Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Another town cancels Christmas in Iraq

Christmas is sparkling
Out on Carol's lawn
This girl of my childhood games
With kids nearly grown and gone
Grown so fast
Like the turn of a page
We look like our mothers did now
When we were those kids' age
Nothing lasts for long
Nothing lasts for long
Nothing lasts for long
-- "Chinese Cafe," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her Wild Things Run Fast

Yesterday came news that Kirkuk would not publicly celebrate Christmas. AP reports this means no decorations, no "traditional Santa Claus appearance outside one of the city's churches" and that Mosul has followed Kirkuk's lead as the Islamic State of Iraq issued a threat yesterday that more Christians would be attacked. We noted Amnesty's statement yesterday but the US version (we noted the UK) contains an audio option. And for any who missed the statement, we'll note the opening of it:

Amnesty International today called on the Iraqi government to do more to protect the country's Christian minority from an expected spike in violent attacks as they prepare to celebrate Christmas.
Attacks on Christians and their churches by armed groups have intensified in past weeks and have clearly included war crimes,â?? said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
We fear that militants are likely to attempt serious attacks against Christians during the Christmas period for maximum publicity and to embarrass the government.
Last year armed groups carried out fatal bomb attacks on churches in Mosul on 15 and 23 December. Some 65 attacks on Christian churches in Iraq were recorded between mid-2004 and the end of 2009.
The increase in violence against Christians in the last month takes place against a backdrop of sectarian violence in Iraq, including several bomb attacks on Shi'a gatherings last week during the Ashura period, which have reportedly killed more than a dozen people.

The latest wave of attacks on Iraqi Christians began October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Since then Iraqi Christians in Baghdad and Mosul have been especially targeted with many fleeing the country or fleeing to the KRG region of Iraq. Middle East Online reports:

Jerusalem's Latin Patriarch Fuad Twal offered his solidarity and support to Christians in Iraq after a bloody October hostage-taking at a Baghdad cathedrak that killed 44 worshippers, two priests and seven security force personnel.
"We were shocked and troubled by the massacre of Christians in Baghdad in the Church of Perpetual Help," Twal said in his Jerusalem headquarters.
"We condemn this violence. It's a pity to empty Iraq of its Christian citizens... It's a pity for us, for the Muslims themselves, for Iraq, for the Christians themselves.

Turning to the US where Bill Hutchinson (New York Daily News) reported at the start of the week on a Saturday ceremony to honor US Maj Alan Rogers who died January 27, 2008 from a Baghdad IED while serving in Iraq. He became the first known gay service member to die in the Iraq War. Hutchinson noted, "Daily News columnist Michael Daly featured Rogers in his Sunday column, detailing how he sacrificed his life for a country that made him hide his homosexuality in order to fight for it." Saturday the Senate, following the House's lead, voted to take Don't Ask, Don't Tell off the books. Amanda Terkel (Huffington Post) reports on a proposed bill that hasn't been voted on:

In 2008, a young sergeant named Coleman S. Bean took his life. After completing his first tour of duty in Iraq, he had come home and been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Nevertheless, he was deployed to Iraq a second time. Bean had sought treatment for PTSD but as a member of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR), he found fewer resources available to him than to veterans and active-duty members.

In April, Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) introduced legislation named after the late soldier meant to provide more resources for suicide prevention to Reserve members. The House in May incorporated it into the National Defense Authorization Act for 2011, but it was stripped from the final version, and Holt is pointing the finger at the lead Republican negotiator on the Senate legislation, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

"Twice now, the Senate has stripped this legislation from our defense bill," Holt told The Huffington Post Tuesday. "It's hard to understand why. I know for a fact, because he told me, that Sen. McCain doesn't support it. Whether he's the only one, I don't know. But there was no effort to try to improve the language or negotiate changes; it was just rejected, and I think that is not only bad policy, but it's cruel. It's cruel to the families that are struggling with catastrophic mental health problems."

Meanwhile, the Iraq War has a stronger chance of showing up in US papers in advice column than in a news story. Annie's Mailbox, Boston Globe's advice column, features a letter today from a woman married to an Iraq War veteran who is struggling and self-medicating. The wife is eight months pregnant and not sure what to do. Annie:

It’s a shame Bill is unwilling to get help when he clearly needs it. He may be suffering from PTSD, or he may have developed an alcohol problem, or both. But whether or not he is willing to get help, you absolutely must. You can get information on PTSD through the Veterans Administration at We also recommend you contact Military OneSource ( at 800-342-9647. It is a great resource for service members, vets, and their families.

For the record, I'm not mocking advice columns now or when we've highlighted them in the past. I am trying to underscore that while a national press runs from the war, there are many people in this country who can't and that one of the few outlets that continues to acknowledge the ongoing war is the advice columns.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends