Tuesday, January 31, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, close to 500 people died in Iraq's January violence, a Palestinian is tortured to death by Thug Nouri al-Maliki's forces, Iraq drops significantly on Reporters Without Borders Press Index, Nouri wants to sue the Guardian yet again, the documentary This Is Where We Take Our Stand debuts in NYC tomorrow and DC on Wednesday, and more.
The Iraq War destroyed the lives of many in Iraq, women, Christians, Jews and Palestinians among them. In 2006, Ken Ellingwood (Los Angeles Times) observed, "The civil war convulsing the country has raised worries about the fate of the approximately 20,000 Palestinians in Iraq, who are targeted by kidnappers and Shiite Muslim death squads because of what many Iraqis see as the group's favored status under former President Saddam Hussein." Ali Kareem (ICR) offered this background on Iraq's Palestinian population in 2009:
Many Palestinian families have roots in this country dating to the creation of Israel in 1948 and its subsequent wars with its Arab neighbours. Others came more recently. Following his defeat in the first Gulf War in 1991, Saddam Hussein encouraged the migration of thousands of Palestinians to Iraq, promising jobs and preferential treatment in an effort to portray himself as a champion of oppressed Arabs.
According to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, Baghdad was home to some 30,000 Palestinians at the time of the US-led invasion in 2003. Less than half remain in the city now.
Last fall, Saed Bannoura (International Middle East Media Center) explained that from a high of 35,000, the population had declined to approximately 7,000. A huge drop like that happens only because a population is living in fear and feeling that the government will not protect them. That has been the case for Palestinians in Iraq. The current prime minister is Nouri al-Maliki who has been prime minister since April 2006 and has done nothing to protect the Palestinian population. In fact, from 2006 to 2010 refugee camp Al Tanf housed hundreds of Palestinians who were caught in the desert, unable to move forward to Syria (Saddam Hussein did not consider them residents in or citizens of Iraq, they were "bretheren" and, as such had no legal documents that the Syrian government would recognize at the border) and unable to go back to their homes. They were left there by Nouri with no efforts made to assist them. The United Nations would set up temporary tents for the refugees. But Nouri did nothing. Offered no aid. Offered no verbal comfort. Just didn't give a damn. And when the Palestinians are attacked, the killers and kidnappers are never brought to justice. Nouri makes no public statements decrying the targeting. The message to Iraq's thug population has been, "Attack them. You will not face punishment."
And that thug population includes the security forces Nouri al-Maliki commands. 30-year-old Palestinian Emad Abdulsalam died last week. Ahlul Bayt News Agency reports the man was arrested in Doura three days ago and was tortured non-stop by Iraqi forces which notes the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq "said that Palestinians have been the target of 'Death squads and militias' over the past six years under the very eyes of the government." The International Middle East Media Center gives his name as Imad Abdul-Salaam Abu Rabee and notes that Iraqi police grabbed him after he left work and was heading home. Imad's family sought out a forensic center in Baghdad which determined "that their son was killed under interrogation." The International Middle East Media Center notes:
It is worth mentioning that Abu Rabee' is married and a father of two children. His brother was killed by insurgents in Baghdad last year. He was born and raised in Iraq; his family is from the Al Boreij refugee camp, in the Gaza Strip. Sa'ad voiced an appeal to the Palestinian Authority to act on resolving the plight of the Palestinian refugees in Iraq as soon as possible as they are being attacked and murdered by the Iraqi Police and by several militias in the country.
Ma'an News adds, "[The Society for Palestinian-Iraqi Brotherhood Imad Abdul Salam] Khalil said Palestinian refugees in Iraq have been targeted for sectarian reasons. International rights group Amnesty International says Iraqi forces use arbitrary detentions and torture to quell dissent." Nouri's forces have tortured another person to death. And it comes right as Nouri was hoping the news cycle would be dominated by the 16 "confessions" against Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi which state-TV Iraqiya has been in a frenzy over. [Aswat al-Iraq: "Noteworthy is that the semi-official al-Iraqiya TV Satellite Channel had carried out an urgent report on Sunday, reporting that 16 members of Tariq Hashimy's bodyguards were charged with having been involved in terrorist acts, a report that was condemned, because it did not represent anything new in the series of charges against Hashimy and his bodyguards and office elements."]
Imad Abdul-Salaam Abu Rabee's death is part of the violence in today's news cycles. Reuters notes a Muqdadiya clash in which one police officer and one "civilian" were left injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing which left two Sahwa injured, 2 Mosul roadside bombings left one police officer and his son injured, a Mosul sticky bombing injured a police officer, a Baghdad sticky bombing injured a military officer and a Shirqat sticky bombing injured a police officer. So that's 1 death and nine injured for today.
Check my math (always), that's at least 371 reported dead and 669 reported injured. Many deaths aren't reported in Iraq. Iraq Body Count currently lists "450 civilians killed" as of Monday for the month of January and that's about seventy more than they had for January 2011. (Go with their number, it's not covering every death but it's more comprehensive than our snapshots.) So comparing January in the two years, violence is not dropping, it has in fact increased.
During that entire year, please note, Iraq has had no Minister of Defense, no Minister of Interior and no Minister of National Security. Nouri al-Maliki has refused to nominate anyone and have Parliament vote. From the December 21, 2010 snapshot:
Shashank Bengali and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report point out the Cabinet is missing "the key ministries responsible for security and military affairs for now, because lawmakers haven't agreed on who should fill them. There's still no deal, either, on creating a yet-to-be named strategic council -- a U.S.-backed initiative aimed at curbing al-Maliki's powers -- which lawmarkers said could be weeks away." Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) explain, "Maliki appointed himself acting minister of interior, defense and national security and said the three powerful positions would be filled with permanent appointees once suitable candidates have been agreed on."
A Minister of a Cabinet is someone nominated by Nouri and approved by Parliament. Without the approval of Parliament, they are not a minister. Why does that matter? Nouri can't fire a member of his Cabinet without Parliament's approval. But 'acting' ministers (named by Nouri) are not approved by Parliament, are not real ministers and serve at the whim of Nouri. It's a power grab on Nouri's part as is his failure to name a "national strategic councill."
That is part of the Erbil Agreement. The US-brokered that agreement with Iraqi political blocs to end the political stalemate that had desceneded on Iraq and lasted eight months. Nouri signed off on that agreement. It's that agreement that allowed him to become prime minister. He created the stalemate after his State of Law came in second to Iraqiya and Nouri refused to give up the post of prime minister. The White House backed Nouri and that's the only reason Nouri remains prime minister. The White House talked Iraqiya and its leader into accepting the post of heading the "national strategic council." And yet, the day after the Erbil Agreement was reached, when Parliament held its first real (and full) session of Parliament, Nouri's State of Law announced they couldn't create it right away but it would come. A large number of Iraqiya's 91 MPs walked out at that point. They should have stuck to that walk out but they returned. And waited and waited. Nouri now says that the council can't be created. He claims the Erbil Agreement -- the thing that allows him to be prime minister right now -- is unconstitutional. The current political crisis is fueled by Nouri's refusal to follow the Erbil Agreement. Alsumaria TV reports today, "President of Kurdistan Region Masoud Al Barzani assured, on Monday, that Kurds may no longer play the mediator role in solving Iraq's issues. Barazani added that bases upon which the current government was formed are not being respected. The current government was formed to reinforce true partnership, comply with Iraqi Constitution, and fix disputes between Erbil and Baghdad, Barzani revealed."
He is prime minister because the White House chose to back him. And they knew he was a thug. The whole world did by that point. In fact, when the Cabinet was (partially) named at the end of December 2010, Liz Sly (Washington Post) was noting:
That Maliki has an authoritarian streak has been amply demonstrated over the past 4 1/2 years, critics say. Maliki, originally selected in 2006 as a compromise candidate assumed to be weak and malleable, has proved to be a tough and ruthless political operator who cannily subverted parliament to cement his authority over many of the new democracy's fledgling institutions.
In his role as commander in chief of the armed forces, he replaced divisional army commanders with his appointees, brought provincial command centers under his control and moved to dominate the intelligence agencies.
The widely feared Baghdad Brigade, which answers directly to Maliki's office, has frequently been used to move against his political opponents. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have accused him of operating secret prisons in which Sunni suspects have been tortured.
And thug Nouri had the support of the Bush administration before he had the support of the Barack administration. The "compromise" candidate Sly refers to? Iraqis didn't select him. They wanted Ibrahim al-Jaafari. The US told the Iraqi Parliament no in 2006. The Bush White House approved of Nouri. In 2010, the Barack White House made clear that there would be no new prime minister -- despite the will of the Iraqi voters and the Iraqi Constitution -- the Barack White House made clear that Nouri would remain as prime minister. They knew he was a thug. Democracy in Iraq and the Iraqi people mattered less to them than their oil puppet.
Human Rights Watch is charging that, despite U.S. government assurances that it helped create a stable democracy, the reality is that it left behind a "budding police state" -- cracking down harshly during 2011 on freedom of expression and assembly by intimidating, beating, and detaining activists, demonstrators, and journalists. The organization's Middle East and North Africa director, Sarah Leah Whitson, warns that "Iraq is quickly slipping back into authoritarianism as its security forces abuse protesters, harass journalists, and torture detainees."
Last week, the Associated Press quotedHuman Rights Watch's Sarah Leah Whitson stating, 'Iraq is quickly slipping back into authoritarianism. Despite U.S. government assurances that it helped create a stable democracy (in Iraq), the reality is that it left behind a budding police state'." She was referring to what Human Rights Watch found and documented in their [PDF format warning] World Report: 2012.
Thug Nouri and his climate of thuggery leads to attacks on minorities, attacks on demonstrators, attacks on the press, you name it. How does Nouri respond to the press? It depends if they're Iraqi (violence) or foreigners (law suits). That becomes clear yet again today. Iraq Streets reports:
according to a Sumeria news web site the editor of an Iraqi newspaper has threaten to start a law suit against Baghdad sceuirty operations ,after a group of Iraqi forces beats a news papers seller in his stand in the street in the 28th of Jan 2012 , because he was selling a news paper that had used a cartoon drawing of Baghdad Operations spokesman's Qassim Atta after he was promoted to a general and transferred from his position as a spokesman , the forces thought the cartoon was disrespectful and beats the papers man who was admitted later to hospital ,general Atta has no comment of knowledge of what happened,but according to sumaria many iraqi journalists thought this is a new deterioration of the bad treatment to journalism and freedom of speech in Iraq…
So that's his treatment of the press in his own country. Foreign press? He yet again wants to sue England's Guardian newspaper. Yesterday, CNN's Jomana Karadsheh Tweeted on his latest threat:
jomana karadsheh @JomanaCNN
#iraq PM Maliki's office in a statement threaten legal action against the @guardian for a Dec editorial & deny pm quote.
jomana karadsheh @JomanaCNN
The editorial "retreat from Baghdad" quoted Maliki saying he was 1st Shiaa 2 Iraqi 3 Arab 4 Dawa member. Office denies this. #iraq
The editorial was actually calling out Barack's notion that the Iraq War was over ("The war was over, Barack Obama repeatedly declared") and ran December 14th. This is the section Nouri wants to sue over:
Even with an election campaign in full flow, the chasm that opened up between words in Fort Bragg and one day in the life of Iraq was unbridgeable. Wednesday December 14 was relatively quiet: two car bombs in Tal Afar, killing three and wounding 35; bombings and shootings in Kirkuk, Mosul, Baghdad. A war that is over? Or take the decision on Monday of Diyala provincial council to declare itself independent from central government. Or take the answer that the prime minister Nouri al-Maliki gave last week when asked to describe who he thought he was -- first a Shia, second an Iraqi, third an arab, and fourth a member of the Dawa party. What chance for a nation state, if its prime minister places his confessional identity above his national one? Can any of the above be deemed solid, stable or representative?
A Shia first, for those not grasping, sends a message of sectarianism -- continued sectarianism and sect warfare in Iraq. And a foe of the free press forever. Last week, Reporters Without Borders published their latest Press Freedom Index:
After rising in the index for several years in a row, Iraq fell 22 places this year, from 130th to 152nd (almost to the position it held in 2008, when it was 158th). There were various reasons. The first was an increase in murders of journalists. Hadi Al-Mahdi's murder on 8 September marked a clear turning point. Another reason was the fact that journalists are very often the target of violence by the security forces, whether at demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, or in Iraqi Kurdistan, a region that had for many years offered a refuge for journalists.
That's what the US White House is backing. And hopefully tomorrow we'll talk about the money the US is wasting in Iraq. For now we'll note this from Ahlul Bayt News Agency:
An Iraqi political analyst says the US is still going ahead with a plan to "disintegrate" Iraq by escalating the current political crisis in the Arab country.
"The US is still pursuing the plan of disintegration of Iraq and therefore is against reaching a solution by political groups for resolving the political crisis of Iraq," said Qahtan al-Khafaji on Friday. Khafaji, a professor of political sciences at Baghdad University, said that the US is trying to blame Iraqis for the current situation in the country but "the Americans are the main cause of the crisis in political process of Iraq."
The political crisis continues in Iraq. Jane Arraf speaks with Marco Werman (PRI's The World) about it today noting that it was "the biggest political crisis since Saddam Hussein was toppled." (We'll note it tomorrow, as I dictate this snapshot into one cell phone and juggle two others, I'm also listening to NPR's live coverage of the Florida primary because Ava and I are covering it Sunday at Third. And those wanting a preview? Besides the co-anchor, we've only heard from one woman an hour and 23 minutes in.versus over 11 men. In addition, we're about to speak to a group. So The World will wait until tomorrow.) As Jane Arraf observed earlier this week in a Tweet, "National conference seems still long way off."
A statement, issued on Tuesday by the Temporary Media Office of Hashimy, stressed that "at a time when we condemn the cheap practices by the Prime Minister, which he carries out in a feverish means against his political opponent, through theexpansion of the accusation circle and the chasing of innocent members of Hashimy's bodyguards and office employees, we call on President Jalal Talabani for immediate interference to put an end to the Prime Minister's acts and violations of the Constitution and the laws". "His continued violations against human rights, have caused dishonor for Iraq and forced Amnesty International to issue its statement from 2 days ago regarding the 2 female employees in Hashimy's office, Rasha and Bassima," the statement added.
AP reports that Iraqiya rejoined the Parliament today but the boycott of attending Cabinet meetings continues. Dar Addutour reports that a meeting to determine Iraqiya returning to Cabinet meetings has been postponed and that one of Iraqiya's terms is that Saleh al-Mutlaq be part of the return. Nouri demanded in December that Deputy Minister al-Mutlaq be stripped of his post.
Meanwhile AFP reports on US President Barack Obama's YouTube fest yesterday and his assertion that there was nothing wrong with the drones flying over Iraq. He is quoted declaring, "The truth of the matter is we're not engaging in a bunch of drone attacks inside of Iraq. There's some surveillance to make sure that our embassy compound is protected." That's dishonest. It's going beyond the embassy compound, for one thing. For another, Iraq's objecting to the helicopters and other US air traffic taking place. Yesterday's snapshot noted State Dept's spokesperson Victoria Nuland's remarks about drones. She was asked about if Iran or another country had a non-weaponized drone flying through Central Park what would happen and she stated no country had ever made such a request. Clearly, the US made no such request to Iraq. However, let's get to what would happen, I checked with a friend at the Justice Dept. Whatever foreigner was flying a drone in Central Park would be arrested, facing questions and facing terrorism charges. It would be incumbent upon him or her to prove that this was not a rehearsal for an armed drone which may or may not be used for a biological attack. In the current climate, it is thought that anyone arrested for such a thing would plead out to the lowest charge possible because he or she could never make a strong case -- even if they were innocent -- in court that would prove their innocence.
The film will also air on PBS around the country, thanks to generous support from the National Educational Television Association. Due to the controversial nature of the film, many local PBS stations will relegate 'This is Where We Take Our Stand' to their smaller and less widely available affiliates. We urge you to contact your local PBS station and encourage them to air the film on their major channel. http://thisiswherewetakeourstand.com/?p=376
Premiere screening of This Is Where We Take Our Stand: The Iraq Veterans Against the War who risked everything to tell their story.
Thursday February 2, 2012 from 6pm to 8pm.
Bus boys & Poets (14th & V NW)
The long awaited full length movie about Winter Soldier 2008, This Is Where We Take Our Stand: The Iraq Veterans Against the War who risked everything to tell their story will premier in DC at Busboys & Poets.
Following the film director David Zeiger (Sir No Sir) & one of the main characters, Geoff Millard, will answer questions.