Monday, January 10, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi Christians remain under attack, if pattern means anything Nouri's not in debt to or cowed by Moqtada al-Sadr or Ayad Allawi or anyone, vice presidents increase, and more.
The United States is trying to promote closer ties between Iraq and the Arab states as an antidote to Iranian influence and has even put strong pressure on many Arab regimes to improve their relations with Iraq. Washington's campaign has met with limited success because Arab regimes, mostly Sunni-dominated, are suspicious of Maliki and the Iranian influence in Iraq.
Relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which are key to an Iraqi rapprochement with the rest of its Sunni neighbors, have been particularly cold -- the Saudis did not even congratulate Maliki on the formation of the new government. Iraq is responding in kind, with representatives of Maliki's own State of Law coalition and of the broader Shia Iraqi National Alliance unleashing a barrage of anti-Saudi statements. The current focus in tensions is on a rumor that Saudi Arabia executed, without a real trial, 40 Iraqis guilty of simply trespassing on Saudi soil.
Whatever the merit of the accusation, the venom in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq is undeniable. Nor is it recent: a document posted by WikiLeaks shows that in 2007 the government of Iraq, including President Jalal Talabani, who is personally named, considered Saudi Arabia a greater danger to its interests than Iran.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is attempting to persuade countries to strengthen ties with Iraq currently. En route to Abu Dhabi this morning, she declared, "Well, this trip is, in many ways, an important follow-up to one directly related trip and another that is equally significant but less direct. The first, of course, was a trip to Bahrain and the speech that I gave at Manama outlining our security agenda, and the countries I am visitng are all very strong partners in our security efforts, on counterterrorism, on the ongoing chellenges posed by Iran, on dealing with the difficulties that we are working through as Iraq emerges into a sovereign, independent country, and so much else." Saturday, Jill Dougherty (CNN) quoted an unnamed State Dept official stating, "What we're really hoping to do is elicit more expressions of support for the Iraqi government. We now have a government on the ground in Iraq after a very long and somewhat tortuous process. It is important for the region to step up and provide them support. It is important for Iraq, frankly, to be reintegrated back in the region." Kareem Shaheen (The National) observes, "Her visit comes at a crucial time for Iraq, which only recently formed a government that incorporated most major religious and ethnic groups in the country." Jill Dougherty reports today, "After her stop in the United Arab Emirates, she will also visit Oman and Qatar. In each stop, she is expected to focus on social issues including child marriage and domestic violence, as well as on innovation and promoting business development."
Saturday Moqtada al-Sadr gave his big speech in Najaf. Michael Jansen (Irish Times) reports he declared, "Repeat after Me: No, no, to the occupier. Let's have all the world hear that the Iraqi people reject the occupier." Apparently the crowd had their own chant of choice because instead of repeating "No, no, to the occupier," they went with "Down, down America!" He went on to note that only his Promised Day Brigade was "permitted to conduct operations and only against US forces." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) quotes him stating, "We are still resisting the occupation militarily, culturally and by any other means necessary." Those late to Moqtada al-Sadr can refer to this Frontline (PBS) video report (and laugh at the hair of one paper's correspondent). Roy Gutman and Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) stated that "Muqtqada al Sadr called on his followers Saturday to abandon the use of violence" -- but he did no such thing. He called on Iraqis not to attack one another but to instead focus their anger and violence on Americans. In his report of the speech, Jim Muir (BBC News -- video) observed that "he said the resistance goes on by whatever means and so on." (For a text report by Muir, click here.) Here's Aaron C. Davis (Washington Post) reports, "His followers, he said, must continue to focus on fiercely resisting the United States, but perhaps also targeting their own government if it cannot restore services or security and hold to a timeline for a full U.S. military withdrawal by the end of 2011." Ned Parker, Saad Fakhrildeen and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) quote him stating, "Resistance, yes, resistance, but not everyone will carry weapons. Only those qualified will carry weapons." Anthony Shadid (New York Times) offered, "In his 28-minute address, delivered in a warren of streets near his home in this sacred city, Mr. Sadr sought to have it both ways, calling for the expulsion of American troops but allowing time for a withdrawal, and offering support for a new government but conditional on its effectiveness." Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) noted that the speech's end may not have been its intended ending, "It appears however that the crowd was a bit too much to handle for the cleric, and as the cheers and chanting grew more and more raucous, the cleric made a final call for the release of Mahdi Army detainees from Iraqi prison and abruptly left. Some reports suggest that was not designed to be the end of the speech but that the cleric decided to end early to avoid riling up the crowd even more." While AP reported the US Embassy in Baghdad stated the speech was "nothing new."
Those who feel the US Embassy down played the speech should grasp that the press hasn't done a lot of exploring. "Moqtada said . . ." and "Moqtada wore . . ." do not benefit readers. What's his strength, what's his weakness? Moqtada al-Sadr has people in his movement, in leadership, who have been leading and aren't thrilled he's now present in the flesh. His movement includes people who do not agree with renouncing violence against other Iraqis. His movement includes people who feel that their families were targeted and Moqtada al-Sadr did nothing about it. (Or did nothing about it until he was ready to return to Iraq.) There are some who have lived with the ideal of Moqtada as opposed to the reality they'll now be present with. The strongest rallying point for him in the last five years was in 2008 when he decried the assault on Basra and Sadr City. Equally true, any manager or leader used to issuing orders from afar has to readjust once he's no longer at a distance from those he or she supervises.
For Abu Muhanned, 47, a resident of Maysan province, it was as if the clock had been set back to 2006, when Sadr's militia controlled neighborhoods and even some cities, with residents living at the mercy of pro-Sadr street commanders. Already, Abu Muhanned, who did not give his full name out of fear of the fundamentalist religious movement, says he has seen Sadr's supporters again exert their will in Maysan's capital, Amarah. Now as part of the deal that brought Maliki, a Shiite, back for a second term, the prime minister has handed the province's governorship back to the Sadr movement. "We feel that Maliki sold us out by appointing a governor from them," Abu Muhanned says, remembering how Maliki ordered troops to fight the group less than three years ago.
And, equally true, though the Najaf appearance Wednesday was an attempt to soothe relations, he and al-Sistani are still not close and, especially with al-Sistani's advanced age, there are a number who might feel they were next in line when al-Sistani passes and look to the non-Ayatollah al-Sadr as someone dashing back into the country to usurp what should be the natural chain of order among the religious clerics.
Jane Arraf quotes the Center for a New American Security John Nagl stating, "The conflict has moved far enough along the spectrum from fighting to politics that Sadr not only feels safe to return but recognizes that if doesn't do so soon, he'll lose control of his political wing." That could be true (and I agree with that take), it could be false. It's an opinion and it's a valid one. Saying "The sun is blue" is an opinion but it is not a valid one based on what we know and see with the sun. Joost Hiltermann argues, "He [al-Sadr] has offered his support of the government for now, guardedly, unconditionally, and I think it's in fact a very good check on Maliki." That's an opinion as well. It's not a very valid one.
Last night, we wrote: "He's reporting on al-Sadr's threats to leave Maliki's government should the US stay beyond 2011. Guess what, Chulov, al-Sadr left Maliki's government in 2007 for just that reason. It didn't topple then either. We'll address that and Rebecca Santana's conclusions for AP and Gulf News' opinions in a snapshot this week (hopefully tomorrow)." He was Martin Chulov. Moqtada al-Sadr has no power now in terms of the government, not if you judge by the past experience. He pulled out of the government in April 2007, remember?
In Iraq today the six cabinets filled by Moqtada al-Sadr's block are now vacant. Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) explains: "A key Shiite Muslim bloc in Iraq's governmental pledged Sunday to quit over Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's refusal to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, a move that would further weaken the country's leadership at a time of soaring sectarian violence." Edward Wong and Graham Bowley (New York Times) listed "protest at the refusal of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to set a timetable for American troops to withdraw from Iraq." (No link. Currently the New York Times has 'withdrawn' the story. You can find it quoted here.) AFP quotes a statement issued by the puppet of the occupation: "Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki welcomed the announcement of his eminence Muqtada al-Sadr." The puppet was the only putting up a brave front, the Turkish Press quotes White House flack Dana Perino who steps away from her stand up schtick on the beleaguered US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales long enough to declare, "Doalitions in those types of parliamenty demoncracies can come and go." That funny Perino! "Democracies"! She cracks herself up. Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted: "The Sadr movement controls six cabinet posts and a quarter of seats in Iraq's parliament. The pullout follows one of Iraq's bloodiest weekends in months. McClatchy newspapers is reporting nearly 300 people were killed in violenace around Iraq Saturday." [CBS and AP's count on Sunday for the Karbala bombing Saturday was 47.] Jim Muir (BBC News) offers analysis, "Nobody expects Mr Sadr's move to bring the government down. Nor did observers believe that was his intention. Rather than leave the cabinet seats empty, he himself suggested that the six abandoned portfolios be given to non-partisan independents, and some of his aides urged that competent technocrats be appointed. . . . The Sadr bloc has 32 of the 275 seats in the current parliament, and intends to continue its activities there and in the Shia coalition, despite withdrawing from government. Another member of the Shia coalition, the Fadhila party, announced early last month that it was pulling out of that alliance because of the government's poor performance and sectarian quota composition. But only if other major factions such as the main Sunni bloc and Iyad Allawi's secular Iraqi List were also to walk out of the government, would it be at risk of collapse." Ross Colvin and Yara Bayoumy (Reuters) note "concerns about whether Sadr's Mehdi Army, which Washington calls the biggest threat to Iraq's security, will maintain the low profile it has so far duing a U.S.-backed security crackdown in Baghdad."
Kawther Abdul-Ameer and Mussab al-Khairall (Reuters) reported April 17, 2007 on his withdrawal of support (the ministers from his bloc left Nouri's Cabinet) and how Nouri al-Maliki told the reporters, "The withdrawal (of the Sadrist bloc) does not mean the government is witnessing weakness." Nor did it mean the government collapsed. Iraq's Constitution is not being followed by Nouri. Did no one grasp that at all during his first term?
The only power anyone had to stop Nouri was to stop him from forming a government. He's done it. He's now going to ride through the second term. If ministers walk, so what? It's not led to a vote of confidence by Parliament and it most likely won't. Nouri never had a full Cabinet. And he still doesn't, he's starting off his second term without a full Cabinet. Rebecca Santana notes that, "Many Iraqis and U.S. officials are believed to want an American presence beyond the end of 2011, as currently planned under a U.S.-Iraqi agreement, to do such things as control Iraq's airspace and monitor the borders. But al-Sadr's remarks made clear it will be difficult for al-Maliki to renegotiate that deal." Moqtada's remarks suggest no such thing. Moqtada's ministers left (in 2007) because? The continued US presence was the reason give publicly. They walked and the government continued. If that's how Nouri behaved in his first term, why would anyone expect he would accept new impositions in his second term? How do you logically infer that?
I don't see how you do. Gulf News insists, "But Al Maliki's confidence comes from a very fragile base, and the political unity achieved so painfully around the new government could easily fall apart." How? Do we mean military coup? That's a possibility.
But if we're talking about the government falling apart because X walks out -- however many units you apply to X -- that doesn't seem likely because it's not what happened before or what's already happened. During the many months without any government -- when the UN should have imposed a temporary government -- the Minister of Electricity resigned. Nouri just made the Minister of Oil also the Minister of Electricity. There is no Constitutional power that allows him to do that. There is no "circumvent Parliament one time only" card that exists. Currently, there are 13 empty spots -- 3 of which Nouri has appointed himself (temporarily, he insists). And for those saying, "Well Moqtada has a lot of seats in this Cabinet!" He has says 7 seats in this Cabinet. And before some fool cries, "Well, see, it's one more than last time!" Uh, not really. They had 6 when there were 32 Cabinet positions (plus the Prime Minister). Now they have 7 when there are 45 Cabinet positions (plus the Prime Minister). Now that's just dealing with the 2007 walk out. That was far from the only walk out of Nouri's Cabinet. There was, for example, the great Sunni walk out of 2008. It doesn't matter who walked out, it never crippled Nouri or even made him pause.
So you can have the opinion that Moqtada al-Sadr or even Ayad Allawi hold power in the executive branch of the government today but, based on pattern, that's not a sound opinion. You may say, "In spite of pattern, I think this go round if A happens then B and C band together and . . ." But the pattern's already established and until you acknowledge the pattern, if your opinion goes against it and you can't explain why that is, your opinion's not a sound one.
At any time during the walk outs of Nouri's first term, Parliament could have toppled the government with a vote of no-confidence. They didn't. That was due to the fact that Nouri was able to offer 'rewards' to those who were loyal and he didn't have to offer rewards to many because so few MPs were ever present for votes. Now you can say, "Things will be different now, Parliament will be prepared to do a no-confidence vote." And maybe they will and maybe they won't but if you're not acknowledging that Parliament refused to do so before then your opinion's not sound.
Nouri's not a new face. How he's going to govern is no great mystery. He's just started his second term. Ayad Allawi's supporters will hate this but when Allawi (or rather Iraqiya) agreed to go forward without the security council being established, that was a huge mistake. (Allawi did protest that. He himself did not go along with that.) Once Nouri got the vote and moved from prime minister-designate to Prime Minister, he didn't need them anymore. That's why he could launch an assault on al-Sadr's supporters -- jump the gun on the US an launch an assault, as Gen David Petreaus testified to Congress repeatedly in April of 2008 -- without fears of reprisal.
There will be unexpected and surprises but the pattern's established and those sure that a pear tree is going to bear apples this year can hope all they want but, based on what we know from past experience, that's just not going to happen. Equally true, human development is A to B, A to C or A to D for most people. Few of us ever experience an A to Z change. In other words, Nouri today is basically the same Nouri he was from 2006 through 2010.
Looking to the East, the attacks which brought death, grief and dismay among the Christians of Iraq, even to the point of inducing them to leave the land where their families have lived for centuries, has troubled us deeply. To the authorities of that country and to the Muslim religious leaders I renew my heartfelt appeal that their Christian fellow-citizens be able to live in security, continuing to contribute to the society in which they are fully members. In Egypt too, in Alexandria, terrorism brutally struck Christians as they prayed in church. This succession of attacks is yet another sign of the urgent need for the governments of the region to adopt, in spite of difficulties and dangers, effective measures for the protection of religious minorities. Need we repeat it? In the Middle East, Christians are original and authentic citizens who are loyal to their fatherland and assume their duties toward their country. It is natural that they should enjoy all the rights of citizenship, freedom of conscience, freedom of worship and freedom in education, teaching and the use of the mass media" (Message to the People of God of the Special Asembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, 10). I appreciate the concern for the rights of the most vulnerable and the political farsightedness which some countries in Europe have demonstrated in recent days by their call for a concerted response on the part of the European Union for the defence of Christians in the Middle East. Finally, I would like to state once again that the right to religious freedom is not fully respected when only freedom of worship is guaranteed, and that with restrictions. Furthermore, I encourage the accompaniment of the full safeguarding of religious freedom and other humans rights by programmes which, beginning in primary school and within the context of religious instruction, will educate everyone to respect their brothers and sisters in humanity. Regarding the states of the Arabian Peninsula, where numerous Christian immigrant workers live, I hope that the Catholic Church will be able to establish suitable pastoral structures.
Waves of violence targeting Iraqi Christians have gone on throughout the Iraq War. The latest wave was kicked off October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in which approximately 70 people were killed and approximately 70 were wounded. (70? E-mails keep coming in on that. The Church prayed for all the dead -- the Christians and the attackers. The Church didn't draw a line between this dead and that dead.) In the weeks that have followed Iraqi Christians in Mosul and Baghdad have been repeatedly targeted. Many have fled -- some to the Kurdistan Regional Government, some to other countries. Nicole Winfield (AP) terms the Pope's speech "one of his most pointed appeals yet for religious freedom." Middle East Online reports, "Dozens of academics, writers and rights activists from conservative Gulf states strongly condemned on Monday a wave of bombings targeting Christians in Arab countries, notably Egypt and Iraq."
Charles Sennott: And you know, as Anthony pointed out, the vast majority of Muslims and Christians in Iraq and in Egypt get a long very well. That's the vast majority. But this is a very serious Achilles' heel in these two societies that al Qaeda is very aware of. And al Qaeda is very actively, I think, targeting these Christian churches as a way of knowing this will enflame tensions both in the country but also draw attention from the Christian west to this minority. And it becomes a very sophisticated and, I think, potentially very divisive approach by al Qaeda to rip a new seam through these societies and I think it's very much incumbent upon the Muslim majority to be aware of that, to not be dismissive of this problem and I think it's also important for the Christian community both in the west and in Iraq and in Egypt to keep perspective and to recognize it's a fringe that's targeting.
Riz Khan: Let me ask you an e-mailed question from a viewer Amine De L'Ahssen who wrote in, "Hundreds of Muslims die each month at the hands of both al Qaeda and western soldiers. The media's sudden focus on the increase in violence against Christians indicates a double standard." How do you answer that kind of perspective?
Charles Sennott: You know I've written a column on precisely that and I agree. I think we have to be very aware that when al Qaeda targets Iraq, thousands die who are both Muslim and Christian and many more Muslims have died than Christians -- that is statistically true. But let's also be aware that this is a concerted effort on the part of al Qaeda to find a new way to create divisions. And that's why I think it's really important for the Muslim world not to be dismissive of this very important issue. We have to not allow it to be hijacked by any cause -- neither al Qaeda nor the Christian right in America. Keep it focused on the middle and keep it focused on a very important test of any democracy or any government.
Riz Khan: Alright.
Charles Sennott: Which is: "How do you take care of the minority presence within your society?"
Riz Khan: An equal treatment.
Charles Sennott: Right.
Riz Khan: We have a caller from Saudi Arabia. Bunayya, thanks for being with us. What would you like to ask?
Bunayya [Bad telephone line. His point was that he felt there was animosity towards Christians in Egypt and in Iraq. He spoke of the prophet Muhammad's wife Maria al-Qibtiyya (one of eleven wives) who was a Coptic Christian. At the end, he may have been saying he felt the Jews were the enemies but the line was bad and Riz Khan was cutting him off. And noting that he may have been saying that is not, for any late to the party, my saying "The Jews are the enemies." I would never say such a thing. I'm trying to represent his remarks which were not easy to hear. And Bunayya may have been about to reject that notion, I have no idea, he was cut off.]
Riz Khan: Bunayya, you raise an interesting point that I'll put to Ismat Kamo and this is that there seems to be very little outcry from Muslim leaders in the region about what's happening. I wonder why that is the case? Couldn't they be part of the solution in trying to resolve this issue?
Ismat Karmo: Well, I guess -- No question to what you have mentioned is true. I guess that the Christian in Iraq are a weak link in the whole society and that to answer the gentleman, your guest is that I think that the attention that is given to the Christian and the Middle East and Iraq is not really adequate to the level that it should be simply because I feel sometimes the west distances itself from the Christian just because they want to say that we're playing fair game with everybody. And for Christian in Iraq is not part of the political fight within Iraq, that's why we don't feel we should be targeted in this or be part of this massacre that's happening in the country. I can understand the fight between different factions within the country because they have their own political agenda within the country but Christians don't. They've always been faithful to the country. They always been serving the country. They have no political ambition in the country. They want to just live in peace.
Riz Khan: Charles Sennott, you want to --
Charles Sennott: I was just going to say -- I was just going to say that I agree in-in large part because both in Iraq and in Egypt, Christian minorities have played such a prominent role in secular governments and secular society. And they've been contributors to both societies. They are brothers, the Christians and the Muslims in these two Arab countries. But I think at the same time, the Christian west has a far-right that overmodulates this issue and then it becomes distorted and they talk too loudly about it. But sadly -- and in agreement with you -- the vast majority of Christians in the west forget that Christianity is in its origin an eastern religion, that it comes, of course, out of the Middle East, it comes out of the West Bank and Bethlehem and that sense of the minority that needs to persevere, to carry on --
And that's about all I can take. The reason we've included Charles is not because that's why we don't get the coverage in the domestic press on the attacks on Iraqi Christians. It's there in his own words, if you paid attention. A church gets attacked, it's news. And Charles knows that. But listen to all his psuedo-enlightened crap about why we shouldn't emphasize this story. Specifically this one statement by him: "But I think at the same time, the Christian west has a far-right that overmodulates this issue and then it becomes distorted and they talk too loudly about it."
You're supposed to be a journalist. Your issue is not what the Christian west -- right are far right (his two characterizations offered) -- are going to do with news. Are you reporting news or are you attempting to control a society? There is a world of difference between journalism and what Charles is speaking of. As for "talk too loudly about it," real journalists tend to be thrilled whenever any real news story get talked about -- loudly or otherwise -- as opposed to the junk news that occupies -- that invades -- so much of our country's time. FYI, Charles is now with Global Post (and I do know him). (He did his Iraq War reporting for the Boston Globe.)
Nadia Bilbassy: And I think it shows the insanity of groups like this who are targeting people in worship places and I'm glad to know that there's so much outrage in the Arab world, so many people spoke out against it including the Mufti of Saudi Arabia talking about these people [attackers] do not represent Islam, that they're hijacking the religion and it's good to hear it because now the Christians in the Middle East are under attack. I mean, we're talking about in Iraq, for example, before the American invasion you had almost one million Iraqi -- one million Christians in Iraq. Now it's under half-a-million. It's the same in most other countries. And Christians all over the Middle East have been an integral part of the mosaic and now to see them leaving -- They enrich the culture. Just to give you an example, in Palestine, they've been leaders in the National Movement for independence. And when three in the 1970s three of the top PLO leaders, Palestine Liberation Organization, were killed in Beirut by the Israelis, they took them and buried them in the church People were surprised -- why were they buried in the church? -- because they didn't know they were Christians. This question of being Muslim or Christian was never a part of any question but now al Qaeda is playing on this tension and it's so sad to see it.
Egypt was the topic, the attack in Egypt. We're not doing the "Egypt snapshot." We're noting Nadia because she spoke of the attacks in Iraq. For more on the discussion, you can stream the second hour.
Salar Jaffe and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report on efforts for Baghad to host an Arab Summit in two months and hail Amr Moussa's Baghdad visit as "a boost" to the country and to the summit. Sara Shurafa (Gulf News) reports that Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's Foreign Minister met with Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, and "stressed that Iraq who is hosting the summit this year refuses to hold it in any other place and also insisted that Arab countries must begin to lessen their hestitation over Iraq following the formation of the new government." Yang Lina (Xinhua) adds, "Moussa's talks will include a review to developments on the ground in Iraq as part of his following up to the preparations for the Arab summit due to be held in Baghdad in March".
Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports that tomorrow Parliament is expected to meet and address the issue of vice presidents with the number increasing from two to three. Turning to reported violence . . .
DPA reports a Hit roadside bombing attack on the chief of police Mohamed Faisal which claimed his life and left three other people involved as well. Alsumaria TV notes that four people were wounded. Reuters notes 2 Baghdad roadside bombing which left four people injured, and, dropping back to yesterday for both, a Tikrit roadside bombing today has injured two people and a Tuz Khurmato sticky bombing injured three people.
Reuters notes 2 "Shi'ites from the Shabak minority" were shot dead in Mosul.
All polite appeals to the formal systems of power will not end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We must physically obstruct the war machine or accept a role as its accomplice. The moratorium on anti-war protests in 2004 was designed to help elect the Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry. It was a foolish and humiliating concession. Kerry snapped to salute like a windup doll when he was nominated. He talked endlessly about victory in Iraq. He assured the country that he would not have withdrawn from Fallujah. And by the time George W. Bush was elected for another term the anti-war movement had lost its momentum. The effort to return Congress to Democratic control in 2006 and end the war in Iraq became another sad lesson in incredulity. The Democratic Party, once in the majority, funded and expanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Barack Obama in 2008 proved to be yet another advertising gimmick for the corporate and military elite. All our efforts to work within the political process to stop these wars have been abject and miserable failures. And while we wasted our time, tens of thousands of Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani civilians, as well as U.S. soldiers and Marines, were traumatized, maimed and killed. Either you are against war or you are not. Either you use your bodies to defy the war makers and weapons manufacturers until the wars end or you do not. Either you have the dignity and strength of character to denounce those who ridicule or ignore your core moral beliefs -- including Obama -- or you do not. Either you stand for something or you do not. And because so many in the anti-war movement proved to be weak and naive in 2004, 2006 and 2008 we will have to start over. This time we must build an anti-war movement that will hold fast. We must defy the entire system. We must acknowledge that it is not our job to help Democrats win elections. The Democratic Party has amply proved, by its failure to stand up for working men and women, its slavishness to Wall Street and its refusal to end these wars, that it cannot be trusted. We must trust only ourselves. And we must disrupt the system. The next chance, in case you missed the last one, to protest these wars will come Saturday, March 19, the eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Street demonstrations are scheduled in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. You can find details on www.answercoalition.org/national/index.html.