Police are everywhere in Baghdad - in camouflage fatigues, heavily armed and backed with armoured vehicles. They man checkpoints that create gigantic traffic jams, several kilometres long at times, as they search cars and check identity papers.
The concrete barrier walls that have surrounded neighbourhoods since the height of sectarian violence in the last decade are still standing, a reminder of a dark chapter in Iraq's history. Power outages are frequent and long, leaving most households with 12 hours of electricity a day. Unemployment among young people is rampant, widely thought to be in double digits.
It appears that democracy is a great deal like blood, it needs to replenish. Which would explain the increasing lack of democracy in the United States -- especially these days as Barack declares war on whistle blower after another. TomDispatch.com features "Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, Joining The Whistleblower's Club" which includes this from Van Buren:
In some 24 years of government service, I experienced my share of dissonance when it came to what was said in public and what the government did behind the public’s back. In most cases, the gap was filled with scared little men and women, and what was left unsaid just hid the mistakes and flaws of those anonymous functionaries.
What I saw while serving the State Department at a forward operating base in Iraq was, however, different. There, the space between what we were doing (the eye-watering waste and mismanagement), and what we were saying (the endless claims of success and progress), was filled with numb soldiers and devastated Iraqis, not scaredy-cat bureaucrats.
That was too much for even a well-seasoned cubicle warrior like me to ignore and so I wrote a book about it, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the War for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. I was on the spot to see it all happen, leading two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in rural Iraq while taking part up close and personal in what the U.S. government was doing to, not for, Iraqis. Originally, I imagined that my book’s subtitle would be “Lessons for Afghanistan,” since I was hoping the same mistakes would not be endlessly repeated there. Sometimes being right doesn’t solve a damn thing.
By the time I arrived in Iraq in 2009, I hardly expected to be welcomed as a liberator or greeted -- as the officials who launched the invasion of that country expected back in 2003 -- with a parade and flowers. But I never imagined Iraq for quite the American disaster it was either. Nor did I expect to be welcomed back by my employer, the State Department, as a hero in return for my book of loony stories and poignant moments that summed up how the United States wasted more than $44 billion in the reconstruction/deconstruction of Iraq. But I never imagined that State would retaliate against me.
In return for my book, a truthful account of my year in Iraq, my security clearance was taken away, I was sent home to sit on my hands for months, then temporarily allowed to return only as a disenfranchised teleworker and, as I write this, am drifting through the final steps toward termination.
And that was Barack's decision. There's been no shift towards freedom in the US since Bully Boy Bush left the White House.
I'm traveling in some vehicle
I'm sitting in some cafe
A defector from the petty wars
That shell shock love away
-- "Hejira," written by Joni Mitchell, first appears on her album of the same name
Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4488. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4488.
Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports from Karamiles where, at the St. Addaie the Messenger Church, Christians celebrated Easter:
Like other Christian communities in the disputed areas, a steady stream of families have departed either legally or illegally to Europe and the United States. Despite its own violent upheaval, Syria still serves as a way station for Iraqi refugees hoping for a better life in the West.
The community has been neglected by both the Kurdish and Iraqi governments, says Monsignor Yousif. Water is sometimes cut off for days. There are almost no jobs.
Over the years, some townspeople have made their homes within the crumbling stone walls of the remains of centuries-old homes.
Meanwhile Al Hayat reports that Iraqiya has revealed it is in talks with other blocs about withdrawing confidence in Nouri al-Maliki. The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq denies that they have engaged in discussions on replacing Nouri. Speaking for the Moqtada al-Sadr bloc, MP Jawad Hasnawi allows that they have serious problems with Nouri but thinks that talk of replacing him is premature. That said, if requested to, Hasnawi says Moqtada would be willing to step in as a prime minister. At the end of this Al Hayat article, KRG President Massoud Barzani offers his concerns that there are serious attempts by the current government in Baghdad to restore Iraq to a dictatorship.
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- How Respect won in Bradford West
Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes Anindya Bhattacharyya 's "How Respect Won in Bradford West" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):
George Galloway pulled off a spectacular political comeback on Thursday of last week by winning the Bradford West parliamentary by-election by a landslide.
Galloway, standing for Respect, beat the Labour candidate Imran Hussain by 18,341 votes to 8,201. Galloway won 56 percent of the vote on a 50 percent turnout.
The Tories—who came second in Bradford West at the 2010 general election—were pushed into third place by anger at their budget for the rich. The Lib Dems lost their deposit.
A key factor behind Galloway’s win was anger at the Labour establishment in Bradford, which took voters for granted and delivered nothing.
Labour’s candidate Imran Hussain is deputy leader of Bradford council. Labour has pushed through £67 million in cuts in the city, slashing over 1,000 jobs.
Galloway supporters told Socialist Worker of their anger at how Bradford’s city bosses had presided over ten years of decay and mounting youth unemployment.
“I’m 21 and I’ve never had a job, although I’m always applying for them,” said Aqil Fiaz campaigning for Respect outside Girlington primary school.
“The jobs that are there are mostly in call centres in Leeds. A friend of mine works nights there and he has a law degree.”
Respect’s supporters were ecstatic at their victory. “It’s absolutely brilliant,” said Umit Yildiz, a lecturer at Bradford College who was involved in the campaign. “This was about young people breaking with tradition and voting for an anti-war and anti-cuts party.”
While there were specific factors in Bradford that propelled Galloway to victory, his win is a boost for the left in Britain. It underlines the potential for building grassroots opposition to Tory austerity.
Galloway was a Labour MP in Glasgow for 18 years until he was expelled for his opposition to the Iraq War. He won Bethnal Green & Bow for Respect in 2005, defeating pro-war Labour MP Oona King. But he failed to win the neighbouring seat of Poplar & Limehouse in 2010.
Wasab Khan, 24, is one of many volunteers who drove Respect’s victory. He spoke to Socialist Worker on polling day about the problems faced by young people in Bradford.
“They’ve just opened a brand new police station,” he says.
“They’ve got the money to pay all those police officers. But if they really wanted less crime they could spend that money on community centres.”
Wasab was stopped by the police last week while driving a Respect speaker car. The police searched the car, took him to the station and then released him.
“They were just wasting my time,” he shrugs.
Wasab says the media makes things worse by racialising the situation and presenting crime as an “Asian” or “Muslim” problem. These stereotypes don’t reflect the reality of living and working in Bradford, he adds.
“I work in a call centre. It’s very mixed race. We all want the same thing—it’s about dignity.”
He saw Galloway’s arrival in Bradford as a chance to shake up the city’s politics and address its longstanding problems.
“We’re lucky to have him here. I think he’ll make a difference. But we’ll see what changes he can make in three years.”
Shabana Bashir works in Bradford teaching English to speakers of other languages. She has been a Respect activist for a few years and stood in the 2010 local election.
“I got involved because we need change round here,” she told Socialist Worker. “Education is going downhill. Buildings are crumbling. Jobs are disappearing. I worry that my children are going to grow up in a different world.”
Arshad Ali was the Respect candidate in Bradford West at the 2010 general election and Galloway’s election agent for the by-election.
He told Socialist Worker, “It’s incredible—the young people are definitely educating the older ones.”
Galloway’s arrival in Bradford had crystallised a longstanding disaffection with Labour, he adds. “When I stood for Respect people would say, ‘We love what you stand for but we know you can’t win.’ The difference with Galloway is that we know he can win.
“Labour don’t know what’s hit them. There have been defections in droves. People are fed up with being told to vote on family lines rather than on principle.”
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