Monday, March 23, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, multiple suicide bombings take place, Turkey makes an official and historic visit to Iraq, over the weekend protests took place around the US against the illegal war, and more.
Saturday protests took place across the country but today Amy Goodman continues her non-stop support of the peace movement . . . What's that? Oh, that's right, Pravda on the Hudson lost interest in the Iraq War years ago. Which is why Goody's 'coverage' today is: "And protests were held in Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities on Saturday to mark the sixth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq." The 'invasion.' Not the ongoing illegal war and nothing else on her show would have informed her dwindling audience that the illegal war drags on. Among the actions which took place Saturday was the March on the Pentagon in DC which was sponsored by organizations such as The National Assembly to End the Wars, the ANSWER coalition, World Can't Wait and Iraq Veterans Against the War. David Judd and Kristin Lubbert (US Socialist Worker) cover the protests and include Tacoma, Washington; Rochester, NY; San Diego; as well as DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. In San Fransico, they note Andrea who declared, "The Iraq War started when I was 14. It's outrageous that our government has gotten away with this. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan need to end, and that's why I am out here today." Donna St. George (Washington Post) reported on DC's protest, "Thousands of demonstrators marked the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq with an impassioned protest of the nation's military policies yesterday, demanding that President Obama bring U.S. troops home. The demonstration was the first in Washington of the Obama presidency, replete with many of the same messages of protests during the Bush era. Placards read 'War Is Not the Answer,' 'Troops Out Now' and 'We Need Jobs and Schools, Not War'." Muhammad Qasim (Islam Online) notes the March on the Pentagon in DC and quotes Sarah Sloan (A.N.S.W.E.R.) stating, "We are marching on the Pentagon and several Corporate War Profiteers on Saturday, March 21, because the people must speak out for what is right. More than 1 million Iraqis have died and tens of thousands of US troops have been wounded or killed since 2003." Christina Hoag (AP) reports peace activist and Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic (author of Born on the Fourth of July) spoke at the Los Angeles rally and explained, "I want to remind the American people of the human cost of war, what it means to be wounded." Kendra Ablaz (Daily 49er) reports on the LA protest and quotes Dave Wrathall stating "People don't realize we're still fighting this war. The most common argument is to support our troops. I do in defense, but not offense. There is literally no good reason why we are in Iraq." Ablaz also quotes Barack Obama voter Kathy Pliska stating he got into office "because he was against the war. Now he doesn't seem to be as much." Hint, Pliska, he was never that against it. That was a fairy tale. Heather Knight and Steve Rubenstein (San Francisco Chronicle link has text and video) report, "Umbrellas mixed with protest signs Saturday in San Francisco, where demonstrators marked the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq with speeches, chanting and a march up Market Street that stretched about three blocks." Susan Shroder (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports on San Diego's rally where Cindy Sheehan and Bree Walker "were keynote speakers" and quotes Cindy stating, "From what I understand, Barack Obama likes to vacation in Hawaii. We'll have a much nicer place to protest now than Crawford, Texas." Matt Otstot (CBS 47 text and video) speaks with Cindy who says, "Unfortunately the new administration is not stopping it, in fact it's escalating in Afghanistan, so I think that now it's more urgent time than ever to be involved and to be active." KFSN (link has video and text) quotes Cindy stating, "It really has changed the mood of the country. The anti war movement was really strong after that, until democrats got elected, and then it kind of fizzled it. So one of my messages too is that it doesn't matter if it's a Democrat or Republican we can't give up our responsibilities." Jim de la Vega and Kyra Jenkins (KMPH Fox 26 -- link has text and video) cover Fresno's protest and student Skylar Devoogd is quoted stating, "I'm a college student so education is really important and we're spending $72 million a day on the Iraq War so I believe we should spend more money on education." Donald Duran III (Daily Lobo) reports on Albuquerque's rally and quotes IVAW's Joe Callan declaring, "So many people are oblivious to the conflicts overseas, and we've been involved in them since 2001. Six years ago yesterday, I was crossing the border from Kuwait into Iraq and going into battle. We did that multiple times. We are still doing that, and there are still young men and women out there fighting and dying." Jackie Loohauis-Bennett (Milawukee Journal Sentinel) reports approximately 200 showed up Saturday to protest the war outside the Milwaukee County Courthouse and quotes IVAW's Jason moon stating, "We want the troops to come home now. This war is not over. Tell the guys coming home in boxes that the war is over." Keith McGilvery (NBC29) covered Virginia's protest outside Augusta County Courthouse and quotes demonstrator Elizabeth La Grua explaining, "I hope they say, 'Oh, wow! There's still people opposed to the war. Maybe I better think a little bit more about it. Maybe that $12 billion a month should be spent here'." KITV notes (link has text and video) that protestors in Sioux City gathered on Friday outside the Federal courthouse.
Back to Saturday's actions, Brandon Hudson (Fox 44) notes the protest in Plattsburgh, Vermont and quotes participant Jack Andrus explaining, "We're concerned that people are losing sight of the fact that the war is still going on." Kimberly Thorpe (Dallas Observer) notes approximately 35 turned out in "black shirts and pants and wore white masks over their faces to represent the dead" as they marched through downtown Dallas. At Thorpe's article, a veteran leaves this comment, "As someone who did bother to show up and march in two protest marches Saturday, the one in Dallas and one earlier that day in Fort Worth organized by Iraq Veterans Against War, what was most striking was how few people were there. The war in Iraq is still going, and Afghanistan is ramping up. The anti-war movement is a pathetic shell of what it was only 4 years ago, figuring Obama will save us all. Obama is not anti-war, and has said as much. As a veteran I marched because someone has to remind our fellow citizens that soldiers and Marines are still dying for lies and corporate profits in foreign lands. But I guess no one cares anymore about supporting the troops." Joe Griffith (The Independent Collegian) reports on students who went to DC for the March on the Pentagon and quotes Derek Ide explaining, "Suicide bombers don't just exist because they're crazy, insane extremists; they exist because there are material conditions that have pushed them in that direction, and they feel that's the way out." Protests took place around the world including in Sydney, Austrlia and Manila, Phillipines. On Firady,, protests took place in six Iraqi cities. The Honolulu Advertiser notes Baghdad was among the six and chants included "no, no for occupation". Media whore Amy Goodman ignored Iraq all last week and had the nerve to join self-loathing lesbian Laura Flanders (who forgot to brush her hair and looked ridiculous with that curl on top of her otherwise straight bangs) to talk about Iraq. Media Whore and professional liar Amy Goodman had five hours of her own to cover Iraq last week and reduced it to a headline but was out in full force with Laura playing Last Journalist Standing yet again. "It's so important to point out," on the sixth anniversary of the illegal war trashy Amy Goodman wanted to say. After doing nothing all week. GritTV, where old whores go to sell it.
In Iraq violence never ends. Mohammed Abbas, Tim Cocks and Charles Dick (Reuters) report a Baghdad bombing at a bus terminal has claimed at least 9 lives with at least twenty-three people left injured. BBC puts the bombing just outside Baghdad in Abu Ghraib and notes it's the districts "second bombing . . . this month". DPA quotes sources stating "Awakening" Councils were the bulk of the victims and they report, "Two consecutive blasts rocked a market in the Nasr we al-Salam district of Abu Ghraib, 25km from Baghdad, Shakir Faza, an official with the local police, told German Press Agency dpa." On "Awakening" Councils, Alissa J. Rubin and Rod Nordland (New York Times) have an important article that we'll assume will appear in tomorrow's paper. Regardless, we'll pick up the topic tomorrow. (And watch it be watered down when it runs in the paper.)
This became the 'small' bombing on a day when violence took center stage, even overwhelming what was supposed to be a historic official visit. CNN reports 14 dead from a bombing in Jalawla at a Kurdish funeral -- an apparent suicide bomber -- gender not given so they think it's a male. Anthony Shadid and K.I. Ibrahim (Washington Post) explain, "Witnesses, reached by telephone, said the suicide bomber set off his explosives after the evening prayers, sending a fireball through the canvas of the tent and igniting a fire. By nightfall, nothing was left save the tent's metal scaffolding, and chairs littered the ground. Witnesses said survivors carried out the dead and wounded, who screamed in pain." Charlotte Porter (Bloomberg News) notes that the death toll has risen to 24 on the Jalawla bombing (plus the suicide bomber) and left fifty injured. Deborah Haynes (Times of London) observes, "The carnage brought back memories of the country's darker days of sectarian war and frequent explosions before major security imporvements began to take hold over the past year." Haynes also notes that the who behind the attack is unknown but that it will most likely be said to have been carried out by al Qaeda in Iraq. Eager to prove how right Haynes was, BBC's Hugh Sykes immediately began chanting al Qaeda in Iraq. Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) notes the "sucide bomber detonated a belt laden with explosives during a funeral". Laith Hammoudi and Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) report, "The man being mourned in Jalawla, about 60 miles from Baquba, was Kurdish, and officials suspected that the attacker was an Arab. Kurds consider Jalawla, a town of both Arabs and Kurds, a part of greater Kurdistan. The land is contested, and tensions run high between the two ethnicities."
In other reported violence today . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured seven, a Mosul suicide bombing which claimed 4 lives (plus the bomber) and left two people injured, a Tal Afar suicide bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer (and the bomber) and left five people wounded and a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives. Xinhua explains the two killed in the Mosul roadside bombing were a father and a son and that, in Mosul, a grenade was hurled at "a passing U.S. patrol in the Farouk Street damaging a Humvee, the source said, adding it was not clear whether patrol sustained any casualty as the U.S. troops immediately sealed off the area." Reuters adds, "A bomb attached to a car wounded four people, including an official from immigration and Displacement ministry and a Danish national woman who was with him in his vehicle, police said two other policemen were wounded."
The violence increase (following February's increase) comes as people insist it is not happening. Mohammed al-Askari, Nouri al-Maliki's little buddy and an Iraq army figurehead, told Al Jazeera, "The situation is definitely improving, and there are remedies in place. The majority of provinces enjoy general safety." This nonsense is similar to the garbage the Iraqi Ambassador to the US, Hami al-Bayati, offered to Frank Ucciardo for CBS' Up To The Minute:
Frank Ucciardo: Has the mission in Iraq been accomplished? Seriously?
Hamid Al Bayati: The general picture for us Iraqis is that Iraq, the region and the war is much safer without Saddam regime.
Frank Ucciardo: When you saw Saddam Hussein hanged [December 30, 2006], what went through your mind? What went through your heart when you saw him being hanged?
Hamid Al Bayati: Well the Iraqis who suffered -- I suffered -- I'm one of the Iraqis who suffered. I lost eight members of my family during Saddam's regime. I have another brother who was kidnapped and killed in 2005.
Frank Ucciardo: You personally when Saddam was hanged, did you have a feeling that you were getting justice?
Hamid Al Bayati: I felt at that time that we could have better Iraq after Saddam executed and security would not have been improved dramatically in Iraq without executing Saddam because he was encouraging resistance even in the court he was encouraging people to resist and he was sending letters from his hiding place. So we know that as long as Saddam lived, his followers, his loyalists, they were hoping that he would come back.
Frank Ucciardo: Is the US involvement ever going to end in Iraq?
Hamid Al Bayati: I think that the Status Of Forces Agreement, the SOFA which was signed, stated clearly that all US forces should be withdrawn by the end of 2011. There will be no extension from that.
Frank Ucciardo: But earlier this week, Iraqi *President* Nouri al-Maliki said US troops may remain in some areas that are not completely secure.
Nouri is the Prime Minister, Jalal Talabani is the President. All of Iraq's ambassadors are men and no one's supposed to ever comment on that. Are they all also cowards and weaklings like Hamid? Such a coward that he became a British citizen? He spent the bulk of the last two decades in England and he is a British citizen. Only in 'liberated' Iraq could a citizen of another country be an ambassador. (Yes, he also holds Iraqi citizenship.) He's one of the many cowards who spent years and years agitating for the US to go in and do what he and his cowardly cohorts were too damn scared to do: Overthrow Saddam.
In the future, the US government's position should be that no US service members are sent in to fight a battle that cowards of the country won't fight themselves. (No, all these cowards who fled Iraq did not go in fighting when the US invaded. They were and are cowards which is why it will be very interesting on the day the US actually leaves -- probably many, many years from now -- since these cowards have never stood up a day in their lives.) Al Bayati was part of INDICT -- a board member actually (1995-2002). They were so 'brave,' that British group, that they compiled rumors. They didn't take up arms, they didn't do anything but beg and beg other countries to do what the cowards were too chicken to do for themselves. He was also a member of the cowards' other big organization Iraqi National Congress in London (1992-1998). For those new to those cowardly and lying organizations, SourceWatch notes, in their Rendon Group entry:
The Rendon Group is a secretive public relations firm that has assisted a number of U.S. military interventions in nations including Argentina, Colombia, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, Panama and Zimbabwe. Rendon's activities include organizing the Iraqi National Congress, a PR front group designed to foment the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
A rule should be in place that refugees do not use a host country to plot against their former country. You want to get on with your lives? By all means, the US should welcome you. You want to spend a decade or two plotting how to drag the US into a war with your former country? You need to be kicked out. And if that means you have to return to your former country and if that means you may be tortured or killed, that's really on you because all refugee status should give you is the chance to start your life over, not the chance to plot and scheme a war. Want to fight your own country? Don't be a coward and run off from it. ("Coward" does not apply to actual refugees and those include members of the military who decide that a war is wrong ethically or legally and that they cannot participate in it. A coward is someone who wants war but doesn't want to fight it themselves. Like all the exiles now in control of the Iraqi government.) That rule should apply to all refugees: Iraqis, Cubans, etc. No one should be granted asylum to the US and then use the US as their launching pad for wars.
The claims of 'safety' in Iraq are all the more interesting when they're so short on police officers and when Massoud A. Derhally (Bloomberg News) reports a hiring freeze Jawad al-Bolani, Interior Ministry, has put in place for Iraq's security forces. Derhally reminds, "Violence has been on the rise recently, with at least 70 people killed in three separate attacks in early March. The death toll in February was 35 percent higher than the previous month." Iraqi media is more focused on a column he wrote for today's Chicago Tribune entitled "The meaning of Iraqi freedom" and their focus is on one sentence in his sixth paragraph. Al Arabiya News Channel is among those noting the firings mentioned in passing: "Iraq's Interior Ministry fired 62,000 employees accused of corruption and launched an intensive campaign to dismantle sectarianism among security forces, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani wrote in a U.S. newspaper Sunday."
Those needing some reality on Iraq -- as opposed to more waves of Operation Happy Talk -- can refer to an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy who writes (at Inside Iraq):
When the US military started what they called Operation Iraq Freedom, I really felt so happy for one thing. I thought Iraq would be free again and we would have real government with politicians who really care about Iraq future and its people. I had a real big hope that services will be the best again and we would live happily again. I never thought that we would start killing each other for the sake of some strangers or to kidnap each other for money but I was completely wrong. I was sure that the American administration had planned very well for the stage after the war but I was wrong again. Nothing really changed in Iraq after six years. To be honest, we have one big change. Now we have hundreds of political parties that do nothing to Iraq and all they care about is their interests. After six years, the Americans approved that they came without any plan because most Iraqis are still poor and deprived from the simplest human rights. Iraqi governments and the American administration failed completely in putting Iraq once again on the right path.
I have to admit that after six years of the invasion, ALL MY DREAMS HAD GONE WITH THE WIND
The violence was not supposed to resurface -- remember the latest wave of Operation Happy Talk says that violence went gone-gone and bye-bye. Today's big news was supposed to be the visit by a foreign official. BBC News reports that Abdullah Gul, President of Turkey, is in Baghdad ("first by a Turkish head of state for more than 30 years") and is meeting with President Jalal Talabani as well as Nouri al-Maliki. Among the topics to be discussed are the PKK. Hurriyet notes that the visit comes as the trade relationship has strengthened, "Turkey's exports to Iraq have risen 75 percent in the first two months of the year, said State Minister Kusad Tuzmen, adding that the export target for this year is $5 billion." Paul de Bendern, Shamal Aqrawi, Mohammed Abbas and Charles Dick (Reuters) explain:
Gul's visit comes less than a year after Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan came to Baghdad, marking a milestone in Iraq's efforts to end its regional isolation after U.S.-led troops toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Turkey regularly shells PKK targets in Iraq. It killed at least four PKK guerrillas this month. The rebels are fighting for an independent ethnic homeland in southeastern Turkey.
Turkey was also in the news over the weekend. CNN's Ivan Watson reported on CNN's interview (link has text and a video option) with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's Prime Minister, who states, "With regard to the exit of the American soldiers, we are positive on that issue." This announcement was whispered about for some time and the Turkish press began reporting it was coming at the beginning of this month. Prime Minister Erdogan added, "If weapons and ammunition are going to come out, it has to be clear where they are going to be heading. If we are informed about where this military equipment would be going precisely, then we can make a proper evaluation."
Turning to legal news, the US has filed criminal charges in Iraq. For the background before we get to the criminal charges, we'll note this from the Feb. 25th snapshot:
Saturday, May 12, 2007 an al-Taqa attack on US soldiers took place resulting in 4 US soldiers and 1 Iraqi translator being killed immediately and three US soldiers missing. The three missing were Jospeh Anzack, Byron Fouty and Alex Jimenez. In May of 2007 (23rd), the family of Joseph Anzack was informed his body had been identifed. Still missing were Byron Fouty and Alex Jimenez. July 11, 2008 the press reported (citing Byron Fouty's step-father for confirmation) that the remains of both soldiers had been identified. That afternoon the US Dept of Defense released a statement: "The Department of Defense today announced the deaths of two soldiers previously listed as "Missing-Captured" while supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. On July 10, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner positively identified human remains recovered in Iraq July 9 to be those of two soldiers who had been previously listed as 'Missing-Captured.' . . . Jimenez and Fouty were part of a patrol that was ambushed by enemy forces south of Baghdad on May 12, 2007. They were assigned to the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y. The Department of Defense previously announced the names of soldiers killed in the attack. They were Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack, Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif.; Sgt. 1st Class James D. Connell, Jr., 40, of Lake City, Tenn.; Pfc. Daniel W. Courneya, 19, of Nashville, Mich.; Cpl. Christopher E. Murphy, 21, of Lynchburg, Va.; and Sgt. Anthony J. Schober, 23, of Reno, Nev."
Now for the criminal charges. CNN reported last night:
The U.S. Army has filed a criminal complaint in Iraq against 12 people suspected in an ambush south of Baghdad nearly two years ago that left seven U.S. soldiers dead, the military said Sunday.
The Army says the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella insurgent group led by al Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility for the May 12, 2007, attack. The Army did not release details about charges against the 12 suspects, who are in custody.
Yesterday Ava and I (at Third) covered the TV coverage (and some radio) of the Iraq war or, more to the point, the lack of coverage and we opened with the curious disaster that took place Thursday night:
March 19th was the sixth anniversary of the start of the illegal war. On that day, a day that saw the death of the 4260th US service member in Iraq, the president of the United States, Barack Obama, went on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to yuck it up.
He had time to babble on like the bitterest of starlets. Everyone is Simon Cowell! (Does that make him William Hung?) He had time to waste on college basketball. He had time to tell a very unflattering story about his daughters which made them sound like ungrateful little brats. (He told the story or we wouldn't comment -- we haven't, for example, riffed on how much the youngest daughter looks like Wanda Sykes.) He laughed a lot, tried to yuck it up (insulting over 40 million Americans -- that's an editorial for this edition). But he never mentioned the Iraq War.
The sixth anniversary of the illegal war and he couldn't mention Iraq? He could go on TV, on a trashy entertainment program, and try to yuck it up. And he's the president of the United States. This is presidential behavior? We felt we were the only ones offended by that but a caller to The Diane Rehm Show (who disclosed she voted for Cynthia McKinney and not Barack) Friday raised the issue as well. And as we spoke about Iraq to various groups Friday, we would point this out and they would agree it was in poor taste and offensive.
Approximately 146,000 US troops are stationed in Iraq, on the battlefield (the Pentagon's the one who determined that all of Iraq is a battlefield and that's why they issued the firing orders they did) and the sixth anniversary rolls around and the president of the United States can be found acting like a celebrity, sitting down on the couch across from Jay Leno, trying to yuck it up but he can't address the Iraq War?
It was disgusting and the only thing more disgusting was watching TV and waiting all last week for coverage.
That's some of what we saw, the president of the US telling jokes (or trying) on the 6th anniversary. What we didn't see? Lieven De Cauter's "A Forgotten Humanitarian Disaster" (Information Clearing House, De Cauter is with the Brussells Tribunal) covers some of that:
The sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is a sad occasion for the balance sheet: during six years of occupation 1.2 million citizens were killed, 2,000 doctors killed, and 5,500 academics and intellectuals assassinated or imprisoned. There are 4.7 million refugees: 2.7 million inside the country and two million have fled to neighbouring countries, among which are 20,000 medical doctors. According to the Red Cross, Iraq is now a country of widows and orphans: two million widows as a consequence of war, embargo, war again and occupation, and five million orphans, many of whom are homeless (estimated at 500,000). Almost a third of Iraq's children suffer from malnutrition. Some 70 per cent of Iraqi girls no longer go to school. Medical services, not so long ago the best in the region, have totally collapsed: 75 per cent of medical staff have left their jobs, half of them have fled the country, and after six years of "reconstruction" health services in Iraq still do not meet minimum standards.
Because of the use of depleted uranium in ammunition by the occupation, the number of cancer cases and miscarriages has drastically increased. According to a recent Oxfam report, the situation of women is most worrisome. The study states that in spite of optimistic bulletins in the press, the situation of women keeps deteriorating. The most elementary supplies are still not available. Access to drinkable water is for large parts of the population a problem and electricity is functioning only three to six hours a day, and this in a state that was once a nation of engineers. More than four in 10 Iraqis live under the poverty threshold and unemployment is immense (28.1 per cent of the active population). Besides 26 official prisons, there a some 600 secret prisons. According to the Iraqi Union of Political Prisoners, over 400,000 Iraqis have suffered detention since 2003, among which 6,500 minors and 10,000 women. Torture is practiced on a large scale, and some 87 per cent of detainees remain uncharged. Corruption is immense: according to Transparency International, Iraq, after Somalia and Myanmar, is the most corrupt country in the world. The American Foreign Affairs journal calls Iraq "a failed state". This is symbolised by the fact that Iraq, a state that has the third largest oil reserves in the world, must import refined oil on a massive scale. Authorities are on the verge of giving oil concessions for 25 years to international (also European) oil companies, though they have no mandate or legal authority to do so. Instead of being paid reparations for the enormous destruction wrought on the infrastructure of the country, entailing billions in oil revenues lost, Iraq is again in line to be robbed. There is large scale ethnic cleansing going on against the Turkmen, the Christians, the Assyrians and the Shebak. Kirkuk is being "Kurdicised" by massive immigration and illegal settlements (of Israeli inspiration) and its history falsified.