Thursday, Decmeber 9, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc is in the news, Byron Dorgan delivers his farewell speech on the Senate floor, Human Rights Day is tomorrow, sexist attacks continue on rape victims -- they are attacks on all victims and they need to stop, and more.
A US soldier has been announced dead by the military becoming the first soldier killed in Iraq this month. Xinhua quotes from the statement: "A soldier assigned to United States Forces-Iraq was killed on December 8 while conducting operations in southern Iraq." Bushra Juhi (AP) notes the death and that 2 police officers died this morning while on a Baghdad patrol. Reuters notes 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Taji, and, dropping back to yesterday for both, 1 police officer was shot dead in Baghad and Omar Jassim Mohammed (Supreme Judiciary Council's auditing department head) was shot deadin Baghdad.
The violence continues in Iraq including a new wave of violence targeting Iraqi Christians which began (this latest wave) with an assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad October 31st which left at least 70 people and at least another seventy injured. Prashant Rao (AFP) reports that today, 40 days after the attack, many Iraqi Christians attended prayers. Father Amir Jaje is quoted stating, "Today, we began the prayers, and tomorrow we will have the mass to mark 40 daays. Many of the participants in the ceremony today were present during the attacks or were related to victims of the attack -- they all needed some moral support. Despite the terror and the violence that happened here, they came here once again and expressed their love for those who died." Wednesday, Alsumaria TV quoted Pope Benedict XVI stating, "Respect for the rights of all is a requisite for civil coexistence. May this, our prayer to the Lord and our solidarity bring hope to those who are suffering. I am thinking about many difficult situations, like the continual attacks against Christians and Muslims in Iraq." And they noted, "Iraq's Immigration and Displaced Directorate in Dahuk Province announced that it has received more than 80 Christian families displaced from Baghdad and Mosul in fear of armed attacks. The Directorate expects more families to move soon." AKI notes today that Basra has just lost 40 Christian families who have fled due to safety concern.
Iraq's still not safe. And it still has no executive government (the president is a ceremonial post, the Parliament is legislative). Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reports today that politicians are scrambling for posts in Nouri's cabinet: "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has the better part of this month to name government ministers from the big winning parties in March elections, after rival factions agreed to a power-sharing deal last month. To do so, he has fallen back on a controversial points system that seeks to match the relative prestige of each cabinet portfolio with a party's electoral performance." Al Iraq Net is reporting that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc is getting the post of Deputy Prime Minister. And Currency Newshounds reports that the Parliament is set to meet Sunday with the budget as one of the topics on deck. It's the appearance of movement, if not actual movement.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "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. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now nine months, two days and counting. Thursday November 25th, Nouri was finally 'officially' named prime minister-designate. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explained, "In 30 days, he is to present his cabinet to parliament or lose the nomination." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) added, "Even if Mr. Maliki meets the 30-day deadline in late December -- which is not a certainty, given the chronic disregard for legal deadlines in Iraqi politics -- the country will have spent more than nine months under a caretaker government without a functioning legislature. Many of Iraq's most critical needs -- from basic services to investment -- have remained unaddressed throughout the impasse." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) offered, "He has an extremely difficult task ahed of him, these next 30 days are going to be a very tough sell for all of these parties that all want something very important in this government. It took a record eight months to actually come up with this coalition, but now what al-Maliki has to do is put all those people in the competing positions that backed him into slots in the government and he has a month to day that from today."
Turning to the US where Anthony Welsch (WBIR -- link has text and video) reports the war contractor EOD Techonolgy had their Lenoir City and Roane County offices raided by federal agents last night: "Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the FBI, and agents from the office the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction combed through offices at EOD's Roane County facility, loading up large boxes and hauling them to a back room." Josh Flory (Knoxville News Sentinel) adds, "As many as a dozen agents, most wearing blue, Federal Agent windbreakers, were on site during the day, going in and out of the buildings. Agents were seen unloading equipment from unmarked vehicles and carrying paperwork between the various buildings on the EOD Technology campus. The agents also were seen escorting several occupants of the buildings to their vehicles."
At this point, no one's explaining the raids. Previous work examining war contractors has been done by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. Last week, Senator Byron Dorgan, Chair of the DPC, gave an overview on the Senate floor of what the DPC has encountered.
Senator Byron Dorgan: We've had whistle blowers come in. A woman came in and she told us she was working at a recreational facility in the war theater -- and that is, at the base, there's a recreational facility where you can go in and play pool and play ping pong and do various things. It was a facility with many different rooms. Well you were to -- She worked for Kellogg Brown and Root and she was to keep track of how many people came into the facility because they got paid based on how many people came into the facility. She said, "What they told me to do was to keep track of how many people came into each room and that's what we billed the government for." If somebody came in and went through three rooms, the government got billed for three visits by soldiers. And she said, "I went to the people in charge at our base and I said, 'This is fraud. We can't do this. We're defrauding the government'." She said, "They put in detention, in a room under guard, immediately and sent me out of the country the next day." It is the story at virtually all of the hearings that we have had. Now the point of it is two-fold. One, as I said, to protect America's soldiers and to do right by the men and women who've gone to war because this country has asked them to. But the second thing is, on behalf of the American tax payer, to decide if we are deep in debt, if we are choking on debt and deficit, to continue doing what we know is wrong, shoveling these contracts out the door without adequate accountability, is something we have to pay attention to.
Senator Dorgan chose not to run for re-election this year and is stepping down. It will be a huge loss for the Senate and for the country. Along with the DPC, Byron Dorgan currently chairs the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, the Senate Energy and Water Development Subcomittee and the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security. Today saw the House pass the reauthorization of the Special Diabetes Program (the Senate passed it yesterday) and this was among the many issues Senator Dorgan worked on. He declared today, "Reauthorization of the Special Diabetes Program is critically important in our nation's growing effort to combat this devastating disease. The Special Diabetes Program is a smart federal investment -- leading to important discoveries and clinical advances as well as providing crucial and often life-saving programs to Native Americans." His office notes: "Today, more than 24 million people have diabetes, which is an increase of more than four-fold over the last 30 years. Native Americans suffer from diabetes at more than twice the rate of the general population in the US. In fact, in some tribal communities the rate of diabetes has reached over 60 percent."
After making a name for himself in North Dakota's state politics, Byron Dorgan was elected to Congress in the 1980 election and served in the House of Representatives from 1981 through 1992. That last year, 1992, he ran for the US Senate and won. He would be re-elected in 1998 and again in 2004. We'll note approximately seven minutes of the twenty-nine minute farewell speech he gave today on the Senate floor.
Senator Byron Dorgan: Those of us who are leaving the Congress at the end of the year are given the opportunity to make a farewell speech but more it's an opportunity to say thank you to a lot of people that we owe a thank you to and to colleagues, to family and to the staff here in the Senate and our staffs and the people of North Dakota, in this case, who gave me the opportunity to serve -- It's the opportunity for me to say thank you. One of my colleagues the other day talked about the number of people who have served in the United States Senate. Since the beginning of our country, there have been 1918 people who have served in the United States Senate. When I signed in -- you sign on the line -- I was number 1802 and there have been 212 senators with whom I have served in the years that I have been in the Senate. It's hard to get here and it's also hard to leave here. But all of us do leave and the Senate always continues. And when finally you do leave, you understand that this is the most unique legislative body in the world.
Now I arrived here 30 years ago -- in Congress. And when we all show up the first day, we feel so very important and we believe that the weight of the world rests on our shoulders and then we begin getting mail from home. And I have long described a letter that was sort of leavening to me, sent to me by a school teacher early on after I arrived here. And her class was to do a project, "To write to Dorgan in Washington DC." And I paged through the 20 letters from fourth grade students and one of them said, "Dear Mr. Dorgan, I know who you are. I see you on television sometimes. My dad watches you on television too. Boy, does he get mad." And so I knew [laughter from the Senate floor] -- And so I knew the interests of public service, of trying to satisify all the various interests in our country. It is important, it seems to me, that we do the right thing as best we can and as best we see it. That Dad from that letter showed up at a good number of my meetings over the years, I think. Didn't introduce himself. But in most cases, the people that I represented over these many years were ordinary folks that loved their country, raised their families, paid their bills and wanted us to do the right thing for our country's future.
Now I have a lot of really interesting memories from having served here. Twelve years in the US House and 18 years in the US Senate. The first week I came to Washington in the US House, I stopped to see the oldest member of the House, Claude Pepper. I'd read so much about him, wanted to meet him, walked into his office and his office was like a museum with a lot of old things in it, really interesting things. He'd been here for a long, long, long time. And I've never forgotten what I saw behind his chair: Two photographs.
The first photograph was of Orville and Wilbur Wright December 17, 1903 making the first airplane flight, signed: "To Congressman Claude Pepper with admiration, Orville Wright." And beneath it, a photograph of Neil Armstrong stepping on the surface of the moon, signed: "To Congressman Pepper, with regards, Neil Armstrong."
And I'm thinking to myself, "Here's a living American -- in one lifetime -- has an autographed picture of the person who learned to fly and the person who flew to the moon. Think of the unbelievable progress in a lifetime. And what is the difference between learning to fly and flying to the moon?
Well it wasn't measured on that wall in inches -- although those photographs were only four or five years apart. It's measured in education, in knowledge, in a burst of accomplishments in an unprecedented century -- and this country has been enormously blessed during this period. The hallmark, it seems to me, of the century we just completed was self-sacrifice and common purpose, a sense of community, commitment to country and especially, especially leadership.
In America, leadership has been so important in this government we call self-government. And there was a book written by [David] McCullough about John Adams and John Adams described that question of leadership. He would travel in Europe, representing this new country and he would write letters back to Abigail. And in his letters to Abigail, he would plaintively ask the question, "Where will the leadership come from for this new country we're starting? Who will become the leaders? Who will be the leaders for this new nation?"
And then in the next letter to Abigail, he would again ask, "Where will the leadership come from?" And then he would say, "There's only us. Really only us.There's me. There's George Washington. There's Ben Franklin. There's Thomas Jefferson. There's [Alexander] Hamilton, [George] Mason and [James] Madison. But there is only us" -- he would plantively say to Abigail.
In the rearview mirror of history, of course, the "only us" is some of the greatest human talent probably ever assembled. But it is interesting to me that every generation has asked the same question that John Adams has asked: Where will the leadership come from for this country? Who will be the leaders?
And the answer to that question now is here in this room. It's always been in this room. My colleagues -- men and women -- tested by the rigors of a campaign, chosen by citizens of their state to say, "You lead. You provide leadership for this country." Now for all the criticism about this chamber and those who serve in this chamber, for all of that criticism, I say that the most talented men and women with whom I have ever worked are the men and women of the United States Senate -- on both sides of the aisle.
They live in glass houses. Their mistakes are obvious and painful. They fight. They disagree. Then they agree. They dance around issues. Posture. Delay. But always, always there is that moment -- the moment of being part of something big, consequential, important. The moment of being part of something bigger than yourself. And at that moment, for all of us at different times, there's this acute awareness of why we were sent here and the role the US Senate plays in the destiny of this country.
If we had room today for more, we would note it. We'll note some more tomorrow or else at Third on Sunday. For those wondering, Senator Dorgan does qualify for coverage in the Iraq snapshot. He's done some very strong work uncvoering corruption in war contracting and, most importantly, documenting the very real damage US service members and contractors serving in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from having been exposed to toxic chemicals. Video of his speech will be posted to his Senate website either later today or tomorrow.
Also providing a service is WikiLeaks and, from their Twitter feed, we'll note this:
Julian Assange is the face of WikiLeaks, he is not all of WikiLeaks, just one part of the organization. He has been accused of rape and sexual assault. He is innocent at this point and may remain so (and if there is no trial, then the matter ends with him innocent). But the women making accusations are innocent at this point as well. And smear jobs -- there's basically one which all the losers refashion and repeat -- on the women are smear jobs on all victims of rape because these attacks encourage and lead to other attacks. The attackers?
As Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner in Romancing The Stone, screenplay by Diane Thomas) observed, "But if there was one law of the west, it's that bastards have brothers who seemed to ride forever." And they seem to thrive on sexism. Yes, as with Tuesday's snapshot and Wednesday's snapshot, we have to deal with the attacks on two women over rape charges. Faux feminist Nicole Colson (US Socialist Worker) declares, "Rape and sexual assault are very serious charges that deserve investigation. But it's impossible to take the charges against [Julian] Assange at face value given the nature of the attack on him by the world's superpowers." What is about Colson that forever finds her attacking women? Throughout 2008, she used sexism to trash Hillary but then women only pop in Nicole's writing to be trashed. She might want to take a look at that. She might also want to take a look at "impossible to take the charges . . . at face value." Marina S. (It's Not A Zero Sum Game) observes:
No, what this is about, as Cath Elliott wrote on Lib Con a few days back, is how quickly all pretensions to feminist sympathies give way to a "bros before hos" attitude among men on the left once one of their own is in the dock (though in fairness she expressed it with more class). It's easy enough to march at the back, mumbling feminist slogans out of time because you don't quite know the words, when it's some sleazy capitalist or smarmy Republican in the firing line; statistically, it's more likely to be one of those guys in some jacuzzi showgirl snorting scenario, anyway. But one of ours? Julian Assange, fearless defier of the Keystone Cops wannabes that are US officials trying to wipe the egg of their faces? Courageous snook cocker at misspeaking power-drunk bank functionaries? Heroic exposer of all that is ignoble and slightly ridiculous about contemporary diplomatic statecraft? Impossible! It's a conspiracy! A politically motivated witch hunt! A miscarriage of justice! A honey trap! Fame seeking! Misuse of Interpol resources!
When an article suggesting that a man accused of sex crimes is himself an innocent victim, it feeds into the prevailing misogynistic anti-woman narrative that says that all women who accuse men of rape are lying, and that there's no such thing as rape, there is instead just bad sex, or as John Band put it "poor bedroom etiquette".
And we join in with that 'lying women/bad laws' shtick, we're just adding our name to a whole host of sites and other media organisations keen to deny women's experiences, and that basically tell women that the men are sticking together again therefore this is a site where we really don't belong.
That's why I felt it important to speak out about this issue. Not because I believe Assange to be guilty, but because as a feminist I think it discredits us to just blithely assume that he's not.
Both of the women above reside in the UK. On US shores, it's so very telling that all the same sexists (and liars) from 2008 can be found trashing the women. Take Dave Lindorff -- no link to trash but you can find his garbage at David Swanson's site (and maybe David can explain why he's posting attacks on two women?) -- who puts the term rape in quotes as he reidicules the women. This is Dave Lindorff, please remember, who was a Barack supporter who used sexism to trash Hillary and whose 'reasoning' for supporting Barack was suspect at best: "a black candidate who has risked jail by doing drugs". As those paying attention throughout 2008 quickly grasped, the sexism is coming from men and women on the left, not just men on the left. (I'm not interested in the right-wing for this conversation, let them police themselves. But on our side we're supposed to care about equality.) Naomi Klein's also weighed in with as much as she can manage -- a Tweet. Leading to this response Tweet from Clare Cochrane:
This, right here, is what makes rape an insidious crime. Those we admire, those we respect, we tend to minimize, deflect, or outright deny such a charge against them. What we as a society have got to come to realize is that a rapist can do good in other areas and still have raped someone. A rapist can be someone who does works we admire. A rapist can be someone whom we have previously respected, and whose political and ideological beliefs mirror our own. Which is why an organization or political thought should stand alone, divorced from its most vociferous defenders and/or creators. Wikileaks needs to stand or fall on its own merits, and we need to defend or decry Wikileaks on its own merits (or lack thereof). What we cannot do is excuse Julian Assange from even having to defend himself against a charge because such a charge may hurt his organization. Which is where Klein is wrong again. Yes, women's freedom was used as a battle cry in Afghanistan. Yes, it was the wrong cry, not in the least because we have done a piss poor job of securing the safety and freedom of women since entering Afghanistan. But Julian Assange may have actually committed rape. And there are laws against rape. And he can and should be charged with the crime. This isn't some nebulous "protect teh women" battle cry.
I don't know if Julian Assange is or is not a rapist. I know he is being held in connection to a crime. I know that the support he is receiving from Klein is, to be frank, beneath her. As Jessica Valenti highlighted, one of the charges facing Assange is not merely that he had sex with a woman without the condom she required but that he engaged in sexual intercourse with a sleeping woman. That last one? That's describing rape, pure and simple. It's rape, because a sleeping woman does not have the ability to consent to sex. These two women deserve their day in court. If their accusations are true, they deserve every measure of justice that can be awarded to them.
As we noted last week, Naomi Klein is not a feminist. Her entire life has been about rejecting her mother (a feminist). She's still an angry little child (hilarious photos taken by Wally in DC today of Naomi which will run in Friday's gina & krista roundrobin, FYI). She's done nothing for feminism. Just because she's left and a woman don't wrongly assume she's done a damn thing for feminism. It's amazing what an issue the attacks are in England while in America . . . So much silence. And we find that the same women who were silent on the sexist attacks on Hillary are again 'taking one for the team' and sitting this out. Laurie Penny (New Statesman) observes:
I have no idea whether Assange, who firmly denies the accusations, did or did not commit sex attacks in Sweden last August. But just as we would condemn anyone who pronounced him guilty at this early stage, should we also not be concerned that many liberals, some of whom would count themselves feminists, have leapt to the conclusion that Assange must be the innocent victim of a smear campaign? Some have gone further, actively attacking the women in question and accusing them of colluding in a conspiracy to destroy Assange. This plays easily into the narrative that most women who accuse men of rape are liars, and most men who attract such accusations are just saucy scamps with, as the commentator John Band put it, "poor bedroom etiquette".
The attacks need to stop and the number of people calling out the attacks will continue to increase. Robert Knight, Ray McGovern, et al think they're helping Julian Assange by attacking two women. They're not and they're not helping the left as we see just how sexist so many of the men -- and a large number of the women as well -- can be. In other news, Jack Healey (Huffington Post) notes an earlier time when human rights and human rights groups were increasing in number and how it changed:
Then, 9/11 occurred and America lost thousands of people. American anger channeled fear instead of courage; Iraq is invaded for unknown reasons still; torture begins in the jails of Iraq by our forces; water boarding, a torture technique, is used often and repeatedly; secret prisons are set up in many countries and we send prisoners to these places to be tortured by others; Guantanamo becomes a prison of infamy and reduces the respect for law to this day; unmanned drones are put into frequent use in targeted killings as weapons with no accountability while official statistics on the number of innocent civilians killed are absent (some studies suggest ten to fifty civilians are killed for every one militant insurgent); the new President enlarges the war in Afghanistan; Bagram prison rivals Guantanamo in another attempt to reduce our level of decency and thus up the hatred of American forces in the region; and all the while, Bin Laden roams the earth freely ten years after his hits on our cities. American efforts to mix security issues with human rights lowered the prestige, interest and support of human rights. Press and media move as the governments move--away from human rights. What happened to the momentum, to the wave that swept human rights through our streets and past our doors? It seems as though the tide has gone out. Instead of getting depressed and angry and disillusioned, I offer a model to emulate who I got to know over three meetings and one letter. His name was Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International. Most of the world does not know him or about him: he never sought the lime light, the TV shows or the award chase, and he even refused to go to Oslo when Amnesty won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977. A simple lawyer in London, Peter refused the knighthood nonsense of the crown. He had time to write a long, warm and personal note to me once I left Amnesty after twelve years, but you could not get him to a fancy dinner. He was a humble man who sought solace in the Catholic shrines of Europe after a car accident. But make no mistake, his idea and action of that idea changed the world. This Human Rights Day is a time to stop and remember how Peter Benenson brought that idea to life.
The promotion and protection of human rights has been a major preoccupation for the United Nations since 1945, when the Organization's founding nations resolved that the horrors of The Second World War should never be allowed to recur. Respect for human rights and human dignity "is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world", the General Assembly declared three years later in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In 1950, all States and interested organizations were invited by the General Assembly to observe 10 December as Human Rights Day (resolution 423(V)). The Day marks the anniversary of the Assembly's adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Over the years, a whole network of human rights instruments and mechanisms has been developed to ensure the primacy of human rights and to confront human rights violations wherever they occur.
Human Rights Day 2010 on 10 December recognizes the work of human rights defenders worldwide who act to end discrimination. Acting alone or in groups within their communities, every day human rights defenders work to end discrimination by campaigning for equitable and effective laws, reporting and investigating human rights violations and supporting victims. While some human rights defenders are internationally renowned, many remain anonymous and undertake their work often at great personal risk to themselves and their families.