Tuesday, August 10, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Sawha remains targeted for violence and now they're also a target for money according to the Guardian, the Iraqi refugee crisis continues, veterans express frustration with the Obama administration and more.
"The statement by [the top US commander in Iraq] General [Ray] Odierno does not correspond to the current realties in Iraq. Iraqis cannot cope with the security of their nation by themselves, even if the US gives them money and equipment. At issue is not providing security in the ordinary sense of the word. The security of a country must be sustainable, but Iraq is a much more complex nation; fighting is ongoing and a country which has no functioning government cannot provide tangible security for the citizens."
"General Odierno spoke the words that are music to the ears of his listeners, especially US voters who want to see an end to the Iraqi military campaign. In truth, the military presence of the US in Iraq will be maintained for a long time to come. The Iraqi oil fields are a plum that cannot be given up easily."
Should the US military 'leave' Iraq, the Carr Center plan will be implemented putting thousands of foreign contractors on the ground to do military operations which will be coordinated by the US Ambassador to Iraq and other US government staff. Renee Montagne (NPR's Morning Edition) spoke with Nada Naji about some of the current knowns today. Nada Naji revealed that her hopes for a free Iraq vanished as the war continued ("nothing change and the suffering of people is just increased") and how random violence is the new norm -- leading her to pull her oldest child out of kindergarten -- and takes place with no explanation and or reason leaving everyone wary and unsure of whom to trust. She states, "Every day people dying here without any reason, only because they were in wrong place and time." In the same segment, Steve Inskeep speaks with Deborah Amos about the status of Iraqi refugees. Amos is back from Lebanon, Syria and Cairo. and explains that the slow number of refugees who have returned has gotten even slower so you're most likely looking at a refugee class of people for some time to come.
Steve Inskeep: And let's just emphasize here, is this turning into almost a permanent refugee population, a permanent population of Iraqis who will be outside their country the same way that there are Palestinians who have been outside of the Palestinian territories for decades now?
Deborah Amos: It begins to look that way. Not that there was ever a flood of returnees, there wasn't, but 2010 has been less than 2009. And people are making this calculation, that as long as there's a government crisis as the Americans drawdown, why would you go back now? It is not easy to be a refugee. It's likely that your kids are out of school. It is likely that your diet is a mess, that you're probably eating mostly, you know, sugared tea and bread, for at least two of those meals. The international community's largesse -- while never large, is less. People want this crisis to be over.
Steve Inskeep: And I suppose if you had another round of sectarian warfare, you'd have to be prepared for that possiblity of another million people coming across the border at some point.
Deborah Amos: You know, 18 months ago that was the nightmare scenario. As Americans drewdown, there would be a return to the full out sectarian war. It doesn't look like that's going to happen. However, it is this randomness of the violence and, more important, it is the inability of this government to find some power sharing agreement between Sunnis and Shi'ites. As you know, the majority of the refugees outside are Sunnis and Christians. They are watching a government that cannot come to terms with a Sunni-backed political coalition that won the most seats in Parliament, and yet has not been able to use that power to come into the prime ministership. Every country in the region is now meddling in Iraq because of the weakness of the state. And so, it is very difficult for them to consider returning. Better to wait, better to wait and see what happens.
Deborah Amos new book is entitled Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile, and Upheaval in the Middle East. As Amos noted, a large portion of the Iraqi (external) refugee population is Sunni and/or Christian. Catholic News Service reports, "The ancient Christian communities that one thrived in Iraq 'now face potential extinction,' said U.S. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, urging the United States to develop a postwar plan to help Iraq resolve the humanitarian consequences of the seven-year war." Meanwhile Steve Schmidt (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports on the Chaldean refugees resettling in the San Diego and El Cajon area and how St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Catherdal 's Father Michael "Bazzi will speak Thursday to more than 200 schoolteachers and education staffers who want to get a better fix on the immigrants and what brought them here." Schmidt notes "a recent San Diego State University study" found that "one out of four Iraqi refugees coming to the U.S. ends up in San Diego County." Refugees International issued the following last Thursday:
As the Security Council seeks to renew the mandate for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), Refugees International urges the UN to put humanitarian objectives, and not only development needs, at the forefront of its work in Iraq. Craig Johnstone, Refugees International interim president, stated:
"Security rules have restricted UN staff's access to people, who desperately need their help and protection. The UN needs to relax these restrictions, so that humanitarian needs can be properly addressed. The staff of RI have traveled without security escorts throughout most of Baghdad, and in other locations, so it is possible to do more."
"There are an estimated one and a half million displaced people in Iraq, 500,000 of whom live as squatters in slums. These people have no land rights, no access to basic health and sanitation, and are almost entirely dependent on the UN.
"Many of these families live under cardboard, alongside polluted rivers and amongst garbage dumps. Some are completely dependent upon the UN to provide clean water. Refugees International urges the UN to work with member states to help these people until long term solutions become available. They should not resort to such desperate measures. Displaced people have the right to more protection."
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises and receives no government or UN funding. www.refugeesinternational.org.
And the Iraqi refugee crisis is not the only thing continuing. Also continuing is the political stalemate. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 3 days.
And today Alsumaria TV reports that State Of Law's Ali al-Dabbagh states that there will be no formation of a government this month and that "it is not easy to set dates to announce the formation of the new Iraqi government." Nouri went to the KRG Sunday seeking their support and leading to many rumors of what he might be bargaining/bartering with. The report by Namo Abdulla and Hemin Baban (Rudaw) won't calm any fears among Shi'ites:
Maliki reiterated in Erbil that he is best candidate for prime minister and not going to compromise. "Just like any other side, we have our own candidate for the post of prime minister" Maliki said. Maliki expressed his full support for Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, a package that could annex the oil-rich city of Kirkuk to Kurdistan, through a referendum it calls for. Maliki's words were not taken as serious by Kurds as they were five years ago when he made a pledge to implement the article. He has never done it, though. "No one will be able to block article 140," said Maliki.
In addition, Alsumaria TV reports, "Member of Iraqi Kurdistan Alliance Ala Talabani said that the coalition of the Kurdish blocs back Al Maliki for a second term and pointed out to the importance of political accordance and the formation of a national partnership government." Arab News offers this analysis:
There are two clear dangers here. The first is already manifest. The power vacuum continues to be exploited by those who are opposed to the American occupation with bombings and murders. The bloodshed may not be on the scale of the past, but as the police and security forces battle with them, they carry the disheartening knowledge that they are acting in the name of a political process that is proving itself spectacularly incoherent or incomprehensible to outsiders. The second danger is perhaps less well appreciated. It is that Iraqis will become used to living without a government and will fall even further back upon the support and resources of their different communities. Though in some respects this may not be a bad thing, we should not forget that Iraq is a country deeply polarized by war and occupation. In such a situation it is easy for anybody -- the occupying authorities, disgruntled Iraqis or neighbors -- to sharpen the divisions between the communities and with these schisms, the death squads will return to the streets, butchering innocent individuals purely because they come from a different confessional or ethnic background.
The refugee crisis didn't stop, the political stalemate didn't stop. The violence? You know it didn't stop.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured two people and 3 Baghdad bombings "in quick succession" which claimed 4 lives and left twenty people injured. Reuters notes a Jurf al-Sakhar home invasion in which Sahwa leader Malik al-Janabi and 3 of his bodyguards were murdered, a Baghdad roadside bombing in which two people were injured and last night, Alsumaria TV adds that "rockets fell in the US Embassy campus in the Green Zone, the damages were not determined yet, police sources told Alsumaria News. As soon as the rocket fell sirens wailed inside the Green Zone and helicopters roamed in the surrounding." ,
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Adnan Khidhir ("owner of a currency exchange business") was shot dead in Kirkuk "late Monday," a Salahuddin Province attack left a football player and Kurdish intelligence officer injured, and a Monday Mosul attack which left six people wounded.
Reuters notes 1 corpse (handcuffed) discovered in Jurf al-Sakhar.
Sahwa remains under attack. Dropping back to yesterday's snapshot to note the one reporter going beyond "al Qaeda in Iraq!":
Interestingly, Michael Jansen (Irish Times) appears to be the only one offering anything other than that, "The rise in violence is attributed to two factors. First, analysts say al-Qaeda, which has claimed a number of recent attacks, is reviving because it is recruiting former members of so-called 'awakening councils', made up of Sunni militiamen who joined the US in the 2007-2008 war against al-Qaeda and its allies." Jansen goes on to note how Nouri never did supply the jobs the Sahwa needed. But possibly noting that explanation would underscore just how much the violence is Nouri's fault?
Al-Qaida is attempting to make a comeback in Iraq by enticing scores of former Sunni allies to rejoin the terrorist group by paying them more than the monthly salary they currently receive from the government, two key US-backed militia leaders have told the Guardian.
They said al-Qaida leaders were exploiting the imminent departure of US fighting troops to ramp up a membership drive, in an attempt to show that they are still a powerful force in the country after seven years of war.
Meanwhile, as Gen Ray Odierno prepares to be "outgoing" commander in Iraq, he tells Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) that Iraq's security forces need lots of money. We're also supposed to hiss and boo that when Ray & company requested $2 billion, 'mean old' Senator Carl Levin cut it down to one billion. Having spent $18 billion of US tax payer moneys on 'security forces' in Iraq already, the $1 billion is not only more than generous, it's honestly more than American can afford.
And note all that gets ripped off and ignored to toss over that $1 billion as well as other wasted monies. Noting Barack Obama's weekly address given Saturday, Sarah Kliff (Politico) reports, "The address came shortly after the administration launched a months-long, multimillion-dollar television campaign featuring Andy Griffith to promote health reform's free preventive care and lower prescription costs." A multi-million dollar campaign? To sell what? A piece of crap legislation. Where's the money going? It's a PSA, where is the money going? Though no one in the press will bother to ask that question (look for those faux news segments on your local news trumpeting ObamaCare), note where it's not going: to address PTSD and veterans suicides.
July 14th, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing on veterans' suicides, chaired by US House Rep Harry Mitchell. From that hearing we'll note this: US House Rep John Hall: Thank you. I know I'm over my time. But I would just mention that this committee has -- the full Veterans Affairs Committee on the House side has voted to give funding not just for PSA, as Ranking Member Roe mentioned, but for paid advertising. And IAVA who will hear from shortly partnered with the Ad Council in one effort to put together an ad that was more powerful than the average PSA -- Public Service Announcement -- shown in the middle of the night because that's when the time's the cheapest and the TV station will give it up to do there public service whereas what we really need is advertising during the Superbowl, during American Idol, during the highest rated shows, during prime time where the half-hours -- I mean, the thirty-second spot costs the most money. But we're willing to do that to advertise "Be All That You Can Be" [Army recruitment ad], or "The Few, The Proud, The Marines" -- you know, the lightening bolt coming down onto the sword. And if we want to recruit and attract people to go into the armed services and to go fight for our country, we'll spend the money for prime time advertising but when it comes time to help them find the resources that they need to stay healthy after they come home, we want to do it on the cheap. And just do it at 3:00 a.m. in the morning on a PSA. And I think that needs to change, something we in Congress should fund so that the outreach is just as strong afterwards as it is before they were recruited.
Millions aren't being spent on that. Despite the large number of veterans taking their own lives, despite the large number of service members taking their own lives. But the White House has multi-millions to waste as a campaign tool? US tax payer dollars being wasted for what really is nothing but propaganda purposes. The Baxter Bulletin notes today:
If they haven't yet captured the attention of the American public, the suicide rates in the U.S. Army have sounded alarms among veterans groups and in the active-duty military. The Army suicide rates doubled from 2001 to 2006, even as civilian rates of suicides remained the same. Last year, 160 soldiers killed themselves -- the Army says 60 percent were "first-term" soldiers, or those with one or no deployments to war zones -- and more than 1,700 soldiers made attempts on their lives.
It's not a minor issue and Mark Benjamin (Salon via Veterans Today) reports that many veterans are beginning to express frustration with the administration over the lack of focus on PSTD and on suicide -- including veterans who, in 2008, were part of Veterans For Obama:
The flagging support among veterans results from a combination of unforced errors by the White House in basic constituency relations, coupled with rising frustration that the Obama administration is not aggressive enough in tackling wartime crises that continue to escalate, like suicides in the military. The damage is serious enough that it threatens to lurk as a political liability for Obama in 2012, since disgruntled surrogates might refuse to help the next time around.
"Suicides are skyrocketing, people are being deployed to war with PTSD, people are being denied their healthcare benefits, and the Obama administration is allowing the Department of Defense to punish people who are suffering from PTSD rather than giving them the medical care they deserve," said Steve Robinson, a retired Army Ranger and longtime veterans advocate who has worked for a number of veterans' organizations. Robinson closely advised then-Sen. Obama on veterans policy and was prominently featured in a video tribute to Obama made by the campaign that played at the Democrats' 2008 convention in Denver. "I am confident that he believes in this generation and that he is actually putting into practice what he believes," Robinson said about Obama, from a huge TV screen at the convention. The Democratic nominee fought for vets, he added, "by stepping out, by speaking up, by legislating, by holding government accountable to take care of this generation when they send them to war."
Now, Robinson says he can't get his e-mails returned. "There is a deafness in the White House," Robinson said. "Let's forget about the idea that you might want to do the right thing and keep your campaign promises. It is politically stupid."
At its seventh annual national convention in Austin, Texas, IVAW called for the prosecution of senior Bush administration officials for allegedly conspiring to manipulate intelligence in order to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
IVAW alleges that Bush administration officials conspired to create the perception that Saddam Hussein presented an imminent threat to the United States in order to bypass an uncooperative U.N. Security Council and secure a congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq. The growing body of evidence, including testimony from British officials in the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry, indicates that Bush officials could be charged with criminal offenses against the United States and violations of international law for making false claims to national self-defense.
Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution vests the power to authorize use of military force in the Legislative Branch, not the Executive. In order to do so responsibly the Congress must be provided with accurate and objective intelligence. Bush officials' alleged distortion of the intelligence picture created a climate of fear and uncertainty in which the constitutional power of Congress was subverted.
IVAW further alleges that the Bush administration's alterations to Iraqi laws were made for the intended benefit of U.S. multinational corporations and are illegal under international law. Efforts to pressure Iraqi officials to open up the country's oil industry to foreign investment exacerbated the insurgency and undermined the U.S. military's ostensible mission there.
IVAW finally asserts that senior Bush officials are responsible for the illegal treatment of Iraqi and Afghan officials in U.S. custody and that this treatment was detrimental to the security of American citizens.
Tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of deaths have resulted from the Bush administration's disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq. Millions of Iraqis have been internally displaced and hundreds of thousands are forced to subsist as refugees in neighboring countries. Thousands of American men and women have lost their lives and tens of thousands suffer from wounds sustained while fighting there. Families and communities across the United States are now suffering from veteran suicides, homelessness, substance abuse and domestic violence. The long-term cost of this war, including the provision of VA support for our returning veterans, is estimated to run into the trillions.