Thursday, January 14, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Thursday, January 14, 2010.  Chaos and violence continue, Najaf is rocked by bombings, Nouri targets more political opponents, more Iraqi executions announced, exploring the opposition to Avatar, Pig gets arrested (again!) for being a sexual predator (again!), and more.
Starting in Iraq where Hannah Allam and Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reported that any hopes last week's announcement of parties and politicians banned from Iraq's elections (expected to be held in March) would be overturned appear to be over as it now appears that an additional 100 candidates may be announced banned shortly. Faraj al Haidari (Independent High Electoral Commission) attempts to spin frantically insisting that the efforts to disenfranchise are not aimed only as Sunnis. In 2005, a large number of Sunnis boycotted the national elections and hopes of higher participation this go round appear in doubt. Salam Faraj (AFP) reports a banning has been announced and quotes IHEC's Hamdia Husseini stating, "We have decided this afternoon to exclude around 500 names and political entities from the list of candidates."  Michael Jansen (Middle East Views) sees no attempts at equality or protecting the public, only efforts to target Sunnis and eliminate them from the process:           

Whether this proposal is accepted or not by the election commission, it is clear that the US-installed Shiite-Kurdish rulers of Iraq do not intend to share power with anyone else.                       
The de-Baathification committee -- renamed the Justice and Accountability Board - made this recommendation although its chief target, Saleh Mutlaq, was cleared to stand in Iraq's 2005 election and his National Dialogue Front won 11 seats in the 275-member assembly.                     
Ali Lami, head of the panel, claims new information reveals that Mutlaq "is a Baathist and nominated himself as a Baathist."                    
Mutlaq dismissed the allegation as "rubbish". He left the Baath party in 1977 before Saddam seized power, established a large farming business in the south, and made a great deal of money. His supporters point out that Lami has close relations with pro-Iranian factions and only retained his post because there was no agreement on a replacement. It may be significant that the new charge against Mutlaq surfaced after Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki paid a visit to Baghdad.                                      

Afif Sarhan ( notes, "Experts believe the ban would also stir a political storm for the Nuri Al-Maliki government" and quotes Ibrahim Suwa'id stating, "A ban like this, a couple of months before parliamentary elections, can bring a chaotic situation that the government will feel hard to succeed."   Zainab Naji and Ali Kareem (Global Arab Network -- backed by US funds, FYI)  note an emerging opinion that Nouri's worried that Ayad Allawi (who was prime minister before Nouri) could replace him and they quote Iraqi Organization for Media Development's Wathiq al-Hashemi stating, "Allawi's alliance poses a threat to other political powers, so any ban on one of his leaders [al-Mutlaq] is in the best interests of those powers [in power currently].  If Allawi withdraws from the elections, the political process will be in serious danger."   Rebecca Santana (AP) interviewed Allawi today and he calls out the targeting of Sunnis: "This is a process of severe intimidation and threats. It's clear that they want to get rid of their opponents."            
Yesterday, Leila Fadel and Aziz Alwan (Washington Post) were observing, "Another major attack would have been particularly damaging to members of Maliki's coalition running in parliamentary elections. The coalition's candidates are campaigning on a security platform."  Nouri's grandstanding for elections, as he tries desperately to regain his (false) image as the person who gave Iraq security, coincides with the announcement of executions. Al Jazeera reports that 11 men have been sentenced to death for the August 19th Baghdad bombings ("Black Wednesday") and quotes the judicial body's spokesperson Abdul Sattar al-Birqdar stating, "Today an Iraqi criminal court imposed a death sentence against 11 criminals who have been convicted of implementing, planning and funding the bomb events that targeted the finance and foreign ministries." Nada Bakri (New York Times) states al-Beeraqdar declared that an investigation into the August bombings were conducted for over three weeks -- turning up 'evidence' on the men -- and then the 11 men faced a trial.  A two-week trial.  A two-week trial.  And all are convicted to death by execution?  How very fortunate for Nouri's efforts to hang on as prime minister (the prime minister is selected by Parliament, FYI).  The 11 sentenced to die join a long, long list of other guilty or 'guilty' persons in Iraq facing execution.  Last month, Amnesty International issued the following:
Iraq is preparing to execute hundreds of prisoners, including 17 women, warned Amnesty International today, as it issued an 'urgent action' appeal to try to prevent the deaths. 

The 900-plus prisoners have exhausted all their appeals and their death sentences are said to have been ratified by the Presidential Council, meaning that they could be executed at any time.  Amnesty supporters are contacting Iraqi embassies around the world, including that in London, in a bid to stop the executions.                   

The condemned prisoners have been convicted of offences such as murder and kidnapping, but many are likely to have been sentenced after unfair trials. The 17 women are thought to include a group known to have been held on death row at the 5th section (al-Shu'ba al-Khamissa) of Baghdad's al-Kadhimiya Prison.             

Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock said: 

'This is a staggering number of people facing execution and the fact that the government may be playing politics over these cases is truly frightening. 

'Wholesale use of the death penalty was one of the worst aspects of Saddam Hussein's regime and the present government should stop aping his behaviour.

'Instead of sending nearly a thousand people to a grisly death by hanging, the Iraqi authorities should halt all executions and impose an immediate death penalty moratorium.'

Iraqi media reports suggest that the Iraqi government is currently trying to present itself as 'tough' on crime ahead of national elections scheduled for January. Iraqi opposition politicians have expressed concern that executions may be carried out to give the ruling party a political advantage ahead of the elections, and there have been calls for the government to temporarily suspend all executions.                  

Amnesty is warning that Iraq's use of capital punishment is already spiralling. At least 120 people are known to have been executed in Iraq this year, greatly up on the 34 executions recorded during 2008.                

Iraq is now one of the world's heaviest users of the death penalty. After the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority suspended the death penalty following the toppling of Saddam Hussein's government in 2003, Iraq's subsequent reintroduction of capital punishment led to a rapid acceleration in death sentences and executions. Despite this, and contrary to some claims made by the Iraqi authorities, use of the death penalty has not seen a drop in crime levels in the country, with rises and falls in insurgency violence having no discernible relation to execution rates.
Violence begats violence? Qassim Zein and Hannah Allam (McClatchy Newspapers) report Najaf was rocked by three bombings -- one right after the other -- as the day ended with 25 dead.  Vendor Mohammed Sami was wounded in the bombings and he tells Adam Schreck,  Sameer N. Yacoub and Hamid Ahmed (AP), "Many people came to save me. But after a few minutes the second explosion occurred and we all ran to the nearest alley to hide."  The Hindu explains, "One of the blasts targeted a street leading to an important Shiite Muslim shrine, and two others hit a crowded vegetable market, together killing at least 12 people and wounding 20 more." Press TV's Wisam al-Bayati adds, "The market placed was packed with people when the explosion took place and most of the casualties were women and children." Leila Fadel and Saad Serhan (Washington Post) describe "body parts, broken glass and metal scrap from the car littered the street".  Xinhua reminds, "Najaf is home to the mausoleum of Iman Ali, the cousin of the Prophet Mohammed. It attracts thousand of pilgrims every year."
In other reported violence . . .
Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured one Iraqi soldier.  Zhang Xiang (Xinhua) reports a Baquba cart bombing has claimed 2 lives with ten more people wounded in a market and six shops destroyed.
Reuters notes 1 man was shot dead in Mosul and a drive-by shooting claimed the lives of 1 man and 1 woman in Mosul. Zhang Xiang (Xinhua) reports high schooler Sameer Aziz was shot dead in Khalis ("Aziz's Sunni family was displaced for two years from their home during the sectarian strife in the past years and his family has just returned home as the city witnessed a relative calm in recent few months, the source said.") and, dropping back to Wednesday night, Sahwa leader Khalid Hardan was shot dead in Edhaim (his uncle was also wounded).
All last month, we had to endure a bunch of liars or idiots insisting the US was so 'noble' or uninterested in Iraq oil (hard to tell which assertion produces more laughs) and that was demonstrated by the US not being involved in recent biddings.  You had to be really stupid not to notice the board of directors of those companies (identified as 'foreign' by the US press, they sure had a lot of Americans on their boards).  Apparently all the laughs that could be have been wrung out of that so today Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports, "A wave of American companies have been arriving in Iraq in recent months to pursue what is expected to be a multibillion-dollar bonanza of projects to revive the country's stagnant petroleum industry, as Iraq seeks to establish itself as a rival to Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer." 
Meanwhile in the US former journalist Thomas E. Ricks has taken to huffing publicly about James Cameron's box office smash Avatar.  (Disclosure, I know Cameron and consider him a friend.) What could make a pudgy former journalist so angry?  The answer is staring everyone in the face.  Last week, Ruth noted WBAI's The Arts Magazine (airs each Tuesday from two in the afternoon until three in the afternoon) when Louis Proyect was the guest for the first half-hour.
Louis Proyect: And even though it's set some time in the distant future and on a distant planet, it's very obvious that it's about what's happening now in Iraq and Afghanistan. It just amazes me that anybody you know could think otherwise about this movie.
Prairie Miller: Yeah and then there's this attitude of rejecting this film outright because there's money behind it, there's Rupert Murdoch and whatever happened to the notion, the Marxist notion, of seizing the means of production? In this case of cultural production, you know, for other means.   I mean this is amazing.  He, Cameron has said about his film that there's a sense of e -- "There's a sense of entitlement. 'We're here, we're big, we've got the guns and, therefore, are entitled to every damn thing on the planet'." And incidentally, Cameron, who's a Canadian, he admirably dropped his application for American citizenship after Bush was elected in 2004 so there's much more than meets the eye concerning the attacks on this film.
Louis Proyect: Yeah. I'm glad we're in 100% agreement on this one because I thought we would be, Prairie.
Prarie Miller: Now you came up with some study about anthropological imperialist invasions. What was that about?
Louis Proyect: Yeah, right now, you have people working in Afghanistan -- and I think they were in Iraq as well -- who were anthropology professors who agreed to work with the military to win the hearts and minds of 'the natives.'  And there's a huge controversy about this.  They just had a convention of the American Anthropological Association where they-they went on record as being opposed to that. The idea is that what they want to use are what you might call professional techniques to figure out how to control a population combining measures that might improve their life somewhat but at the same time soften them up to accept a military occupation.  And quite frankly, the-the anthropologists who are involved in this business are, you know, I don't think they have the right to teach. I mean, what they're doing, I think it's a kind of war crime. And Avatar deals with this because Sigorney Weaver, who's one of the major characters, is an anthropologist trying to pacify the local population. Well, I think your listeners would want to see the movie. I don't want to give too much away, too much of the plot. But it just has to do with how the professions in the United States, including psychologists by the way, who worked in Guantanamo, to-to get -- to make sure that torture was being carried out in such a way that people wouldn't be completely broken and capable of giving information.  I mean, this is just horrible.
That edition of The Arts Magazine is available at the WBAI archives for 80 more days.
To refresh, from the December 3rd snapshot:
The American Anthropological Association's annual meeting started yesterday in Philadelphia and continues through Sunday.  Today the association's Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities issued their [PDF format] "Final Report on The Army's Human Terrain System Proof of Concept Program."  The 74-page report is a blow to War Criminals and their cheerleaders who have long thought that the social science could be abused or that the social sciences were pseudo sciences. 
Only a small number of outlets have covered the AAA's findings.  First up were  Patricia Cohen (New York Times), Dan Vergano (USA Today), Yudhijit Bhattacharjee (Science Magazine) and Steve Kolowich (Inside HigherEd). Another wave followed which included Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) reporting, "Today the program enjoys a core of supporters, but it's done little to address the concerns of anthropologists and, now, rising military complaints that the program has slowed the growth of the military's ability to train culturally sensitive warriors." Christopher Shay (Time magazine) added:
Two years ago, the AAA condemned the HTS program, but this month's 72-page report goes into much greater detail about the potential for the military to misuse information that social scientists gather; some anthropologists involved in the report say it's already happening. David Price, a professor of anthropology at St. Martins University in Washington and one of the co-authors of the AAA report, says the army appears to be using the anthropological information to better target the enemy, which, if true, would be a gross violation of the anthropological code. One Human Terrain anthropologist told the Dallas Morning News that she wasn't worried if the information she provided was used to kill or capture an insurgent. "The reality is there are people out there who are looking for bad guys to kill," she said. "I'd rather they did not operate in a vacuum." Price and other critics see this as proof that the anthropologists don't have full control over the information they gather and that commanders can use it to kill. "The real fault with Human Terrain is that it doesn't even try to protect the people being studied," says Price. "I don't think it's accidental that [the Pentagon] didn't come up with ethical guidelines."
David Price is a member of AAA and with Network of Concerned Anthropologists. He reviewed Avatar:
Fans of Avatar are understandably being moved by the story's romantic anthropological message favoring the rights of people to not have their culture weaponized against them by would be foreign conquerors, occupiers and betrayers. It is worth noting some of the obvious the parallels between these elements in this virtual film world, and those found in our world of real bullets and anthropologists in Iraq and Afghanistan.             
Since 2007, the occupying U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan have deployed Human Terrain Teams (HTT), complete with HTT "social scientists" using anthropological-ish methods and theories to ease the conquest and occupation of these lands. HTT has no avatared-humans; just supposed "social scientists" who embed with battalions working to reduce friction so that the military can get on with its mission without interference from local populations. For most anthropologists these HTT programs are an outrageous abuse of anthropology, and earlier this month a lengthy report by a commission of the American Anthropological Association (of which I was a member and report co-author) concluded that the Human Terrain program crossed all sorts of ethical, political and methodological lines, finding that:    
"when ethnographic investigation is determined by military missions, not subject to external review, where data collection occurs in the context of war, integrated into the goals of counterinsurgency, and in a potentially coercive environment -- all characteristic factors of the HTT concept and its application -- it can no longer be considered a legitimate professional exercise of anthropology." 
The American Anthropological Association's executive board found Human Terrain to be a "mistaken form of anthropology". But even with these harsh findings, the Obama administration's call for increased counterinsurgency will increase demands for such non-anthropological uses of ethnography for pacification.    
Thomas E. Ricks hates Avatar (and huffs and blogs to be sure we all know).  Here's what those paying attention know: Ricks is this century's Walter Lippmann and that's not a compliment.  He left journalism to whore for counter-insurgency.  He has no ethical training and he thinks that general studies major (journalism degree) qualifies him for something.  It doesn't qualify him for humanity and he's unable to address ethics.  (Don't forget his stamping of feet at the AP last year.)  He's a joke.  He's a War Criminal now and he's joke.
Kelley B. Vlahos  (Antiwar) addressed Ricks most recently earlier this week:

In high school, there are always the Cool Kids. In the Washington military establishment, there are always the Cool Kids. Walking conflict of
interest Tom Ricks loves to write breathlessly about Washington's prevailing Gang with the Name -- the COINdinistas -- most of whom now roost in the Pentagon or at the Center for a New American Security, which hired Ricks away from a full-time job at the Washington Post to do just what he's doing now: shamelessly promoting the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).
But even the cool kids will eventually fall out of style. Like haughty Heidi Klum says, "In fashion, one day you're in, the next day you're out!" Perhaps that's why Ricks' latest Foreign Policy panegyric to his friends seems even more cringe-worthy and awkward than usual, mainly because this gushing yearbook entry -- dated December 2009 -- could have been written a year ago. Today, it tastes like slightly overdone steak. Stick a fork in it… you get the picture.   
Under the subheading, "Who knows everything there is to know and more about counterinsurgency and its current role in U.S. military strategy? These guys," Ricks effuses:                     
"Pushed and prodded by a wonky group of Ph.D.s, the U.S. military has in the last year decisively embraced a Big Idea: counterinsurgency. Not everyone in uniform is a fan, but David Petraeus and the other generals in charge of America's wars are solidly behind it. Here are the brains behind counterinsurgency's rise from forgotten doctrine to the centerpiece of the world's most powerful military…"
No. 1 on the list: Petraeus, or "King David," "who rules the roost," according to Ricks. He's followed by John Nagl, the former Army officer and Rumsfeld aide who now "beats the COIN drum" and might find himself in a "top Pentagon slot in a year or two"; Australian COIN-whisperer David Kilcullen, currently one of McChrystal's key eggheads, whom Ricks calls "the Crocodile Dundee of counterinsurgency"; Janine Davidson, a Pentagon policy-pusher who Ricks says is "now sitting at the adult table"; Dave Dilegge, editor of Small Wars Journal, which is "avidly read by everyone from four-star generals to captains on the ground in Iraq"; and Andrew Exum, another CNAS wonk, Iraq vet, and blogger, who "in his spare time has been known to play paintball against Hezbollah – no joke."
Little lesson today in: You are who you get in bed with.  You are everything they were exposed to.  So when someone's already has two arrests -- pay attention, Amy Goodman -- for attempting to have sex with a minor, you avoid them.  You don't promote them as 'good' people.  We've gone over that repeatedly but have to hit on it again today because Pig got busted and charged again. Laura Rozen (Politico) notes it here. If we had a working left, a functioing one, Pig would have been shunned long ago.  But see, when the victims would be female, so much of the left doesn't give a damn.  That includes women, we've named Amy Goodman.  There's Laura Flanders as well.  Rachel Maddow.  All these 'strong' women who couldn't say no to Pig and kept booking him on their shows.  We've called it out repeatedly here while so many women have WHORED themselves and others.  That's not to let the men off.  But it's especially disgusting when women -- hey, Lila Garrett -- we're talking about your WHORING ASS too -- give space for sexual predators.  From the February 5, 2008 snapshot:
What the election cycle has demonstrated on the Democratic side is how much women are still devalued and hated.  Don't kid that it's not so.  Like Laura Flanders has no problem bringing the Pig (twice busted for attempting to set up sex with an underage female online) onto her radio program, Common Dreams has no problem posting him.  They've got him up today.  But they didn't post Steinem and they didn't post Morgan.  With Pig, we're supposed to overlook the busts.  It's more important that his 'voice' be heard than that he's a predator and, thing is, women know that argument because we've heard it over and over, decade after decade.  Gender is the greatest barrier.  All women are told to wait -- over and over.  Ask Flanders why she was so offended about Gary Glitter but thought nothing of repeatedly booking Pig on her program?  Ask her to explain that.  Ask Amy Goodman to.  Ask Katrina vanden Heuvel why she, the mother of a teenage daughter, thinks his rambles are worth carrying at The Nation?  Big media had the sense to wash their hands of him when the arrests came out.  Not little media.  Because you've got a lot of queen bees who won't use their voices, they don't want to look 'bitchy' or 'assertive' or 'demanding.'  How's that working out for you?
For those who don't know, Laura wouldn't join us in protesting Pig.  She kept bringing Pig on air.  But in the dying days of her bad radio show, she wanted to insist that a sports team stop using a Gary Glitter song because . . . Gary was a sexual predator.   It offends her . . . at sporting events.  Apparently.  Lila Garrett, Laura Flanders, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Amy Goodman and a host of others better be willing to note Pig's latest arrest -- this would be his third sexual predator arrest for those paying attention -- and maybe explain why they continued to publish him or bring him on as a guest?  They also never called him out when he attacked Cindy SheehanFrom the May 29, 2007 snapshot:
Now here's how polite society worked once upon a time, when someone was reported to have been twice busted for pedophilia, that was really it for them. They didn't get write ups, they didn't pen op-eds. They weren't invited on programs to chat. But for some reason, Pig Ritter is seen as a voice the 'left' needs to adopt. Scott Ritter was allowed to repeatedly attack Cindy Sheehan on his joint-tour in 2006 (The Sky is Falling Tour -- DVD set retails for $19.99 unless you're going for the NC-17 version) and everyone looked the other way and most of the press (big and small) just chuckled. That's why he felt brave enough to issue the nonsense in an interview proper (and one that didn't require him to be handcuffed -- how novel that must have been for him).

The peace movement needs to be inclusive, no question, but that doesn't translate as: "Because we have the Peace Mom, we need to have the Pedophile Man." That's not inclusion, that's stupidity on ever level (including legal liabilities should anything happen to an underage female). We washed our hands of him a long time ago in this community. He is "pig" when noted here for any reason. His name is being mentioned here (for the first time since he went public in attacking Sheehan) only because there are some who seem unable to believe it could be true. Well it is. And it's equally true that you need to ask your outlets why they have repeatedly featured a man who will not explain his criminal busts and allows to stand the mainstream media's reporting that they were for attempting to hook up with young (underage) girls online. It is amazing that the same independent media that wants to scream 'crackpot' and 'crazy' to make sure they are not associated with certain groups is perfectly happy to break bread with a pedophile. Repeatedly.
The Sky Is Falling Tour?  He did that with Sy Hersh.  And I'd love for Hersh to claim he had no idea about Pig's history. He knew all about Pig's history and I'm laughing, Sy, because a lot of us warned you Pig would get arrested again.  It's on you, Seymour, it's on your reputation now.  We've noted this topic too many times to count and there's good chance we'll return to it tonight for "I Hate The War."
Wrapping up with two other things.  First, independent journalist David Bacon reports on the San Francisco Hotel Arrests (link goes to IATSE Local 477):
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and UNITE HERE President John Wilhelm joined 1400 hotel workers and their supporters last week, as they rallied and marched to the San Francisco Hilton demanding a fair contract.  Over 100 protesters, including Trumka and Wilhelm, were then arrested for sitting in and blocking the doors.  The action culminated in the launch of a boycott of the hotel, one of the city's most luxurious.

The Hilton march and arrests are a preview of a spring of growing conflict between workers and the giant chains that now own and operate the city's Class A hotels. Although San Francisco has seen more of that conflict over the last six months than other cities, it is now spreading around the country.  By the summer, it may involve a confrontation between the hotels and over 40,000 workers in at least nine cities.     

The contract with San Francisco's hotel union, UNITE HERE Local 2, expired on August 14.  Since then, Local 2 has been trying to bargain a new agreement in the middle of an economic depression.  Last fall Local 2 members struck, and then began boycotts, at three other Class A hotels - the Grand Hyatt, the Palace and the St. Francis.          

San Francisco's largest hotels are demanding cuts in health and retirement benefits, and increased workloads, saying that the economic crisis has reduced tourism in the city.  The luxury chains want workers to begin paying for their healthcare premiums -- $35/month this year, $115/month next year, and $200/month the year after.    A typical San Francisco hotel worker earns $30,000 per year, and many can't work a full 40-hour week.
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).
Lastly, the Detroit Green Party issued the following:

For Immediate Release: January 10, 2010

For More Information Contact:
Name: Derek Grigsby
Cell Phone: 313-706-2985

Detroit Green Party calls for outlawing of utility shutoffs
Stop the killing of our innocent sisters and brothers!
Outlaw utility shut-offs now!

Detroit, MI January 10, 2010 – In the week that ushered in the New Year, at least eight people died in four Detroit fires.

Why does this happen every winter in Detroit, over and over again?

"Detroit is a city with poor people often unable to pay their utilities. If they get behind in their payments; it's pretty difficult to get caught up. So when water or gas or electricity is turned off, they have a choice of doing without or rigging something up. This kind of access to power leads to fires every winter," stated Detroit Green Party spokesperson Derek Grigsby. "DTE should be prevented from shutting-off electricity in the middle of winter. We should put the needs of ordinary people before the profits of a wealthy few."'

In the latest case, the three people who died were using walkers. They weren't nimble enough to exit the house. By the time firefighters pulled two of the three out of the house and rushed them to nearby hospitals, they were pronounced dead.

While the immediate cause of the fire remains under investigation, the underlying cause is that in the midst of a deep economic crisis, where effectively half the city's adult residents are unemployed, utilities are shut off for non-payment. Instead of a business-as-usual approach to people's needs, we need to adopt a strategy of saving people's lives by having a moratorium on the shut off of utilities and foreclosures.

In the latest case, Marvin Allen, 62, and his brother Tyrone Allen, 61, both handicapped, along with Tyrone's girlfriend, Lyn Grier, 59, died without any insurance. The family asked that donations be made for funeral services to the Allen Memorial Fund at any Comerica Bank Branch. The Detroit Greens has made a contribution, and encourages others, including DTE, to do so.

Detroit Green Party, a local of the Green Party of Michigan