Wednesday, April 1, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, today kicks off sexual assault awareness month, tensions continue between al-Maliki's government and the "Awakenings" which the government's been attacking, an Iraqi Christian is beheaded, PBS airs a special for childrens of veterans and their families tonight, and more.
Tonight, first hour of prime time, PBS airs a special:
Elmo: Hi, Miss Queen Latifah.
Queen Latifah: Hey, Elmo. Hi, it's so good to see you.
Elmo: It's so good to see you too. Well what brings you here to Sesame Street?
Queen Latifah: Well I'm meeting up with some friends who've been through some pretty tough times. They were all hurt in one way or another while serving in the military. And you know those kinds of changes can be really tough on a family.
Little Girl A: When I saw my dad's legs it made me feel a little bit nervous.
Little Girl B: He doesn't have no legs and one arm.
Dad B: At first I didn't think she wanted to hug me -- because she was scared of me maybe. That hug made me feel so happy and complete inside that it made me feel like I didn't really lose anything at all.
Dad C: When I was first injured I did struggle for awhile with the idea that I may be chasing this little kid here around on crutches or in a wheel chair because I didn't know what my future held so I was, I was nervous. I was afraid it was going to change the way I was going to be a father.
Son D: I was a little worried that he was injured but I don't care if he has his whole body gone as long as he's still living.
Daughter E: I heard Mama was talking. She said that our daddy was injured. I was scared because I didn't know if he was actually going to come home or if he would just passed away.
Mom E:You know it was really hard for them to comprehend what had happened in Iraq, let alone a burn injury.
Dad E: I was in the denial stage and I didn't want to accept that I had a problem. Took awhile for me to get the pride to go away. And what it was that made me let the pride go was I was tearing my family apart.
Mom E: To see your kids and your husband have to go through that is hard.
Queen Latifah: My father actually suffered from PTSD. He was a veteran of Vietnam. I mean it was very challenging for us too as a family so I can kind of relate to what the kids have gone to. Luckily, he sought treatment, just like you guys did, and it really made a big difference because it helped him to recognize you know what was going on.
Dad D: You're not as macho as you thought you are and that you're a US soldier and you're a fighting machine. This particular fight you can't do alone. You need, you need that family.
Elmo: Is that your daddy's new hand?
Son D: Yeah.
Elmo: Well can Elmo see it? Wow. Wow. Look at that, it's like a robot hand.
John Mayer: It's really important that families talk about the change and say what's on their minds.
Elmo: Oh, you mean (singing) "Say what you need to say."
[John Mayer begins performing "Say"]
Queen Latifah: Please join us for Coming Home: Military Families Cope with Change and meet some parents and kids who are pulling together.
The special airs tonight. It's a Sesame Street special, it is geared towards childen and one of the few programs thus far -- all this way into the Iraq and Afghansitan Wars -- to note the effects on the families, especially young children. For example, a wounded veteran who suffered from extreme depression for over a year shares his story as does his son who explains, "He'd be laying there like a lump on a couch. I'd go upstairs and get mad." Again, that's PBS tonight. First hour of prime time. (Unless your local stations are playing it at a different time or not at all. Check your local listings.) The challegned/disabled community and their families rarely get coverage. Their ranks have increased due to two wars this decade.
Another rarely covered topic was given a full hour on NPR today. USA Today's Susan Page filled in as guest host on The Diane Rehm Show and, for the second hour, explored the topic of sexual assaults in the military with guest Helen Benedict and whack-job Kaye Whitley making a brief appearance that was as fact-free as her Congressional appearances are.
Susan Page: Since March 2003, nearly 200,000 American women in Iraq -- more than in any other war since WWII. They are participating in combat more than ever before but they can feel isolated in a military culture that seems hostile to females. Helen Benedict is a novelist and journalist who interviewed forty soldiers and veterans about the struggles and challenges they experienced in Iraq. Their stories are part of a new book titled The Lonely Soldier.
Helen Benedict's The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq is out today, published by Beacon Press. Benedict explained the book started when she attended a townhall with veterans discussing their experiences and all the ones up front were men. She found a female soldier at the back who explained her experiences serving in Iraq. Women service members and veterans groups allowed Benedict to find others who wanted to share their stories. Liar who needs to be fired Kaye Whitley appeared briefly on the show as a call-in and let's deal with that liar first off.
People seem unaware that Kaye Whitley helps no one. She does her soft purr and creates 'facts' as she goes along and offers cover for the sexual predators. That's what she does. If that surprises you, you need to own up to the fact that you haven't been paying attention. In July of 2008, she refused -- REFUSED -- to testify before Congress. When she finally did appear (and you can check out this Feminist Wire Daily News item from September 12, 2008 if you were caught napping when that was going on) she refused -- REFUSED -- to provide an answer as to what allowed her to legally refuse. Kaye Whitley NEEDS TO BE FIRED. Is that clear? She is paid by the US tax payer. Barack Obama should have immediately fired her upon taking office -- and it's a sign of how useless so many 'leaders' are that they didn't ask for this easy, quick (and probably cosmetic) change to take place. She insults victims who testify before Congress by getting in little digs after they've offered their testimony. She makes up figures and facts as she goes along. Congress needs to confront her -- each time she provides testimony -- with her previous testimony because the two never, ever mesh. She's a liar. And she can sell make up door to door and be as big a liar as she wants to be. But right now she's the director of DoD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office and, in that capacity, her lies are hurting a lot of people.
Susan Page asked the little liar about the increase in reported assaults and, being the liar she is, Kaye Whitley tried to assert that there was no increase in actual assaults, it was just that there was so much more comfort these days with reporting . . . thanks to the work she (Whitley) had done. That woman is a menace.
And so is the idiotic PSA she's so thrilled with. Prepare to be disgusted in mere seconds.
Male voice: My strength is for defending my nation and my fellow service members.
Female voice: Preventing sexual assault is part of that duty.
Male voice: So when I saw my buddy's date was drunk, I told him, ask her when she's sober.
Female voice: When some guy went way too far with my friend, I got her out of there.
Male voice: Sexual assault can be prevented when friends and co-workers look out for each other.
Female voice: If you see a situation headed in the wrong direction, do your duty.
Male voice: Say something, do something.
Female voice: Get help.
Male voice: Find out more at myduty.mil.
Note, it's not when a man goes too far, it's when he goes "way too far." Hopefully, Whitley will explain the difference between the two. And the first offense was probably "ask her when she's sober." Because surely sexual assaults are fine and dandy when someone's sober. "Do you mind if I sexually assult you?" When drunk, a woman is so apt to immediately say, "Yes, please sexually assault me." Right? Because sexual assault is nothing but 'good times' gone bad, right? That's what that insulting and appalling PSA is saying and Kaye Whitley's proud of it?
Whitley then wanted to bring up "restricted reporting" and forgot to note that it was a pilot program. She also -- yet again -- revealed how stupid she is, how inept she is and how fired her ass needs to be immediately. Pimping her stupid "restricted reporting" program, she claimed that if you were in the corporate world and were sexually assaulted, you could choose whether or not to participate and "certainly" no one would phone the CEO about it. If a sexual assault takes place at any corporation, everyone knows about for legal reasons. Kaye Whitley is an idiot. We could go on and on about how she twsited reality to convey a false impression. It's past time she was fired. She should have been canned on day one of the new administration for her refusal to testify to Congress. Her job does not permit her to make such a refusal. The tax payers pays her salary and when Congress wants her front and center, her ass plops down before them. That's how it works.
She praised her stupid "restricted reporting" program insisting it was a "success" and that "the reason I say that" is because, since 2005, she's had "over 2,500" victims come forward ("and last year alone over 700"). How many of those went on to file charges? That's the question she refuses to answer when Congress asks her. That was the point of the "restricted reporting" option -- how it was sold. It would provide counseling and work the victim towards filing charges. Kaye never provides an answer -- even when asked by Congress -- how many "restricted reporting" have gone on to file charges. And "over 2500"? That's not a lot. Especially when she was claiming before Congress January 28th of this year that 1,896 was the number. Again, her numers change at random -- based apparently on whom she's speaking to. When she walked that 1,896 number out before Congress, US House Rep Niki Tsongas pointed out, "It means a significant number of people who committed these assaults are not accountable." Whitley was too busy whining to that Congressional hearing (chaired by US House Rep Susan Davids) that reporting rape (not using restricted reporting -- and this was for rape, that was the topic, not sexual assault which can be attempted and can be verbal, this was reporting actual rape) "tears a unit apart." You want to explain where this woman's loyalties are because anyone who, interviewed about the huge increase in rape, that would want to whine about how the unit is harmed doesn't need to be the director of DoD's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. It's Sexual Assault Awareness month and there's no indication that Kaye Whitely has any; however, firing her might increase awareness nation-wide.
When Kaye left the show, the broadcast improved tremendously and similar effects would no doubt happen at the Pentagon. When Kaye Whitley was gone, Susan Page asked Helen Benedict for her take on Kaye and her 'efforts' at the Pentagon?
Helen Benedict: One is she said that even if you report your assault anonymously, they call "restricted," the commander is still told that there was an assault. And the thing is that platoons are very enclosed, gossipy, hiearchical organizations and everybody knows everybody's business so what this means is that it's very, very likely that she [the victim] won't in fact be anonymous and everyone will know exactly who it is. And women are aware of this so that's enormously intidimating. The other thing that worries me is how much can an ad work to really change behavior? I mean, we've seen that sometimes it works better than others but, uhm, we've had sexual prevention classes in the military for quite a long time now, we've had the unrestricted reporting -- I mean the anonymous reporting since 2005. There's no evidence that sexual assault is going down. And if the numbers of reporting go up you never know if it's actually more reporting or more rapes. The culture has to change and advertising alone isn't enough. I think all these steps are good, but they're not enough. I would like to see anybody who's ever found guilty of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, kicked out of the military altogether -- not given some demotion or slap on the wrist or letter in his file, which happens all too often. Anybody who has a record of domestic or sexual violence against women should never be admitted into the military -- some have under the moral waivers. I'd like to see civilian hotlines put in all the bases at home so that a woman who has been assaulted can call a civilian rape crisis center, not even have to deal with the military at all. And I would like to see a culture where it's really understood that rape is a war crime just like at war whether you're raping civilians of the enemy or your own kind, it's a war crime. It's that serious.
And we'll get to some current problems but Page and Benedict also discussed some what ifs and we'll note this section:
Susan Page: You know some people would look at the experience, the difficult experience many women have had in this combat situation in Iraq and say, 'Well okay, maybe women should not be put in this situation, maybe women should not be in the military in these combat support roles that put them in these isolated situations.' What would you say to that argument?
Helen Benedict: I'd say it's like the argument that was once used women-shouldn't-vote, women-shouldn't-be-fire-fighters, or teachers, or professors. We've always had to fight against the sort of predjudice, [in order] to be treated equally, but women are adults, they should be able to have any job they want. Not everybody would choose to have that kind of role -- just as not every man would -- but it should be up to women to choose what jobs they want, not up to the government or anyone else.
Susan Page: Well let's do the reverse side. What if there were no restrictions on what women could do in the military? What do you think the effect of that would be?
Helen Benedict: I think if -- if the Pentagon lifted its ban on ground combat it would help women win respect and stop this perpetuation of seeing them as second class soldiers. I think it would have a large effect on how they were treated by their male comrades because at the root of every assault and harassment is lack of respect. And if the message comes down from the top "Yes, this is a second class soldier. No, there is no reason to respect her," then things aren't going to change.
Now some realities right now. Amanda Hess (Washington City Paper) notes how difficult it is for women on bases to get emergency contraception and quotes Nancy Northup of Reproductive Health Reality Check explaining, "It's excluded from the list of what military facilities, including the primary stores where families shop, are required to stock. That can be particularly challenging for women and families who are based overseas and rely solely on those facilities to buy over-the-counter drugs." Corpus Christi, Texas' KRISTV reports a 29-year-old "military police officer" is a suspect in the "aggravated sexual assault" on "a 14-year-old Aransas Pass girl". Virginia's WDBJ7 Roanoke News reports Stephen J. Lloyd, 21-years-old, is in jail for suspicion "of sexually assaulting another cadet". Mike Gangloff (Roanoke Times) adds that allegations involve a female and states she's 20-year-old and has stated she was raped. Sunday Jane Lerner (Lower Hudson Valley Journal News) reported that Atlanta police had taken Lavell Tyrone McNutt into custody under suspicion over a recent series of sexual assaults in Atlanta. McNutt raped two women while he was a West Point cadet and faced a court-martial in 1976. Despite pleading guilty he was given only nine years -- five for one rape, four for another -- and the judge ordered that the two sentence run consecutively. This week IVAW's Jen Hogg joined with Veterans and Servicemembers Project at Urban Justice Center's director Rachel Natelson and Hogg's co-founder of Claiming Justice Anuradha Bhagwati in addressing the issue of sexual assault in a letter to the New York Times which noted:
Violence against servicewomen will continue to exist so long as sexual assault is treated as an internal military mater.
As it did in the aftermath of the Tailhook and Aberdeen Proving Ground scandals, Congress has lately renewed its demand that the military imporve the matter in which it polices itself. But why should the military be trusted to police itself at all?
Under military policy, the disposition of harassment and assault cases is left entirely to the discretion of unit commanders, who alone decide on the need for corrective action. Since service members are exempt from civilian workplace harassment laws, the military is shielded from precisely the sort of outside judicial review that could act as a real deterrent.
This lawlessness has fostered a culture of underprosecution in which only 38 percent of substantiated rape cases even go to trial.
Surely these numbers prove that it's time to stop trusting the fox to protect the henhouse.
VETWOW is an organization for female military veterans and RAAIN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) is an organization serving all victims of sexual assault (civilian and military, male and female) -- RAAIN's toll free number is 1 (800) 656-HOPE or 1 (800) 656-4673.
Helen Benedict said rape should be treated like a War Crime and, if it were, that might be the saddest thing of all. That's said because what happened to Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, was a War Crime and yet most outlets, including the New York Times, refused to print her name or run a photo (USA Today and the Washington Post were two exceptions -- the Associated Press repeatedly did a strong job portraying Abeer as a person and not a statistic or, worse, an 'other'). The 14-year-old girl was gang-raped at her home by US soldiers while one US soldier shot her parents and her five-year-old sister dead in the next room. Then that soldier joined the others and allegedly shot her after he raped her. He then allegedly attempted to set Abeer's body on fire to destroy the evidence. When that didn't work, they just made sure 'insurgents' would be blamed for their actions, then they returned back to the base where -- after disposing of the blood-stained clothes -- they grilled chicken wings and proceeded to get drunk while celebrating. All the US soldiers have confessed to their role in the conspiracy and rape (two soldiers confessed to their rape, others to various parts of the conspiracy where they planned to do this to Abeer and her family) except one: Steven D. Green. The others, still in the military, faced an August 2006 court-martial and then trials that were completed by last year. All fingered Steven D. Green as the ringleader. They stated Green came up with the plan(Abeer's brother told reporters that Green stroked his sister's face and had long made his sister uncomfortable), that he shot and killed the sister, the parents and then Abeer, that he participated in the gang-rape and that he set Abeer's corpse on fire. Steven D. Green has, through is attorneys, maintained he was innocent. How 'innocent' the world will soon see since his attorneys have been attempting to navigate an insanity plea with the court. The last Friday in June 2006, Green, who had already been discharged from the military before the War Crimes came to light, was apprehended by federal authorities in Kentucky. After many delays (including a postponement for a quilting fair -- that is not a joke, they actually postponed last year's trial for a quilting fair) Green's trial is now scheduled to begin April 27th at the United States District Court Western District of Kentucky. April 6th jury selection will begin. They are anticipating media interest (after the media silence on Abeer, that's an interesting prediction) and Judge Thomas B. Russell issued media guidelines March 26th including that a media room would be set aside and laptops and cell phones would be allowed there, they also restricted the press to doing all interviews outside the courthouse ("Interviews may be conducted on the sidewalk on Broadway across from the courthouse"). Well maybe they're expecting the international press? Sunday AFP noted the case: "In another case involving the rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and the killing of her father, mother and younger sister, four soldiers were convicted by a court martial and handed sentences of up to 110 years in prison. The last defendant, Steven D. Green, is to be tried next month in a civilian court in Paducah, Kentucky and could face the death penalty if convicted." (AP filed two stories on Green's attempt to make a motion that the prospective jury pool did not contain enough African-Americans. Green's attorneys filed paperwork today to withdraw that motion -- PDF format warning, here for that paperwork.] And, to be clear, James Barker and Paul Cortez entered guilty pleas, Jesse V. Spielman was convicted and Bryan L. Howard had made a plea agreement.
Yesterday in Basra, a ceremony was held for the 'withdrawal' of British forces which really isn't a withdrawal since 400 of the 4100 will remain behind after 'withdrawal' and which was strange since most will be leaving by May 31st and not yesterday. But, hey, any excuse to throw a party, right? Campbell Robertson and Sam Dagher (New York Times) note that a one time, British forces in Iraq numbered 40,000 and that the main thrust of the ceremony was to turn Basra over to US control. As Richard Beeston (Times of London) observes, "The British Army still knows how to perform a ceremonial withdrawal better than anyone, as the Royal Marines band and a lone piper proved at Basra airport yesterday. Thanks to decades of lowering flags and marching into the sunset on every corner of the planet, the drill is dignified and graceful -- and certainly well rehearsed." Caroline Wyatt (BBC) reports that the majority of British forces leaving will not be leaving until May 31st. She also notes 179 British troops have died and we'll add "thus far" because British troops are not home and will not be home come May 31st. Xinhua notes, "Tuesday's departure is part of an agreement signed between Iraq and Britain in November last year, in which the latter pledged to complete pullout of its last 4,100 soldiers from Iraq by late July 2009." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports of the ceremony, "Major General Andy Salmon handed over what will become known as Multinational Division South to U.S. Major General Michael Oates during a ceremony at a military base in the southern city of Basra. The pullout is a process that will culminate on May 31, the Ministry of Defence said." Alsumaria points out, "It is to be noted that senior Iraqi officers attended the ceremony and praised the British Army saying that Iraq owes them a lot for helping Iraq's Army in all its missions." The Washington Post's Sudarsan Raghavan (at Financial Times of London) quotes US Gen Ray Odierno stating, "We have shed blood together and that is a bond that no man can break. You have restored hope where chaos reigned." Raghavan notes that approximately 7,000 US service members will replace the departing British. Terri Jud (Independent of London) explains, "Yesterday, a bright pink trailer offering 'pretzel dogs' was a sign that the Americans had begun moving into the British base, having been warned by their unofficial website that they will have to endure more spartan living conditions until the luxuries to which US forces are accustomed are built." British Maj Gen Andy Salmon tells Deborah Haynes (Times of London), "I think we have made a difference; we can see amazing progress has taken place in Basra. There is still an awful lot to do, of course. At least we can go having done our bit." He added his plans for his return to England will include, "Have a couple of beers, I think, and see my missus."
Meanwhile Anna Mulrine (US News & World Reports) notes this weekend's Baghad battle and states "the arrest of Adil al-Mashhadani" has put "the spotlight" on a long "simmering issue." The "Awakenings" are being targeted now -- the Sunni thugs the US put on the payroll after they installed Shi'ite thugs into the puppet government. Robert H. Reid (AP) observes the attack "carried big risks -- chief among them that Sunnis would view the action not as a move against a criminal but a politically motivated Shiite push against Sunnis." With the weekend violence in Baghdad which found "Awakening"s on one side and Iraqi and US forces on the other, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapes) observed, "Most Iraqis think that today's lower level of violence is the eye, not the end, of the storm, and that the decisive power struggles are just beginning. The U.S.-backed Iraqi government is widely regarded as an undeserving group of exiles who returned to Iraq on the backs of American tanks." And they're right to think that since all the high positions -- such as prime minister -- are occupied by people who fled Iraq long ago and waited until after the US declared war and began occupying Iraq to return to the country they now 'rule'. This morning, Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) reports on the shifting ground and notes a US "military intelligence officer" who just knows the resistance is dead but "terrorism" will always remain in Iraq -- like the Tigris, I guess. Others are less sure and Iraqi and US officials echo many of the concerns Rania Abouzeid (Time magazine) reported (noted in yesterday's snapshot). Is the concern realistic or not? At this point, no one knows (and Rubin doesn't attempt to present it any other way or to take sides). But, true or false, it feeds into al-Maliki's talk of why he can't let "Awakenings" be absorbed by his puppet government. (The counter-argument is that these concerns are not about potential absorbings, these concerns are that "sleepers" are already in the Iraqi security forces.) Nouri's best buddy, the Condi to his George, Mowaffak al-Rubaie (who was awarded the title of "Iraq's national seucirty adviser" following a dramatic upset in the swimsuit competition) is insistent that it's (you know it's coming) "Al Qaeda and the hard-core Saddamists" -- and you get the feeling that al Qaeda's tossed in for the international audience and "Saddamists" for all the Shi'ites in Iraq. Like Condi, Mowaffak knows how to work the room. For the article, "14 leaders of the Awakening movement" were interviewed and they see reason for concerns: "assassination attempts, homemade bombs placed near their homes or under their cars, leaflets urging them not to work with the Iraqi government." Mullah Nadhim al-Jubori goes on the record and notes kidnappings of four men serving under him (two set free when ransom was paid, the other two killed)and notes: "The ransom was picked up in Baghdad. That tells me there is good coordination and organization among Al Qaede members." Meanwhile, as noted in yesterday's snapshot, the US military and Iraqi officials were telling Rod Nordland that the Fadhil neighborhood of Baghdad was weapon free. Not quite. Robert H. Reid (AP) reports this afternoon that the approximately 250 "Awakening"s in Fadhil turned over their weapons . . . excpet for "at least 25 percent" who "escaped with their weapons." And Reid reports the figure may actually be 30%. Reid notes the weekend attack in Baghdad has other "Awakening" Council members in Iraq suspicious and wary and that they have refused to work 13 of their 21 checkpoints in Jurf al-Sakhar as a result ("The area had been a major al-Qaida staging area until the rise of the Awakenings"). Thomas E. Ricks, author of the new bestseller The Gamble, writes (at Foreign Policy) of how Col Pete "Mansoor had warned in Baghdad that signing the Status of Forces Agreement could lead the United States into fighting the Sunni 'Awakening' units also known as the 'Sons of Iraq,' or SOI" and quotes Mansoor's confirmation of that warning (confirmation to Ricks) which includes, "As I recall what I said was that the status of forces agreement would put U.S. forces into a position where they could not intervene to stop the government of Iraq from attacking SOI. If the Iraqi Security Forces needed help once engaged against the SOI, U.S. forces could be drawn into the fight against the very people who helped us turn the war around."
Back to Alissa J. Rubin who reports a new weapon being utilized, RKG-3 grenades which "weigh just five pounds and, attached to parachutes, can be lobbed by a teenager but can penetrate the American military's latest heavily armored vehicle, the MRAP." Rubin notes these inexpensive weapons cost $10 a piece. Me speaking, not Rubin, the American military has long laughed at the mortar attacks. The mortar attacks are not precise and rarely cause alarm. (Troops stationed inside the Green Zone have been injured by mortar attacks. An attack that wounded Australian troops several years ago stands out. However, the attack that frightened the US military, the attack on the Green Zone, was the 2006 late spring attack which wasn't mortars but an attempt to storm the Green Zone -- this led to the first in a series of al-Maliki's 'crack downs'.) If more precise than the mortars, the RKG-3s could become a serious source of concern. Turning to today's violence..
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report an RPG7 was launched in Baghdad "during a visit by vice president Tariq al-Hashimi to Sadr City" leaving two soldiers injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing resulted in two people being wounded, a Mosul car bombing left twelve people wounded and, dropping back to last night for all that follows, a Mosul grenade attack wounded three people, a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded four police officers and an al Juboor bombing which resulted in an exchange of gun fire with the US military and house raids by the US military.
Reuters notes 1 "primary school teacher" was shot dead in Mosul.
Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report 11 corpses discovered in Baghdad,
Today the US military announced: "TIKRIT, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division - North Soldier died in a non-combat related incident in Salah ad Din province, March 31. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4263.
Yesterday's snapshot covered the hearing on Iraqi refugees US Senator Bob Casey chaired yesterday. At the hearing, Nabil al-Tikriti expressed the opinion that Iraqi Christians are not refugees of interest in the way that those who help the US military are or other (non-Christian groups -- let's be honest on that, it was his point, that Iraqi Christians get attention from the US because they can relate or think they can). It was an insulting remark and a lousy call because Iraqi Christians are repeatedly targeted for who they are. That qualifies as refugee by any standard of the term. (By contrast, some of the ones al-Tikriti considered refugees would not qualify as refugees by many definitions.) Today Sahar Issa and Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) report Sabah Aziz Sulaiman was beheaded in Kirkuk yesterday. The 71-year-old man's 'crime'? Apparently being an Iraqi Christian. It's not a small point, Iraqi Christians are targeted and it is wrong to assume they get any extra attention. They don't. There are Christian groups in the US that note and support them (and their are Muslim groups in the US that do the same with Muslim Iraqis) but in terms of real recognition translating as press or governmental, they get very little. The hearing yesterday (attended by so few senators) made that point. It's foolish to be so petty about 'attention' that you deny the realities of what is going on and has gone on for Iraqi Christians. They are targeted in the same way that Jews in Germany were -- not to that length and degree yet -- by which I mean, no round ups have taken place. But they are killed, they are targeted and they are threatened. The Jews in Germany (in the lead up to and during WWII) were targeted for who they were, the Iraqi Christians are targeted for who they are. It is a bigotry and a specific hate and to deny that is to deny the reality of what's taking place. They are not the only refugees but they make up a significant percentage of them. Refugees International has issued a press release yesterday:
Washington, D.C. - As security in Iraq improves, refugees and internally displaced Iraqis are starting to return home, but the returns are slow and tentative, Refugees International told Congress today. The new security climate in Iraq has not yet translated into increases in the provision of services to displaced Iraqis and more must be done to assist and protect them. Last month, Refugees International completed a mission to Baghdad, Eskanderia, Fallujah, Karbala and Hilla to assess the humanitarian situation inside Iraq. According to the United Nations, about 20 percent of Iraq's population, or more than four million people, remain displaced.
"In its strategy to encourage returns, the Government of Iraq has failed to take political, social and economic reality into consideration and examine the country's capacity to absorb large numbers of returns," said RI President Ken Bacon. "Instead, it has made the return of displaced Iraqis a component, as opposed to a consequence, of its security strategy." The testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee adds that, "Assistance to returnees, property restitution, and the provision of basic services are essential for Iraqis to return home. But many will still not return until they feel the root causes of the conflict have been addressed. They need to feel accepted by the community and provided with security guarantees."
Refugees International also expressed concern that the Government of Iraq is no longer registering internally displaced people in an effort to make the displacement problem disappear. Corruption within Iraq's government is widespread and makes it extremely difficult to effectively deliver assistance and for international and national aid agencies to operate. However, Refugees International met with impressive local groups, who provide assistance to thousands of vulnerable Iraqis without any support from the Iraqi government or the international community.
"There is no unified process to deal with returning internally displaced persons or refugees. Property disputes will linger for many years to come and are likely to spark renewed violence," added Mr. Bacon. "While security remains the major factor in a family's decision to return home, other factors play a role - infrastructure, particularly water and electricity, employment opportunities and health care. The Government of Iraq, the U.S. and the United Nations have to do a better job of working together to provide the services necessary to support returning Iraqis."
Refugees International is a Washington, D.C.-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. Since November 2006, the organization has conducted nine missions to the Middle East to assess the needs of displaced Iraqis and work with international leaders to develop effective solutions to this crisis. RI's latest field report on displacement inside Iraq will be available on April 9, 2009. For more information, go to www.refugeesinternational.org/Iraq.
Lastly, David Solnit, author with Aimee Allison (Allison co-hosts KPFA's The Morning Show with Philip Maldari), notes this event by Courage to Resist, Bay Area Iraq Veterans Against the War & Unconventional Action in the Bay:
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.
the new york times
the socialist worker
the new york times
alissa j. rubin
robert h. reid