Sunday, February 13, 2011

And the war drags on . . .

If you thought today the US media might find their way back to Iraq, you were mistaken. The most Reuters (an international outlet) can manage is to tell you 1 police officer was shot and another wounded in Tamiya, a Garma roadside bombing injured Sahwa leader Hikmat al-Jumaili and that the death toll in yesterday's suicide bombing rose to 48. There is major news out of Iraq. It's just not getting covered and, no, Joel Greenberg and Joby Warrick's one sentence on Iraq ("Vice President Biden separately telephoned leaders of the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq over the weekend, a White House official said. ") in this lengthy Washington Post report doesn't cut it.

Conservative Max Boot (Los Angeles Times) writes, "Remember Iraq? That country we invaded in 2003? The one where more than 4,400 American soldiers have lost their lives and more than 32,000 have been wounded? The one where we've spent nearly $800 billion? As recently as 2008, Iraq dominated American politics. But now it's a nonstory. Other subjects have pushed it off the front page, from the economy and healthcare to Afghanistan, Tunisia and Egypt." Iraq's not been a success. The benchmarks were never met so the US government can't honestly sign off as 'success.' The Iraqi people are still without basic services and jobs so they're not going to hail it as a success. But as always, when the left 'leaders' take their eyes off the ball, the right-wing doesn't. Max Boot's only one of many neocons surfacing right now with columns on Iraq. And when there's nothing to combat it, his revisionary tactics win out. The War Hawk right is a like a dog with a bone, they're not letting go of this topic. The left, sadly, has a lot of War Hawks and a lot of hypocrites -- and the latter grouping is the one that especially doesn't want to talk Iraq because heaven forbid they ever call out Baby Barack. I understand they'll be toilet training him soon and, after that, prepping the baby for pre-K. Maybe in forty years they can call out Barack. But right now, their little baby needs encouragement. Come on, Barack, you can go potty. Sit there, come on.

In the meantime people die across the world because the War Hawk Barack isn't afraid to pursue empire. In fact, knowing that most potential critics refuse to call him out only emboldens him to be a bigger War Hawk.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4439. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4439.

An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers (at Inside Iraq) notes the reports of the mass graves discovered yesterday (over 150 dead) and how the government was claiming that these were victims of al Qaeda but the burial evidence indicated otherwise. To find out the truth, the correspondent called a stringer present when the graves were unearthed:

"I was there. I saw them myself. It was incredible – the way they were each buried - individually, according to the word of Islamic tradition: their faces towards the Kaaba (Mekka), the libna (mud brick) under the head, the white shroud – complete to the smallest detail.
"Since when did al Qaida burry its victims observing such details?? No – These were Qaida fighters for sure".
SO – I ask: What benefit would security forces gain by distorting this story? Is it to sow more hatred for al Qaida? And if this story – this unashamed statement by a General, is a lie – Then what else is a lie? And to what end?
Is this how the Iraqi security forces hope to gain the trust of the Iraqi people? And if we can't believe a General - a chief of police of a province ….???

Al Mada notes that there are reports that Abdul Muni Muhammad set himself on fire in Mosul today due to the continued unemployment and that reports note he is a porter with four children who "resides in a house with four other families." Citing police sources, Germany's DPA reports the man was 31-years-old and notes, "Thousands of Iraqis have been protesting this month, demanding better living standards, improved services and less corruption." Citing hospital sources, AFP reports he died at the hospital. Those are the reports. Earlier this month, there were claims of another man setting himself on fire, however, those reports were not sourced to anyone. We're noting these reports because they're sourced to police and hospital employees. That doesn't make them true. But this is what's being reported. (Not by the US, of course.) notes the United Nations places unemployment in Mosul at 17%.

Dar Addustour reports that "hundreds" protested in Ramadi today against rampant unemployment and a lack of basic services and protesters are vowing that they will continue demonstrating. Ahmed al-Hiti ( reports that they also called for the province's governor and council chair person to be removed. Worker Ali Jassim declared he and others cannot feed their families with what they are paid and he started a sit-in.

If you've forgotten, last weekend, Iraqi officials couldn't stop pledging their fidelity to the rations system and insisting they would increase the amount and that they understood the pain the Iraqi people were living under. That was then. David Ali (Al Mada) reports a new proposal from the Ministry of Education: Cut the ration cards of those families who have a child drop out of school or college. In other words, cut the ration cards on the most extreme poor because that's who's been forced to drop out, the children of families (if they're lucky not be orphans) who are not making it and who have to take to the streets and beg for the families unless they're among the very few who find a job. Alsumaria reports that MP Bahaa Al Aaraji (of the Sadr bloc) has called out the national government and stated that is unable to serve the people of Iraq.

Today the Parliament was supposed to declare the vice presidents -- you know, the vice presidents for the new government that Iraqis voted on . . . in March of 2011. Still don't have those vice presidents. Even after today. Al Mada reports that the Parliament decided to postpone the vote. They may take it up tomorrow. They may not. The issues they are puzzled over include the number. The last 'government' had two Iraqi vice presidents. In the fall of last year, it was 'decided' they'd up that number to three. Last week, they decided to go for four. The three that were expected to be voted on were Adel Abdel Mahdi (currently the Shi'ite VP), Tareq al-Hashemi (currently the Sunni VP) and newbie Khudair Khuzaie. In a desperate attempt to spin, Nouri and the White House are treating nothing like something. Al Rafidayn reports US Vice President Joe Biden congratulated Nouri over the fact that Parliament approved 2 ministers for the Ministry of Electricity, two ministers for the Ministry of Trade and two who will be over food and those pesky basic services. There is still no Minister of the Defense, no Minister of National Security and no Minister of Interior. These are the posts responsible for the country's security. Nouri's holding them, declaring himself the sub for now. For now. Dar Addustour lists the posts filled today as follows:

Minister of Elecrticity
Minister of State for Women's Affairs
Minister of Commerce
Minister of State for Civil Society Affairs
Minister of State
Minister of State for Tribal Affairs
Minister of Municipalities.

That's seven, the reports say eight were confirmed, I don't know what the eighth was. The Parliament refused to confirm the Minister of Planning. In othernews, Al Mada reports that the meeting between Nouri and Ayad Allawi that KRG President Massoud Barzani was supposed to mediate has now been called off. But let's grab that 'progress' stamp and call that 'progress' too. That's a whole lot of news above and none of it is reported by US outlets.

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Kat's "Kat's Korner: PJ Harvey sets the standard" went up earlier this morning. Betty's "Betinna's fall" went up tonight and is her restarting the story of Betinna. Pru notes "Libraries: Why We Must Fight To Read" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Popular, empowering and free – that's why the Tories hate libraries, writes Alan Gibbons

The public library service is in crisis. The government’s slash-and-burn approach means a 28 percent cut in spending on them.

Libraries are one of the first targets for the axe, with cuts being “front‑loaded” in the first year.

Already funding is being withdrawn from around 400 libraries, threatening them with closure. Only half of local authorities had reported at the time of writing, so the final figure could be 800 or even more.

In areas like Suffolk, Gloucestershire, Doncaster, Oxfordshire, Lewisham, Barnet, and many more, this could mean the closure of around half the branch libraries. The Isle of Wight could end up with just two.

At least 1,000 library workers are set to lose their jobs. Opening hours are also being cut, which is disastrous.

When local communities are unsure when their library will be open they stay away, leading to a spiral of decline.

Book funds are being slashed by 75 percent in Nottinghamshire.

All of this is happening as Britain’s position in international reading league tables has dropped from 7th to 25th in a decade.

The report from which these findings come observed that British teenagers are less likely to read for pleasure than those in high ranking countries like Finland.

Just a year ago culture minister Ed Vaizey was thundering that Labour was destroying the service. Now he is presiding over the worst cuts in its history.

They have stirred up huge opposition with demonstrations, petitions, meetings and read-ins. One meeting in Somerset drew 10 percent of the local population!

It is not difficult to see why people in these areas are so attached to their libraries. They don’t just provide free book-lending.

They provide access to computers for people who don’t have them at home. They provide expert staff who help people. In its true sense, the library is a focal point for the community.

At its best the library gives ordinary men and women the access to information and culture.

This allows them to challenge their alleged betters’ view of the world and stranglehold over its levers of power. Books are weapons. Information is power.


Agitation for publicly funded libraries free at the point of use has been central to trade union, socialist, democratic and radical thought since the birth of the working class.

The origins of the public library service lie in the first piece of legislation, the 1850 Public Libraries Act.

The main instigators of the act were radical Liberal MPs William Ewart and Joseph Brotherton, and the Chartist Edward Edwards. He became the first librarian of Manchester Free Libraries.

The struggle to establish free public libraries was part of the growing clamour for better conditions towards the end of the 19th century.

It belongs to the same demand for reform that led to universal education, school meals and municipal utilities.

Some employers and politicians realised the truth of Lord Hailsham’s judgement after the Second World War that, “If you don’t give the masses social reform they will give you social revolution.”

Trade unionists and socialists saw libraries as part of working class “self‑improvement.”

Many wealthy philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie saw them as a way of making working people more respectable—and less likely to go to the pub, strike or riot.

By 1926 most of the population had some form of library access.

But the institution of the modern British library was finally secured by the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act.

The 1960s were the golden decade for libraries. Spending grew by half. Staff numbers grew 40 percent.

This came to a shuddering halt when Margaret Thatcher took office. Councils started to erode library provision and by the 1990s a parliamentary committee judged it a “service in crisis”.

New Labour did nothing to restore its fortunes. We now face a fight for the very future of the public library, particularly local branches.

Socialists and trade unionists should be at the forefront of local activities, supporting their community’s right to a free, universal library service.

In the words of Joni Mitchell, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

The e-mail address for this site is