Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Tuesday, February 17, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, the US military announced deaths over the weekend, the Kurds want to see some real action in Iraq, results due in Thursday (unless delayed again) on the elections held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces, and more.
We''ll start by noting three women.  And three topics: propaganda, the return of something that should have stayed gone and silence equals death. Two get called out.  One doesn't.  Follow along. 
We're almost always glad when other outlets not normally associated with Iraq provide some coverage.  Almost always.  wowOwow features an article allegedly on the provincial elecitons by Zainab al-Suwaij.  What they don't tell you -- click here for Zianab's SourceWatch profile -- is Zainab and George W. Bush were tight.  wowOwow forgets that Zainab is just another Iraqi exile who pushed for the US to start an illegal war. Most of all, they -- and this is so laughable (though possibly telling) considering the women involved in wowOwow -- seem to think a woman can speak for servants.  That's what Zainab does in her bad bit of propaganda.  She has no real data to offer so she goes with "Several women work in my grandmother's home, assisting with cleaning and other domestic work" and wants to tell you what they were planning.  I have household assistance.  I would never attempt to speak for any of them nor would it be my place to.  Nor would I ever assume that someone working for me and agreeing with my point of view was necessarily expressing an opinion they actually shared.  The power dynamics involved in any employer-employee relationship make such assumptions dangerous (and smug when offered by the employer) but that should especially be seen as the case when Zainab tells you her grandmother's household help cannot "read or write."  Zainab offers a lot of lies (maybe she's thinking wowOwow readers don't follow current events?) and what's especially funny is that all her propaganda is defeated with the photo run with her article.  Reader Jera Y has no time for current events or even common sense A.E.B.: "If this war had not happened, would those children have been allowed to play?  Would these women have been allowed to vote?"  As Reader Marina B so aptly responds, "If there was a restriction on children playing in Iraq prior to our invasion, I am not aware of it.  Source, please?  In pre-invasion Iraq, women were allowed to vote to the same extent as men."
Anna Badkhen has reported on Iraq for some time, originally for the San Francisco Chronicle and recently for SalonShe has an article in The New Republic and from it, we'll note this section:
In addition to cajoling the sheiks, Dr. Phil had another idea for insuring the generator's success. On a scorching May afternoon, he invited Betson and a group of soldiers to a sun-drenched intersection on Alwa Street, where a stocky Iraqi in rolled-up gray sweatpants dragged a filthy sheep along the tiled sidewalk. The Iraqi's name was Bassam the Butcher, and, true to his name, he put his right foot--shod in a rubber, manure-caked flip-flop--just below the animal's neck, pinning it to the ground, and, with one swift movement of a short, thin blade, slashed its neck. Betson and his company lowered their M4 rifles and snapped pictures with their digital cameras.    
After methodically repeating the procedure on three more sheep, Bassam carried plastic bags sloshing with blood across the street, to the 500-kilowatt generator, fuel tank, and transformer booth that Betson and his company had recently installed. There, the butcher and some neighborhood boys dipped their hands into the sacrificial blood and pressed their palms against the canary yellow walls of the spanking-new equipment.  
The ancient tradition of public ritual slaughter has made a comeback in Iraq since the war began. Bloody handprints adorn the metal gates of houses of newlyweds and recently freed detainees. Sacrificing the sheep on the sidewalk and then smearing the generator with their blood, Dr. Phil explained, would show Saidiyah's residents that the people behind the project shared their culture, their beliefs, and their superstitions. For this reason, he paid for the sheep and for the butcher's services out of his own pocket--$180, more than half the average monthly income in Iraq, per sheep. "This is something private, " Dr. Phil said, as he watched Bassam the Butcher work. "It's for me, for my family, for Saidiyah."
File it under 'progress.'  And some say the illegal war did little -- it brought back animal sacrifices!  (Anna's the one who didn't get called out, for those counting to two.) 
ESPRIT is willing but her flesh is weak.  Naomi Klein hasn't done much of anything since her wonderful job cobbling together The Shock Doctrine from other sources (with a wrap around interview on torture done by Klein).   Which may be why her recent antics document her slow side back to the mall rat she once was.  She disgraced herself in Chicago before the elections with a now notorius speech.  This month, she wets herself in public on the pages of  Matthew Rothschild's The Regressive where Naomi can't stop gushing about how she lowered the boom on her "anarchist" "friends" -- does Naomi know anarchists or have friends? -- and told 'em it's her party and she was going to wet her panties if she wanted to, wet her panties if she wanted to because Barack was joyous . . . and moist apparently.  It was so special to her, the US elections.  Naomi, pick a damn country already.  Your father fled the US to avoid serving in Vietnam. You stayed tight-lipped about that post-9-11 all the way through December 2008.  Your paranoia insisted that you'd be denied entry to the US if the truth was known!  Oh, no!  But if you want to be Canadian, then be it.  In which case, America doesn't really need your smug ignorance on display.  Go back to your country and work on getting minorities elected there instead of trying to 'take pride' in something that has nothing to do with you. 
Proving that the only thing sharp about Naomi were the corners on those ESPRIT sweaters she used to fold, she embarrasses herself in public again: "In an interview Tuesday, Klein, 38, said she welcomes the election of Barack Obama.  But she has two problems: his refusal to insist on accountability for recent American misdemeanours abroad and at home; and his 'narrative that everything went wrong only eight years ago' with the election of George W. Bush."  Naomi leaves out the Iraq War, doesn't she?  The illegal war Barack's not ending.  The Tiffany of the Great White North may find out shortly that those who pick up the pretty doll and play with it, thereby creating interest in the toy, can put it down just as quick at which point it just gathers dust or ends up in the trash. 
What the mall rat can't explain, Thomas E. Ricks (author of The Gamble) did on  Washington Unplugged (click here for just the Ricks' segment) wher
John Dickerson: Where are we now in Iraq? There's this feeling -- there's been this recent election, 'Oh, things are getting better in Iraq.' What's your view?

Thomas E. Ricks: My view is that there are two fundamental misunderstandings that Americans have about this war. First was how tough the surge was. It was not just a matter of putting a few more troops out into Iraq. It was a very tough six months -- probably the hardest phase of the war so far. The second theme of this book is this war is far from over. Yeah, the war has changed several times. It was an invasion, it morphed into an occupation, into an insurgency, then into a civil war then into an American counter-offensive. It's changing again. Just because it's changing, doesn't mean it's ended. The elections the other day? Yeah. Remember the elections a couple of years ago, purple fingers, people coming out? Followed by a civil war. So I think there are a lot of reasons that Iraq '09 is going to be very tough and in fact harder than the last year of Bush's war. And I think there's a good chance that Obama's war in Iraq will last longer than Bush's war.

John Dickerson: So who gets this? Does the president get this? You know, he talked about sixteen months removing troops. What are the commanders tell him? Is there a clash coming here in terms of the ground truth versus what the president may think.

Thomas E. Ricks: I think there well indeed might be a clash by the end of the year. Obama's campaign promise to get American troops out of Iraq in sixteen months was a fatuous promise. When Americans heard it, what they heard was I will have no American troops dying in 16 months. But it was a false phraseology: "combat troops." Well, newsflash for Obama, there is no such thing as non-combat troops. There's no pacifistic branch of the US Army. Anytime you have American troops out there, there are going to be some of them fighting and dying -- in counter-terror missions against al Qaeda, if you have American advisers with Iraqi troops, they're going to be getting into fights, some Americans will be dying. So I think we're there for a long time and as long as we're there -- unlike, say, the occupations of Korea, Japan and Germany, American troops will be engaged in combat. General Odierno says in the book he'd like to see 35,000 troops there as late as 2015. Well into . . . it will be Obama's second term. So I think that at the end of this year, you're going to see a conflict. Obama's going to want to see troop numbers coming down. Odierno, the other big O, as they call him in Iraq, is going to say, "Wait a minute, you're holding general elections here in December, in Iraq. That's exactly the wrong time to take troops out."
(That's the transcript Ava and I used in "TV: Blustering Boys" -- full transcript is in today's Hilda's Mix.  You can also refer to Michelle Levi's write up of the interview.)  "Well, newsflash for Obama, there is no such thing as non-combat troops." Exactly and it's too bad the likes of Naomi Klein care so damn little. 
Sunday Leila Fadel (McClatchy's Baghdad Observer) reported, "The Independent High Electoral Commission has announced and then canceled a series of press conferences. Today they nullified 30 ballot boxes after finding fraud, most in the province of Anbar where tribal sheikhs accused the incumbent Sunni party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, of vote rigging."  Monday K. I. Ibrahim (Washington Post) informed that Iraq's 'election' 'commission' was admitting there was widespread fraud ("in all 14 provinces," said Kareem al-Tamimi) but they weren't concerned about it.   Gulf Daily News notes, "Iraqi officials nullified election results in more than 30 polling stations due to fraud in last month's provincial balloting, but the cases were not significant enough to require a new vote in any province, the election chief said yesterday." Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life) reports that the results are supposed to be revealed on Thursday and notes, "the ISCI, followers of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and other politicians have alleged voter fraud and accused the elections commission of not doing a good job. Iraqis had until Feb. 3 to file elections day-related complaints. Elections Commission Chairman Faraj al-Haideri said in a press conference today that he regrets some politicians have accused the commission of acting improperly." Does al-Haiden regret that?  Oh, boo hoo.  One person who screamed and threatened was Sheik Ahmad Abu Risha (here, here, here, here and here for starters).  Sheik Ahmad Abu Risha is the thug who got his way, the thug who got the elections results changed. The thug that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama have 'paid their respects to' and been photographed with. He didn't like the results of the January 31st elections so he threatened violence. Instead of being shut down right then and there, he was catered to. The results were changed for him.  Dahr Jamail is back in Iraq and he reported on the way monies are wasted in Iraq including 'construction':

That's a polite phrase for what they're doing, and the rubric under which a lot of the payouts take place (however modest actual reconstruction work might be). Think of it this way: Every dealer needs a front man. The U.S. bought the sheiks off and it was to their immediate advantage to be bought off. They regained a kind of power that had been seeping away, while all the money and arms allowed them to put real muscle into recruiting people in the tribes they controlled and into building the Awakening Movement.   

The reasons -- and they are indeed plural -- why the tribal leaders were so willing to collaborate with the occupiers of their country are, at least in retrospect, relatively clear. Those in al-Anbar who had once supported, and had been supported by, Saddam Hussein, and then had initially supported the resistance became far keener to work with occupation forces as they saw their power eroded by al-Qaeda-in-Iraq.  

AQI proved a threat to the sheiks, many of whom had initially worked directly with it, when it began to try to embed its own fierce, extremist Sunni ideology in the region -- and perhaps even more significantly, when it began to infringe on the cross-border smuggling trade that had kept many tribal sheiks rich. As AQI grew larger and threatened their financial and power bases, they had little choice but to throw in their lot with the Americans.  

As a result, these men obtained backing for their private militias, renamed Awakening groups, and in addition, signed "construction" contracts with the Americans who put millions of dollars in their pockets, even if not always into actual construction sites. As early as April 2006, the Rand Corporation released a report, "The Anbar Awakening," identifying America's potential new allies as a group of sheiks who used to control smuggling rings and organized crime in the area.  

One striking example was Sheik Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, who founded the first Awakening groups in al-Anbar and later led the entire movement until he was assassinated in 2007, shortly after he met with President Bush. It was well known in the region that Abu Risha was primarily a smuggler defending his business operations by joining the Americans.  

Not surprisingly, given the lucrative nature of the cooperative relationship that developed, whenever an Awakening group sheik is assassinated, another is always there to take his place. Abu Risha was, in fact, promptly replaced as "president" of the Anbar Awakening by his brother Sheik Ahmad Abu Risha, also now in the "construction business."    

And that about says it all.  Staying with the political front, as Thomas E. Ricks explained on NPR's Fresh Air last week, "The surge worked militarily.  There's no question that violence declined in Iraq as a result of the surge and the associated things we've talked about -- the deals with the Sunnis, with Sadr's organization, and the grim fact that the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad was largely completed by the time the surge began.  That said, the surge failed.  I say that because the surge's purpose was not just to improve security.  It was, as the president said, to create a breathing space in which political change could occur and the fact is that political change has not occurred.   All the basic questions facing Iraq before the surge are still there and have not been addressed, have not been solved. Those are, for example, the disposition of the disputed city of Kirkuk, the power relationships [. . .]  between the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Shi'ites, who holds power in the Shi'ite community and, most importantly, the sharing of oil revenue.  None of those exestential issues have been solved.  All of them threaten still to be solved violently."    Note the Fresh Air link also contains a text excerpt of Ricks' new book.
Staying with the political but focusing on northern Iraq, Ivan Watson (CNN) reported Saturday that Jalal Talabani, the President of Iraq, has seen five members of his political party tender their resignations: "Kurdish members of the Iraqi Parliament say the resignations threaten the delicate balance of power in Iraqi Kurdistan, a semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq. It has been the most stable part of the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion."  AP adds, "The mood was tense in the PUK-dominated city of Sulaimaniyah on Saturday when Rasoul and the others announced their resignations. PUK security forces and bodyguards for the disgruntled officials patrolled the streets near their offices with weapons in hand."  The three Kurdish provinces are scheduled to hold elections May 19th.  AFP reports that Nechirvan Barazni, the KRG's Prime Minister, declared today, "What we understand by a responsible withdrawal is that the United States resolves the problems outstanding in Iraq and help the Iraqis confront these problems.  I restate that the role of the United States should be to help resolve the problems in Iraq such as Article 140, the oil law, and the law on the distribution of  its oil wealth."   Article 140 in that statement refers primarily to disputed claims on the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.  The KRG has been increasingly vocal in the last two weeks that these issues -- which, in fairness, were supposed to have been addressed long, long ago -- must be dealt with.  "Before a withdrawal," they would add.  But there's no withdrawal taking place.  Just a drawdown and praise to the GAO for using that term in last week's hearing and not the mythical "withdrawal" so much more commonly used. 
In some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 Baghdad roadside bombing that left one "Awakening" Council member wounded, a Baghdad missile attack which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left four more wounded, two Baquba roadside bombings claimed 2 lives and left thirteen wounded, a Mosul sticky bombing that wounded one police officer and, dropping back to Monday night, a Baiji roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 3 Iraqi Support Forces and wounded three more.  Reuters notes a roadside bombing that wounded Maj Gen Salahuddin Rasheed and five of his bodyguards.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person shot dead in Mosul.
Sunday the US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Division -- Center Soldier was killed by an improvised explosive device in southern Iraq today.  The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense." And they announced: "BAGHDAD -- A Multi-National Division–Baghdad Soldier died from a non-combat related incident Feb. 14. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The incident is currently under investigation."  This brought the total number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4245.
Turning to diplomatic news, Monday Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari received British ambassador Christopher Prentice and also met with the Special Envoy of the Turkish President, Ambassador Murad AozgelikPatrick Donahue (Bloomberg News) reports Frank-Walter Steimmeier, Germany's Foreign Minister is in Baghdad on "a two-day visit" which was not announced ahead of time and he will be meeting with Iraq's President Jalal Talabani and puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki.   BBC News notes that this is the first visit to Iraq by a German Foreign Minister since 1987.  Meanwhile the Japan Times reports, "Japan's five-year-long operation to aid in the reconstruction of Iraq came to a formal conclusion Sunday with a ceremony commemorating the return of personnel from Kuwait to the Air Self-Defense Force base in Aichi Prefecture."
In the US an action takes place next week.  Iraq Veterans Against the War and A.N.S.W.E.R. and Pentagon March are participating. World Can't Wait is as well and the following is their press release on the March action:

Sign the "Letter to the Anti-War Movement"   

U.S. Out of Iraq & Afghanistan!   

No Wars on Iran,Pakistan,Gaza!  

The world can't wait!  
Come OUT to the first national protest of the wars under President Obama
THURSDAY March 19 leave work & school to PROTEST the 6th anniversary of the Iraq War.    
SATURDAY March 21 at the Pentagon.  

Barack Obama says he will:  
  • leave 80,000 troops, thousands of private contractors, and 17 permanent bases in Iraq ;  
  • send 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan , leading to more killings of civilians;  
  • keep sending robot drones over Pakistan , killing more civilians;  
  • deploy nuclear carriers with enough firepower to annihilate any country in the Mid East; 
  • support the Israeli siege on Gaza ;
  • keep the "secret rendition" program which Bush used to torture detainees; 
  • keep the government spying on citizens and continue Bush's "state secrets"  justification;  
  • increase the U.S. militaryby 92,000 troops, sending more to die for empire; 
  • refuse to investigate & prosecute the war & torture crimes of the Bush regime.   
The election of the first Black president is effectively re-branding preemptive and illegal wars of aggression to make us feel good about them, enlisting us to "serve and sacrifice" for horrors we have no good reason to support.  
The U.S. war on Afghanistan is an unjust war of aggression--the supreme war crime,waged not to bring democracy and liberation to the Afghan people, but to control Afghanistan with the goal of permanent domination of the Middle East.
But, we don't have to go along! It's immoral to "wait and see" or hope for the best from Obama. 
If you care about humanity, get in the streets to send a message to the world that there are millions of us who don't want these crimes carried out.
It's time now to take action & make our demands visible everywhere.
Find actions or organize one at www.worldcantwait.org
Wearenotyoursoliders.org (Veterans speaking at high schools to resist military recruiting) 
The World Can't Wait 866 973 4463 info@worldcantwait.org This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
For more, you can click here for the text of pamphlet they are distributing to promote the event and you can visit World Can't Wait at any time for reality based commentary as opposed to the nonsense found at so many other left and 'left' sites. 
Meanwhile Bob Somerby (Daily Howler) continues to probe the Cult of Barack in the press:
Could the Times please help this guy rent a room? To Herbert, his new interest is "intelligent, mature, thoughtful, calm in the face of crises...maybe even wise." He's relaxed, with complete command--the very model of what you would want.
We're glad to see Herbert find true love at last. After all, the last time he got fixed up an impressive Dem, he decided that the troubling fellow was condescending, supercilious, contemptuous and disdainful--smug and boorish besides! He even called Eddie Haskell to mind--and Herbert said so, loudly, in print, three weeks before an election. By way of contrast, George W. Bush was doing his best, Herbert swore that day. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/10/09.
We're glad to see Herbert happy at last. In the past, he's been a fussy dater. For results, please observe the whole world.
As Somerby asks elsewhere in his article (on another issue but it applies to the above), "Can anyone tell us why we race to adopt the techniques of a guy like Sean Hannity?  Why we should think it's a good idea to treat liberal readers like fools?"  Anyone?  Anyone?