Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, September 30, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Iraqi refugees forced out of Jordan, a 'turnover' takes place tomorrow, and more.
On the medical front, Jormana Karadsheh (CNN) reports that along with allowing Iraqi doctors to carry guns, Nouri al-Maliki's council also decreed that they cannot be "detained by police without Ministry of Health approval" and notes the International Committee of the Red Cross' March report (PDF format warning, click here) which stated over " 2,200 doctors and nurses have been killed and more than 250 kidnapped since 2003" and that there were "34,000 register doctors in 1990" but "at least 20,000 have left the country."  Karadsheh goes on to site the Iraqi government's figure of 8,000 having "left their jobs" (and "some fleeing the country") but "about 800 doctors have returned to their jobs".  The Iraqi government figures are bunk.  (Credit to Karadsheh for crediting the source on those figures -- other outlets present them as facts with no sourcing.) As noted in the  August 4th snapshot, Dr. Essan Namiq (Deputy Minister of Health for Grants and Loans) and Dr. Kahmees al-Sa'ad (Administrative deputy Minister of Health) held a press conference in the Green Zone August 3rd in which many fanciful claims were floated in which Dr. Essan Namiq declared that "more than 80% of the Iraqi doctors" had returned.  They just make up the numbers with whatever they think make looks them good and never worry about their own figures matching up at a later date with . . . their own figures.  80% of 8,000 is not 800. 
That's really what told on them immediately in the Myth of the Great Return -- they released a figure over the weekend and, by Monday, you had to add more zeros to the abusrd claim.  The myth started in the fall of 2007.  Fall is here again and it's time to make it appear the Iraqi refugee situation isn't all that bad . . . really.   The country's oil wealth allows them to call in favors.  Hani Hazaimeh (Jordan Times) reports that 74,000 barrels of oil were shipped to Jordan from Iraq "in the past 10 days" and quotes Jordan's Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources Khaldou Qteishat declaring, "The ministry is cooperating with its Iraqi counterpart to overcome several challenges in order to meet the daily target of 10,000 barrels as stipulated in the agreement, to be increased gradually to 30,000 barrels." The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates there are at least 4.7 million Iraqi refugees -- internal and external.  Of the over 2 million external refugees many are in Jordan or Syria (with some estimates of 700,000 in each country; others of 750,000 in Jordan and as many as 1.5 million in Syria).  But when Iraq buys you off on oil, you're happy to eject refugees.   IRIN reports, "The Iraqi embassy in Amman is organising the repatriation by planes of dozens of Iraqi families who wish to return home, despite warnings from UN agencies about the security situation.  Iraqi diplomats in Amman said they had charted a plane to repatriate the Iraqis later this week, during the Muslim holiday of Eid al Fitr.  Disabled people and the elderly will be among the Iraqis leaving in what, according to the Iraqi ambassador, will be the first official return by air to the homeland since the US-led invasion in 2003."  The disabled and the elderly.  The most vulnerable.  Sent back to the violence in Iraq.  China's Xinhua reports that 2 "busloads of Iraqis" have already been shipped out and that some on the buses "said they were forced to return due to difficult economic conditions in Jordan."  To be clear, Jordan turned a penny on the refugees long before the oil infusion.  Nicholas Seeley (Christian Science Monitor) reported at the start of July that while Jordan refused to allow the refugees to work and while they were dependent upon assistance, Jordan was spending aid money for the refugees: "In 2007, 61 percent of UNHCR's operational budget was given directly to Jordan, along with millions of bilateral aid from the European Community and the United States" "a large portion of the aid . . . has gone to address Jordan's own urgent national priorities."  Turning a profit from human misery, that's all it was.  Meanwhile the UNHCR set up tents for Ramadan in Amman, "For the second straight year, the UN refugee agency has provided iftar to needy Iraqis and Jordanians during the month of Ramadan, which ends on Tuesday.  Muslims believe that feeding someone iftar (the evening meal during Ramadan) as a form of charity is very rewarding."  It's apparently a thought passed over the Jordanian government -- which represent a citizenry that is 94% Muslim. 

External refugees that return frequently become internal refugees.  That's due to the fact that (a) they left the region due to violence and threats and (b) their former homes are often occupied.  The Institute for War and Peace Reporting's Zaineb Naji (via Kansas City Star) states that Iraq's internatl refugees are not registering (72,000 have registerd to vote in what may (or may not) be upcoming provincial elections, "just 2.6 per cent of the total figure for those uprooted by the conflict") and reminds, "According to a report in July by the International Organisation for Migration, IOM, IDPs do not have adequate shelter or access to drinking water, food, health care, education and electricity. Many are squatting in public buildings, mud huts, or in houses abandoned by other families. The latter is a widespread problem preventing many IDPs from returning home. Surveys have shown that more than 60 per cent of the displaced want to go back to their towns and villages."
Meanwhile, the New York Times' Erica Goode (at the paper's blog, Baghdad Bureau Blog) writes of spending the night at the home of an Iraqi friend which required her to wear a a black abaya and hijab and climb a darkened staircase to ensure that no neighbors grasped an American visiting.  In the apartment with her friend, her friend's husband and the couple's three-year-old daughter on a 114 degree day, they saw frequent 15 minute burst of electricity (apparently making up -- when combined -- the few hours of electricity outside the Green Zone Baghdad sees each day): "The electricity shortage, they said, is a problem not just for comfort but for the refrigerator in the bedroom, which goes off and on all day, making it difficult to store food.  The water in the sink and shower, too, is unpredicatble, sometimes working, sometimes not. . . .  We drank fruit juice and bottled war -- even when there is tap water, it is not potable."  And that's Baghdad (outside the Green Zone), not a distant province in the country.  Five years after the start of the illegal war, that's life in Baghdad.  An Iraqi correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers reports (at Inside Iraq) on taking a taxi through the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad: "Meanwhile, we saw graffiti on the walls. 'There is no place for betrayers in the Islamic State of Iraq,' someone had spray painted on one wall.  The saying refers to the Islamic state, a front for a Qaida in Iraq."
Moving to the the oil-rich northern region, Anna Fifield (Financial Times of London) reports that Ibril is the 'hot spot' in the Kurdistan region of Iraq where "prices have almost doubled in the past two years and are still climbing" in the "English village -- complete with cul-de-sacs lined with identical two-storey houses, garden gnomes on front lawns and Range Rovers in driveways". A British investor, Russell Jones, raves, "There is an enormous amount of free money here being kept under people's mattresses."  It helps to have name oil and, of course, name lobbyists to advocate for you.  But in Baghdad?  Corinne Reilly (McClatchy Newspapers) notes, "Dumped bodies are once again appearing along Baghdad's streets. Two years ago, Iraqi police recovered an average of 50 bodies a day across the capital, most of them shot in the head with their hands tied behind their backs. By this summer, the bodies had all but disappeared, but this month, they began to show up again, usually one or two a day."  The corpse count climbs as a 'handover' approaches.  The US military is due to hand the "Awakening" Council members over to the puppet government in Baghdad.  Pakistan's Daily Times reports: "The US military will this week begin handing over control of 100,000 Sunni anti-Qaeda fighters to Iraq's Shiite-led government, a move that risks undermining hard-earned security gains.  The Iraqi government and the US military have agreed in principle to the transfer of responsibility of all 'Sons of Iraq' from October 1, beginning with 54,000 men in the province of Baghdad. . . . Iraq will start paying the salaries of Sahwa men in Baghdad -- a monthly bill of around 15 million dollars -- from November 10, Major General Jeffery Hammond, commander of US forces in the Iraqi capital, told reporters."  This transfer will come at a time when unemployment is already a big issue around the country.  Corrine Reilly (McClatchy) notes
"most approximations put unemployment across Iraq at between 30 percent and 60 percent. . . Iraqi and American officials agree, the country's soaring unemployment rate must come down.  They say that if more Iraqis don't find work soon, people here will pay the cost in blood. . . . The link between unemployment and bloodshed is in especially sharp focus right now, as the U.S. military prepares to hand authority over the Sons of Iraq to the Iraqi government. . . . If the government fails to pay the Sons of Iraq and they don't find other employment, many fear the former insurgents will turn back to violence." 
Returning to the issue of provincial elections, eNews 2.0 offers "Iraq's unity threatened by lack of minority quota" which explains that the bill that passed the Iraqi Parliament on provincial elections last week continues to be a source of scorn -- specifically for failing to provide "a clause that defines the quota of minorities in provincial councils" and Ageel Abdel-Hussein of Moqtada al-Sadr's movement states, "Minorities should be given their rights in the provincial councils to contribute to the building of the Iraqi state." The write-up also informs that in Nineveh Province, Iraqi Christians protested Sunday in numbers exceeding 5,000.

The bill will be nixed or approved by the Iraqi presidency council made up of the president and Iraq's two vice presidents. Iraq's president is Jalal Talabani and The Jordan Times reports that he returned to Iraq Monday after spending "nearly two months in the United Sates for medical treatment" (not noted in the article was his wife, Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, visiting Los Angeles in attempt to find a distributor for her film Saturday) and that he is stating the treaty between the US and the puppet government (wrongly called a SOFA) must go through.
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad car bombing that claimed 4 lives (with nine people wounded) and a Diyala Province roadside bombing that targeted the Kudristan Democratic Party's Jamal al Sayd Khalili who was wounded in the bombing.

Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two police officers wounded in a Mosul shooting. 
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 2 corpses discovered in Baghdad.  Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul yesterday.
Today the US military announces: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier died of wounds at approximately 12:45 p.m. at a Coalition force's Combat Support Hospital Sept. 30.  The Soldier was wounded when his patrol came under small-arms fire in northern Baghdad at approximately 12:15.  The Soldier was medically evacuated by air to the medical facility, however, the Soldier later succumbed to the wounds.  The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and official release by the Department of Defense."  The announcement brings to 4176 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war with 25 announced for the month thus far.  That is one shy of the July figure (13) which was trumpeted as 'big news' and yet another 'turned corner.'   It is two more than the number of deaths for August (23).
Meanwhile, Reuters notes, "Defense Secretary Robert Gates predicted on Monday that growth in U.S. military spending would level off in the coming years but not face severe cutbacks, despite the current economic crisis." No surprise there.  Chalmers Johnson (at The Asia Times) explains, "On Wednesday, September 24, right in the middle of the fight over billions of taxpayer dollars slated to bail out Wall Street, the House of Representatives passed a $612 billion defense authorization bill for 2009 without a murmur of public protest or any meaningful press comment at all. (The New York Times gave the matter only three short paragraphs buried in a story about another appropriations measure.)  The defense bill includes $68.6 billion to pursue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is only a down payment on the full yearly cost of these wars. (The rest will be raised through future supplementary bills.) It also included a 3.9% pay raise for military personnel, and $5 billion in pork-barrel projects not even requested by the administration or Secretary of Defense Robert Gates."  Meanwhile Joseph Gerth (Kentucky Courier-Journal) reports on a state poll which found "54 percent of Kentuckians support the U.S. presence in Iraq, and 62 percent favor the U.S. presence in Afghanistan."
Turning to the US presidential race.  Sunday on CBS' 60 Minutes (link has text and video), the US top commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, explained to Lesley Stahl that he doesn't vote and why: "I will say this.  I made a decision when I got promoted to colonel that I would not longer vote in national elections because I feel it's my job to serve the commander-in-chief.  So I have not voted.  Probably a bad American for not voting, but I made that decision because of the position that I have."  Voting or not voting is a personal decision.  So is taking accountability which the Democratic presidential nominee cannot apparently do still.  CBS News' Maria Gavrilovic reports that Barack Obama thinks the meltdown is just groovy because it allows talking about issues: "I mean, there was a time pretty recently when we were talking about lipstick and pigs."  We?  We?  Barack plagiarized a Washington Post comic and made insulting remarks but it's "we".  He can always grab credit for what he hasn't done, he just never takes accountability for what he did do. Where it gets really funny is if you compare Maria Gavrilovic's reports today.  In one, Barack is saying that the economic meltdown is "not a time for politics" and, less than an hour later, Barack's stating the economic meltdown allows for a good test of the candidates.  But who will he cheat off of?
Cynthia McKinney is the Green Party presidential nominee and here's an important statement regarding her campaign:

Green Party National Women's Caucus challenges NOW to support the historic McKinney/Clemente presidential campaign
Monday, 29 September 2008 19:38
Distributed by the Green Party of the United States  

National Women's Caucus of the Green Party of the United States 
For Immediate Release 
Monday, September 29, 2008 
Morgen D'Arc, Spokesperson, 207-761-7797, morgenizer@yahoo.com  
Linda Manning Myatt, Spokesperson, 248-548-6175, lmmyatt@wowway.com  

Green Party National Women's Caucus challenges NOW to support the historic McKinney/Clemente presidential campaign  
WASHINGTON, DC -- The National Women's Caucus of the Green Party of the United States has sent an open letter to the National Organization for Women (http://www.now.org) urging support for the Green Party's presidential ticket. The text of the letter is appended below.   
The letter cites Green nominee Cynthia McKinney's six terms in Congress and her unmatched dedication to the principles of equality and human rights championed by NOW. The National Women's Caucus emphasizes the historical role that alternative parties have played in the struggle for women's suffrage and rights, and notes that NOW has failed even to recognize the significance of America's first national campaign by two women of African descent: Ms. McKinney is African American and running mate Rosa Clemente is Black Puerto Rican.  


National Women's Caucus of the Green Party of the United States

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dear National Organization for Women leadership and members: 

The National Women's Caucus of the Green Party of the United States is dismayed that your recent endorsement of Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States did not acknowledge the first all-female ticket in recent U.S. history. Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente are running for President and Vice President, respectively, on the Green Party ballot line.  
Cynthia McKinney served six terms in the U.S. Congress and two terms in the Georgia General Assembly. She is a global human rights and peace activist with a substantial voting record supporting women. Rosa Clemente is a community organizer and journalist who was one of the founders and primary organizers of the first national Hip Hop political convention. Their "Power to the People" campaign goal is to ensure that public policy reflects the Green Party values of ecological wisdom, social justice, grassroots democracy, and nonviolence. 
Cynthia McKinney has been a steadfast supporter of full reproductive rights for women throughout her legislative career, including funding for contraception and UN family planning, and opposition to "abstinence only" sex education. Rosa Clemente has been an outspoken advocate on issues affecting people of color, particularly women, and has directed her campaign toward the 48% of young people who don't vote, to encourage participation in the electoral process. 

Additional positions of the McKinney/Clemente campaign that will benefit women include:  

- Equal Rights 

- End to forced sterilization and coerced or uninformed consent procedures, 

- Immediate end to the War in Iraq and reinvestment of the money into our communities     

- Single-payer, universal "Medicare for All"  

- Election integrity where every vote is counted  

- Right to same-sex marriage  

- Free higher education      

- End to the drug war   

- Right of return of survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita  

- Withdrawal from corporate trade agreements such as NAFTA that are devastating economies worldwide  

- Promotion of renewable energy (no coal or nuclear) to create hundreds of thousands of new manufacturing, construction and service jobs 

Neither Obama nor his Republican opponent John McCain support these positions. The National Organization for Women PAC repeatedly praised Congresswoman McKinney during her six terms in U.S. Congress; and her record, on every relevant issue, surpasses those of the male endorsees. But now, these two women of color -- powerful and power-challenging, real choices, and nominated by a political party that proudly boasts Feminism & Gender Equity among our Ten Key Values -- don't even receive acknowledgment.      
The National Organization for Women, at all levels, has long struggled over diverging feminist paths -- choosing either to press for change within the existing power structure, and its institutions, or to step outside of the expected and challenge the institutions themselves. In the view of the National Women's Caucus of the Green Party of the United States, NOW has best served women when NOW has recognized, in the words of Audre Lord, that "when you look back on the road you've come, and see pain, and look forward to the road you're on, and see pain, then, step off the road, and make a new path."   
We recall when NOW distributed buttons proclaiming that "Women were not born Democrats, Republicans, or YESTERDAY." We recall when the heroines of our heritage were Belva Lockwood, Alice Paul and Sonia Johnson, each willing to form her own political party, or run for president independently, or both. They were willing because that path provided fewer barriers to telling the plain truth, the truth that needed to be heard, than did service to the establishment parties. We even recall when NOW announced the formation of its own, alternative, political party, the "Party for the 21st Century," with Dolores Huerta at its head. We rejoiced when NOW sought to make a new path, because the old political road was simply too filled with the pain of condescension and compromise, deferment and settling for what was offered.    
Even when NOW, through its political action committee, decided in the last two decades to bestow its endorsement on candidates from the over-represented political parties, it was to reward them for actually moving closer to the day when a woman might be president, with a Geraldine Ferraro and a Hillary Clinton sitting in the candidate car, and not just trudging behind it, pushing. But this past week, that endorsement reward was offered without even that, out of the same "fear of the alternative" that has driven women to set our own hopes, dreams and destinations aside, time and again, to let the men drive the car.   
Belva, Alice and Sonia did not become president of the United States, but, with the support of the feminists of their time, speaking truth, each re-formed the vision that America had about women. While men can be feminists too, their institutions can only be deemed feminist if they produce equality. The dearth of elected women, at every level, is its own condemnation of the party structures that are the paved road of American democracy. It disappoints us greatly, that earlier this month, NOW has not made a new path. By failing to commend, or even comment on, the presidential candidacy of Cynthia McKinney and her Green Party running mate, Rosa Clemente, NOW is driving on the wrong side of history.       
We invite the National Organization for Women, and feminists everywhere, to support the Green Party and the McKinney/Clemente campaign. Come walk the walk with us, and make a new path.   

National Women's Caucus, Green Party of the United States 
Nan Garrett, Co-Chair  
Ginny Marie Case, Co-Chair

National Women's Caucus Member Claudia Ellquist, National NOW Board member, 1990-94, participated in the drafting of this letter     

National Women's Caucus        
Green Party of the United States        
1711 18th Street NW      
Washington, DC 20009    


Abortion and contraception: McKinney is a firm supporter of abortion rights, appearing on EMILY's List of pro-choice women. She has also supported federal funding for contraception and U.N. family planning programs.  

Quite a long statement on Women, Families and Children [. . .]  

* Voted YES on reducing Marriage Tax by $399B over 10 years. (Mar 2001)
* Supported funding child care, child health, & child housing. (Jul 1999)

McKinney immediately challenged Georgia House rules requiring women to wear dresses by wearing slacks  

Green Party of the United States  
202-319-7191, 866-41GREEN  
Fax 202-319-7193  

Cynthia McKinney/Rosa Clemente 'Power to the People' Campaign for the White House
Cynthia McKinney on video 
• Press conference, September 10 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_5ivgS4asc 
• Speech in Denver, August 24: 
• Music video: 
For more on the embarrassment that was the NOW PAC endorsement, see the Sept. 16th snapshot.  Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate, Matt Gonzalez is his running mate.  Team Nader notes:
Donate it now to Nader/Gonzalez.
We're just $25,000 from reaching the $3 million mark.
Three million dollars for the year!
That might be peanuts to McCain and Obama.
But it's real nutrition for Nader/Gonzalez.
And it's literally three times what any other third party or independent campaign has raised so far this year.
October promises to be a month of surprises -- for both Obama and McCain -- but also for Nader/Gonzalez.
But before we deal with October, we have to finish off September.
And we need to reach our $3 million goal by midnight tonight.
Because we've always liked Ralph. (pictured here in his hometown of Winsted, Connecticut at age 11.)
And because at midnight tonight we close our books for the month of September. And report to the FEC.
All the national pundits will ask -- hey Nader/Gonzalez.
How much money have you raised with one month left until the election?
And we can say -- $3 million.
And we'll also meet our most recent Three Way Race fundraising goal of $150,000 by midnight tonight.
So, let's crank 'er up.