Starting with issues of cultural heritage. At the start of the month, the Washington Post reported on the Jewish archives the US rescued from Iraq in May 2003. The material was badly damaged and in need of restoring:
The material, found when U.S. troops invaded Iraq a decade ago, includes a 400-year-old Hebrew Bible and a 200-year-old Talmud from Vienna. There is also a small, hand-inked 1902 Passover Haggada, a colorful 1930 prayer book in French and a beautifully printed collection of sermons by a rabbi made in Germany in 1692.
The attention on the topic is due to the upcoming National Archives event. May 16th the National Archives (in the US) issued the following:
Washington, DC…On Friday, October 11, 2013, the National Archives will unveil a new exhibition, “Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage.” The exhibit details the dramatic recovery of historic materials relating to the Jewish community in Iraq from a flooded basement in Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters, and the National Archives’ ongoing work in support of U.S. Government efforts to preserve these materials. Located in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, “Discovery and Recovery” is free and open to the public and runs through January 5, 2014.
In both English and Arabic, the 2,000 square foot exhibit features 24 recovered items and a “behind the scenes” video of the fascinating yet painstaking preservation process. This exhibit marks the first time these items have been on public display.
BackgroundOn May 6, 2003, just days after the Coalition forces took over Baghdad, 16 American soldiers from Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, a group assigned to search for nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, entered Saddam Hussein’s flooded intelligence building. In the basement, under four feet of water, they found thousands of books and documents relating to the Jewish community of Iraq – materials that had belonged to synagogues and Jewish organizations in Baghdad.
The water-logged materials quickly became moldy in Baghdad’s intense heat and humidity. Seeking guidance, the Coalition Provisional Authority placed an urgent call to the nation’s foremost conservation experts at the National Archives. Just a week later, National Archives Director of Preservation Programs Doris Hamburg and Conservation Chief Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler arrived in Baghdad via military transport to assess the damage and make recommendations for preservation of the materials. Both experts share this extraordinary story and take you “behind the scenes” in this brief video [http://tinyurl.com/IraqiJA]. This video is in the public domain and not subject to any copyright restrictions. The National Archives encourages its use and free distribution.
Given limited treatment options in Baghdad, and with the agreement of Iraqi representatives, the materials were shipped to the United States for preservation and exhibition. Since then, these materials have been vacuum freeze-dried, preserved and photographed under the direction of the National Archives. The collection includes more than 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents in Hebrew, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and English, dating from 1540 to the 1970s. A special website to launch this fall will make these historic materials freely available to all online as they are digitized and catalogued. This work was made possible through the assistance of the Department of State, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Center for Jewish History.
The Jews of Iraq have a rich past, extending back to Babylonia. These materials provide a tangible link to this community that flourished there, but in the second half of the twentieth century dispersed throughout the world. Today, fewer than five Jews remain.
Display highlights include:
- A Hebrew Bible with Commentaries from 1568 – one of the oldest books in the trove;
- A Babylonian Talmud from 1793;
- A Torah scroll fragment from Genesis - one of the 48 Torah scroll fragments found;
- A Zohar from 1815 – a text for the mystical and spiritual Jewish movement known as “Kabbalah”;
- An official 1918 letter to the Chief Rabbi regarding the allotment of sheep for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year);
- Materials from Jewish schools in Baghdad, including exam grades and a letter to the College Entrance Examination Board in Princeton regarding SAT scores;
- A Haggadah (Passover script) from 1902, hand lettered and decorated by an Iraqi Jewish youth ; and
- A lunar calendar in both Hebrew and Arabic from the Jewish year 5732 (1972-1973) - one of the last examples of Hebrew printed items produced in Baghdad.
The plan is to exhibit the material and then send it to Iraq. Not return it because there's no way to return it. Who would you return it to? To the Iraqi government which spied on the Jews and stole this material? No, that government's history.
Why would you return them to Nouri's government? Where are the Jews in Iraq?
This is their property and their cultural heritage. We've made that argument here for years. It upsets some. Tough. That is not "Iraqi" property. It is Jewish property. The Jews have fled Iraq or been killed off in Iraq since 2003. You allow a people to be targeted and you think you have a right to their cultural heritage?
No, you damn well don't. The field of anthropology doesn't support this. The social sciences do not support this. A government does not own a group's cultural heritage. The material should be forwarded on to Israel. That county has a very good record of taking in the Iraqi Jews who have fled both in the last ten years and in earlier waves of Iraqi Jews fleeing for safety.
Earlier this month, Sandy Rashty (Jewish Community) reported on a growing objection to the US government handing the trove over to the Iraqi government:
Harold Rhode, who worked as an analyst for the Pentagon for 28 years, is incensed by the decision after he risked his life to recover the artefacts from Saddam’s secret police.
The 63-year-old said: “It’s a mistake. It’s like the police who come up with something and then decide to give it back to the thief.
“The artefacts do not belong to the Iraqi authorities who stole it from the Jewish community, who had lived there for over 2,500 years.”
Ben Cohen (JNS) offers a history of the Iraqi governments mistreating the internal Jewish population for decades and notes:
The archive of books, photographs, scrolls, writings and communal documents, including one item that dates back to 1658, was discovered by American troops in Baghdad in 2003, as they combed through the flooded basement in the headquarters of Saddam Hussein’s much-feared mukhabarat, or secret police. Lyn Julius, a London-based writer and advocate on behalf of Jewish communities from the Arab world, has noted that the archive was seized by Saddam’s henchmen from the Bataween synagogue in Baghdad, in 1984. If the archive was stolen from its Jewish guardians at gunpoint, why on earth would the State Department, which has spent millions of dollars lovingly restoring its contents, return it to the Iraqi government? Simply because that government has suddenly decided that the archive constitutes, as one Iraqi representative put it, “part of our identity and history”? Or because the U.S. feels duty bound to respect an agreement it made at the time to return the archive?
Julius and other advocates on behalf of Iraqi Jews make a strong case that returning the archive essentially involves restoring stolen property to those who stole it. Instead, they say, the archive should sit with its rightful owners themselves, the close-knit Iraqi Jewish communities spread around Israel and the countries of the West.
This would be theft and the US would be aiding in theft if it were to hand over the trove to the Iraqi government. They have no cultural or legal right to the trove. Government theft of property does not give the government a legal right to the property, it just indicates how out of control a government is and how victimized a people are.
Cultural betrayal cannot be supported by the world community. But it has been. In the US, there has been a strong reluctance to call out the abuse of the social sciences by the US government. We're talking about the military's Human Terrain System which maintains its mission is:
The Human Terrain System develops, trains, and integrates a social science based research and analysis capability to support operationally relevant decision-making, to develop a knowledge base, and to enable sociocultural understanding across the operational environment.
No, what they did was war on a native people, they are the trash betraying their training and their field, bringing dishonor to academia. Tom Hayden's called this out and David Price has repeatedly. We first called it out in December of 2006 (see "When Dumb Ass met Dumb Ass").
The field of anthropology is not to learn about a people in order to attack and harm them. To participate in counter-insurgency should result in someone losing their professional accreditation. Instead, the only 'harm' has been one woman telling George Packer that her work has resulted in her being shunned at cocktail parties.
Tom Hayden noted:
The new doctrine was jointly developed with academics at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard. The Carr Center's Sarah Sewell, a former Pentagon official, co-sponsored with Petraeus the official "doctrine revision workshop" that produced the new Army-Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual [U.S. Army Field Manual No. 3-24, Marine Corps Warfighting Publication No. 3-33.5, 2007]. The workshop was held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, onFeb. 23-24, 2006, and can be accessed here.
This is not an academic text but, in the Marine Corps' title, a "warfighting doctrine", complete with hundreds of recommendations ranging from how to "clear, hold and build", how to use secret agents in calling in air strikes, even advice on public speaking ["avoid pacing, writing on the blackboard, teetering on the lectern, drinking beverages, or doing any other distracting activity while the interpreter is translating."
The new counter-insurgency approach purports to be more civilized and humane than conventional kinetic war. It seeks to save the population ["winning hearts and minds"] from the insurgents. It attempts to minimize civilian casualties and avoid torture of detainees. It promotes social programs. These no doubt were the attractions of the collaboration for Harvard's "humanitarian hawks". The introduction to the Manual is thoughtful and balanced, even raising questions whether the effort can work at all. She tastefully avoids any references to the brutal though targeted suppression necessary for the mission to succeed, [. . .]
Again, David Price (Concerned Anthropologists) has repeatedly called this betrayal out. Here is one example of him doing so at CounterPunch in 2009:
Like a mad scientist’s slime monster that will not die in a 1950s B Movie, the Human Terrain System’s counterinsurgency teams not only somehow remains alive in the face of extensive devastating criticism, but the program’s existence remains firmly publicly boosted by a seemingly endless series of uncritical mainstream news and features stories that frame the program as America’s last best hope to win the hearts and minds of the occupied peoples of Iraq and increasingly Afghanistan. If this were a B monster movie, such prolonged survival would be due to remarkable adaptive abilities, but Human Terrain has no such extraordinary power; its success has been guaranteed by the support it receives from the corporate media as it fawns over HTS in a flurry of glowing formulaic profiles ignoring the program’s fatal flaws. If this were a 1950’s B monster movie, this situation would like finding those we depend on to open fire on the monster shooting blanks (and feeding it table scraps) while abundant cases of live ammo lay at their feet.
The Human Terrain program embeds social scientists, such as anthropologists, with troops operating in battle theatre settings as members of Human Terrain Teams. These teams are part of counterinsurgency operations designed provide military personnel with cultural information that will help inform troop activities in areas of occupation. Since the first public acknowledgement of HTS two and a half years ago, it has been criticized by anthropologists for betraying fundamental principles of anthropological ethics, as being politically aligned with neo-colonialism, and as being ineffective in meeting its claimed outcomes. For the most part, the mainstream media has acted as cheerleaders for the program by producing a seemingly endless series of uncritical features highlighting what they frame as kind hearted individuals trying to use their knowledge of culture to save lives; while misrepresenting the reasons and extent of criticism of the Human Terrain program.
Slowly, criticism has somewhat emerged in the press this year. In February, Tom Vanden Brook (USA Today) reported US House Rep Duncan Hunter was calling out the program in a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh, maintaining that the military had lost control of the program and was unable to effectively oversee it. Also in February, Tom Vanden Brooks reported:
A 2010 Army investigation shows the program was plagued by severe problems, including:
- Team members were encouraged to maximize their pay and comp time by inflating time sheets.
- Allegations of sexual harassment and racism were made against the government contractors who recruited and trained Human Terrain teams and a soldier who worked in the program.
- The program relied on unaccountable contractors and inadequate government oversight.
And many commanders deemed worthless — or worse — the reports the teams produced. In one case, the commander of a brigade combat team in Iraq told the Army investigator that he "relied very little on his (Human Terrain team) and viewed them as incapable and of little value. He never looked at his team's products and believed their survey efforts actually created anxiety among the local Iraqi populace."
[. . .]
In one case, a team member with military experience made a statement under oath that the training staff at Fort Leavenworth was overwhelmed and that problems, including sexual harassment, flowed from bad leadership.
"Teams were hurriedly deployed to Iraq and subsequently without exception failed either as a team or in the quality of the product delivered," the statement said. "This atmosphere was reflected in the staff's struggles in dealing with the continuous deluge of unqualified students and severe personnel issues. ... This gross lack of leadership and oversight sowed the seeds for the chaos and malfeasance to come."
One of those leaders, according to the statement, was "one of the worst misogynists I have ever encountered in my career." Sexual innuendo was commonplace, the official wrote. "One woman upon giving (the trainer) a goodbye hug and peck on the cheek received the comment, 'How about a little tongue with that next time.' "
This week Tom Vanden Brook continues to cover the scandals with the program:
Several former and current members of the program told investigators and the paper, on condition of anonymity, that they regularly filed for hours they didn't work, taking home more than $200,000 a year and months of comp time for little effort. The Army's internal investigation showed that supervisors directed team members to claim the maximum amount of overtime and comp time possible, earning them salaries topping $280,000 and entitling them to six months paid leave upon returning to the United States.
By contrast, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel earns a salary of about $200,000.
Are we really surprised that the program is plagued with theft, sexism and racism? These are people who can't live up to the ethics of their own field. Why hasn't the program already been shut down? Maybe because people like Sarah Sewall support it. That trash bragged on TV about being able to put words into Barack Obama's mouth (see Ava and my "TV: Charlie Rose by any other name would still be as bad") and today she serves on the Secretary of Defense's Defense Policy Board. She also wrote the introduction to the military's counter-insurgency manual.
What's that stink?
Oh, it's the Samantha Power drifting from between someone's knees. The Problem From Hell Samantha Power blurbed the counter-insurgency manual. Today the War Hawk Tweets:
Sammy will have her war if it kills her. World Bulletin reports, "A mortar shell hit the Iraqi consulate in the Syrian capital Damascus on Thursday, killing an Iraqi woman and wounding four other people, witnesses said. State news agency SANA quoted a source at the consulate as saying the shell had also damaged the building." If the embassy was the intended target, the attacker was not the Syrian government or army. It was Barack's beloved 'rebels' (al Qaeda). The Iraqi government has repeatedly stated that a military action would not help Syria and would harm Iraq. Just today, prior to the attack, Alsumaria reported Nouri al-Maliki was again stressing the military was not an answer to Syria's crisis, that a diplomatic solution was necessary. Bob Dreyfuss (The Nation) observes:
[. . .] yesterday Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, warned that Iraq opposes arming the Syrian rebels.
Zebari’s warning comes as The New York Times reports that a big chunk of the so-called “moderate” Islamist rebels inside Syria formally broke ties with the phony, US-backed National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. That decision vastly complicates President Obama’s ability to lobby on behalf of the Syrian opposition. Recognizing the problem, a US official told the Times, using circular reasoning, that the United States has “extreme concerns about extremists.”
During an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, Zebari endorsed the US-Russian effort to reach an accord on Syria’s chemical weapons, and he called for a “peaceful settlement” of the Syrian civil war. There is, he said, “no hope of military victory” for either side. But, in a message clearly aimed not only at the United States but at Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, Zebari said: “We oppose providing military assistance to any [Syrian] rebel groups.”
When the US Ambassador to the United Nations isn't screaming for war on Syria, she's still trying to destroy Iraq. The White House released the following:
The White House
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release
September 25, 2013
Readout of Vice President Biden’s Meeting with Vice President Khudheir Al-Khuzaie of IraqVice President Biden met in New York today with Iraqi Vice President Khudheir Al-Khuzaie. The two discussed a wide range of bilateral and regional issues. Vice President Biden praised Vice President Khuzaie's national dialogue initiative. They discussed efforts by Iraqi leaders to reach agreement on important outstanding issues, including the passage of a new election law. Vice President Biden offered his condolences for the families of Iraqis killed in recent terror attacks and reaffirmed America's commitment to support Iraq in the shared fight against terrorism under the Strategic Framework Agreement. They also discussed Iraq's ongoing initiatives to strengthen relations with its Arab neighbors and Turkey.
The meeting included United States Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
For some reason, Stinky Power didn't Tweet about that. Maybe she was being fumigated?
That must have been an interesting conversation. Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister and chief thug of Iraq, is the one leading the objection to the election law. The western press has refused to cover the story. Among other things, Nouri and his supporters are insisting that his term be extended for eight months (which means delaying the elections).
Why does Nouri insist he needs an eight month extension? Because parliamentary elections last took place in March 2010. Normally, the prime minister-designate would be named by April 2010. But Nouri wasn't named prime minister until November 2010. For this reason, Nouri insists his term be extended eight months.
Now the reality is that in March 2010, Nouri's State of Law came in second to Iraqiya. That meant the prime minister-designate should have been Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi.
Nouri demanded a recount. He got it. Iraqiya still came in first. So Nouri refused to step down, dug in his heels and created an eight month political stalemate that was only ended by the US-brokered Erbil Agreement which said 'screw the Iraqi people and their votes, screw the Iraqi Constitution and screw democracy, let's just give Nouri a second term.'
So having gotten a second term he did not earn, he now wants to insist on eight more months.
Cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr's the one leading the push for Parliament to pass the election law on the Shi'ite side (in Iraq, the law is passed before each election or the elections are not held). And the one saying no? Members of Nouri's political slate (State of Law) and Nouri's political party (Dawa). Guess what group Khudheir Al-Khuzaie? Right. All Iraq News reports that the vote on the election law did not take place today and was postponed until Monday. Alsumaria quotes an unnamed source stating that there are disagreements about the electoral system and the quota system.
Let's turn to the topic of the economy in Iraq. Unemployment remains high. Yet World Bulletin reports, "The number of workers sent abroad by Turkish Labor Agency (ISKUR) reached 38.061 in 2013's January-August, 11,054 employed in Iraq, where Turkish construction business took in charge of 114 projects. The number of workers sent to Iraq increased 12 % in the first eight months of 2013 and reached 11,054 where the number was 8,854 in 2012's same period, statistics of ISKUR said." As workers continued to be imported into Iraq (from Turkey, India, the Philippines, etc.), Dar Addustour reports 80 workers are about to be put out of work. An al-Muthanna market is being shut down to be replaced by a mosque. In one of the few smart moves Nouri has made, Dar Addustour reports a new program which will allow military doctors who served under Saddam Hussein to return to work if they want to. That's good news. There is a severe shortage of doctors and nurses in Iraq.
Turning to the never ending topic of violence, NINA reports a Mosul car bombing claimed the lives of 3 soldiers and left another injured, 2 corpses were discovered in Hatra (1 Iraqi soldier, 1 police officer), a Mosul shooting left four Iraqi soldiers injured, another Mosul shooting claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier, an Albo Obaid car bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Kirkuk home bombing claimed 1 life and left another person injured, a Ramadi sticky bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer, a Tikrit roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left two more injured, a Shirqat roadside bombing left 3 Sahwa dead, a clash between rebels and al Qaeda in Hawija left 2 al Qaeda dead, a Zaidan sticky bombing left 1 person dead and another injured, and a Baghdad's Sab'a Buor bombing has left 11 people dead and forty-seven injured. In addition to that last Baghdad bombing, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) notes a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 7 lives and left fifteen injured. Tawfeeq also notes, "Separately Thursday, gunmen fatally shot the principal of the Nablis school for girls outside her home in eastern Mosul, police said." Mu Xuequan (Xinhua) reports, "In addition, Ahmed al-Dhiyabi, governor of Iraq's western province of Anbar, escaped unharmed a roadside bomb explosion near his convoy on a highway in the provincial capital city of Ramadi, some 110 km west of Baghdad, a provincial police source said, adding that two of Dhiyabi's bodyguards were wounded by the blast." Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count counts 987 violent deaths so far this month.
Related, Paul McLeary (Defense News) reports:
The government of Iraq continues to snap up American defense products, and is now adding advanced robots that American soldiers are currently using in combat to its arsenal.
On Sept. 26, robot maker QinetiQ North America announced that it had inked a $20 million deal with Baghdad to acquire its Talon IV ‘bot, a deal which the company says includes spares and training.
The company has already sold 4,000 variants of the Talon worldwide, and the ‘bot is designed for use with explosive ordnance disposal teams. Deliveries are expected to be completed to the Baghdad government by March 2014.
Alsumaria adds that the Kurdistan Regional Government has purchased 12 security helicopters from the United States. Saturday the KRG held provincial elections. Exit polling places the Kurdistan Democratic Party (led by KRG President Massoud Barzani) in the lead. The surprise from the polling is that the other dominant political party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, is no longer dominant. Second place, according to the exit polling, has gone to Gorran (Change). The Independent High Electoral Commission has still been unable to release the vote totals. Only three provinces voted. It shouldn't be that difficult. Here are some of the latest Tweets on the election:
The results are overdue. To the point that at least one person is mocking the IHEC in a Tweet.
In the United States, peace activist Cindy Sheehan is running for public office again, she's in the race for Governor of California. Today, her campaign has issued the following on her Democratic challenger (and current California governor) Jerry Brown:
End the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) Campaign
For Immediate Release by Cindy for Governor 2014
September 25, 2013
There is a deep disconnect in a state that spends over 60k per prisoner/year and less than 9k per K-12 student/year.
Below is a chart of spending on prisons and schools from California Budget Project (cpb.org):
California Gubernatorial Candidate with the Peace and Freedom Party Cindy Sheehan made this statement: “A Cindy Sheehan administration would make dramatically increasing funding for education and eliminating poverty in our state a high priority to reduce the future need for 33 state prisons with horrendous over-crowded conditions. But, in the short run, 44% of our current prison population has been deemed at no risk for recidivism and most of these inmates can be released with little to no harm to our communities instead of being forced into the scandal ridden ‘prison for profit’ system.”
Sheehan continued: “I want to live in a state where human need is elevated over corporate greed and I am the candidate who can accomplish that because my allegiance belongs to the people of this state and I will accept no campaign contributions from crooked corporations like GEO CORP or Corrections Corp of America.”
Cindy Sheehan can be reached at:
For more information on Cindy Sheehan’s EPIC (End Poverty in California; End (the use of) Petroleum in California) Campaign, go to the website:
Cindy Sheehan for Governor 2014
2124 Kittredge St, #104
Berkeley CA. 94704
Phone: (916) 905-5167
For more information on the Peace and Freedom Party go to the website:
the los angeles times
the washington post
tom vanden brooks
national iraqi news agency
all iraq news