Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Day of Regret

Monday, Al Mada reports, was another day of protest in Liberation Square as Iraqis demanded reforms and basic services, jobs and an end to corruption. Dr. Sami Shati is quoted stating that they are an array of civil society organizations who, on the anniversary of the 2010 elections wanted to join with others in expressing regret. The Teachers Association, Iraqi Women's Association and the Organization of Women for Peace were among the other groups participating. New Sabah notes that the media was prevented from broadcasting live from Baghdad. David Ali (Al Mada) reports that security was again tight in Baghdad yesterday and that journalists decried the military's targeting of them. An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers reports at Inside Iraq:

After one year of her participation in the last parliamentary election in March 7th 2010, Hiyam Tawfiq is completely disappointed because she feels that she had been deceived by the promises of the Iraqi political party she voted for. Her frustration and disappointment led here to Tahrir square in downtown Baghdad to join few hundred Iraqis organized a demonstration in March 7 2011; one year after the election. They call their demonstration THE DAY OF REGRET referring to their regret for participating in the parliamentary election. The demonstrators were confined to certain area of the square designated by yellow police tape and surrounded by dozens of Iraqi security forces who were searching those who join the demonstration.
“I feel a volcano inside me because of my anger that can damage the whole Green Zone if I release it”, said Hiyam, a 34 years former employee in the high electoral commission that prepared for the election.

Meanwhile the US Embassy in Baghdad finally released a statement on the targeting of journalists. That was yesterday. Alsumaria TV reports on it today. We ignored it today because I found the statement as underwhelming as a friend at a wire service. Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq reports that a US military spokesperson is denying that the US military arrested police officers in southern Iraq (Missan, specifically).

Alsumaria TV reports on Nouri al-Maliki's targeting of the Iraqi Communist Party and the Iraqi Nation Party and closing of their Baghdad headquarters, "Parliamentary parties criticized the decision of Prime Minister Maliki to evacuate headquarters of Iraqi Communist Party and the Nation Party of former MP Mithal Al Alussi. They deemed the decision as constitutional violation mainly that there are no charges against these parties involved in the political process, they argued." Al Mada quotes the Communist Party's Jassim Hilfi stating that this is an effort by Nouri al-Maliki to quash voice of democracy and liberalism, voices who decry corruption. He endorsed the efforts of the protesters (the Communist Party has been among the organizations helping to lead and get the word out on the demonstrations) and noted that the protests will continue, regardless of the Party's headquarters. He joined with the Iraqi people in rejecting tyranny and in pursuit of civil liberties.

And we'll close with John Catalinotto's "Thousands of Iraqis defy puppet regime, occupation" (Workers World):

Defying threats from the puppet government and several party militias, thousands of Iraqis from Basra in the south to Suleimaniya in the Kurdish north took to the streets Feb. 25 in a “Great Day of Anger” inspired by the uprisings across the Arab world.

The specific demands of the protesters were for electricity and against poverty and corruption. The continued occupation of Iraq by 50,000 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of mercenaries known as “contractors,” however, gives any Iraqi protest a sharply political content. A chronicle of the day’s actions by Iraqi human rights activist Asma al-Haidari offers the following characterization of the protest:

“The Iraqi People are demonstrating against corruption, absolute and abysmal poverty, unemployment, total lack of services, and occupation, and very importantly corruption, administrative and fiscal corruption. They are also demonstrating demanding freedom and human dignity and the immediate expulsion of the occupation. They are demonstrating for Iraq and have come together as Iraqis.” (www.iraqsolidaridad.org, Feb. 25)

Government forces attacked protesters in Fallujah, Hawija, Baghdad, Mosul and other cities, with the media reporting that at least 10 people were killed. In some towns, in response to the regime’s attacks, demonstrators tried to storm government buildings, according to Reuters reports on Feb. 25 and 26.

In the days before the demonstrations, the government continually warned people not to take part in the actions, making a barely veiled threat of massacres. Military vehicles and security forces lined the streets around Liberation Square in Baghdad, and a curfew was in effect. Not only Premier Nuri al-Maliki but significant representatives of the Shiite community, like Moktada al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, spoke out against participation in the protests.

Still, thousands gathered in the square. One person had a sign that read, “Where’s my share of the oil profits?”

It is significant that on the day following the demonstrations, Al-Sistani called on Iraq’s government and parliament to take serious steps to improve electricity services, provide jobs and fight corruption, a strong sign that the demonstrations frightened those in power.

Failure of the occupation

It was nearly eight years ago that the U.S., with British support, carried out a “shock and awe” attack on Iraq. The Pentagon’s forces managed to quickly defeat the Iraqi army, and George W. Bush even declared “mission accomplished” six weeks after the invasion began. According to U.S. promises, there would soon be a vibrant, stable, economically sound Iraqi democracy.

Instead, eight years of U.S. occupation have brought up to 1 million deaths and as many injuries to Iraqis, have displaced 4 million people inside and outside the country, and have divided a formerly united Iraq into Kurds in the north versus Arabs in the south, Sunni Muslims versus Shiite Muslims.

The occupation and its puppets have not even managed to turn reliable electricity back on in one of the most energy-rich countries in the world.

These days when mass popular revolutions have made the world aware of the brutality of Arab rulers, almost all backed by the U.S., it is wise to remember that an imperialist occupation is the worst scenario for the people.

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