Tuesday, October 11, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, John Glaser makes an election year prediction, Iraqi women continue to be rendered invisible by the press, 'withdrawal' issues continue to swirl, Jalal Talabani runs off at the mouth, and more.
The Obama administration's so-called shift in war strategy -- from country-wide military occupation to targeted special operations and training missions -- is Orwellian claptrap for more of the same. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, in remarks in Washington in mid-September, said that by 2014 "the US remaining force will be basically an enduring presence force focused on counterterrorism." The technocratic pedantry obscures the reality that the war will continue.
Yet, watch and see in the upcoming 2012 campaign how much Obama will use this 2014 date as a stump speech to coddle gullible Obama voters into casting their ballots -- again -- for a reincarnation of their supposed nemesis, George W. Bush. See if Obama gets reelected on a promise that the war in Afghanistan has nearly ended (that is, if recession-conscious Americans can conceive of going to the ballot box with any intention other than voting themselves other peoples' money).
Sadly, John Glazer's prediction is sound, based on past actions and highly likely of coming true. Al Mada calls it the largest US occupation since the Marshall Plan, the US State Dept's intent to send 16,000 employees into Iraq. Approximately 80% of these 16,000, the paper notes, are not State Dept workers but instead are contractors. It's noted that the prospects of graft and corruption are high due to the size of the mission (which will include training Iraqis). Al Sabaah notes that Jalal Talabani met with a number of editorial boards to discuss various issues including the decision to approve 5,000 US troops to stay in Iraq beyond 2011 (that's last week's decision). Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports, "The statement, which appeared in most Iraqi newspapers Tuesday, is the first by any American or Iraqi official to detail the size of the U.S. training contingent that the Iraqis have requested. It seemed to make clear that there were no further discussions likely on the thorny issue of immunity, something U.S. officials have always said was a non-negotiable condition of leaving American troops in Iraq."
It seemed like Jalal was shooting off his mouth again and trying to make himself look important. What am I referring to? His inflation of his duties as High Commander of the Iraqi military. It's a title, that's all it is. And if Jalal doesn't get that, he must be one of the many Iraqi politicians who's never read the country's Constitution.
Let's quote it. Chapter 2, Article 70, Section I, "Perform the duty of the Higher Command of the armed forces for ceremonial and honorary purposes."
That's the Constitution. If we're going to go off into the world of what-it-seems-like, then let's be realistic about what it seems like -- as opposed to using "seems" to cover for our own wishes and desires.
Jalal Talabani can't stop bragging about himself. That was key to his first term, it remains the hallmark of his second term. What stood out the most in his comments would be his inflating his non-existent powers into somehow the equivalent of the commander-in-chief powers that Nouri al-Maliki currently holds as prime minister.
If we accept that Jalal doesn't have the powers he said he has, that he was (as usual) stroking his own image, then anything else he says is filtered through that prism as well which would negate the so-called "seems" that McClatchy wants to exist.
It's been more than eight years since Saddam was deposed, yet Iraq — and even Baghdad — remain a war zone for Americans. Along with those 5,000 private contractor guards needed on the ground, the State Department is now looking to hire a contractor to provide drones for aerial surveillance. In addition, last Wednesday, the Swedish defense group Saab AB announced that it had received a $23.7 million order from State to buy its Giraffe multi-mission radar system and related services. Two units owned by the U.S. Army are now on loan to State to protect the U.S. Embassy and other buildings in Baghdad's Green Zone. State had to buy its own drones now because the units take 15 months to build. Then it will return the others to the Army. The embassy area is "the target of rocket and mortar attacks on an almost daily basis," according to a State document justifying the purchase. The Giraffe system provides 360-degree coverage with a single unit, says the document, and the capability "to detect, sense and warn of prospective rocket, artillery and mortar attacks." State even believes it needs protection against "ordnance launched against U.S. personnel via unmanned aerial vehicles, an identified high-risk potential for future attacks," according to the document.
Amid all of this, the feeling of helplessness among American officials with regard to the situation in Iraq is coupled with their concerns about the dangerous conditions in a country that was expected to fare better. A report by veteran politicians James Baker and Lee Hamilton in 2006 emphasized the need for a "strategic shift" in Iraq, asserting that Iraq can convince Kurds to lower the bar on their demands only through a strong centralized system, winning the public's loyalty and establishing a united national identity. To put it in another way, the report's recommendations called for a government in Iraq that can save the country from falling off a cliff. This would have provided the opportunity or the Bush administration to have a speedier withdrawal less marked by defeat. The events of the last few years showed that the report's strategy was not realized. Eight years after the liberation of Iraq, Professor Michael Gunter says, "Most Shias and Sunnis try to restore the situation to the past… and there are some in the Kurdistan Region who believe it's better for them to militarily confront Baghdad sooner rather than later lest in the future the balance of power would be less in Kurds' favor." Dan Zak (Washington Post) reports from Anbar Province and quotes the head of the Security and Defense Committee for the Province, Eifan al-Issawi, stating, "The Iraqi police and army forces are in dire need of aid from the U.S. [. . .] We need continuous support for our forces because al-Qaeda is not an easy enemy and should not be taken lightly."
Since my childhood I have lived a miserable life. I grew up in a small village, coming from a poor family. My father's economic condition was very poor. When I was a child, I had so many dreams that never came true. I had hoped that marriage would mean a prosperous new life for me. But, on the wedding night, when people usually talk about where to spend a pleasant evening with family, instead my husband spoke about all the people whom he had robbed and murdered. So I regretted getting married to him from the first day. Even when I went home to my parent's house, three days after the wedding, everyone in our family, even the neighbors could see how clearly sad I was. They all asked if there was a big problem, like if I wasn't still a virgin. Or that maybe I had a physical disability or something. I was very depressed, and cried a lot. I knew that my life had been ruined. I knew that none of my dreams would come true. One of the reasons my life was ruined was my mother. One of my cousins wanted to marry me, but my mother did not agree because he was not very good-looking and not very well educated. She negotiated with him as if she were selling an animal and in the end . . . my mother and uncle did not agree on an amount of money and changed their minds. My cousin's family was willing to pay only 9,000 Iraqi Dinars, but my mother demanded 20,000. Neither side reached an agreement, so the relationship between our two families deteriorated. So, she decided that I should marry a husband in the traditional way, in an arranged marriage, the bride and the groom not knowing one another before the wedding day. On the day of the ceremony, the groom ran away. He was only brought back with the help of some elderly people who were there at the time, and finally, we were married against our will. When the Mullah had asked him if he agreed to marry me, at first he did not respond. Eventually, he responded "yes." My father and uncle then said that we were still young, and that we would get used to the situation. But after we got married, the situation got worse every day. Our new family never had a nice moment. I had always tried to be very good to my husband, but he always looked for an excuse to abuse me. He failed to find anything positive in my behavior. He would complain about the food or how I did my work. For example, when he felt that I was being too good to him, and he was unable to find any other excuse, he would complain about the way I washed his clothes, or did my other chores. He would start to argue with me, and kick me out of the house. When he would kick me out, I had to go back to my mother's house. My mother would get angry at me, saying that I was shameful for leaving my home, for leaving my husband. She told me that it is shameful for a woman to divorce her husband. While at my parents' house, I was unable to leave or go outside. It was like a prison. It was like when I am here [at the shelter], and I can't go out. It was the same at my parents' house. After a while, I had no choice but to return to my husband. Then in 2004, I had twin girls named Hana and Niga. My husband got very angry because I visited a doctor before delivery, and was told that I was pregnant with twin girls. When my husband found out about the two girls, he divorced me right in front of everyone, saying he no longer wanted me as his wife. Despite this, I kept living with him, as I was no longer welcome at my parents' house. I stayed with my ex-husband for about 9 months, until I delivered the twin girls without a real divorce. When the girls were 9 months-old, I got pregnant again. The baby was a boy. After reaching 5 or 6 months pregnant, my husband took me to a medical assistant paying him $730 to abort the baby. It was December 5th. I will never forget that day. He took me to the medical assistan, who then gave me a lethal injection for the fetus, which put me in a lot of pain. But the baby did not die the same day. It died the next morning between 10 or 11 AM, a Friday. I will never forget that day. At around 12, the baby was aborted from my body, and my disabled baby Niga was laying next to me. After a few moments, she also died. I lost two of my children in the same hour. I called my husband and asked him where he was. He told me that he was out somewhere, off to a public bath to take a shower. I told him that both Niga and the baby had died, but he wouldn't believe that both had died at the same moment. He told me not to tell anyone, not to cry, and that he would come home immediately. When he got back, he buried the aborted baby boy in a little ditch in our garden, and went to tell our neighbors that our girl Niga had just died. They already knew she was not well, as I had been taking her to the hospitals for the last four or five months. The neighbors came and took Niga to the cemetery for burial, while my husband stayed behind to finish burying the baby boy in the backyard. I lived in very difficult conditions during the three or four days of mourning for Niga, and had to be taken to the hospital a few times for internal bleeding. A doctor told me that it looked like my baby had not died normally, that it looked like a surgical operation. He asked me to tell him who had performed the abortion, so that legal action could be taken against the perpetrator. But I was afraid of my husband, and couldn't say anything. I didn't give them the name of the medical assistant who performed the abortion even though I knew him well -- his name is [. . .]. I even know where he lives. He had charged us $730 exactly, then asked for $50 more. When my husband found out that it was a baby boy, he argued with the assistant, and refused to pay the extra $50. He then threatened him, sending him messages that he would tell others that he was doing this kind of work. I am not aware of how this was resolved, as I was very ill. Afterwards, I continued living with my husband anyway, not letting anyone know about the abortion. For this reason, my parents stopped talking to me, and no one attended my daughter's funeral, because I was divorced from my husband. No one came to visit me, so he started telling me that if I had lost two children without any family membmers to pay condolences, he had to take more control over me. I had to say "yes" and agree to his every word, I had to tell him this, because I had nowhere else to go. I continued to live with him this way until March 2nd. At around 6PM my brother-in-law came to my house, asking me to have sex with him. I refused, so he shot at me with a gun. He called my husband to say that he had found me with a strange man in the house. My husband believed him, so I had to run to the neighbor's. He helped me to escape, taking me to a place far from my husband. I stayed the night there. The next morning he handed me over to the army, who brought me to Asuda. I have been living in shelters ever since, in a bad mental state. I have so far, during my three years living in shelters, received no support from the government, not even for the divorce procedures. I still haven't seen a judge, and don't know the legal status of my own divorce. I have seen no good from the legal system. I haven't seen my children in two and a half years.
Today Bushra Juhi (AP) reports on the increasingly bleak picture for Iraqi women as it becomes more and more evident that little will be done to restore their rights. Juhi notes that the World Health Organization estimates that one-fifth of Iraqi women have been abused. Prior to the Iraqi war, they had more rights than any women in the region. The US installed thugs who specialized in ignorance and thuggery and they repeatedly dismantled the rights of women. As MADRE notes, "Despite promises of 'democratizing' Iraq, the US supported Islamist political forces bent on dismantling women's legal rights." Under the US occupation, Islamist militias have waged a systematic campaign of violence against women in their bid to remake Iraq as an Islamist state. There has been a sharp rise in gender-based violence within families, including domestic battering and 'honor killing.' Newly adopted Shari'a laws, such as Article 41 of Iraq's Constitution, have degraded women's rights, making them more vulnerable to abuses." MADRE partners with the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq and, over the summer, Marcia G. Yerman (Women's Media Center) spoke with OWFI's Yanar Mohammed:
Yanar Mohammed cofounded OWFI during the U.S. invasion of her country in 2003. In two rooms inside a burned out bank, she put a sign on the door proclaiming Women's Freedom in Iraq. "One thing led to another," she said, but from day one, the profile of the group reflected the philosophy that "anything military would not lead to a solution for the women of Iraq."
In addition to setting up safe houses in 2004 to protect women from domestic abuse and honor killings, Mohammed fought sexual trafficking and advocated for women who were incarcerated. She runs a newspaper and a radio station under the banner name of Al Mousawat, which means "equality."
Beyond providing services, Mohammed demands parity for women with the men of Iraq and promotes secular and human rights, earning her the antagonism of Islamic fundamentalists -- who have threatened her life. She sees the power of these religious extremists as a direct result of the military occupation of Iraq. "The Americans did more harm than good," she said. "Under Saddam, women were educated." She pointed to how the occupation had left a vacuum for the rise of Islamists -- who wrote a new constitution taking away women's gains. She noted, "In a religious group, there is not moderation. You are not equal to men." Currently, Mohammed sees the popularity of the Shiite leadership waning. "You can't force democracy through a gun."
Mohammed talked about Iraqi mothers who come to Tahrir Square dressed in traditional garb, holding pictures of their missing sons. Beyond being poor, deprived, and desiring social change, they want to know where their children are. It is impossible to penetrate the many layers of security in Iraq, with detainees held in jail without due process as a result of "anti-terrorism" laws.
The International Committee of the Red Cross explains, "According to ICRC estimates, between one and two million households in Iraq today are headed by women. This figure includes women whose husbands are either dead, missing (some since as far back as1980) or detained. Divorced women are also taken into account. All these women were wives at one time, and today remain mothers to their childrens and daughters to their parents, and sometimes ultimately breadwinners and caregivers for all these people." Women for Women International notes:
Our programs in Iraq include direct financial aid, rights awareness clases, job-skills training and emotional support. The one-year program was developed for Iraq's special challenges and demands, and includes vocational training that helps women earn an income and support themselves, through:
Hair-dressing -- capitalizing on the demand for high-quality beauty services in Iraq
Screenprinting -- women learn to operate machines that produce quality designs on items such as mugs, plates, boxes, t-shirts and unifroms
Beauty shops, Aseel Kami (Reuters) explains today, are booming businesses in Baghdad. It's a shame Reuters spent so much time talking to men for this article on beauty parlors. Apparently, it was a struggle -- one they lost -- to find a woman operating a beauty salon in Baghdad. It really is amazing how Iraqi women are reduced, rendered invisible, even when the story should be about them. And am I the only one who recoils at statements from men like, "Iraqi women have suffered from perssures and suppression during the ecoonomi sanctions and even after the 2003 war. Now Iraqiw women are looking to the latest trends"? Seems to me that if Iraqi women are doing that or anything else, they can speak for themselves while doing it. And I really don't need to read paragraph after paragraph abuot how this man opened his story and he trained in Turkey and blah, blah, who gives a s**t? I'm sick of it. I'm sick of stories that should be about Iraqi women being constantly used to ignore the women of Iraq but still somehow manage to find yet another way to highlight the men of Iraq. Yes, boys, tell us about hair glaze and how women love to be pretty and how this and how that. It's bad enough that Iraqi men have been presented throughout the Iraq War as THE experts -- and the only experts -- on Iraq but now they're the go to for what Iraqi women think as well?
Does no one else have a problem with this nonsense?
And before someone at Reuters rushes to insist to me that women are noted in the article -- not women running beauty salons, not women doing hair. Women getting the hair done? Yes, one woman's noted. And a woman who does hair removal gets to speak briefly while a woman who manages a gym/beauty center does at the very end. Either of those women were far more interesting than the men who were made the focus of this article allegedly on women's beauty, grooming and fitness. Next up! Reuters covers breast feeding in wartime! And speaks to 7 men who explain what it's like!!!!
Let's stay with stupidity for a moment but hop over to the US.where Leslie Herod demonstrats that, no, people can't stop saying stupid things. "All American Soldiers Are Worthy of Our Respect" is the headline of her Huffington Post piece. She goes on to gush, "I've always celebrated and honored those who serve and have served this great nation. These men and women stand in harm's way to protect the very principles that make this country great. They will always be my heroes." In America, you can be as stupid as you want to be, as Leslie demonstrates. What principles was the US military protecting in Iraq? What principles? Neither Iraq nor Afghanistan was ever a threat to the US.
"All American soldiers are worthy of our respect" -- really? Steven D. Green? He served in Iraq, didn't he? And didn't he plot and take part in the gang-rape of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl? And didn't he kill her five-year-old sister, both of her parents and her? And he's worthy of respect? He -- and others like him -- are exactly why the government of Iraq does not want to grant immunity. Steven D. Green was found guilty, yes. However, he killed 4 Iraqis in their own home. Green was not tried in Iraq, he was tried in Kentucky. He was facing the death penalty but, as Abeer's family noted when the sentence was handed down, he wasn't sentenced to death. (I oppose the death penalty. This isn't about that, it's about why Iraqis feel that the US legal system has provided US troops with immunity for their actions in Iraq.) That's not the only war crime during the Iraq War.
Leslie's whole point in scribbling was to score some cheap shots at the GOP presidential contenders. As usual with Leslie, she's several days too late. But she does manage to insult US soldiers who have never taken part in War Crimes and to insult Iraqis who have suffered from the War Crimes of US soldiers. What's really sad is Leslie is nothing but a con artist for the Democratic Party. That's sad but that's what she is. However, she's also a dumb con artist for the Democratic Party. Her little column doesn't help the White House right now. It will anger Iraqis and harden opinions on the issue of granting immunity or not to US troops. If Leslie had stopped to think of that, she wouldn't have written the column because she is intensely Cult of St. Barack.
With Iraq and Afghanistan still in transition and serious economic challenges in our own country, there are those on the American political scene who are calling for us not to reposition, but to come home. They seek a downsizing of our foreign engagement in favor of our pressing domestic priorities. These impulses are understandable, but they are misguided. Those who say that we can no longer afford to engage with the world have it exactly backward -- we cannot afford not to. From opening new markets for American businesses to curbing nuclear proliferation to keeping the sea lanes free for commerce and navigation, our work abroad holds the key to our prosperity and security at home. For more than six decades, the United States has resisted the gravitational pull of these "come home" debates and the implicit zero-sum logic of these arguments. We must do so again.
No, it's not about sticking your head in the sand, it's about taking your nose out of other people's cabinets and closets. It's about being a good neighbor and not a nosy Gladys Kravitz, always peering over the fence. Hillary's fighting for (among other things) a budget for the State Dept that would allow it to do what the White House wants it to do. But in a time of economic crisis, there should be cuts and this should be the time for the State Dept to return to its original mission as opposed to continuing down the path of becoming an Armed State Dept with its own military.
Turning to today's reported violence, Reuters notes a Shirqat roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 police officers and left four more injured, 1 Sahwa was shot dead outside his Garma home and, dropping back to last night, a mayor was shot dead outside of Mosul.
Turning to economic issues, Rebecca Bundhun (The National) speaks with Bahaa Mayah, the adviser to the Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, and reports Iraq is still struggling to obtain antiquities spirited out of the country throughout the long war. Mayah feels that if they were able to get the treasures returned that would increase tourism which would increase jobs. Michael S. Schmidt and Omar al-Jawoshy (New York Times) also note jobs and at least 5,000 Iraqis who have held them with fraudulent qualifications. As they explain, Dr. Rahif al-Essawi, college dean, was threatened by Iraqi police who had claimed to have diplomas, when he said he wouldn't lie, they beat him up and arrested him. The ongoing war assisted in faking credentials because many records were lost or destroyed during the violence. Schmidt and al-Jawoshy note, "Education fraud has become so widespread that Parliament is considering legislation that would send people to prison for 6 to 12 years if convicted of lying about their education. They would also be forced to return all of the money they had earned while employed as a result of phony education documents. The proposal would also provide amnesty for lower-level government workers who voluntarily admitted that they had used false certificates or diplomas."
Staying on the topic of corruption, Fars News Agency reports that Parliament's Integrity Commission has declared that the are starting an investigation into corruption charges against the Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi. The source of investigation? The article notes a home remodel which cost $600,000 and has raised eyebrows and that al-Nujaifi's trips out of Iraq are also grounds for speculation. Charges and outrage refuse to melt away regarding Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's trip to the US to speak at the United Nations. As The Great Iraqi Revolution exposed last month, Talabani's trip was costing $2 million dollars. Dar Addustour reports that Talabani noted the anger over his trip but insists that one million was just for the plane, while a half million was just for gifts to various leaders. And, apparently, half a million was just walking around money.
In the US, Jane Fonda's finished up a promotion leg for her new best selling book Prime Time. In "Joni Mitchell & Bonnie Raitt," she shares details of her book tour, photos and more. Excerpt: "I managed to tweet out this photo of myself Bonnie and Joni, which people just loved! Afterwards, Joni, Bonnie and Richard [Perry] got down with music discussions such as the beauty of 'open G chord tuning.' I've known Bonnie for almost 40 years…as activist, friend, generous performer of benefit concerts -- but not really seen/heard her talk as musician. Imagine what it was like with these two brilliant women guitarists!" Again, Prime Time is the new book, it's not only a wonderful read, it's something you'll constnatly reach for long after you've read it because it's a rich resource.