Sunday, December 07, 2008

And the war drags on . . .

[Iris Ludeker:] What is your view of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between US and Iraq, adopted by the Iraqi parliament on 16 November?
[Phyllis Bennis:] The first problem in examining the SOFA text is that we cannot yet be sure exactly what the text says. The Iraqi parliament is debating one version, that has been translated informally to English for the international press. But we do not yet have the White House's official version. Until that time, I do not think we can assume that the text now being discussed in the press is necessarily "the" final version. There are many in Iraq who are eager to present the text as a victory for Iraqi sovereignty; there is certainly the possibility that the text circulating in Iraq has been doctored with in such a way as to over-emphasize Iraq's power in the future U.S.-Iraq relationship.
The agreement specifies that the Arabic and English texts are equally valid, but without the official U.S. version of either text, it is impossible to know for sure what it says.
We also should not assume the current draft will be ratified by the Iraqi parliament, or that it will be similarly approved by the U.S. Senate - which is necessary under the U.S. Constitution despite Bush administration claims that such ratification is not needed because this is only an "ordinary" SOFA agreement. "Ordinary" SOFA agreements do not take into account on-going wars as is the case in U.S.-occupied Iraq.
[. . .]

[Iris Ludeker :] According to reports in The Independent earlier this year, the US-government initially tried to keep dozens of permanent bases in Iraq. Do you think this report was outright wrong, or did the US-administration retrace its steps? If so, why?
[Phyllis Bennis:] There is no question that the U.S. has wanted to maintain permanent bases in Iraq. I do not believe they are prepared to hand them over to Iraq despite the language in the agreement. I think the formal resolution may be through some sort of officially "bilateral" agreement between Washington and Baghdad allowing for the U.S. to "rent" or "lease" or "borrow" the bases from an allegedly "sovereign" government in Iraq on a long-term basis, arranged during the 3-year term of this agreement.

The above is from "The meaning of Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between US and Iraq" (ZNet) on the treaty masquerading as a SOFA and it was noted by a reader of Third. While he was glad Bennis was speaking out, he was concerned that she had waited until last Friday. She did not wait, the interview was conducted November 24th. It was only posted Friday. Phyllis Bennis was attempting to get the word out on the treaty before the presidency council signed off on it and before the Parliament voted to approve it (by a less than two-third majority and with a record number of MPs not present).

At least 14 people reported dead in Iraq over the weekend with 111 wounded in what was a very violent week in the allegedly 'improved' Iraq. In today's New York Times, two pieces are filed from Iraq (one of which is filed from Baghdad and DC). One credited to the paper in the byline notes the violence on Saturday and this: "In another development, McClatchy Newspapers reported last week that about 1,000 South Asian men hired by a subcontractor for the American military had been held for months in slavelike conditions near the Baghdad International Airport. The men had paid middlemen to obtain jobs in Iraq with a Kuwait-based subcontractor to KBR that provides services to the military, McClatchy said." No offense to Adam Ashton, who has reported that, but Deborah Haynes (Times of London) has also been covering it, has filed more stories on it and has visited the detention area and both written and blogged on that. I'm all for McClatchy getting their recognition but, in this case, Haynes has owned the story. The other article in today's Times (New York) is Ginger Thompson and Katherine Zoepf's "Lawyers Say U.S. Reckless In Charges for 5 Guards" -- the Blackwater incident and they no longer speak of indictments to be made public (on Monday), possibly because they have confirmation from the lawyers of the five. The five are identified as: Paul SLough, Nick Slatten, Donald Ball, Dustin Heard and Even Liberty. This is regarding the September 16, 2007 slaughter of Iraqi civilians and their attorneys say the five men will surrender to authorities tomorrow (and also maintain their clients are not guilty of the charges).

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4,207. And tonight? 4209 is ICCC's count. Just Foreign Policy's counter estimates the number of Iraqis killed since the start of the illegal war to be 1,288,426 same as last week and the week prior.

Violence swept across Iraq over the weekend and today's bombing in Baquba took place as "police and neighbourhood patrolmen" were "dismantling security barriers to show that violence was on the decline" -- an illusion disproven by the fact that thirty-five of them were wounded.
Reuters quotes Ali Abu Shahad ("Sunni Arab patrolman") who explains, "They were just walking along in a group when they reached an electrical appliance store. Suddenly a powerful blast happened. The front of the store was totally destroyed." In other reported violence . . .


Hussein Kadhim (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing that left two people wounded and Baquba roadside bombing that wounded eleven people and targeted "the head of joint center of the Iraqi and American army in Baquba, the colonel Raghib Al-Omari and the deputy governor of Baquba city". Reuters notes three roadside bombings in Kirkuk that claimed the lives of 3 police officers with two more injured, a Mosul car bombing that wounded one person and a grenade explosion in Mosul that wounded nine. Saturday Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported a Baghdad sticky bombing that claimed 1 life and left three wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing that wounded two people. Saturday Reuters noted an Udhaim roadside bombing that claimed the life of a bodyguard for Iraq's president (Jalal Talabani), a Baquba bombing that claimed 1 life and left twenty-seven people injured, a Mosul roadside bombing that wounded two people, a Tuz Khurmato sticky bombing that wounded two people and a Kirkuk bomber that took his/her own life and the life of 1 police officer with six more people wounded. CNN says 9 wounded in the Kirkuk bombing (the same number hospital sources tell Reuters) and notes a Baghdad roadside bombing the left seven people wounded.


Retuers notes 2 Yazidis shot dead in Mosul -- Mosul becoming known world wide as the city of religious intolerance. Saturday Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported 3 "Awakening" Council members shot dead in Diyala Province, 1 police officer shot dead in Falluja (apparently by other police officers -- the incident is being investigated).

New content at Third:

Truest statement of the week
Truest statement of the week II
A note to our readers
Editorial: A step is not marathon
TV: The Fairy Tale
Must grab download: DeShannon's Laurel Canyon
Shame 20 years on down the line
Dowd to Fey: And when they met, it was murder (Ava and C.I.)
'Whore' is a fitting word
The Miseducation of Katrina vanden Heuvel
'Iraq deal will not end occupation' (Socialist Worker)

Pru usually picks a highlight each week from Great Britain's Socialist Worker. She picks wisely. Today a visitor wants to note an article in full. We won't. I'm not interested in that article. The San Francisco strike that the article says followed the Minneapolis one? It started first. It had over 130,000 participants. The strike began before Minneapolis so you cannot claim that Mineappolis' 1934 strike "inspired other groups to fight" and then list San Francisco. San Francisco's strike began May 9, 1934. Minneapolis' strike began May 16, 1934. It's not a minor detail and when you write about the 'great strike' in Minneapolis and how it influenced later strikes, you damn well better know what you're writing about. The San Francisco strike lasts longer and involved more workers striking. The writer at Socialist Worker either does not know US history or wants to gloss over it. "Police shot pickets" (in Minneapolis) is a glossing over. When demonstrators are dispersing and they are shot in the back (and killed), police didn't just shoot pickets and it is highly offensive to maintain they did.

You don't need to know reams of history to grasp that, as a general rule, when someone's shot in the back, something foul has taken place. (Though the police shot people many times during the strike, I am specifically referring to the July 20, 1934 violence in Minneapolis. In terms of shooting, July 5, 1934 was the most 'active' day for the police in San Francisco. Nicholas Bordois and Howard Sperry were shot dead by the police and many more wounded. It's known as "Bloody Thursday" and still memoralized each year by the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union.) These are not minor points and having just participated in a feature at Third taking Katrina to task for glossing over that period, I'm not about to now post bad and false 'history' here. I'm not interested, sorry.

Pru notes Esme Choonara's "Solidarity gives boost to Dover dock strikers" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The potential of solidarity to win crucial industrial disputes was seen in Dover on Thursday of last week.
A solid three-day strike by several hundred Dover port workers against plans to outsource 190 jobs to a private company was boosted by delegations of other workers.
The arrival of representatives from other docks in south east England as well as other Unite union members – including reps and officials who have been involved in the London bus workers’ campaign – boosted the pickets.
The solidarity created an electric atmosphere on the picket line. Strikers cheered as supporters marched down the street to join the picket line.
There were then skirmishes with the police as some workers tried to push into the road and halt the traffic. Some supporters slowed down traffic by repeatedly crossing the road.
There were cheers as the breakdown of a lorry at the entrance to the port caused yet more disruption.
With just a few more at the protest or a little more confidence, strikers could have shut down the dock. More of this kind of action could swing the dispute in the workers’ favour.
The strikes have been extremely well supported, and the strength of feeling among the port workers should not be underestimated.
But action so far has failed to seriously dent traffic through the port as Dover Harbour Board boss Bob Goldfield has organised a scabbing operation to keep it working.
Unite has called another three strikes starting at 3pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of next week. The strikes last until 7am the next day.
With time running short before the job transfers are to take place, many strikers believe that they should step up picketing tactics if they are to win.
One striker told Socialist Worker, “We have to use more militant tactics. If this was an oil refinery we’d have this place shut down by now.”
Solidarity for the strikers is crucial. The dispute touches on many issues of relevance to workers fighting over pensions, jobs and privatisation.
One worker summed up the feeling when he said, “I am one of many who have worked here for 30 years. After all that time, we expect to be treated with a bit more respect.
“We all know that this is the thin end of the wedge. These plans are about breaking up the workforce in the name of profit.”
This was the second strike by members of the Unite union at the port. The workers voted overwhelmingly for action and the turnout on every picket has shown their strength of feeling.
Yet the boss of Dover Harbour Board seems determined to press ahead with the privatisation in January.
Unite is now the biggest union in Britain. If it called a mass picket of 500 people it could shut down the docks.
This is a chance to strike a blow for everyone fighting bullying management and the logic of the free market.
The following should be read alongside this article: »
Let’s block the dock to win this crucial fight
Email messages of support to and protests to Bob Goldfield at
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