Saturday, January 29, 2011

Violence continues, so does the spinning

Nearly two thirds of US citizens believe that our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should be ended and that overall military spending should be dramatically reduced. Since he became president, Obama has had three opportunities to work with Congress to reduce military spending, but instead, has championed increases in that spending each time, despite the fact that this spending represents a clear threat to the economic future of our country.
He has continued, as well, to try to hide the true costs of the wars by funding them with off-the-books supplemental spending bills, despite the fact that he campaigned against this very practice. The president has escalated the war on Afghanistan, in which rising civilian deaths and atrocities have become routine.

The above is from David Swanson's "The imperial war presidency" (Guardian) about Barack's State of the Union address. During the speech, Barack yammered away about violence decreasing in Iraq -- despite the fact that January has already produced more deaths than did December. In today's reported violence, Reuters notes, 1 police Lt Col was shot dead in Baghdad and a second police officer was shot dead in a separate incident. AP reports that 2 Sahwa members were shot dead outside of Kirkuk. Alsumaria TV notes 1 person was shot dead in Kirkuk and: "Unknown gunmen opened fire on Abdul Rahman Jemaa, member of Al Ibara municipal council, northeastern Baaquba and killed him near his house, a source from Diyala police said."

Meanwhile, on the Stupidity Front, Press TV 'reports': "The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a report published on Friday that the number of Iraqi refugees who came back to Iraq in 2010 stood at 118,890, showing a 40 percent drop from 204,830 in 2009."


We go over this every time and it's getting real old. If you can't interpret a basic chart, maybe you need to stop trying. From yesterday's snapshot:

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."

Kim Gamel gets it right. In 2009, 37,090 Iraqi refugees returned to Iraq (and some new refugees left the country) and, in 2010, 26,410 returned to Iraq. 26,410 -- not, as Press TV 'reports,' 118,890. Meanwhile Marwan Ibrahim (AFP) reports:

A worsening water shortage in Iraq is raising tensions in the multi-ethnic Kirkuk province, where Arab farmers accuse the Kurdistan region of ruining them by closing the valves to a dam in winter.
"We are harmed by the Kurds, and the officials responsible for Baghdad and Kirkuk will not lift a finger," said Sheikh Khaled al-Mafraji, a leader of the Arab Political Council that groups mainly Sunni tribal leaders.

The drought is all the more surprising when the Kurdistan Region saw snowfall this week.

We'll close with this from Andy Worthington's "Obama’s Collapse: The Return of the Military Commissions" (World Can't Wait):

For T. S. Eliot, April was the cruelest month, but for the prisoners at Guantánamo it is January — from the dashed hopes of January 2009, when President Obama swept into office issuing an executive order in which he promised to close the prison within a year, to January 2010, when, having failed to do so, he added insult to injury by issuing a moratorium preventing the release of 29 Yemenis cleared for release by his own Guantánamo Review Task Force, after his opponents seized on the revelation that a failed plane bomber on Christmas Day 2009 had apparently been recruited in Yemen.

This year the President’s bitter surprise for the prisoners (which has encouraged a widespread peaceful protest at the prison, as reported here) was two-fold. The first was his failure to veto a military spending bill passed by Congress, which contained cynical and unconstitutional provisions preventing the transfer of any prisoner to the US mainland, in which lawmakers also demanded the power to prevent the release of prisoners to countries regarded as dangerous.

While these were evidently unacceptable assaults on Presidential authority, dashing the administration’s hopes of holding federal court trials for any of the remaining 173 prisoners and confirming the intent of Congress to enshrine the Yemeni moratorium in legislation, and also to prevent any prisoners from being released to other countries including Afghanistan, Obama refused to veto the bill, feebly claiming that he would try to negotiate with Congress, but thereby conceding that there was no way that the prison would close in the foreseeable future — or, very probably, in the rest of his term in office.

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