Monday, January 3, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces deaths, Iraqi Christians continue to be targeted, and more.
2 US soldiers were killed in Iraq yesterday. CNN reports this morning, "Two U.S. service members were killed in central Iraq on Sunday night while supporting Operation New Dawn, according to a statement from the U.S. military in Iraq." AFP quotes an unnamed military spokesperson stating, "This was one incident resulting in the death of two US service members. These are the first deaths of any US service member in 2011." Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) explains, "The U.S. military declared its formal combat operations over at the end of August, and the remaining soldiers are largely present to train Iraqi forces. However, American troops are called in by Iraqi forces on occasion for sensitive missions."
In other reported violence, Tang Danlu (Xinhua) reports 3 dead and twenty injured from a Baquba roadside bombing "immediately followed by a suicide car bombing". Reuters updates with 28 wounded and states it was an attack on Iraq's "intelligence services". AFP notes 1 police officer and 1 Iraqi Christian woman (Rafah Toma)were shot dead in Baghdad today -- the woman in her home.
"I am attached to this place," Moahmmed Tawfeeq (CNN) quotes Rafah Butros Tomas explaing, "Every other day I come here [Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad]. I feel like my soul is in this place with them." Our Lady of Salvation Church was attacked October 31st, setting off the latest wave of attacks targeting Iraq Christians. CNN spoke with her about her cousin who was among those killed in the assault on the Church. Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) quotes Yonadam Kanna, a Christian MP, stating that al Qaeda is becoming the catch-all for blame, "Everything is hanged on Al Qaeda. These people are both criminals and terrorists." John Leland (New York Times) reports, "Iraq's dwindling Christian minority has been terrorized in recent months by deadly attacks for which extremist groups have claimed responsibility. But police officers said Ms. Toma's killing appeared to be a simple robbery."
First off, al Qaeda in Mespotamia doesn't claim credit. A splinter group -- or a thought-to-be splinter group -- has been claiming credit. If you're claiming credit -- pay attention, this is PoliSci on terrorism -- you do so in the immediate aftermath. The act and claiming credit are part of the message (the act of terrorism) that is supposed to inspire fear. So you do it within 24 hours in our fast-paced society today.
If you're doing it days afterwards -- as was the case with last week's Baghdad's bombings -- what may be happening is that no one else is claiming credit and you see that and think you can pass some attack off as your own. So you step forward and say, "It's me!!!! I'm the one!!! I'm so all important!!!!" It's not that different -- and maybe j-schools should be closed and all reporters should once again have to 'intern' doing the police beat? -- from false confessions to a crime. The waves of attacks on Iraqi Christians since the start of the war have not been all al Qaeda in Iraq. Has this wave been al Qaeda in Iraq? Judging by the statements and the actions and their locations, an educated (but not informed) guess would say a little less than a third could have been al Qaeda in Iraq. The Christian MP is correct that you cry "al Qaeda in Iraq!" and then pretend the problem went away.
That's (A). (B)? An elderly woman was robbed. She was murdered. She was robbed in the middle of the night when she would obviously be home. Her house was picked out of every other house in Baghdad. To claim that she wasn't targeted? That's insane. Of course she was targeted. And that targeting may have included being targeted for being a Christian. A neighbor insists she wore gold and that's why this took place. Visible gold actually would go a long way towards identifying her as a religious minority -- as a look at the strata of Iraqi society would quickly demonstrate. My point here is the woman was likely targeted. That includes the notion that it was fine to rob from her and that it was fine to kill her -- a possible outcome that was known -- on some level -- when the robber made the decision to enter the house.
To claim she wasn't targeted makes no sense at all when the know facts are examined. Joe Smith breaks into same-sex couple Paul and Bill's home, robs then and kills them it may not just be robbery. If Joe's selected them over others, it may be because they are gay and it may be a hate crime. This impression that reports are trying to give is false and they need to stop it. This is not an either/or.
An elderly woman's home was broken into. She is a Christian. Saying, "Oh, well it's robbery because she had this or that on but it wasn't a hate crime," is b.s. She was selected and targeted and that was likely because she was a Christian. I think (I could be wrong) that's the point the Christian MP was making about terrorism and criminal. A crime took place and the woman was likely targeted for that crime because she was a Christian.
Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) reported yesterday on Baghdad priest Father Nadheer Dako who spent December 31st at the burial for the elderly couple (Janet Mekha and Fawzi Rahim) who died in Thursday's wave of bombings targeting Christians in Baghdad. They note, "In 2007, he had played a cat-and-mouse game as he hid from would-be kidnappers who surrounded his church; that same year he narrowly escaped a bomb apparently meant for him. He had watched too many Christians leave the city for safety elsewhere. But he was not going to let himself fall into depression." While he chooses to stay, some are leaving. Anne Barker (Australia's ABC) notes, "Many Christians have already fled Baghdad or left the country altogether." Friday, Rawya Rageh (Al Jazeera) reported on the mood in the aftermath of the targeting:
Rawya Rageh: Houses that should have been adorned with Christmas decorations, pockmarked by violence instead. Iraqi Christians once again under attack.
Falah: If they want us to leave, we will leave. If they want us to sleep on the street, we will sleep on the street If they want us to join them and be terrorists, we will do.
Rawya Rageh: The most recent round of violence began in October when gunmen stormed this Cathedral in Baghdad, a siege that ultimately left more than 40 worshipers dead. Signs of that attack still scar the site, with no sign of letting up. Just last week, al Qaeda warned of more attacks during the holidays resulting in what the already dwindling community described as their grimmest Christmas ever. This is what Christmas Eve mass looked like at one of Baghdad's largest Churches, celebrations canceled, congregations decimated. The UN says thousands have fled to northern cities and neighboring countries. The government had promised increased security and both the Prime Minister and Church leaders have been urging Christians not to flee. But some say, it's not that simple.
Father Saad Sirop Hanna of St. Joseph's Church: Reality imposes itself on people's choices and lives. What the Church had announced is that we want our community to remain intact in this country but the reality is much more powerful. Change is minimal and slow.
Rawya Rageh: The Christian community in Iraq is now facing a difficult choice.
CNN quotes Kiyour Kizarab whose Baghdad home was targeted in the bombings, "I am 60 years old and I gave a lot to this country, but this tough situation is like a message asking me to leave my country. If these attacks will continue, and the government can't stop them, then I don't think we will have a future here." Thursday's attack -- and the robbery if the woman was targeted because she was Christian -- signal a change. Christian families in Baghdad and Mosul had been keeping their children out of school during this wave, keeping them at home so that they would be safe. However, just as the October 31st attack demonstrated that attacks could take place anywhere in public, even a church, last week's bombings demonstrated that even if you are in your own home -- even if you are holed up there -- you can still be a target. May Akl (Daily Star) reports on the latest underground railroad:
The voice at the other end of the phone line from Beirut suddenly became nervous. "No, no, no, please!" the panicking nun said. "You cannot mention my real name, you understand, what we are doing is illegal." This is why I call her Sister Mary. Sister Mary does not launder money nor trade drugs. Instead, she leads an association that assists clandestine Christian Iraqi refugees whose plight leads them to travel to Lebanon by foot. She anticipated more refugees after the church massacre last October 31, a dark day for Iraq's Christian community, though the incident received little attention from international media and policymakers. A terrorist group took the Lady of Deliverance church in Bagdad by siege, holding the congregation hostage and killing 46 Chaldean worshipers, including two priests celebrating mass, and wounding some 67. This was not the first act of violence against Iraq's dwindling Christian community, but it was by far the most horrific. And it was not the last act of violence targeting the Christians of the Middle East. After surviving millennia of religious and cultural persecutions in its own cradle, Christianity in the Middle East, could face demise at the hands of this Christian West. In fact, political alliances sought by Western states and, most importantly, by the United States leverage existential threats against the remaining Christian minorities in the Middle East. Rescue is not high on the agenda.
Friday the US State Dept issued the following statement from Acting Dept Spokesperson Mark C. Toner: "We condemn the violence against Christians carried out overnight by terrorists in Iraq. President Talabani, Prime Minister Maliki, and virtually every political bloc and major religious leader in Iraq have denounced attacks on Christians and stressed the centrality of Christians in the fabric of Iraqi society. We commend the Government of Iraq for increasing its security measures to protect Christian communities since the October 31 suicide bombing attack at Our Lady of Salvation Church. We call on the Government of Iraq to redouble its efforts to protect Christians and apprehend the terrorists who are behind these acts." The Toledo Blade's editorial board offers, "The attacks have been intense in recent months. They made Iraqi Christians' observance of Christmas dangerous and thus restrained. With U.S. withdrawal from Iraq scheduled for this year, it might be time for President Obama to consider a program that would admit Iraqi Christians to the United States." Mark Seddon (Independent of London) observes:
Now, Iraq's remaining Christians want an autonomous Christian province in their ancient Ninevah Plains homeland in northern Iraq. While Britain or the US may not help their cause, for obvious reasons, the UN, EU and Commonwealth could add their not inconsiderable weight. President Talabani of Iraq declared in November that he had "no objection to a Christian province in Iraq". One Assyrian exile in Britain, however, told me, "They keep talking, but nothing happens." There is a widespread view among the Iraqi Christian diaspora that their government is simply allowing what some now see as an inevitable and unstoppable exodus of one of the world's most ancient civilisations.
Jalal Talabani is an expert at doing nothing (other than raising hopes). Since 2003, there has been the promise that the issue of Kirkuk would be settled. The 2005 Constitution even mandated a referendum be held in 2007. This was part of the 2007 White House benchmarks that Nouri al-Maliki signed off on. And yet the census never took place and the referendum took place and the oil-rich Kirkuk remains a sticky point. Point? The idea that Iraqi Christians will end up with a province is unlikely. They number less than 1/25 of the country's population and Nouri's not going to let it happen. You already have Basra wanting to set up their own rule (similar to the KRG), you've got the unsettled issue of Kirkuk and Nouri's going to okay land (forget an entire province) being handed over to Iraqi Christians? It seems highly unlikely. January 8th, there's going to be a summit of religious leaders in Copenhagen, gathered to address the issue of Iraqi Christians. Currently, not much is expected from the gathering. If they come out of it insisting that a province being handed over to Iraqi Christians is the answer, it will most likely indicate that they're not very serious about the issue.
A study examining the causes of a dramatic spike in birth defects in the Iraqi city of Falluja has for the first time concluded that genetic damage could have been caused by weaponry used in US assaults that took place six years ago. The research, which will be published next week, confirms earlier estimates revealed by the Guardian of a major, unexplained rise in cancers and chronic neural-tube, cardiac and skeletal defects in newborns. The authors found that malformations are close to 11 times higher than normal rates, and rose to unprecedented levels in the first half of this year – a period that had not been surveyed in earlier reports. The findings, which will be published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, come prior to a much-anticipated World Health Organisation study of Falluja's genetic health. They follow two alarming earlier studies, one of which found a distortion in the sex ratio of newborns since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – a 15% drop in births of boys. Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) adds, "The research and a forthcoming report by the World Health Organisation on the same issue will renew international attention on the siege of Fallujah, condemned by anti-war activists and human rights campaigners as an excessive response to insurgent activity. Thousands of alleged insurgents and civilians are said to have been killed. White phosphorous and depleted uranium shells are known to have been used in large numbers. Depleted uranium in particular has been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects."
When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki introduced what he called a national partnership government two weeks ago, he included allies and adversaries, Arabs and Kurds, Shiite Muslims and Sunnis. One group, however, was woefully underrepresented. Only one woman was named to Maliki's 42-member cabinet, sparking an outcry in a country that once was a beacon for women's rights in the Arab world and adding to an ongoing struggle over the identity of the new Iraq. Whether this fledgling nation becomes a liberal democracy or an Islamist-led patriarchy might well be judged by the place it affords its women.
In reality, these elections are, for Iraq's women, little more than a cruel joke. Amid the suicide attacks, kidnappings and U.S.-led military assaults since Saddam Hussein's fall, the little-reported phenomenon is the sharp increase in the persecution of Iraqi women. Women are the new victims of Islamic groups intent on restoring a medieval barbarity and of a political establishment that cares little for women's empowerment. Having for years enjoyed greater rights than other Middle East women, women in Iraq are losing even their basic freedoms -- the right to choose their clothes, the right to love or marry whom they want. Of course women suffered under Saddam. I fled his cruel regime. I personally witnessed much brutality but the subjugation of women was never a Baath Party goal. What we are seeing is deeply worrying: a reviled occupation and an openly reactionary Islamic armed insurrection taking Iraq into a new dark age. Every day, leaflets are distributed across the country warning women against going out unveiled, wearing makeup or mixing with men. Many female university students have given up their studies to protect themselves against the Islamists.
July 19 about 200 Iraqi women and a few men took to the streets in Baghdad to protest parts of a draft of the new constitution, scheduled to be completed mid-August. The protesters were from women's rights groups and included secular Iraqi women politicians. The draft of the entire constitution is religious and sect-based. It gives lip service to equal rights for women – but only as long as those rights do not violate Shariah or the law based on the Koran. If these changes are implemented, it would severely set women backwards in important ways. The women are outraged by Article 14, which includes a provision that women, regardless of age, would need their family's permission to marry. Under Shariah, a man could get a divorce just by expressing his wish three times in front of his wife. Women would also be denied inheritance rights. Article 14 would replace a personal status law enacted in 1959 and continued up until the U.S. took over. It is one of the more progressive laws in the Middle East in acknowledging women's rights. It gives women the right to choose a husband and requires divorce cases to be decided by a judge. Article 14 would chuck that body of law and require cases dealing with marriage, divorce and inheritance to be judged according to law practiced by the family's sect or religion. The draft appears to deepen the divide between Sunnis and Shiites, without acknowledging legal rights for mixed marriages. Women also protested a proposal to phase out a current measure requiring that one-out-of-four parliamentary seats go to women.
Where's the concern? Where has it ever been? We saw a lot of grandstanding last month from the likes of Naomi Wolf and others tossing around this and that but they've never really weighed in, have they, on the stripping of Iraqi women's rights? When you consider how much the Iraq War lined Naomi Klein's cage, her silence on the subject is especially chilling.
Naomi Wolf continues her attack on rape victims and is now calling for rape victims to be named publicly -- presumably only adult ones but who knows with that crazy woman. And we're not linking to her latest trash. For the record, the accused knows who is accusing in rape cases, the police know, the court knows. Naomi is so dishonest. She's just flat out lying these days. Her positions is not new, it being public may be. But December 12th, Ava and I noted Wolf was circulating the names of the women who may have been raped by Julian Assange and included: "In fairness to Naomi Wolf, we should note that she doesn't feel rape victims deserve to be anonymous to the public." Bryan Bender (Boston Globe) reports on rape in the military today and notes, "At the same time, military officials estimate that as much as 90 percent of sexual assaults in the ranks go unreported. According to the Government Accountability Office, many victims remain silent because they fear ridicule or believe that no action will be taken."
They might not be believed? They might be ridiculed?
Or that might be shamed and trashed by Naomi Wolf and others and it might get so bad that you have to leave your own country. That's what we're talking about here. Naomi Wolf's an idiot. And she'd dug her own grave. She doesn't have the brains to step out of it. Two women are said to have been raped by WikiLeak's Julian Assange. They may or may not have been raped. I'm not judge and jury on Assange -- especially with so little facts known at this point. Sadly, his groupies can't show the same restraint towards the women and they have attacked the women with lies, smears and language that has harmed the issue of rape. Their language, their notions, are a throwback to a less educated time and don't think that's by accident. Amanda Marcotte has weighed in many times on the damage that is being done (one example here) but if you click here, you can listen to her discuss the issue (link also has text) and to show you Naomi Wolf repeating one rape myth after another.
Meanwhile David Walsh of World Socialist Web Site writes a hysteric and shrill attack on Katha Pollitt for? For calling rape "rape." It is not rape to penetrate someone who is asleep and cannot give consent, it is not rape to hold a woman down and force yourself on her, according to David Walsh. Walsh sees it all as a cabal of women, caught up in "identity politicss" and plotting a take down. Which is how he has Katha and Katrina vanden Heuvel on the same page. They're not on the same page, they do not coordinate messages, Katha writes what she wants and always has. She neither checks with Katrina nor takes suggestions for it. But how telling that, in Walsh's view, women are ganging up against the poor misunderstood man.
Walsh refuses to admit what rape is. Walsh is often a great writer (not good, great and even his Katha piece has moments of brilliance) but his column goes to the limitations so many put on equality: We're for it until our man might suffer.
At which point, it's time to deny rape -- the same way sexism was denied throughout the bulk of 2008. Women are supposed to shut the hell up about their own persecution and 'work for the man.' And if you object -- and for many of us, we remember these days so very well -- you're the bitch who is just thinking about yourself. Rape is not about one woman. And how dare Wright try to pass himself off as someone who looks at the system as opposed to those 'limited women' who can't thing big. Rape exists because of the power structure. Rape is a systemic crime. The one playing "identity politics" on this issue is Walsh who sees something in Julian (Daddy? Lover? Big brother? All three?) and must deny what rape is in order to defend Assange.
Rape is rape and the allegations against Julian Assange may or may not be true but the allegations are rape.
In the US, the 112th Congress convenes Wednesday. Many other mid-term elections have already resulted in people being sworn in, such as Jean Quan who is the new mayor of Oakland. Mayor Quan is Oakland's first female mayor and Oakland's first Asian American mayor. Zennie62 (San Francisco Chronicle) reports Quan started the day with a walk from Chinatown through Oakland, and ending at the Fox Theater, where we are for the inauguration ceremonies. She held an inpromptu 'thank you' chat with supporters and onlookers in front of the Fox, and was joined by Assemblyman Sandre Swanson."