Thursday, May 27, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, May 27, 2010.  Chaos and violence, post-election madness continues, Amnesty releases a new report on human rights abuses, Cindy Sheehan continues demanding peace, and more.
Starting with post-election madness. March 7th, Iraq finished Parliamentary elections. In the time since, Nouri al-Maliki has made clear he will have to be forced out of the prime minister post. This despite the fact that his slate (State Of The Law) came in second, behind Iraqiya (Ayad Allawi's political slate). In the many weeks -- nearly three months worth -- since, al-Maliki has thrown up one roadblock after another while attempting to discredit Iraqiya's win. He's demanded recounts and was granted a Baghdad recount. The recount found the original count to be accurate. Two Iraqiya candidates have been assassinated -- one immediately prior to the election, one earlier this week. Other Iraqiya candidates have been targeted by Nouri's government and had to go into hiding. Yesterday, Jason Ditz ( observed, "Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission today submitted the final results of the March 7 election to the nation's Supreme Court, raising the possibility that the new parliament could be seated very soon, after two and a half months of legal challenges." But it's never that easy. Muhanad Mohammed, Waleed Ibrahim, Serena Chaudhryqa and Charles Dick (Reuters) report that the country's Supreme Court has issued a statement saying "that there are some legal issues that need clarification from IHEC" and "Amel al-Birqdar, deputy head of IHEC, said the matter concerned Furat Muhsin Saeed, a candidate in Basra province for the Iraqi National Alliance, a Shi'ite bloc with close ties to Iran." Alsumaria TV reports reports that the Kurdistan Alliance plans to head to Baghdad as soon as the results are ratified and that KA's Roz Nuri "Shawes stressed the necessity to implement Constitution article 140." Tariq Alhomayed (Asharq Alawsat Newspaper) notes:

Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, said that the alliance between the State of Law coalition and the National Iraqi Alliance is like a "permanent Muslim marriage." However Muslims can also divorce, which is the most abhorred halal [religiously permissible] act to God, and Muslims are also permitted to marry more than one wife, therefore the question is what kind of marriage are we seeing in Iraq? And is what Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim said realistic?
Firstly, what the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq said about a permanent relationship between the two Shiite allies does not seem realistic. This is based upon what Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim himself said during an interview that was published in our newspaper yesterday when answering a question on the Iranian pressure on the two major Shiite powers in Iraq to form an alliance. He said "it is no secret that the Islamic Republic, in its view of the scene and its complications, was perhaps in favor of these powers joining or converging, and this is an issue that cannot be denied, that there is a desire of this kind." Therefore what is happening in Iraq today is a strictly sectarian operation, and not a democratic operation or state-building. This is something that represents an exclusion, and not just of the Sunnis, but of all Iraqi components, and unfortunately all of this is taking place as a result of clear Iranian planning, and is being justified by some Iraqis.

And click here for the interview with Ammar al-Hakim (Ma'ad Fayad interviews him).
As Iraq continues "stumbling into false starts, fumbling around with false hopes, tumbling into false hearts, mainly mine" ("Make Me Feel Something," written by Carly Simon, originally appears on her Spoiled Girl album), the US doesn't have a whole lot to brag about.  On the Senate floor to a 'debate' -- if debates can last mere minutes -- took place as Barack Obama's war funding supplemental -- he swore no more supplementals in April of 2009 but he's not real good at keeping promises.  Senator Russ Feingold introduced an amendment -- co-sponsored by Senators Barbara Boxer, Dick Durbin, Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown, Bernard Sanders, Robert Byrd and Tom Harkin -- calling for President Obama to "plan for safe, orderly, and expeditious redeployment of the United States Armed Forces from Afghanistan.  On the Senate floor, he declared:
This is not a timetable, a binding timetable. It really asks the president to give us a flexible vision, a timetable of when he would intend for this to be over.  And the senator from Michigan [Senator Carl Levin] tries to reassure us that the president has announced a start date for us to get out of Afghanistan. Well that doesn't really work because how do you feel the people in that area of the world would be reassured if we're only going to start withdrawing the troops in July of 2011? You can take one troop out.  That starts it. That's not a vision of when we intend to complete it. The senator suggests that somehow this sends the wrong message in the region.  Well actually the wrong message is that we intend to be there forever.  We don't intend to be there forever.  But you know what? After nine years, people start wondering.  Nine years.  Nine years. With no vision of when we might depart. In fact, I think the absolute worst message in the region is an open-ended committment. The worst thing we can do is not give some sense to the people of that region, to the American people and to our troops that there is some end to this thing.  And all we ask in this amendment is some vision from the president about when he thinks we might complete this task. So when this admendment is properly characterized.  It is actually a way to help us make sure that the Taliban and al Qaeda and others do not win the hearts and the minds of the Afghan people -- because they need to be reassured that we intend to make sure that their country comes back to them and that we will not occupy it indefinitely.
Feingold also noted his disappointment that "a bill providing tens of billions of dollars to keep this war going" was being proposed "with so little public debate about whether this approach makes any sense."  Senator Carl Levin responded by characterizing the amendment as one that "would reinforce fear" and stated that there is "already a deep seated fear in Afghanistan" that it would be abandoned by the US.  It was not a good moment for Levin and you half expected Russ Feingold to respond by breaking out into Annie Lennox's "Little Bird" ("They always said that you knew best, but this little bird's falling out of that nest . . .")  Instead, Feingold offered a response which included, "The senator suggests that somehow this sends the wrong message in the region. Well actually, the wrong message is that we intend to be there forever."
We're going to fall back to Tuesday for the following on numbers.  Journalists like to hide behind numbers and claim that numbers are objective and they don't lie. They may not lie but journalists damn well do decide what to emphasize and what to ignore. If you want an example of how that works, note this CBS News story by David Martin, this ABC news story by Jake Tapper, and we could go on and on but those are two of the better reporters and if that's what the best are doing . . . . Are they lying about the number of troops in Afghanistan? No, they're hiding behind that number (fed to them by the Pentagon, no reporter did the actual work on the numbers) and avoiding telling you about other numbers.               

The most important number this week, as noted in yesterday's snapshot, is 171. That's the number of US service members who have died in the Iraq War since Barack was sworn in as President of the United States. "We want to end the war! And we want to end it now!" He hollered that often as tent revivals causing damp panties for many men and women. Now? End the illegal war now? He's been in office 16 months and the Iraq War drags on. The 'peace' candidate took office 16 months ago and has not ended the Iraq War, has continued it and is responsible for those 171 deaths.      
Now the Pentagon didn't supply that number. But they supplied the number Tapper and Martin are quoting.  Why are we back to the numbers?  It's worth noting the death toll. It's worth noting the numbers Tapper and Martin dealt with Monday for another reason.  Here's Martin: "The Pentagon says there are now more U.S. troops in Afghanistan (94,000) than in Iraq (92,000), reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin."
Keep the 92,000 in mind.  Two years ago Alysha G wrote Yahoo! Answers: "How many people are in a combat brigade? I need to know for a presentation, for the persuasion of Obama." Best anser was: "They vary depending on what kind of brigade it is. Infantry brigades generally have around 3,500 soldiers and are commanded by Colonels. Armor brigades would have less soldiers."  We'll be generous and go with 4,000 per brigade.  The Pentagon just announced this week that there were 92,000 US troops in Iraq.  Yes, math is involved in this but we'll go slowly.  Scott Wilson (Washington Post) reports, "The sensitive departure is being managed by Vice President Biden, who says the U.S. military will reduce troop levels to 50,000 this summer, even if no new Iraqi government takes shape."             
Let's do the math slowly.  92,000 minus 50,000 is: 42,000.  Using 4,000 per brigade, that means there are 10.5 brigades to withdraw.  That might seem doable . . . if it weren't May 27th.  That leaves three months.  For Barack's promise to be met and the US forces to drop to 50,000 by the end of August, that means June will need to see 14,000 troops pulled from Iraq, July will need 14,000 and August will need 14,000.
Candidate Barack and his advisers insisted that one brigade a month was the magic number because it was doable without causing any strain (on the deploying functions within the military or on Iraq).  So from 4,000 a month to 14,000 a month? 
As we saw when Georgia's forces (the country, not the US state) departed, it is doable.  But so is an immediate departure of all US troops.  If Barack manages to keep this promise, the real win will be that it will underscore what so many -- including former Senator Mike Gravel and Governor Bill Richardson -- noted which was that the withdrawal could take place much more quickly than Barack was insisting it could.
Monday MP Bashar Mohammed Hamid al-Aqidi (with the Iraqiya slate) was assassinated and Tuesday he was buried. Amnesty International has issued the following:  
Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi authorities to investigate the killing of a politician in the northern city of Mosul on Monday.          

Bashar Mohammad Hamid al-'Agaidi, who was recently elected to the Iraqi parliament, was shot in the chest outside his home by armed men. His driver is also said to have been injured.             

"The Iraqi authorities must investigate this killing and bring those responsible to justice in conformity with international law and without recourse to the death penalty," said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa programme.     

"More must be done to protect the hundreds of civilians who are being killed or injured in increasing attacks by armed groups, as the ongoing uncertainty over when a new Iraqi government will be formed continues."                

According to reports, one of the attackers has been arrested by the police.          

No group has so far said it carried out the attack.                  

Bashar Mohammad Hamid al-'Agaidi was elected to the Iraqi Parliament in the national elections held on 7 March 2010. He was a candidate for al-'Iraqiyya List, led by former prime minister Iyad 'Allawi, which won, narrowly, the largest number of seats but not an overall majority.                      
The elections did not produce any clear winner and the leading political parties have so far failed to agree on who should be forming the next government.             

This political and security vacuum is being exploited by armed groups fighting against Iraqi and US forces who have intensified their suicide bombing campaign.            

In the run-up to the elections and after, hundreds of civilians, including political activists, journalists, women and members of ethnic and religious minorities, have been killed by armed groups.                  

On 27 April 2010 Amnesty International issued Iraq: Civilians Under Fire, a detailed report focusing on the plight of civilians in Iraq.                                   

Read More

Iraq must protect civilians at risk of deadly violence (News, 27 April 2010)              
Today Amnesty issues "The State of the World's Human Rights" which is a survey of 159 countries on human rights whose overview notes of Iraq:
Government forces and armed political groups continued to commit gross human rights abuses, although the overall level of violence was lower than in previous years. Thousands of civilians were killed or seriously injured in suicide and other bomb attacks by armed political groups.  The government and the US-led Multinational Force (MNF) continued to hold thousands of uncharged detaineees on security grounds, some after several years, but released thousands of others. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees by Iraqi forces, including prison guards, remained rife and were carried out with impunity. At least
1,100 prisoners were reported to be under sentence of death, many following unfair trials. The government disclosed no information about executions, but at least 120 were reported and it appeared that some were carried out in secret. At least 1.5 million people were still internally displaced within Iraq and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were refugees abroad.  New human rights violations were reported in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region where conditions generally were much better than in the rest of Iraq.
And we'll include this section on armed militias and detentions/imprisonments:
Armed political groups committed gross human rights abuses, including kidnapping, torture and murder.  Suicide bombings and other attacks targeted public places, apparently aiming to inflict civilian casualties.  Many attacks were mounted by al-Wa'ida in Iraq and by Sunni armed groups. Shi'a militia also committed abuses, including kidnapping, torture and murder. The victims included members of ethnic and religious minorities, journalists, women, gay men and other civilians.
At least 25 boys and men were killed in the first quarter of the year in Baghdad, apparently because they were or were perceived to be gay, after religious leaders in Baghdad's predominantly Shi'a district of al-Sadr City urged their followers to eradicate homosexuality. The perpetrators were believed to be armed Shi'a militia or members of the victims' own families or tribes. Many of the victims were kidnapped and tortured before they were murdered. Some had their bodies mutilated.
On 12 July, five Christian churches in Baghdad were bombed, killing four civilians and injuring at least 21 others.
On 13 August, at least 20 people were killed in a double suicide bombing in the town of Sinjar, a stronghold of followers of the Yazidi religion.
On 25 October, two suicide bombings killed at least 155 people in central Baghdad and injured more than 700. A truck bomb was detonated near the Ministries of Justice and Municipalities; minutes later a car bomb exploded outside the Baghdad Governorate building.  
On 1 January, the MNF was holding over 15,000 mostly uncharged detainess at Camp Cropper and other prisons.  This total was reduced to 6,466 by early December in accordance with the SOFA, which required that the MNF either release detainees or transfer them to Iraqi custody.  Some 7,499 detainees were released after a committee comprising representatives of several Iraqi ministries reviewed their cases and they had been interrogated by security officials. At least 1,1441 others, including some foreign nationals, were issued with arrest warrants or detention orders by Iraqi judicial authorities and transferred to Iraqi detention.
In September, the large MNF-run Camp Bucca prison near Um Qasr in southern Iraq was closed. Its inmates were released, transferred to Iraqi cutody or moved to the two remaining MNF prisons -- Camp Cropper, where most of the detained former high-ranking Ba'ath party members remained held; and Camp Taji, north of Baghdad.
On 8 April, a court in Baghdad's al-Karkh district ruled that there was insufficient evidence against Kadhum Ridha al-Sarraj and ordered his release.  However, he was not freed by the MNF until 7 October. He had been arrested on 15 September 2008 at Erbil international airport, handed to the MNF and detained without charge at Camp Cropper, apparently because his medical research led him to be suspected of bomb-making.
Violence continues in Iraq.  Will always continue throughout the illegal war and occupation.  May continue after the US leaves (and the US will leave at some point, maybe in a year, maybe in two, maybe in ten).  That's really an issue for the Iraqi people to sort out and they won't be able to do that while the US military props up 'leaders' who do not represent Iraq.  Among today's reported violence . . .  
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspaper) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left six people wounded, another which left three wounded, a third which left four injured and a fourth which left two injured while a Mosul roadside bombing which wounded two Iraqi soldiers and a Mosul home bombing which left Saleh al-Hadeedi's wife wounded. Reuters notes a Mosul mortar rounds injured eleven people
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Khattab Awni (Ministry of the Interior's Inspector General office) was assassinated yesterday and that 2 guards were shot in Mosul Tuesday. Reuters adds 1 "police captain" was shot dead yesterday in Mosul. Reuters also notes 1 person shot dead in Mosul and that professor Abdul-Kareem Mohammed was shot dead in his Sharia College office in Baghdad.
Matthew Rothschild: These books -- I don't know much about your books, so I wanted to ask you and I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't read them because I usually try to read the books before the guest comes on.
Cindy Sheehan: Right, right.
Matthew Rothschild: Myth of America: The Ten Greatest Myths of the Robber Class or the 20 greatest myths. What's the biggest myth? Or what's one of the biggest myths?
Cindy Sheehan: Well I wrote 10 Greatest Myths last -- the beginning of last year after Obama was inaugurated and I saw the policies of the Bush administration continuing without much of an outcry from the so-called left. And so I started to think, "What makes us do that? What makes us -- every four to eight years -- believe in a system that is so corrupt and-and really cancerous no matter who's in charge of the system. And so I wrote that. I went on a forty book -- I mean a forty city book tour and I realized through the discussions I had in these towns that I really didn't hit the myths enough. And so then I came back last summer and wrote The 20 Greatest Myths of the Robber Class. And the myth I started out with is the foundational myth, I think, and that's that America's the greatest nation in the universe. Not on the planet, not in history, but in the universe. And so that makes us believe all the other myths because we, most good people, no matter if they're on the so-called right or the so-called left, we really believe that if our country does something wrong, it must have good intentions. And so that's not the case. And so I wrote the 20 myths. We have to expose the myths and dispell them and then I think we could have true change for the better in this country -- whether it's through, you know -- I call for a grassroots, very localized revolutions, you know -- and, of course, they're non-violent revolutions. But taking back our economy, taking back our government, taking back even our food systems. We have to do that if we truly want to have a more healthy -- not only a more healthy United States of America but a healthier world.
Matthew Rothschild: Cindy Sheehan, this foundational myth -- as you call this -- is really profound.  It's this myth of what I call "The American Superiority Complex."  
Cindy Sheehan: Yes, exactly.
Matthew Rothschild: And the idea, as you say, is that we don't -- everything we do, as you say, is because of good intentions or if we do something that isn't working out, it's because it's an accident.

Cindy Sheehan: Right, right.
Matthew Rothschild: Or it didn't work out the way that we expected.
Cindy Sheehan: It's an aberration.
Matthew Rothschild: Or a rouge operation!
Cindy Sheehan: Right.
Matthew Rothschild: Or something. Not that it's elemental to the way that US foreign policy operates.
Cindy Sheehan: Right.
Matthew Rothschild: How is that myth propagated?  How has it become so ingrained?
Cindy Sheehan: Oh my gosh, it's propagated through our schools, through our media, through our -- even, I talk about in my books, how Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations have turned militaristic. You know, where they roll tanks down the streets in the parade and they fly the Blue Angel planes overhead.  And I tell a story about when I was second grade and my second grade teacher asked us a question -- and this was back in, let me see, 1964.  They asked a question -- she asked us a question: "If a Communist came up to you and put a gun to your head and told you not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, what would you do?"  So, of course, I raised my hand and I said I wouldn't recite it and I had to stand in the corner. So even when I was seven-years-old, I was being called unpatriotic, a traitor to this country.  So, yeah, I mean it's done through fear mongering, through Madison Avenue.  Distraction is a really good way to keep us not thinking about if  -- that our country is doing these crimes, these crimes against humanity. So there's just a lot of ways that this myth is propagated.  And the number one way it starts, it starts in the family.   
Cindy's Soapbox is a weekly radio program and her scheduled guest on the show that begins airing Sunday is former US Congress member and 2008 Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney.  We'll note another excerpt from Matthew Rothschild's interview with Cindy:
Matthew Rothschild: Why is Obama escalating the war in Afghanistan?
Cindy Sheehan: Well -- you know, that's a -- that's a very good question.  And he said he was going to do it when he was running for president.  I mean, that was one of his promises.  And so he's just fulfilling a campaign promise.  And you saw many anti-war, progressive activists that supported Obama saying: "Well that's one promise we hope he doesn't keep."  But he has kept that promise.

Matthew Rothschild: Were they just deluding themselves?  Or did they think, "Well it's worth it, no matter what."?
Cindy Sheehan: Uhm, I think it was -- And that's another question that I've been really investigating asking myself and trying to come to grips with: For eight years, did we have an anti-war movement or did we just have an anti-Bush movement? 
Matthew Rothschild: What's your answer to that?
Cindy Sheehan: I think we had an anti-Bush movement. I've been, like you said, still working really hard in the movement, in the peace movement, in the anti-war movement and in the alternative political movement, even when we have a new president.  And it is really, really hard to organize.  It's really hard to get people out in the streets anymore. There's such a lack of -- uhm -- intellectual honesty, I think, when it comes to this. A lack of integrity.  And so my whole -- my whole focus since Obama's come to power is to get us back to the realities of US policies and not personality. And I started to actually try that when George Bush was still president because I ran for Congress against Nancy Pelosi. She's supposedly the most liberal member of Congress from the most liberal district -- which, of course, are also two myths.  She's not -- well it depends upon how you define liberal. But you know, she's a politician, she's a centrist and the Democrats in San Francisco are centrists too.  So I started to try and pull people away from partisan politics to humanistic politics and it's just been very difficult. And so now these same people who fifteen, sixteen, eighteen months ago were saying "Well we have to support Obama because he's the peace candidate and he's better than McCain" are starting to say, "Oh, geez, I guess we better start organizing something because he really is fulfilling his promises." And not only is he increasing in Afghanistan, he hasn't fulfilled his promises for the withdrawal from Iraq and we have a nuclear option on the table still for Iran.
And for those who are not able to stream, Cindy then goes into ideas outlined in her article "Our Complex."  And while we're noting Cindy, we'll note this from Peace of the Action:
On July 4th, Peace of the Action will be beginning our Sizzlin' Summer Protests in Washington DC with a protest in front of the White House in Lafayette Square.
Starting at one o'clock in the afternoon, we will protest British Petroleum and its politicians and other friends in our government that led to the conditions that are causing perhaps the worst (and apparently unstoppable) environmental disaster in World History in the Gulf of Mexico.                          
On July 4th, Peace of the Action will be demanding that the Obama Administration penalize British  Petroleum in proportion to the devastation that it is causing.            
The money could go for:                    
  • Reparations to the people who are losing their livelihoods, homes, and natural beauty.                   
  • Clean-up.                
  • Wildlife rescue and refuge.                       
  • Investing in renewable, recyclable and sustainable forms of energy.         
Considering the highly unlikely probability of the U.S. government holding any corporation accountable, let alone an oil company  -- Peace of the Action believes that the answer for environmental sustainability and economic stability are in the hands of the people.      
If you can't come to DC on the 4th of July to help us protest BP, please consider holding a protest in front of your local BP gas station.              
This is just the first step, though. We need to become better citizens of this planet -- and instead of following the establishment's lines about reducing our dependence on "foreign" oil -- we must do everything to Declare Independence from all oil -- as evidenced by the Gusher in the Gulf -- all oil, foreign and domestic is harmful to the planet  -- and foreign oil is the reason for this country's addiction to war.         
Coming soon: Peace of the Action will have a Declaration of Oil Independence to sign, along with our demands, and these signatures will be delivered to the White House on the 6th of July -- the more the better.
In the meantime: do not purchase gas from BP gas stations, or ARCO AM/PM, which also sells BP gas.     
Also, try to do whatever is in your power to cut back on gas purchases -- if you never purchase gas, already -- then CONGRATULATIONS.
These are actions that cost us very little -- but if enough of us participate, we will have a profound affect on the future of life on this planet.