Thursday, August 18, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi children continue suffer, autism is on the rise in Iraq, Turkey's prime minister appears to be declaring war on northern Iraq, and more.
Starting with the Libyan War, we noted some things in the August 10th snapshot that we'll note again. Black Star News (via San Francisco Bay View) notes that "the entire Black population" of Misrata has been driven out of the city by the so-called rebels and cites this Wall St. Journal report where the rebels boast of being "the brigade for purging slaves, black skin." Were George W. Bush still illegally occupying the White House, there would be a huge outcry over that. Instead it's little reported. Black Star News states the New York Times has ignored the racism of the so-called rebels of the Transitional National Council and the attacks on Black Libyans:
If the case was reversed and Black Libyans were committing ethnic cleansing against non-Black Libyans, does anyone believe that the people who now control the editorials or the news pages at the New York Times would ignore such a story? Evidently, it doesn't bother the sages at the Times that Black Libyans are specifically being targeted for liquidation because of their skin color.
Instead, the New York Times is busy boasting of its support for NATO's bombing campaign -- as in a recent editorial -- which this week alone is reported to have killed 20 civilians. The Times has also ignored Rep. Dennis Kucinich's call to the International Criminal court (ICC) to investigate NATO commanders on possible war crimes in connection to Libyan civilians killed.
The Times can't write about the ethnic cleansing of Black Libyans and migrants from other African countries because it would diminish the reputation of the 'rebels,' who the Times have fully embraced, even after the ICC also reported that they too have committed war crimes. Instead, the Times is comfortable with the simplistic narrative, "al-Qaddafi bad," "rebels good," regardless of the fact that the Wall Street Journal also reported the rebels are being trained by former al-Qaeda leaders who were released from U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay.
The mostly black town of Tawurgha has fallen to NATO-backed rebels after a long siege, according to al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based media mouthpiece for the rebels. It is an event only racists could celebrate, a triumph of hate and Euro-American arms and money over an enclave of dark-skinned Libyans descended from Africans once sold in the town's slave market. As the Wall Street Journalreported on June 21, the road to Tawurgha (sometimes spelled Ta-wer-gha), 25 miles from the port of Misurata, is punctuated by rebel graffiti vowing to "purge slaves, black skin." Previously, Benghazi-based rebels methodically cleansed Misurata's black neighborhoods, warning residents never to return to their jobs or classrooms.
Rebels claimed Tawurgha's defenders used civilians as "human shields" during the final assault -- the stock phrase deployed to justify massacres of non-combatants. President Obama has, in effect, been arming a racist lynch mob and calling them freedom fighters.
Government forces earlier claimed to have recaptured Misurata, itself, along with other battlefield victories, reports that are mirrored by rebel boasts of progress in encircling the capital city, Tripoli, and its 1.5 million people. The pace of military activity has quickened, dramatically, with the September 27 expiration of the Euro-American "mandate" in Libya approaching. NATO has stepped up bombing of pro-government towns along a wide front, throwing every available unit of feuding rebel forces into the fray in hopes of achieving regime change before the deadline. Rebel claims to have captured the town of Brega are in dispute. According to the rebel high command, the oil port was once defended by a brigade of "Chadian" soldiers -- another "black African" threat that Amnesty International and other outside observers found to be totally fictional. The rebellion appears to run on Africanophobia.
Omali Yeshitela: The fact is there are more than 700 US military bases around the world and then you count all the other imperialist powers and what is necessary for them to do at this moment to try and maintain the status quo to try and maintain an imperialist dominated world that extracts so much value that half the people on the planet live off less than two-US-dollars a day. That is what people around the world, in the process right now as we speak are struggling to overturn. And that is why there are all these wars that are going down -- in fact, a situation of permanent warfare that the imperialists have to be engaged in to try and maintain the status quo. And then particularly in cities throughout the imperialist countries themselves, like the United States, and what we're seeing happening in England and France and places like Belgium and Germany where there are growing internal colonies such as that exists with us and with the Mexican people and the so-called Indians it is a crucial question and right now history is being turned right-side-up and those who've been historically so oppresed, now are determing what progess -- real progress is in the world today. And Back Is Black is a part of this process and is calling on everybody else who is genuinely interested in ending wars to stand on the side of these oppressed peoples and to oppose the imperialist attempt to maintain the status quo which is oppressive and exploitive.
Glen Ford: And of course economic warfare is at least as deadly as the shooting kind.
Omali Yeshitela: It's at least. In fact, the economic warfare that I just mentioned, you know that half the people on the earth living on two-US-dollars a day, that is extraordinary. And this poverty that's responsible for disease and death plagues us in some places where there are more natural resources that the imperialists are extracting where people ought to be doing well but they cannot do well because those resources are being sucked out and they are filling super markets throughout the US and other places like that and pocket books on Wall Street and the board rooms [. . .]
Glen Ford: And this might be another expanded struggle for the Back Is Black Coalition -- focusing on convincing people that economic aggression is also a kind of warfare.
Omali Yeshitela: It is because the problem that we have is that even when people are looking at England as an example and I say that because it's quite topical obviously and they can see young people who are rising up and burning shops and things like that, what has to be recognized is that economic warfare, that is a form of violence too, people can see the shop being burned and they say that is violence but the economic warfare, where people are deprived of the right to live and to live in dignity that is a form of warfare and that is debiliating as you know and crushing not only to the human body but also to the human spirit. And it is something that we in the Back Is Black Coalition find unacceptable and that's why we have to do August 20th as an international day of action against the wars on Africa and African people worldwide.
Scott Horton: Let's talk about the Iraq War. I know it's the summer of 2011 and as far as most people are concerned there's no such thing anymore. But I know better than that and I was wondering if you could give us the latest. I saw that there were a string of bombings over the weekend, right?
Jason Ditz: Right we had one of the deadliest days in over a year in the war and we've had bombings pretty much on a daily basis and the Obama administration is still talking about how they're open to the idea of staying if only they're asked which is a somewhat disingenuous comment because they've been demanding to be asked for several months now.
Scott Horton: Yes, as we've covered on the show. And now help me understand exactly where we're at in that process because it seems like Nouri al-Maliki had said, 'Okay, you can keep some trainers because I can give you that without turning it over to the Parliament first.' Did that stick?
Jason Ditz: It seems like that much has stuck but it looks like there's still a push for more. And whether they get more or not remains to be seen.
Scott Horton: And now when they say some trainers, how many is that? Do you know?
Jason Ditz: We don't know. It's not been clear at all how many they're talking but it's a lot.
Scott Horton: Well now I wonder if Maliki making that decision himself is what Ryan Crocker the now Ambassador to Afghanistan was talking about in these WikiLeaks cables when he was saying that Maliki is turning towards dictatorship. This was written up by John Glaser at the Antiwar.com Blog. He had some WikiLeaks here, did you see this?
Jason Ditz: Yeah and that could be part of it but I think that Maliki made a much broader grasp for power than that. He's still the acting Defense Minister, the acting Interior Minister, he's also the Public Security Minister. He's kept all of the ministries that have any control over any armed forces or law enforcement group. So he's very much been consolidating power for awhile and the effort to cut Parliament out of the decision on the US troops is one more step along the way.
Scott Horton: Well now and so what kind of noise is the Parliament making about whether they're going to go along with inviting more troops? Or would they really have to? I mean, they do have to go to the Parliament on that, don't they?
Jason Ditz: Theoretically they should have to go to the Parliament but it's not clear if they would or not. Of course, in the US, when the Status Of Forces Agreement was passed in 2008, there was a little bit of a question of whether or not President Bush should go to Congress about it and he just decided, no, he wasn't going to and that was pretty much the end of that. So it seems like there hoping to go the same way with the Iraqi Parliament and just cut them out of the process --
Scott Horton: They never held a referendum.
Jason Ditz: Right. The 2008 vote was narrowly passed with the promise of a referendum within six months bringing the question to the Iraqi people and that referendum, years later, never happened. So it was a pretty ugly battle at the time and it's probably going to be a much uglier battle this time around.
Scott Horton: Yeah, well, you know it's really too bad that we can't read Nouri al-Maliki's mind. I wish I could but it seems to me like there's at least a good chance that he's more or less playing the same script that he played in 2008 which is 'okay, okay, I'll try to convince them to let you keep all these bases, I'll do my very best' then by the end of the year, time is up, you gotta' sign and they sign a deal no bases and everybody out by the end of the year 2011. And I'm kind of thinking this is maybe what's going on here he's playing smart politics and telling the Americans, 'You know, I'm doing my very best to oblige you, I'm trying to get permission out of these guys but so far I'm having trouble.' But then again, I guess, it's not hard to imagine that he needs our help
Jason Ditz: Certainly and the US troops are going to be there largely to prop him up. So it's not hard to imagine that he would see that as a good thing
The continued danger to U.S. military men and women deployed in Iraq was brought home to an NBC News team at the beginning of this month. Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski, cameraman Jim Long and I were at Victory Base in Baghdad when insurgents began launching rockets at the complex. As the sirens blared and an announcer warned of "Incoming!" an enlisted soldier ran by and said, "Here we go again." He later explained that the enemy has been "peppering" Victory with rockets lately and showed off several places where shrapnel had pocked blast walls and shattered windows.
NBC News also notes that Sgt Mark Cofield's death July 17th was the most recent US military Iraq War death and quotes his sister Sara Cofield saying, "Mark was my rock. He was my brother, he was my world. He raised me." In July, Alyssa Chin (KKTV -- link has text and video) reports that the fallen's father and brother are also serving and she spoke with family and friends of Mark Cofield.
Alyssa Chin: This is a man who was promoted to sergeant just 18 months after training.
Sara Cofield (Sister): You never thought it would be you. You always thought you were the lucky one to have all three of them come back. So . . . [whisper] that was hard.
Alyssa Chin: Friends and family are left wondering exactly what happened overseas to Sgt Mark Cofield, a man they watched grow up?
Suzi Dixon (family friend): This just comes so close to home and it just hits your heart and it makes it all real.
Liz Cameron (neighbor): There's going to be such a hole in this community's heart because Mark was all about love.
Alyssa Chin: According to those who knew him best, the 25-year-old excelled at everything. A hockey player for most of his life, he competed for Rampart High School. While in Iraq, he started running marathons and even won a few.
Samantha Wolf (family friend): Mark had one of the biggest hearts of anybody I've ever met.
Ester Mabry (family friend): He had the strength and compassion that normally you don't see together.
Alyssa Chin: While gathered in the Cofield home, stories and memories of Mark overflow with smiles, love, and warmth. But his sister Sara will remember him most for the times they shared together.
Sara Cofield: I'm proud to say that my brother served, that's a good thing. He not only was a soldier and served our country and will be missed as a part of it but he'll be missed as a brother, and as a son, and as a friend.
In the face of such losses, you'd hope news outlets could at least be honest but that's apparently too much to hope for. ABC6 News notes, "159 soldiers from Minnesota are getting ready to head to 'deployment training' before being sent to Kuwait. The Minnesota National Guard's 2nd Battalion, 135th Infantry are heading overseas to help with the troop drawdown from Iraq. This group of soldiers are part of the second largest deployment of National Guard troops since World War 2." Really? For the withdrawal? The one supposed to take place December 31, 2011? Then they'd only need to deploy until then, right? Matt Peterson (Austin Daily Herald) adds, "Though Spc. Trevor Kolb of Austin has been enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard for two years, he's going to find out a lot more this fall. Kolb, along with the second largest deployment of the Minnesota National Guard since World War II, is going to Kuwait for one year." For a year? So it's not about a December withdrawal. Imagine that. In fact, it's about using Kuwait as a holding tank -- which was discussed in a 2008 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. Did no one pay attention? Apparently not.
Turning to the ongoing violence that is Iraq, Reuters notes 1 Iraqi soldier was shot dead in Mosul (three more injured), 1 man was shot outside his Mosul home, a Baghdad raid by Iraqi forces resulted in 2 suspected being killed and 2 soldiers being killed (three more soldiers were injured), a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two people, and all that follows took place Wednesday night -- a series of Baghdad home invasions targeting police officers resulted in the death of 1 police officer and two people being injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing left three people injured, another Baghdad roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer (and left another injured) and a Tarmiya car bombing claimed the lives of 2 of Brigadier Tawfiq Ahmed's bodyguards and left seven people injured.
Yesterday the Turkish military launched another air bombing on northern Iraq. The Guardian notes, "The jets hit 60 suspected rebel targets in the mountainous region near the border with Turkey late on Wednesday as well as targets on Mount Qandil, along the Iraqi-Iranian border, where leaders of the rebel group Kurdistan Workers' party, or PKK, are believed to be hiding." The paper also notes that the Turkish government will discuss the PKK today in a national security meeting. The Telegraph of London reports that "168 rounds of artillery" were used by Turkish warplanes and that, "In Baghdad, the Iraqi government objected to the attacks, but also said rebels should not launch attacks from its territory aimed at Turkey." Sebnem Arsu (New York Times) quotes a written statement from the command of the Turkish Army, "Similar actions of the Turkish Armed Forces inside and outside the country will continue in a determined way until the North of Iraq would be turned into a secure residential area and the terror organization that uses the area as a launch pad for attacks would be eliminated." So the Turkish plan is to bomb the northern region into a residential area? Not sure how that works. Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert (CNN) state Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared "a new period is starting" in this ongoing crisis and "Rebels from PKK have claimed responsibility for a series of attacks over the last month, including a Saturday ambush near the southeastern province of Sirnak that killed at least three soldiers. In a statement e-mailed to CNN, the PKK also claimed responsibility for last week's sabotage of a natural gas pipeline between Turkey and its eastern neighbor Iran." Bloomberg News quotes Erdogan stating, "We're at the end of words, our patience due to Ramadan is over."
The PKK is one of many Kurdish groups which supports and fights for a Kurdish homeland. Aaron Hess (International Socialist Review) described them in 2008, "The PKK emerged in 1984 as a major force in response to Turkey's oppression of its Kurdish population. Since the late 1970s, Turkey has waged a relentless war of attrition that has killed tens of thousands of Kurds and driven millions from their homes. The Kurds are the world's largest stateless population -- whose main population concentration straddles Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria -- and have been the victims of imperialist wars and manipulation since the colonial period. While Turkey has granted limited rights to the Kurds in recent years in order to accommodate the European Union, which it seeks to join, even these are now at risk." The Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq has been a concern to Turkey because they fear that if it ever moves from semi-autonomous to fully independent -- such as if Iraq was to break up into three regions -- then that would encourage the Kurdish population in Turkey. For that reason, Turkey is overly interested in all things Iraq. So much so that they signed an agreement with the US government in 2007 to share intelligence which the Turkish military has been using when launching bomb raids. However, this has not prevented the loss of civilian life in northern Iraq. Back to Aaron Hess, he noted, "The Turkish establishment sees growing Kurdish power in Iraq as one step down the road to a mass separatist movement of Kurds within Turkey itself, fighting to unify a greater Kurdistan. In late October 2007, Turkey's daily newspaper Hurriyet accused the prime minister of the KRG, Massoud Barzani, of turning the 'Kurdish dream' into a 'Turkish nightmare'."
Major Ali Jassem al-Tamimi, an Iraqi army representative to the NCCC, was confident the centres would continue to function after the US withdrawal, but conceded that disputes may arise. "We expect that after the US withdrawal, we will work in the same way and... the same effort will continue, but there might be some small conflicts between one side and another," Tamimi said. Captain Massud Hussein, representing the peshmerga, agreed with Tamimi, but added that the situation "will be improved for the better if they (the Americans) stay."
The US stepped into the mediation role when the central government in Baghdad and the KRG government were at loggerheads with each hurling accusations at one another. It's very easy to paint it now as the military of each group not getting along but the issue was much larger than that.
On the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show July 17, 2009, Moises Naim, Yochi Dreazen and David Ignatius were Diane's panelists and during the discussion of Iraq, Moises noted the reality side-stepped today.
Moises Naim: And the Kurdish prime minister yesterday said that the Kurdish autonomous region was closer to going to war with the central government than ever before, since 2003, since the US invasion. And that points, as Yochi said, to the tensions about the divisions -- federalism, they're trying to find out what is the divisions of authority, power between a centralized government and a regional government. And this is a region that is quite different in its governance, in its function, in its economy, in its politics, than the rest of the country.
As noted in Diane's discussion, things are very tense between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish Regional Government. Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) reports, "In separate interviews, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and the region's president, Massoud Barzani, described a stalemate in attempts to resolve long-standing disputes with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's emboldened government. Had it not been for the presence of the U.S. military in northern Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani said, fighting might have started in the most volatile regions." Quil Lawrence (NPR's All Things Considered) reported this afternoon on the tensions quoting Barzani, "Whoever wants to get ahead in Iraqi politics does so by criticizing the Kurds." On territorial disputes and what may have been an attempt by al-Maliki's government to enroach on Kurdish territories June 28th, Lawrence quotes Barzani stating, "Our problem is that we do not believe there is any political will in Baghdad to solve this problem."
In that All Things Considered report, Quil Lawrence provided this background, "Most recently, on June 28th, Nechirvan Barzani says, Iraqi army soldiers arrived in the mostly Kurdish town of Debaga, northwest of Kirkuk, at around 2:00 in the morning. Citizens filled the streets to prevent the Iraqi army from passing. And a mostly Kurdish division of the Iraqi army arrived and blocked the road, essentially putting Kurdish and Arab units of the same army on opposite ends of machine gun barrels. It took 24 hours to resolve the issue, and the Arab unit eventually withdrew." A month later, August 17, 2009, Deborah Amos (All Things Considered) reported on the plan US Gen Ray Odierno (then the top US commander in Iraq) has proposed to both the KRG and the central government in Baghdad: US troops would go into northern Iraq and patrol with Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga as a three-way joint-force in what was hoped to be team building exercises. And the RAND Corporation report released at the end of last month noted the need for these team building exercises to continue but noted that the US State Dept is not equipped to take over from the US military to continue them.
The potential conflict between the each side's military is underscored today as Alsumaria TV reports, "Peshmerga Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government Jaafar Mustapha warned on Wednesday against Kurds boycott to the Iraqi Army for it has become a 'central army', he argued. Kurds have no longer any power in the Iraqi Army. The incidents that are occurring in the regions where Iraqi army is deployed especially in Diyala have never occurred at the time of Baath, Peshmerga Minister said." Sean Kane (Foreign Policy) wonders, "Will the phasing out of the U.S. role mean, as one leaked U.S. intelligence report suggested, that without strong and fair third party influence tensions along the Arab-Kurdish line may quickly turn to violence? Or is too much being made of the transition in what was always intended to be a temporary mechanism?" Baram Subhi (niqash) notes that some are hopeful about the Golden Lions, "The Golden Lions unit is composed of almost 400 members from three different security forces operating in Kirkuk: the Iraqi army, the local police forces and the Iraqi Kurdish military force known as the Peshmerga. The tripartite force, which eventually hopes to increase its number to 1,000, was the idea of Ray Odierno, former commander of US forces in Iraq, who hoped a joint force like this one might help put an end to ethnic clashes in the area."
Last week, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released [PDF format warning] "2010 Report on Human Rights in Iraq." The plan here was to cover a section each of the five days. Thursday I forgot so we're grabbing it today and tomorrow. On the 10th, we covered journalists, we covered the prisons in the August 9th snapshot with women and Iraq's LBGT community was covered in the August 8th snapshot). Today we're focusing on the reports findings regarding the children of Iraq. 2010 saw at least 194 Iraqi children killed in violence wih another 232 injured. This is the violence of bombings and shootings,etc. This is not the violence of domestic abuse. For example, March 26, 2010 saw 23 children killed in Baquba bombings. There are rumors that young children are recruited to take part in armed conflict and an 11-year-old would-be suicide bomber caught in Ramadi April 6, 2010 described how three men recruited him. Iraqi children also die from the actions of the Iraqi and US armies. These deaths come in home invasions and in bombings. Iraqi children are also at risk of being killed by cluster bombs and landmines that are currently "contaminating 1,700 square kilometres of land" in Iraq. In 2006, the Iraqis Ministry of Health partnered with the World Health Organization to conduct the Iraqi Mental Health Survey of Iraqi children. The survey found "that almost half of those surveyed had experienced a war related trauma."
Children continue to be prime kidnapping targets in Iraq wih at least 31 kidnapped in 2010 (those numbers only cover ten of Iraq's eighteen provinces).
Iraqi children can be found in the jails and prisons of Iraq. And often, they're held with adults -- 520 boys and girls shared facilities with adults (those figures do not include the Kurdistan Regional Government) and "759 boys and girls were held in facilities for convicts. Numerous children, some of them extremely young, are deprived of their liberty and a child-friendly environment merely because their mothers, with whom they stay, are detained and imprisoned."
Iraqi schools face vandalization and destruction and violence prevents 2 million children from attending school. For those schools able to hold classes, they're overcrowded. The report notes, "Thousands of children with disabilities remain without access to schools, and the children of internally displaced families face a lack of educational facilities." October 31, 2010, Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was attacked. Following that, "it was reported that many Christian schools, often sharing the same grounds as their churches, cancelled classes for several weeks out of fear of a similar attack."
The report notes, "The Government of Iraq received from the World Bank a loan of $100 million US dollars over the next 30 years to boost school construction. However, the current capacity of the government to implement construction works and issues of availability of land, are hindering the progress of the school construction programme."
The report notes that children beggars in the KRG may be Arabs who came o the region with their families who were escaping violence elsewhere in Iraq. The KRG has created "homes for children who are either homeless or are unable to live with their families for various reasons" and these homes are in all three provinces but the report notes there needs to be more programs that could integrate these children back "into society." The KRG has also created juvenile police stations in all three provinces and all three also "have reformatories or detention centres for children where convicted children are kept. During visits, UNAMI assessed the living conditions as satisfactory in all three reformatories and one detention centre. The rooms are big and clean with natural light and ventilation. Overcrowding is not a problem. children housed in these facilities expressed satisfaction with the quality of food. However, educational, social and play activities are few and are not really adequate or geared for children."
Today Suha Sheikhly (Al Mada) reports on an autistic child in Iraq. Sheikhly encountered 8-year-old Hisham in the airport. His mother was told that autism had become more common in Iraq and that "the reason given for the rise in autism cases is the toxic minerals in the environment such as mercury and lead" and the war has spread these minerals. When Hisham was beginning to walk and teeth it was noticable to his mother that had difficulty with language and social skills. The article explains that the doctors do not see autism as "crazy" or deformity but as a mental illness and that Iraqi children with autism have special needs. Hisham's mother was told that the increased levels of mercury and lead in the environment was the likely cause and she believes this because behind the family's home are piles of scraps, "remnants of the military". Iraqi doctors recommend 40 hours of education a week for autistic children and do not recommend leaving the child in a vacuum (alone) or parked in front of the TV for long hours. A study of autism in Iraq by the Uniiversity of Cambridge found that there were 75 cases per ten thousand people aged five to eleven years old.