Friday, March 18, 2011

Protests continue in Iraq, what of the US?

It's Friday. There are protests in Iraq. Alsumaria TV reports, "Hundreds of Fallujah residents demonstrated on Friday calling to release detainees who have not been charged. A police source in Diwaniya province reported on the other hand that two Katyusha missiles hit a US military base, western Diwaniya, without revealing the death toll or extent of damages." Aswat al-Iraq reports that protesters were forcibly dispersed and a curfew has been imposed. Al Mada reports that those rallying in Baghdad called for the release of detainees ahead of the protests on Facebook. This was how the 2011 protests in Iraq began, with families and friends of the imprisoned speaking out against the lack of trials, the secret prisons, the inability to meet with their loved ones. Al Mada also notes that the Anbar Salvation Council announced yesterday that they woul dbe joining the Baghdad protests and ASC's Hamid al-Hayes explains that they joined with Baghdad because they want to raise attention of the issues in Anbar Province.

Falah Torch asks, "Why continue demonstrations?" (Kitabat) and answers because they force the realities to the surface, the truth about the corruption, the government that fails to perform for the people, the displacements, the killings, the denial of dignity, all of it is forced to the surface when the Iraqi people take to the streets and protest. In addition, it makes the government uncomfortable and forces resignations. The essay argues that these resignations will continue for as long as the protests do.

Apparently dispatched by the Iranian government, Moqtada al-Sadr returned to Iraq weeks ago, attempting to circumvent the protests. He has called on people not to protest but that tactic didn't work. Another delaying tactic was to insist that a refendum needed to be held first to detrmine what Iraqis wanted -- perhaps Moqtada was unable to read the banners the protesters were carrying? Al Mada reports that the results of the refernedum are now known, that 327,000 voted in Basra and that the voters support the right to protest. Yes, that is shocking. (That was sarcasm.) Alsumaria TV adds 3 million people across Iraq participated (Iraq's population is estimated to be 26 to 28 million) and that "Most participants believe the services in Iraq are deteriorating and stressed the necessity to protest in order to improve services in the country."

Moqtada declared this week that Iraqis should be protesting what's taking place in another country (Bahrain) and that plays like yet another attempt by Moqtada to derail the protests. In addition, yesterday the Parliament announced they'd take a ten day vacation -- pinning their sloth and inability to focus on Bahrain by declaring they were taking a ten day break to show solidarity with Bahrain. Gee, kind of thought the people of Bahrain were standing up and fighting, not hiding or going on holiday.

Of course, eight days prior, Parliament made a big to-do in announcing they wouldn't take a brief break in April but would instead work straight through May 14th. That was then. And what better time to take a break when Iraqis are decrying the government's refusal to govern and provide basic services? Or when the country is still without a Minister of Interior, a Minister of National Security or a Minister of Defense. The posts were supposed to be filled long ago. And the whispers were that Nouri would name them yesterday.

That didn't happen. Al Mada prints the latest round of whispers from people who won't go on the record: He was missing one name and didn't want to announce two without the third.

Iraqis are standing up. Will Americans? Protests are expected to take place Saturday, A.N.S.W.E.R. and March Forward! and others will be taking part in these action:

March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.

The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.

While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.

Actions of civil resistance are spreading.

On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.

Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.

We'll close with this from Debra Sweet's "The World Doesn't Have To Be This Way: Plans for this Weekend's Protests" (World Can't Wait):

The world doesn't have to be this's just the way it is now.

People say "things won't ever change." WRONG! The people of Tunisia and Egypt showed that there is no guarantee that brutal dictatorships will last forever, even when they're backed up by the most powerful military in the world! The public workers and students of Wisconsin have surprised everyone in massing for weeks against an attempt by those grouped around the Republican Party to break them. The people of the Middle East, and those of the heartland in this country, have surprised everyone by waking up.

The unjust occupation of Iraq, the war on the people of Afghanistan, the drone bombings of Pakistan and Yemen, the secret wars, the black sites or torture and rendition, Obama's indefinite detention, the repression against Muslims and antiwar activists -- all of this is growing worse, and seems permanent.

But none of these are permanent, and our world doesn't have to be this way. It's just the way it is because we have not yet stood up to it in enough numbers to back down the forces of empire and repression.

We're going into the streets on this 8th anniversary of the attack on Iraq with a new sense of the potential power we hold. See you there!

This weekend there are three days of activities against the wars and occupations

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