Thursday, August 9, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraqi government wastes money on luxury trucks, a woman whose husband was kidnapped in 2006 appeals to the International Olympic Committee for help, birth defects resulting from chemical war is recognized somewhat, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein decries "the politics of fear [which] have brought us everything that we are afraid of," Peace and Freedom vice presidential candidate Cindy Sheehan gets arrested, and more.
Today, as Jeff Carlisle (ESPN) reports, the US women's soccer team won the gold medal, as NBC noted, it was their third Summer Olympics in a row to take home the gold in that event.
With three more days left for the London Summer Olympics, Ahmed al-Samarrai gets a little of the press attention. Who? In 2004 ESPN reported on Ahmed noting that he was in charge of Iraq's Olympics and had "survived an assassination attempt when attackers threw grenades and fired automatic weapons at his care in Baghdad after a roadside bomb failed to kill him." In February 2004, Sinomania noted on the election the month before of "63 year old former athlete Ahmed al-Samarrai" as president of the Iraq National Olympics Committee. Two years later, he would be in the news for a different reason. Alan Abrahamson (Los Angeles Times) reported Jully 19, 2006:
Al-Samarrai was kidnapped Saturday. He and his colleagues had been at a sports meeting at a cultural center in downtown Baghdad. In all, dozens were seized. Reports say they were taken by heavily armed men dressed in camouflage and police uniforms.
In May, meanwhile, 17 members of an Iraqi taekwondo squad, including four on the national team, were kidnapped on their way to Jordan, where they had hoped to obtain visas for a tournament in Las Vegas -- all 17 disappeared into the desert, with no word since. It remains unclear whether Rasheed was among them.
The head of the Iraqi taekwondo association, Jamal Abdul Karim, was among those kidnapped Saturday.
The abductions Saturday followed the killing Thursday of the Iraqi wrestling team's Sunni coach, shot dead in a Shiite district of Baghdad.
Of the dozens, 13 would eventually be released. Ahmed was not one of the ones released. In August 2008, Kim Gamel (AP) reported that Ahmed remained missing and that his "wife, Niran, who claims her Sunni husband was kidnapped at a time of sectarian violence and high-level government officials took little action. She alleges her husband was targeted because he resisted attempts to use the committee as a political forum." Niran spoke of the need for closure and for justice, for her husband and for the others who were kidnapped as well. Gamel observed that Niran "faults the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for failing to investigate the attack or to arrest any of the kidnappers." Niran stated, "They were abducting within al-Maliki's era. He is the prime minister. He's supposed to look after the people."
Today she tells Andrew Warshaw (Inside The Games), "Since 2006 not a single person from the Iraqi Government has helped me, the same Government who are still in power. It's simply obscene. I believe they know who was behind this. They couldn't push my husband out legally [Nouri wanted to remove Ahmed from the committee and the kidnappers told Ahmed he was an embarrassment to Nouri] so they did it by force. I have to believe Ahmed is still alive though maybe he has been tortured. I'm tired and scared with not knowing his fate after this savage crime. Somebody has to give us some hope. Some of the families of those kidnapped with my husband had new-born babies who have never seen their fathers. The IOC represents my last chance." She wants, as the BBC explains, for the International Olympic Committee to ask serious questions of Nouri's government about the kidnappings. If that is to happen, it will require public pressure. In 2010, Jacquelin Magnay (Telegraph of London) explained the official position by quoting the Association of National Olympic Committees President Mario Vasquez who declared that they were not interested in finding out what happened to Ahmad and the others, "It's not that we forget this issue, it's that we intentially do not want to deal with it. We deliberately do not want to discuss these matters or mention this to the ministers. They don't want to deal with this either, we come here to discuss sports matter and not matters related to violence. They are regrettable, of course."
On the issue of the Olympics, Saturday, KUNA noted that Tunisia's Oussam Mellouli (swimmer) and Iraq's Dana Abdul Razak (pictured above, competes in the 100 meter track event) were the only Arabs to make it through the heats and qualify for the first rounds in their competitions. And from there? Jim Caple (ESPN) reported the Friday first round,"Dana Abdul Razak lined up in Lane 2 at Olympic Stadium for Heat 5 in the first round of the women's 100-meter dash. Two lanes over, Allyson Felix planted her feet in the starting blocks. The starter's gun went off and the Iraqi runner burst down the track alongside America's most famous female sprinter. Abdul Razak finished last in the heat, losing to Felix by eight-tenths of a second, but that didn't matter much. Earlier in the day, the Iraqi had won her heat. She had raced with some of the world's best and she had advanced women's sports in her country." John Canzano (Oregonian) observed, "It wasn't lost on me that many of the sprinters around Abdul Razak in the mixed zone didn't grow up in a nation where being able to compete would even be a question. Also, with Allyson Felix of the U.S. coming through moments later after winning the heat and wearing the finest track and field gear to go with the best training/nutrition to go with a USA Track and Field handler who escorted her, I wondered about the vast disparity in resources available to athletes here." She now holds the record for Iraq in the 100-meter dash (11.91).
When Dana Abdul Razak first competed in the Summer Olympics it was 2008 and she was the only athlete from Iraq. This year she was one of eight at the Summer Olympics. She's part of a group of Iraqi athletes making steady progress. The other seven Iraqis competing in London were Ahmed Abdulkareem, Adnan Taess Akkar, Noor Amer al-Ameri, Mohanad Ahmed Dheyaa al-Azzawi, Safaa al-Jumaili, Rand al-Mashhadani and Ali Nadhim Salman Salman.
John Hockenberry: Today the US started a clean up effort to deal with the effects of spraying millions of gallons of the toxic defoliant known as Agent Orange over jungle areas to destory enemy cover during the Vietnam War. In the almost 40 years since the war ended, Vietnam says several million people have been affected with up to 150,000 children born with severe birth defects because Agent Orange seeped into the water and soils.
US Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear [audio clip]: The dixon in the ground here is a legacy of the painful past we share. But the project we undertake here today hand-in-hand with the Vietnamese is, as Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton said, "a sign of the hopeful future we are building together."
John Hockenberry: Speaking there that's US Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear. He was at a ceremony today here in Danang where all of this is being kicked off. Joining us now is Susan Hammond Director of the War Legacies Project, joins us from Chester, Vermont. Susan Hammond, thank you for joining us.
Susan Hammond: Thank you for having me.
John Hockenberry: How much unfinished business do you say is here? It's more than just a clean up that begins today, yes?
Susan Hammond: It is. Well this is the first part of a multi-part problem. The fact that there is still dixon in several hot spots throughout Vietnam -- It's significant that the US is finally getting around to helping the Vietnamese clean this dioxin up. But there's also the longterm health effects in Vietnam that still need to be addressed.
John Hockenberry: And how would those be addressed? Separate treaties or is that a part of this agreement, it's just in a different stage?
Susan Hammond: No. At this point, it's -- the US has provided some limited funding for programs within the Danang area to provide services for children with disabilities though they do not say it's directly related to Agent Orange.
John Hockenberry: How much political interest is there on Capitol Hill to pursuing, you know, programs of recompense like this? As we know, there's a very, very strong lobby on the POW - MIA issue. I'm wondering if they go together on this or if they are opposed to this?
Susan Hammond: Uhm, most are not opposed. There are veterans with their own issues with Agent Orange, that they're labeling Congress but even many of the veterans are supportive of addressing this issue in Vietnam because they're facing it themselves in their own human health and their children's to some extent.
This morning we celebrate a historic milestone for our bilateral relationship.
Today's ceremony marks the start of a project between Vietnam's Ministry of National Defense and the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, to clean up dioxin contaminated soil and sediment at the airport left from the Vietnam War. Over the next few years, workers will dig up the contaminated soil and sediment and place it in a stockpile, where it will be treated using thermal desorption technology. This process uses high temperatures to break down the dioxin in the contaminated soil and make it safe by Vietnamese and U.S. standards for the many men, women, and children who live and work in this area.
We have worked together closely over many years in a spirit of mutual respect and cooperation to reach this point. With Presidential and Congressional support from Washington, my Embassy has cooperated with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment's Office 33 since its establishment in 1999 to coordinate Vietnam's policies and programs on Agent Orange. We've used annual meetings of the Joint Advisory Committee under the leadership of Office 33 and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to seek science-based solutions to complex environmental and health issues related to Agent Orange.
As part of Vietnam's contribution to the cleanup, the Ministry of National Defense cleared unexploded ordinance from the airport site and will construct a power substation to supply electricity for the remediation process. We also greatly appreciate the strong commitment of other partners, including the Danang People's Committee and Airport Authorities, to the success of this project.
It is a historic moment. And it's several decades after the end of that conflict. What of Iraq?
JUAN GONZALEZ:Patrick, I'd like to ask you about this whole other issue of the report on -- by Chris Busby and some other epidemiologists about the situation in Fallujah and the enormous increases in leukemias and cancers in Fallujah after
the US soldiers' attack on that city. Could you talk about that?
PATRICK COCKBURN:Sure. I think what's significant, very significant, about this study is that it confirms lots of anecdotal evidence that there had been a serious increase in cancer, in babies being born deformed, I mean, sometimes with --grotesquely so, babies -- you know, a baby girl born with two heads, you know, people born without limbs, then a whole range of cancers increased enormously. That this was -- when I was in Fallujah, doctors would talk about this, but, you know one couldn't -- one could write about this, but one couldn't really prove it from anecdotal evidence. Now this is a study, a scientific study, based on interviews with 4,800 people, which gives -- proves that this was in fact happening and is happening. And, of course, it took -- you know, it has taken
place so much later than the siege of Fallujah, when it was heavily
bombarded in 2004 by the US military, because previously, you know, Fallujah
is such a dangerous place to this day, difficult to carry out a survey, but it's
been finally done, and the results are pretty extraordinary.
AMY GOODMAN:What were the various weapons that were used in the
bombing of Fallujah in 2004?
PATRICK COCKBURN:Well, primarily, it was sort of, you know, artillery and bombing. Initially it was denied that white phosphorus had been used, but later this was confirmed. I think one shouldn't lose sight of the fact, in this case, that before one thinks about was depleted uranium used and other things, that just simply the use of high -- large quantities of high explosives in a city filled with civilians and people packed into houses -- often you find, you know, whole
families living in one room -- was, in itself, going to create, lead to very, very
high civilian casualties. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're
talking about the increase in cancers and so forth, and the suspicion that maybe depleted uranium, maybe some other weapon, which we don't know about -- this is not my speculation, but of one of the professors who carried out the study -- might have been employed in Fallujah, and that would be an explanation for results which parallel, in fact exceed, the illnesses subsequently suffered by survivors of Hiroshima.
The damage caused by the US government's decision to use harmful chemicals in Vietnam gets some US government recognition today. When does that same recognition arrive for Iraq?
Prashant Rao (AFP) reported yesterday on Falluja General Hospital where, last month, 4 American nurses and 2 American doctors helped with the opening of a cardiac catheterisation lab nearly eight years after the November 2004 assault on the city in which various weapons -- some banned -- were used resulting in birth defects -- continued birth defects in Iraq. He notes:
Medics and officials in Fallujah, however, including hospital director Lawas, have no doubt the defects have been caused by the US forces' alleged use of depleted uranium rounds in 2004.
"Fallujah has seen many wars, and it was attacked twice by American troops, and many weapons were used in this city," said Lawas. "We think that there is a link between those weapons and the diseases."
Press TV observed this week, "The US dropped thousands of depleted uranium bombs on the Iraq city of Fallujah in 2003, which killed thousands of people. A great proportion of all births in Fallujah since the strike have suffered from abnormalities and the rate of mutation among newborns is higher than what was found in Japan after America attacked the Asian country during the Second World War."
As with Vietnam, the destruction did damage to the native population as well as the US troops sent to the country. Juan Gonzalez (New York Daily News) has long been reporting on the US service members who assume they're in good health. In September 2004, he reported on Spec Gerard Darren Matthew whose "face would swell up each morning. He had constant migraine headaches, blurred vision, blackouts and a burning sensation whenever he urinated." In the summer of 2004, he and his wife Janice had a new baby, Victoria Claudette who "was missing three fingers and most of her right hand. Matthew and his wife believe Victoria's shocking deformity has something to do with her father's illness and the war -- especially since there is no history of birth defects in either of their families."
Iraq's health care system has not recovered from the Iraq War which not only overtaxed the hospitals, also led to the facilities and their equipment being injured and forced many trained medical professionals out of the country. A major reinvestment in medicine would be a good move for Iraq but instead doctors have to plead with the government to protect them and to pass laws to ensure they can practice medicine. On the issue of money, Nouri has insisted there are no surplus oil revenues to share with the Iraqi people (Moqtada al-Sadr publicly called out that claim) but Trade Arabia reports there is money for luxury trucks, "Mercedes-Benz recently delivered 250 of its Actros trucks to Iraq's State Company for Automotive Industry (SCAI) to assist in reconstruction efforts in the country." Lucky Gold and Samuel Burke (CNN's Amanpour --, link is text and video) observes that while Iraq is seeing record profits on oil, "ordinary Iraqis are still waiting to share in those profits and to live in saety."
In ongoing violence, Alsumaria reports that 1 Sahwa ("Awakening," "Sons of Iraq") was killed in his home this morning when unknown assailants stormed the house and began shooting. In addition, they note that Iraqiya's Salman Jumaili survived an attempted assassination via a roadside bombing -- three bodyguards were injured. AFP adds that two Baghdad roadside bombings left 2 people dead and nineteen injured. Travis Brecher (Reuters) notes a Baghdad car bombing has claimed 8 lives and left thirty people injured. Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) counts 24 dead and over 50 injured in Wednesday's violence. Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count notes at least 113 deaths so far this month due to violence.
Tuesday saw Nouri declare an end to terrorism. So why are mass arrests still taking place? Alsumaria reports police rounded up and arrested over 100 people in Nineveh Province for 'terrorism.' Again, you have to be willfully ignorant to believe Nouri changes. Salah Nasrawi (Al-Ahram) also questions Nouri's claim of an end to terrorism:
Last month, the Al-Qaeda front group the Islamic State of Iraq said it was launching a "sacred offensive" aimed at recovering territory given up by the militants. It also vowed to target Iraqi judges and prosecutors and said it would try to help prisoners break out of jails.
Some 325 Iraqis were killed in July and 679 wounded, making it the bloodiest month in two years. Some 282 others were killed in June, and about 700 people were injured. The figures, released by the government, showed that civilians, soldiers and policemen were among casualties.
In addition, Nasrawi observes, "The most recent spate of attacks comes amid a prolonged political crisis over power-sharing in Iraq, with the leaders of the country's Sunni and Kurdish communities accusing Shia Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki of authoritarianism and seeking to reinforce his rule."
Al Rafidayn reports Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh states that the political blocs met with Nouri yesterday but there was no agreement reached. al-Dabbagh also attempted to justify to the press Iraq's lousy treatment of the Syrian refugees (the refugees are apparently treated well in the KRG -- the UN has visited those camps and reported to the Security Council on those camps, I'm not referring to the KRG treatment, I'm referring to Baghad housing the refugees in abandoned buildings and refusing to allow them mobility). And he yet again denied that there were any secret prisons in Iraq.
Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports that the election law is still bottled up in Parliament with no forward movement. State of Law Mp Abbas al-Bayati states that they are a long way off from resolving various issues about the proposed law. AKnews notes Martin Kobler, UN Secertary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq, expressed dismay at the start of the week over this delay that he dubbed a "threat to democracy."
July 19th, Kobler appeared before the UN Security Council and stated:
As we speak, my political deputy, Mr. [Gyorgy Busztin], is engaged in facilitation efforts to bring about the formation of a new, Independent High Election Commission which is representative of the main components of Iraq -- including women and children and minorities. The urgent selection of the commissioners is essential for ensuring that the provincial council elections due to take place in March 2013 can be conducted on time. I'm concerned that the ongoing political stalemate is hindering the process however. In recent days, I have discussed with political leaders -- including Prime Minister al-Maliki -- the need for a swfit conclusion of this political process and the need for an adequate representation of women and minorities in the commission. Today, I would like to re-iterate my appeal to all political blocs to expedite the selection of professional commissioners. UNAMI stands here ready to actively assist.
Tuesday came news that Parliament thought they'd arrived at a stop-gap measure: they'd tack on 35 days to the current Electoral Commission. AK News quotes the Chair of the Electoral Commission Faraj al-Haidari stating, "A new board of commissioners was supposed to be formed because the delay creates confusion. The required period to complete the commission's procedures after the ratification of the election law and the budget according to international standards is six months. Until now the law is not published in the official newspaper and the budget hasn't yet arrived."
Last week, the Iraqi parliament approved a law that many, including the country's highest court, say is unconstitutional.
What MPs did was approve amendments to a law regulating how provincial elections are decided. Provincial elections are due to be held in April 2013. They will be governed by the provincial election law 36, passed in 2008 and upon which the 2009 provincial elections were based.
But in 2009 there were conflicts about electoral districts and minority representation and this was what led to calls for a revision of the law. A parliamentary committee was formed to look into the matter.
"The law contains many violations and irregularities," Ziad al-Thari, a member of the committee tasked with amending the law, says. "These affected the 2009 elections and that's why we needed to amend this law. However all the efforts made by the regions and provinces committee to introduce major amendments to the law over the last year have failed. And mainly this has been because of the conflicts between the different political blocs."
As a result, an amended version of the electoral law was only passed into law by the Iraqi parliament on August 2.
And what is causing conflict now is a part of the revised electoral law which says that if some parties don't get enough votes to make any difference to them, the votes they did get will be given to bigger parties. In 2009 this led to a lack of representation for many smaller Iraqi parties.
Jill Stein: It is very important, I think, that we stand up and we vote with our feet and we vote with our votes and we not bow to the disinformation campaigns and the propaganda that tells us that we better just be good little boys and girls and let them call the shots and that silence is the best political strategy. You know, this is the time to reject that politics of fear and to recognize he politics of fear which has told us to be quiet, that we've got to just vote for the lesser evil. The politics of fear have brough us everything that we are afraid of: The massive bailouts for Wall Street, the expanding war for oil, the declining wages for workers, the offshoring of our jobs. This president is negotiating the latest free trade agreement which is like NAFTA on steroids -- the attack on our civil liberties in which President Obama co-signed all the violations of George W. Bush and then took it further to where he can not only throw anybody in jail for whatever his pleasure is, you know, he doesn't have to justify it or even tell anybody, need not accuse you of any crime or try you before a jury. You know, he has the power of indefinite detention including the power of assassination. So it's just staggering how our civil liberties are being stripped from us. We cannot afford to sit back and let this happen. He sabotaged the international accord on climate so that there will not be an agreement until after 2020 when it is too late. The science is telling us now that it was too optimistic. It's going to be far worse. It is far worse already than the worst models predicted. And that - that model said if we haven't made substantial progress before 2020, we're basically going up into flames. It's not like the climate goes through some limited change and then it's in a new, steady state. It never gets to a steady state. It moves into temperature acceleration. That's not okay. That's not compatible with life, let alone compatible with an economy or civilization as we know it. The politics of fear have brought us everything that we are afraid of. It is time to reject that propaganda campaign -- bought and paid for by Wall Street and corporate America. It's time to reject the politics of fear and stand up with the politics of courage and move forward now with the solutions that will actually fix this problem, that will provide the jobs that will stabilize the climate, that can create health care and education, for that matter, as a human right, that will downsize the military and rightsize the military, that will tax the rich and ensure that we have the resources to do it. We do have the resources. We're just running out of time. The clock is ticking. So be afraid of passivity, be afraid of being co-opted, be afraid of being betrayed. But do not be afraid of yourself and that we are the ones we have been waiting for and we need to move this forward in a hurry.
Peace activists lined the roadside with anti-nuke signs, banners and a full-scale inflatable Trident II D-5 ballistic missile. Around 7:00 am Peacekeepers from Ground Zero entered the road to safely stop incoming traffic. Three activists entered the roadway carrying a banner with the message "Abolish Nuclear Weapons." Washington State Patrol officers escorted the protestors to the median for processing.
Almost immediately, another group of activists entered the roadway with a banner bearing the message "Give Peace a Chance. No, Seriously." As they were being removed from the roadway two more groups carried banners calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons onto the roadway in the same sequence and were subsequently removed. Traffic entering the base was stopped continuously until all protestors were cleared from the roadway.
A total of 16 persons engaged in the blockade. All were issued citations at the scene for "Walking on roadway where prohibited" and released. Those cited were Tom Rogers, Poulsbo, WA; Cindy Sheehan, Vacaville, CA; Marion Ward, Vancouver, WA; Michael Siptroth, Belfair, WA; Mal Chaddock, Portland, OR; Ann Havill, Bend, OR; Betsy Lamb, Bend, OR; Bernie Meyer, Olympia, WA; Leonard Eiger, North Bend, WA; Constance Mears, Poulsbo, WA; Gordon Sturrock, Eugene, OR; Brenda McMillan, Port Townsend, WA; Mack Johnson, Silverdale, WA; Gilberto Z Perez, Bainbridge Island, WA; George W Rodkey, Tacoma, WA and Elizabeth Murray, Bellingham, WA.
There are many candidates running for the Oval Office. We're noting Jill and Cheri and Roseanne and Cindy. Why? They're independent runs and they're peace candidates. In addition, they are women. One of the saddest things about 2008 is how so many women and feminist outlets silenced themselves -- politics of fear! -- and refused to cover the women in the race (Cynthia McKinney was running for president on the Green Party ticket, Rosa Clemente was her running mate; Sarah Palin was John McCain's running mate on the Republican Party ticket). You didn't have to like them, you didn't have to say you'd vote for one of them but if you are, for example, Feminist Wire Daily, I think we have the right to expect that you will cover runs for the presidency by women. Your failure to do so not only embarrassed and shamed you in 2008, it continues to and that will always be the case. 100 years from now, someone will ask, "Well did Feminist Majority Foundation or Women's Media Center at least have one kind word for Sarah Palin on some area? The woman wasn't Adolf Hitler. Surely a feminist could be counted on to say at least one thing nice even if they weren't going to vote for her. I mean Ralph Nader even noted she was the only candidate with executive branch experience so surely feminist outlets were able to disagree with her on some issues but to find one positive statement about her, right?" Wrong. And on disagree, Jill Stein and Roseanne Barr are both strong women. They want votes. I'm not going to hold them to a different standard than I would male politicians. Meaning, if they hit hard, even at each other, that's politics. It's great that we've got four women on two tickets this year. That's something to celebrate. And all four are strong women. I can't imagine the kind of internal shame of your gender you'd have to have in order to be silent on these four women and their campaigns.