Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, August 23, 2011.  Chaos and violence continue, Turkey vows to continue bombing northern Iraq, the US government announces they are okay with that, The Young Turks keep their audience informed, an Iraqi poet is remembered, the country's president attempts to get the government beyond Political Stalemate II, and more.
We'll start by noting this from the Feminist Majority Foundation:
WASHINGTON, DC -- August 26 is Women's Equality Day, the anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote. In recognition of this, and of the anniversary of the August, 1963 civil rights March on Washington, strengthening the right to vote for women of color, a coalition of women's organizations, representing millions of American women, will unveil HERvotes and release a list of top ten historic laws that impact women's lives, but are now most in danger of being weakened, cut, or eliminated by extremist policies at the local, state and federal levels, at a nation audio news conference on Wedensday, August 24.
Eleanor Smeal President, Feminist Majority
Joan Entmacher Vice-President for Family Economic Security, National Women's Law Center
Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever Executive Director, National Council of Negro Women
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner Executive Director, MomsRising
WHEN: Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. (Eastern Time)
HOW: Via toll-free number 800-289-0517 pass code: HERvotes
Women's leaders from participating organizations will be available for Q&A.  See below list of participating organizations and their leaders.
HERvotes, Women's Groups Leadership
National Coaltion of 100 Black Women
Dee Dee Strum, President, president@nc100bw.org
American Association of University Women
Linda Hallman, President, executive@aauw.org
Black Women's Roundtable, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
Melanie Campbell, Executive Director, melaniec@ncbcp.org
Dolores Huerta Foundation
Dolores Huerta, President
Feminist Majority Foundation/ Ms. Magazine community
Eleanor Smeal, President esmeal@feminist.org
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director,
Nationale Congress of Black Women
Dr. Faye Williams, Chair, dr.efayew@gmail.com
National Council of Women's Organization
Susan Scanlan, Chair, scanlan@wrei.org
National Council of Jewish Women
Sammie Mosehnberg, Director of Washington Operations, sammie@ncjw.org
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Incoming Executive Director
National Organization for Women
Terry O'Neill, President, president@now.org
National Women's Health Network
Cindy Pearson, Executive Director, cpearson@nwhn.org
National Women's Law Center
Marcia Greenberger, Co-President, mgreenbergen@nwlc.org
Raising Women's Voices
Cindy Pearson, Co-Founder
Women's Information Network
Andrea Gleaves, Political Director, andrea.gleaves@gmail.com
Women's Research and Educational Institute (WREI)
Susan Scanlan, Executive Director
No, that has nothing to do with Iraq.  At the end of the snapshot, we'll spend several paragraphs noting the passing of a true artist and a wonderful friend.  But onto Iraq . . .
Today Mother Jones used an Iraq photo taken by Spc Crystal Hudson for their "We're Still at War: Photo of the Day." The Capital-Journal reports, "A departure ceremony will take place Wednesday for members of the 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation Regiment, Kansas National Guard, as they deploy for duty with Operation New Dawn in Iraq." That send-off will be tomorrow, 1:00 pm, at the Ramad Convention Center in Topeka. And the report notes that the Guard members are expected to spend a year in Iraq. No, the administration never really believed there would be a December 31st withdrawal of all US troops from Iraq.  Yesterday on The Young Turks, Cenk Uygur addressed the news that the US military would be remaining in Iraq beyond the end of this year.
Cenk Uygur:  So first in Iraq, [US Secretary of Defense Leon] Panetta says that we might have made "progress" and that his view is that the Iraqi government finally has said yes to us staying longer in Iraq.  Now remember, President Bush signed the Status Of Forces Agreement -- SOFA for short -- saying that we will be leaving by the end of 2011.  Now President Obama has said on multiple occassions, over and over again, that he was going to withdraw everybody and that he was going to stick to that agreement and, in fact, he constantly brags about, "Oh, we're getting out of Iraq and look at me I get you out of wars just like I promised on the campaign." Well maybe not.  It looks like we're going to have -- No, no, no, the administration assures us, we won't have "combat troops" troops there because that is what President Obama has promised.  That we might leave over 10,000 -- and that's a conservative number -- "noncombant troops."  Will they have guns? Oh, yeah, they'll have guns, but they will be "trainers."  So are we staying in Iraq a lot longer?  You betcha.
Good for The Young Turks.  Very few people have even covered in what is supposedly "left media." (I'm referring to alternative media, not corporate media, nor am I making a blanket statement that the media -- all the media -- is left.) Katrina vanden Heuvel used to love to grand stand on the Iraq War.  Last Friday, Leon Panetta tells the country that troops staying in Iraq beyond December is a done-deal and Katrina 'weighs in' with a column on . . . Rick Perry.  Priorities.  Not even Robert Dreyfuss who supposedly Iraq for The Nation magazine has managed to write about it.  At The Progressive?  Not a word, not a peep.  It's the same at In These TimesZNet has nothing to say, of course, but, really, hasn't that been Michael Albert's whole sad life.  (Yes, yes, it has.)  So good for The Young Turks.  They've told their audience the truth.  Others on the left apparently haven't figured out how to yet spin this as a really good thing and something people should be grateful to Barack for doing.
You used to be so proud
Now you're head's a little lower
And you walk a little slower
And you don't talk so loud
--"Didn't You Know You'd Have To Cry Sometime," written by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, recorded by everyone from Gladys Knight and the Pips to Diana Ross
Be grateful for Adam Green.  Why? Adam Green is collecting Barack Obama's Tweets at 140 Elect and notes the Iraq Tweets from 2007 including:
BarackObama Barack Obama

Thinking we're only one signature away from ending the war in Iraq. Learn more at http://www.barackobama.com

BarackObama Barack Obama

Wondering why, four years after President Bush landed on an aircraft carrier and declared "Mission Accomplished," we are still at war?

BarackObama Barack Obama

In DC voting No… "We should not give the President a blank check to continue down this same, disastrous path."

Green points out that Barack was once against the Iraq War.  In fairness to Barack, he didn't actually Tweet until after he was president.  So we should say someone who Tweeted for him talked big about ending the Iraq War once upon a time.

Northern Iraq continues to be bombed by Turkish warplanes. Sebnem Arsu (New York Times) reports, "The Turkish military killed at least 100 Kurdish separatists and injured more than 80 during air strikes into northern Iraq during the past week, an army statement said on Tuesday. It added that the strikes would continue." Apparently 'modesty' prevented the Turkish military from boasting of the family of eight they killed on Friday. Why Arsu didn't note it is a question for the New York Times. Meanwhile Ivan Watson (CNN) notes, "On Sunday night, a PKK spokesman said no rebels had been killed." BBC News adds, "The PKK has confirmed three deaths, while local reports say a family of seven were killed by the bombing." Al Rafidayn reports that the KRG's Parliament has criticized the United States for not protecting the Kurdistan region from attacks by Turkey and Iran. The Speaker of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Kamal Kirkuki, held a press conference where he stated, "The Americans have thus far unfortunately refused to carry out their duty to maintain the safety of the borders and the skies of Iraq properly."
Nor will the US be defending northern Iraq anytime soon.  At yesterday's US State Dept press  briefing (link has text and video) the final question for spokesperson Victoria Nuland was about Turkey's continued bombing of northern Iraq and Nuland replied, "I don't think I have anything new on this from what we said last week, which was that we understand these air strikes were conducted, we recognize Turkey's right of self-defense, we urge Turkey and Iraq to maintain close contact on these issues and to cooperate."  Wang Guanqum (Xinhua) reports the Turkish military claims they have "hit 13 targets in Metina, Zap, Avashin - Bashyan and Kharkurk on Aug. 20, four targets in Qandil, Gara, Zap and Metina on Aug. 21, and seven targets in Zap, Kharkurk, Avashim - Bashyan and Qandil on Aug. 22."  And that the Turkish military claims their "jets hit 132 targets while artillery untis shelled 349 targets.  Seventy-three hiding places, six shelters, 18 caves, eight depots, 14 buildings, one arsenal, nine anti-aircraft positions and three control points were destroyed."  And that the Turkish military claims that "90 to 100 terrrorists were rendered ineffective [killed]. More than 80 terrorists were wounded."  And, most importantl, this is, according to the Turkish military, a response to an August 17th PKK attack which left nine Turkish forces dead (one was a security guard) and fifteen more injured." 
I guess if might made right, the country of Turkey would already be in the European Union.  It doesn't and the country continues to struggle that its human rights policies are in keeping with those of the modern world. Constanze Letsch (Guardian) reports that the largest opposition party in Turkey, the Republican People's Party (CHP) is criticizing the government's response.  Sezgin Tanrikulu, the party's deputy leader, is quoted stating, "For years, the Turkish government has battled the PKK with air strikes and ground operations.  If military force would be the solution, we would not have a problem today.  With no clear stance regarding democracy, human rights and freedom of speech, all the AKP currently does is incite discrimination and violence among the population.

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. Aaron Hess 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'."
Dear People of Kurdistan,
As you know, the situation in the Kurdistan Region's border areas has deteriorated, causing our people to face daily Iranian and Turkish bombardment and aerial attacks.

These attacks have inflicted great suffering on our people in the border areas, leaving some dead and injured. They have intensified in recent days to the point that we can no longer remain silent and watch our innocent, vulnerable civilians pay the price of this fight.

The presence of armed PJAK and PKK members in the mountainous border areas provides an excuse for our two neighbouring countries to commit these attacks. The continuation of their actions, the use of violence, and the use of Kurdistan Region border areas as bases will lead to the spread of violence to the Kurdistan Region and this will not in any way help the legitimate Kurdish question. It is unfortunate that no consideration is given to the interests and welfare of the people of the Kurdistan Region.
It has been our policy all along, and we reiterate again, that the Kurdistan Region aspires to develop friendly and good neighbourly relations with all sides, and it has never been involved in the internal problems of these two countries. We would never interfere in the internal affairs of any country. However, we can not remain silent when our innocent citizens are being killed.
As the Kurdistan Region, we deplore the shedding of innocent blood. We believe that dialogue and mutual understanding are keys to resolving all problems. In the past, we never spared any effort to resolve these issues through dialogue and always advocated for the pursuit of peaceful means by all sides. Unfortunately, the situation has once again become complicated.
In some point in our history, we resorted to armed struggle to defend our land, to obtain our rights, and to protect the dignity of our people. With our resolve and with the backing of our people, we managed to preserve our existence and identity. But today is different. In today's world, the language of dialogue is far more effective than fighting and military action. We have spared no efforts to spread this message.
Our goal has always been the provision of prosperity for our people and maintaining the stability of our Region. We would never do anything to jeopardize the prosperity and stability of our Region, whatever the circumstances. Therefore, we request that the interests of the people of the Kurdistan Region be observed. The achievements made by our people are the result of hard work and great sacrifices, and it is incumbent on every Kurd to be proud of these achievements and to protect them.
It must be clear to the people of the Kurdistan Region that military action along the border areas gives an excuse to both countries to openly conduct their own military actions in the Kurdistan Region. The main victims of these bombardments and military actions are the people of the Kurdistan Region. I am certain that fighting and violence will not lead to any resolution. At the end of the day, peaceful means must be pursued. The sooner this fighting ends the better; however, if the opposing factions have chosen and insist on the option of fighting, we ask all sides to do their fighting elsewhere and spare the Kurdistan Region.
We are prepared for any cooperation to return the situation to normalcy through dialogue and peaceful means. At the same time, we call on the Iraqi federal government to use its diplomatic channels with our two neighbouring countries to bring these attacks to an end and protect the sovereignty of Iraq.
In light of this delicate situation, I ask the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament to comprehensively study this situation and then formulate a policy that reflects the unanimous view of the Kurdistan Region.

Masoud Barzani
President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Parliamentary Foreign Relations Commission MP warned of escalation of the crises with Iran and Turkey due to their continued military operations against the Kurdish border villages, calling the Iraqi government to adopt 'a firm stand' through opening a dialogue with the two countries."
Turning to some of today's reported violence, Reuters notes a Qaiyara sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 "oil policeman" and left his father injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing injured two people, a Kirkuk home invasion resulted in one farmer being injured, an al-Zab attack resulted in 1 "employee of the Baiji oil refinery" being injured, Dr. Hussein Kadhim of Baghdad University was shot dead in Baghdad and his won was left injured and, dropping back to Monday night for both of these, a Mosul home invasion resulted in two deaths and a Hit roadside bombing claimed the life of Hit council member Nofal al-Hity and his son while injuring one person.

Meanwhile Al Mada reports that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is in Baghdad and plans to spend the next two days attempting to mediate between the State of Law and Iraqiya political slates. He has called for a return to the Erbil Agreement which ended Political Stalemate I in November but was quickly tossed aside by Nouri al-Maliki creating Political Stalemate II which is ongoing and has lasted over eight months so far. (Political Stalemate I lasted just over nine months.) Talabani is said to be optimistic and have seen encouraging signs in the meetings among all political parties that he hosted at his home over the summer. Dar Addustour adds that Talabani is also expected to announce the next meet-up of the political blocs and to urge that the security ministry posts are filled (filled with more than temporary or 'acting' heads) and the report notes that Iraqiya wants a national meeting to resolve the issue of Minster of Defense and Minister of the Interior.
Aswat al-Iraq notes that poet Nazek al-Malaiki's 88th birthday was celebrated by the internet search engine Google which "published the photo of the famous Iraqi poet" and "Google usually reminds millions of its recipients with the important events and annual memories of the most oustanding icons of science, culture, arts and politics, commemorating the birthday of Poet Malaika, being an outstanding lady poet of the Free Poem, on occasion of 88th birthday anniversary, as she was born in Baghdad on Aug. 23, 1923."  She died in June of 2007.  Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) wrote in her paper's obituary:
In a country riven by sectarian strife, her life and work as a poet and a literary critic were poignant reminders of Iraq's cultural renaissance in the mid-20th century. Baghdad was then considered the Paris of the Middle East, and poets and artists flocked here to work.
Ms. Malaika was one of a small group of Iraqi poets who broke away from classical Arab poetry, with its rigid metric and rhyme schemes. Influenced by the writing of Shakespeare, Byron and Shelley as well as by classical Arabic poets, these poets took up modern topics and used lyrical language that spoke with the immediacy of life on the Arab street.
In a searing poem about honor killings, "To Wash Disgrace," in which a woman is killed by her father or brother for having dishonored the family by having a love affair before marriage, Ms. Malaika used simple language to convey the terrible loneliness of such a death.
Oh mother, a rattle, tears and darkness
Blood gushed out, and the stabbed body trembled.
"Oh mother!" Heard only by the executioner
Tomorrow the dawn will come and roses will wake up
Youth and enchanted hopes will ask for her
The meadows and the flowers will answer:
She left to wash the disgrace.
The brutal executioner returns
And meets people
"Disgrace!" He wipes his knife
"We've torn it apart."
And returned virtuous with a white reputation.
As a writer al-Mala'ika made her debut in 1947 with A'shiqat Al-Layl. Its themes of despair and disillusion were familiar from the Arabic literary romanticism of the 1930s and 1940s. Her second collection, Shazaya wa ramad (1949, Ashes and Shrapnel), helped launch free verse as a new form for avant-garde poetry. The old two-hemistich mono-rhymed form had flourished unchallenged for fifteen centuries. Experiments outside the rigid structures started in the beginning of the 20th century, but it was not until the mid-forties that poets succeeded in creating an acceptable form of free verse. Al-Mala'ika's book contained eleven poems and an introduction, in which al-Mala'ika explained the advantages of the new rhyme patterns as opposed to the old.
In the 1950s al-Mala'ika was among the most prominent figures of modernism, and backed the movement with her critical writings, when arguments were thrown for and against metrical poetry. With one of her best-known poems, 'Cholera', was based on the emotional effect of the cholera epidemic that arrived from Egypt to Iraq in 1947.
"The night is silent/Listen to the effect of groans/In the depth of darkness, below the silence, on the dead." Taking the subject from recent history, she first time demonstrated the possibilities of the modern verse. However, this poem still followed a certain rhyme scheme. Al-Mala'ika's collected articles, Qadaya 'l-shi'r al-mu'asir (1962), continued the debate for more sophisticated expression, and developed further some of the principles formulated in the introduction of Shazaya wa ramad.
Why do we fear words?
Some words are secret bells, the echoes
of their tone announce the start of a magic
And abundant time
Steeped in feeling and life,
So why should we fear words?
(from 'Love Song for Words')
Al-Mala'ika has also been a strong defender of women's rights. Her two lectures from the 1950s about women's position in patriarchal society, 'Woman between passivity and positive morality' (1953) and 'Fragmentation in Arab society' (1954), are still topical. In the late 1960s al-Mala'ika started to distance herself from experimentalism and developed more moralistic, conservative views-she also wrote religious poems and often used the two-hemistich form. Al-Mala'aika has kept a diary all her life; she still plays the oud she studied in her youth, and likes to sing the songs of Omm Kulthoum and Mohamed Abdel-Wahab. Al-Mala'aika has translated poems by such writers as Byron, Thomas Gray, and Rupert Brooke, but in the 1960s she also criticized young writers who have embraced too uncritically Western models.
In the US, Nick Ashford has passed away at the age of 70.  Early on Nick met up with Valerie Simpson and the two became first a legendary songwriting team of Ashford & Simpson and then, later on, also a legendary vocal duo.  One of the duo;'s biggest early hits was Ray Charles' recording of their "Let's Go Get Stoned." With some soul hits already under their belts, the duo joined Berry Gordy's Motown Records where they often produced the songs they wrote.  This was in the sixties and Gladys Knight & The Pips, the Temptations, the Marvelettes and many other acts recorded their songs.  While Diana Ross & The Supremes had a hit with "Some Things You Never Get Used To" and their work with Diana in the 70s would be pivotal, it was the duets they wrote for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell that brought them the most fame, hits such as: "You're All I Need To Get By," "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (which Amy Winehouse used in her "Tears Dry On Their Own") and "You're Precious Love."  Loved by millions of young listeners (Motown was the sound of Young America), the inner rhymes of "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing" also impressed serious composers.
The sixties ended with Diana Ross & the Supremes having the last number one hit of that decade ("Someday We'll Be Together") and Diana now a solo act.  It was very important to Berry that Diana's first release was impressive.  A number of people were brought in to write songs for her and to produce song -- the legendary Bones Howe among them.  But almost six months of recordings and Berry wasn't hearing anything special.  That's when Nick and Valerie got their shot.  And while they wrote one of Diana's standards with "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)," the song they were most proud of was their re-working of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" with a strong choir of voices, dramatic spoken passages and really unlike anything on the radio at that time.  That may have been why Berry didn't hear it as hit material.  To his credit, when radio stations began playing it on their own, Berry quickly got Ashford & Simpson to work on an edited version (the album version is six minutes and twenty seconds) of the track and Diana had her first solo number one hit.  Recording with Ashford & Simpson, she also had in Diana Ross a classic album that showed her range and sophistication.  The duo would return to work with Diana on her third album Surrender and demonstrate yet again how well their talents merged. 
They would also work with Gladys Knight and the Pips, writing and producing the group's
About Love album (which took the group back into the top five on the soul charts) featuring "Landlord" and "Bougie Bougie" among other songs.  For Chaka Khan, they'd write her first solo hit  "I'm Every Woman" (produced by Arif Mardin) and, for her follow up album (Naughty), they'd write the top ten soul hit "Clouds."  For Teddy Pendergrass, they'd write "Is It Still Good to You." They'd bring Teddy onstage in the summer of 1985 (July 13, 1985) at Live Aid to share their time.  Though forgotten by some today, Live Aid was under serious criticism for the lack of Black performers.  Tina Turner was a part of Live Aid . . . as Mick Jagger's guest, doing a duet with him.  Ashford & Simpson were among the few Black performers booked and while performing their own classics like "Mighty Mighty Love," they made time to include Teddy Pendergrass in what was his first concert since the car accident that left him paralyzed.
The highly gifted music producer Quincy Jones recognized and appreciated the duo's talent and brought them in to work on the soundtrack of The Wiz when it was turned into a film.  Their original song for the movie, "Is This What Feeling Gets?," is one of the most moving performances Diana Ross has ever recorded (which is really saying something).  Diana and the duo reteamed for her classic The Boss album, which was probably the finest album she recorded during her original Motown run and one of the classic Motown albums -- right up there with Stevie Wonder's Talking Book and Marvin Gaye's What's Going On? 
Though they first met in 1963 and charted the ups and downs of love better than anyone, the duo didn't start off as a romantic couple and when they did become a couple they waited many years until marrying.  They were wed in 1974, a piviotal year that also saw them move from Motown to Warner Brothers where they became album artists -- still notching up the hits ("It Seems To Hang On," "Found A Cure," etc.) but also producing albums that worked as an entire collection and not just some songs all tossed onto the same disc with no rhyme or reason.  1982 saw the release of the masterpiece Street Opera, an eight song (plus reprise for nine tracks) concept album for which they also did a series of videos. As we noted at Third back in 2008:
"Gonna love it away, so cheer up," sing Ashford & Simpson on Street Opera's opening track. The 1982 concept album from Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson gave the duo not only their second highest charting soul song (up to that point) with "Street Corner" (number nine), it also provided them with their second highest charting album on the soul charts (number five).
Other hits would follow on later albums including "High-Rise" and their number one soul hit "Solid" featuring a set of lyrics that Nick often said were the ones he was most proud of writing.  As performers, they would make the top forty soul singles chart five more times, reaching number two with "I'll Be There For You."  In 1988, they wrote Robert Flack's top forty soul and number one dance hit "Uh-uh Ooh-ooh Look Out (Here It Comes)."  Nick is survived by Valerie and their two daughters and a mountain of songs that had -- that still has -- the whole world singing.