Thursday, June 03, 2010

Barzani's Turkish visit, refugees and more

KRG President Masoud Barzani is in Turkey on a five-day visit, his first since 2004 and his first since becoming president of the KRG which notes, "President Barzani, who is heading a senior KRG delegation in this visit, will discuss with the Turkish leadership several issues of mutual concern including bilateral trade relations between Turkey and the Kurdistan Region, border security and Iraq-Turkey relations." AFP adds, "The separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought Ankara since 1984, has bases in remote mountains in Barzani's autonomous region in northern Iraq, which it uses as a launching pad for attacks on Turkish targets across the border." AP reports that Barzani met today with Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey's Foreign Minister, and the PKK was one of the topics the two discussed. Today's Zaman adds:

"Turkey wants all regional relations and the historical course in its region to normalize," Davutoglu told a joint press conference with Massoud Barzani, head of the regional administration in the north of Iraq, in Ankara.
Davutoğlu said, "of course, we will respect our borders, and implement all factors that are the requirements of international law, but we will know that we can build our common future with all the sister nations."

Alistair Lyon (Reuters) reports from Syria where 165,000 Iraqi refugees have registered with the UN -- most do not register. Nahla is a refugee who did register and she left Iraq after her 12-year-old son was murdered:

In a black robe, with a green headscarf framing her soft, pale face, she wipes away tears as she pulls legal documents, newspaper clippings and medical reports from a faded folder, along with family photos of Usama -- and one of his body.
Animals had gnawed his face, so his parents only recognized him by his clothes and a scar on his chest. A post-mortem found the boy had been tortured, raped and mutilated by his captors.
There is also a photograph of Nahla's brother-in-law, who was killed later as the family pursued a case against the kidnappers, three of whom were caught and are now on death row.

Baha Mousa was an Iraqi working in a hotel when the British military arrested him on September 14, 2003 and September 16, 2003, while in British custody, he was dead having been beaten so badly by British troops he had over ninety-three injuries. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) reports on the ongoing inquiry into Baha's murder:

The minister responsible for the conduct of the armed forces today admitted that he misinformed MPs about the abuse of Iraqi detainees.
Adam Ingram, armed forces minister at the time Baha Mousa, a Basra hotel worker, died in the custody of British soldiers, blamed his officials and his own "failure to recollect" for misleading information given to parliament.

Adm Mike Mullen is the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and he spoke at Fort Bragg yesterday.
Martha Quillin (Raleigh News & Observer via Miami Herald) reports, "Openly gay recruits will likely be admitted into the military, and the services will adjust to their presence, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a group of soldiers at Fort Bragg on Wednesday." The military's Sgt 1st Class Michael J. Carden quotes Mullen stating, "The law needs to change. Fundamentally, it's an issue of our values. It's very critical for us as an institution, and I'm hard-pressed not to support policy and a law that forces individuals to come in and lie everyday."

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "Opening Soviet Archives Providing New Insight Into Stalin's Mind" (Veterans Today):

Historians today are only coming to understand the complex and sophisticated individual that was Joseph Stalin, who ruled Russia for nearly thirty years until his death in 1953. Much of the information shedding light on the character of the dictator is being unearthed from the archives of the Soviet Union, opened in the 1990s after the collapse of Communism, and which is the source material for a series of some 25 books titled The Annals of Communism, published by Yale University Press. Now Jonathan Brent, former editorial director of the Press, has written a companion “Inside The Stalin Archives” to help get at what he terms is “a true understanding of one of the giant phenomena of the 20th century” that was Soviet Communism. Brent said in an interview with host Lawrence Velvel on the television show Books of our Time, produced by the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, that understanding the archives is vital not only for political and educational reasons but for “the moral education of our children and of future generations.” Even during the height of the Cold War, Brent says, the West did not recognize “the true dimensions of the system that was being fought by the United States.” It was “a system that attempted to define everything in your life, from the toothbrush you used, to the wife you married, to the children you had, to the profession you had, and to your belief system in general.” Brent asserts that Soviet Communism “was successful to a greater extent than we understood, which is why today Russia is returning in many respects to that world that we thought collapsed in 1991.”
To begin with, people err who dismiss Stalin as some sort of paranoid madman. The man was not a criminal who personally beat, tortured, or shot people, even if he was responsible for the deaths of millions of human beings. He didn't, himself, torture people, not like Ivan the Terrible who threw people out the window, who killed his own son. He was a highly functional individual who was also a man of simple tastes and the father of three children “who did not believe that he was constrained by any moral law, because all moral laws were relative to him,” Brent says. Stalin would never criticize things on the basis that they were bad or approve them because they were good. “He would never use the word ‘kind,’” Brent says. “He would never use any of those words that are in our moral vocabulary. He had no moral vocabulary. If he wanted to denounce you, he would say you were an opportunist, or a deviationist. He wouldn’t denounce you on the grounds you’re a bad person because you broke a moral code.” Those denounced were accused of breaking a code of discipline of the Communist Party. In the world that he constructed, he was “utterly rationalistic,” Brent says. “You could say that Stalin was blind to pragmatic solutions to a problem, which would from time to time be brought to him, and the people who brought (the solutions) to him would normally be shot," the historian said. Where the U.S. today has many institutions that help disperse power by breaking it up into bits and pieces "that keeps us sane,” Soviet society concentrated its power all in one place, so that it was “monstrous and utterly horrendous---murderous."

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