Monday, October 11, 2010

Iraq's forgotten women, the stalemate continues and more

The United Nation's Walter Kalin speaks with WRS (World Radio Switzerland) today.

Walter Kalin: Many of them have found a kind of acceptable way of life but as many are living in very, very difficult conditions particularly in Baghdad there because there was no alternative they had to squat on the public land where they are illegally occupying public buildings. They are threatened by eviction. They are really living in poverty, totally inadequate housing, no access to water, in some parts of the city even no access to education and health. Up in the north, it's a bit better. But people up there spend the meager income they have mainly on rent meaning that they can't send their kids to school. There's a huge amount of child labor. And we're also told that for instance involving trafficking which is a general problem, displaced women are prone to be a target.

Last week, Walter was wrongly billed by me as Walter Kearns. I do not regret the error. Especially when I hear him babble on about 'safety' when you consider 2006 . . . 2006 is four years ago. 2006 was the height of ethnic cleansing. While, in 2010, it might make some sense to point to 2009 if a yearly trend can be established, it makes no sense to hide behind 2006. After bringing it up, he quickly adds, "But still if you're looking just at the UN security reports, there are security incidents everyday particularly in and around Baghdad, in and around Mosul." So, no, the answer it isn't safe in Iraq. Jenny Liu (Student Life) reports on a reality-based speaker who visiting Washington University:

"War ripples on," said guest lecturer Dr. Cynthia Enloe, who spoke Friday on the ramifications that the three wars in one and a half generations have had on Iraq's social fabric.
Her lecture, "The Invisible Costs of War," focused on women's access to paid work during wartime and traced the saga of Iraqi women's history in order to describe the social consequences of the Iraq war in human terms.
Enloe, a research professor at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., in the Department of International Development, Community and Environment, recently won the Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement in Peace Studies Award for her research on women and international politics.
Enloe's presentation revealed a facet of Iraqi history outside the scope of mainstream media.
"I was struck most by how new all of this is, considering I had been following the news. I guess this wasn't covered on the news," said first-year doctoral student Chelsea Neil.

Meanwhile Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports that two Sunni groups not affiliated with the non-sectarian Iraqiya -- Tawafuq Party and United Iraq -- which control 10 seats have formed their own coalition and announced that yesterday. They're attempting to translate their 10 seats into some sort of influence at the bargaining table.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 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 seven months and four days and counting.

In an article filled with interesting details about the stalemate, Thom Shanker and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) report, "In Baghdad and in Washington, American officials were taken by surprise when the Sadrists joined Mr. Maliki's coalition on Oct. 1 to nominate him for the prime minister's position. That put Mr. Maliki in reach of a majority of seats in the new 325-member Parliament, raising fears that a Shiite-dominated majority, potentially beholden to ran, would alienate the country’s Sunnis." One Shi'ite group not yet rushing into Nouri's embrace is the Islamic Supreme Council and their leader Ammar Al Hakim. Alsumaria TV reports, "Melkert conveyed the General Assembly and the Security Council interest in Iraq and their call to make progress in government formation talks. UN Chief representative stressed the necessity to engage all parties in the new government."

In today's violence, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports, "Gunmen wearing Iraqi army uniforms stormed at least four houses, pulled the residents outside and shot them -- killing four, police in Baghdad said." Reuters adds that the 4 were Sahwa and that two more were injured, and the news agency also notes a Baghdad roadside bombing injured the Ministry of the Interior's head of evidence Maj Gen Abdul Munim Saeed and his driver, a Falluja home invasion in which 1 police officer (it was his house invaded) was killed, a Qaim roadside bombing which injured four police officers, a Kirkuk roadside bombing which injured one doctor and an Abu Ghraib roadside bombing which injured eight people (including one Iraqi soldier).

Bonnie notes that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Barack Desmond" went up last night as did Kat's "Kat's Korner: Neil Young's Le Noise." We'll close with this from Debra Sweet's "Telling the truth vs. the election game" (World Can't Wait):

It’s election time, and our problem, as people who care about humanity, is not that the Democratic Party is likely to lose big at the polls. Our problem is that the crimes of our government continue under the Democrats, and far too few of the millions in this country who know this are acting to stop these crimes by independent, mass action.

Case: October 2nd. As thousands of people streamed towards the One Nation Working Together rally at the Lincoln Memorial, they saw a bright orange banner with the words “War Crimes Must Be Stopped – No Matter Who Does Them!” In the crowd of union workers, teachers, and progressive minded people brought to Washington by the NAACP and unions, they might have just nodded agreement, or shaken their heads at the mugshot of George Bush on the banner.

But next to the image of Bush on that banner is a mugshot of Barack Obama. This stopped many hundreds of people to take photos and gather around. The World Can’t Wait supporters, some wearing orange jumpsuits to symbolize the indefinite detention and torture still going on at Guantanamo, distributed thousands of flyers detailing a few of the war crimes in 2010, and struggled ably and with persistence, over what the facts are. Some who stopped agreed that the image was truthful, shaking their heads over how disappointed they are with the Democrats. But, of those who stopped, more disagreed, and some were disbelieving or angry at the comparison. “You can’t say that about Obama! Obama wouldn’t do any of those things! You should have been out here when Bush started it! You’re just helping the Tea Party!”

Case: October 7th: On the ninth anniversary of the day the Bush regime sent US forces to invade Afghanistan, World Can’t Wait ran an ad in The New York Times. “Crimes are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them!” it said, “End the silence of complicity,” with three examples from 2010 of how the Obama administration is “in some respects, worse than Bush:”

“Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly. Second, Obama says that the government can detain you indefinitely, even if you have been exonerated in a trial, and he has publicly floated the idea of “preventive detention.” Third, the Obama administration, in expanding the use of unmanned drone attacks, argues that the U.S. has the authority under international law to use such lethal force and extrajudicial killing in sovereign countries with which it is not at war.” The ad was signed by an impressive list including Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, Cindy Sheehan, Mark Ruffalo, Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges, and Roseanne Barr.

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