Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Toledo Blade calls out Iraq election craziness

On the one hand, the occupation government's snub of U.S. pleas to open up the elections is evidence of some independence on its part, even if it is in defense of an unhelpful approach.
On the other -- pointing toward a more-likely outcome -- excluding Sunni and nonsectarian candidates from the electoral process leaves the field clear to Mr. Maliki and the Shiite Iraqi National Congress of former U.S. favorite Ahmed Chalabi. That would invite a Sunni boycott, as occurred in 2005, and likely subsequent civil disorder.
The key for the United States is not to allow electoral stunts by the Maliki government, or any subsequent havoc they may provoke, to delay U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.
From March 7 to Aug. 30, the U.S. troop level in Iraq is set to drop from 120,000 to 50,000. Nothing that the Iraqis do should stop that process.

The above is from the Toledo Blade's editorial "Don't yield to Iraqi stunts." Iraq is supposed to hold national elections March 7th. They will elect members of Parliament and Parliament will (ideally) elect the prime minister. In early 2006, Parliament thought they knew who they wanted as prime minister but (watch out for karma) the US government didn't like the choice and instead insisted upon Nouri al-Maliki. Nouri's political rivals have a way, as the elections approach, of being banned . . . or disappearing . . . or being killed. Meanwhile Ahmed Chalibi isn't just a candidate, he's also determining who will run and who won't by overseeing the bannings (some would argue that the Iranian government is actually overseeing the bannings and that Chalabi's yet again dancing for foreign masters).

And the violence never ends in Iraq. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi service members and left two bystanders wounded, another Mosul roadside bombing left two Iraqi military officers injured as well as one bystander, a Mosul car bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi police officers and left nine people injured, 1 Iraqi Christian was shot dead in Mosul and another wounded and, dropping back to yesterday for the rest, 1 Christian was shot dead in Mosul, 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Mosul and 1 corpse was discovered in Mosul. Aaron J. Leichman (Christian Post Reporter) explains, "Iraq officially kicked off the campaign season Friday and Christians, while a minority, have typically been the election-time targets of insurgents who try to push them out of the electoral process by casting fear into them and driving them out of their homeland" and that, since Friday, 1 Iraqi Christian has been kidnapped while four have been shot. Jalal Ghazi's "Eye on Arab Media: Middle East Christains Face Uncertain Future" (New American Media) focuses on the entire region and we'll zoom in on Iraq:

Al Sharqiya satellite television in Baghdad reported that out of the 1.4 million Iraqis Christians who lived in Iraq before 2003, only 800,000 remain. Al Jazeera English also reported that over half of the estimated 20,000 Christians who lived in the city of Mosul in northern Iraq prior to 2003 have already left.
Iraqi Christians are kidnapped and murdered; their shops and churches are burned and destroyed and their leaders assassinated. According the London based Arab News Broadcast (ANB), some Christian communities now dig trenches to protect their homes and neighborhoods.
It is unclear who is behind the acts of violence against the Iraqi Christians. Some accuse extremist groups. Others accuse the Kurds, saying that they are trying to intimidate Christians into moving out of contested areas such as Kirkuk and Mosul. Others blame the United States and British-backed Iraqi government.
Father Shafiq Abu Zaid, an Oxford University lecturer, told ANB, “The Christians constantly feel that a war is being declared on them and they don’t know where it is coming from”
What is clear, however, is that Christians were not under attack when the former regime was in power. Abu Zaid said that despite Saddam Hussein's many shortcomings, Iraqi Christians felt safer under the Baath regime of the former president.
Baath, which means resurrection, was a form of pan-Arab nationalism that was founded by the Syrian Christian Michael Aflaq. It is still the ideological foundation in Syria, where large numbers of Iraqi Christians fled.
"You can't compare the situation of Iraqi Christians when they were under Saddam to now. They were much better off," said Abu Zaid. They were safe and they held very influential positions, including Tariq Aziz, Iraq's former deputy prime minister. He was sentenced to 15 years to prison in March 2009 by the Iraqi supreme court.
The collapse of pan-Arab nationalism in Iraq created a vacuum that was quickly filled by many extremist groups, which have been further radicalized by the U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. These groups do not necessarily differentiate between Iraqi Christians and western Christians, whom they blame for the bloodshed in Arab and Muslim countries.

Turning to England where the inquiry into the death of Iraqi Baha Mousa while in British custody continues, Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports:

A senior officer accepted responsibility yesterday for the death in 2003 of an Iraqi man in British custody in southern Iraq, but insisted he knew nothing about a string of alleged abuses of other detainees by his soldiers.
Colonel Jorge Mendonca, who has retired from the Army, also rejected the suggestion that a culture of violence existed among 1st Battalion the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, as he gave evidence to an inquiry into the death of Baha Musa, a hotel receptionist. In a dramatic day-long session, the colonel disclosed that troops routinely used banned techniques on detainees, such as hoods and stressful positions. The former commanding officer said he believed the methods were humane. He admitted that he, and many like him, had forgotten that such techniques had been outlawed by legislation passed in 1972 after concern over the interrogation of IRA suspects.
Colonel Mendonca acknowledged that a series of allegations of abuse, including kicking and punching detainees suggested that there was ill-discipline in the battalion, but insisted that he had been unaware of any problems at the time.

Stephen Bates (Guardian) adds, "The court martial heard that Mousa died after a series of assaults over 36 hours in which he suffered 93 separate injuries. The unit was said to have been infuriated by the death of a popular colleague. It was alleged that Mendonca was not present during the assaults on Mousa but the inquiry heard allegations that he was 'trigger-happy' and had punched an Iraqi prisoner in front of members of his unit." Chris Hughes (Daily Mirror) reports, "The probe heard that witnesses saw atrocities, including an officer telling troops to beat detainees; a boy of 12 being kicked in the head; troops breaking an Iraqi's wrist; and a sergeant boasting of kicking a suspected thief in the throat."

We'll close with this from Ron Jacobs' "Once Again, Get the Hell Out!" (Dissident Voice):

Perhaps, there was once a time when most westerners could pretend that the US-led onslaught against the Afghan people was a good thing. Perhaps they convinced themselves that because the government of that country had allowed Osama Bin Laden to live in the mountains there that there was reason enough to attack his neighbors and destroy what remained of their nation. Perhaps, too, westerners (especially US citizens) believed that the true purpose of the US-led military mission in Afghanistan was to capture Bin Laden and destroy his terror network.
Yes, perhaps there was a time when the facade of justice and righteous revenge provided enough of a moral veneer to the US war in Afghanistan that even intelligent westerners could live with the death and destruction occurring in their name. However, that time is long past. The war has gone on for more than eight years without any sign of cessation. Indeed, since Barack Obama took up residence in the White House, the casualties in that war have spiked. There are at least 40,000 more US troops in the country since that date last January and another thirty or forty thousand more getting ready to go there. In addition, the number of mercenaries has similarly increased .The reasons provided for this escalation range from going after terrorists to creating a civil society. As I write, another offensive against Afghans is being prepared. It primary purpose is to install a governor appointed by the US-created government in Kabul. No matter what the reason, it is painfully clear that those of us expecting a truthful explanation for Washington’s presence in Afghanistan will not receive it from those who continue to send troops and weaponry over there. Nor will they receive it from those in Congress that continue to fund this lethal endeavor.
Yet, the antiwar movement–which should know better–remains virtually silent. A day of bi coastal demonstrations is planned for March 20, 2010, but otherwise there is not even a whisper of protest. Students go to classes while their generational cohorts in uniform face the prospect of death and killing. Antiwar organizations send out the occasional email or call for action, but there is no action. Congressmen and women ignore the letters and faxes constituents send them asking that they refuse to vote for the next war-funding legislation. Furthermore, these legislators refuse to make the connection between the destruction of the US economy and the trillion dollars spent to kill Afghans and Iraqis the past eight years. The media rarely covers the war except to promote the glory of the men and women sent to do America’s dirty work. There is no critical debate in the mainstream media. Opponents of Washington’s imperial program–rarely acknowledged in the mainstream media at any time–are now completely ignored.

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