Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why is the US still in Iraq?

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.14 In an attempt to attract support from conservative and religious groups and tribal leaders, the government introduced decrees and legislation negatively impacting women’s legal status in the labor code, criminal justice system, and personal status laws.15 Security forces subjected female political activists and relatives of dissidents to gender-specific abuses, including sexual violence.16
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.17 At the time, women and girls told Human 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, the consequences for women and girls were worse due to concerns of family “honor,” which is predicated 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 or sexually assaulted the woman or girl during her ordeal, regardless of whether she was actually raped.
After 2003, militias, insurgents, Iraqi security forces, multinational forces, and foreign private military contractors raped and killed women.18
[. . .]
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 profound consequences for women’s economic participation, as many female professionals, including doctors, journalists, activists, engineers, politicians, teachers, and civil servants are forced to 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.23 The attack happened shortly after she announced that she was running in the national elections as a Communist Party candidate. After al-Amir left her school in the al-Ghadir district at about 1:30 p.m., a maroon-colored BMW approached her vehicle from behind to the side; an assailant shot her three times in the face and once in the arm. She did not immediately realize what had happened to her since the gunman used a
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.24

The report covers torture, the attacks on journalists, the realities for children and much more. If Barack has to lie about Iraq's 'progress,' someone might want to ask why the US is still there?

Related, Gustav Wynn's latest is at OpEdNews. Wynn cares about the Iraq War and has never forgotten is ongoing. So we're linking to the column. I disagree with it -- beyond the fact that Tim Russert was not on Face The Nation with Thomas Friedman and Donald Rumsfeld. (Tim Russert was an employee of NBC and hosted FTN's competitor Meet The Press. Friedman and Rumsfeld were on Face The Nation with host Bob Schiffer.) Why do I disagree with the column he's written?

Like many he's writing about Rumsfeld and Curve Ball and assorted other items. Unlike many, he'll still be concerned about Iraq weeks from now. And his focus could be right and I could be wrong. But it plays out like something I've seen a million times before.

Here's reality, there aren't degrees of War Crimes. Hopefully, on the left, we can agree with that. If you are a War Criminal, you're a War Criminal. There is no such things as a little bit of War Criminal or some level of War Criminal that falls under the heading 'scamp.'

What we might not be able to agree on is narrative. Narrative is part of reporting, more than that, it's taught to all Americans from an early age. Which is why we sell ourselves out frequently to get that 'hero' that's done something 'heroic.' Now there are heroic deeds. Heroic is not taking part in War Crimes and then turning on your fellow crooks.

Now you might be able to get a plea agreement for ratting out your fellow crooks; however, you're still a War Criminal. You're not a hero. The dead do not come back because, years later, you're getting a little honest.

John Dean participated in many of the Watergate Crimes (I'm not calling Dean a War Criminal, I'm talking about Watergate). When it became uncomfortable for him, he got honest. It's a little too late to take back the spying and the law breaking he took part in, the unconstitutional acts. He's a felon. Somehow, in the '00s, he became a hero to some on the left. In a Phyllis George moment, Amy Goodman tried to pair him up on air with one of his many victims Daniel Ellsberg. John Dean may have paid for his crimes behind bars, but that hardly makes him a hero.

But the American narrative is that a hero will emerge and save us (part of the reason it's so difficult for us to save ourselves). Lawrence Wilkerson is not a hero. Colin Powell is not a hero. Both men are War Criminals. The crimes of the illegal war cannot be denied. If they could, Colin The Blot Powell would still be insisting the Iraq War was right. His War Crimes are his War Crimes and the left should not be washing them away. Nor should they be treating Lawrence Wilkerson as any kind of hero. The dead are not coming back to life. Neither man has even gone to prison so we can't agree that, while they're not heroes, they at least paid for their crimes in some way.

If you doubt the strong desire instilled by centuries of narrative in this country on citizens, take a look at how Wynn opens his concluding paragraph, "With Wilkerson's video headlined at HuffPo, it's clear Arianna Huffington and AOL will no longer be part of the network whitewash of specific allegations of criminal malfeasance and war crimes by the Bush White House." From its dying ashes, AOL's going to redeem itself? While overcharging the remaining customers they do have? (Most subscribers still pay $25 something a month when they can have the same service from AOL for $14.99. That's been true for several years now.) Why would you even invest that sort of redemptive power into AOL?

There's no logical reason for it. AOL and Huffington Post provide content to make money. Even in terms of the mainstream press, it's hard to find bravery in either party.

So this idea that Donald Rumsfeld is evil and Lawrence and Colin are good is ludicrous but it's also meaningless. They're all War Criminals. You can't unring that bell.

And maybe (my opinion, disagree if you want), those writing about the Iraq War might want to spend less time trying to find a hero and more time trying to end it? If you're going to pursue the Curve Ball thing, maybe the thing to do is to argue that now there is no denying the lies (was there ever a period when the lies weren't obvious?), why the hell is the US still in Iraq? Why was Robert Gates telling Congress last week that the US should remain in Iraq beyond 2011 and Democratic US House Rep Adam Smith declaring that Congress was okay with that? Why did 2 US service members die in Iraq last week?

Those pursuing the line that Wilkerson and Powell are 'good guys' better be prepared for how this plays on the non-left as well. When the right, for example, sees one given a pass, they wonder why others don't get the same pass? And it's that sort of question that blurs the issue in the middle where busy people don't always have time for your footnoted presentation of everything that went down and, in the middle, where they are just as susceptible to the power of the narrative. (And if you're not getting the damage that narratives can do and where this desire to create heroes out of War Criminals can lead, click on this Guardian article and note the real concerns among the British War Hawks and War Criminals.)

The e-mail address for this site is common_ills@yahoo.com.