured) in Kirkuk.  Reuters drops back to Monday to note a police officer wounded in a Kirkuk shooting and an Iraqi soldier shot dead in Sekhra (both shootings took place Monday night).
This Thursday, Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, will deliver public remarks after he briefs the UN Security Council about forced displacement.
Today Human Rights First notes that "forced migration from Iraq continues to occur" and that:
Preliminary surveys suggest about one-third of the displaced population fled generalized violence, while two-thirds fled targeted religious, political, or ethnic persecution, and in some cases were forcibly expelled from their property.ii In neighboring countries, Iraqi refugees have encountered both hospitality and hostility. For the most part, they enjoy freedom of movement and access to subsidized public health care and education, particularly in Syria. However most refugees cannot obtain work authorization and many refugees lack legal residence rights. In the past two years, as Iraqi refugees have exhausted their savings, the cost of living in host countries has rapidly risen. Human Rights First has observed the beginnings of frustration and fatigue among host communities in Syria as well as serious anti-Iraqi and anti-Shi'a discrimination in Jordan. With time, these tensions could aggravate instability in the region.    
Based on field interviews conducted in Jordan in September 2007 and Syria in October 2008, Human Rights First believes that a high percentage of Iraqis who register with UNHCR do not see return to Iraq as a realistic option for the foreseeable future, and hope that registering with UNHCR will provide a path to resettlement in a third country. In the past two years, the United States has resettled about 15,000. In addition, 64,500 Iraqis made applications for asylum in industrialized countries in 2007 and the first half of 2008, primarily in Sweden, Germany, and Greece.
On the very few Iraqis who have been admitted to the US, Julia Lyon (Salt Lake Tribune) reports on the Utah scene where some of the Iraq's brain drain has settled (professionals such as college professors, doctors, etc who fled Iraq due to the violence).  Lyon notes that "Iraqi's college degrees and licenses usually are not recognized" in the US.  (And when we were noting the Baltimore Sun's coverage on this topic, I meant to note that Europeans often face similar problems when coming to the US.  I didn't note it and war reminded by a friend who is a college professor and hails from Scotland originally.)  Lyon explains that Dr. Fzia Al Berqdar is unable to use his degree (thus far) in the US and quotes him stating, "Do you know what I've become?  Weak, poor, diseased."
In US political news, Brian Montopoli (CBS News) reports that surpremely unqualified to be senator Caroline Kennedy no longer has the support of New York residents.  Kennedy would like to be gifted with a Senate seat by NY Governor David Paterson but Montopoli reports a new poll has found only 27% of New Yorkers want Kennedy as their Senator while 58% "prefer [Andrew] Cuomo."  Cuomo is currently the state's Attorney General (and has been working while the media chased the enchanted princess). I know Cuomo and I know Caroline and the latter is suffering from the same problem she's always suffered from: The more familiar people become with her, the less impressed they are.  As Montopoli notes, a month ago, Caroline trumped hard-working and qualified Cuomo by  20%.  Meanwhile, the qualified Senator Roland Burris was denied today.  The Senate refused to seat him continuing their long history of systematic and institutionalized racism.  Harry Reid has mistaken his role as US Senator from Nevada (the only post any citizens voted him into) as Boss Of All Governors.  He shot down everyone of Rod Blagojevich's nominees for the Senate -- all of whom happened, just happened, to be African-American.  Instead he wanted to install a White War Hawk (Tammy Duckworth) but then Harry Reid is a War Hawk who voted for the illegal war and whom US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has increasingly fingered as the one allowing the illegal war to continue.  When not attempting to tell Illinois' governor whom to nominate, Harry Reid has been running to the press and to Governor David Paterson to make it clear that the unqualifed Caroline Kennedy is his choice.  Cedric's "Harry Reid flashes his true colors" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! HARRY REID AND HIS WHITE SHEET!" covered this topic earlier today.  Repeating, Harry Reid is championing White candidates to governors but refusing to sit the qualified Roland Burris who has been appointed the junior senator from Illinois.