Wednesday, January 14, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, suicide bombers are a concern only when its female suicide bombers, women's representation on the provincial councils just slips out of the law and no one's sure how which allows us to examine some of the most recent attacks on women's rights in Iraq.
Today Fu Yiming and Gao Shan (Xinhua) remind that a 10-year-old boy disguised himself as a floral vendor to launch a suicide bombing in Tarmiya last September and they note that other children "have been recruited and trained to be suicide bombers". So we will now see the efforts to ban children from public life, right? And flower vendors! And we'll see half-way homes set up for any children that fit Iraq's highly limited means of profiling, correct?
Oh wait, that only happens to women. And let's establish that by turning to two attacks last week. The first on women's rights and the second on the rights of the press. Sunday, January 4th when a bomber -- then identified as a woman -- took their own life and that of at least 40 other people in Baghdad. This was in the midst of a Holy pilgrimage, one that brought people from all over Iraq to the region and from outside of Iraq as well. By Tuesday, 'security' demanded action and, of course, the action just had to be an attack on women. From the January 6th snapshot:
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.
The Iraqi government (al-Maliki) knew the Sunday bomber was not a woman. They knew it before the implemented they attacked women's rights to worship. There was no 'security' improvement by destroying women's rights. It did give the appearance of 'movement' at a time when Iraqis were loudly and publicly criticizing the puppet government's inability to protect them. "Look, we did something!" Nothing that helped, but they did it. And where was the press? Where were they?
Did they call out the attacks on women's rights? No and they never do. Few bothered to even report the ban on women. Those did bother to report it never saw this ban as anything other than 'security' and never questioned why women -- not a large part of bombers in Iraq to begin with and the Sunday bomber was a man --were being targeted. There were no editorials in the US. There were no efforts to speak to Iraqi women's rights organizations. There was no effort to explore. It was just taken for granted that women are so damn unimportant in the world's eyes that if they're denied their right to freely worship, that's just the way it is.
Contrast that with the attack on the press. Friday's snapshot included this: "Kim Gamel (AP) reports that other 'laws' are being pressed. Specifically the puppet government has issued a 14-page conduct code for reporters -- Iraqi and foreign -- that they will need to sign 'in exchange for permission to attend this month's provincial elections, riaisng concerns among media analysts that independent coverage could be undermined'." The following day, Khalid al-Ansary, Tim Cocks and Katie Nguyen (Reuters) reported: "Media organisations who flout the Communications and Media Commission's mandatory code of conduct could be landed with a fine, have their equipment confiscated or be forced to make a public apology, said a document obtained by Reuters on Saturday. . . . Media organisations could have their licences revoked if they fail to pay any fines, according to the document." The press amplified the story by covering it, they spoke to Reporters Without Borders for quotes, to journalists for quotes, to journalistic unions for quotes. And by Sunday? Crisis averted! Gamel provided an update: Iraq will no longer require reporters to sign a contract in order to cover the January 31st provincial elections and the 14-page contract is being tossed. In an interesting development not really noted, Kimi Yoshino (Los Angeles Times) quotes Judge Qassim Hasan Abodi stating, "These are not our regulations. All we ask is that the media be neutral, transparent and objective. This is the only thing." Yoshino doesn't identify the body that Hasan's with, just notes it's over elections ("head of Iraq's election commission") -- he is the head of Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission. That is the UN backed body (UNAMI works with them) and the claim being made on Friday -- when the story of the contract and the penalities broke -- was that the IHEC had pushed that. No, they didn't. It was al al-Maliki.
Now examine the above. The press goes along with the attack on women's rights but comes to life when the rights of the press are attacked. That goes to how little importance is placed on women's rights and the refusal to grasp that there is no democracy without equality. As important as a free press is to democracy, so is equality. Currently, a slaughter is goingo n in Gaza and in some of the critiques of the press -- blistering, as they should be -- a point may be lost. It's not, "Oh, look at the idiot who can't report!" What those calling the sorry and distorted coverage of the assault on Gaza are doing is believing in and advocating for the power of a free press. If the press does not matter, then it wouldn't matter what the press reported. What those critiquing the current coverage of that crisis are doing is advocating for a free press and acknowleging the power of the press -- and doing so much more than many members of the press ever do.
Above you have two examples of attacks on freedoms. The first attack, on women's rights, meant nothing to the press and they barely covered it. So the attack continued and laid the groundwork for future attacks. In the second case, the press responded and the attack was repealed. That is the power of the press.
Today Alissa J. Rubin and Sam Dagher (New York Times) report the latest attack on women's rights in Iraq: Somehow, no one can figure out how, the rights of women to be represented with 25% of the seats in the January 31st elections just fell by the wayside. No one can figure out. It just, in all the talks and discussions, somehow, no one can figure it out, it just dropped right out. Oops. The reporters explain, "Early versions of the law, which governs the election of Iraq's 18 provincial councils, included a firm guarantee that women would have at least 25 percent of the seats -- the same percentage mandated by the Constitution for the numbers of women in Parliament. In the male-dominated Arab culture, the framers of the Constitution and the Americans who were involved in drafting it thought that the quota was necessary to ensure that women would be represented.
But the provincial election law was changed several times, and the quota language was gone by the time it went to the Presidency Council, whose approval is needed for it to become official. It went back to the Parliament with several unrelated changes and was published in early October. The lack of a strong guarantee for women's council seats has begun to gain widespread attention only in the last few days." And good for Rubin and Dagher but find that topic at any other outlet. Find one example in the US of the press using their power to amplify. You can't. As this snapshot is dictated, no news outlet except for the New York Times is covering it. The Houston Chronicle does make it a sidebar online to a Los Angeles Times article that, frankly, says nothing. The LAT article is all over the place (and doesn't mention women at all) but apparently that passes for 'universal' and attacks on women -- unlike attacks on men or attacks on the press -- is some sort of esoteric topic that's just not worthy of coverage.
What might life be like for Iraqi women today if the press had treated the repeated attacks on their rights as worthy of reporting? Maybe we wouldn't have today's 'In some small areas in Iraq, women can drive again!' stories. Because if these attacks on women were called out and not treated as 'oh, that's the culture,' women never would have lost their right to drive in Iraq or been pushed into wearing garb they didn't wish to. If the thugs the US put in charge of Iraq had known that they would be held up for the ridicule they deserved by the press over these attacks on women's rights, you damn well better believe that they would have cut it out, they would have stopped their attacks on women if only to avoid risking their puppet masters cutting off funding. Instead we got this b.s. nonsense that these were 'cultural' responses. No, they weren't. Iraq was a highly advanced country. It was not Afghanistan. The point Ava and I were making in February 2007, when we reviewed a bad TV show (Jericho), still applies and women reading better grasp that. No one's going to give you a damn thing but they will gladly rob your rights. And that's not just in Iraq or Afghanistan. We've seen it in this country. Susan Faludi did a wonderful job documenting the backlash during the Reagan era (and, hello, we're back in another Reagan era and Ms. magazine has made clear it will be just as pathetic now as it was then -- for those who missed how pathetic it was during the first Reagan era, you can refer to Faludi's Backlash for how Ms. actively underminded women's rights and standing). But that was nothing compared to an earlier backlash in this country. No, not the backlash after WWII when Rosie the Riveter was forced out of work (and that is covered in Faludi's book), the backlash that began with the Great Depression, the one no one ever wants to talk about. Choose any industry, and you'll find women high in the chain. That would end quickly. Let's talk film a second. Women were directors. Women were studio heads. Women were screenwriters. Women were producers. Come the depression, it's all over now, baby blue.
It's amazing that Naomi Klein has yet to call out Barack's conservative economic statements and programs because the Shock Doctrine does not refer just to violence that allows an economic programs to be pushed through. It also includes economic violence that allows economic programs to be pushed through. (Naomi's book, while wonderful, merely popularizes theories that have been in place for many, many decades. The reading the book has been given is a very safe one and one that tells domestic readers in the US, "These are things that happen over there!" That is not the case and that is not the case only when it comes to a 9-11 or Pearl Harbor.) Barack's economic plan has rightly been called out for ignoring women. But by whom? Which male identified 'progressives' have bothered to say a damn word, which male identified 'progressive outlets' have bothered to raise an objection? None. The Nation hasn't done a thing. The Progressive hasn't done a thing. Because women can always be thrown overboard. It's not just in Iraq and women need to start grasping that. The failure to do so is why each geneartion of the women's liberation movement has to reinvent the wheel.
What's taken place in Iraq is the backlash in flip-card fashion. It's happened very quickly. Just last year, it was 'okay' to talk about institutionalizing widows. Prisons pretending to be halfway-houses were okay because, when you lose you husband, what better way to grieve than removed from your home, you friends and your family and locked away? That truly was presented as the 'answer' to female suicide bombers. Round up the widows and lock 'em away. Repeating, female suicide bombers do not make up the bulk of the bombers in Iraq. They are not the majority, they are a statistically insiginificant number. And they may be inflated as many later reports have proven when female bombers turn out not to be. (And often the excuse is given that someone must have been dressed as a woman! No, just as likely is that, not having any clues, a scapegoat is needed and what looms as the ultimate threat since the beginning of time to some men: Women.) But because a small number existed, it was time to propose locking them away.
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.
Today we are told that young boys are becoming suicide bombers. We do not get, "WHY!!!! WHY!!!!! OH THE HUMANITY!!!!!" coverage. We do not get talk that they should be put away for 'security.' Naomi Klein rightly noted Iraq was the experimental lab where all the US kooks could test their theories. She failed to note that those theories included the attacks on women and on women's rights. A huge failure, a huge omission and until women start writing as if their rights are as important as men's, don't expect very many men to ever make that case.
If female bombers are truly a menace, then the government could fund for security. They don't want to. The US set the standard -- and did so without anyone calling them out. The June 6th snapshot included this:
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.
Badkhen is Anna Badkhen and she was filing that for her former paper the San Francisco Chronicle. If you're concerned about 'security,' you don't pay women doing the same jobs as men 20% less. If you're concerned about 'security,' you don't whine, all this time later, that you don't have enough people (women) to search women. But it's not about security. Which is why there will be no attempts to target young boys or flower vendors for imprisonment or curtailing of rights. It's only done to women because they know they can usually get away with it. And they get away with it because. despite the intensive power of the press to be a light illuminating injustice, few news outlets even care. In fairness to them, they're only reflecting a large lack of concern that exists throughout the United States. It's that apathy that allowed the US government to pay Iraqi women 20% less than their male counterparts to begin with -- even after the press exposed that fact.
Turning to some more of today's violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded four people, another Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded three people and a Mosul car bombing that claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldiers and left five more people wounded.
Reuters notes 1 police officer shot dead in Kirkuk.
Yesterday's snapshot noted Deborah Haynes (Times of London) attempting to have the AIDS test that Iraq requires of foreigners (Erica Goode of the New York Times wrote last year of the government's disinterest in giving her one). IRIN explores AIDS in Iraq and notes, along with the fact that those with AIDS have to hide their status, the following history and facts:
The virus first came to Iraq in 1985 via contaminated blood imported from a French company. It was detected the following year in scores of people suffering from haemophilia, a hereditary blood disorder, said Wadah Hamed, the head of Iraq's AIDS Research Centre.
"Treatment at that time was tough and arbitrary. Those found to be infected were placed in segregated medical facilities," said Hamed, who also heads Iraq's national AIDS prevention programme.
Some 482 cases have been detected since 1986. Of these, 272 were Iraqis and the rest foreigners. Today only 44 are still alive, he said.
Patients get the equivalent of about US$85 per month from the government, as well as a clothing allowance. Those infected in 1985 are paid an extra $200 monthly.
They get free monthly check-ups; their partners are examined every three months, and other family members are checked every six months. Baghdad has at least 11 medical centres for this purpose and there is also one such centre in each province.
In the US, the New York Times will be publishing a story tomorrow (and later today online) about Barack and US commanders differences regarding Iraq or 'differences.' (I'm not waiting for it to go up but am noting it for a friend at the paper who asked that it be linked to. We'll link to it tomorrow.) On US politics, Margaret Kimberley (Black Agenda Report) evaluates the latest moves by president-elect Barack and provides the perspective for the not so surprising statements and actions:
Barack Obama just loves Ronald Reagan, the late president but still idolized leader of the American right wing. During his campaign for the presidency Obama famously said that unlike Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton didn't transform the country in a fundamental way. At the time he was in the thick of his primary battle against Hillary Clinton and the remark was perceived mainly as a dig against his opponent and her husband. When he later said that he would have a foreign policy like Ronald Reagan, it was seen as an attempt to get the votes of rural "Reagan Democrats" in the Pennsylvania primary. It is now clear that Obama's paeans to Reagan were not mere vote getting efforts or jabs at the Clintons. Barack Obama has proven himself to be a true believer in the Reagan revolution.
Even when Obama announced that his stimulus plan will include a $3,000 tax cut for businesses, his cultists say that we should just give him a chance, a chance to back up the bus and roll over us again. Hopefully Democrats like Senator Tom Harkin will remain vigilant and keep speaking up for the common good. Harkin and a few other democrats were actually paying attention to the Obama economic proposals and weren't pleased by what they witnessed. "I am a little concerned by the way that Mr. Summers and others are going at this in that, to me, it still looks like a little more of this trickle-down, if we just put it in at the top, it's going to trickle down."
"Trickle down" was a Reagan era buzzword that meant theft of public resources. The concept was that if those who already have a lot were to get even more, some of the lucre would trickle down upon the rest of us. It worked fine for the wealthy but thirty years later, working people have not recovered from the effects of the Reagan era.
Ronald Reagan successfully dismantled government programs that no other president dared to touch. He was called the great communicator because of his ability to convince white Americans to act against their own economic interests. His apocryphal tales of black "welfare queens" led an already racist nation to decide that government was the problem in their lives when it is actually the only means of protection from larceny committed by wealthy individuals and big corporations.
Not only is Obama promising tax cuts for businesses, but he is repeating the Reagan mantra about "reforming" Social Security and Medicare or cutting their rate of growth. Proposals to cut back on entitlements are dangerous and ought to be vehemently opposed. Entitlements are the only safety net that Americans have. Pension plans are available to an ever smaller group of workers, health benefits are lost when jobs are lost, and 401K accounts shrink along with the stock market.
Despite being ignorant about so much that effects their lives, Americans know that entitlements are their last hope for a decent life in old age. The only significant defeat for the Bush administration was the failure to privatize Social Security. It was the moment when Americans spoke up and forced Congress to prevent a Bush initiative from coming to fruition. If Barack Obama successfully tampers with Social Security and Medicare, which Bush was unable to do, then progressives who excuse Obama are worse than useless. They are traitors too.
By the way, the PIG that e-mailed Rebecca to get private e-mails and turn around and pass them on, then LIED and claimed he didn't (one of them was bounced by the then-vactioning 'REV's e-mail, he fowarded them, ASSHOLE) has a bad article on impeachment and it's even worse because the Barack Loving Jerkwad spent all of 2008 smearing Bill and Hillary Clinton with LIES thereby painting himself into such a corner that he can't refute John Conyers justifying not impeaching the Bully Boy by likening it to Bill Clinton's impeachment. Bill Clinton's conduct was a personal issue that did not reflect on his performance in office or his duties. It was a sexual matter and a private one -- forced out in the open by the Witchhunters who cornered and THREATENED a young woman (Monica Lewinsky). The people never supported impeachment of Bill Clinton before the proceedings started, not during it and not afterwards. Any or all of that could refute Conyers and then some; however, basking in his DERANGED CLINTON HATRED made PIG unable to write the article he tried to. He's in his own hell now where logic fails him because he's roped himself off with so many LIES. Paul Krugman and others warned people that you didn't join in the sliming and trashing of Bill Clinton just because it made you feel so good. Now it comes back to bite in your fat, saggy assses. No one's fault but your own. And for PIG, as for so many, the hatred wasn't even of Bill. The real bile was reserved for Hillary. Who they went on to viciously attack for policies of Bill's that they disagreed with. And they thought no one picked up on that, no one noticed. A lot more caught on than they'll ever know and it's why the dregs of Panhandle Media's days have passed . . . at their own hands, group suicide style.