Friday, January 28, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Friday, January 28, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi women get some press coverage, new numbers are out on Iraqi refugees, Nancy A. Youssef pens a new attack piece in her new role as Judith Miller of 2011, and more.
 
Starting with Iraqi refugees.  Jacques Clement (AFP) reports that the number of Iraqi refugees -- internal and external -- returning fell in 2010.  And other than that, you're going to have to ignore AFP.  I have no idea why it so confusing to so very many and with Clement, he's reporting breaking news and has that excuse.  But many others don't.  The UN will be releasing a breakdown of the numbers and that's not going to help either. A number of outlets, even using the official UN breakdown, haven't been able to get it right.  PDF format warning, click here to see the numbers for January 2010 through August 2010.  External refugees -- Iraqis who left the country -- who came back to Iraq are listed under "Refugees" on the "Returning Iraqis 2010" graph.  Furthermore, you're using the "IND" numbers (individuals) and not "FAM" (families).  From January through August, 18,240 Iraqis refugees returned to Iraq.  UNHCR says the numbers continued to drop in the last months of the year.  If we've all followed that, let's return to the AFP article: "According to UNHCR figures, the number of Iraqis returning to their home country peaked in March, with a total of 17,080 returns in the same month Iraq held its second parliamentary polls since dictator Saddam Hussein was ousted."  What does that sentence say to you?
 
It appears to say that 17,080 Iraqi refugees who had left Iraq returned in the month of March.  That is incorrect.  Go back to the chart. How many Iraqis returned from outside of Iraq?  2450.  So where's the 17,080?  Look at the number of internally displaced Iraqis (Iraqis in Iraq but not in their own homes) for the month of March: 14,630 were able to return to their homes.  You add those two numbers and you'll get 17,080.  17,080 is not the number of Iraqis who returned to Iraq in March.    Are reporters not understanding the figures or are they deliberately distorting them?  I don't know.  We dealt with this last November 28th but we've dealt with it over and over since the start of The Myth of the Great Return.  If you're looking for an example of someone who has and does consistently grasp the numbers, Kim Gamel's AP report today is the usual strong work from Gamel who explains, "Most returnees were internally displaced people who had fled to other parts of the country.  Only 26,410 returned from Syria, Iran and Jordan and other countries, down from 37,090 in 2009, according to the report."
 
Alsumaira TV reports, "With the participation of Iraqi and foreign organizations and in the presence of Ambassadors to Iraq and officials from Kurdistan and Baghdad, Arbil hosted a conference on the role of women in building peace and reconciliation in Iraq. The conference criticized the political parties in Iraq and the central government over 'marginalizing' women in the new government." The conference ends today, it was a two-day conference. It was an international conference. And it says a great deal about the English-speaking press, or rather, the lack of coverage does.

Were this a business conference, there would be the financial press covering it as well as write ups in the general press. Were it on cholera or any of the illnesses that so frequently plague Iraq, the health press would cover it and the general press would do a few write ups. Were it on 'security,' the entire press would be ga-ga over it 'reporting' with advertising copy. But when the conference deals with women, where's the press?

If you're late to it, we covered the conference in yesterday's snapshotToday on Morning Edition (NPR), Kelly McEvers and Isra al Rubeii report on Iraqi women married to 'terrorists' -- dubbed terrorists by the government of Iraq, a government that itself terrorizes its own people. Whether they're forced into the marriage by families or not, it's the women's fault in the eyes of the 'government' of Iraq. Their husband takes an action, well, the women are responsible because they should have known. It's a real damn shame that the US-government installed so many exiles to begin with but it's even more surprising how grossly ignorant the exiles are. Excerpt:
 
 
Kelly McEvers: Um Salah says that with her husband now in jail and accused of being a terrorist, she has no money and no hope. While she talks, [her two-year-old son] Salah hangs on her shoulder.
 
UM SALAH: (Through translator) Sometimes, you know, when she is so much fed up with her situation, she would just pray for God: God, take my life. I mean, okay. I mean, let me die with my son, now.
 
MCEVERS: Aid groups say there are more than a hundred women like Um Salah in Diyala Province alone. With that in mind, the Iraqi government recently launched an anti-al-Qaida media campaign.
 
(Soundbite of a video)
 
Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)
 
Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)
 
Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)
 
MCEVERS: A video showed authorities digging through a bomb-making factory, and it urged women not to marry insurgents. Marry a terrorist, and your children will have no rights, the campaign goes. Marry a terrorist, and you'll be shunned by society.
The program, broadcast on state TV, featured two women who said they were forced to marry foreign fighters.
 
Unidentified Woman #2: (Foreign language spoken)
 
MCEVERS: This woman says her uncle arranged a marriage with a Palestinian-born militant from Syria. The man was later killed in a raid by Iraqi troops. About 20 women who once were married to militants have recently been detained. Ministry of Defense spokesman Mohammad al-Askari says he finds it hard to believe that any of them are totally innocent.
 
 
So they deny these women social services ensuring the women are punished for crimes they took no part in and the children are raised in situations that breed anger and create future strife -- which is a petri dish brimming with the potential for an endless cycle of violence. Again, it's a real shame that idiots were installed by the US government to run (and ruin) Iraq.  In related news, Michael Grossberg (Columbus Dispatch) reports: on Heather Raffo's attempt to give voice to Iraqi women via her play Sounds of Desire:

An Iraqi-American actress and playwright developed an off-Broadway hit by creating nine diverse portraits of Iraqi women.
[. . .]
Raffo, raised in Michigan as a Roman Catholic with an Iraqi father and an American mother, created her characters as composites - culled from dozens of interviews she conducted with Iraqi women and their families. She met the women over more than eight years and on four continents.
"All of them have different points of view about the situation they're living in that are surprising to an American audience," she said.
Among her characters: a girl who wants to attend school but is stuck at home because of the military occupation of her country; a m ullaya, a woman who leads the call and response at funerals; a bedouin who ponders a move to London; an expatriate in London; a painter who seeks freedom amid the regime of Saddam Hussein; and a woman in America, with family in Iraq, who watches the war on television.
 

 
Manal Omar is the author Barefoot in Baghdad: A Story of Identity -- My Own and What it Means to be a Woman in Chaos.  Starting in the 1990s, she has done humanitarian work in Iraq.  NGO Coordination Committee in Iraq interviewed her this week about the status of women's rights in the new 'democratic' Iraq.  Excerpt:
 
 

NCCI: As the former Regional Coordinator for Women for Women International in Iraq, what do you feel are some of the greatest obstacles facing NGOs which operate in the sector of women's rights?

 

Manal Omar: The biggest challenge is when women become the negotiating chip.  One of the titles of my chapters in my book is "Negotiating Chip," because I witnessed too often how women's rights were used during political or social bargaining. For example, you may have high-level Kurdish representatives that believe 100% in women's rights.  However, during political debates, or when it's time to vote on a resolution, they will not vote pro-women.  When I would challenge them, they often would say that their primary issue is federalization, and as a result, they would strike a deal on a resolution for women if more conservative parties would vote on the resolution of federalization. The second challenge is what I call the "not now" argument.  This argument usually states that because of overall violence and instability, it is not an appropriate time to discuss women's issues.  I have witnessed how the "not now" easily becomes the "not ever."  Women must maximize the window of opportunity to push their rights forward.


 

NCCI: When was the last time that you were in Iraq?  Did you notice any changes in women's status in the country at that time?

 

Manal Omar: The last time I was in Iraq was December 2010.  Unfortunately, during my trip there was the announcement of the new government ministries.  It was very sad to see that Iraqi women were not part of the list of ministries at all.  Many of the women's organizations I have worked with for the last seven years called me and were in shock to see how Iraqi women continue to lose rights rather than gain them!  After the previous elections, there were 6 female ministers; now there are none.  Even the Ministry for Women's Affairs has an interim male Minister.  This highlights that the challenge facing women is stronger than ever.

 

NCCI: Who do you consider as the most vulnerable groups of women today in Iraq?  What special protection should NGOs and the government seek to provide them with?

 

Manal Omar: The most vulnerable groups would be women heads of households; this usually means widows, divorcĂ©s, or unmarried women.  They do not have the access or mobility than men generally have.  They are often more vulnerable in times of limited security and have less access to income.  A lack of security remains the primary obstacle limiting women's ability to attain economic self-sufficiency.  Naturally, women in that category who are either internally displaced people (IDPs) or refugees in neighbouring countries are at twice the riskk. NGOs should focus on programs that are accessible for these women.  The best programs will not be able to succeed if women are not able to come, and that is often the case with the vulnerable women.  They have very limited mobility.  The more the program is available with limited transportation time and costs, the more accessible it will be for these groups.  Overall, the Iraqi government is still the primary duty bearer and should have programs targeting the most vulnerable groups.  These programs should be easy to access, with minimum bureaucracy and clear application steps.

 
On the issue of Nouri al-Maliki's Cabinet, from the December 29th snapshot:
 
There are also calls from the National Alliance for the process to be speeded up and for more women to be named with the latter calls being led by the Virtue Party's Kamilp Moussawi who notes that the last Cabinet had 7 women ministers.  In addition, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has received a letter from female MPs formally protesting the marginalization of women in the Cabinet. As noted last Wednesday, among the female MPs protesting the inequality is Ala Talabani, Jalal's niece. 
 
Nouri does not have a complete cabinet.  There are 42 posts.  32 are filled.  29 if you're honest.  Besides being prime minister, Nouri appointed himself to three posts -- Minister of Defense, Minister of the Interior and National Security Minister.  Despite this, Noui had the nerve to claim, December 22nd, when he finally held his first Cabinet meeting, that security was one of "his three top priorities." 
 
Last week and this week, Iraq's been slammed by bombings.  Yesterday, Baghdad was slammed with bombings, the most violent of which appears to have targeted a funeral. AP notes that the death toll in that bombing has risen to 51 with one-hundred-and-twenty-three more people left injured. Liz Sly and Ali Qeis (Washington Post) report, "In scenes of chaos after the blast, enraged residents and mourners threw rocks at police to prevent them from reaching the site. When Iraqi army reinforcements arrived, a small group of gunmen hiding in a nearby building shot at them, prompting the soldiers to open fire over the heads of the crowd, according to an official with the army's Baghdad operations command, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media."  War News Radio spoke to the New York Times John Leland about Monday's attacks.  Excerpt:
 
John Leland: Well it's hard to draw too many conclusions on just a couple of days.  The attacks of today were on Shi'ite pilgrims walking towards Karbala which they do every year and have for the last seven years, since the fall of Saddam Hussein because Saddam had banned that march and every year they're attacked.  So the fact that there are these attacks on them -- and to an extent, yesterday as well -- you know, it is, to some extent, to be expected.
 
Aaron Moser: Although some violence can be understood as part of a cyclical sectarian conflict, Leland thinks that other types of new violence are more concerning.
 
John Leland: The attack of earlier in the week ---  the several attacks earlier in the week  on security forces are presenting a different kind of subtleties.  If the insurgency or whoever is doing this, he is able to mount sustained attacks on security forces.  That causes huge problems for the country and does bring back echoes of the bad old days of 2005, 2006, 2007.
 
As one attack after another continues, one would think Nouri would start appointing people for the posts of Minister of Defense, Minister of the Interior and National Security Minister. However, Nouri's apparently comfortable going on and filling each one.  A number of deals were made by Nouri to build a power-sharing coalition.  The deals promised too much (if you only have 2x, you can't promise to provide 150x and even creating additional Cabinet posts out of whole cloth -- which Nouri has done -- won't allow him to honor all the deals made).  Iraqiya, which received the most votes in the March 7th vote, was promised many things.  They'd hoped to have a number of Cabinte posts.  They'd hope to have Falah al-Naqib appointed as Minister of Defense. Barring that, they wanted Iskandar Wattout. Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that Falah al-Naqib is out as a nominee and that everyone believes the post of Minister of the Interior will go to Aqil Turaihi (member of Nouri's Dawa political party).

Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured three people (two were police officers), a Baghdad roadside bombing injured one person, 1 "employee of the Public Integrity Commission" was shot dead in Baghdad and, dropping back to yesterday, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four more injured.
 
 
Moving to the topic of electricity, earlier this month the Ministry of Electricity's Undersecretary declared that Iraq's energy problem won't be solved until 2014 at the earliest.  As with security, Nouri didn't address this issue in his previous four years as prime minister and hasn't addressed it thus far in his current term.  Dropping back to the snapshot from January 18th:
 
Turning to news of basic services, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Yahya Barzanji (AP) report on Abdul-Rahman Mustafa, Governor of Tamim Province, and his decision to stop supplying Baghdad with electricity while his capital (Kirkuk) makes do with less than four hours of electricity each day. Marwan Ibrahim (AFP) adds, "Rizgar Ali, chairman of Kirkuk's provincial council, said the procedure of separating from the national grid was completed on Tuesday evening."  An unnamed US embassy official expresses concern and remind, "We saw riots last summer . . . that's a concern."  Al Rafidayn terms it a "secession" and notes local demonstrators ("dozens") protested between Kirkuk and Erbil over the fact that they have daily power outages in excess of twenty hours.  Al Sabaah reports that Monday saw over 1,000 people demonstrate in Diyala Province's Khan Bani Saad over the poor services and the deterioration of edcation offered -- on the latter, specific complaints include that the sole school was so small and "built with mud" and has over 1300 students enrolled in it.
Today Lebanon's Daily Star reports, "Iraq's Kirkuk Province resumed power supplies to the national grid Friday, after a deal that ended a dispute this week over electricity provisions.  [. . .]  Electriciy Ministry officials agreed Thursday to immediately increase Kirkuk's quota by nearly 50 percent which still leaves the province woefully short of 24-hour power." An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers investigated the electricity issue and utilized stringers for various provinces to compile the following hard data at Inside Iraq:
 
 
Province                      Hours of Power in 24 hours    Population
Wasit                              10 - 12                               Shi'ite majority
Amara                             10 - 12                              Shi'ite majority
Basra                              10 - 12                               Shi'ite majority
Thi Qar                             12                                    Shi'ite majority
Muthanna                          12                                   Shi'ite majority
Babil                                 12                                    Shi'ite majority
Diwaniyah                         12                                   Shi'ite majority
Diyala                                8                                     Mixed
Nineveh                             2 - 4                                Sunni majority 
Kirkuk                                4                                     Sunni majority
Anbar                                 4-5                                  Sunni majority
BAGHDAD:
My neighbourhood               4
 
 
Meanwhile AFP reports that Sheikh Ahmed al-Safi declared today that "many MPs were falsely claiming tens of thousands of dollars as security expenses and pocketing the money." 
 

"It was a genuinely joint group," Gus O'Donnell insisted to the Iraq Inquiry today as he attempted to paint a happy face on things and to take the committee members where he wanted. Next week, the Inquiry hears from Stephen Pattison, John Buck and, most interesting for the press, Jack Straw.  Gus O'Donnell was Cabinet Secretary in 2005 and with the Treasury prior to that. BBC News reports:

Sir Gus told the inquiry that the Blair government had fewer Cabinet meetings than his immediate predecessors and his successors as prime ministers because he took a "certain view" about what could be achieved through collective decisions.
Asked why this was the case, Sir Gus said he believed the prime minister had concerns about how watertight discussions in Cabinet would be.

While O'Donnell wasted plenty of time talking about Afghanistan (it's not the "Afghanistan Inquiry"), he did offer a few revelations and sketch out that, hiding behind claims of 'the press will find out,' Tony Blair kept many key leaders uninformed and underinformed during the decision making process. Richard Norton-Taylor (Guardian) notes that O'Donnell stated that Blair shouldn't have kept his Cabinet in the dark that the Attorney General had serious doubts that the Iraq War could be legal without a second resolution from the United Nations (there was no second resolution, for those late to the party) and emphasizes this quote: "The ministerial code is very clear about the need, when the attorney general gives written advice, the full text of that advice should be attached [to cabinet papers]." Rosa Prince (Telegraph of London) adds, "Giving evidence before the Iraq Inquiry, Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, said that the former prime minister did not consider cabinet meetings to be a 'safe place' where disagreements could be aired in private."
 
 
 
The Iraq Inquiry is taking place in London. It is the latest examination by the British into the Iraq War. The US has not provided even one solid investigation. Nor has Australia. Those three countries were the primary players/criminals in the illegal war. Chris Doran (On Line Opinion) argues for an inquiry to take place in Australia:

The Howard Government's decision to not only support but to participate in the invasion was not, as we all vividly remember, without significant opposition. Howard was warned repeatedly that a military invasion of Iraq was illegal and would contravene the United Nation's charter. Countless experts refuted alleged intelligence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and ties to Al Queda; many warned that invading Iraq would only inflame anti-western radical Islamic sentiment. And Australians took to the streets in mass protests not seen since the previous national debacle of following the US blindly into a brutal and unjust war in Vietnam. We now know of course that there were no WMD's or ties to Al Queda; even more importantly, we know that Howard, Bush, and Blair knew at the time that there was no evidence. Put simply, they lied.
The British Chilcot Inquiry has largely focused on the legality of the invasion, and what then British Prime Minister Tony Blair knew, and when he knew it. This is somewhat of a moot point; the leaked Downing Street memo of July 2002 established that Blair knew then that the US had already decided to invade, and that the UN Security Council debate and attempt to secure a new resolution justifying force was all theatre. But it is not nor should it be a moot point for Australia.
As revealed in the 2006 Cole Inquiry into the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) kickback scandal, in early 2002 John Dauth, then Australia's ambassador to the United Nations, told AWB Chairman Trevor Flugge that US military action to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein was inevitable, and that Australia would support and participate in such action. Flugge then dutifully reported this to the AWB Board of Directors on February 27, 2002. And so AWB was given advance notice of the Howard Government's intention to participate militarily a full year before the invasion took place and well before any sort of informed debate had begun. Issues of legality, justice, the rule of law, and innocent civilian lives clearly never entered into the decision making process, but Australia's wheat exports to Iraq did. That revelation alone should have prompted an Inquiry years ago.
An excellent starting question for John Howard testifying at an independent Inquiry would be why and how his Government had already decided a year in advance to participate in an invasion.
 
We support  Bradley Manning. Who? Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now at Quantico in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. Paul Courson (CNN) notes Bradley is a suspect and, "He has not admitted guilt in either incident, his supporters say." 
 
What does that mean? 
 
It means we don't link to Nancy A. Youssef's article for McClatchy Newspapers. Why not?  Go through our archives, do a search of this site with "The Diane Rehm Show" and "Nancy A. Youssef" and "Bradley Manning" as key terms.  Nancy has been on a one-woman witch hunt with regards to Bradley.  She has repeatedly convicted him on air on The Diane Rehm Show -- not just once, not just twice, not just three times.  She has done this over and over and over.  (Though a guest on today's show, she didn't discuss Bradley -- they were obsessed with Egypt -- which had already been an hour long topic on Thursday's Diane Rehm Show but still became the thrust of today's international hour.) Nancy is also very close to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
 
A number of outlets are putting the claims in Nancy's bad article out there and treating them as fact.  Let's review it.  (If you must read it, the title is "Probe: Army ignored warnings over soldier" and you can Google that.) Nancy knows about an Army report -- how?  Her friends she leaves unnamed.  (But I can name them.) This report is the result of an investigation, she says, and it found unflattering things about Bradley.  She says.  And she can say so, she says, because she has "two military officials familiar with investigation" (but not the report?) who talked to her.  Once upon a time, you had to have three sources.  Always wonder about unsourced claims with two sources.  Though she hasn't seen the report, Nancy yacks on and on about the report -- when not -- FOR NO NATURAL REASON -- bringing in Major Nidal Hasan.  That's your clue that Nancy's gone skinny dipping in a cesspool she wants to pass off as journalism.  Hasan shot dead many at Fort Hood.  So Nance just wants to bring him into the article for . . . local color?  Extra seasoning?  She knows what she's doing and she knows it's not journalism.
 
You've been repeatedly warned about McClatchy of late and about Nancy in particular who is sending off alarms at McClatchy.  What she's done is write a smear-job, she has not reported.  For her friends in the Defense Dept, she has attacked Bradley in an unsourced article that doesn't pass the smell test.  There is a term for it, "yellow journalism."  She should be ashamed of herself and everyone running with the claims she's making in this article needs to ask how they think they're helping Bradley? 
 
They also should note that Nancy made no effort to get a comment from Bradley's attorney.  While painting Bradley in an unflattering light throughout her article, she never tries for a quote, she only repeats what her Defense 'chums' and . . .  tell her. She's becoming the new Judith Miller and that's her fault but also the fault of a lot of people who should have been calling her out months ago but let her slide and slide.
 
TV notes. Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), Jackie Calmes (New York Times), Susan Davis (National Journal) and John Dickerson (CBS News). Gwen's latest column is " Date Night: Or Why the Best Part of the State of the Union Address Wasn't the Speech." Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Sam Bennett, Cari Dominguez, Kristen Soltis and Patricia Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. Online, it provides an extra segment, a discussion about Rick Santorum's remarks about Barack Obama. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

WikiLeaks
Julian Assange, the controversial founder of WikiLeaks, speaks to Steve Kroft about the U.S. attempt to indict him on criminal charges and the torrent of criticism aimed at him for publishing classified documents. (This is a double-length segment.)


In Search of the Jaguar
"60 Minutes" went in search of the most elusive of all of nature's big cats, the jaguar, and captured amazing footage of them in the Brazilian jungle. Bob Simon reports. | Watch Video


Sunday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.


Radio notes. The Diane Rehm Show begins airing on most NPR stations (and begins streaming online live) at 10:00 am EST. The first hour, domestic hour, Diane's panelists include Chris Cillizza (Washington Post), Jeanne Cummings (Politico) and Clarence Page (Chicago Tribune). The second hour, international hour, her panelists include Michele Kelemen (NPR), David Sanger (New York Times) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers). Diane's broadcast are archived and can be streamed online at no charge.