Sunday, June 05, 2011

And the war drags on . . .

Dar Addustour reports a feminist activist confronted Nouri publicly at a human rights conference in Baghdad and was expelled. Was she expelled or did she leave on her own? The conference was being broadcast live on Iraqi state television but the feed was cut after the woman, Hana Adwar, made her comments. Aswat al-Iraq speaks with Hana who explains that Nouri had yet again been referring to youth activists as terrorists and, "These accusations are not appropriate and acceptable." She notes that an NGO speaker was supposed to be present but wasn't, "so I went to Premier Maliki and handed him the poster of the four activists detained last Friday [May 27, 2011], as well as a letter from Iraqi Human Rights Ministry expressing its concern for the disappearance of Iraqi citizens arrested by security force, though Iraq abided by international accords". She notes she left the conference after doing so and that while Nouri's government insists the four were to be released today, they'd also said there would be no visits between the four and their families until June 11th making it clear "that their detention will continue to that date." Guess who else was present at the conference? Ad Melkert. The UN notes:

A major conference tasked with drafting a national action plan to improve human rights in Iraq offers a critical chance for the country's citizens to ensure that their voices are heard, a senior United Nations official said today.
Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, told the opening of the three-day conference in Baghdad that it was the first time where representatives of all sectors of society – including the Government, the judiciary, academia and civil society – had gathered to discuss human rights.
He noted that millions of Iraqis have experienced human rights abuses in various forms in recent years.
"Loss of life, torture and abuse, loss of access to health care, housing and education, destruction of economic opportunity and the means to earn a livelihood are a few of the harsh realities that the Iraqi people have faced,” Mr. Melkert said.
The Special Representative said the recent demonstrations in Iraq, like those across North Africa and the Middle East this year, were an indication that all Iraqis seek to have their basic rights respected and protected.

But how likely is that with Nouri al-Maliki playing Little Saddam? And with him already declaring there will be no protests Friday in Baghdad's Tahrir Square? It would appear that after a few decades, the US government grew tired of their puppet in Iraq and decided to send many US troops to their deaths in order to take out the puppet and install a new one -- all the while insisting that what was taking place was 'liberation.' After all, what's more liberating than killing one puppet and importing another (Nouri) who fled Iraq decades ago to rule over the country he was too chicken s**t to stay and fight for?

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4457. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD still lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4457.

Today's reported violence? Xinhua drops back to Friday to report, "A leader of Iraq's Sunni paramilitary group was gunned down by unidentified assailants on Sunday near the capital, a local police source said. The convoy of Sheik Majid Jassim al-Obeidi, one of the leaders of the Awakening Council, was attacked on Friday afternoon by gunmen using automatic weapons in a drive-by shooting, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. Al-Obeidi and his deputy Jamal Ahmed al-Zobaie were killed immediately at the scene." In addition, Dar Addustour notes that Ahmed Sarhan, bodyguard to Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, was assassinated today by assailants in a passing car. Al Rafidayn agrees he was on a highway near Amiriyah but they state the assassins were on foot. Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi soldiers, a second Baghdad roadside bombing left eight people injured, a third Baghdad roadside bombing left six Sahwas injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured "a director general in the ministry of planning," 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Jurf al-Sakhar, and, dropping back to yesterday, Mahaweel roadside bombing claimed 1 life and left three people injured. Aswat al-Iraq notes Basra rocket attacks set fire to the Zubeir Oil Field and that "The U.S. military airbase Taleel was the target for rocket attacks, the U.S. Army announced today. The media spokesman of the U.S. forces, Lieutenant Harold Havel, told Aswat al-Iraq that three Katyusha rockets fell on Taleel airbase, 18 km south of Nassiriya, on Saturday night." Yesterday Aswat al-Iraq reported, "An Iraqi Army source has said on Saturday that the Iraqi and the U.S. Armies have boosted their security measures in Diwaniya city, with the participation of helicopters, in the background of the escalation of attacks against the U.S. Army in the city recently."

100 Days was the plan Nouri came up with to try to derail the protests. As protesters gathered to decry the lack of basic services (electricity, potable water, etc.), the lack of jobs, the detainees disappeared into the Iraqi 'justice' system and more, Nouri insisted all would be settled in 100 Days. Moqtada al-Sadr backed him up. Moqtada said people should stop protesting (except for his own staged protests, of course) and wait for the end of the 100 Days. The 100 Days ends June 7th. There's been no improvement. Al Sabaah reports that the government's evaluation process has begun. Fakhri Karim (Al Mada) observes that the 100 Days have been a failure and that Nouri's hold on "the security services and devices" has increased to the point that there is fear as people see "the same methods which were practiced under the previous regime: kidnapping, assault, torture and framing people with false charges." Karim notes the four men who were protesting in Baghdad May 27th and were arrested. Karim asks why, if the government is telling the truth about the four faking IDs, there has been no trial and notes that the four are "students, activists in the protest movement against corruption poor conditions and the assault on civil liberties."

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes "Fighting for 'A future without capitalism' in Spain" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

Andy Durgan spoke to Socialist Worker from Barcelona about the ongoing Spanish revolt against the economic crisis

Thousands of mainly young people are involved in the new movement in Spain. Young people have suffered from poor employment conditions, poor wages and temporary contracts for years.

But the effects have become more pronounced with this most recent crisis of capitalism.

Some 21 percent of Spain’s population have no job and 40 percent of these are under 30. This doesn’t include students who are looking for work, so really the figure is much higher.

If you’re young here the prospects are bleak. Around 85 percent of people under 30 live with their parents because housing is so expensive.

The movement was partly inspired by events in Egypt. What is now known as the 15 May movement called a demonstration on that day for “real democracy now”. People declared the mainstream system a farce—the voting, the parties, everything.

The main parties have repeatedly broken promises and betrayed the people who voted for them. Many of the movement’s demands have an anti-capitalist nature. There is a general sense that we should not pay for the crisis.

The call for real participatory democracy has revolutionary implications, even if most of those demanding it don’t necessarily see it like this.

No single organisation called the protests—activists came together, face to face and online, to build the day.

Some of them had been involved five years ago in a housing campaign which mobilised tens of thousands across the country. Another section was from a campaign to protect people who couldn’t afford their mortgage repayments from eviction.

But most of the people involved are unorganised. The call to protest inspired tens of thousands. There are now around 120 protests and assemblies across the country.

On the Monday following 15 May the police attacked the spontaneous camp a small number of people had set up in Madrid. This provoked a backlash against the state and spread the protests across Spain.

Once people were in the squares, the influence of the Arab movements became more apparent.

The movement has raised questions of organisation as it has developed.

The trade unions in Spain are very weak. Only 19 percent of workers are unionised.

Workers can be on workplace committees, which bargain over wages, whether they are in a union or not. The majority of delegates are in unions—but that is not true of the workers who vote for them.

Most young people have little work experience and therefore little experience of workplace organisation or positive experience of the unions.

In September the main unions organised a general strike and up to seven million people took action.

But the unions didn’t follow it up with anything and shortly afterwards they signed agreements with the ruling Socialist Party which attacked workers’ rights. These made it easier to sack people, attacked pensions and raised the retirement age.

A third of workers in Spain are on temporary contracts. Many people see the unions as part of the discredited establishment that sells them out.

The mainstream unions have said very little about the recent protests. Their response is very similar to the Socialist Party’s—a lot of hand wringing but no proposals for action.

This is because it is their policies and agreements that people are protesting against.

But the voters haven’t moved to the right. In the recent election the Socialist Party lost over 20 percent of its vote, but the right only gained 3 percent. A few votes went to the electoral left coalition, but not many.

The movement is critical of the economic and political positions taken by those in power. There is no connection between people on the streets and the top of the unions or the Socialist Party.


Autonomist ideas are strong here partly because the main parties are completely subordinated to the banks and financial institutions.

The revolutionary left collapsed in the years after the transition from fascism to democracy following General Franco’s death in 1975, leaving a vacuum that autonomist ideas can fill.

These ideas make sense to people who aren’t organised. The majority are taking action for the first time, and the rejection of parties and unions ties into the idea that this is something new. People want to build something different.

Just what forces make up the camps varies from place to place, though there is a general consensus that no organisations should be allowed.

There are serious discussions about the way forward and revolutionary socialists like us in En Lucha—Socialist Worker’s Spanish sister organisation—are intervening in them.

We’re very active in the camps’ main assemblies. Everywhere we’re involved we work hard to make the assembly and the camp function at every level—shoulder to shoulder with activists.

And although we have our own ideas about how things should develop—and put these forward—it is important to respect the mass direct democracy that runs the camps.

We’ve had stalls with our propaganda on them just outside the camp and have been hugely successful. We made a special issue of our paper which went down really well. We have met dozens of people who have shown an interest in our ideas and some have joined En Lucha.

We have set up a blog—from indignation to revolution—which is a slogan we raise in the camps. We are convinced that we have to tackle anti-union ideas if the movement is going to broaden and deepen. We work with other anti-capitalists and left union militants active in the camps with this aim.

We say the camps have to move out, building assemblies in the neighbourhoods and taking the ideas of the movement into the workplaces.

The organisation of local assemblies and even new camps has been quite successful. Workplace interventions are more difficult. But when some young people from the Barcelona camp went to an engineering factory that is on strike the workers on the picket line were thrilled to meet them.

The depth of feeling of solidarity is impossible to measure but there are signs. At 9pm every evening people bang pots and pans in the camps as part of the protest. After the brutal police attack on the camp last week in Barcelona, people come onto their balconies and do it too.

In Seville there was a demonstration from the camp through a working class neighbourhood. People came out to join the protest.


Last weekend some camps decided to put a date on when they will close, usually coinciding with a local mobilisation.

They all stress that the mass assemblies will continue in the neighbourhoods, and the struggle will go on. This makes sense as the movement must continue and it will be difficult to sustain the camps indefinitely.

The national demonstration on 19 June is a focus for everyone.

As yet the movement has had only a small impact on the fight against austerity. But this could change.

Most importantly, a new generation has entered into struggle, a generation that could provide the basis of a new vibrant moment against the system.

And this, as has been seen in other countries, is increasingly part of the new international youth rebellion.

The following should be read alongside this article:

Spanish activists: ‘We are building bridges between different sections of the movement’

The labyrinth of Spain's history

Barcelona resists violent police attack on assembly

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