Friday, October 14, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, a member of the US press decides he's in Iraq to mock Iraqis, Political Stalemate II continues, a new political movement issues a statement, withdrawal and 'withdrawal' of US forces continues to be explored, Camp Ashraf residents remain under assault, and more.
Starting with small and tired. The Washington Post's Dan Zak Tweeted:
Journalists who think they're better than the beat than they're assigned to cover.
A reporter for the Style pages who is fortunate enough to get a break into real reporting needs to lose the snark and snide about the subjects they're covering.
The high schoolers may or my not have been amusing -- this wasn't their first appearence at the protests. They really aren't my concern. A "small tired" protest? Well aren't you just above the people protesting because their loved ones have disappeared into what passes for a legal justice system in Iraq? Aren't you above all those women crying in public for their sons, their husbands and their fathers that they haven't seen in months or years, that they don't even know if they're alive.
That's what they are but apparently journalists whose experience comes via the Style pages, lack not only reporting chops but any real sense of value or perspective or, if nothing else, the instinct to know what plays as a good story. The snark goes a long, long way towards explaining why Zak's coverage has been at, best, disappointing and, at worst, superficial to the point that actual attempts at news stories read like clip jobs.
Videos of the protest -- here, here and here -- show at least 52 adults. At least. And I'm not arguing that's all of the protesters. I'm saying there are at least 52 different adults on video and there's never an establishing wide shot of the crowd to demonstrate that that's all of those present or that there's a lot more present. Dar Addustour reports "hundreds" were participating.
Let's assume it was just 52. Other than WWD and possibly In Style 'magazine,' does Dan Zak read? Does he read the Washington Post? The Post was the only print outlet to nail down what was happening with the protests in real time. (The only broadcast outlet to get it right was NPR.) Intimidation, arrests, torture. Is Dan Zak familiar with what has happened to activists taking part in the Friday protests?
He doesn't seem to be. That's a large number in the midst of war zone with a new Saddam watching over and taking retribution against those who speak out. While Dan Zak was demonstrating just what a little bitch he can be, the Great Iraqi Revolution reported, "A number of brave Iraqi women attended Tahrir square demonstrations today wearing coffins to represent the government repression and to express their challenge to the government. " And they noted, "The government forces attacked the female activist -Shahrazad- in Tahrir square today, they have beaten her up , dragged her on the street after the demonstrations ended and stole her camera, 2 mobiles and money "
But what does violence against activists matter when Dan Zak's more concerned with announcing to the world that his parents raised a little bitch. What a wonderful moment for them, for the US and for journalism. And, in fairness to Zak, whomever was foolish enough to judge him ready for actual reporting should have stepped in a long time ago and told him, "You are blowing it and your career with it." The crap he's turned out is not sufficient for hard news reporting. He deserved to be told that so he could try to make adjustments. Instead, he's just been allowed to embarrass himself with no support and guidance.
Turning to the topic of withdrawal, Al Mada reports that, while in London, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaif told the BBC that the Parliament would not grant immunity to US soldiers in Iraq after the end of this year. The newspaper also notes that US officials are pressing Nouri to grant the immunity himself but Nouri continues to state immunity would have to be referred to Parliament. Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram Weekly) reviews some of the options which might allow the US military to remain on the ground in Iraq beyond December 31, 2011: "The US government plans to maintain a sizable presence in Iraq, where it has its largest foreign embassy. This already has US military trainers attached to it, and uniformed military personnel could receive diplomatic protection. NATO, which has a training mission in Iraq that will stay through 2013, is providing expertise in logistics and policing. Iraqi lawmakers are also discussing an extension of the NATO mission, which would allow trainers in many cases to come under their own country's legal jurisdictions for certain crimes." Dar Addustour notes that US Vice President Joe Biden is expected to visit Iraqi shortly Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraq's first deputy Parliament Speaker, Qusay Al Suhail, expected on Thursday a surge in armed attacks as US forces are close to withdraw from the country. Suhail urged security forces to double efforts and carry out preventive operations to prevent gunmen from carrying on with their suspicious agendas." Jordan Michael Smith (Salon) weighs in on why pulling all US troops is the thing to do:
Just as withdrawing from Vietnam enabled the United States to concentrate on its only true foe in the Cold War, so leaving Iraq will permit us to focus on the anti-American terrorists that should always have been our only targets after the 9/11 attacks. Middle East expert Fawaz Gerges argues in his new book, "The Rise and Fall of Al Qaeda," that the terrorist organization is effectively decimated, its leadership destroyed and operational abilities devastated. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and senior military officials have made similar claims.
Even if they are too sanguine, withdrawal from Iraq will aid efforts against al-Qaida. Iraq has always been at best a distraction from campaigns to defeat those who attacked America on 9/11, and the war there continues to consume precious American resources, attention and, of course, human lives. Redirecting these against bin Laden's few remaining followers is the wisest course of action.
None of this is to say that leaving Iraq will be completely painless. Leaving Vietnam was not, either. Ultimately, however, keeping tens of thousands of U.S. troops only delays the inevitable. Americans and Iraqis will be better off if the United States learns the most important lesson the Vietnam War teaches: Once you get into a losing venture, getting out as soon as possible is the only way to win.
Today, Aswat al-Iraq reports that a new political movement in Iraq has announced itself -- the National Rectification Movement -- which, supposedly, will "express the aspirations of the people and get rid of the accumlated mistakes." In the meantime Political Stalemate II continues in Iraq. The Kurdish officials (minus Goran) and Nouri have been at loggerheads over (a) the failure to implement the Constitution's Article 140, (b) the failure to implement the Erbil Agreement (agreement which allowed Nouri to have a second term as prime minister) and (c) Nouri's proposed oil and gas bill. Hevidar Ahmed (Rudaw) interviews Kurdish official Arif Tayfur about the recent trip to Baghdad:
Rudaw: Did your visit to Baghdad achieve anything?
Arif Tayfur: The Kurdish delegation was very pleased with the meeting with Shiite National Alliance. There was a great deal of understanding. The Kurdish delegation was representing all of the Kurdish parties and movements in Iraqi Kurdistan. It expressed its concerns to the Shiites about the current situation in Baghdad and the attitudes towards the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The Kurdish delegation will present the results of the meetings to Iraqi Kurdistan's President (Massoud Barzani) and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in order to determine whether a KRG delegation will be sent to Baghdad or not.
Rudaw: Did Baghdad make any promises to the Kurdish delegation?
Arif Tayfur: The Kurds were satisfied with their meeting with the Shiite alliance, as they promised the Kurds that all matters will be dealt with via agreements and mutual understanding. The Kurdish delegation met separately with the Dawa Party and our delegation has conveyed all of their grievances in a straightforward manner. We also expressed our willingness to solve all the issues, but it appeared that the core issues are between KRG and the Iraqi federal government.
Al Mada reports Parliamentary attendance rarely reaches two-thirds. Meanwhile the Iraqi Justice and Reform movement, Alsumaria TV reports, is claiming Iraiqya has a secret deal with the Kurds on Article 140 of the Constitution (which outlines how the dispute over Kirkuk will be resolved). If it's not true (no proof is offered), it may be a response to the revelation that Nouri's attempted to enlist the League of Righteous into the Article 140 issue. (The League of Righteous is a merry band of thugs who have targeted and killed Sunnis, Americans and Brits throughout the Iraq War.) Aswat al-Iraq reported Thursday, "An al-Iraqiya MP announced today that his bloc currently has no intentions of withdrawing trust from the government, because it will create a state of 'chaos' in the country. MP Ahmed al-Jubori told Aswat al-Iraq that his bloc called on the government to solve all pending questions, particularly the security and services, as well achieving national partnership. Earlier, MP Ahmed al-Alwani said that there are alternatives to prevent the government to reach the status of one party and one leader by leaving the government to weaken the role of the prime minister." Yesterday Al Mada noted that some members of Iraqiya are launching an effort to convince political slate leader Ayad Allawi to rethink his decision to give up the post heading the (not yet created) security council. The Erbil Agreement allowed second placed Nouri al-Maliki (his State of Law came in second in the March 7, 2010 elections) to stay on as prime minister provided (among other things) an independent security council was created that would be headed by Allawi (whose political slate came in first).
Still on the political parties, Al Mada quotes State of Law MP Ehasn Yassin al-Awadi declaring that Iraqiya and State of Law are not speaking. He maintains that Iraqiya has been inflexible in their stand and that the two political slates had reached a brick wall. State of Law is Nouri al-Maliki's political slate. Iraqiya is Ayad Allawi's political slate. Iraqiya came in first in the March 2010 elections. Also noting State of Law is the Great Iraqi Revolution: "The Ministry of Higher Education accepts the deputy of State of Law Coalition Abbas Al-Bayati for higher studies, though he failed the competitive evaluation tests , he's above the allowed age and he didn't get the required qualifications after graduation . This is not strange since the Secretary of Higher Education Ali Al-Adeeb belongs to the same party ( State of Law Coalition) !!" In other State of Law employment news, Al Mada reports that Nouri's made some new appointments. As they note, Allawi has long accused Nouri of waiting until Parliament goes on vacation to make replace people he wishes to be rid of (thereby bypassing Parliament). Iraqiya's calling attention to Nouri pulling State of Law members and replacing them with people he can presumably have more faith in. Iraqiya calls it yet another attempt by Nouri to "crack down on democracy."
On the topic of violence, Reuters notes 1 person was shot dead in Mosul, 1 suspect was killed in Mosul by the Iraqi military, a Baquba roadside bombing left six people injured, and, dropping back to Thursday night, a clash in Hilla led to 1 person being killed and two more injured.
Over 3,000 Iranian dissidents, welcomed into Iraq prior to the start of the Iraq War, reside in Camp Ashraf. Mehran Bahramian (New Zealand's Scoop) explains, "Camp Ashraf was established 26 years ago in north of Baghdad by the members of the Iranian opposition movement, the People's Mujahidin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The PMOI is an Iranian democratic secular political force opposed to the theocracy of the mullahs of Iran. The PMOI renounced the use of force in 2001 and voluntarily gave up their arms to the American forces in 2003. In return the American and the Multi National Forces recognized the residents of the camp as protected persons under the 4th Geneva Convention." In yesterday's New York Times, former FBI director Louis J. Freeh had a column in which he wrote, "The government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamel al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim, has brazenly murdered members of the Mujahedeen Khalq. Mr. Maliki justifies his attacks by noting that the group is on the United States' official list of foreign terrorist organizations. In April, Iraqi forces entered Camp Ashraf and fatally shot or ran over 34 residents and wounded hundreds more. Mr. Maliki has now given the Mujahedeen Khalq until Dec. 31 to close the camp and disperse its residents throughout Iraq." Earlier this month, Roy Gutman (McClatchy Newspapers) reported that the residents had "applied to the United Nations for refugee status." While that's decided, we'll note what the International Committee of the Red Cross stated (last spring) were the obligations to the residents:
The authorities have the obligation to respect the rights that Ashraf residents enjoy under national and international law. In particular, the authorities must preserve the residents' physical and mental well-being at all times, and must allow families to remain together as far as possible.
Furthermore, the ICRC has regularly reminded the authorities of their obligation to respect the principle of "non-refoulement," which is a principle of international law that prohibits a State from transferring people to another State or authority if there is a risk that they may be subjected to any kind of ill-treatment, or that they may face persecution on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.
We have also reminded the authorities of their obligation to ensure that civilians in Camp Ashraf -- as elsewhere in Iraq -- have access to such basic necessities as food, water and medical care.
Camp residents who have submitted requests are accordingly now formally asylum-seekers under international law whose claims require adjudication. International law requires that they must be able to benefit from basic protection of their security and well-being. This includes protection against any expulsion or return to the frontiers of territories where their lives or freedom would be threatened (the non-refoulement principle).
As Swiss News has noted, the immediate impact of the guide was for Switzerland which "is considering whether to take in refugees" from Camp Ashraf. Trend News Agency noted at the end of last month, "Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs, announced today that she has appointed Jean De Ruyt to advise on the European Union's response to Camp Ashraf, EU website reported." AFP added, "A spokesman for Ashton said Monday that Jean De Ruyt, Belgium's former ambassador to the EU, will act in Brussels 'as an advisor on the European Union's response' to Camp Ashraf, located near the border with Iran and home to some 3,4000 Iranian dissidents."
Al Mada reports Speaker of Parliament Nujaifi has declared that Sunnis in Iraq believe they are treated as second-class citizens. Nujaifi is quoted stating that Iraq's house is for all but is in a trainstion currently as the people realize their rights. Sunnis are targeted in Iraq. Many groups of Iraqis are targeted. Al Rafidayn reports on Iraq's dwindling Jewish community which has fallen throughout the war from "tens of thousands" to seven in Baghdad. The article cites an AFP report on Jews who had left and quotes one stating, "We were reluctant to leave Iraq, it was the only home we knew." However, throughout the war, Jews have been targeted with kidnappings, threats, and murder. For example, in 2007, a Jewish man (the husband of a dentist) was kidnapped from his Baghdad home. A Jewish man shares that his Muslim neighbors treated him with "affection and love" but that it became harder to live there and harder to conceal his religion because it is noted on the national ID card that Iraqis must show when traveling through the many checkpoints. His family home was illegally seized and turned into a space for livestock despite the fact that they have the documents that go back to the 1920s proving they own the property.
All of Iraq's religious minorities have been targeted and live under the threat of violence. Compass Direct News reports on a family in Iraq that converted from Muslim to Christian:
"When our relatives come from Baghdad, we need to move everything that is Christian," Nuria's mother said. "In short, we are living two lives. It is very hard on children. We are adults, and it is hard for us to live double lives, but for children it is worse. Even their personality will be affected." Nuria and her family, whose names must be withheld for their safety, are Iraqi Arabs who converted from Islam to Christianity. Whereas Assyrian Iraqis are accepted as Christians by ethnic identity, Iraqi Muslims believe Arabs have no business becoming Christians; it is not possible, according to society and the constitution. Nuria's parents, like many converts in Iraq, struggle to raise their children as Christians in a society that will only accept them as Muslims. If the children say they believe in Jesus, they face beatings and scorn from their teachers. Because their identification cards say they are Muslims, they cannot enroll in Christian schools, and they must take Islamic religion classes. Likewise, because of their identity cards they later would only be able to marry another Muslim under Islamic rites.
Service members who experience PTSD, TBI, MST, and combat stress have the right to exit the traumatic situation and receive immediate support, and compensation. Too often, service members are forced to redeploy back into dangerous combat, or train in situations that re-traumatize them. We say, individuals suffering from trauma have the right to remove themselves from the source of the trauma. Service members who are not physically or mentally healthy shall not be forced to deploy or continue service. Learn more about what Operation Recovery is fighting for here