Wednesday, November 4, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces deaths, the tag sale in Iraq continues, the Boston Globe's editorial board begs for the plug to be pulled on the paper, no Iraqi election law still, and more.
Today the US military announced: "Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division -- North Soldier died Nov. 4 from combat related injuries. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website [. . .] The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." And they announced: "Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division -- North Soldier died Nov. 4 from non-combat related injuries. 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 announcements bring the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4359. In addition, Reuters reported this morning that a Tuesday Baghdad mortar attack left 7 US service members injured.
As the toll of dead and wounded US service members continues to climb, US service members are still being sent to Iraq. The war has not ended just because so much of the press (and the Democratic Party) moved on (or MoveOn-ed). Sig Christenson (San Antonio Express-News) reports on some members Fort Sam Houston's 418th Medical Logistics Company soldiers preparing to deploy like Spc Justin Ralph whose wife Julie states, "It hasn't hit me yet. I've just been kind of stressed-out. I don't want him to leave. I've (tried) to talk him out of it, but he has to. He really wants to." Christenson observes, "They're headed to Iraq for the next year, marking the unit's third deployment there since the invasion, and they won't be the last to go. The Iraq war, contrary to popular opinion, isn't near over, and American troops won't be out until 2011 -- and maybe not for years after that."
Meanwhile Iran's Press TV informs, "Iraq has signed its biggest oil deal since the US 2003 invasion with Britain's BP and China's CNPC to develop the giant Rumaila oilfield. The 20-year contract is expected to triple production at the southern oilfield, from the current one million barrels per day (bpd) to around 2.8 million bpd within a six-year period." British Petroleum and China National Petroleum Company formed a consortium earlier this year during bidding on Iraqi oil fields and, unlike many other oil companies, they didn't bail out on the bidding right before it started. However, now other companies are rushing to get their hands on Iraqi oil despite the fact that the terms are the same ones so many foreign coporations found hard to swallow earlier this year. Stanley Reed (BusinessWeek) explains, "The big oil companies are reconsidering Iraq because they realize this may be among their last opportunities to get large volumes of crude. Britain's BP (BP), for instance, typically turns up its nose at anything below roughly 700 million barrels of reserves; Rumaila, about 30 miles west of Basra, may have 20 billion barrels of recoverable oil, BP estimates. Another field in the same class is West Qurna, located north of Basra, where a group including Exxon Mobil and Shell is competing against a partnership of ConocoPhillips and Russia's Lukoil (LKOH.RTS) for production rights." Meanwhile Khalid al-Ansary, Jack Kimball and Simon Jessop (Reuters) report that the country and Japan's Toyota Tsusho entered into a contract for "1.23 billion yen ($13.60 million)" for which Toyota Tshusho will sell Iraq "eight power transformers and six auxiliary units". But the really big 'growth industry' in Iraq?
Quil Lawrence: The cemetery is called the Valley of Peace though, for the living, it's crowded, dusty and almost always echoing with the sounds of grief. The tombs and crypts extend for miles in every direction, large enough that different Shi'ite political factions in Iraq have their own sectors spanning several city blocks. Family members sing prayers over the dead and spill water onto the new graves. As long as there have been funerals here, there has been an industry to receive the dead and their families. Dakhil Shakir has spent his eighty years here in the cemetery of Najaf, he says. His earliest memories are helping his father and his grandfather with the business of funerals and burials. Dakhil can count back his families five generations in the trade. He's nearly blind now and, despite his thick plastic glasses, he calls out to ask which of his sons are in the room with him? They will bury him some day, he says, and then carry on the business. When Dakhil was a boy, he recalls, desert caravans brought the dead to Najaf
Dakhil Shakir [translated]: They used to bring the dead on mules. A mule would carry two bodies with five mules in the caravan. I have seen that with my own eyes. They would stay here for a few days and we used to offer them a place to stay and, later, they would set off back home.
Quil Lawrence: As early as the 16th century, the trafficking of Shi'ite corpses from as far as India was big business. The Ottoman Empire taxed and regulated the trade as did the first governments of modern Iraq. The coffins came especially from Iran -- the majority Shi'ite state that shares hundreds of miles of border with Iraq.
And today smuggling corpses into Iraq continues as a smuggle Lawrence interviews explains the Iran-Iraq transportation continues and that there is considerable money to be made in the 'trade.'
As the corpse trade continues, so does the violence which creates ever more deaths.
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing injured five people, a second Baghdad sticky bombing wounded seven, a Baghdad roadside bombing left four people injured and a Mahmoudiyah car bombing left four injured. Reuters notes a Baghdad home bombing which claimed the life of 1 police officer, his wife and their daughter. Xiong Tong (Xinhua) adds that the police officer was Col Shalal al-Zoubaie and reports an al-Miqdadiyah boming of a generator which left two people injured.
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports the US military shot dead 1 person in Mosul while arresting 'suspects' in a house raid. Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports a Jurf al-Mileh shooting in which one person was injured by unknown assailants and a Diyala Province shooting in which 1 person was shot dead and two more were injured by unknown assailants.
Jenan Hussein (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses were discovered in Mosul.
As the bombings continue, multiple reports have appeared in the last months about the 'bomb detectors' and how they're so very good at detecting perfume and cologne but worthless when it comes to bombs. At the end of October, an Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy was exploring the subject at Inside Iraq:
Before starting telling you what happens in most of the checkpoints you should know about the "explosives detectors". The device is carried by security man who stops your car and walk beside it carrying the device. The device's pointer changes its direction when passed by a car that supposedly carries explosives.
But the main flaw it points also if there is any chemical material like detergents or even medicine.
The correspondent also addresses a multitude of other problems with the checkpoints, but staying on the issue of the 'bomb detectors,' in this morning's New York Times, Rod Nordland reports the 'wands' cost anywhere betweeen $16,500 and $60,000 a piece and quotes US Lt Col Hal Bidlack dismissing them and stating they work "on the same principle as a Ouija board".
While the violence continues, there's still no election law. Today Alsumaria reports, "Iraq High Election Commission gave the parliament a timeline that ends on Thursday in order to enact an elections' law or else it will not be able to hold elections as it is scheduled on January 16. Chief of IHEC Faraj Al Haidari said that the commission and the UN discussed elections' timeline and stressed that if he did not receive the law in the two upcoming days the commission won't be able to hold the elections on the scheduled date." Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) adds, "The election commission said if parliament doesn't approve a law by the end of Thursday, it will be impossible to hold the polls as scheduled on Jan. 16 because there won't be enough time to organize it. In meetings earlier this week, United Nations officials also told lawmakers if a law isn't passed by Thursday, the U.N. would urge postponement of the elections." The Iraqi Constitution mandates that the elections must be held before the end of January 2010; however, the Iraqi Constitution mandates many things -- such as resolving the issue of Kirkuk or appointing a full cabinet by X date or requiring Parliament's approval to extend a United Nations mandate -- and Nouri's always managed to just ignore it. Ernesto Londono and K.I. Ibrahim (Washington Post) report US Ambassador Chris Hill is scrambling on the ground in Iraq attempting to use his 'influence' to push for a vote. The US' own manic depressive ambassador has little-to-no influence especially if the press wants to continue pushing the-hold-up-is-Kirkuk line. Why is that? Hill offended the KRG with his very late first visit to their region. Chris Hill offended them in his remarks which were based on Hill's gross ignorance regarding the issue of Kirkuk -- ignorance on full display when the Senate held his confirmation hearing. Hill came to Iraq with no knowledge of the KRG or Iraq. He has no pull. US Vice President Joe Biden and the top commander US commander in Iraq Gen Ray Odierno have some pull (whether or not it's enough remains to be seen) with the KRG but Hill has none. He also has no influence over non-Kurdish MPs in the Parliament. So what's he's mainly doing is rushing around in an attempt to look busy. He'll no doubt (as has been his pattern throughout his time at the State Dept) find a group to spill the beans to on whatever's hidden and supposed to be hidden. They'll agree to present whatever he wants them to because he shared secrets and then they'll stab him in the back and he'll shrug and finger-point at others. In other words, his Korean 'leadership' all over again.
Biggest idiot of the week? The editorial board of the Boston Globe -- apparently begging for readers to pull the plug on the finacial crater that is their paper. In an appalling uninformed editorial they praise Nouri al-Maliki and conclude, "In their own nihilistic way, Al Qaeda fanatics are showing their true colors not only to Iraqis but to the rest of the Muslim world. They are massacring children and other innocents in the name of a holy war to replace all existing Arab and Muslim governments with the fantasy of a multinational Islamic caliphate. The less Americans are caught up in this war within the Muslim world, the harder it will be for the regressive forces of Al Qaeda to survive." al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is a home grown group and has always been a group of resistance. The Boston Globe was awfully silent when Steven D. Green and others were discovered to have gang-raped and murdered 14-year-old Abeer, murdered both her parents and murdered her five-year-old sister. The Boston Globe voiced no concern about the US soldiers making it appear the War Crimes were done by 'insurgents.' And the Boston Globe was silent as each soldier entered a plea of guilty except for Green who was a civilian when the crimes were exposed and was tried in civilian court. The Boston Globe couldn't be bothered with Steven D. Green's trial and, even after the verdict (or for that matter, the sentencing), couldn't say one damn word, NOT ONE DAMN WORD, about the War Crimes. So their selective efforts at playing editorial bully goes to the fact that they are the most ignorant and uninformed editorial board in the nation. Praise be to the Boston Globe, doing their part to demonstrate that struggling papers sometimes aren't worth the struggle to save them. It should also be noted that while condemning al Qaeda in Mesopotamia for violence that they have not claimed responsibility for (despite headlines, a splinter group claimed responsibility for the August and October Baghdad bombings that shocked so many, al Qaeda in Mesopotamia did not claim credit), they've refused to condemn their hero and crush Nouri al-Maliki strange choice of political bedfellows -- the ones who have claimed responsibility for invading the US base and killing 5 US soldiers, the ones who have claimed responsibility for kidnapping 5 British citizens -- 3 of whom are known dead, a fourth is assumed dead and the fifth is hoped to be alive (by the British government -- the fourth assumed dead is hoped to be alive by his friends and family but the British government has stated they assume he is dead). The Boston Globe has nothing to say about that and one wonders exactly when they got in the business of covering for those who murder US troops? Those are Nouri's friends. He got 'em released. He may have provided them with the Iraqi security forces uniforms they used in the attack on the US base and in the kidnapping of the 5 British citizens. He certainly provided the group's leader and the leader's brother with a pass out of a US prison this spring. The Boston Globe wasn't at all worried about and they continue to be a beacon for ignorance around the world. What a proud, proud moment.
While the Boston Globe tongue bathes Nouri (aka the new Saddam), UPI reports Nouri's latest planned assault: doing away with minority representation. The quota system for the cabinet exists because Iraq's a diverse country. But Nouri's never liked diversity, Nouri's a radical, fundamentailist Shi'ite who oversaw the genocide of the Sunni population because he loathes Ba'athists and sees every Sunni as a high ranking Ba'athist or at least as one of the big, scary people that forced coward Nouri to flee Iraq for decades until the US invaded and installed him as a 'leader.' Nouri really hates Ba'athists because they remind him all over again what a meek, little, sniveling coward he is. And that's why oversaw the genocide -- gladly oversaw. UPI notes the announcement by one of Nouri's political party (State of Law) spokespersons "brought a wave of criticism from Kurds, independents and Shiite members of the Iraqi National Alliance who complain Maliki is trying to take greater control of the government." UPI also reminds how Nouri's road to strongman has been littered with attacks on those who are supposed to provide security such as his December 2008 assault on the Interior Ministry whom he accused of plotting a coup -- a plan that never had any evidence to back it up then or since but did allow him to push out a Shi'ite rival -- and how his firings in August for 'security reasons' also can be seen as an attack on one of his rivals, Shi'ite Jawad al-Bolani. UPI notes of Nouri:
He has centralized power for himself to the extent that he has formed two paramilitary forces, the Baghdad Brigade -- also known as "the Dirty Squad" for its nocturnal sweeps arresting Maliki's critics, particularly Sunnis -- and the Counter-Terrorism Force. Both report directly to him.
Maliki has cemented his control over the nation's security forces by recruiting tribal militias funded by his office and seizing the power of appointing or dismissing army officers, bypassing the chief of staff who should have that authority.
In the eyes of many, this has transformed the army into a well-armed prime ministerial militia.
And for what? What is Iraq today? After nearly seven years of war, what is Iraq? The University of Pittsburg's Haider Hamoudi visits and shares impressions at The Daily Star:
Appealing as these examples may be, the role of religion must be greater in the view of the Najaf clerics concerning matters of law than merely as a voice of conscience on behalf of the people against the powerful. Are we truly to believe then that Najaf clerics are indifferent to potential reforms of the Personal Status Law that challenge existing religious doctrine, such as, for example, a ban on polygamy? Why did the Shiite Islamist parties who dominated the Constitutional Committee and who were close to Sistani fight so hard for a constitutional provision banning laws that violate the "certain rulings of Islam," which now appears in Article 2 of the Constitution? Is the fact that every woman within 50 miles of Najaf is covered by a headscarf and then a wide black cloak on top of that really just a matter of personal choice, exercised universally in precisely the same fashion, or does some form of public regulation (state law or otherwise) have something to do with it as well?
I put this point to another of the four grand ayatollahs, Mohammad Said al-Hakim, when the question was raised about the relationship of religion to law. We heard again the Najaf mantra. I asked specifically about Article 2 of the Iraqi Constitution and its requirement that law conform to particular certainties in Islam. He described this as a "separate issue," and when I suggested it might mean the marjaaiyya had a role in the legal apparatus of the state, he replied, "we have a role in the clarification of the religion (bayan al-din), not in the administration of the law."
This clarifies the position to some extent, in that it makes Najaf responsible for indicating what the religious position is, and then leaves to the legislator and the judge the determinations that the state is supposed to then make on the basis of Article 2. Even Najaf's commitment to this separation is fuzzy, in that its political allies in Baghdad have fought long and hard to ensure a place for "religious experts" on the Federal Supreme Court for Article 2 questions. In the Constitutional Review Committee, the Shiite Islamist parties have proposed an amendment that indicates that members of the court would be nominated by the "relevant bodies." It is hard to imagine that they did not imagine the marjaaiyya to be the "relevant body" responsible for nominating the religious experts, or at least that number of them who were going to be Shiite.
And that's what Iraq can offer . . . after non-stop war and the US installed puppets. Elections? The US had a few of them yesterday. For the New Jersey governor's race see Mike's post and also be sure to read Betty's which expands on some of the issues Mike touches on but sets aside the race. And for Iraq related coverage in the MSM? Turns out your best chance of discovering the Iraq War is still ongoing comes via "Hints From Heloise" (Washington Post) and not 'reporting' (which long ago lost interest in Iraq):
Dear Heloise: Our church group has decided to start sending baked goods as CARE PACKAGES to military personnel in Iraq. We brainstormed several ideas, such as shoe boxes, etc., but found that the best way to send a cake to anyone overseas is to bake the cake in a small, metal coffee can. After baking, remove the cake to cool. Then repack it in the can, put on the plastic lid the coffee came with and pack the can in a postal box. Soldiers tell us that they love getting cakes this way for two reasons:
1. The cake arrives in one piece
2. The cake can be stored easily, with an airtight lid, if it's not eaten all at once. -- Gwen, via e-mail
How wonderful to hear that your group is sending home-baked goodies to our troops! Nothing beats a treat from the heart and kitchen!
Your group deserves a big Heloise hug, and I know the troops who receive the goodies are appreciative, too.
I'd love to hear hints from other readers who send treats to troops. -- Heloise
Staying with reading, earlier this decade Aimee Allison, David Solnit authored the must read Army Of None. David Solnit has now teamed up with his sister Rebecca Solnit, of Courage to Resist, for a new book and there's a new action.
ACTION: A Global Day of Action for Climate Justice on the ten year anniversary of Seattle WTO shutdown, Nov 30, 2009. Yesterday African delegates walked out of pre-Copenhagen trade talks in Barcelona demanding the US and rich countries commit themselves to deeper and faster greenhouse gas emission cuts and European activists blockaded the talks. The key fight over the future of the planet is taking place right now around climate; corporate market solutions are the new WTO and the US and the rich countries are undermining any efforts at climate solutions to avert even more catastrophic impacts. What could shift things right now is people in the US (doing what we did ten years ago) showing mass resistance to the US government and corporate capitalism's obstruction and false solutions. Please join one of the regional actions being planned in SF and around the US (details here soon) and sign up to take or support direct action and get your folks together now!
BOOK: AK Press asked me to make a book reflecting on the Seattle WTO shutdown from an organizers view. With my sister Rebecca Solnit, Kate and the AK Press collective workers, designer Jason Justice and contributions from fellow organizers we did it just in time for the ten year anniversary. Please support by buying a book , get ten at half-off, and pass on the announcement below.
From dawn to dusk on November 30, 1999, tens of thousands of people shut down the World Trade Organization meeting, facing cops firing tear gas and rubber bullets, the National Guard, and the suspension of civil liberties. An unexpected history was launched from the streets of Seattle, one in which popular power would matter as much as corporate power, in which economics assumed center-stage, and people began envisioning who else they could be and what else their economies and societies might look like.The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattleexplores how that history itself has become a battleground and how our perception of it shapes today's movements against corporate capitalism and for a better world. David Solnit recounts activist efforts to intervene in the Hollywood star-studded movie, Battle in Seattle, and pulls lessons from a decade ago for today. Rebecca Solnit writes of challenging mainstream misrepresentation of the Seattle protests and reflects on official history and popular power. Core organizer Chris Dixon tells the real story of what happened during those five days in the streets of Seattle.
Profusely illustrated, with a reprint of the original 1999 Direct Action Network's "Call to Action" broadsheet -- including key articles by Stephanie Guilloud, Chris Borte, and Chris Dixon -- and a powerful introduction from Anuradha Mittal, The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle is a tribute to the scores of activists struggling for a better world around the globe. It's also a highly-charged attack on media mythmaking in all its forms, from Rebecca Solnit's battle with the New York Times to David Solnit's intervention in the Battle in Seattle film, and beyond. Every essay in this book sets the record straight about what really happened in Seattle, and more importantly why it happened. This is the real story.
David Solnit lived and organized in Seattle in 1999 with the Direct Action Network, a group co-initiated by the Art and Revolution Collective, of which he was a part. He has been a mass direct action organizer since the early '80s, and in the '90s became a puppeteer and arts organizer. He is the editor of Globalize Liberation: How to Uproot the System and Build a Better World and co-author with Aimee Allison ofArmy of None: Strategies to Counter Military Recruitment, End War and Build a Better World. He currently works as a carpenter in Oakland, California and organizes with Courage to Resist, supporting GI resisters, and with the Mobilization for Climate Justice West.
Rebecca Solnit is an activist, historian and writer who lives in San Francisco. Her twelfth book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster, came out this fall. The previous eleven include 2007's Storming the Gates of Paradise; A Field Guide to Getting Lost; Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities;Wanderlust: A History of Walking;As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender and Art; River of Shadows, Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (for which she received a Guggenheim, the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism, and the Lannan Literary Award). A contributing editor to Harper's, she frequently writes for the political site Tomdispatch.com. She has worked on antinuclear, antiwar, environmental, indigenous land rights and human rights campaigns and movements over the years.
We'll note the book again tomorrow but right now we'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "CHOMSKY SAYS PRESIDENT OBAMA CONTINUES BUSH POLICY TO CONTROL MIDDLE EAST OIL" (Veterans Today):
Political activist Noam Chomsky says that although President Obama views the Iraq invasion merely as "a mistake" or "strategic blunder," it is, in fact, a "major crime" designed to enable America to control the Middle East oil reserves.
"It's ("strategic blunder") probably what the German general staff was telling Hitler after Stalingrad," Chomsky quipped, referring to the big Nazi defeat by the Soviet army in 1943.
"There is basically no significant change in the fundamental traditional conception that if we can control Middle East energy resources, then we can control the world," he said.
In a lecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London Oct. 27th, Chomsky warned against expecting significant foreign policy changes from Obama, according to a report by Mamoon Alabbasi published on MWC News.net. Alabbasi is an editor at Middle East Online.
"As Obama came into office, (former Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice predicted he would follow the policies of Bush's second term, and that is pretty much what happened, apart from a different rhetorical style," Chomsky said.
Chomsky said the U.S. operates under the "Mafia principle," explaining "the Godfather does not tolerate 'successful defiance" and must be stamped out "so that others understand that disobedience is not an option."
Despite pressure on the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, Alabbasi reported, Chomsky said the U.S. continues to seek a long-term presence in the country and the huge U.S. embassy in Baghdad is to be expanded under Obama.