Friday, August 28, 2009

Remember that war?

Remember that war? Whatever happened to that? I heard a lot of people died. I also heard that there was no end in sight. I don't seem to hear about that war at all anymore. I remember promises of it coming to an end, even talk of a troop withdrawal. But I don't think the war ended. Still, I can't seem to find anything about it anymore.
Occasionally on the news I see stories about more deaths, more bombings, and even another hostage or two. However, there's no talk about the war itself, and certainly no talk about when it's going to end.
The news media has been fixated on stories of a healthcare crisis and swine flu. This sexy tale is full of controversy, fear of imminent death by an invisible invader, and even contains all the stimulus of high spending and corporatism
Remind you of that War on Terror? The war that President Barack Obama promised to end. The war that the Democratic party promised to stop - even going so far as to swear to take congressional action to end it as soon as possible. Instead, Obama and the Democrats have decided to continue occupying foreign soil.

The above is the opening to Chad Van Alistin's "Obama's promise on War in Iraq remains unfulfilled" (Collegiate Times) so, yeah, some people notice what's going on. And some notice that the endless hours wasted on the ObamaInsuranceGiveAway are worthless. There is no plan. The House and the Senate had months to agree on something and they couldn't. They still haven't. There is no plan but hour after hour is wasted on this garbage. And I have to stop there because Jim's placed a hold on where I'm headed (we're taking that to Third). But while there's no plan to be debated (so the media's masturbated for the last weeks?) there is an ongoing illegal war in Iraq and people are dying. (US soldiers today, that'll be in the next entry.) And we're not supposed to notice. Like we're not supposed to notice how cheap the coverage of ObamaCare is. Yeah, it's tacky, but it's cheap to produce. As Katha Pollitt proved, you can 'report' on a town hall without even being present, 'My gal pal tells me . . .' It's insane, the whole thing is insane. It's a non-stop distraction from real issues. But that's part of the point, now isn't it?

"Black Wednesday," two Wednesdays ago when Baghdad was targeted with bombings which claimed at least 101 lives and left over 570 people wounded, has been the source for speculation in the press. This is from Fateh Abdulsalam's "America's Duty to Iraq" (Azzaman) and, an an editorial note in the article points out, he is suggesting Nouri and associates may be responsible for the violence.

To summarize, the government talks of factions waging war on the country - and who plan to participate in the elections which, as they say, are financed with foreign money. But at the same time, it is unable in any shape or form to stand against the destruction they wreak. What does this mean? That the government is incapable and weak? That this insinuates an electoral message to new alliances? [i.e.: that Maliki's refusal to act is a hidden message to the factions and parties who are behind the recent bombings that regardless of the elections, they will continue to play a role]. Or is it, perhaps, that the government is voluntarily or being forced to participate in all of these events?

A visitor e-mailed to note the article and to say he found it via William Kern at The Moderate Voice. Certainly every other grouping has been accused by the US press. Although accused may be too weak a word. Every other group has been found guilty by the US press? Yes, I believe that's it.

There are many groups in Iraq beyond Shi'ite and Sunni (and those two groupings have a series of sub-categories as well). Though the Jewish population is pretty much gone (it's single figures in Baghdad now) and though Iraqi Christians make up a significant portion of Iraq's external refugee population, a significant number of Iraqi Christians remain in Iraq and are regularly targeted. Asia News reports a "cliamte of fear" is returning for Christians in Kirkuk and notes that Iraqi Christian Sabah Daowd Askar was shot dead in front of his home this week and Samir Georgia ("50 year old doctor") was kidnapped as well.

Aid to the Church in Need released the following today:

    Iraq: From bad to worse as Christians struggle for survival

    Posted by Press Release on 28/8/2009, 8:59 am
    Board Administrator

    ACN News, Friday, 28th August 2009 – IRAQ

    From bad to worse

    Archbishop: Worsening security crisis in Iraq to blame as Christianity’s struggle for survival intensifies

    By John Pontifex

    AN IRAQI archbishop – who for years stood out virtually alone in predicting better times for the country’s ancient Church – has given a damning assessment, saying that hopes for a new start after Saddam have now evaporated.
    Archbishop Louis Sako said that the future of Christianity in Iraq – even in the short-to-medium term – now “hangs in the balance”.
    In a wide-ranging interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the Archbishop of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, said the faithful’s confidence in the future has been destroyed by what he described as a worsening security situation.
    Explaining that Christians are “easy targets for criminals” lacking the protection of militia, he stressed how more and more faithful are desperate to leave.
    He said there are now only 300 Christian families in southern Iraq and less than 400,000 Christians in the country as a whole – down 750,000 within the past decade.
    The archbishop lambasted the country’s security system, calling it “ineffective” and “unprofessional”.
    He underlined the continuing exodus of Christians sparked by the security crisis, adding: “I feel more pessimistic now than ever before. We do not have the same hope that we had before.
    “In fact I am not seeing any signs of hope for the future. Our whole future hangs in the balance.
    “We are experiencing bad days. Every group involved in criminal activity seems to be active.”
    “The government and the police are doing their best but they are incapable of controlling the situation.”
    “Nor is this just happening in one part of Iraq,” he said. “Every day, there are explosions – in Baghdad, Mosul, so many different places.”

    Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk

    The archbishop was speaking by telephone from Kirkuk 10 days after attacks there in which a Christian father of three was shot dead and a doctor was abducted on his way home.
    Last month, militants carried out attacks on seven churches in Baghdad, killing and injuring dozens of people.
    Nearly 100 people were killed and more than 500 were injured in a series of attacks in Baghdad last week, described as the deadliest day since the U.S. handover.
    Archbishop Sako warned of the rise of extremism, saying: “Iraq is going to a narrow Islam.”
    He also said the Christian exodus was being driven by economics: “In the villages in the north there are no jobs, no services, no facilities – many Christians are leaving …in Mosul [the northern city and former Christian heartland] many Christian families are too afraid to come back.”
    The archbishop said Christians are a principal target for attack not so much because of their religion but because they are seen as unable to defend themselves.
    He said: “Living in this climate, the Christian people are afraid. They are really worried. Despite what we tell them, encouraging them to stay, they want to leave.”
    “It just takes one crime, one abduction, one killing to move the whole community into wanting to move.”
    Archbishop Sako said the people had lost patience with the country’s politicians.
    He went on say that Western countries should put pressure on Iraqi political groups to reconcile in a bid to reduce the conflict and restore law and order.
    He said: “There can be no proper security without a real reconciliation. The only people who seem to be benefitting from the situation at the moment are the criminals. This has got to change.”
    The archbishop also went on to highlight the importance of inter-faith work, describing it as crucial for coexistence between Christians and Muslims.
    But he said that the inter-faith initiatives he is involved with in Kirkuk – for example a dinner he is hosting for Ramadan this weekend – are largely not being replicated elsewhere in the country.
    He added that the work is relatively small-scale and tends to involve “individuals” rather than “large groups” crucial for attitude change towards minorities.
    The archbishop also said Church leaders and Christian politicians are not doing enough to work together to confront common problems.

    Editor’s Notes:

    Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity – helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

    Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.

    The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 46.5 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

    For more information, contact please contact the Australian office of ACN on (02) 9679-1929. e-mail: or write to Aid to the Church in Need PO Box 6245 Blacktown DC NSW 2148.Web:

Meanwhile water conditions threaten every Iraqi. The cholera season is blooming in Iraq as it does each year around this time because no one in the Baghdad government will spend any of the oil billions on access to potable water. This means that water has to be boiled before it can be consumed and that requires a heat supply that some do not have -- there are a huge number of homeless in Iraq. And it also requires a cooling period for the water. There are any number of reasons that water may not be boiled (might only be heated) and this year hopefully will not again find a WHO doctor blaming Iraqi women for a cholera update (as happened in 2008). The homeless population is predominatly young (children are the bulk of the homeless population, not surprising when at least 40% of the country's population is under the age of 14. Martin Chulov (Guardian) reported Wednesday night:

A water shortage described as the most critical since the earliest days of Iraq's civilisation is threatening to leave up to 2 million people in the south of the country without electricity and almost as many without drinking water.
An already meagre supply of electricity to Iraq's fourth-largest city of Nasiriyah has fallen by 50% during the last three weeks because of the rapidly falling levels of the Euphrates river, which has only two of four power-generating turbines left working.
If, as predicted, the river falls by a further 20cm during the next fortnight, engineers say the remaining two turbines will also close down, forcing a total blackout in the city.

John Laurner (TreeHugger) notes the Guardian article and this from USA Today:

As if ongoing bombings and drought weren't enough, Hassan al-Asadi, a member of the Dhi Qar provincial council in southern Iraq, said that a few months ago, water snakes that had lost their natural habitat along the rivers started to show up around houses near al-Chibaiysh marshland.

"The snakes were looking for food and dozens of people were bitten," he said, adding that for a time, Iraqi soldiers and policemen were shooting about 70 wayward snakes a day.

Larry West (Larry's Environmental Issues Blog) adds:

Throughout history, the valley of the Euphrates has been a model of fertility and abundance, giving rise to the idea that the Garden of Eden was located there. Two years of drought and an increasing number of water diversions by neighboring countries—Turkey, Syria and Iran—have left the Euphrates looking like a fetid stream and cut the region’s agricultural production by 60 percent. There is not enough water in the Euphrates to feed the surrounding marshlands or to prevent salt water from the Persian Gulf from contaminating the drinking water. There is not enough water to drink, let alone wash, and both are taking their toll on the region. Animals are dying, disease is rampant, and at least two towns have been entirely abandoned due to the lack of fresh water.

The water supply dries up, the people move. That's not at all historically surprising. Daniel Angell (Orato) informs:

Iraq's Water Minister, Dr Abdul Latif Rashid, estimated that up to 300,000 marshland inhabitants are on the move, many of who are newly displaced and moving to nearby towns incapable of supporting them.
"In the last 20-30 years, our neighbouring countries have built a number of structures for collecting water or diverting water for their agricultural lands," Dr Rashid said.
Officials have made some attempts to relieve the problems by digging wells and bores, especially in the particularly parched provinces of the south and in Anbar, west of Baghdad.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends