Monday, March 7, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri continues to demonstrates how he yearns to be just like Saddam Hussein, political parties in Baghdad (that worked on the protests) are driven out of their headquarters on Nouri's orders, Ayad Allawi declares it "a joke" to call Iraq a democracy, and more.
There has been the Day of Rage, the Day of Dignity and, today, the Day of Regret.
Alsumaria TV reports that Iraqis demonstrated in Baghdad today on the one-year-anniversary of the March 7, 2010 elections which were supposed to bring about a new government but somehow allowed Nouri to remain as prime minister and Jalal Talabani
to remain as president -- no changes and, one year after the election, Nouri still hasn't
formed a full Cabinet and the Ministers of Interior, Defense and National Security remain filled 'temporarily' by Nouri himself. AFP reports that people had ink stained fingers -- the photo shows red ink -- and that there were approximately 500 shouting "Yes, yes to democracy!" and "Maliki, liar!" Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) explains that the the red fingers were "a parody of the purple-stained fingers they proudly displayed last year as proof that they had voted on election day." DPA counts 200 demonstrators in Baghdad and "hundreds" in Falluja where chants included "WE WILL NOT VOTE AGAIN, THEY STOLE OUR VOICES" and 'BROTHERS, SUNNIS AND SHIITES, WE WILL NOT SELL OUR COUNTRY." AGI notes Falluja protesters included "intellectuals, tribal leaders and unemployed people". Alsumaria TV also reports, "Iraqi security forces banned media from covering manifestations live on air." This continues the long pattern of attacking journalism that we saw most recently, yesterday, with the military and police forcing the Communist Party to leave their Baghad headquarters where they publish the Party's newspaper and, on Friday, the physical attack on five journalists (attacked by Iraqi security forces) who were attempting to cover a demonstration.
Ayad Allawi told Al Jazeera that Iraq doesn't have a democracy and used as one example "what happened to the Communist Party yesterday." What did happen yesterday?
Aswat al-Iraq notes the claims by Nouri that the government owns the building the Communist Party is in and that is why they were targeted. No, that's not believable.
As noted before, among those organizing protests in Iraq has been the Communist Party. On Friday (The Day of Dignity), Iraq saw more protests. Many efforts were made to try to cut down on the protests. The Worker-Communist Party of Iraq issued a press release (it's in Arabic) Friday noting that you couldn't enter Baghdad from the north on Friday, the main gate had been shut. In addition, early Thursday, hotels on Batwaiyyin Street were ordered not to provide rooms to young people because they might be protesters. It noted that Iraqi forces in "heavy" combat gear stormed Tahrir Square Tuesday night at 9:20 Baghdad time and that on Friday, Hummers and other security vehicles surrounded Tahrir Square. These efforts to cut down on the protests were made by Nouri al-Maliki. (Note, you can click here for the English lanaguage version of the site; however, it is not up to date and you won't find any of the many press released issued in the last few weeks.)
The Communist Party's efforts to organize protests have not gone unnoticed. And in "free" Iraq, that means you make Nouri's hit list. Dar Addustour reports that the Communist Party headquarters in Baghdad -- where the party produces their newspaper, among other things -- were forcibly evacuated early Sunday morning with Iraqi troops surrounded the bulding and insisting they required no judicial orders to do what they were doing. The Communist Party's Jassim Hilfi states that Iraqi police and Iraqi military took part in the operation. Hilfi notes that they have paperwork demonstrating they have the right to be there -- real estate documents. Al Mada reports on the forced evacuation and notes the Communist Party was provided with no reasons as to why they were being thrown out or why the Iraqi military was involved in the operation. Again, the Communist Party produces their newspaper there. On Friday, at least five journalists were attacked in Basra by security forces. There are ongoing attacks on the press. With what's known at present, it would appear likely that the Communist Party is being punished both for their role in organizing the (legitimate) protest and for attempting to exercise their free press rights via their newspaper. Alqanat notes Nouri issued the order in his role of Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and that the Communist Party had a written agreement with the Ministry of Finance with regards to the building. It's also pointed out that Dawa (Nouri's political party) occupies many buildings illegally and that the Green Zone is nothing but an illegal occupation of buildings by Nouri and the ruling elite. The article also notes that the Communist Party saw much of their own property confiscated under Saddam Hussein's rule and that property -- even though Hussein's dead and gone -- has still not been returned. Shakir Noori (Gulf News) observes, "The Iraqi police surrounded the headquarters of the Communist party because some of its members were active participants in these protests and also coordinated with left wing parties. They demanded that the communist party should evacuate the area which they control during the American occupation." Michael S. Schmidt and Jack Healy (New York Times) add that the Iraqi Nation Party was also ordered to leave their headquarters on Sunday per Nouri and while "the Communists were told their builidngs were being requisitioned for government use, Mr. Alusi said he had received no explanation why he was being evicted." But he tells the reporters that members of the Dawa Party (again, Nouri's party) showed up last week attempting to get "him to align with them" and against the protesters. On the journalism aspect, Suha Sheikhly (Al Mada) adds that the Friday protests are leading people to ask if Iraq needs a national stop the violence campaign in order to protect journalists from Iraq's security forces? Ahmed al-Khafaji, Undersecretary for the Ministry of the Interior, issued a statement declaring that Iraq cannot succeed without a strong fourth estate (press) and that a free press is necessary and must be protected if Iraq is going to be a democracy and leave the era of dictatorships in the past. He called for the development of a "culture of human rights" among the people. Academic Dr. Kazem Mikdadi is quoted calling for a national campaign and stating that Article 38 of the country's Constitution must be respected (their free press clause) and he said that, too often, Iraqi police and Iraqi military do not see their job as protecting the protesters -- or their role as protectors of the people -- but instead they see themselves as protectors of those in power. And that is "free" Iraq via the illegal war, the US government and their installed puppets.
Ayad Allawi has given a lengthy interview to Al Jazeera today where he repeatedly stated, "There is no power sharing" in the Iraqi government. Allawi's political slate was the winner of the March 7, 2010 elections; however, Nouri used his position as sitting prime minister to ensure he continued in that role. The United Nations should have installed a caretaker government. This was called for by many -- we called for it here -- because it was obvious Nouri was going to 'wait it out' until he got his way. The only thing that would have stopped his (abuse of) power to do that would be removing him from office. For over nine months, there was absolutely no progress. Then a power sharing agreement was brokered. Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) rightly observes today that this power sharing agreement "was brokered by US Vice President Joe Biden and backed up by Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani" and Arraf notes this interview Allawi gave Alsumaria TV yesterday where he states that Joe Biden personally asked him to step away from the "his claim to be prime minister" and to instead lead the National Security Council. Allawi told Al Jazeera today that there is no power sharing agreement any more "because our agreements have not been fulfilled including the National Council." He says it's "a big lie" and "a joke" to say Iraq has a democracy. While he says that, Michael S. Schmidt and Jack Healy (New York Times) note that "a year after the elections and three months after Iraq's leaders ended a long political standoff and formed a government, Mr. Maliki has not finalized his government and is still personally overseeing the powerful army and police forces."
Okay, let's note the reality that throughout the nine months-plus, Nouri was deal making and horse trading. As we noted in real time, he was promising more positions in his Cabinet than he had. Which is why, when he became prime minister-designate in early November (officially on November 25th), it wasn't a surprise to discover he was creating new positions in an attempt to keep as many promises as he could. But the point in bringing that up today is no one had more chances than Nouri.
Ayad Allawi was a prime minister in Iraq after the US invaded. So was Ibrahim al-Jaafari. But Nouri was the first prime minister of Iraq after the 2005 Constitution was law of the land (Nouri became prime minister-designate in April 2006; prime minister in May 2006). Meaning he knew all about the Cabinet, all about the deadlines, etc. He knew it not just in some read it and comprehend it way, he knew it from actually having to do it. And yet in November 2010, after months of deal making, he can't create a Cabinet? When he's the only one with experience in doing that?
He can't create a Cabinet or he won't create a Cabinet? Because there is a difference. And as we've learned that he was lobbying the Supreme Court in December to turn over the independent bodies (Central Bank, Electoral Commission, committee that investigates corruption) to him and his control, as we've now learned that he's altered the rules so that now he claims only he has the right to introduce legislation to Parliament -- he's claiming that Parliament cannot write their own bill and pass it -- is it still looking like he just wasn't able to fill those posts?
Or is it looking more and more like he may end up claiming those posts belong to the prime minister? While everyone was riding waves of Operation Happy Talk, we were calling out his inability to fill his Cabinet (and noting that his inability should have prevented him from moving from prime minister-designate to prime minister). But so many wanted to happy talk it and pretend that everything was wonderful. It's not looking so wonderful now.
Omar (Iraq The Model) notes the apparent end of the power sharing agreement and observes, "Now Allawi is not naive. He knows very well that a) the Kurds will stick with Maliki with whom they have a strategic deal. He has so far given them what they wanted, including the right to resume oil exports, and b) the Sadrists and ISCI -- even if they ally with him -- will not allow him to become Prime Minister, as we saw druing 9 months of negotiations." Younis Omaima (Al-Alem) quotes an unnamed 'insider' who states that Allawi, seeing the spirit of protest spread across Iraq, has decided it is better at present to not be part of the government so many are condemning. Moh Hong'e (Xinhua) adds that 8 members of Iraqiya who serve in the Parliament have walked away from Iraqiya.
Al Sabaah notes that Nouri al-Maliki met yesterday with a delegation of tribal leaders and officials from Nineveh and that Nouri insists issues with the ration cards program are being dealt with, that the government is listening to the demands of the people and that meeting these demands are everyone's job. Of course, he's also given lip service in recent days to the need for a free press -- while cracking down on the press. And he held his meeting and made his announcement about the ration card system at the same time that, Al Mada reports, MP Mona Amiri (National Alliance) held a press conference explaining that many of the trations in Diyala Province have been allowed to sit -- instead of being distributed -- and have now one bad. Amiri stated that 124 tons of fat were discovered, 400 tons of tea and an unspecified number of tons of beans. If they'd been distributed, the items would have helped the people. Now they've gone bad. Al Sabbah notes that Nouri a session of Parliament on Thursday about "achieving" reforms. Meanwhile the Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is itemizing the demands according to the most pressing.
Let's note a little more about Friday's protests. But, before we do, let's drop back to April 10, 2008, when the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing. The Chair made a number of points in his opening remarks.
Chair Joe Biden: Last November, the President of the United States and Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq signed a Declaration of Principles what they referred to as a Declaration of Principles which set out what is referred to these days in Washington jargon and international jargon as a framework. It's interesting. I don't know. The good news to you all is that you have to explain it to other diplomats the bad news for us is that we have to explain it to ordinary, very smart Americans who don't understand the jargon and it's confusing so part of what I hope we can do is demystify some of what is being discussed here. So the Declaration of Principles set out a framework for our countries -- that is Iraq and the United States -- to negotiate -- by the end of July of this year -- agreements governing cooperation in political, economic and security spheres. And among other things, the Declaration contemplates "providing security assurances and commitments to the Republic of Iraq to deter foreign aggression against Iraq" and supporting Iraq "in its efforts to combat all terrorist groups" -- including al Qaeda, Saddamists and "all other outlaw groups regardless of affiliation." Which means, all the folks fighting in Iraq and killing each other. So to average Americans and to slow senators like me that sends up a -- not one red flag but twenty-five red flags. I don't know any time we've had a Status Of Forces Agrement or an agreement not requiring Congressional approval that says 'Nor only are we going to talk and consult with you when it comes to whether or not you're going to be attacked from outside but we're going to consult with you the government on anything that may happen to you inside.' When, in fact, we don't know what the hell the government is -- 'heck' the government is 'inside.' . We've just witnessed "the government," Mr Maliki, a Shia of the Dawa Party engaging in a -- I'm not making a judgment -- engaging in using force against another Shia group that helped put him office -- the Sard operation -- along with -- So it gets pretty complicated for average Americans and average senators. [. . .] It also ignores the further startling pledge in the Declartion to support the Iraqi government in it's battle with "outlaw groups" so I assume that means any group that is at odds with the prime minister.
Thousands of people have converged on Baghdad's Tahrir, or Liberation, Square to protest against corruption and unemployment, despite a vehicle ban that forced many to walk for hours to the heart of the Iraqi capital. Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf reported from Baghdad that the situation was heading towards a stand-off, as security forces demanded the protesters leave, blocking their route across a bridge leading to the Green Zone, where the government has its base. Concrete blocks were set up by authorities on all of Baghdad's bridges ahead of the protests. "What we're seeing here is a bit of a test, of how the government will respond when these people clearly want their demands to be heard," Arraf said.
In Basra, anti-riots forces beat Haidar al-Mansouri, the head of the Journalists' Syndicate branch in Basra, according to Al-Sumaria News website; Nabil al-Jourani, an Associated Press photographer; Mohamed al-Rased, a cameraman for Al-Alam satellite TV channel; Muntazar al-Amer, reporter for Al-Mustaqbal online news agency; and Shehab Ahmed, correspondent for Baghdad News Agency while they were covering demonstrations. Al-Rased, al-Jourani, and al-Amer were taken to the hospital with various injuries. Al-Amer suffered a broken arm. Freelancer Majid al-Brekan told CPJ that officers appeared to specifically target the journalists.
Aswat al-Iraq reports that al-Nasseriya saw "hundreds" of protesters -- male except for one lone female, Shaza al-Qaysi who states, "I protest with the others here to support their legitimate demands that are no longer confined to local boundaries but rather became national." She also notes the high rate of illiteracy among women in her region and literacy is among the calls she's making. While women outnumber men in al-Nasseriya, activist Hussein al-Ghozzi notes that the placards with demands contained no calls "for women's or children's rights". Michael Hoffman (Army Times) reported on another protest, one visible from the US Contingency Operating Base Delta:
U.S. Army officers watched protesters in nearby Al Kut burn down the provincial governor's home during unrest that turned violent Feb. 17. The officers watched via drone feeds broadcast into the tactical operations center on base. Reports rolled in that three protesters died and more than 50 were injured. U.S. Army leaders here couldn't do much more than watch. That shouldn't be misconstrued as callousness, said Lt. Col. J. Bryan Mullins, commander of 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's 2nd Squadron. U.S. soldiers deployed to Iraq live under a new set of rules since the start of Operation New Dawn and the end of the combat mission in August.
In that April 10, 2008 hearing, Biden noted that the US military was being asked "to take sides in Iraq's civil war" and that "there is no Iraqi government that we know of that will be in place a year from now -- half the government has walked out. Just understand my frustration. We want to normalize a government that really doesn't exist." And without the US military, Nouri falls flat. Now the US military stands by while protesters die at the hand of the 'government.' How much longer are they forced to stay in Iraq? Do they next have to start killing the protesters? The situation's already reached Biden's worst case scenario. The only thing left at this point is for the US military to now be used to force down the protesters. Again, to the April 2008 hearing.
Chair Joe Biden: Yet this security arrangement envisions at a minimum, we will consider protecting the government because that's what we're talking about right now the government against threats both internal and external. What would happen if tomorrow, the Maliki government decided that the Awakening was a threat? I predict to my colleagues, that may cross his mind, and decides that he is going to move with Iraqi forces -- primarily Shia -- against an element of the Awakening, the Sunnis, in a remote part of Anbar Province, gets tied down, just like he did in Basra What is the expectation do you think of the government of Iraq that we would use as we did in Basra, helicopters, we would use intelligence data, we would use communications, we would use -- you know -- we would coordinate with him? I would suspect that would be the expectation and then what happens when the United States doesn't? What happens to those forces of ours that are sitting on the ground? This is a bad idea.
As Nouri's despotic colors begin to show, some take notice. The Washington Post's editorial board noted Sunday, "Some worry that is where Mr. Maliki is headed. As The Post's Stephanie McCrummen reported , some of the repression has been carried out by black-suited special forces under his command. Thanks to a favorable court decision, the prime minister has been moving to take control of electoral authorities and other previously independent bodies. Mr. Allawi announced that he was withdrawing from a national policy council because Mr. Maliki had not followed through on promises to give it real authority."
Over the weekend, protests continued in the Kurdish region and Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports that overnight (Saturday night/Sunday morning) "masked" assailants set fire to the tents protesters were using in Sulaimaniya but that did not deter hundreds from protesting today and, in yet another attack on the press, Dank Radio was attacked and equipment stolen or destroyed.
In other news, Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports that Baghdad vendors and shopkeepers joke about suing Facebook as a result of the lack of business resulting from the curfew imposed by Nouri over the protest. (Facebook was one of the tools used to get the word out on yesterday's rallies.) David Ali (Al Mada) adds that Osama al-Nujaifi, Speaker of Parliament, held a news conference today announcing that the Parliament had received reports back from the protests as a result of various MPs being present in their own provinces Friday. He's calling for investigations and committees. Meanwhile, Aswat al-Iraq informs, Moqtada al-Sadr says he'll protest . . . if nothing changes . . . in six months. Was Moqtada al-Sadr sent back to Iraq by his Iranian handlers solely to tamp down on the protests? It would appear so. Government can't clean up the streets but al-Sadr's turned his followers into sanitation workers.New Sabah reports that in Karbala, al-Sadr's followers took to the streets, on his orders, to clean up the streets. Next up, he'll have them out at Baghdad Airport selling flowers and serving up recruitment literature.
It seems as though many Iraqis have been influenced by the American style of eating. They hold their sandwiches and drinks as if they are Americans on duty. Americans put food in nylon or plastic disposable containers, which they throw away after using them once. This is a new and strange way for us, but we now see that the use of disposable containers has become widespread. Some of the shops that sell such containers and disposable spoons have become very popular, and even in our culture it is obvious that they are used more. You see that food is served in such containers at weddings and events. You see that food is being served to guests on plastic plates, with plastic spoons and paper napkins, and that guests welcome the change. This is welcomed particularly by women, because they don't need to wash the dishes. Even during the month of Muharram, when people give out food, they do so using disposable containers, something that was not a familiar sight before the American invasion. Even soldiers during Saddam's time used to use proper plates and wash them after use. But today, you see that food served to Iraqi soldiers is done in the same way as it is served to American soldiers.
Political prisoner Bradley Manning is now being forced to sleep in the nude. Ed Pilkington (Guardian) reports, "The lawyer for Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of having leaked a massive trove of US state secrets to WikiLeaks, has accused his military jailers at the marine base in Quantico, Virginia, of ritually humiliating his client by stripping him naked in his cell every night." Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post) quotes the Quantico spokesperson 1st Lt Brian Villiard insisting, "The intention is not to cause any sort of humiliation or embarrassment. The intention is to ensure the safety and security of the detainee and make sure he is able to stand trial." Nakashima adds, "Villiard said he could not explain how Manning might harm himself if he were allowed to keep his underwear, citing rules to protect detainees' privacy." He can't explain it because there's no way too. But taking the Stupidity Cup was US Senator John Kerry who tells NECN (link has text and video), "There are concerns about what is happening, but a strong argument is being made that they're trying to preserve his safety, they don't want him harming himself, and using his own clothing to hang himself, or do something like that."
Oh, go brush that weird hair, Kerry.
Let's toss out two words: Disposable scrubs.
Now if you're really out of date and never do anything for yourself and are John Kerry's age, you may not be familiar with those terms or with this one: Disposable, paper scrubs.
There's no reason for Bradley to be naked.
Except to punish him. Except to make an example of him.
If you're not getting it, think about your last doctor's visit. Did you maybe put on a paper gown for the examination?
And the military could go to any medical supply company and puchase those.
But apparently they're either interested in humiliating Bradley or just need to get their jollies studying up on his wang.
There is no mental health justification for the decision. There is no basis in logic for this decision. PFC Manning is under 24 hour surveillance, with guards never being more than a few feet away from his cell. PFC Manning is permitted to have his underwear and clothing during the day, with no apparent concern that he will harm himself during this time period. Moreover, if Brig officials were genuinely concerned about PFC Manning using either his underwear or flip-flops to harm himself (despite the recommendation of the Brig's psychiatrist) they could undoubtedly provide him with clothing that would not, in their view, present a risk of self-harm. Indeed, Brig officials have provided him other items such as tear-resistant blankets and a mattress with a built-in pillow due to their purported concerns.
The Brig's treatment of PFC Manning is shameful. It is made even more so by the Brig hiding behind concerns for "[PFC] Manning's privacy." There is no justification, and there can be no justification, for treating a detainee in this degrading and humiliating manner.
Retired Col Ann Wright (War Is A Crime) compares the treatment of Bradley to that of Corey Moore who was found to have mutilated an Afghan civilian's corpse and attacked a member of his own unit -- both of which will be dealt with without time behind bars and "Moore did not face charges of killing the person whose corpse he defiled by stabbing. None of the soldiers so far convicted were accused of murdering Afghan civilians."