If politicians wonder why they are held in such low esteem, it is not just their fiddling of expenses, nor their prolonged bipartisan infatuation with bankers and Rupert Murdoch. The rot began with the dodgy dossier, the “45-minute” Iraqi missile threat, the duplicitous diplomacy, and the decision to ignore the wishes of their own voters in preference to those of George Bush. Mainstream politics bought public contempt with the blood of millions.

Rome was thought to have had the largest February 15, 2003 protest -- and the largest anti-war protest in history -- with three million people taking part.  Protests took place throughout the US.  Dick Bernard (Daily Planet) offers a photo essay of the February 15, 2003 protest in Minneapolis.  There was nothing in the US on the tenth anniversary of the protests.  There was no effort to create anything, there was no effort to even note it really.  How come?  Because the peace organizations of 2003 weren't peace organizations.  MoveOn, United for Peace and Justice, Win Without War, etc.  They were anti-Bush organizations, they were elect Democrats organizations, but they weren't concerned with ending the war.  Earlier this month, Cindy Sheehan was under the weather and her radio program Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox dug into the archives for a 2011 interview done by RT's Abby Martin.  If you have no idea how the peace movement was used by various organizations, listen to Cindy explain it.  While still at the first Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas, Win Without War lost all interest in her because she wouldn't support their proposal of a Congressional measure that called for Out of Iraq . . . Someday . . . Hopefully Soon . . . But If Not, Okay.  United for Peace and Justice didn't want anymore protests after the November 2006 elections gave Democrats control of both houses of Congress.  They didn't want to embarrass the Democrats?  Embarrass? 

First off a peace organization is supposed to call for an end to war.  As for it embarrassing Democrats, grasp what UPFJ (Leslie Cagan and a bunch of other frauds) was saying:  Calling for an end to war would embarrass Democratic politicians.  Because?  Clearly UPFJ knew, before Dems got control of both houses, that the Democratic Party they backed  was not interested in ending the war.  Leslie Cagan and others need to be held accountable.  First step, don't ever trust them again.  Don't listen to them.  They whored and they lied.  They pretended to give a damn about the Iraqi people.  If their behavior was embarrassing after the November 2006 elections, it was especially embarrassing after the 2008 election when they all packed up their tents and went home. 

Protests are not new to Iraq. And unlike Leslie Cagan, Iraqis actually risk a great deal to protest.  You might think this is from the days of Saddam Hussein:

We, feminist activists from 12 countries, stand in support of our sisters and brothers peacefully demonstrating for basic rights in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.
This morning, June 10, demonstrators were brutally targeted with sexual violence and beatings by men who were reportedly bussed in by the thousands to disrupt the weekly protest. Protesters suffered broken bones, knife wounds and beatings. Several women were severely beaten and violently groped; armed attackers attempted to forcibly strip off the women’s clothing. The activists, who work with the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, report that their attackers were organized and paid by government security forces who used the un-uniformed men to avoid accountability for the violence. 
As feminists, we strongly condemn assaults against peaceful protesters and the specifically gender-based violence against women. As in so many of our countries, the use of sexual violence against Iraqi women is designed to terrorize, shame and silence those women who dare to exercise their fundamental rights as citizens and raise political demands in the public sphere.  We stand with our sisters who exercise their rights to political participation and dissent.
Today’s attacks represent a noted escalation of violence against protesters in Iraq as well as a crime and a fundamental violation of human rights. We call on the government to uphold its obligations to guarantee freedom of peaceful assembly and to respond to the demands of demonstrators.

It's not from that time period.  It's from June 2011.  (And the organization issuing the statement supporting Iraqi protesters is Defending Women, Defending Our Rights.)  That's what Iraqi women had to face to take part in the protests.  They were assaulted.  Iraqi women and men were kidnapped and beaten by the security forces.  One of those beaten and kidnapped by the security forces (the security forces that Nouri al-Maliki -- prime minister and chief thug -- commands) was journalist Haidi al-Mahdi. 

NPR's Kelly McEvers interviewed him for Morning Edition after he had been released and she noted he had been "beaten in the leg, eyes, and head." He explained that he was accused of attempting to "topple" Nouri al-Maliki's government -- accused by the soldiers under Nouri al-Maliki, the soldiers who beat him.  Excerpt:
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.

Hadi was only one person tortured.  He was a journalist, he was an activist.  Was.  From the September 8, 2011 snapshot:

In Iraq, a journalist has been murdered.  In addition to being a journalist, he was also a leader of change and part of the movement to create an Iraq that was responsive to Iraqis. 
Al Mada reports Iraqi journalist Hadi al-Mahdi is dead according to an Interior Ministry source who says police discovered him murdered in his Baghdad home.  Along with being a journalist, Al Mada notes he was one of the chief organizers of the demonstrations demanding change and service reform that began on February 25th -- the day he was arrested by Iraqi security forces and beaten in broad daylight as he and others, after the February 25th protest, were eating in a restaurant. The New York Times didn't want to tell you about, the Washington Post did.  And now the man is dead. Gee, which paper has the archives that matter to any real degree.  Maybe it's time to act like a newspaper and not a "news magazine" with pithy little human interest stories?  (That is not a dig at Tim Arango but at the paper's diva male 'reporter' who went on NPR to talk of an Iraqi college this week.)  So while the Times missed the story (actaully, they misled on the story -- cowtowing to Nouri as usual),  Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reported:
Four journalists who had been released described being rounded up well after they had left a protest at Baghdad's Tahrir Square. They said they were handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten and threatened with execution by soldiers from an army intelligence unit.
"It was like they were dealing with a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives, not a group of journalists," said Hussam al-Ssairi, a journalist and poet, who was among a group and described seeing hundreds of protesters in black hoods at the detention facility. "Yesterday was like a test, like a picture of the new democracy in Iraq."
You'll never convince me Nouri al-Maliki wasn't behind the assassination of Hadi.  It's been over two years now and Hadi's killer's never been found.  Yet earlier this week, you saw an intelligence officer killed and today's news cycle was the government bragging that they had caught the murderer.  In Nouri's Iraq, the police 'catch' who they want to.

Despite the above and so much more, Iraqis continue to protest.  This despite numerous attempts by Nouri and his forces to stop them.  January 25th, Nouri's forces began shooting at Falluja protesters -- the death toll would reach eleven.  That didn't stop the protests.  They call it the Iraqi Spring and they protest despite the fact that so much risk is involved in protesting in Iraq.  Al Mada notes that yesterday was day sixty of the protests and that Anbar Province demonstrators are calling for the tribal leaders to stand with them.  In recent days, Nouri's Tigris Operation Command has attempted to intimidate the tribal leaders. Baquba protesters say they are prepared to continue protesting but that they are fearful of what Nouri's Tigris Operation Command forces will do them.

Anadolu Agency reports today, "UN Special Representative Martin Kobler headed to Falluja in order to discuss the demands of Iraqi protestors."  He's met with protesters elsewhere in Iraq already.  Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) offers this take on the protests:

The Maliki government has repeatedly claimed it is “considering” the protesters demands, but its only visible actions have been military moves to stall protests and public threats against the protesters.
Leaders say if there is not action soon they will hold a full scale march on Baghdad, aimed at grinding government operations to a halt and forcing parliament to follow through on calls for early elections.

Among the demands protesters have made is calling for, the release of innocents who have been disappeared into the 'justice' system.  Article IX  of the Constitution is a problem as well because it adds to innocents arrested by allowing you to be arrested merely for being related to a suspect -- you can be the mother of someone suspected of a crime and be arrested because you're the mother (or father, brother, sister, child, grandparent, etc).  Dar Addustour reports that the Ministry of the Interior is bragging that they have released 1077 people accused of 'terrorism.'  If you're thinking, "1077?  That seems smaller than the numbers a gullible western press was pimping a few weeks back," you're not wrong.

3,000 was the claim in early February.  But thing was, the provinces were asking, "Where are these people?"  Because they weren't seeing a huge influx returning.  And then the provinces began demanding that  the Ministry provide a list of names of the released which the Ministry refused to do earlier.  Dar Addustour publishes the list (PDF format) here and here.  Once a list was provided, the numbers dropped, didn't they?

Because when no proof is required Nouri can -- and will -- say anything.   Al Mada notes that the 1077 are released.  There are others that are 'transferred' and being considered for release.  Nouri's laughable committee -- headed by the joke that is Hussain al-Shahristani -- is claiming higher numbers but refusing to release a list of names saying that will come later.

Is it a promise?  Like when Nouri promised to honor The Erbil Agreement?  Or like when Nouri promised in Feb. 2011 that if protesters stopped protesting and gave him 100 days, he would meet their demands?  Nouri never honored The Erbil Agreement and he never met the protesters demands.  So promises from his flunky al-Shahristani aren't worth anything.

But Iraqis continue to rally.  Iraqi Spring Media Center posts this video of the protest tonight in Samarra.   And here's an Iraqi Spring Media Center of the protest today in Mosul

With all they've faced -- including the illegal US war -- Iraqis still take to the street to make their voices heard.  Al Mada reports that activists in Anbar Province and Diyala Province are being watched and followed by Nouri's security forces.  Generally, this is to intimidate.  But this can also be where -- as happened during the 2011 protests -- Iraqis start disappearing. Members of Nouri's own Cabinet, it's worth remembering, have stated Nouri has the technology to listen in on cell phones and that he often does.

Still on Anbar Province, Al Rafidayn reports that the provincial council has sent out a distress call for international medical and humanitarian agencies asking for help in handling the issue of the increased birth defects in Falluja which have only increased and become even more alarming in the last six months.  Deputy Chair of the Provincial Council Saadoun Obeid al-Shalan states that they have appealed to the Council of Ministers and to the Ministry of Health and Human Rights for years now but nothing is being done so now they are calling on the European Union countries and the United Nations and other children, medical and humanitarian organizations to come to Falluja and help address the problem.  You'll note the US is left out.  There's a reason for that.  As he explains, the white phosphorus and other weapons the US forces used on Falluja in 2004 and 2005 are said to be responsible for the birth defects.  The article states Falluja couples are becoming afraid to have children due to the huge number of birth defects the region is experiencing.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, Alsumaria reports, children are working on the streets and in the factories and child labor is on the rise in the capital.  The estimate is at least 1500 children are working in Baghdad.  This is a result of the lack of subsidies and sufficient subsidies for widows and orphans and families in general.  Iraq is a land of orphans and widows as a result of the Iraq War.

Supposedly the political scene's about to get more complicated. From Tuesday:

As messy as the ongoing violence is the political situation.  Last week, the President of the Federal Court, Medhat al-Mahmoud, was judged a Ba'athist and removed from office and Nouri named a successor.  Today Alsumaria is reporting that the decree of Ba'athist has been revoked by a panel according to the Justice and Accountability's Deputy Chair Bakhtiar Omar al-Qadhi.  Kitabat reports that Nouri pressured the committee to overturn the decision.    The Iraq Times notes that al-Mahmoud was given 25,000 squre meters of land by Nouri who cited the judge's efforts of government service when making the gift (on behalf of the Iraqi people -- it was their land, not Nouri's).  The article also notes that al-Mahmoud was originally selected for his postion by Paul Bremer who was the Bwana or viceroy over Iraq in the initial stages of the war.  All Iraq News quotes a statement that Nouri issued declaring that the Justice and Accountability Commission has no documents backing up the accusation that al-Mahmoud is Ba'athist.
If you can follow the back-and-forth of 'He's a Ba'athist/No, he's not' decrees, let's move into the issue of the body itself.  The head of the Justice and Accountability Commission was Falah Shanshal.  Then Nouri fired him at the start of the week.   As Wael Grace (Al Mada) reports, Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi has made him the head of the commission again and stated that Nouri didn't have the power to fire him (and replace him with a member of Dawa -- Nouri's political party).   All Iraq News reports that other members of the commission are blocking Shanshal from assuming his position as head of the Committee.  Can you follow the various developments regarding the Justice and Accountability Commission?  All Iraq News offers this back and forth of various people making claims and counter-claims.  On the issue of 'justice,' Alsumaria reports Iraqiya MP Haider Mulla is decrying the fact that arrest warrants are being issued by State of Law MPs and not by judges -- he states this backs up claims that the judiciary has been politicized.

Al Monitor's covering the above today but Ali Abel Sadah sees this as bad news for al-Nujaifi:

Following an attempt by Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi to restore the dismissed head of the Justice and Accountability Committee to his post, in a clear challenge to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Maliki’s supporters are seeking to oust Nujaifi. 
Nujaifi recently ordered that Falah Shanshal resume his position as the head of the Justice and Accountability Committee, a day after his dismissal by Maliki.
Al-Monitor was able to secure a copy of an official press statement titled “Directive” in which Nujaifi stated that the “election of Shanshal and his deputy Bakhtiar Omar by the members of the Justice and Accountability Committee was legal. The committee is exclusively associated with the parliament.”
Maliki and Nujaifi have been fighting over the power to supervise independent committees including the Judicial Council, the Justice and Accountability Committee, the Electoral Committee and the Human Rights Committee.

Nouri's a member of the Dawa political party.  He's a Shi'ite and he formed his own political slate after becoming prime minister, refusing to run with Dawa (which in 2010 floated balloons about kicking him out) and instead he created State of Law.  That political slate came in second in the parliamentary elections of 2010 to Iraqiya which is headed by Ayad Allawi.  Like al-Maliki, Allawi is Shi'ite.  Osama al-Nujaifi is Sunni (as his brother Atheel, the Governor of Nineveh Province).  He belongs to Iraqiya.  The two are political rivals.  Nouri has yet to try arrest warrants on al-Nujaifi but his State of Law has repeatedly stated they were voting him out of office.  That includes last week.  They didn't have the votes.  It's very unlikely that they'll have the votes now.  Nouri's hugely unpopular. 

In the only potentially good news of politicians this week, Al Mada reported earlier that the President's Office has issued a statement proclaiming President Jalal Talabani is responding to treatments and exercises from the German medical team that has been treating him since his stroke in December.  Alsumaria covers the announcement here.  Late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot), Jalal Talabani had a stroke and was admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently. [Saad Abedine (CNN) reported talk that it was a stroke the day the news broke (December 18th) and January 9th, the Office of President Talabani confirmed it had been a stroke.] Talabani was seen by some as a calm voice and one of the few able to restrain Nouri in any way.