Tuesday, Novemer 3, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, IOM releases a study on internal refugees in Iraq who have returned to their former homes, still no election law in Iraq (and the pretense that Kirkuk is the big hold up continues), a man goes to town on a NYT reporter online so we know the reporter must be a woman, and more.
Today the International Organization for Migration [IOM] released their latest report on internal Iraqi refugees [PDF format warning] entitled "Assessment of Return to Iraq:" The report notes the low rate of return (external refugees coming back to Iraq) and focuses on the 1.6 million estimated interal refugees and what the desires of this vulnerable population are. The report notes that IOM spoke with "4,061 families (24,366 individuals)" while assessing needs.
The bulk of the internally displaced hail from Baghdad (nearly 90%). From the report:
* The majority of identified returnees (33,521 families, or 58%) have returned to Baghdad governorate, while a significant proportion has also been identified in Diyala and Anbar.
* 54,451 of the returnees identified (94%) have returned from internal displacement, while the remaining 3,659 identified families (6%) have returned from abroad.
* Almost 90% of IOM-assessed post-Samarra IDPs were displaced from Baghdad, diyala, and Ninewa, and almost 79% of identified returns are also located in these three governorates.
The report notes the top six reasons IDPs give for their displacement are:
Direct threats to life (29.1%)
Left out of fear (21.7%)
Generalized violence (16.5%)
Forced displacement from property (7.6%)
Ethnic/religious/political discrimination (5.9%)
Armed conflict (5.0%)
The report notes that those who are returning often cite "harsh conditions in displacement" as one of the reasons they have returned (exampele include "high rent, lack of employment opportunities, poor shelter and lack of basic services"). The second and third categories can be combined: "Improved security in area of origin and very difficult conditions in displacement" and "Very difficult conditions in displacement". If you combine the two than 45.46% of those who have returned are citing "very difficult conditions in displacement" regions. Those returning to Baghdad cite "former employment, transporation assistance, repair of damaged homes and property, and renewed access to basic services" as their reasons. 38% of those who have returned to their former homes "reported feeling safe only some of the time." In addition, 42.5% of returnees in Anbar, Baghdad, Diyala and Kirkuk report that "their homes are partially or completely destroyed. In addition, 50% of returnees in these governorates no longer have their movable property, such as cars, due to loss or theft."
Of those returning to their former homes across Iraq, Arab Shia Muslims make up the largest percent (49.4%), followed by Arab Sunni Muslim (31.0%), Turkmen Sunni Muslim (9.7%) and Christians (8.9%). (Kurd Shia Muslim, Kurd Sunni Muslim and Other each account for less than one percent.) Of those who remain internally displaced, the highest percent is (again) Arab Shia (58.4%) followed by Arab Sunni Muslim (29.3%) with Christians and Kurd Sunni Muslim next (each at 4.4%), followed by Other (4.0%) and Kurd Shia Muslim (0.7%). IOM's report also provides a gender breakdown for heads of household of returnees: 12% are female-headed households and 88% of returnees are male-headed housholds (and 35% of the 88% cannot find work). The study found, "Among assessed returnee female-headed households, food is consistently identified as a priority need (60% across Iraq) along with non-food itmes (NFIs) and fueld. In Baghdad, health and sanitation are major concerns for interviewed female-headed households. Access to legal help was also a serious issue, particularly in Diyala and Ninewa governorates." Breaking down employment for returnee heads of household; 69.7% of females heading households are unable to work contrasted with 15.4% of the male heads of household; 4.7% of female heads of household are employed contrasted with 50.1% of male heads of household, and 25.7% of female heads of household are able to work but unable to find employment contrasted with 34.5% of male heads of household in the same situation.
Returnees were asked about basic services as well (remember, the bulk live in Baghdad). How many have electricity each day for "More than 18 hours"? Only 2%. Most (34%) report they have only one to two hours of electricity each day. With water, more were able to rely on basic services: 81.8% state they receive "Municipal water/pipe grid" while the next most common response (7.9%) was "Rivers, streams or lakes." Returnees ranked their needs and 61% stated their most pressing need was food.
The report finds:
While the total number of returns in Iraq continues to slowly grow since the end of 2007, it remains a small fraction of the total Iraqi IDP and refugee populations. In the face of uncertain security improvements, the future of return is also unsure. Many IDP families continue to say that they are waiting for security to improve in order to return.
IOM returnee assessments show that 'pull' factors such as improved security in place of origin are more encouraging of return than 'push' factors such as difficult conditions in place of displacement. However, as prolonged displacement makes life difficult for Iraq's internally displaced and refugees, this could change.
Returning home means facing a new set of challenges for Iraqi families. 34% of IOM-assessed returnee families report that they are able to work yet unemployed, 34% returned to partially or completely destroyed property, and 75% have less than 6 hours of electricity per day. In addition, the majority were displaced for more than one year, meaning that they return carrying the stress and financial debilitation of long-term displacement.
UPI reports Nouri al-Maliki and Oscar Fernandez-Taranco met in Baghdad today. Who is Oscar Fernandez-Taranco? The envoy United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent "to discuss Baghdad's concerns over foreign meddling following deadly bombings in August and October." Strange that two bombings (and Nouri stomping his feet) gets UN action when the non-stop and ongoing assault on Christians doesn't. Deutsche Presse Agentur reports that Iraqi MP Yonadam Kanna has "petitioned Sunni Muslim parliamentary speaker Iyad al-Samarrai to formally request [. . .] an international investigator to determine who was behind the killing of Iraqi Christians that Iraqi Christians believe are designed to convince them to leave their homes". Mohammad Alef Jamal (Gulf News) adds:
When Iraqi Mandaeans are killed, an international committee is formed to defend their community and when Iraqi Christians are killed or expelled, the Pope appeals to the US President to provide protection for them. This is because these groups follow religions that connect them to other countries.
But when Iraqi scientists and intellectuals are killed, or when border villages are bombed by neighbouring countries and the bodies of Iraqis are torn apart by violent explosions, the only reaction seen is condemnation, calls for immediate investigation, threats and random accusations -- even before an investigation starts.
This is followed by an exchange of accusations between politicians about whose fault it is, and some prominent figures are made scapegoats, solely for electoral reasons.
Violence has created the refugee crisis, the world's largest refugee crisis. Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured two people, a Baquba roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left three more wounded, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed 1 life and left two more people injured and a Mosul mortar attack which injured two people.
Ignore the violence, joy for the greedy. BBC News reports, "Iraq's oil ministry has signed an initial agreement with a consortium led by the Italian firm, ENI, to develop the Zubair oilfield in southern Iraq. The deal, which needs cabinet approval, calls for the group to extract 200,000 barrels of oil a day, rising to 1.1 million a day within seven years." Meanwhile AP notes that the consortium of British Petroleum and China National Petroleum Company's successful bid has been finalized. Khalid a-Ansary and Jack Kimball (Reuters) report that the Iraqi Parliament has informed Hussain al-Shahristani, the country's Oil Minister, that he will be testifying before them November 11th on the "distribution of the nation's oil wealth" which has led to Nouri al-Maliki to have another public fit, muttering about "evil supporters of the past regime" and comparing the summons to "the last bombings" (he is a drama queen).
In our view, American military force no longer plays a role in Iraq other than "peace-keeping." Someone must contain the violence over time to allow democratic-like institutions to flourish. That should not be the role of American military power; it must be done by Iraqi institutions controlled solely by the Iraqi government. It is now time for a broad and sustained military withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq. Whatever American forces of any sort that remain should be paid for exclusively by the Iraqi government. We can argue forever about the wisdom of our invasion and presence in Iraq beginning in 2003. For sure, Iraq cannot be allowed to become another Korea, where today 30,000 American troops are held hostage to a crazy North Korean regime while "protecting" a rich and prosperous South Korea. Withdraw now the 120,000 military personnel from Iraq, Mr. President and Congress. Do it as quickly as the safety of those troops will permit.
Why the Globe and not the New York Times? Because the Globe actually is read by families of the enlisted, therefore, it is aware that there is an ongoing war and it is aware that the Iraq War directly effects their readership.
US President Barack Obama could end the Iraq War immediately . . . if he wanted to. He's the biggest road block at present because he is, as Bully Boy Bush once so infamously put it, "the decider." (Especially true when an apethetic news media has largely moved away from the issue and a public's been lulled into false dreams of peace.) Other things that aren't helpful would include (a) the Iraqi government or 'government' and (b) the Pentagon and KBR. Starting with the former, Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) interviews US Lt Gen Charles H. Jacoby Jr.:
Are you concerned that the elections on which your withdrawal timetable is based may be delayed? The Iraqi parliament is deadlocked over an election law, even though the deadline has long since passed.
This parliamentary election is a decisive point in the history of Iraq's democracy, and it's also very important to the United States. We have a stake in their success. Iraq has had increasingly better elections over time. Of course we look forward to these elections. And so we're very concerned that we're past the date that the Iraqis wanted to have an election law, and that every day that goes by eats into the established date for the election. Iraq has the opportunity to demonstrate that it has a viable and credible democracy, and can be a model for the region. There's lots of opportunity here and we don't want to miss these opportunities by having this election drift.
Would an election delay also delay the plan to withdraw all U.S. combat forces by August 2010?
We do not think we are at the point where we are off our plan, but of course we are going to watch this very carefully. Any decision to vary from the plan is a policy decision that won't take place here. It's too soon to say whether a potential delay in the election is a potential delay in the withdrawal.
Alsumaria notes rumors that US pressure is expected to lead various parties to accept the United Nations' recommendations on the legislation:
To that, Kurds decried the US pressure calling them to renounce their rights in the city and that after announcing that US Vice President Joe Biden called Kurdistan Governor Massoud Al Barazani in order to talk over the obstructions hindering approving elections law. MP Mahmoud Othman told Al Hayat Newspaper that endeavors of Senior US officials are means to pressure Kurds in order to accept the suggested solutions though they are unfair. The US behaviors are biased, Othman added. It is no secret that this kind of pressure is expected considering the importance USA gives for holding the lections on time. MP Khairallah Al Basri said that failing to reach an accordance solution regarding elections' law will urge the USA to interfere in order to impose solutions. Alsumaria sources had said that the Legal committee suggested a draft law that proposes to adopt open list and determines the parliament's seats number. The law also stipulates using multi-divisions system and appoints the number of seats for each division without mentioning Kirkuk. However the relevant parties did not agree on this suggestion.
Ali Karim (Asia Times) reports the recents bombings are said, by some, to have an impact on their votes and quotes MP Mithal al-Alosi stating, "I expect a low turnout in the elections if matters go on this way. The wounds of Bloody Wednesday have not healed yet and the Salehiya bombs have deepened those wounds." Mithal Alusi was noted in yesterday's snapshot, he's the head of the Iraqi Nation Party and he appeared as a guest on Al Jazeera's latest Inside Iraq which began broadcasting last Friday.
AFP reports that Faraj al-Haidari, head of the country's Independent High Electoral Commission, declared on Al-Sharquiay TV today, "The electoral commission held talks with the United Nations on Tuesday to discuss the timetable. We must receive the law in the next two days, otherwise we will be unable to hold the election on the scheduled date of January 16. There is material relating to the election, and international companies need time to print it. Fifteen thousand polling stations have to be made ready for the election, as do 50,000 personnel." UPI speaks with MP Mohammad Salman who states there are currently three options.
1) Allow the voting to be based on an open-list (where voters know which people they are voting for and not just a party).
2) Keep the voting to a closed-list (as was done in the 2005 elections).
3) "[P]ostpone the elections for at least one legislative term to give lawmakers the chance to vet all of their concerns."
Salman states that "is the most likely route" but that at least 70 MPs from the Kurdistan Alliance object to the third option. That's an important point because the US continues to pressure tthe KRG to agree to . . . well to anything that will get the bill passed. And many in the press wrongly -- WRONGLY -- continue to state that the issue of oil-rich Kirkuk (claimed by the KRG and by Baghdad) is the road block. It is a road block and it is not just bad reporting to leave out the issue of the lists, it is politically ignorant.
Any legislative body -- true of the US Congress as well as Iraq's Parliament -- makes decisions based on their own interests -- especially when it comes to re-election. Closed lists are thought by many MPs to mean they have a better shot at re-election. Open-lists are feared. (Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad al-Alawi are two who have spoken out publicly for open-lists.) When the Parliament is so fearful that open-lists may mean they aren't re-elected, that is an issue, that is a road block and it's repeatedly set aside or forgotten in press accounts. There are three options, UPI is told. Find where the MP (a Sunni) is at all concerned about the issue of Kirkuk in his statements. What is he concerned about? Open and closed lists.
So the Iraqi Parliament drags their feet and they aren't the only ones. At yesterday's public hearing of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, it was learned that the Defense Department had still not submitted all the plans for the draw-down that's supposed to be on the verge of taking place. Not only have they not submitted all of their own plans, they're supervision of KBR is so lax that KBR's been allowed to skip submitting a plan. As noted in yesterday's snapshot, Commissioner Robert Henke attempted to get an answer from the Pentagon's Lee Hamilton to this question: "If the president announces on February 27, 2009 the draw-down plan and we're on November 2nd, is it possible that the contractor hasn't provided you any plan to adjust staff accordingly?" Despite attempting to walk Hamilton through slowly (after Hamilton rambled on with a non-answer reply) and despite asking, "How is that possible?", Henke never got anything that would pass for an answer to his questions.
KBR, the largest contractor in Iraq, is pulling out of that country so slowly that it could end up costing American taxpayers $193 million more than expected, according to a new Pentagon audit. Furthermore, during a hearing Monday by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a legislative body set up to study contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Commissioner Charles Tiefer said the company's plodding exit from Iraq could cost even more -- up to $300 million.
As noted in yesterday's snapshot, that's only one portion of the story. Dimascio notes a quote from Commissioner Dov Zakheim and you can see yesterday's snapshot for that full exchange. From last night, Kat's "Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan" covers the hearing and she shares some impression on Commissioner Chris Shays hearing performance. But Dimascio covers one aspect of the big news from yesterday's hearings -- and we did consider skipping it but fortunately didn't because the Commission actually had their act together yesterday (we is Kat, Ava, Wally and myself) -- the other big news was the lack of completed plans.
For the Pentagon, that's especially appalling and it's either an issue of insubordination or the White House isn't really serious about a draw-down. For the Pentagon, the refusal to submit their own plans or demand that KBR draw up their own is appalling. Thompson declared in the hearing that he visited with KBR most recently on September 25th or 26th and they still had no plans -- and Thompson was neither surprised nor worried about the lack of planning.
In the US, Noor Faleh Almaleki has died. The 20-year-old Iraqi woman was intentionally run over October 20th (see the October 21st snapshot) while she and Amal Edan Khalaf were running errands (the latter is the mother of Noor's boyfriend and she was left injured in the assault). Police suspected Noor's father, Faleh Hassan Almaleki, of the assault and stated the probable motive was that he felt Noor had become "too westernized." As noted in the October 30th snapshot, Faleh Hassan Almaleki was finally arrested after going on the lamb -- first to Mexico, then flying to London where British authorities refused him entry and he was sent back to the US and arrested in Atlanta. Karan Olson and CNN note that the judge has set the man's bail at $5 million. Philippe Naughton (Times of London) adds, "Noor died yesterday, having failed to recover consciousness after the attack. The other woman, Amal Khalaf, was also seriously injured but is expected to survive. " Rachel Stockman and 12 News (link has text and video) supply this timeline:
October 20th -Around 2 p.m. Police say Faleh Almaleki ran down his daughter, friend. -Around 5 p.m. Nlets Alert with Almaleki's license plate and vehicle description goes out October 23rd -U.S. Customs and Border Protection notified.
Addressing the timeline, Rachel Stockman reports, "They allowed the suspect to cross the border into Mexico so we wanted to know where the communication broke down. What we found? Nlets, the system Peoria police use to notify other authorities is not something US Customs always checks." Dustin Gardiner (Arizona Republic) quotes: prosecutor Stephanie Low stating of the father, "By his own admission, this was an intentional act and the reason was that his daughter had brought shame on him and his family. This was an attempt at an honor killing." Iraqi American Romina Korkes offered her thoughts on the so-called 'honor' killing last week in a column for the Arizona Republic.
Women are attacked daily around the world. The attacks are dismissed. A large number of men seem to think it's okay -- and a significant number of women must agree since we're not in the streets marching -- and that goes a long way towards explaining Rory O'Connor's post at Media Channel -- a site not known for its 'inclusive' view of humanity (to put it mildly). Noting Alissa J. Rubin's opinion piece from Sunday's New York Times (we noted it in Friday's snapshot), O'Connor goes on to rip her apart. Now let's be clear, Alissa J. Rubin being a woman doesn't mean she can't be ripped apart nor are we concerned about tone. She's never been good with math (we've called her "teen queen" at this site) and she's been so wack that she's even been called "crack whore" here. But what have we done that Rory O'Connor doesn't? We've praised her, yes. She's earned a lot of praise over the years here. But that's not it. He doesn't have to praise her and, indeed, he may not find anything worth praising in her writing. That is his opinion.
But where there's a problem is that Alissa J. Rubin was never the paper's problem. On her bad days, she jumbled the numbers and was too quick to believe things she shouldn't have (such as the "Awakenings" being universally embraced in areas they 'patrolled' or 'terrorized'). Her worst day never found her as bad as John F. Burns or Dexter Filkins. I'm not seeing their names mentioned by Rory. Those are the two worst offenders for what he's demanding (truth). But they don't get called out. It's really strange that so few women have worked in Baghdad for the New York Times (others include Cara Buckley, Sabrina Tavernise, Erica Goode and, of course, Judith Miller) but they're always the ones being ripped apart. Not the males. The issue isn't that he called Rubin out. He's allowed to. He can loathe her and rip her apart. The issue is that we haven't seen that same standard applied to men.
This is the Judith Miller effect, the bash the bitch craze, we've long documented here. Judith Miller did not start a war. Judith Miller was not responsible for the entire media landscape. She did not twist the arms of PBS and NBC and Oprah to get air time. Those people wanted her on their shows. She did not twist arms at the paper to land on the front page, the paper wanted her on the front page. Judith Miller was so WRONG about the Iraq War but she wasn't a liar -- at least not on the big issue. She honestly believed their were WMD in Iraq, that's why she commandeered a squadron while stationed in Iraq. She's a lousy reporter, her 'facts' do not hold up. She needs to be held accountable. But she often had co-writers -- such as Michael R. Gordon who remains at the paper and who spent the second Bush term advocating for war on Iran. Judith Miller was a reporter for one of the top three papers in the country (at that time). If you saw her on TV, she was invited on. If you heard her on radio, she was invited on. If you read her in another paper, a decision was made to print her article. It took a lot of people echoing the government (not all of whom believed the lies the way Miller did) to start the war on Iraq, to lie to the people. Miller was one person. Hold her accountable, no question, but what about all the others?
The pleasing lie (pleasing to a lot of members of the press corps) is that Judith Miller, all by herself, lied the nation into war. Judith Miller and others like her helped the US get into Iraq but grasp that Dexter Filkins and John F. Burns kept the US in Iraq. There are some who will kiss Dexy's butt because of those bad, BAD, college campus appearances where he talks about (and has done this for several years now) about how the Iraq War is lost and how they knew it then and blah, blah, blah. That might have mattered. If he'd done it in real time. But in real time, he was lying. In real time, he was taking orders from the military -- as Molly Bingham long ago explained, Dexy even cancelled a meeting with the Iraqi resistance when US military brass frowned. In real time, Dexy let the US military vet his copy. That's reality. His award winning 'reporting'? Vetted by the US military. Vetted and delayed while it was vetted which is why the paper ran it so many days after it was written.
I have no problem with Judith Miller being called out -- and I've called her out myself. But, look through the archvies, we've called out women and we've called out men. We haven't worried about tone but we've made damn sure that people were treated fairly -- even if that just meant that abuse was heaped on equally.
I'm glad that someone at Media Channel remembered there is a war in Iraq and I'm glad that Rory O'Connor wrote with fire. But I'm also aware that Alissa J. Rubin, graded on any scale, qualifies as one of the better reporters the paper's had in Iraq. And I'm also aware that MediaChannel is more than happy to go after Katie Couric or any other woman but I find very little in efforts to praise women or to link to them. (Until O'Connor's column, which I heard about from a friend at the Times, I haven't visited MediaChannel since the efforts to distort Marcia's writing.) And if Alissa J. Rubin was Alan J. Rubin, I have to wonder whether or not MediaChannel would even be weighing in? Again, it's been a long, long time since they've made it known that they're aware of the Iraq War.
This isn't a minor issue -- not the silence on Iraq or the attacks on women. And, repeating, it's not about tone. It's about fairness. We've ridiculed many women here and will do so again and again and again. But we don't go to town on a woman and refuse to on men. Todd S. Purdum is a better writer at Vanity Fair than he was at the Times -- that has to do with the differing role, the fact that he can write longer at Van Fair and the differences between the outlets. But we went to town on Todd (who I know offline) and did so because his work was as appalling as Elisabeth Bumiller's columns (run in the news section but they were columns) at that time. (Bumiller's done some strong reporting in the last few years.) We went to town on her, we went to town on Todd. And the fact that I knew him didn't prevent that nor did the fact that he was a man make me think, "I shouldn't criticize." But there's a real locker room mentality among the online critics where a man gets a pass and another one and another one and, okay, let's make it about the work. But a woman gets ripped apart. The ripping apart doesn't bother me . . . if it's applied to both.
We've linked to Rory before and we'll link to his post today one more time. But it's really past time that a lot of online critics took a look what they were doing. I'm not suggesting anyone change their style or tone or make nice. I am suggesting that they make sure they treat people the same -- regardless of gender. I do not believe Alissa J. Rubin was treated the same as a male reporter would have been. I could be wrong, I often am. But I'm saying my call on that goes to pattern: MediaChannel's emphasis and the climate online.
In Oceanside, Carlsbad, Del Mar and north San Diego County, immigrant day laborers wait by the side of the road, hoping a contractor will stop and offer them work. Alberto Juarez Martinez slings his jacket over his shoulder while he waits. His hands show the effect of a lifetime of manual work, plus arthritis suffered as a child in Zapata, Zacatecas. The hands of Beto, a migrant from Uruachi, Chihuahua, also show the effect of a lifetime of manual work. Juan Castillo, a migrant from Tehuacan, Puebla, waits with his friends in the parking lot of a market they've nicknamed La Gallinita, because of the rooster on the roof of the building. Police in north county towns have now started cruising by day labor sites in plainclothes, pretending to be contractors offering workers jobs, and then citing them and turning them over to immigration agents, even those with green cards Many community organizations are protesting this practice. Francisco Villa operates a lunch truck that visits the areas where migrant day laborers live on hillsides and under trees. Villa hands out leaflets advising workers of their rights and letting them know that they can find help from California Rural Legal Assistance. Across the street from Villa's truck, Zaragosa Brito and Andres Roman Diaz, two migrants from Arcelia, Guerrero, sit next to a fence where workers look for day labor, or get rides to the fields for farm work. The men sleep out in the open in the field behind the fence, and have worked on a local strawberry ranch, Rancho Diablo, for many years.