Monday, February 22, 2010

The 'elections,' the continued violence

The March 7 election may be a critical event in the contest to decide Iraq’s future, but for some of the nation’s poor, the right to vote does not mean having a say in who leads the country; it means having something to sell to make desperately needed cash.
With intensive campaigning now under way in what is shaping up to be a highly competitive ballot, votes have become a precious commodity, a fact not lost on many ordinary people who care little for politics but who struggle to make ends meet.
"Elections are a beautiful opportunity to get some money," Ahmad Salam said. "There are lots of people willing to sell their votes, and lots of people who want to buy them."

The above is from Nizar Latif's "Poor selling their votes for cash" (UAE's National Newspaper). Last week, Nouri al-Maliki, thug of the occupation, met with tribal leaders to address the subject of selling votes. Duraid Al Baik (Gulf News) reports that UAE will be one of the 16 countries outside of Iraq at which voting will take place with others being in "Syria, Jordan, Iran, Australia, USA, Sweden, Egypt, Canada, Denmark, Lebanon, Turkey, UK, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. The stations will be open from March 5-7." For those who have forgotten or weren't paying attention, Nouri's first disenfranchisement target was the refugee population. And the party that's now boycotting? It was their members, their leaders who advocated for the refugee population. Possibly had the White House and the US press not been so quick to throw the towel in on that issue -- in a "Hurry up and get on with it!" attitude, then Nouri might have gotten another message. Instead, he's under the impression that he can get away with anything. (Those remembering the "hurry up" attitude might also remember that at that point, these elections were supposed to take place in January. Didn't happen. They might also realize that Nouri's term expired already, as has Parliament's.) As provincial elections approached in January 2008, Nouri was suddenly eager to deliver portable potable water (temporary measure) and then dropped the need to bring water in after the elections. Apparently convinced that he can trick Iraqi voters, he's got a new trick. Alsumaria TV reports that he's saying he will eliminate unemployment. He's been in power since 2006. Now he's worried about unemployment? Or maybe it's just that now he's worried about his own unemployment because he is wondering exactly what deal Chalabi set up for himself with Tehran?

Meanwhile at WSWS, Paddy O'Connor plays Faye Dunaway's my-sister, my-daughter scene as he attempts to figure out if he loathes Ray Odierno or Ahmed Chalabi more. He wants to draw some moral line and there's your first mistake: Trying to preach morality. Try dealing in the facts, O'Connor, you'll get a story that way instead of an attempt at moralizing. He might also grasp that there's no government in Baghdad -- just a bunch of chicken s**t exiles who were put into power over a people that never had a shot at self-represenation. Colin Freeman (Telegraph of London) reports on campaign efforts by Sheikh Adil al Fahdawi.

On the elections, Amnesty International issued the following this morning:

As Iraq prepares to hold new parliamentary elections amid continuing controversy over the eligibility of many candidates, Amnesty International is appealing to the country’s political leaders to ensure that both the election campaign and the vote on 7 March are conducted peacefully and fully conform with Iraq’s obligations under international human rights law.
The elections must not be used as an excuse for further violence
Political leaders must demand that their supporters uphold the law and respect the rights of others, and help prevent the election being used to deepen the sectarian violence that has wracked the country in recent years. They must do all they can to ensure the safety and security of all Iraqis, without discrimination, and uphold their rights to freedom of expression, association and political participation in selecting those who will lead the country in the future.
Amnesty International is also calling on all political parties and their candidates to commit to protecting and promoting human rights in their election manifestoes and in practice, if and when they are elected to office, in full conformity with Iraq’s obligations under international human rights law.
Those responsible for suicide bombings and other attacks against civilians must immediately end such attacks, many of which appear to constitute crimes against humanity -- crimes of the very gravest nature. Amnesty International condemns all attacks on civilians, utterly and unreservedly, and calls for their immediate cessation. There can be no justification whatever for such attacks.
The following human rights concerns must be addressed by all political parties, their candidates, supporters and others:
Safeguard civilians and their right to vote
The protection of civilians is paramount during elections if voters are to feel assured that they can exercise their right to vote without fear and intimidation.
Iraq's civilian population has borne the brunt of the continuing violence that has ravaged the country in recent years and the record from previous elections is grim. Dozens of civilians were killed in attacks before the last provincial elections on 31 January 2009. The last national parliamentary elections, held on 15 December 2005, saw dozens of civilians killed in attacks by Sunni armed groups and Shi'a militias in the weeks before and during polling.
Amnesty International appeals to all political party leaders and to all religious and community leaders and other persons of influence to speak out against further violence, bloodshed and human rights abuses. They must demand that all Iraqis are able to decide freely and without fear how to exercise their right to vote.
Protection of candidates and election workers
Candidates, party political activists and election workers are among those most likely to be targeted for kidnapping and killing in the run-up to the elections.
At least two candidates have already been killed. Soha 'Abdul-Jarallah, a candidate on the list of former prime minister Iyad 'Allawi, was gunned down as she left a relative’s house in Mosul on 7 February 2010. Sa’ud al-'Issawi, a Sunni Arab and candidate for the Iraqi Unity Alliance (IUA), was killed with his two bodyguards at the end of December 2009 in Falluja by a magnetic bomb attached to their vehicle.
Safa 'Abd al-Amir al-Khafaji, the head teacher of a girls' school in Baghdad's al-Ghadi district was shot and seriously wounded by unidentified gunmen on 12 November 2009 soon after she announced that she would contest the elections as a candidate for the Iraqi Communist Party.
'Ali Mahmoud, a staff member of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC), the body responsible for overseeing the elections, was shot dead outside his house in al-Jadiriya district in Baghdad on 17 December 2009.
Nine candidates were killed at the time of the last provincial elections and, at Mandali in Diyala governorate, two election workers were abducted and found shot dead only hours later. Several candidates were killed during the 15 December 2005 poll. For example, Mizhar al-Dulaimi, the leader of the Free Progressive Iraqi Party, was shot dead while campaigning in the centre of Ramadi on 13 December.
Amnesty International calls on the present government, the IHEC and all political party leaders to make every effort to ensure that candidates and elections workers are allowed to go about their legitimate activities freely and without fear or restraint, and are promptly provided with adequate protection whenever appropriate.
Reporting the election: safeguarding journalists
In recent years, Iraq has been one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, many of whom have been targeted for abduction, assassination or other abuses. In 2008, at least 16 journalists and media workers were reported to have been killed; in 2009, at least four were killed.
During the provincial elections of 2009 journalists were subject to harassment, arrest and assault while covering the elections, including by Iraqi security forces and the US military. Some were arrested and held for hours; others were reported to have been prevented from entering polling stations -- for example, in Falluja and in al-Hilla -- although they had been officially accredited by the IHEC. In Mosul, Iraqi soldiers reportedly fired on journalists' vehicles.
Before and after the July 2009 elections for the Kurdistan regional parliament, several journalists were assaulted, including Nebaz Goran, editor of Jihan, an independent magazine, who was attacked by three unidentified men outside his office in Erbil.
Preventing journalists from reporting on elections inevitably increases the risk of election fraud and rigged voting and deprives the public of information to which they have a right to know.
Amnesty International urges all Iraqi political leaders to uphold the right to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ("Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information"), and to uphold the right of all journalists legitimately to exercise their profession without hindrance and fear of harassment.
Commitment to protect and promote human rights
All political parties and their candidates must recognize that respect for human rights and international law is a fundamental obligation. They must commit to building peace, tolerance and respect for human rights if elected, including upholding the rule of law by committing to ending arbitrary detentions, torture and other ill-treatment, unfair trials, the use of the death penalty and impunity for those responsible for human rights violations.
They must also ensure that Iraqi legislation is made fully compatible with international human rights law, including legislation relating to women's rights, and is enforced in practice in accordance with Iraq’s obligations under international law.
Political parties, candidates and all others with influence, including religious and community leaders, must speak out about the need to protect and safeguard the rights of those most vulnerable. This includes women, who remain subject to legal and other discrimination and violence, and others who are subject to persecution because of their religious, ethnic or sexual identity.
In Mosul, for example, at least 14 members of the Christian minority have been killed in targeted attacks since early December 2009 as political tensions rise further ahead of the 7 March poll. A spate of recent bomb attacks by armed groups appear to have been deliberately targeted in an attempt to fuel the sectarian divide and further violence between Sunni and Shi’a Muslims.
Amnesty International urges that all Iraqis, including members of ethnic and religious minority groups, must be free to cast their votes without any pressure or intimidation.
Women play a transformative role in building and supporting a non-sectarian society. To counter threats to women in conflict-affected situations, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325 urging states to ensure increased participation of women in conflict resolution and peace-building processes, as well as development and reconstruction.
Ending abuses by armed groups
Amnesty International demands that all armed groups immediately cease and desist from carrying out attacks on civilians. Many of these attacks constitute crimes against humanity, crimes of the gravest magnitude under international law. Such crimes cannot be justified under any circumstances. Those responsible must be brought to justice.
Thousands of civilians, including women, children and members of religious and ethnic minority groups, have been killed as a result of suicide and other attacks carried out by armed groups. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of civilians have also been abducted, tortured and killed by armed groups.
Many bombings and other attacks on civilians have been carried out by al-Qa'ida in Iraq and its allies among Sunni armed groups. Other attacks and abuses have been committed by armed militias, some of which are linked to Shi’a political parties represented in the current government and parliament. Amnesty International continues to call for these armed militias to be disbanded.
All attacks on civilians must cease forthwith. The Iraqi people must be allowed to live their lives in peace and security and be allowed to enjoy and exercise their human rights freely and without fear.
Amnesty International urges all political leaders and activists, and all religious, community, business and other leaders and people of influence in Iraq to speak out and commit to the achievement of this objective.

The Ahrar Party is one political party competing in the election and they issued the following:

Ahrar to Sunni voters: Join Us
Ahrar leader Ayad Jamal Aldin today appealed directly to Iraq's Sunnis and all voters who feel alienated by Maliki's sectarianism, following the withdrawal of the Iraqi National Front for Dialogue from the 7 March election. Speaking from Baghdad, he noted that those who boycotted the vote played into the hands of Iranian-backed politicians seeking to establish Shia-only rule.
'Sectarian politics - the attempts to deny Iraq's common history and our shared destiny - is what causes the bloodshed,' he argued. 'The government has lost control of the sectarian influences it allowed into our country in the first place, we have to throw them out'. He continued by calling for Iraqis to unite as one, regardless of their sect or religious belief. He urged Sunni voters to choose Ahrar on 7 March, as the only genuinely secular party competing in the election.
Speaking to Iraqi Sunnis he said, 'You still have the power. You can choose to end the rule of the politicians who would silence your voice. But you have to use your vote. The alternative is division and domination. The power is in your hands.'
For further information, contact:
Ahrar Media Bureau
Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942
About Ayad Jamal Aldin:
Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.

Violence sweeps through Iraq today. Reuters notes 1 police officer shot dead in Baghdad, 1 corpse discovered in Kirkuk, 1 police officer shot dead in Kirkuk, a Mosul roadside bombing which injured two police officers, a Baghdad attack in which 8 family members were shot dead, a Ramadi suicide car bombing which claimed the life of the bomber and the lives of 3 other people (with seven police officers injured), 2 police officers shot dead in Mosul, 2 "military personnel working in the Iraqi Defence Ministry" shot dead in Baghdad, a rocket or mortar attack on the Green Zone which injured five people, Thamer Kamel was shot in Baghdad, a Baghdad shooting left 1 police officer and 1 Interior Ministry employee wounded and, dropping back to yesterday, 1 woman and her 3 daughters shot dead in Baghdad. On the 8 family members killed, BBC Radio is reporting that this was a home invasion and some of the 8 were beheaded.

The Iraq Inquiry is the topic of a column by Geoffrey Bindman (Guardian):

The Chilcot team has completed the first phase of its inquiry. It has revealed few new facts, but has reminded us of those already known. They confirm what ought to be Chilcot's blunt conclusion: our leaders (supported by the opposition) took us into a war that was illegal, immoral, unnecessary, and hugely destructive. And they did so under no compulsion and against our national interest.

Chilcot was not set up to decide whether the Iraq war was lawful -- if so one would have expected at least one lawyer among its members. Yet much of the evidence has been about the way in which the issue of legality was faced by Tony Blair and his colleagues. They saw it as an inconvenience -- particularly because the US was untroubled by it -- but it was cleverly used to divert attention from some very disreputable diplomacy in the run-up to the war. By creating a picture of legal uncertainty, the government disguised its defiance of majority international opinion.

In "TV: Trash TV," Ava and I tackled the nonsense Amy Goodman offered last week. Allegedly on the Inquiry. With two tiny clips from the inquiry but four lengthy clips from a film -- a film whose director had to remind Goody was "fiction." Goody spent over half the ten minute segment talking about the film and she wants to pretend she covered the Inquiry? She brought on the only major writer for the Guardian not to cover the Inquiry and presented him as an 'expert' when his own statements revealed he didn't know a damn thing about the Inquiry and thought he could bulls**t his way through with some remarks that had nothing to do with the Inquiry. Translation, Amy Goodman STILL HASN'T COVERED THE INQUIRY.

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack, Corporate, Tauzin and Baucus" wemt up last night.

Right after the last entry went up, I saw another e-mail (I go through the public and private e-mail accounts as I write these things) and added the following to the last entry:

One more thing for those e-mailing the public account to have something highlgihted, I'll call Hillary out if I feel it's needed. I did so last week. I know Hillary and have known her for years. That won't prevent me from calling her out. HOWEVER, do not send me your rag on Hillary pieces. They will not be noted. You gave up your rights to be seen as objective on her in 2008 when you refused to call out the vile sexism because your attitude was, "Oh, it's just Hillary and I hate her." As a result, I don't give a damn -- no, I don't give a f**k what you think about Hillary. I don't want to hear it, I don't want to read it. Don't e-mail it to me, it will not be highlighted. You stayed silent in the face of sexism and that is not forgotten by me nor is it forgiven.

I'll add to that that these columns generally reveal just how pathetic the writers are because, more often than not, they're written by people who can't call out Barack or do so meekly. But they love to rip Hillary apart. They're comfortable ripping her apart but a War Hawk president has them mewing like little kittens -- how damn pathetic. I'll further add that it wasn't just, "Oh, it's just Hillary and I hate her." That implies that they just stayed silent. Many of the ones writing these attacks on Hillary today were writing them in 2008 and utilizing sexism. They didn't just stay silent, they utilized sexism. If they had any guts or ethics, instead of writing yet another slam on Hillary, they'd write a mea culpa explaining exactly why they thought using sexism was a left or 'left' way of communicating. Instead, they want to pretend that it never happened. As Winona tells Ethan in Reality Bites, "Your bravado is embarrassing."

Hurt Locker

Turning to The Hurt Locker -- an amazing film directed by Kathryn Bigelow, as Zennie62 (San Francisco Chronicle) notes, Kathryn Bigelow has become "the first woman" to win the British Academy of Film and Television (BAFTA) for Best Director. Henry Chu (Los Angeles Times) adds:

Bigelow, the first woman to win for best director here, dedicated her award to "never abandoning the need to find a resolution for peace." At a news conference afterward, she dismissed any talk of rivalry with Cameron, saying it was "a real honor" to be nominated in his company.

Disclosure, I know Kathryn and she directed an amazing film which I am still campaigning for offline. March 7th, when Iraqis finish voting, is also when we find out if she takes home Best Director.

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