Sunday, September 27, 2009

And the war drags on . . .

In Friday's snapshot we were noting Anne Tang (Xinhua) report where she quoted Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, stated of allegedly violent prisoners in Iraqi prisons, "Those people, who had been involved in killing Iraqis must be punished. [. . .] We hear voices calling for release of criminals under claim that they have been defending rights of minorities and (religious) sects, forgetting that those criminals had been behind catastrophes." Nouri's words were laughable since he's so tight with the League of Righteous that he keeps releasing them. For those late to the party, the League of Righteous has claimed credit for the death of 5 US service members and for the death of 4 British citizens (three confirmed dead, four assumed) and they continue to, presumably, hold a fifth. Let's go to the June 9th snapshot:

This morning the New York Times' Alissa J. Rubin and Michael Gordon offered "U.S. Frees Suspect in Killing of 5 G.I.'s." Martin Chulov (Guardian) covered the same story, Kim Gamel (AP) reported on it, BBC offered "Kidnap hope after Shia's handover" and Deborah Haynes contributed "Hope for British hostages in Iraq after release of Shia militant" (Times of London). The basics of the story are this. 5 British citizens have been hostages since May 29, 2007. The US military had in their custody Laith al-Khazali. He is a member of Asa'ib al-Haq. He is also accused of murdering five US troops. The US military released him and allegedly did so because his organization was not going to release any of the five British hostages until he was released. This is a big story and the US military is attempting to state this is just diplomacy, has nothing to do with the British hostages and, besides, they just released him to Iraq. Sami al-askari told the New York Times, "This is a very sensitive topic because you know the position that the Iraqi government, the U.S. and British governments, and all the governments do not accept the idea of exchanging hostages for prisoners. So we put it in another format, and we told them that if they want to participate in the political process they cannot do so while they are holding hostages. And we mentioned to the American side that they cannot join the political process and release their hostages while their leaders are behind bars or imprisoned." In other words, a prisoner was traded for hostages and they attempted to not only make the trade but to lie to people about it. At the US State Dept, the tired and bored reporters were unable to even broach the subject. Poor declawed tabbies. Pentagon reporters did press the issue and got the standard line from the department's spokesperson, Bryan Whitman, that the US handed the prisoner to Iraq, the US didn't hand him over to any organization -- terrorist or otherwise. What Iraq did, Whitman wanted the press to know, was what Iraq did. A complete lie that really insults the intelligence of the American people. CNN reminds the five US soldiers killed "were: Capt. Brian S. Freeman, 31, of Temecula, California; 1st Lt. Jacob N. Fritz, 25, of Verdon, Nebraska; Spc. Johnathan B. Chism, 22, of Gonzales, Louisiana; Pfc. Shawn P. Falter, 25, of Cortland, New York; and Pfc. Johnathon M. Millican, 20, of Trafford, Alabama." Those are the five from January 2007 that al-Khazali and his brother Qais al-Khazali are supposed to be responsible for the deaths of. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Robert H. Reid (AP) states that Jonathan B. Chism's father Danny Chism is outraged over the release and has declared, "They freed them? The American military did? Somebody needs to answer for it."

Those are the names of the 5 US service members that the League of Righteous claim credit for killing. Let's name the five British citizens kidnapped in Baghdad May 29, 2007: Alec Maclachlan, Jason Crewswell, Alan McMenemy, Peter Moore and Jason Swindelhurst. All but Alan McMenemy and Peter Moore have been turned over dead. The British government assumes that Alan McMenemy is dead while his loved ones continue to hope otherwise. Peter Moore is considered to be alive at this point by the British government.

"Those people, who had been involved in killing Iraqis must be punished. [. . .] We hear voices calling for release of criminals under claim that they have been defending rights of minorities and (religious) sects, forgetting that those criminals had been behind catastrophes," asserted Nouri. But killing US service members and British citizens is apparently okay? And did we mention that the theory in the British press is that the five British citizens were kidnapped because Peter Moore's work was revealing corrpution in Nouri's ministries?

Muhanad Mohammed, Suadad al-Salhy, Mohammed Abbas, Missy Ryan and Sonya Hepinstall (Reuters) report that more members of the League of Righteous were released from jail this weekend: "Many of a total of around 100 prisoners released in recent days were part of the Shi'ite militant group Asaib al-Haq, or Leagues of Righteousness, said Jassim al-Saedi, a senior member of the group. He said negotiations were ongoing to secure the release of up to 500 more Asaib al-Haq detainees. " He's quoted saying 200 members of the group will be released when they're done but only 97 have been released so far. The group differs over the numbers. AFP quotes League of the Righteous spokesperson Salam al-Maliki who states, "I can confirm the release of a number of our group last night . . . 23 were freed yesterday. Eighty-seven of our group were released last week, and 120 are supposed to be freed this week." He brags about all the "negotiations we are holding with the Iraqi government."

No one's releasing Brian S. Freeman, Jacob N. Fritz, Johnathan B. Chism, Shawn P. Falter, and Johnathon M. Millican, Alec Maclachlan, Jason Crewswell or Jason Swindelhurst. They're dead and their governments (the US and the UK) are apparently fine and dandy with the members of the organization claiming credit for their deaths (and for continuing to hold Alan McMenemy and Peter Moore). Their deaths apparently don't matter enough for the leaders of either country to lodge a complaint publicly. Instead it's make nice with Nouri and his friends who kill civilians and US service members. That's what happens when the US government decides to install thugs into leadership. And let's not pretend that this move doesn't betray everyone sent over to fight an illegal war in Iraq.

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 4345 and tonight? 4346.

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul bombing that wounded one person, a Falluja trash can bombing which left four people wounded, a Ramadi suicide bombing in which a bomber took his own life and claimed the lives of 2 police officers (five more wounded) and, dropping back to last night, a Mosul roadside bombing which injured two police officers. Xinhua reports the death toll on the Ramadai suicide bombing has risen to 3 police officers dead with a total of seven wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul bombing which claimed the life of 1 child (three more injured).

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Dr. Mehasin Basheer has been released after being kidnapped from her Bartala home. AFP reveals the "Chrisitan doctor [was] abducted by an armed gang overnight from her home" in northern Iraq and quote a police officer stating, "The gang kidnapped the doctor, Mahasin Bashir, in her home late at night, as her children watched." Hammoudi says a ransom was paid. Doctors and Christians have been repeatedly targeted in Iraq and, at this point, it's not known if Dr. Basheer was targeted for either of those reasons or something else. Thursday's snapshot included, "INA reports that Dr. Sameer Gorgees Youssif was released by his kidnappers following his August 18th abduction. The explain the fifty-five year-old man is at least the fourth doctor kidnapped in Kirkuk in the last two years. His family paid $100,000 for his release. His injuries include sever pressure uclers along the right side of his body, 'open wounds around his mouth and wrists' (from being bound and gagged) and bruises all over his body." Like Dr. Basheer, Dr. Youssif is both a medical doctor and a Christian.

Tensions continue between Iraq and Syria and Turkey continues to attempt to play peace maker. Today's Zaman quotes Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stating, "We have been exerting efforts in the most appropriate atmosphere among brothers, neighbors without having the issue internationalized and without having these issues escalated more. In this regard, these kinds of meetings are very impotant for creating an environment of confidence." For those late to the party, August 18th, Nouri demanded Turkey turn over 179 Iraqis who were Ba'ath Party members. Syria said "no" (as they did when Saddam used to ask them to turn over Nouri when Nouri spent 18 years in Syria seeking asylum). The next day, bombings took place in Baghdad and Nouri's attempted to use those bombings to insist that the Ba'athists be handed over. Meanwhile Andrew Lee Butters (Time magazine) reports on "the 4000,000 or so Iraqis with ties to the former regime of Saddam Hussein" in Syria:

Apparently lost in the dispute, however, are the facts that Syria has been slowly changing its attitude toward securing its border with Iraq and that many former Baathists are now seeking repatriation, having expressed a desire to participate peacefully in Iraq's nascent democracy. Of course, not all Baathists have turned from hawks to doves, and many observers believe that Syria won't stop all insurgent operations on its borders until a regional peace settlement is reached with the U.S. and Israel. But Maliki's government has shown little interest in even opening a dialogue with Syria or the former Baathists about their eventual return to Iraq. (See a video of displaced Iraqis vulnerable in Syria.)
[. . .]
Even more promising has been the change of attitude of many former Baathists in Syria, who are broadly split into two factions: a hard-line group led by a former vice president in Saddam's government, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, and a more moderate but less powerful group led by Muhammad Younis, a former adviser to Saddam's executive council. Younis's group began reaching out to the Iraqi government in 2007, holding a conference to reevaluate the mistakes of the Saddam regime, reject their old Baathist ideology, and adopt more democratic policies. (See pictures of Saddam Hussein.)
Following the August bombings in Baghdad, al-Douri's faction has also shown signs of moderating. In an interview with TIME earlier this month, the unofficial spokesman for the group, Nizar Samra'y, said it is more concerned about the growing Iranian influence on Iraq's government than in forcing U.S. troops out of the country. "We need to have a strong state in Iraq that works [toward] an Iraqi agenda not an Iranian one," he says. "We know America has an interest to return Iraq as a strong country and to stabilize the region. If America withdraws from Iraq now it will have a criminal responsibility." In order to stabilize the country, however, he said the U.S. needs the help of the former Iraqi political leaders and army commanders in Syria. Those leaders are now willing to negotiate a return to Iraq, so long as they have security guarantees and the laws that prevent former Baathists from working in government are revoked.

Remember, Nouri believes the killers of US service members and British citizens can be brought into his 'big tent' but apparently not former Ba'athists. Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) reports that Sunnis in Iraq are "lowering expectations of significant gainst in parliamentary elections" scheduled for January 2010:

After many Sunni groups made peace with Mr. Maliki's government, Sunni politicians looked forward to January's election as a way to ratchet up their political standing.
Those hopes are now threatened by disunity. Several prominent politicians have recently left the biggest Sunni Arab political grouping, the Iraqi Islamic Party, or the IIP. After IIP losses to upstart rival Sunni groups in January elections, many bloc members said their political chances would improve outside the group.
The IIP is the largest bloc in an umbrella Sunni alliance known as the Iraq Accord Front, the third-largest bloc in parliament behind a Shia coalition and a Kurdish alliance.
Defections could hurt the slate as it positions itself as the main voice for the Sunni vote. It could also weaken Sunni unity and resolve in hostile disputes with Kurdish officials in Iraq's north.

In the US, Lizette Alvarez (New York Times) probes the demands on US service women who are also mothers and notes:

More than 100,000 female soldiers who have served in the wars are mothers, nearly half the number of women who have been deployed. The vast majority are primary caregivers, and a third are single mothers. Like men, they turn to the military for all sorts of reasons. The pay is good, particularly in a war zone, the benefits are excellent and the jobs offer financial security and career advancement -- all of which is good for their children. Many love their work and feel a sense of pride and patriotism in defending the country.
Yet mothers, whether married or single, say that long periods of time away from their children and then the transition back to domestic life -- where they are expected to immediately resume household responsibilities -- can be excruciatingly difficult.

Steve Liewer (San Diego Union-Tribune) examines the pathetically low number of honors handed out to those who have served and are serving in the current wars:

During the Vietnam War, which spanned roughly eight years, 246 service members received the Medal of Honor, according to figures from the widely respected Web site . In the Korean War, which lasted three years, 134 were awarded. During World War II, military leaders presented 465.
Even after adjusting for the smaller troop totals in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the number of the top awards is a tiny fraction of what was given in the past. An analysis published in the spring by Military Times  showed a rate ranging from 2.3 Medals of Honor per 100,000 troops in uniform (during the Korean War) to 2.9 per 100,000 troops (for World War II).
For the two current wars, the rate is 0.1 per 100,000 troops, or one in a million.

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Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru highlights "French authorities dismantle Calais refugee camp" (Great Britian's Socialist Worker):

French police took apart the refugee camp known as “the jungle”, outside Calais this week.
The shanty town was home to around 2,000 refugees, almost all from Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of them are hoping to get to Britain.
UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee organisation, has asked the British government to offer asylum to some of the residents.
But immigration minister Phil Woolas stated, “We have no plans to take any of the refugees. These people are economic migrants.
“If they were genuine refugees they would have claimed asylum in France or the first country they came to.”
Woolas’s callous reply avoids any mention of Britain’s responsibility for helping create the refugee crisis with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Doesn’t it occur to him that people would apply to countries where they already have family or contacts?
Many of the camp’s residents now face deportation back to Afghanistan, where they will face persecution and possibly death.
© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.
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