Tuesday, May 10, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, a labor strike takes place in Basra, a strike takes place in the midst of a social incident, Iraqi hospitals continue to suffer, and more.
Starting with veterans issues. Tomorrow morning there will be a major press conference. Senator Patty Murray's office issued the following today:
(Washington, D.C.) -- On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Patty Murray, Chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, will hold a press conference with co-sponsors of the bill, veterans struggling to find work, and veterans service organizations to discuss aggressive new legislation to address rising unemployment among our nation's veterans. Senator Murray's bill, the Hiring Heroes Act of 2011, is the first of its kind to require broad job skills training for all service members returning home and comes at a time when more than one in four veterans aged 18-24 are unemployed. In addition to providing new job skills training to all service members, the bill will also create new direct federal hiring authority so that more service members have jobs waiting for them the day they leave the military, and will improve veteran mentorship programs in the working world. For more information on the bill visit HERE.
Hundreds of workers walked off the job in protest, which rocked the headquarters of Southern Oil Company in Bab al-Zubayr in the southern city of Basra.
The workers have come from oil fields in Basra; from North and South Rumaila, Albirjisya, West of Qurna and Majnoon and were led by the General Federation of Workers Councils and Unions.
The workers raised slogans condemning corruption, while trying to bring all corrupt officers to justice. Among the corrupt officers includes the deputy director-general's of Southern Oil Company and director of trade.
To confront the demonstrators, the management of the company called security forces. Sami Hassan (one of the organizers of the demonstration) was also imprisoned for two hours.
The demonstration was part of a series of protests sweeping the Iraqi and foreign companies operating in the southern region.
Ali Abu Iraq (Iraq Oil Report) reports, "Hundreds of workers from Iraq's southern oil hub of Basra protested outside numerous facilities Monday, claiming Oil Ministry officials have ignored repeated concerns about the use of funds, the allocation of housing, and equal pay." Reuters adds, "The demonstrators were engineers, technicians and workers at the state-run South Oil Co., which has some 18,000 employees developing some of Iraq's big oil fields. They protested for three hours at the company's headquarters in Basra and at another location near an oil field west of the city." The company's homepage notes:
South oil company one of the major fundamental formations of Iraqi national oil company (INOC), it's the first nucleus and the basic of national direct investment projects in the seventies, where the SOC was subsidiary to national company. Events and activisites have escalated steadily and rapidly rising since the beginning of the seventies where investment and development stages of the north Rumaila field were completed, in three stages lead to rate production (42) million tons per year, conincided with the expansion of works in all fields, the expansion began with drilling works, building and expanding production facilities and implementing investment projects associated with natural gas field in north and south Rumaila [. . .]
Meanwhile Brendan Barber (Guardian) reports on efforts of the Iraqi government to destroy Iraq's unions ("Ministers appoined a government committee, packed with officials from the Sadrist movement, to take over the structures and assets of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIQ) -- the Iraqi equivalent of the TUC -- and run its upcoming elections"):
We have reports of government officials, flanked by police, attempting to take over union offices. And it is painfully sectarian. In Basra last week, the seven officials that demanded the keys to the local union office were all from the Sadrist party. These followers of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr are a small, but important, minority in the Iraqi coalition government, and won control of the labour ministry in the recent carve-up of government portfolios. In preparation for union elections, these Sadrist officials have been issuing their own union membership cards, effectively giving them the right to decide who can vote. In a similar incident last year – and a worrying sign of things to come – the polling booth for a union election was inside the Sadrist party offices. These are tactics that Hosni Mubarak would be proud of.
Back to protests, The Great Iraqi Revolution notes that the Ramadi sit-in continued yesterday and that "The Young Rebels and the Tribal Shaikhs have setup a site for a SIT-IN very close by! Haliki [Nouri al-Maliki] and his goons really can't stop the Iraqi People protesting -- this is our land and this is our country." Yesterday was day 16 of the continued sit-in. And a woman in Baghdad, Eaman, says "that they have no men left in their district because all the men have been detained by the government security forces as a result fo the 'Secret Informer' system -- she is appealing for help" and states that "the 'Secret Informer' in Fadhil District in Baghdad is called Khalid Mihsin Awwad". Protesters are being targeted in Iraq. The Great Iraqi Revolution notes, "The night before last Shaikh Khalil Al Sabba'awi's home was raided in the Geyara District of Mosul but could not find him. The next morning, yesterday, they saw his son in the family car and arrested the son and hijacked the car! Shaikh Khalil was live on air and said that he will not give up the protests and that soon they will be starting Civil Disobedience in Mosul. He is the Shaikh who refused Maliki's invitation to go down to Baghdad and negotiate the demands of the Ahrar Protestors - these demands are the same as of Tahrir, Baghdad and Tahrir, Ramadi." And in Falluja, "We've just heard that Haliki has setup a checkpoint just at Fallujah's gates and is arresting young men just because they are young men! I wonder, is he so frightened???? And if he is so frightened why does he remain???? What is he going to do in a few days' time????? The citizens in Anbar now are also speaking about a Civil Disobedience Campaign...... well, let's wait and see....."
Meanwhile Aswat al-Iraq reports guests and the wedding party turned a Mosul social event into a protest as the approximately 500 began shouting for reform, an end to corruption, the release of detainees and the departure of US forces. Sticking with departure, The Great Iraqi Revolution passes on, "Dhafir Al Ani has stated that they (meaning the Iraqiya Block, I suppose) have heard from the Americans that Haliki has in principle agreed to the extension of the SOFA Agreement!!!!!!! Poor .... Poor... thing - He needs them for his protection....." Aaron C. Davis (Washington Post) quotes Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi stating, "There is no certain time or certain date to decide on the U.S. military, and we will not be in a hurry to take a decision." Davis notes, "If Iraqi leaders decide late in the year to request that some U.S. troops or equipment stay, military officials say, it would entail significantly altering or even reversing the course and could compound security concerns and costs." Ayub Nuri (Rudaw) maintains there is anxiety over a potential withdrawal throughout Iraq but especially in the oil-rich Kirkuk. Kirkuk police department has issued a statement calling for US forces to remain on the ground in Kirkuk past 2011; however, The Great Iraqi Revolution explains, "The Political Arab Council in Kirkuk has just denied the statement issued yesterday by the Kirkuk Police Department. They categorically stated that they refuse the further stay of the Occupation troops in Kirkuk. The spokesman said that this refusal is the opinion of all the parties living in Kirkuk with the exception of the 2 Kurdish Parties. He also said that the occupation troops did not deal evenhandedly with the citizens in Kirkuk. He said that they wanted Kirkuk to be the first city from which occupation troops depart from Iraq."
Any extension of the SOFA is all but a political impossibility in Iraq since, even though Iraqi government officials, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, have indicated their desire to keep some troops past the deadline, the response from their constituencies, and from leaders such as Moqtada al-Sadr, strongly opposed to any prolonged presence, would be disastrous for Iraq's fragile parliamentary coalition.
It's "all but a political impossibility," is it? Because you say so? Moqtada al-Sadr made the same threats he makes today in 2006 regarding the extension of the UN mandate. Nouri extended it. Moqtada made the same noises in 2007 regarding the extension onf the UN mandate. Nouri extended it. In 2008, Nouri didn't extend the UN mandate. But only because the SOFA replaced it. And, in 2008, Moqtada made the same threats.
In all cases, nothing ever happened but talk from Moqtada which was quickly forgotten. In 2008, when he was threatening, do you remember the concession that was made to Moqtada? In July 2009, the people of Iraq would get to vote on the SOFA. It's two months shy of July 2011 and, guess what, there was never a vote.
Moqtada al-Sadr is worshipped by some on the left. In terms of verbal statements only, he's a lot like US House Rep Dennis Kucinich in that he makes a lot of promises -- such as he would never, ever vote for ObamaCare -- but then ends up caving.
Meanwhile, US intelligence indicates that Moqtada al-Sadr is at his weakest ever in terms of support and loyalty from his Iraqi followers. Not only does the US know this but it's also been shared with Nouri by the US government.
So based on US intell and based upon past pattern, Moqtada al-Sadr's empty words don't mean much at all. You have to be pretty stupid to claim it's "all but a political impossibility" for Nouri to keep US forces on the ground in Iraq past 2011 based on what Moqtada might do.
But IPS has a pattern of the stupid. In fact, IPS readers should be slamming the site with e-mails insiting, "You told us the SOFA was an end of the war treaty! You told us that it meant the war ended! What is this talk about extending the US presence! According to over two years of your 'reporting,' that could never happen!"
Yeah, IPS predicted on the SOFA. Didn't offer a legal analysis. Just smugly asserted it was something it wasn't and did so for over two years. IPS should really walk away from the predictions. Doing so would help deliver us all from the stupid.
March 2010, Iraq held elections. And Nouri wanted to remain prime minister. And he did. Despite the fact that most Iraqis want the US out of their country. Despite the fact that most Iraqis wanted a referendum on the SOFA and Nouri promised one but never held it. Nouri's a thug and a US puppet. But somehow he's managed to hang on. If he manages past the start of June, when the 100 day deadline he imposed expires -- it will be interesting to see if anything could dislodge him in the coming months. Not only has he managed to retain power, but he's also worked on consolidating power and stealing the power. As prime minister currently, due to his power-grab, he has more control than he's had in the same post at any time previously.
Nouri may or may not choose to extend the US military presence. That's a prediction. (It's true that if he doesn't, the current US plan is to shove the forces under the State Dept and keep many in Iraq that way. A fact that IPS can't seem to find in the latest article.) But to claim that it's "all but a political impossiblity" shows a reliance on fantasy, not on the facts.
Meanwhile, Iraqis in charge focused on bit-ticket items and not on necessities when stocking hospitals. Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reports on gleaming state-of-the-art equipment and machinery which stands idle (often because no one's been trained on operating it) while the most basic supplies (such as proper-size IV catheters) are no where to be found leading to tragic results. From the article:
As security has improved and a semblance of calm has settled over Iraq, doctors say the biggest menace to patients these days is not so much a lack of money, basic training or even supplies. Rather, they say, it is the skewed priorities of a corrupt, often indifferent Health Ministry that has gone on spending sprees in certain realms while leaving basic health care to flounder.
The problems are emblematic of the wider dysfunction of the U.S.-backed Iraqi government as a whole, a bubble of elites for whom ministries are treated as spoils of bare-knuckled political battles, with key positions often going to the well connected rather than those with technical expertise. To some extent, such issues are common to developing nations, which is what Iraq essentially is, having been plunged backward by years of war.
And the Post has this photo gallery which compliments the article. In October 2006, Lara Logan (CBS News -- link is text and video) reported on how Nouri giving the Sadr bloc control of the Ministry of Health allowed Moqtada's Mahdi militia to overrun the hospitals and, the US military stated, murdering Sunni patients (among other charges). The minister was Ali al-Shermani and he would faces these charges in 2007; however, he walked when those set to testify against him refused to testify in open court. Having walked, Ali al-Shermani now ran -- right out of the country. In July 2010, Timothy Williams and Yasmine Mousa (New York Times) reported that al Qaeda was swiping blood from Iraqi hospitals.
From corruption to violence, today Oxfam International has released a new report entitled [PDF format warning] "Protection of Civilians in 2010" and, with regards to Iraq, its findings include that over 4,000 civilians died in Iraq last year, Iraq gets included again when it's time for displaced people, an estimated 2.8 million people (that section relies on estimations as well). Karl Allen (Zawya) mines for gold and comes up with this:
At least 4,000 Iraqi civilians were killed by insurgent violence in 2010 - the highest number of civilian fatalities in any of the world's 'conflict zones' - according to an Oxfam international report published today. The report, "Protection of Civilians in 2010", examines 18 zones of armed conflict throughout the world and lists the numbers of civilians reported to have been killed, raped or displaced. Following closely behind Iraq with 3,500 direct civilian fatalities was Pakistan, then Afghanistan and Somalia where the figures reached 2,700 and 2,000 respectively.
New Sabah notes the report here. In today's violence, Reuters notes a Tikrit roadside bombing which claimed the life of a police officer and left three more injured, a Mosul sticky bombing injured police Lt Col Zaid al-Omari, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured one person (bodyguard for a provincial council member), a second Baghdad roadside bombing injured two people, a Baghdad bombing claimed the life of Salam Abdullah and, dropping back to last night, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured one person.
Back to the topic of NGOs, Al Mada reports UNICEF has a new goodwill ambassador in Iraq: Kadhim al-Sahir an Iraqi who left the country in 1997 and who is the first Iraqi to hold the position. Trade Arabia adds:
His humanitarian work started in 1998 when he performed a song about Iraqi children stranded in conflict at benefit concerts in the Royal Albert Hall in the UK as well as to members of the United Nations. "It has been a long and difficult journey for Iraq's children over the past few decades" said Al-Sahir. "I am deeply touched and honored to return to Iraq today as Unicef's Ambassador and will do everything possible to protect the rights and improve the well-being of Iraq's children," he added.
Khalid al-Ansary and Jon Boyle (Reuters) quote al-Sahir stating, "It is the right of the people to work, have a good life, and have a happy childhood." The Great Iraqi Revolution adds, "An idea is being floated about that The Revolutionary Youth invite Kadhim Al Shahir to come to Tahrir so that the Rebels explain to him the reason for thier protests since Kadhim Al Sahir had stated earlier that he would not be honoured to sing for such a chaotic mob ..... so do you support such an idea, particularly since he is now a Goodwill Ambassador as well as being a world renouned artist. we would welcome your ideas....."
-- "Dishonest Modesty," written by Carly Simon, first appears on her album Another Passenger
Ira Glass is 52-years-old but can't stop trying to sound like a snot-nosed, five-year-old, little girl. And his gulping mid-statement isn't being masked by the microphones and is becoming as annoying as Brenda Vacarro's gasp in those early 80s Playtex Tampons commercial. When not living his stunted life outside the studio, Ira hosts This American Life. He's popping up throughout the country these days with a 'best of' hour special for pledge drives at various NPRs. It includes his playing clips of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and his calling Bill O'Reilly various names -- apparently this how NPR now handles pledge drives. He also whines that he's been called biased but he's not, he insists, biased.
Ira Glass: You'd think if anybody would be out there thanking President Obama for helping them out these past few years, it would be Wall Street. Back when he was running for office, Barack Obama led the Democrats in supporting President Bush's original bailout of Wall Street and as president he kept that bail out going. [. . .] are they whining about the Obama administration?
Really? That's a measure of what? You can be a 'good' American and have no respect for any elected official. Apparently, Ira woke up on the wrong side of the gildled lily as did the overly praised Davidson who whined that you could go into any Wall St. bar and find "someone complaining about the president." Oh, the horror. Oh, the novelty. Surely in this country's 235 years, no one has ever dared complain about a president before.
It only gets worse. To prove just how 'hostile' Wall Street is to Barack (and therefore America because, in their eyes, Barack and the US are one and the same -- amazing 'logic' in a country where approximately 40% of adult Americans choose not to vote in presidential elections each cycle), Davidson and Feltes hit Pound & Pence.
They 'forget' to report on the NYC bar so let's sketch out the detail they left out. It's a British pub on Liberty in Manhattan's Financial District. The upstairs (more of a loft than a second floor) is dominated by a huge pool table. The downstairs is dominated by the bar. Along with the Wall Street crowd, hotels steer a great deal of foot traffic there (such as the Holiday Inn on Nassau). In such a rush to find 'mean' people who didn't give thanks to Barack, the 'reporters' forgot to provide the basic set up. They talk to some drunken guys (slurring and all) and are surprised that drunken men might say 'bad' things and might brag about themselves. Really? Strap on some breasts and you'll really hear some drunken men say 'bad' things and do some heavy bragging. Next up, Ira and the gang hit The 40/40 Club on 25th to find out if all the men claiming to have eight inches really do.
Ira and Adam liken the patrons to the "Ba'athists" in Iraq who were whiners -- according to Ira and Adam -- and cry babies in 2003 when Adam was there. Really? Your country's invaded and you're a cry baby? You're country's invaded in an illegal war and you're a cry baby? Adam also schills for JPMorgan Chase which -- he appears to forgot -- took $38 billion in bailout money and which, as US House Rep Bob Filner pointed out in a February 9th Congressional hearing, "broke the law. Your bank [JPMorgan Chase] broke the law. Shouldn't someone go to jail for that?"
In the pitch during the special, Ira brags that you can get a 'flash drive' with 35 hours of his program and no one in public radio has ever done that. Really? Law and Disorder Radio has offered their past programs in that format during pledge drives in the past two years now. How nice of Ira to 'discover' something other public radio shows have been doing and claim he's the first. But then he's never been accused of possessing any modesty -- dishonest or otherwise. Ira and This American Life would do well to grasp that a US citizen bows to no one. Nor do pub goers need to celebrate the presidency. Since it's a British pub, let's quote William Pitt from many centuries ago, "The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the crown. It may be frail -- its roof may shake -- the wind may blow through it -- the storm may enter -- the rain may enter -- but the Kind of England cannot enter." After work, at night, drunk off their asses, a few Americans working on Wall Street refused to show fealty to Barack and this was news to Ira -- indicating that he's got a great deal still to learn about American life and that he's got his own system of bias blasting out on public airwaves.
The practice of listening to opposing views is essential to effective citizenship. It is essential for our democracy. If we choose to actively seek out information that challenges our assumptions and our beliefs, perhaps we can begin to understand where the people who disagree with us are coming from.
We can't expect to solver our problems if all we do is tear each other down.
I don't issue calls for civility. I'm not a historical idiot. I'm fully aware that this is not the worst or most heated moment in the nation's discourse in the last forty years or since the nation began. But Barack's forever issuing calls for 'civility.' Yet he never follows them himself, does he?
It's not just the 'jokes' two Saturdays ago -- which can be written off as someone sorely lacking humor being pushed into doing a monologue -- or even just his easy and, yes, natural attack (no hesitation at all) in 2009 on The Tonight Show of the Special Olympics. No, it's things like this statement to 60 Minutes in an interview which aired Sunday night: "And I think that anyone who would question that the perpetrator of mass murder on American soil didn't deserve what he got needs to have their head examined." That's civility? That's not civility. The next time the little priss cries for civility again, the press needs to point out the reality which is Piss Panties only cares about civility when he's losing the argument. When he's being fawned over, he loves to talk trash.
Earlier, in the same interview, he admits that some of his advisers didn't agree with the plan and were against it. Will he be firing them? Will he be ordering them to seek treatment? Or will he just order their executions?
I have no idea but I'm tired of a grown adult acting like a little fussbudget every five minutes crying "civility!" and no one ever pointing out that the little priss can't heed his own cry. In the same interview he claims to have withdrawn 100,000 troops from Iraq. That is not true. Approximately 90,000 (special ops aren't included in the count) have left since he entered the White House. Some of that was the last remains of the so-called 'surge' which were transitioning out on Bush's orders given before Barack was sworn in. But it's very telling that 60 Minutes didn't question him on that or on anything else. See, Ira, the press will show the fealty the people rightly reject.
When he announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed by a Navy Seal team in Pakistan, President Barack Obama said, "Justice has been done." Mr. Obama misused the word "justice" when he made that statement. He should have said, "Retaliation has been accomplished." A former professor of constitutional law should know the difference between those two concepts. The word "justice" implies an act of applying or upholding the law.
Targeted assassinations violate well-established principles of international law. Also called political assassinations, they are extrajudicial executions. These are unlawful and deliberate killings carried out by order of, or with the acquisescence of, a government, outside any judicial framework.
What was done went against the law and those of us who have respect for the law and object to vigilantism don't need our heads examined but maybe Barack needs his examined. In Robert Bolt's A Man For All Seasons, Thomas More is under pressure from King Henry the XIII to grant the king a divorce and More refuses explaining, "The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal, not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal." Barack is no Sir Thomas More.
The Iraq war has become the mistaken war, the one that so many Americans believe we never should have waged. I have come to realize that, regardless of my personal beliefs and opinions, this is how the Iraq war will be remembered - as an unfortunate error increasingly divorced from the country's valiant fight against terrorism.
This, in turn, brings me to question myself, my efforts, and my worth. How will my and others' achievements and sacrifices in Iraq be remembered? Will all that we did while serving amount to nothing more than a mistake?
The more I travel and speak about my experiences, the more I sense that the cultural memory of this war is shifting and devolving over time. Rather than thanks for helping to keep the country safe from terrorism, I get appreciation mixed with pity for having fought in an "illegal" war, as many refer to it.