Wednesday, December 26, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, protests spring up, floods in Baghdad and elsewhere, State of Law flashes the paranoia, Nouri attacks the Constitution, Chuck Hagel is not the one to be Secretary of Defense, US House Rep Charles Rangel speaks out against a war on Syria, and more.
Kamal Namaa and Raheem Salman (Reuters) report, "Tens of thousands of Sunni Muslims blocked Iraq's main trade route to neighboring Syria and Jordan in a fourth day of demonstrations on Wednesday against Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki." Is this about Nouri's refusal to implement the Erbil Agreement? Is it about his refusal to maintain a power-sharing government? His inability to follow the Constitution and nominate people to the posts of Minister of Defense, Minister of National Security and Minister of Interior? Is it about the corrupt arms deal with Russia?
No, all of those problems already existed. As Ayad Allawi (leader of Iraqiya) has pointed out, Nouri loves to create new crises in order to distract from his inability to govern and to meet the basic needs of the Iraqi people. This crisis was created last week. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported:
Iraq's Finance Minister Rafei al-Essawi said Thursday that "a militia force" raided his house, headquarters and ministry in Baghdad and kidnapped 150 people, and he holds the nation's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, responsible for their safety.
Members of the al-Essawi's staff and guards were among those kidnapped from the ministry Thursday, the finance minister said. He also said that his computers and documents were searched at his house and headquarters. He said the head of security was arrested Wednesday at a Baghdad checkpoint for unknown reasons and that now the compound has no security.
After morning prayers,Kitabat reports, protesters gathered in Falluja to protest the arrests and Nouri al-Maliki. They chanted down with Nouri's brutality and, in a move that won't change their minds, found themselves descended upon by Nouri's forces who violently ended the protest. Before that, Al Mada reports, they were chanting that terrorism and Nouri are two sides of the same coin. Kitabat also reports that demonstrations also took place in Tikrit, Samarra, Ramdia and just outside Falluja with persons from various tribes choosing to block the road connecting Anbar Province (Falluja is the capitol of Anbar) with Baghdad. Across Iraq, there were calls for Nouri to release the bodyguards of Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi. Alsumaria notes demonstrators in Samarra accused Nouri of attempting to start a sectarian war.
Sunday saw protests in Falluja, Ramadi and al-Qaim:
AP notes of today's protest in Falluja, "In al-Issawi's hometown of Fallujah, some demonstrators covering their faces with red-checkered traditional tribal headdress carried pistols under their clothes. Others held flags from the era of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein and those now being raised by Syrian anti-government rebels." AP has a slide show here. On the Ramadi protest, Ammon News adds, :"Around 2,000 protestors blocked a main highway leading to Syria and Jordan in Ramadi in western Iraq on Sunday." AFP notes that Ramadi protestors were composed of many different sections, "including local officials, religious and tribal leaders." Aswat al-Iraq notes that both protests resulted in armed guards in heavy numbers being sent to 'observe' the protests.
And now today. Alumaria reports that in Ramadi today, tens of thousands demonstrated. It's being called "Dignity Day" and "Wednesday Dignity." And, AFP explains, the protests managed to close down "the main road to Syria and Jordan." They also note that Minister of Finance al-Essawi was present at the protest in Ramadi "and pledged to take a representative of the protesters 'to negotiate with Baghdad'." Adam Schreck and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) add, "He appeared before Wednesday's rally and was held aloft by the crowds." AFP notes that some demonstrators made clear that negotiations were not enough and chanted, "We only want a revolution."
Read more here: http://www.adn.com/2012/12/26/2734642/iraq-new-protests-break-out-in.html#storylink=cpy
Alsumaria notes that security forces were out in full force but states it was to protect those demonstrating. There is a good picture of the crowd here but an even better one here. This is seen as another attack by Nouri on Iraqiya (which came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections while Nouri's State of Law came in second) and as an attack on Sunnis -- Rafaie al-Issawi is both Sunni and a member of Iraqiya. Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) provides this perspective, "Many Sunnis see the arrest of the finance minister's guards as the latest in a series of moves by Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against their sect and other perceived political opponents. Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, one of the country's highest-ranking Sunni politicians, is now living in exile in Turkey after being handed multiple death sentences for allegedly running death squads - a charge he dismisses as politically motivated." Al Jazeera notes that Tareq sees similiarites and that they spoke with the Vice President on Monday and he declared, "On the ground, al-Maliki in fact, on a daily basis [is governing in a] sectarian way. We don't have any option but to advocate and defend ourselves."
Nouri can't protect Iraqis from attacks and now he can't even protect them from the elements. All Iraq News notes that Baghdad is receiving the most rainfall it's seen in thirty years. Alsumaria adds that the last days alone have seen the amount of rainfall Baghdad usually receives in a full year (note the picture of the three men walking down the street with water up to their knees). Kitabat notes that the rain is destroying the infrastructure (check out the photo of the man who's apparently trying to get home with bags of groceries).
This is not just due to rainfall. This is also the result of Iraq's crumbling infrastructure -- infrastructure Nouri al-Maliki has had six years to address and he's done nothing. When you allow the sewage and drainage systems to crumble, you get standing water. AP speaks with various residents with complaints including that the flooding has left them with no electricity and Abu Ibrahim states, "The heavy rain and lack of services the muncipality of Baghdad should provide to citizens led to this catastrophe. No good sewage, no drainage caused this bad situation." AFP points out, "The heavy rain spurred the government to declare Wednesday a national holiday, the fourth time this year it has been forced to do so because of bad weather. The other three were due to heat during Iraq's boiling summer."
Alsumaria notes yesterday's rains have caused 3 deaths and two people to be injured in Baghdad -- two deaths from a house collapsing due to the rain and one from electrical death (with two more injured in that as well) and that main streets in the capital are sinking. All Iraq News notes Baghdad has been placed on high alert because of the torrential rains.
You could mistake Baghdad for Venice in this All Iraq News photo essay which notes that students are forced to walk through the high standing water to get to schools. They also note of Tuesday's rainfall: Baghdad had the most yesterday (67 mm) followed by Hilla, Azizia and Karbala (rainfall was also recorded in Samawa, Rifai and Basra -- of those three, Basra was the highest and Baghdad's rainfall was three times Basra's). It's not just Baghdad. Alsumaria notes that after ten house collapses in Wasit Province village, the Iraqi Red Crescent began evacuating the entire village. Dar Addustour notes Nouri issued a statement yesterday that he's going to oversee a committee that will try to address the situation.
In Iraq, the rains have been falling with significant consequences. Tuesday, All Iraq News reported that the rest of the week would be rainy and foggy. And Iraq had already seen heavy rain fall. Sadr City was one of the areas effected. Joseph Muhammadwi and Mahmoud Raouf (Al Mada) reported on the flooding of Sadr City and included a photo of the water up to the frame of a mini-van. Despite the flooding and continuing heavy rains, traffic police stand outside directing vehicles. One resident jokes that Nouri can replace the food-ration cards with free small boats. The water's flooded the streets and also gone into homes and schools and a makeshift bridge of bricks has been constructed to allow access to one school. Dar Addustour noted that many of the cities, such as Kut, have been hit with the heavy rains. Baghdad residents protested the lack of public services -- proper sanitation (i.e. drainage) would alleviate a great deal of the standing water. Nouri's had six years to address Baghdad's sewer system and done nothing. AFP reports today the heavy rains in Kut led to houses collapsing resulting in the death of six children and leaving one adult male injured.
But now, a month later, Nouri is going to deal with the problem?
That crisis is only one of the many problems Nouri is currently facing. October 9th, Nouri was strutting across the world stage as he inked a $4.2 billion weapons deal with Russia. The deal is now iffy if not off (an Iraqi delegation went to Russia at the start of the month to see if the deal could be salvaged) and it went down in charges of corruption. Among those said to be implicated in the corruption is Nouri's own son. All Iraq News reports that State of Law is attempting to remove Nouri's name from the list of those Parliament is investigating for the corruption in that deal. In addition, Al Mada reports that Nouri is refusing to answer questions from the Parliament relating to that arms deal.
Al Rafidayn adds that Nouri's State of Law is also attempting to cancelt he membership of MP Ahmed al-Alwani because he took part in a protest against Nouri's targeting of the Minister of Finance (al-Alwani took part in Sunday's protest in Falluja.) (al-Alwani is with Iraqiya.) Dar Addustour reports that Nouri's also declared that he is limiting the political speech of MPs and they will no longer be protected for their remarks. He is demanding the prosecution of members of parliament, Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) explains.
For those who can remember Nouri's first term, there were repeated attempts by the litigous Nouri to sue members of Parliament. They can't be sued. The Constitution protects them. Nouri was hoping to sue one in particular after the session expired in 2010; however, that MP was part of the new Parliament. Nouri has sued the Guardian newspaper and many others. Those he can't bully with guns, he tries to bully with law suits. He really is an international disgarace.
And his State of Law is a joke around the world. Dropping back to Monday, "In a further example of the crazy, Fars News Agency reports MP Izzat al-Shabandar is declaring that Turkey and Qatar as well as Saudi Arabi all have secret plots against Nouri. Although he is an MP, he's generally identified as Nouri's 'aide' -- such as in this CBS News report from July." Today Fars News Agency reports State of Law's Shakir al-Daraji is proclaiming "secret information" in his possession tells of Turkey's part to plot against Baghdad. You sound insane, you all sound insane. I feel like we should put that in all caps.
Are there plots against people? Yes. But if you have nothing to back up your claims, you come off as crazy. Now maybe that's what State of Law is going for, maybe they're trying to churn up the crazy vote ahead of the provincial elections scheduled for April. But among the reasons Nouri is a joke on the international stage is because he's political slate (State of Law) is forever announcing plots against them. You sound crazy. You sound paranoid. Your crazy does not instill confidence in you or Nouri. And when you go on to attack Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, no one takes you seriously because you've already acted crazy on the public stage. By contrast, Press TV reports State of Law's Yasin Majid called yesterday for the expulsion of Turkey's ambassador to Iraq based on his objections to remarks made by Erdogan. Whether you agree with his call or not, the fact that he's not screaming about some conspiracy make the average person stick around long enough to learn why Majid is calling for expulsion.
I was truly touched by the tears your president [President Barack Obama] shed during his speech because of the killing the twenty beautiful children and the six remarkable adults as he called them. He reminded me of the tears I shed watching my country ruined by the shock and awe bombing during the last war on Iraq almost ten years ago.
You gathered to mourn the death of those kids but when the war was launched, my sister who lived in the states that time and I cried alone as our family members were still in Iraq and we didn't know what happened to them. The American missiles didn't differentiate between children and adults during the war, all Iraqis were exposed to death all days long.
No one offered us condolences for the loss of our country, our dreams and our hopes for good days to come. We were alone with our grief; the whole world watched the continuous bombing in silence. Some people protested but their voices weren't heard. The leaders of the Middle East watched their brothers and sisters killed, your military bases were on their lands yet they did nothing to stop you from the war.
Your President called the kids who were killed at the school by names. Our children who were killed by the American bombs had no names. I remember a picture of bodies of small kids covered with blood and piled on the back of a truck, those kids were killed during the bombing of a small city in Iraq. No apologies where given to their parents or to the Iraqis for taking the lives of these kids... there were no teddy bears and no candles..
Do you know Abeer? Abeer is the Iraqi kid who was fifteen when she was raped in front of her family members by the American soldiers. The soldiers burnt the house to hide their atrocities. How many of the American people know the story of Abeer? .
This and so much more tragedy was caused by the Iraq War.
And yet Barack is apparently testing the waters to see how a Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense nomination would go over?
Marcia has noted Hagel's curious election results -- in an election where he owned the voting machines. She, Cedric and Wally have called out Libeterain Glenn Greenwald for pimping for Hagel to be nominated for Secretary of Defense. (Remember Glenn was an Iraq War Cheerleader and supporter of George W. Bush. He's the Guardian's token American conservative columnist.) It's a shame Barack -- the supposed anti-war president or anti-Iraq War candidate for president -- can't find any people who stood against the Iraq War to nominate for Cabinet positions -- so much for his claim to change the mindset. Hagel's nomination was a topic on last Friday's broadcast of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR). The Atlantic's Yochi Dreazen questioned how the nomination helps the Democratic Party and doesn't it just send the message that Democrats are weak on defense (as in, "That's why Barack has to pick a Republican!"). Susan Glasser (Foreign Policy) had other points and, though she moved over this one, it's not one I would move over.
Susan Glasser: The controversy that former Senator Hagel, a Republican by the way, has excited really revolved around the question of whether he is deemed sufficiently pro-Israel in his policies. And there's a particular quote that he gave to an author, one of Foreign Policy's columnist as it happened, in which he referred to the quote unquote "Jewish lobby" as opposed to the quote unquote "Israel lobby." That's being taken in some quarters as a sign that he is not a real supporter. He's been critical of Israeli settlement policy for example.
The "Jewish lobby"? That's not a minor mistake. When Glenn Greenwald goes off on one of his many rants that so many see as anti-Semitic, I give him the benefit of the doubt because he does make a point to call out the government of Israel and not liken a government to all the Jewish people in the world. The "Jewish lobby"? Doesn't draw such a difference. It also doesn't recognize that, if he's referring to Americans, there is no monoloithic Jewish lobby. There are left Jews, centrist Jews, conservative Jews, Jews who believe pot should be legal, etc.
That a person who made it into the US Senate would make such an idiotic remark is bothersome. That he might become Secretary of Defense is even more bothersome. As Marcia pointed out, the 1998 anti-gay remarks were fine with him for all these years. He only felt the need to apologize last week. That tells you a great deal about the type of person you're dealing with.
There are a number of people who could be nominated. As Elaine's noted, Susan Rice could go out for that post. Elaine wouldn't object, I wouldn't object. She doesn't have the temperment for Secretary of State but she could handle Secretary of Defense. Susan Rice also has the energy and youth needed for that job. Chuck Hagel's past retirement age. He's too old for the job.
Grasp that the suicide rate in the military has not seen marked improvement. Grasp that the assault and rape rate is still not going down. These are issues that need to be addressed. Robert Gates didn't. Leon Panetta (I know and like Leon) has spoken of these issues publicly and gotten things in motion. Susan Rice or someone with her energy and youth could take it further.
Chuck Hagel has nothing in his background that demonstrates he can take on these issue. He can't even speak publicly without attacking LGBTs or Jews in the last 20 years. He's not equipped for the office.
Glenn Greenwald thinks he is but then Glenn thought the Iraq War was a good idea too. And Glenn counts 'activism' as his living half the year in the US and half in his partner's country. He claims that's to protest DOMA. Maybe so. It's a half-assed protest and that is Glenn's style. (Half-assed because if you're really against DOMA, so much that you don't want to live in the US, then you don't live in the US.) But more than likely, it's another easy stand for Glenn -- his partner has family in the other country and doesn't want to leave them and lets Glenn play drama queen and insist he's doing something. At any rate, why the US needs to listen to a part-time resident on who would be Secretary of Defense has yet to be explained. But surely there are much better choices than Chuck Hagel.
Turning to radio, Nellie Bailey and Glen Ford are the hosts of the weekly Black Agenda Radio (here for this week's broadcast) which airs on Progressive Radio Network each Monday from 11:00 am to noon EST. This week they broadcast two segments from earlier in the year and also provide coverage of the December 19th press conference about war on Syria. We'll excerpt on that press conference.
Glen Ford: Six members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama urging him not to send troops or otherwise engage in hostilities with Syria without the express authorization of the Congress. The effort to head off yet another undeclared war is spearheaded by North Carolina Republican Walter Jones. Only two of the Congressmen that signed the letter were Democrats and only one of them, Charles Rangel of New York, is Black. Rangel spoke at a press conference called by Congressman Jones in Washington.
US House Rep Charles Rangel: Well I think you for relieving some of the guilt that we, as members of Congress, should have. Knowing that day after day week after week, you, our moral voice, will be heard makes it difficult for a lot of us because we're here to uphold the Constitution. And there are no courses in schools and universities that allow any president to send our young men and women off into harm's way without coming to the Congress. Now that's the way it is and that's the way it has been. And yet we have so many tens of thousands of families that have lost their loved ones since WWII and it's actually reached the point that presidents just don't give a darn about the Congress. That may not be too bad but how do we go to the funerals of our constituents what do you say when you look in the casket and see a young man and a young woman and the family clings to you because you're so -- you're a symbol of the United States government? And they want so badly to hear that their son or their daughter was a patriot, was a hero. And you know that once that flag goes up, of course you are a hero. But how do you answer the question as to why they were there? Why were they there? And that's the painful stain that we have on our history. Now it's very simple. I am just as patriotic as the next guy. And when someone says that our nation is in trouble, that our national security is threatened, the way I look at it, it's time to call up our troops and have a draft. That's the way I look at it. And if you cannot find in your heart to ask every American to step forward and make some sacrfice, then we should not be involved in it. It means clearly it's not in our national security. I challenge anybody to come to this country and enjoy all of its benefits and then we get into trouble and you say, "Hey, I'm with the United States of America but don't ask for an increase in taxes and don't put my son or grandson in jeopardy and for God's sake don't put me in jeopardy." That is wrong and that is unAmerican. So what is my collegue saying? Don't go off an fight wars? He doesn't even say, "Don't go off and fight wars for oil." He just says that if it's important enough to go to war, come to the Congress. And you know what that means? It means come to the American people. Is that asking too much to say -- before anyone gets hurt, wounded or dies -- that we ask our people back home do you think that it's worth it? So let me thank you and your dad and everyone for coming out. It's remarkable the small number of people. I couldn't even find this room. I honestly, when I saw "Canon," I thought it was in 345, the big room. And if sending men and women off to combat is this important and I end up in saying, "Where are the ministers, where are the rabbies, where are the emons?" Because I hear their voices with same sex marriages, Oh, that's a terrible thing. World's going to come to an end." I hear their voices with men who like men and women who like women and 'that's going to break up marriage in the United States, whatever's left of it.' And I know they bless guns wherever the guns go. And I know the chaplains, they carry guns too, just in case some of the enemy gets in God's way, shoot them! But on this issue, human beings that are born, I would like to believe that they would think it's outrageous, immoral, unconstitutional.
Glen Ford: That was New York Black Congressman Charles Rangel. Also on hand was Patrick Lang, a retired Lt Col and former head of Defense Intelligence Agency Operations in the Middle East and North Africa. He says the US is behaving towards Syria in much the same way as it did to Iraq just before the 2003 invasion.
Patrick Lang: I spoke at a town meeting gathering in Lexington, Virginia in the late, late part of 2002 -- that's where my alma mata is located -- and I told people in the audience, "If you're not paying attention, perhaps you don't know that the train has already left the station, that we are already on our way to war in Iraq." And a number of people still remember my saying that, they thought it was a strange thing to say at the time but it turned out to be correct. Well, in my opinion, this is late 2002 again. It is come again to us. Because you can look across the spectrum of -- of think tank, generation opinion and various meetings in Washington which I am sometimes invited to, or the general tenor of stuff in the mainstream media and it all kind of says the kind of thing that was being said in late 2002. There's a great deal of exaggeration going on and a couple of things need to be pointed out about this. One is that in contradiction to what is being said in all this propaganda, the outcome in Syria is not at all certain. If you read foreign newspapers, you might have seen in the British newspaper the Independent a few days ago, an article by a man named [Patrick] Cockburn who wrote from Damascus about what actual conditions are like on the ground in Syria based on having been there two weeks. He said that he got in a car and drove 100 to the city of Homs without any inteference whatsoever, didn't see any of the war going on, talked to people in and around the city -- which has in the past been a hotbed of Sunni activism -- and came to the conclusion that the picture being painted in the west of how close the [Bashir] Assad government is to falling is grossly exaggerated. That is an extremely significant fact. The other things is the government of the United States has clearly embarked on a course that, if followed, will lead to military intervention in Syria. How can I tell that? Because our stated policy is that regime change is the desired policy of the United States. That's been established for some time now. Recently, we recognized the various groups of the Syrian opposition as being the official government of Syria. Based on that kind of a proceeding -- even though there's no UN action on this that I can think of at the moment, it will be possible for that 'government' to ask for our intervention and we could claim that it is a legitimate action. The next thing about this that is interesting is that among the coalition of groups that are fighting the Assad government is one called the al-Nusra and this is an off-shoot of al Qaeda worldwide, the very essence of our enemy, spread across the world, projected into Syria. They are one of the leading fighters against the Assad government. The United States has condemned this group as a foreign enemy. But in spite of that, the leaders of the rest of the guerillas fighting the Assad government have come forth across the world to demand that we rescind that condemnation of al-Nusra because they are in fact their friends. So the other thing that is clear here is that if the Assad government falls, we have no idea really at all what kind of government would succeed it. When you consider all of this put together you have to ask yourself why these two gentlement from the House of Representatives are not completely correct? Especially in a situation where the outcome is uncertain? And what the successor regime might be or how aminacable to our interests it might be, why on earth would the government not go to the Congress for the approval of the appointment of US forces? And as things are going now, it seems inevitable to me that if we continue on this path the US government will feel that rather than be defeated in its policy at this point it will have to use military force which will probably take the form of air intervention, no fly zone, direct resupply of the rebel groups, I don't think that after what has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan they are likely to occupy Syria with a COIN campaign. That has proven to be a not very fruitful enterprise.