Sunday, May 03, 2009

And the war drags on . . .

Jassim Hussein follows the news. He's well aware that violence in his country is creeping up again, and he's worried.
Not that you'd know it judging by the way he spent Saturday night: out with his wife celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary at a popular open-air creamery and cafe in Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood, their three children in tow.
"Yes, we're concerned. We feel it inside," said Hussein, a government administrator. "But that doesn't mean life stops."

The above is the opening to Corinne Reilly's "In Baghdad, Iraqis fear return of sectarian bloodshed" (McClatchy Newspapers) and a McClatchy Iraqi correspondent adds of the violence:

Some Iraqis believe that the main reason of the last violence wave are the detainees who were released by the American forces while others believe that alQaida returned back after almost two years dormancy. Regardless the real reason, the wave brought nothing but more sadness and sorrow to the Iraqis families that lost their members in the explosions. The strange thing is what our government does. The government did nothing but consoling the families of the victims without investigating with any security official about these security violations.

The British are out [Robert Fisk observes, "Alas not. Iraq, begging around Europe now that its oil wealth has run out, is a pitiful figure. But it is a little bit freer than it was. We have destroyed its master and our friend (a certain Saddam) and now, with our own dead clanking around our heels, we are getting out yet again. "] and the violence is back. Barack's Iraq War. It's all on him. Bully Boy Bush left the White House months ago. It's Barack's illegal war now.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4278 and tonight? 4284. In some of the violence reported over the weekend . . .

Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing targeting Sahwa which left three people injured, Iran continued shelling Arbill and Sulaimaniyah, a Mosul roadside bombing which left three people injured and a Mosul car bombing which left five people injured. Reuters notes a Kirkuk roadside bombing which left two police officers injured and a Mosul "suicide car bomber" who took his/her own life and wounded four people.

Along with being targeted in bombings, Sahwa ("Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq") saw three of their "leading members" arrested by US and Iraqi forces today, Al Jazeera reports, for actions against US service members before they went on the US payroll. Reuters notes one arrested leader and identifies him as Nadhim al-Jubouri (the other two, according to Reuters, are his two brothers): "Ahmed Karim, the deputy governor of Salahuddin province, said Jubouri was accused in killings that took place in the largely Shi'ite town of Dujail during the height of Iraq's sectarian conflict in 2006-2007."

Meanwhile Alsumaria reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki stressed that timelines of US Forces withdrawal from Iraq are definite and not subject to any amendments. Thus, Al Maliki contradicted all reports evoking the possibility of extending US military presence in Iraq on account of violence spike in Baghdad streets." al-Maliki's hoping to avoid an ouster before the next round of Parliamentary elections (supposed to take place in December but looking like January or February). What he will or will not say after those elections will certainly be interesting. He's facing more pressure in recent days but we'll note this from CNN before we get to that, "Baghdad still expects its security forces to take responsibility for Iraqi cities after U.S. troops leave, and does not plan to request an extension, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said." The popular position in Iraq has always been US troops out. It's a position that Moqtada al-Sadr has always ridden to popularity. The long hidden al-Sadr surfaced in recent days in Turkey. David Blair (Telegraph of London) notes:

Turkey has a vital interest in bringing stability to neighbouring Iraq and curbing Iranian influence. Mr Sadr met both Recep Tayyip Erodgan, the Turkish prime minister, and President Abdullah Gul in Ankara on Friday.
The talks concentrated on "security in Iraq and the promotion of links between the parties", according to Anatolia, a Turkish news agency.

Still on politics, Ma'ad Fayad (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) reports Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is stating he will retire when his term ends in December. Yes, this is a reversal. And it comes as Talabani and fellow Kurd Massoud Barzani (Barzani is President of the Kurdistan Regional Government and a political rival of Talabani's) make a joint announcement. Reuters reports they stood side-by-side today and announced that the Constitution will be followed regarding oil rich Kirkuk, that the KRG will not give up their claim even if a 'trade' is offered. They are calling for the Constitution to be followed. (A referendrum was to have been held. It has still not been held in violation of Iraq's Constitution.)

Today's New York Times features two articles filed from Iraq. We'll start with inside the paper, Sam Dagher's "Gunfight Breaks Out as Iraqi Soldiers Try to Arrest Trade Officials" which reports an armed clash Wednesday as al-Maliki's forces attempted to arrest nine people at the country's Ministery of Trade. One person was arrested (Muahmmad Hannoun). Falah al-Sudani is the agency's minister and he was, at that point, in Basra. Where the British recently left. And, like so many the US placed in charge of Iraq, Iraqi al-Sudani holds dual citizenship (British being the second one) and there was fear that he would make it out of the country. Tonight Ahmed Rasheed and Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) report, "[MP and head of the Integrity Committee, Sabah al-] Saedi said ministry guards prevented forces from entering the building and fired shots in the air to scare them. They responded by also firing in the air, security officials said."

Steven Lee Myers' "Bablyon Ruins Reopen in Iraq, To Controversy" runs on the front page of the Times and it covers the lack of security around the historical site as the government attempts to prove something:

It has done so despite warnings by archaeologists that the reopening threatens to damage further what remains of one of the world's first great cities before the site can be adequately protected.
The fight over ancient Babylon is about more than competing interests of preservation and tourism. It reflects problems that hinder Iraq's new government, including an uncertain division between local and federal authority and political rivalries that consume government ministries.

After it's wrecked and wasted, it may be appreciated. When it's too late. Newspaper's aren't famous for appreciating what they have either. But a number of them have huge resources. Jane Arraf has more knowledge of Iraq than almost any other US reporter. Arraf's "My Iraq: a reporter's 20-year retrospective" (Christian Science Monitor) exhibits some of the the strength and power a journalist drawing on their knowledge and resources can provide:

At the cafe, a TV blares at deafening levels. The call to prayer interrupts the latest action movie. Both are just a backdrop to lives in transit.
I run into an acquaintance I haven't seen since his cousin, someone I worked with, was killed in an ambush six years ago. He has been accepted as a refugee in the US and is about to leave Iraq for good with his wife and son. He doesn't know where they'll live: "They told me Ontario." He seems less worried than I about what will happen to him. But seeing my quizzical look, he adds that he thought Ontario was in Canada.
It's so much safer now that sometimes it seems as if the violence that erupted here was a fevered dream and that the war is over. It isn't.
I sit next to a woman wearing black and an expression that suggests something terrible has recently happened. She lost her brother in a suicide bombing in January at a tribal reconciliation meeting when one of the sheikhs sent in his 14-year-old son to blow himself up.
A visiting Iraqi friend sitting with us in the shiny, modern airport built by Saddam Hussein tells why he left the country he loves: "I lost faith that it would get better."
Long-lost friends here greet each other like survivors of the Titanic -- amazed at their good fortune to have lived through disaster but carrying the memories of who and what was lost; always half-wondering if there's another wave coming.

New content at Third:

Truest statement of the week
Truest statement of the week II
A note to our readers
Editorial: Who do you think you're fooling?
TV: Don't Lie To Me
Evan Bright Puts Big Media To Shame
Iraq War stories
TV roundtable
Congress moves to weaken their own powers
Valerie Jarrett's latest ethical problem
Bitch Pleeze (Keesha)
15th Annual Bike To Work Day

Isaiah's latest comic goes up in a minute. I'm having trouble with uploading from the e-mail so it may be a few minutes. A number of e-mails from members are asking about a comment Ava and I made in El Spirito and hoping it would be developed here tonight. I hadn't planned on that. I'll check with Ava and if she wants to do something more on it as a joint-piece, we'll do it for Third. If she doesn't, I may do something on it Thursday night in "I Hate The War." Pru asked if we could end with this from Evan Bright's "Mixed Emotions" on the Steven D. Green trial:

Questioning for the prosecution, James Lesousky brought Paul Cortez to the stand. An unusual occurrence, the court actually forgot to swear in Mr. Cortez, causing the few minutes of completed testimony to have to be redone. Of the crimes, he said he "knew what was goin’ on, we knew we were goin’ down to that house to have sex with that girl, and Barker and Green seemed to know where they were going to get there."
He spoke of throwing the girl to the ground.
"I was trying to…… rape her? [pause] after a few seconds…. I couldn't."
Lesousky asked if he knew Green was going to kill them, he replied "that wasn't…the intention. Sh…stuff just went crazy…" He talked a little bit about getting sick at the crime scene after being called back to investigate, and of telling the other soldiers to keep this quiet. The cross examination of Cortez lasted 90 seconds, therefore, there's not much to tell.

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