Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The human toll in Iraq?

We are now able to estimate the number of Iraqis who have died in the war instigated by the Bush administration. Looking at the empirical evidence of Bush's war legacy will put his claims of victory in perspective. Of course, even by his standards -- "stability" -- the jury is out. Most independent analysts would say it's too soon to judge the political outcome. Nearly six years after the invasion, the country remains riven by sectarian politics and major unresolved issues, like the status of Kirkuk.
We have a better grasp of the human costs of the war. For example, the United Nations estimates that there are about 4.5 million displaced Iraqis -- more than half of them refugees -- or about one in every six citizens. Only 5 percent have chosen to return to their homes over the past year, a period of reduced violence from the high levels of 2005-07. The availability of healthcare, clean water, functioning schools, jobs and so forth remains elusive. According to Unicef, many provinces report that less than 40 percent of households have access to clean water. More than 40 percent of children in Basra, and more than 70 percent in Baghdad, cannot attend school.

The above is from John Tirman's "Iraq's Shocking Human Toll: About 1 Million Killed, 4.5 Million Displaced, 1-2 Million Widows, 5 Million Orphans" (The Nation via Information Clearing House). Oh, that is funny. First off, the toll exceeded one million some time ago so Tirman might want to finger point at himself. But the idea that anyone's going to be honest about the numbers of Iraqis who have died? Where's Tirman expecting that to come from?

Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death Estimator

That's Just Foreign Policy above, our alleged 'friend' in the battle to end the illegal war. And that's today's count and has been the count, 1,307,319, since at least January 4th. No Iraqis have died in over 30 days? Honesty? No. Covering and lying because ending the illegal war does not matter but covering Barack's ass does -- that's what it appears to be. From Cindy Sheehan's "The Audacity of Empire" (World Can't Wait):

Many anti-war activists are concentrated on insuring that Obama fulfills his campaign promises to withdraw "combat" troops from Iraq without having the integrity to demand complete withdrawal of all troops and a return to total sovereignty of the country to the people of Iraq, and are not questioning Obama's determination to double troop strength to Afghanistan.I think the US MIC empire needs to be destroyed, but I would prefer that we incorporate a voluntary reduction of empire, before the weight of The Empire® collapses like a house of cards on us; or on the innocents of Afghanistan.

Reuters notes a Baquba roadside bombing that left six injured, a Mosul roadside bombing that left four injured and a Kirkuk roadside bombing that left two injured. Don't expect Just Foreign Policy to include those deaths in their count either.

Dropping back to the provincial elections, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) observes, "Voter turnout in Iraq's provincial elections Saturday was the lowest in the nation's short history as a new democracy despite a relative calm across the nation. Only about 7.5 million of more than 14 million registered voters went to the polls. Interviews suggest that the low voter turnout also is an indication of Iraqi disenchantment with a democracy that, so far, has brought them very little."

"Elections 1: Ameriyah" (Inside Iraq, McClatchy Newspapers) opens:

Our plan is to go to areas in west Baghdad, areas that had mostly boycotted the last elections.
Areas that became hotbeds of insurgency.
And al Qaeda.
We drove on, one of our drivers, S, and myself alone in the car. Our car the only moving vehicle in sight.
Past Qadisiyah. Past Yarmouk. Past Jamiaa and Khadraa, we were stopped every 300 m by checkpoints, sometimes searching us and sometimes just checking our vehicle sticker permit and waving us on our way – We reach the checkpoint of Ameriyah.
We turn left and six Iraqi Army soldiers take aim – at us.
We stop.
"Where do you think you're going? There's curfew – no cars allowed on the streets!"
He walks up to us.
"We are journalists" S shouts, "We are here to speak to voters."
"Journalists???" Surprised faces – raised eye brows.
"Why? Are we the first journalists who have come here?"
After searching the car three times, searching my handbag six times, asking to check our non-existing cameras six times, three military vehicles drive up in respond to the checkpoint's call.

The Iraqi correspondents then go on to offer a cross-section of opinions from Iraqis.

Meanwhile AP's Sinan Salaheddin files a report that hopefully will contain more notes of skepticism as the story goes through multiple drafts today. Samira Ahmed Jassim has confessed! There's a video of the woman allegedly also known as Umm al-Mumineen ("the mother of all believers") stating she is the one who has recruited over "80 female suicide bombers". The first sentence tells you she "has been arrested." You have to wade through many paragraphs to discover she was arrested January 21st. So the video confession is all the more doubtful and may have been produced under torture. (And bruises hide so much better when you're wearing "an all-ecompassing black Islamic robe".) If al-Mumineen is the or a recruiter, it really makes little difference. She's not a hypnotist -- if she is, that's the only allegation AP's forgotten to present as fact. At best, she provided an avenue to those already prepared to seek violence. It goes to the gender stereotypes of women to believe that they had to be 'corrupted.' The violent response on the part of some Iraqi women is a perfectly natural response to what they are living under. ("Natural" is not the same as "legal." But we're not addressing that. We are continuing to address the pathologizing of one gender.)

Iraq's Foreign Ministry notes:

2 February, 2009

Foreign Minister Meets Japan's Prime Minister in Davos

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari met on 31/1/2009, with Mr. Taro Aso Prime Minister of Japan on the sidelines of the annual conference of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

During the meeting Mr. Aso praised the improved security situation in Iraq and the increased confidence of the world in dealing with Iraq and wished the success of the provincial elections and expressed his joy for the progress of the democracy process in Iraq in addition to the successful completion of the withdrawal of troops agreement and organizing their presence in Iraq, stressing the keenness of the Japanese government to support Iraq politically and economically.

As US Senators Bob Casey Jr. and Byron Dorgan continue to attempt to get to the bottom of KBR's propensity to 'complete' electrical work in Iraq that leads to soldiers being shocked and, in some cases, shocked to death, Bob Von Sternberg files "Zimmerman medic was electrocuted in Iraq" (Minneapolis Star Tribune):

When a Navy medic from Zimmerman, Minn., nearing the end of his tour of duty in Iraq died on Sept. 11, 2004, family members were told he died of natural causes.
They now know differently: Petty Officer 3rd Class David A. Cedergren, 25, was electrocuted while showering, the third U.S. service member to suffer that fate in Iraq.
And the deaths are now part of a wider criminal investigation, part of a probe that's looking into a total of 18 electrocutions that have occurred in Iraq, in a variety of circumstances.
"Obviously it brings some closure to what we all originally thought had happened to David," said Cedergren's brother, Barry. "But the hard thing is you start to heal knowing one thing, and then the wounds reopen and you have to look at things in a different way."

On the rush to have a tag-sale on Iraqi assets, (PDF format warning) Iraq's Oil Ministry announces:

Extension of Pre-qualification Process Period.
Further to our Announcement on 4th January, 2009 on the Ministry of Oil website, Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate of Ministry of Oil is pleased to announce the extension of Pre-qualification process period of the Second Bidding Round up to 15th February, 2009.
Therefore, the new Deadline will be the 15th February, 2009 instead of 1st February, 2009 in order to give the opportunity to the International Oil Companies, that could not submit their documents in due time, to pay the Processing Fee and submit the required documents as per our original Announcement.
Director General
Petroleum Contracts and Licensing Directorate

And Melissa notes this from Chris Hedges' "It's Not Going to Be OK" (Information Clearing House):

At no period in American history has our democracy been in such peril or has the possibility of totalitarianism been as real. Our way of life is over. Our profligate consumption is finished. Our children will never have the standard of living we had. And poverty and despair will sweep across the landscape like a plague. This is the bleak future. There is nothing President Obama can do to stop it. It has been decades in the making. It cannot be undone with a trillion or two trillion dollars in bailout money. Our empire is dying. Our economy has collapsed.
How will we cope with our decline? Will we cling to the absurd dreams of a superpower and a glorious tomorrow or will we responsibly face our stark new limitations? Will we heed those who are sober and rational, those who speak of a new simplicity and humility, or will we follow the demagogues and charlatans who rise up out of the slime in moments of crisis to offer fantastic visions? Will we radically transform our system to one that protects the ordinary citizen and fosters the common good, that defies the corporate state, or will we employ the brutality and technology of our internal security and surveillance apparatus to crush all dissent? We won't have to wait long to find out.
There are a few isolated individuals who saw it coming. The political philosophers Sheldon S. Wolin, John Ralston Saul and Andrew Bacevich, as well as writers such as Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, David Korten and Naomi Klein, along with activists such as Bill McKibben and Ralph Nader, rang the alarm bells. They were largely ignored or ridiculed. Our corporate media and corporate universities proved, when we needed them most, intellectually and morally useless.
Wolin, who taught political philosophy at the University of California in Berkeley and at Princeton, in his book "Democracy Incorporated" uses the phrase inverted totalitarianism to describe our system of power. Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism and the Constitution while cynically manipulating internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions. Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens, but they must raise staggering amounts of corporate funds to compete. They are beholden to armies of corporate lobbyists in Washington or state capitals who write the legislation. A corporate media controls nearly everything we read, watch or hear and imposes a bland uniformity of opinion or diverts us with trivia and celebrity gossip. In classical totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. "Under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true," Wolin writes. "Economics dominates politics-and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness."

And, again, it's surprising Naomi Klein's not sounding alarms because the shock doctrine -- in existence decades prior to her book -- includes physical and economic violence. Melissa notes we pointed that out last in the January 14th snapshot -- days before it became popular at the imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery site (you know the one Melissa means). Of course, recycling us nearly word for word is probably also a way to reduce the greenhouse effect -- less brain power means less energy expanded?

On websites, Jess notes this from Pundit Mom's "At This Rate, Soon We'll All Be Tracy Flick:"

Remember Tracy Flick from the movie Election? The over-achieving, uber-ambitious, won't-let-anything-get-in-my-way gal running for class President? If she didn't before this week, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is now very familiar with Tracy, who some are saying is Gillibrand's alter ego.
If Tracy Flick was a real person she'd be 28 -- old enough to have run and won a seat in Congress (you KNOW she would have). But she would NOT be happy that yet another, successful, high-profile woman politician is getting compared with Tracy's less attractive characteristics.
In the span of less than a year, Gillibrand is the third major woman candidate to endure this ever-more-common comparison. The media had a field day comparing Hillary Clinton to a ruthless Tracy. Then the MSM voices chimed in with the same for Sarah Palin, describing her as "ferocious overachiever Tracy." Now, Gillibrand is the latest to be tagged with the Tracy Flick persona.

And you can see what Pundit Mom's calling out, a perfect example of it, on the front page of this morning's New York Times, Michael Powell's nonsense under the headline "Political Lessons Taken on the Fly by Gillibrand." Example of what Pundit Mom's calling out, Powell writes, "She talks of her progress as an honors student might of acing a forthcoming exam." Tracy Flick. And also a sign that Michael Powell needs to grow the hell up and stop trolling schools at his age. It really says more about Powell than Gillibrand that, striving to make an example, he has to drop back to school days. Has he had no life since high school? Has he been unable to navigate the social terrain since? Poor, poor pitiful Powell.

Example of just poorly written? Here's a paragraph (in full) from Powell's article:

Representatives Jerrold L. Nadler, Nydia M. Velázquez, Jose E. Serrano and Anthony D. Weiner: some were said to desire appointment to that Senate seat and all heard from her, an aide said. She talks of her progress as an honors student might of acing a forthcoming exam.

When you write like that (note the first sentence), you probably can't engage with your journalistic peers, they're too busy snickering at you. Maybe that's why Powell's stuck in high school?

ADDED: The following community sites updated yesterday:

"Tom Daschle and his greed" is Ruth's post.

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.