Sunday, March 07, 2010

And the war drags on . . .

In Sunday’s wide-open parliamentary elections, it’s impossible to know which candidates and political parties and alliances will get the approval from voters and their ink-stained fingers. But whoever comes out on top, and whatever coalition gets built, the new government’s success or failure will be hugely consequential not only for Iraq, but also for the United States and the Middle East.

The above is from the Christian Science Monitor's "Iraq elections on March 7: high stakes, shaky hopes" -- leave it to the Monitor to make the point everyone else ignores as they, like Barack, rush in to (yet again) repeat the mantra of "Milestone! Milestone!" His pronouncement is echoed (with less exclamation) in public statements made by US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General David Petraeus. If we all kick in, can we buy US foreign policy elites a new Sherpa? Far From The Chattering Crowd, Nadia Taha (New York Times' At War blog) explains:

Popular opinion largely reflected the sparse interest found on Arab news sites. A poll on the Al Jazeera Web site, for example, asks readers if the elections “could end the crisis in Iraq.” Of more than 10,000 votes on the site, more than 90 percent said, “No.” However minimal the press coverage, the election and its outcome are likely being followed closely in capitals across the Middle East, as Iraq’s neighbors await to see the impact of the results on the stability of the country.

Puzzling moments of the day? There's the what the hell was Pamela Bellwood doing at the Academy Awards and on stage yacking about George Clooney? Oh, wait, that was Julia Roberts apparently determined to annouce that the career truly is over. A decade of bad choices, trying to play First Lady of the Stage on the Screen (the same 'career move' that sent Susan Sarandon off to TV work), lousy box office and now too damn old to be (a) remembered by the bulk of today's ticket buyers or (b) carry a popcorn movie, it's apparently over. The curtain has come down on the entire Clooney Pack. America doesn't buy tickets to them, they don't win awards anymore, they're overexposed and everyone's bored by them (Julia, George, Matt Damon, et al). Bye-bye, liberal War Hawks, crawl back under your rocks. Congratulations to the awesomely deserving Kathryn Bigelow (Best Director and Best Picture), Sandra Bullock (Best Actress), and Jeff Bridges (Best Actor). So there was Julia Roberts looking like Pamela Bellwood and then there's a TV report on Iraqi voting, San Francisco's KGO-ABC shows just how much a joke the elections were (link has text and video). To be really clear, if you're an Iraqi refugee, you left after the war started. If you left under Saddam, if you've never been to Iraq except for a brief visit? You're not a refugee. You've made your life in another country. These people shouldn't have been allowed to vote. They have made their lives -- for more than a decade -- two and three decades in some cases -- in the United States. They have raised families here. They can claim they left because of Saddam Hussein and I don't doubt them but he was overthrown in 2003 and they didn't return. They're not refugees and they shouldn't have been allowed to vote. The refugee population at this point are those displaced by the current war and occupation. Some Iraqis in America for thirty years now seem to see themselves as the mythical Anastasia, always on the verge of returning and restoring the Romanov rule.

Here's another reality. Every one who voted in those Iraqi elections that are on US soil? They shouldn't be allowed to vote in US elections. It's one or the other. You're an American participating in US elections or you're just a guest (despite US citizenship). This is nonsense. How does that nonsense reflect on claims of democracy? I guess it just reveals the claim to be a lie.

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 4380. Tonight? 4380. Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .

Reuters notes a Baghdad bombing claimed 25 lives and left twenty people injured, another Baghdad bombing claimed 4 lives and left twelve people wounded, Baghdad mortar attacks left eleven injured, a series of Baghdad roadside bombings which claimed 4 lives and left sixteen people injured, a Baghdad rocket attack which claimed 4 lives and left sixteen people wounded, a Falljua mortar attack which left six people injured, a Mahmudiya mortar attack claimed 1 life and left eleven people injured, a Yusufiya mortar attack that injured one person, a Mosul roadside bombing which left two people injured, a Mosul grenade attack which left seven people injured, and a combination of Iraqi forces, US forces and Kurdish peshmerga shot a Mosul council member and two bodyguards with the shooting being termed "a misunderstanding."

And this is what has Barack boasting? At least 38 reported deaths? At least 105 reported wounded? This is something to boast of? Really?

And that's before you even factor in that the whole country was under crackdown for the voting. Curfews, vehicle bans. None of it did a damn bit of good, now did it?

People still voted! It's a miracle!

People voted out of fear. The elections turned up the intra-Iraq hatred. The campaigning was about demonizing "the other" -- whether your were Sunni or Shia or Kurd os another category. That's reality. And reality is that Iraq will be living with the consequences of that for some time to come. Stephen Starr (Los Angeles Times) injects some reality into the wave of Operation Happy Talk:

But according to one former aide to Saddam Hussein, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has already stolen Sunday’s election by destroying the Sunni Arab vote.

“Maliki is trying to repress the entire Sunni population of Iraq by disallowing any Sunni candidate with even the remotest link to the Baath Party,” said Nizar Samarai, the director-general of the presidential office and an advisor to Hussein until the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“By trying to outlaw the Baath Party, he is setting in place a new civil war," Samari said. "But we are ready to fight."

He conceded that the Iraqi Baath Party is involved in fomenting instability in the country, but would not give any exact details on how. But Samarai maintains it had nothing to do with the “Black Wednesday” attacks last August, which killed more than 100 people, and instigated a deep freeze in relations between Syria and Iraq.

Martin Chulov (Guardian) offers some Iraqi takes on the election including the following two:

"We got up at 7am and were planning to vote. Next thing. I was digging my wife out of the rubble. She is eight months pregnant and both her legs are broken. My children are not badly wounded but look at their eyes. We don't have a future, we want to leave. We need to go somewhere else to secure anything like a future. I hope my family can stay in the hospital. This is the only place we have."

--Zuhair Hikmat, 40, at the Yarmuk hospital in central Baghdad

"I left my house to go to the election centre at 7am. I walked near a pile of rubbish and the bomb went off. I think this situation will deteriorate again. I am unemployed and they were going to pay me for one day's work. Now I have nothing."

--Salim Turki Najim, 45, from the west Baghdad neighbourhood of al-Hurriya

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this and Pru notes Sian Ruddick's "Anti-war soldier sent to prison" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Joe Glenton, the British soldier who has refused to return to fight in Afghanistan, was sentenced to nine months in military prison today.

Joe raised his fist in defiance as he was escorted from the court martial in Colchester, Essex.

His mother, Sue Glenton, spoke outside the military court, saying, “The Ministry of Defence is the only employer that ignores its duty of care towards its employees. It has let us down, it has let Joe down and it has let his comrades down.”

John Tipple, Joe’s legal case worker, said, “This is an outrage and we will be appealing.”

Forty five people demonstrated outside the hearing. Protests to support Joe took place in nine countries today, including Russia and Germany.

The army saw fit to imprison Joe despite the fact he is certified as suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Joe had voiced his worries in the army about the operations in Afghanistan. His doubts were met with cries that he was a “coward” and a “malingerer”. As a result he was bullied.

The campaign for justice for Joe continues.

The following should be read alongside this article:
» Anti-war soldier faces jail as Brown gets off

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