Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Iraqi women and sex trafficking plus what did James Jeffrey say?

Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003, as many as 5,000 women and girls have been trafficked for sexual exploitation, with most ending up in Syria, according to a preliminary report released today by the London-based Social Change Through Education in the Middle East.
Jordan is the second-ranking destination for trafficked girls and women, according to the Nov. 9 report.
These two bordering countries have maintained a relatively liberal policy of granting visas to refugees while also subjecting them to labor restrictions. That combination, the report finds, puts girls and women at high risk of seeking money through prostitution and also being prostituted by families and organized networks.
"Both the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government have failed to address the problem of sex trafficking," the report finds, also noting that the Iraqi constitution prohibits the trafficking of women and children, as well as the sex trade and slavery.

The above is the opening of Hajer Naili's "Study Details Sex-Traffic in Post-Saddam Iraq" (WeNews). That's a major report but most will ignore the news, certainly Senate subcommittees allegedly with a focus on women or the region or -- see yesterday's snapshot -- both will ignore the issue. Of course, the White House will ignore it. Happy lies about 'liberation' and 'democracy' fall so easily from the lips but the true consequences of the illegal war will rarely be noted in the US outside of thick volumes on the Iraq War written years from now.

Was James Jeffrey trying to address true consequences? We just don't know and that's in part beause what should have been a report has instead been turned into a "memo." What are we talking about? Tim Arango's "Iraqi Shiite Anger at U.S. Remains Strong" (New York Times). In it, he reveals that US Ambassador to Iraq has offered select Shi'ites an apology for George H.W. Bush's actions (specifically, Shi'ites rising up in 1991 against the rule of Saddam Hussein and believing that Bush and the US military would protect them). What did he say? The White House tells Arango that he was not speaking on behalf of the US government. That's a cute interpretation. He wouldn't be in Iraq if he weren't representing the US government. Iraqis he made the remarks most likely believe that, him being an ambassador, he was speaking on behalf of his government. Not only has the White House distanced themselves from his remarks but what he said can't be discussed because Jeffrey refuses to take questions on the topic.

Barack's administration, many will recall, got a reputation among conservatives for scraping and bowing to foreign leaders (helped out by Barack's not-ready-from-day-one ignorance that US presidents are representatives of the American people who overthrew a monarchy and as such the people do not bow and their representative does not bow before foreign 'nobles'). The White House distancing itself from Jeffrey's remarks may have something to do with wanting to avoid another controversy over that -- especially as election season has already started for Campaign Obama --or it may be something more.

Regardless, James Jeffrey is a paid servant of the American people. He is stationed in Iraq to represent the United States, not himself. That's not his private property he resides in, that's US tax payer property. The notion that his remarks can cause an uproar and he can declare that he's not going to talk about what he said goes to a general lack of accountability from the government.

(For those wondering how the remarks went over, according to Arango's report, not very well. No good will was built and it only led to conversations along the lines of 'Iraq would have had an Arab Spring in 1991 and our country would never have been destroyed by the war.')

The remarks Jeffrey made may have been solid ones. For people to know that, we'd have to know the remarks. And just because the White House is distancing itself doesn't mean that Jeffrey didn't have administration approval for the remarks he made. At this point, no one knows but why an ambassador would feel the need to convey an apology (personal or on behalf of the government) but then suddenly grow reticent is very puzzling.

And whether or not they feed into Nouri's witch hunt of political enemies isn't known. Reflecting on Iraq today, Ahmed Kadhum Fahad (Global Arab Network) observes, "The question now is whether Iraqi politicians are prepared for this new phase of self-reliance or not. For this transition to happen smoothly and efficiently, Iraqi political parties need to set aside their divisions and work together to forge a functioning government and economy." A functioning government would require a Constitution that was followed but Nouri doesn't follow the Constitution. Al Rafidayn reports that he's now demanding former Ba'athists and "Ba'athists" apologize -- apparently for whatever haunted Chicken Nouri in all those years he hid outside the country.

How do you do that, by the way? How do you say, "This is a strong Iraq! And we can prove it! By our leader! Nouri al-Maliki was opposed to Saddam Hussein and Nouri . . . Well. He left the country. He hid out for decades. He only slinked back into the country after the US invaded. Ladies and gentlemen, our 'fearless' leader Nouri!" (The US government installed Nouri as prime minister in 2006 and they aided the political stalemate of 2010 in order to keep Nouri on as prime minster.)

Last week, Salahuddin Province's council took a vote on the issue of becoming a semi-autonomous region. It is a position that was popular with the bulk of the residents of the province. An e-mail asked why we hadn't been noting the objection from citizens? Saturday, there were two wire reports of "tens of protesters" turning out in Salahuddin to protest a move towards semi-autonomy. We had some real issues to note and "tens" isn't one. We ignored the protest in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on Friday. Baghdad isn't in Salahuddin Province. What Salahuddin Province should now be voting on (per the Constitution, a referendum should be held in the province) is similar to what Joe Biden proposed for Iraq as a whole. We opposed then-Senator Joe Biden's plan on the grounds that this wasn't a decision to be made by a foreign country. By the same token what a province does or does not do -- if they are following the Constitution -- isn't the say of Baghdad protesters. (You can click here for an Al Sabaah report noting the demonstrators.) The Constitution left the issue up to individual provinces. That's where the decision should remain. (Though Nouri is attempting to hijack the issue and turn it over to his Cabinet.) Aswat al-Iraq reports:

Aswat al-Iraq: Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has said on Wednesday that "every piece of Iraq's territories must be under control by the Central Govenment, warning against the announcement of federations and regions, because the current time is not suitable for such decisions."
"Iraq's unity is a red line, we won't bargain upon," Maliki said in a speech during reception of leaders of intellectuals of southern Iraq's Karbala city, screened by Iraq's semi-official al-Iraqiya TV Satellite Station, adding that "every part of Iraq's
territories must be under control by the Central Government."

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