Tuesday, February 22, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue (and the continued protests, in fact, mock the New York Times' smug little two-some), Kaye Whitley wants you to pay her salary but she doesn't want to work for you, and more.
Today confusion reigns surpreme. Most thought Kaye Whitley, the Pentagon's Director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, was an employee of the Pentagon whose salary was paid by the tax payer and, therefore, answerable to the public. Turns out Kaye Whit-whit is a star-star. Her concert rider hasn't reached Van Halen proportions yet (presumably, she will not cancel an appearance if brown M&Ms are in the green room) but give her time, give her time.
On today's Tell Me More (NPR), Michele Martin explained that they had contacted the Pentagon and Kaye Whitley had agreed to appear on the show for a discussion Martin was moderating on sexual harassment in the military provided -- pay attention -- that she speak first and only to Michele Martin (no one else appearing could question her or comment to her). That's a bit extreme for a government employee. Especially one whose ass should have been fired when she refused to testify to Congress in July 2008. But provided she could get these conditions, the star-star would appear. Except she wouldn't. Even after agreeing to Whitley's conditions and her stating she would appear, at the last minute Kaye-Kay backed out. Usually when a diva backs out at the last minute, the rumors are pills or booze. Let's hope Kaye's not hitting the hard stuff. Who knows what the reasons were for Kaye's backing out but it's past time that the Pentagon started explaining what world they're living in that they have an employee who thinks she can testify to Congress only when she wants to and whose MAIN JOB is to do media outreach but insists upon star treatement or she won't agree to it.
Michele Martin: I should also say that we called upon the Pentagon's sexual assault prevention response office for a comment and the director of that office, Kaye Whitley, first agreed to appear on the program but although we assured Ms. Whitley, per her request, that she would speak directly to me in a one-on-one conversation, we were subsequently informed that she would not be appearing.
Panayiota Bertzikis was Martin's guest and apparently,, unlike Kaye Whitley, had no special demands. Panayiota's part of the group, fifteen women, 2 men, who are suing former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates over their lack of leadership and response on the issue of sexual assaults and rapes. Susan Burke is the lead attorney for the plantiffs. Penayiota Bertzikis is the executive director of Military Rape Crisis Center. She explained what happened to her.
Penayiota Bertzikis: I enlisted in the Coast Guard in 2005. In 2006, I reported a rape to my commander, Coast Guard Station Burlington, Vermont. And my executive petty officer told me to shut up about the rape and to leave his office. After it was reported to his supervisors, the executive officer, I was forced to continue working with my perpetrator for over a month, living on the same floor as him in military housing and being reprimanded and abused further by pretty much the entire station who knew what was happening. After being transferred to Coast Guard Station Boston, the abuse continued to happen and eventually in May 2007, I was involuntarily discharged from service on the basis of a misdiagnosis.
Michele Martin: What does that mean?
Penayiota Bertzikis: The Coast Guard told me that I was having problems adjusting to being raped and therefore I can no longer serve in the military. They told me I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and from there, because of that, I can no longer serve in the Coast Guard.
Michele Martin: Wait a minute. So they're saying you can no longer serve in the Coast Guard because you had Post Traumatic Stress after suffering a rape but they never investigated the rape.
Penayiota Bertzikis: Well it was so-called investigated but they found there was no so-called credible evidence that a rape occurred even though my perpetrator has confessed to what he has done.
Miichele Martin noted some of the claims of improvement Robert Gates has made publicly and Penayiota Bertzikis didn't see those improvements and she specifically pointed to the hotline, "And those 24 hour hotlines that you're supposed to call? I have cases where survivors called those hotlines where you're supposed to call and talk to a victims advocate after an assault and those phones are not being picked up by anyone. The e-mails and phone calls are not answered so I haven't seen any difference since the Dept of Defense have done this Sexual Assault Prevention Office. There hasn't been much difference between now and what happened to me in '06."
Last week, CBS News announced that Lara Logan was attacked and sexually assaulted while on assignment in Egypt. today Michele Martin addressed many issues regarding that topic with ABC's Martha Raddatz, Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh and Women's Media Foundation's Liza Gross (link has audio and transcript). Nir Rosen, of course, attacked Logan on Twitter after the news broke, explaining how he had no sympathy for her and, like many abusers, insisting she got what she deserved. Sunday, Maureen Dowd (New York Times) weighed in, "He apologized in a whiny way, explaining that he 'resented' Logan because she 'defended American imperial adventures,' and that she got so much attention for the assault because she's white and famous. He explained in Salon that 'Twitter is no place for nuance,' as though there's any nuance in his suggestion that Logan wanted to be sexually assaulted for ratings." Noting Rosen's 'apology,' Phil Bronstein (San Francisco Chronicle) observed, "But that started yet another debate about whether Rosen himself was a scurrilous troll or the victime of anti-free speech forces. I vote the former. An Esquire writer actually claimed both Rosen and Logan were 'attacked by the same thing . . . mob mentality.' That's a big stretch." And today Rosen won the not highly sought after "Dick of the Week" award: "Amazingly though, Rosen was only getting warmed up. It's his apologies that really set the standard. Rosen made several attempts at an "apology" that range from whining and petulant to flippant and dismissive. It becomes very clear very quickly that Rosen feels absolutely no remorse whatsoever for his inappropriate, insulting tweets." You can also refer to "The Damned Don't Apologize (Ava and C.I.)" that Ava and I did for Third.
Around the world, the attacks on women never end. Today Human Rights Watch issued [PDF format warning] "At a Crossroads: Human Rights in Iraq Eight Years After the US-led Invasion." Despite Barack Obama's pretty lies that Iraq is 'progress' and puppy dog tails, Human Rights Watch studied seven cities over last year and found reality is very, very different. Take this from the section on women:
Women and girls also suffered from increasing restrictions on their freedom of mobility and protections under the law. In an attempt to attract support from conservative and religiousgroups and tribal leaders, the government introduced decrees and legislation negativelyimpacting women's legal status in the labor code, criminal justice system, and personalstatus laws. Security forces subjected female political activists and relatives of dissidentsto gender-specific abuses, including sexual violence. The insecurity created by the US-led 2003 occupation of Iraq, followed by sectarian strife that engulfed the country, further eroded women's rights. In the months following the invasion, Human Rights Watch documented a wave of sexual violence and abductions against women in Baghdad. At the time, women and girls toldHuman Rights Watch that insecurity and fear of rape and abduction kept them in their homes,out of schools, and away from work. Although assailants kidnapped many men as well, theconsequences for women and girls were worse due to concerns of family "honor," which ispredicated on the moral standing and behavior of female members of the family. For women and girls, the trauma of an abduction continued well after release -- the shame associated with the event was a lasting stigma because of the presumption that abductors had raped orsexually assaulted the woman or girl during her ordeal, regardless of whether she wasactually raped. After 2003, militias, insurgents, Iraqi security forces, multinational forces, and foreign private military contractors raped and killed women. [. . .] Today, armed groups continue to target female political and community leaders and activists. This threat of violence has had a debilitating impact on the daily lives of women and girls generally and has reduced their participation in public life. It has had profoundconsequences for women's economic participation, as many female professionals, includingdoctors, journalists, activists, engineers, politicians, teachers, and civil servants are forcedto cease working fearing for their safety. On November 12, 2009, an assailant shot Safa 'Abd al-Amir, the principal of a girls school in Baghdad, four times. The attack happened shortly after she announced that she wasrunning in the national elections as a Communist Party candidate. After al-Amir left herschool in the al-Ghadir district at about 1:30 p.m., a maroon-colored BMW approached hervehicle from behind to the side; an assailant shot her three times in the face and once in thearm. She did not immediately realize what had happened to her since the gunman used a silencer. Despite her injuries, al-Amir managed to leave her car and walk barefoot for about 20 meters. When police arrived at the scene, they initially feared she was a suicide bomber because she was drenched in blood. "I couldn't answer the questions because they had shot my mouth --I just kept pointing to my mouth," al-Amir related.
That's a reflection on many things including the US occupation and the US government's chosen puppet Nouri al-Maliki whom they reinstalled. He's now been prime minister since 2006. But in the 2011 State of the Union address, Barack was lying about "a new government being formed" and how great that was. Would that be Nouri's Cabinet? He can't seem to find women to appoint, can he? Even the minister over women's affairs? A man. But that's progress to Barack. Let's remember, on the shooting of a candidate, that most of the violence targeting candidates before the election benefited Nouri's political slate. Covering the report, IPS notes:
Forced marriages and prostitution and domestic and sexual abuse are frequent occurrences in Iraq, according to the report. In one case HRW investigated, a 14-year-old Baghdadi was kidnapped in 2010, drugged, taken to a residence that held other Arab and Kurdish girls and was forced to "sleep with one or two men daily" -- a story familiar to many victims of forced prostitution in Iraq. The report found that because "victims of sexual violence and trafficking have well-grounded fears of reprisals, social ostracism, rejection or physical violence from their families, and a lack of confidence that authorities have the will or capacity to provide the support or protection required," many cases go completely unnoticed by the Iraqi government. Even those cases that are referred to authorities are met with investigative reluctance.
According to Human Rights Watch, the 2003 invasion caused a chaos that has exacted an enormous toll on Iraq's citizens as the deterioration of security has resulted in a return to some traditional justice practices and religiously inflected political extremism, which have had a deleterious effect on women's rights, both inside and outside the home. It has been reported that militias promoting misogynist ideologies have targeted women and girls for assassination, and intimidated them to keep them from participating in public life.
"Increasingly, women and girls are victimised in their own homes for a variety of perceived transgressions against family or community honor. Trafficking in women and girls in and out of the country for sexual exploitation is widespread", Human Rights watch said.
The report covers torture, the attacks on journalists, the realities for children and much more. We'll note the report more this week.
Protests have continued in Iraq. It's a non-scientific online poll; however, it has more merit than the 'polling' Quil Lawrence claimed March 8th on NPR's Morning Edition, the day after the election, when he had Nouri al-Maliki's State Of Law winning a landslide. Kissing the ruler's ass means never having to say you're sorry, apparently. (State Of Law didn't win by a landslide, they didn't win at all.)Al Mannarah has asked its reader whether they think Nouri's 'government' will remain in place until the next scheduled election? 54.44% say no, 41.82% say 'yes it will be in place' and 3.64% say that they don't know. Saturday the figures were 52,83% stating no, 3.77% saying they didn't know and 43.40% saying it will remain in place until the next scheduled election.
Maybe Nouri's following that online poll? Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports today, "In an apparent bid to deflate a major protest planned for Friday, the head of Baghdad's provincial council on Tuesday promised to fire corrupt and inept officials, while Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced that he was personally overseeing the availability of sugar and other items provided to the poor." Along with the demonstrations themselves, Nouri's feeling other pressures as well. Saturday Al Mada reported on MP Jaafar al-Sadr decrying the corruption, cronyism and nepotism at play in Iraqi politics and he expressed the belief that all Iraqis shared a disappointment in the government. Sunday, Al Rafidayn reports, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani declared his support for the protesters and called on the government to be peaceful and not attack the protesters. In his letter he blamed the suffering on fthe Iraqi people on the government's own failures. The change in Nouri that Arraf's reporting on today is in contrast to the lecturing pose he offered over the weekend. Dar Addustour reported that he declared on Saturday the young people of Iraq need to be aware and prepared to stand up to any attempt to rebel -- portraying protests as a potential threat. He claimed his enemies are for dictatorship and against democracy. No word on whether these enemies he 'sees' are seen in a mirror. Alsumaria TV reported that Jalal Talabani, Iraq's President, made similar warnings while the Speaker of Parliament, Ousama Al Nujafi, publicly called for the government to address the problems of the Iraqi people. If he was serving fear on Saturday, Friday Nouri was trying to happy talk his way out of current problems. Al Rafidayn reports he declared yesterday that 2011 would be a harsh year for the country; however, after that, things were going to change and turn around. Al Rafidayn reports that protests calling for better services (electricity, water, food) are increasingly protests that decry directly Nouri al-Maliki.
Protests continued throughout Iraq Saturday. Al Rafidayn reports that, in Baghdad, widows and orphans hit the streets in protest against living conditions and demanding legislation that would ensure their needs. Activist Omar al-Mashhadani stated that the widows and orphans were the victims of the violence in Iraq since the invasion. Widow Sawsan Ismail is responsible for raising five children. Her husband was kidnapped and killed in 2007. She depends upon humanitarian assistance from NGOs and a stipend from the library -- together they total 265,000 dinars a month (212 US dollars) while her monthly rent for the families' apartment is $300,000 dinars (250 US dollars). She wants someone to ask the government how she is supposed to be able to feed her children? Another woman also raising several children by herself declares, "I ask, God, how a family of four people can live on this?"
Al Mada noted the Saturday protests went in Baghdad and Kut. Political Science professor Abdul Jabbar Ahmed advised that the best way to end the protests is to provide the improved services the protesters are demanding. In Kut, the sit-in that started Thursday disbanded today when the protesters were informed that their demands would be met. Those demands were supposed to include the release of all arrested in the protests. Whether this was more than empty words remains to be seen and it's difficult to picture the governor of the province stepping down (another one of the demands).
Dar Addustour reported that people protested Saturday in Al calling for the country's Constitution to be applied to everyone. Al Rafidayn covered the Sulaymaniyah protest in which fifteen people were injured Saturday when protesters demanded an end to corruption and reform and some demonstraters began hurling stones at the police (who had clashed with protesters Thursday). Mohammed Tawfeeq and Shirko Abdullah (CNN) report, "Witnesses said police used water cannons and fired weapons over the heads of rock-throwing demonstrators in Sulaimaniya, who had taken to the streets to protest the violent response of security forces that killed one demonstrator and injured 57 after they attacked the local offices of ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party." Shwan Mohammed (AFP) adds, "The rally, along with another in the same Kurdish city and others in Baghdad, came after two protests in as many days earlier this week left three people dead and more than 100 wounded." Thursday's protests targeted the KDP headquarters, KRG President Massoud Barzani's political party. Saturday's protests included many signs and banners decrying Barzani. The Sulaimaniya protests continued on Sunday with Shamal Aqrawi (Reuters) reporting that forty-eight people were injured including eleven who were shot. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported that 1 teenage male died in Sulaimaniya when the pesh merga clashed with protesters. Not identified in the report, the male was 17-year-old Sherko Mohammed. Another CNN report noted that banners named Massoud Barzani (KRG President) and demanded he apologize for the behavior of the guards last week.
Kutaiba Hamid (Al Mada) reported that Monday in Bahgdad, protesters were attack by unknown assailants in civilian clothes and driving cars suspected of belonging to ministries. The assailants used electric batons and knives. Protesters are demanding that the area (Tahir Square) be returned to the protesters. Waleed Abu Tiba states that at one o'clock in the afternoon the assailants emerged from government cars and began beating protesters. Dar Addustour explained 11 protesters have been arrested in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib section and that a traffic ban has been imposed on the area in an effort to stop the demonstrations. In addition, a demostration "in" the University of Kirkuk is noted where students from Business, Economics and Science demanded better conditions at the university and better services. Ammar Karim (AFP) reported, "Iraq scrambled to head off further protests on Monday by cutting politicians' pay and ramping up support for the needy after a teenage demonstrator was killed at a rally in the country's north." Karim notes that the tariffs on imported goods has been delayed as a result of the protests. Though it appears late in the article and is not developed, it's not a minor point. Right now Iraqis are being assured that the politicians hear them, that the prices are too high for food and unemployment is a nightmare and blah, blah, blah. But they want to impose a tariff on all imports and Iraq continues to import the bulk of its food. Which would mean that either Parliament drops the tariff proposal or they get honest with Iraqis that the high cost of food is about to go up. Today, Suha Sheikhly (Al Mada) examines how Iraq has become an importer instead of the exporter it traditionally was in the region. Lebanon's Daily Star points out today, "Prices of food and other goods had started to rise slowly in anticipation of the March 6 implementation of the imports law, which would impose tariffs of up to 100 percent."
Many protesters, especially college age Iraqis, are gearing up for this Friday when they hope to hold the biggest protest Iraq has yet seen. They're not the only ones preparing. Dar Addustour reports that an emergency security meeting decided the Green Zone on Friday will be protected at all entrances with many armored vehicles and riot police and that police and the Iraqi military will take part in the protest. Some will carry banners decrying corruption and calling for much needed services. Nasiriyah notes Dhi Qar has been placed on high alert due to a supposed rumor of a terrorist threat and, commenting on the article, Sabri sees the high alert as an attempt to scare Iraqis and prevent them from protesting. Less than 24 hours ago, the New York Times' silver-tarnished boys were mocking the protesters, down grading what they'd accomplished, distorting what they were doing (and it probably sailed over the heads of many since the paper's not been interested in Iraq for some time and has really avoided the issues. We covered Jack Healy and Michael S. Schmidt's nonsense already this morning and, as always, when Operation Happy Talkers think they're going to grab their boogie boards and ride the latest wave, reality -- like a mighty tidal waves -- tends to knock them off their boards and leave them floating in the surf. The tidal wave today was Sulaimaniyah. Spit out the salt water, boys, before you choke on it. Shwan Mohammed (AFP) reports that the city saw 4,000 protesters and that they're saying the protests will continue until they see "real change." Namo Abdulla (Reuters) declares Sulaimaniyah to now be a military zone as a result of the response to the protesters but that demonstraters carried signs stating, "This is the country of hungry people. They are not afraid of tanks." Among their demands -- besides basic services and ending corruption -- has been the release of protesters who have been arrested. Abdulla notes that some of the arrested were let go today.
Al Rafidayn notes there was a physical clash between a State of Law and a National Alliance after the vote (and you can check out the picture even if you can't read Arabic). Alsumaria TV provides news of an altercation which took place Monday, "Iraq's Parliament session on Monday was subject to verbal altercations. The session was suspended for half an hour after Speaker Ousama Al Nujaifi intensely argued with members of Kurdish opposition change movement as they were banned to read their statement about Sulaimaniah incidents. Two members of Al Iraqiya List squabbled as well over the investigation committee report on closing Al Baghdadiya TV offices." Meanwhile, Al Rafidayn reported yesterday that Speaker of Parliament Osama Nujaifi has announced that forty billion dollars is missing from the Development Fund for Iraq and that the Parliament has formed two committees to investigate the disappearance.
The violence continues in Iraq beyond the Parliament. Yesterday, Fang Yang (Xinhua) reported a Samarra suicide car bombing caused deaths an injuries "when a suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a military base belonging to a quick reaction police force". Michael S. Schmidt and Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) quoted eye witness police officer Mohammed Hillan Athab stating, "I was standing at the front of the compound where the bar was located and suddenly a white pickup truck filled with empty chicken cages got closer to us. First, we thought, he is a farmer and lost his way. But then he drover faster, and one he got close he detonated the car." Reuters added, "On Feb 10 a suicide car bomber attacked a group of pilgrims near the town of Dujail as they headed to Samarra for the commemoration, killing eight and wounding 30." Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) counted 12 dead and twenty injured in today's attack.
Iraq has had non-stop bombings for weeks resulting in massive deaths and massive numbers of wounded. This has gone on without a Minister of National Security, without a Minister of Defense, without a Minister of Interior. How can that be? Didn't they have an election? Yes, they did back in March of last year. Didn't Nouri assemble a Cabinet? No, he didn't. Not a full one. But the US government pressed the Kurds to back up the claim that despite the fact that Nouri gave himself three positions in the Cabinet (those three) and despite the fact that he left 10 other positions empty, Nouri had formed a Cabinet, had done so in 30 days and could move from prime minister-designate to Prime Minister. That allowed Nouri to become prime minister even though the Constitution mandated that a new prime minister-designate be appointed.
Dar Addustour reports that it will be late this month or early next month -- a year after the elections -- before the security posts are filled. And at least one name being tossed around is pretty frightening. Iraq's National Coalition is a series of Shi'ite political parties that banded together. Al Rafidayn reports they have called on Nouri al-Maliki to name Ahmed Chalibi Minister of the Interior. National Coalition member Abbas Amiri reveals that the choice was decided upon, where else, at the home of Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Chalabi is infamous for many things. Most recently, he helped Nouri out via the Justice and Accountability Commission. Chalabi and Ali al-Lami went around targeting Nouri's opponents as Baathists and refusing to allow them to run for office. Of course, his history is much longer than that. From the Institute for Policy Studies' page on Chalabi:
Ahmad Chalabi is a controversial Iraqi political figure who first rose to prominence in the year's before the U.S. led invasion of Iraq because of his U.S.-backed exile group, the Iraqi National Congress (INC), which played an important role pushing the ouster of Saddam Hussein, including by passing allegedly false intelligence about Iraq's weapons programs. Long a favorite of many neoconservative figures—including, most notably, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle—Chalabi fell out of official favor (if not that of the neocons) in 2004 when he was accused of spying for Iran. In early 2010, Chalabi again made headlines as a result of his continuing ties to Iran and his efforts to sideline Sunni politicians in Iraq (Chalabi is Shiite).
In late February 2010, the Washington Post reported that Chalabi was behind the disqualification of several hundred candidates during the run up to Iraqi elections in March 2010 because of having alleged ties to the Baath Party. The disqualifications were announced by Chalabi's Justice and Accountability Commission, which according to critics targeted "candidates from Sunni-led and mixed secular coalitions. … Many of those ousted were rivals of Chalabi's bloc. A court impaneled to review the cases carried out a cursory review behind closed doors. Candidates were allowed to submit written appeals but were never told the specific nature of the allegations against them."
According to the Post, the disqualifications not only threatened to widen the sectarian divide in the country, they also were upsetting Iraq's neighbors, who worried about the increasing influence of Iran. An unnamed U.S. military official said, "They will try to get rid of pro-U.S. generals, but more importantly, they are stacking the deck with pro-Iranian officers, which will damage U.S. long-term interests in the long run. This is why many neighboring Arab countries aren't so happy about us modernizing the Iraqi military with some of the latest equipment."
Apparently, Ahmed's getting paid off for all the work he did -- work he did, according to US military officials, on behalf of the Iranian government. If anyone thought the purges were bad in the lead up to the March 7th election, take a moment to wonder what he'd do as Minister of the Interior.
In other alarming news, Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports a concert hall in Baghdad which was being used by a family to celebrate a small child's birth was raided by the Baghdad police on the orders of the Baghdad Provincial Council. Supposedly the hall wasn't supposed to be opened, not even for private parties. Regardless of whether that's true or not, when you've got demonstrations all over Iraq, including in Baghdad, is really a good thing to alienate the people by sending the police in to bust a child's birthday party?
Reuters notes two Baghdad roadside bombings today left five people injured. And though the national press didn't seem overly concerned, last week 2 US service members died in Iraq: Airman 1st Class Corey C. Owens and Shawn Evans died in Iraq.