Sunday, August 07, 2011

And the war drags on . . .

From last night, "Al Rafidayn reports Nouri al-Maliki spent the last hours of Saturday evening determining whether or not to dismiss the Minister of Electricity who is accused of having dozens of contracts (worth billions) in 'fictitious names' (that might be termed 'embezzlement' and 'fraud' if the charges are correct). For those who've fogotten it was a little bit earlier this time last year that Nouri sacked the last Minister of Electricity. He then had the Minister of Oil fill both posts (without Parliament's approval)." Aswat al-Iraq reports today that Iraqiya MP Wihda al-Jumaily supports the move and states "if the charges proved correct, and the general inspector was right about the existence of the two phony companies, we will be hand in hand wih Maliki." Salam Faraj (AFP) adds that Raad Shallal al-Ani is said to have signed off on "$1.7 billion" in questionable contracts and that "It was not immediately clear, however, whether the dismissal would need the approval of parliament, or whether Maliki had approved a pre-existing resignation letter from Ani in order to fire him." Waleed Ibrahim (Reuters) reports, "A government ombudsman said on Saturday that Iraq had cancelled power plant contracts worth $1.7 billion with a Canadian and a German company after finding 'manipulation and misleading information' about their finances or their ability to carry out the work." And for those wrongly thinking that losing 2 Ministers of Electricity in two years somehow means Nouri is on the ball, he wasn't providing the supervision, was he? That's really underscored when Dar Addustour reminds that they reported on this issue July 1th and noted that one of the companies was fictitious. And it gets more interesting. Al Mada reports on rumors that the fired minister may expose other dubious contracts, contracts that took place before he was Minister of Electricity. If stealing from the till implied governmental skill, Nouri would be a pro. But it doesn't and the recent problems on top of Political Stalemate II only underscore that more US lives do not need to be wasted by keeping the military in Iraq to keep Little Nouri in power.

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 4477. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4477 still.

Reuters notes
an Iskandariya home bombing claimed the lives of 5 people from one family and left nine more injured, an Iskandariya sticky bombing injured one person and, dropping back to yesterday, a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured one police officer. Aswat al-Iraq notes 1 man was shot dead in Baghdad last night. UPI adds that the Baghdad Bank was robbed of an estimated $850,000 yesterday. Yang Lina (Xinhua) reports a Baghdad home bombing killed a Sahwa leader and his son while leaving two other female family members injured. AFP notes, "Two separate attacks south of the disputed northern oil city of Kirkuk, meanwhile, left one anti-Qaeda militiaman dead and two people wounded, local police said" while an Iraqi service member was shot dead in Khales and a Baquba roadside bombing injured two people.

From violence to the violent, radical cleric and would-be First Lady of Iraq Moqtada al-Sadr. Aseel Kami (Reuters) reports on statements issued Saturday by Moqtada. We covered Moqtada's statements yesterday and there's nothing new in Kami's report but we're including the link because it's in English and yesterday I was translating from an Arabic source. One thing I left out was that the question came from Sadr followers currently in Australia. That was in the article but I thought I was misunderstanding the wording. Aswat al-Iraq notes that that Moqtada was responding to a question from his followers in Australia.

I'm bored with Moqtada and his stale summer repeats, let's move over to Chalabi. The Ministry of the Electricity would appear to be fired. Dar Addustour reports Ahmed Chalabi accuses the Ministry of Oil of rewriting Iraqi oil contracts to benefit BP -- with one clause insisting Iraq pay BP for every barrel of oil even if production comes to a standstill. Al Mada notes that Chalabi cites an article in the Observer. The Al Mada article is much more in depth, quoting Chalabi in full. If I thought Chalabi was the least bit credible, we'd provide a long excerpt of his statements.

From yesterday:

Meanwhile, the prison break. AFP reports late Friday there were clashes in a Hilla prison and 4 prisoners and 1 guard died (five more prisoners were injured -- and we're using the numbers reported by the medic in the article) and that up to 15 prisoners may have escaped. Al Sabaah notes a state of emergency has been called and a curfew imposed on Hilla. Dar Addustour states 20 prisoners escaped (including al Qaeda in Iraq members and members of Moqtada's Mahdi militia) and that the armed clash on Friday lasted up to an hour. Al Mada states that the escapees included 8 death row inmates.

Al Mada reports today that the Ministry of Justice won't state specifically how or why but guns were in the prison with silencers on them -- guns used by prison staff (why do guards need guns with silencers?) and that some of the escapees made off with them. Dar Addustour notes that the Minister of Justice (Hassan Shammari) held a press conference in Hilla today and insisted that only one prisoner has escaped and that he will be found.

New content from Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Kat's "Kat's Korner: Middle-Aged Men, not boys" went up earlier. Pru notes this from Great Britain's Socialist Worker:

Captain America: An all-American hero goes back to his roots

comment on article | email | print
Share on: Delicious | Digg | reddit | Facebook | StumbleUpon

Sasha Simic reviews the new Captain America film and reflects on how the 70 year old icon has picked his battles

The nerds have inherited the earth and their obsessions now dominate mainstream Hollywood cinema. As a card-carrying nerd, I don’t have a problem with that.

But what will civilians—ignorant of and unconcerned with the decades-long mythology behind Captain America—make of this film?

Most of Captain America: The First Avenger is set during the Second World War. In 1942, puny idealist Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), “just a kid from Brooklyn”, wants to enlist and fight fascism but is repeatedly turned down by the army.

Unfit for service, he volunteers for a secret government project which gives him a perfect physique.

Rogers should be the first of an army of super-soldiers. But events conspire to ensure he’s a one-off.

Considered too valuable to use in combat, Rogers is dressed up in a customised version of the US flag and turned into a propaganda vehicle as Captain America.

But he gets sick of touring theatres and staring in cheap film serials exhorting the public to buy war bonds, and joins the war effort as a combatant.


This sets him up for a confrontation with the Nazis’ version of a super-soldier—Red Skull (Hugo Weaving).

From this point on, the film is like one of the war films the BBC used to screen on wet Sunday afternoons, but on steroids.

Captain America is driven by the admirable ethic that if you start running from bullies they never let you stop.

He spends the rest of this enjoyable film fighting the impossible technology wielded by the Red Skull and his Nazi sub-cult, Hydra.

The whole enterprise recalls what French Marshal Pierre Bosquetto said on witnessing the Charge of the Light Brigade: “It is magnificent, but it is not war.”

The film is the latest in a wave of comic book superhero movies that have helped renew their popularity.

The appearance of Superman in a 1938 edition of Action Comics first transformed comics into a mainstream craze. Around 90 percent of US children read them in the early 1940s.

Every publisher tried to imitate this success. In April 1940 artists Jack Kirby and Joe Simon came very close when they created Captain America for Timely comics.

Socialists are probably the last to warm to a patriotic character dressed in the US flag. But the initial stories were, in the context of their time, quite progressive.

Kirby and Simon were from poor Jewish backgrounds in New York. They hated the Nazis.

Captain America was overtly political. The first issue’s cover showed him punching Adolf Hitler in the face.

It sold millions and attracted hate mail from pro-Nazis.

During the war, Captain America was pure propaganda. Children were told to buy war bonds: “Remember! Your dime may pay for the bullet which will finish off the last Jap!”

After the war, superheroes fell out of fashion. Captain America was cancelled in the 1950s.

There was an attempt to revive him in 1953 as a McCarthyite “Commie-smasher”, but it didn’t pay off.

Timely changed its name to Marvel Comics in the 1960s and did for comics what Motown and the Beatles did for music.

Captain America was revived in the Avengers comic in 1964 as a character who had literally been in cold storage since the war. He got his own comic, depicted as a man out of his time who was completely alienated from modern US society.


But Marvel’s comics were shot through with crude anti-Communist propaganda.

This lessened as the 1960s advanced and their readership radicalised.

Kirby later apologised for the politics of his work during this period. He came out against the Vietnam War and called young anti-war demonstrators “the best thing this country has ever produced”.

He left Marvel in the early 1970s and the Captain America strip lost its way.

It experienced a revival under writer Steve Englehart, who responded to the Watergate scandal with a story about a super-villain who was a thinly disguised Richard Nixon.

Disillusioned by the betrayal, Captain America put aside his patriotic costume to become Nomad—the man without a country.

But the character was back in his usual clothes in time for Kirby’s return in 1976, America’s bicentennial year.

A special was produced in which Captain America travelled through 200 years of US history—his costume paradoxically providing the inspiration for the US flag.

Kirby tired of the character, and eventually left Marvel.

Come the “war on terror” the character returned to propaganda.

US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld posed with two portly actors dressed as Spider-man and Captain America in the White House in 2005 to celebrate a Marvel comic produced as part of the war drive.

And Captain America and friends fought terrorism—under the direction of George W Bush.

This new film treats the character with respect and tries to reflect some of its original idealism.

It’s good fun. But at the end of the day, Samuel Johnson was right: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

The e-mail address for this site is