Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The "Awakenings" . . . awakened

Rod Nordland has a major piece in this morning's New York Times entitled "Rebellious Sunni Council Disarmed After Clashes, Officials in Baghdad Say." The weakest section is the opening paragraph which repeats a claim and uses the verb "confirms" which makes a claim case-closed and true. It is not. The "Awakening"s in Fadhil have not been disarmed and it doesn't matter what Iraqi or US officials say. (Speaking on the phone with a friend at M-NF this morning and relaying that paragraph resulted in laugher and the comment, "Now that's a gut buster.") For starters, there is disarmament and there is disarmament in Iraq. Second of all, it's well known that "Awakenings" have been nervous about what they saw coming (and they appear to have been correct in their premonitions) and no one doubts for a moment that there are weapons stashed. Only house-to-house searches could collaborate the disarmament claim and "even that would be suspect" because burying weapons is fairly common in Iraq.

We'll note this section.

Iraq is in the process of taking over most of the responsibility for paying the Awakening Councils, which formerly was done by the Americans. Control of the councils passed from the American military to the Iraqi Army on Jan. 1.
"I personally was in the finance minister's office about two hours ago and he showed me basically what you would call a deposit slip, depositing the money in the Rafidain Bank," General Perkins said. The amount was $30 million, he said, which is the monthly payroll for Iraq's 94,000 Awakening Council members.

$30 million is the monthly payroll? David Perkins needs to appear before Congress because they were told, in testimony, that $18 million a month was the cost. That's $12 million more per month than anyone bothered to inform, $164 million a year.

"He said he was satisfied that the Iraqi government acted on valid evidence." Prior to that sentence, Nordland summarizes charges Perkins says are against Adil al-Mashhadani. Nordland should have provided an actual quote. The comments Perkins is making are not helpful to the mitigating tensions and may inflame them. I don't doubt Nordland's summary, but it should have been a direct quote because you have a US military spokesperson vouching for -- which really isn't Perkins' job -- criminal charges brought by the Iraqis against an Iraqi citizen. Perkins is a military flack. He is not an attorney nor is he trained in the criminal justice system. His comments should not have been made. Had Nordland quoted him directly, we'd rip Perkins apart right now; however, if there is fallout, Perkins will claim that the summary is incorrect. (Which is why Nordland should have provided a direct quote.)

It's a very strong article and you can comb over it for multiple details. We will note this section:

Criticism of the events in Fadhil continued to pour in from other members of the Awakening movement. "We made their hot places cold, but now the government's making them hot again," said Mustafa Kamel, leader of the council in Dora and Arab Jabour, both areas that saw particularly heavy fighting previously.

Kamel's feelings are a perfectly natural response and shouldn't surprise anyone. In yesterday's snapshot, we touched on this element:

Fadel explains to the Real News Network that "Awakenings" feel betrayed because the US military gave or "Awakenings" thought they were given amnesty but that the US military could only give amnesty for attacks on the US, not attacks on Iraqis. Note that the term "amnesty" was used (this is me, not Leila) by the US military in recruiting "Awakenings." It caused some rumbles on the internet play left side of the world (Arianna Huffington was a huffing back then about it). Clearly, had the "Awakenings" known that the "amnesty" was limited, they wouldn't have gone along. What would be the point? Help pacify/terrorize the country and then when Nouri no longer needs them, he can pick them off? If they had known that the amnesty did not apply across the board, they would not have gone along because the reason they were armed and against the puppet government in the first place was they didn't trust the puppet government (or the puppet).

Iraq was up for grabs and the ones who became the "Awakenings" did not support the Shi'ite controlled and dominated government the US was setting up. There is no way in the world that, for a few dollars a day, they would have thrown their lot in with the central government if they'd known they'd be sidelined (or imprisoned) after they'd been utilized by the central government (and by the Americans) to do what neither US nor Baghdad-controlled forces could do. And Fadel is Leila Fadel of McClatchy. We'll note a new article by her in the next entry.

Borzou Daragahi was among the earliest of US correspondents in Iraq for the current Iraq War. He remains a Middle East correspondent for the Los Angeles Times but was moved out of Iraq at the time Iran seemed to be the war in waiting. In today's paper, he interviews Shi'ite thug Jawad Bolani in "A look inside Iraq's Interior Ministry:"

Say the words "interior ministry" in almost any Middle Eastern country and you're certain to evoke fear and resentment.
In the name of protecting the homeland, internal security forces in just about every Arab country limit civil liberties, intrude on private lives and abuse human rights.
Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad Bolani bills himself as an independent-minded democrat and civil servant who wants to secure his country without resorting to heavy-handed tactics that might undermine what he describes as his nation's democratic progress. He took a break from a recent conference of Arab interior ministers in Beirut to sit down for an interview with The Times.

In Iraq 2½ years ago, you said that death squad infiltration of your ministry was a problem that you were addressing but that you didn't want to disparage the work of most of your officers. How did you fix the problem?

In 2006, the security situation was not good, the ministry was infiltrated. Today we have an institution functioning well and following rules. A lot of reforms have been implemented. We worked on creating an institution that monitors the country but remains under the law.

We also cleansed the institution of bad elements, replacing 58 senior officers.

Was it a matter of increasing intelligence capacity?

A few months ago, we inaugurated a new intelligence center equipped with the best technological equipment. We rely a lot on intelligence information to fight against [the group] Al Qaeda [in Iraq] and other outlawed militias. We have more than 10,000 elements [operatives] in the intelligence agency of the ministry.

These 10,000 elements, what have they accomplished so far?

They submitted 43,000 reports on various issues. Through the information they provided, we were able to arrest more than 800 wanted elements.

With Aimee Allison (co-host of KPFA's The Morning Show with Philip Maldari), David Solnit authored Army Of None -- a valuable and wonderful book on counter-recruiting and strategies for peace. David Solnit notes:

Friend and filmmaker Rick Rowley comes to town with three films just shot on the ground in Iraq-- in typical high energy in-your-face style. Rick is joined by local IVAW organizer Carl "Davey" Davison and cutting-edge movement analyst Antonia Juhasz to do some collective thinking-discussing about how we can take on Obama to make the world a better place. Hope you can join us!

Please Invite your friends:
Bay Area Premiere
from the makers of "Fourth World War" & "This is What Democracy Looks Like"
A Big Noise Film
followed by a Public Discussion:
How Do We End Occupation & Empire Under Obama?

Carl Davison, organizer with Iraq Veterans Against the War, served in the Marines and the Army, and refused deployment to Iraq.
Antonia Juhasz, analyst, activist, author of Tyrany of Oil; The World's Most Powerful Industry--and What We Must Do to Stop It
Rick Rowley, Big Noise film maker recently returned for Iraq.

Friday April 3, 7pm
992 Valencia Street (at 21st), SF
Everyone welcome, $6 donation requested, not required.

Obama's Iraq is an evening of short films never before seen in America. Shot on the other side of the blast shields in Iraq's walled cities, it covers a very different side of the war than is ever seen on American screens. It reports unembedded from war-torn Falluja, from the giant US prison at Umm Qasr, from the Mehdi Army stronghold inside Sadr City -- from the places where mainstream corporate channels can not or will not go. Obama's Iraq asks the questions -- what is occupation under Obama, and how can we end the war in Iraq and the empire behind it? After the film, a public discussion will begin to answer that question. Join us.

Sponsored by Courage to Resist,
Bay Area Iraq Veterans Against the War,
& Unconventional Action in the Bay.

That will appear every morning between now and Friday in one of the morning entries. I'll try to add additional links in the announcement as the week progresses. We'll also note a film this morning, A Jihad for Love:


Contact: Kelly Hargraves
Phone: 1-323-662-1930


Wins the Prestigious GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary

At the 20th Annual GLAAD Media Awards last night in New York, director/producer Parvez Sharma and producer Sandi Dubowski accepted the Outstanding Documentary Award for A Jihad for Love, the world's first feature documentary to explore the complex global intersections between Islam and homosexuality. A Jihad for Love enjoyed a successful national theatrical release and comes out on DVD April 21. GLAAD, the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, presents the GLAAD Media Awards to recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the LGBT community and the issues that affect their lives.

Fourteen centuries after the revelation of the holy Qur’an to the Prophet Muhammad, Islam today is the world’s second largest and fastest growing religion. In A Jihad for Love, Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma travels the many worlds of this dynamic faith, uncovering the stories of its most unlikely storytellers: lesbian and gay Muslims. Produced by Sandi DuBowski (Trembling Before G-d) and Sharma, the film was shot - often in secret - in twelve countries and nine languages over the course of six years.

In Western media, the concept of 'jihad' is often equated with holy war. But it also has a deeper meaning: ' to struggle' or 'to strive in the path of God.' The majority of Muslims believe that homosexuality is forbidden by the Qur'an, and many scholars quote Hadith (sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad) to condemn homosexuality. As a result, gay and lesbian Muslims often must engage in their own personal ‘jihad for love’ – a pursuit that brings them into conflicts with their countries, their families, and even themselves. Many end up renouncing their faith altogether.

But the subjects of A Jihad for Love aren't willing to abandon their faith. Instead, they struggle to reconcile their ardent belief with the innate reality of their being. They don’t seek to vilify or reject Islam, but rather to negotiate a new relationship to it. In doing so, the film's extraordinary characters attempt to point the way for all Muslims to move beyond the hostile, war-torn present toward a more hopeful future.

A Jihad for Love is endorsed by Human Rights Watch, which recognizes select First Run Features films that shed light on human rights abuses throughout the world.

Director/producer Parvez Sharma is a New York based writer and filmmaker. A Jihad for Love is his first feature and has become an international phenomenon with more than 700,000 viewers in 30 nations in the first year of its release. Sharma variously has been hailed “a gifted filmmaker” (WSJ), “frankly brave” (NPR), “provocative” (San Francisco Chronicle), and “an apostate” (South Africa's Muslim Judicial Council). A leading commentator on Islamic, racial and political issues, his writings frequently appear on The Huffington Post. Currently he is engaged in a nationwide speaking tour and in pre-production for a new film, partly set in his home country of India. Sharma previously has worked as a television journalist in India and the UK. He also worked on Democracy Now! in New York as a producer and as a print journalist in India and the US. He was educated in India, the UK and the US and in the past has served as an adjunct professor at American University, developing and teaching that university's first curriculum on Bollywood and other Indian cinemas. OUT Magazine named Sharma one of the OUT 100 for 2008.

Producer Sandi DuBowski directed Trembling Before G-d (2001), which had a world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, received twelve awards, was released theatrically in the United States, Israel, Canada, Germany, South Africa, and UK and is airing on BBC, The Sundance Channel, ZDF-Arte, HBO Latin America, Israel’s Keshet/Channel Two, and other TV stations worldwide. DuBowski has conducted 800 live events with the film across the globe, and it has been seen by an estimated 8 million people. He created Trembling on the Road to document this life-changing movement for the DVD and launched www.filmsthatchangetheworld.com to engage people through global house parties and online events. DuBowski has spoken on numerous panels at conferences and festivals, including the Toronto IFF, Sundance, the Berlin Film Festival Talent Campus, Hot Docs, Silverdocs and IFP. Currently he is directing a new film called Soul Trainer.

DVD BONUS FEATURES: Behind the Scenes • Director Interview • New Footage from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia 8 Language Subtitle Options

“Revealing and moving…notable for its depiction of the tenacity with which its subjects hold on to their faith despite the wall of bigotry, often homicidal, that confronts them.” – Wall Street Journal

“A remarkable exploration, six years in the making, of the lives and struggles of gays and lesbians in the Islamic world today.” – Huffington Post

“Dignity and despair woven tightly together…Courageous.” – The Guardian

“Lifts the veil of secrecy….frankly brave.” – NPR, Talk of the Nation

“A passionate, essential first step … both haunting and inspiring.” – New York Sun

“Fascinating, provocative, important.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“Intimate portrayals...courageous.” – Boston Globe

“Pioneering, heartfelt...this film will both inspire and anger.” – Bay Area Reporter

“Provocative, deeply felt, original and emotionally complex.” – Village Voice

“Heartfelt debut… Gains depth of feeling as it goes and even develops something of a nail-biting narrative.” – The New York Times

“Rich with compelling, often heartbreaking stories…a much-needed reminder that the foundation of any great religion consists of love and understanding.” – Film Threat

81 minutes, color, English and Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Hindi, Turkish & French w/English subtitles, 2008
UPC #: 720229913430 Catalog #: FRF 913430D
Suggested Retail Price: $24.95
Pre-book Date: March 17 • Street Date: April 21

For more information, including the press kit, photos, credits and more, please visit www.firstrunfeatures.com/jihadforlove_press.html.

The following community sites updated last night:

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

the new york times
rod nordland

aimee allison
 philip maldari
david solnit