Thursday, September 27, 2012

Now Nouri targets the youth activists in Iraq

When you're thug Nouri al-Maliki serving an illegitimate second term as prime minister of Iraq, you don't take a lot chances.  You perceive someone as a threat?  You try to destroy them.  Hence the rounding up of Sunnis -- including the elderly -- in the last half of 2011 and the targetiing of Iraqiya (the political slate that came in first in the 2010 elections and that, were the Constitution followed and democracy honored, would have put forward a prime minister) by issuing an arrest warrant for Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, Sunni and a member of Iraqiya, and demanding Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq (also Sunni and Iraqiya) be stripped of his post.  After Saleh pledges eternal love, you drop the process against him and you get a 'conviction' of Tareq from your kanagaoo court.  But being an illegitimate leader means always quashing threats of being exposed.  That's behind the September 8, 2011 murder of journalist Hamdi al-Haimid.  It's also what's behind this morning's Al Mada report.

The paper reports on the concentrated efforts to arrest Facebook activists who took part in the Friday protests that swept Iraq in 2011.   A lot of people don't know about those protests because the White House didn't want you to and a lot of 'news' outlets worked overtime to minimize the story (take your bow, New York Times -- you attacked the protesters -- the ones who were beaten and kidnapped by Nouri's forces, what a proud moment for the paper) or just ignore it (most major dailies not named the Washington Post, most US broadcast outlets who aren't CNN or NPR).

Nouri was the White House's . . . Well, not friend.  You invite friends into your home.  And Barack wouldn't leave the campaign trail this week to meet with Nouri in NYC which is why Nouri cancelled his trip and planned address to the UN on Saturday.  Nouri was the White House's best bet -- according to foreign policy nitwit posing as a guru Samantha Power.  And so the White House didn't just demand a second term for Nouri despite the poor showing for State of Law in the 2010 elections (defeated by the brand new Iraqiya despite Nouri and his goons refusing to allow certain Iraqiya candidates to run for election, despite the targeting and murders of some members of Iraqiya in the weeks leading up to the elections, despite Nouri's non-stop speeches telling Iraqis that Iraqiya was a band of terrorists), they went so far as to negotiate a contract, the Erbil Agreement, assuring the political blocs it was not only legal, it was legally binding.  Even more importantly, they promised the Kurds and others that this US-brokered contract had the backing of the US government meaning it would be followed.  The White House gave the word of the US government.  And then Nouri used it to become prime minister and tossed aside all the points in the contract he agreed to for that second term (such as the creation of an independent national security commission, finally implementing Article 140 of the Constitution which was supposed to take place in 2007, etc.)/  And all the promises the US government made?  Amnesia on the part of the White House as the political blocs have demanded that the Erbil Agreement be honored.

So when you're Nouri, hoping to ride it out through 2014 when, right now, you plan to run for a third term, you launch one power grab after another.  In the US, for example, Barack Obama is President.  Secretary of Defense is Leon Panetta.  In Iraq, Nouri is prime minister.  And Minister of the Defense.  And Minister of the Interior so he's over the police.  And Minister of National Security.  He was supposed to nominate people to those positions and they were supposed to be approved by Parliament.  If he wasn't able to do that in 30 days, per the Constitution, he not only didn't advance from prime minister-designate to prime minister, someone else was namded prime minister-designate and given 30 days to put together a Cabinet.

When you have the White House insisting you get a second term, pesky things like a Constitution do not matter.

But in 2011, the protester mattered.  Iraq was only one part of the region facing protests.  And in some countries, the protests were toppeling leaders.  Nouri was scared.

He announced he would not seek a second term.  Then the promise was taken back less than 24 hours later, since then not only has his attorney announced that he can seek a third term, it's been announced a third term would be best for Iraq.

Here's how Press In My Pocket works when you're a US puppet.  All outlets report that you won't seek a second term.  They then write editorials about how great that is of you and how you're showing leadership and how wonderful you are.  And those editorials appear after your spokesperson says you are not promising to seek a second term.  Not only does that not make the editorials, you don't report it.  Name the foreign wire service that reported it because it's a lot easier to name the only English language outlet that reported that then all the US outlets which refused to do so.

Afraid that he was going to be toppled and knowing that the press could amplify not just the protests but how deeply unpopular he was, Nouri didn't just put out that he wouldn't seek a third term, he also begged the Iraqi people to leave the streets and given him 100 days.  At the end of 100 days, he would have ended corruption, he would have addressed the lack of basic services, he would address unemployment, he would address the many who had 'disappeared' in the Iraqi 'justice' system. 

Anyone who has watched Nouri closely since the US first installed him as prime minister in 2006 knows his modus operandi: Stall.  Promise anything and then stall.  Your opponents will grow weary, fighting for justice can be weary, and you just wait them out. 

So Nouri did nothing to improve the lives of the Iraqi people which means it's time to round up those who might protest him again.  Al Mada speaks with young activists in Nineveh Province where arrrests have been non-stop and they tell the paper about how the crack down is targeting youth activists and bloggers.  In Mosul, the people talk about how these activists are arrested with no arrest warrants, how 'terrorist acts' are their protests actions on Facebook.  Since last Thursday, Nineveh Province Council Member Abdul Rahim al-Shammari explains, hundreds of people have been arbritrarily arrested who wonders where the arrest warrants are?  The arrests are by the Federal Police, not the province police.  The federal police are controlled by the Minister of the Interior.  Who's that again?

Oh, yeah, Nouri.  In his power grab, he seized control of the three security ministries.

Ethel al-Nujaifi is the governor of the province and he states that the council of the province has decided -- all voting in agreement -- to launch an investigation into these arrests and the torture of the detainees.  He points out that neither the military nor the security forces are a judicial body and they have no rgith to torture.  In Baghdad, activists speak of how the security forces spy on them.  In Babylon, youth activists are being arrested.

In 2011, the press amplified Egypt while rendering Iraq invisible.  The Iraqi people thought it was only a matter of time before the international press paid attention.  Especially with all the attacks on journalists as well as activists.  As I've noted before, I exchanged e-mails with Hadi al-Mahdi.  (He e-mailed to correct me on details -- kindly correct me.)  In 2011, for the period of twelve or so weeks before his death when we exchanged two or three e-mails a week, he honestly believed that any minute the international media was going to do the right thing and report what was happening in Iraq.  How the protesters were being attacked by Nouri's goons each Friday.  How Iraqi press that tried to cover it were being attacked by the same goons.  The international press just wasn't interested.  (At that point, only CNN and Al Jazeera would touch the story.  And it was mainly CNN.)   He's dead now, assassinated. 

And the people who stood up for Iraq are being rounded up by Nouri's forces.  But don't expect the US press to do their job.  If they'd done it when it mattered, if in February 2011 or at any point since, the New York Times had reported the truth (I'm talking about reporters -- the editoral board has been much more truthful than the paper's reporters), Hadi al-Mahdi might not be dead. 

But the silence from the US media and the lies from the New York Times (they chose to attack the protesters in print) contributed to Hadi's assassination.  Nouri knew the world wouldn't care if there was no spotlight on his actions. 

And now Nouri goes after more Iraqis but, hey, it helps the White House and their negotiations to get US troops back into Iraq so the New York Times doesn't have time or space to cover what's happening to the youth activists (or any of Nouri's victims).

Hadi was first targeted in February 2011.  He shared the story with Kelly McEvers (NPR's Morning Edition):

Hadi al-Mahdi: I replied, I told the guy who was investigating me, I'm pretty sure that your brother is unemployed and the street in your area is unpaved and you know that this political regime is a very corrupt one.
Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was later put in a room with what he says were about 200 detainees, some of them journalists and intellectuals, many of them young protesters.
Hadi al-Mahdi: I started hearing voices of other people.  So, for instance, one guy was crying, another was saying, "Where's my brother?" And a third one was saying, "For the sake of God, help me."
Kelly McEvers: Mahdi was shown lists of names and asked to reveal people's addresses.  He was forced to sign documents while blindfolded.  Eventually he was released.  Mahdi says the experience was worse than the times he was detained under Saddam Hussein.  He says the regime that's taken Sadam's place is no improvement on the past. This, he says, should serve as a cautionary tale for other Arab countries trying to oust dictators. 
Hadi al-Mahdi: They toppled the regime, but they brought the worst -- they brought a bunch of thieves, thugs, killers and corrupt people, stealers.

 And he was murdered and the US press really wasn't concerned about that or about what's been happening in Iraq ever since.  This is the reason the phrase "blood on your hands" exist.

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