Thursday, August 26, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Sahwa is targeted today, the new US Ambassador to Iraq pounds the (new) war drums, the political stalemate continues, Iraqis weigh in on the drawdown, peace activists take a stand, and more.
Yesterday, Iraq was slammed with bombings and Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) counts 92 dead from violence with 379 more people left injured. The press consensus yesterday appeared to be that security personnel were the primary targets of yesterday's violence. Violence continues today. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports a Baquba attack today has claimed 6 lives. The target? Sahwa members. Sahwa, also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq," are fighters (mainly Sunni -- but according to Gen David Petraeus's April 2008 Congressional testimonies, not exclusively Sunni) who were paid by the US military to stop attacking US military equipment and US military personnel. In 2008, as Congressional members began to get vocal about the financial cost of Sahwa (approximately $300 per member per month with over 96,000 Sahwa), the transition to Iraq's government or 'government' out of Baghdad picking up the bill was supposed to take place. Despite claims in November and again in early 2009, as late as the summer of 2009, the US was still footing the bill regularly for many Sahwa. Despite claims by Nouri that he would absorb a number of Sahwa (about 20%) into Iraq's security forces, that really didn't come to be and Sahwa members began waiting weeks and weeks for late monthly payments and then came the targeting of them, followed by attempts to disarm them, followed by more targeting.
Al Jazeera puts the number dead at 8 (cites police sources for the number) and notes that 52,000 Sahwa continue to remain unemployed/unabsorbed into Nouri's 'new Iraq." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) notes that al-Iraqiyah TV is reporting 8 deaths as well and reminds, "The U.S. hailed the decision of its Sunni Muslim members to turn against al-Qaeda as a key to a country-wide decline in attacks about a year later." The Morning Star also reports 8 dead and states that the bombing "killed four of the guards immeidately before gunmen reportedly finished off the survivors." Reuters adds, "A second simultaneous assault on another Sunni militia group in the same province was thwarted, with one attacker killed and two arrested, Interior Ministry and provincial officials said."AFP quotes police Cpt Firas al-Dulaimi stating, "Several members of al-Qaeda attacked a Sahwa office when nine people were inside. Six Sahwa were killed, two were wounded and one was unhurt."
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 8 Sahwa killed in the attack and also notes a Diyala Province bombing in which 2 Iraqi soldiers were killed and two more were wounded. Reuters notes an Abu Saida clash in which 1 person was killed and two more were arrested as they attempt to assault Sahwa, a Mosul car bombing which injured Nezhat Ali of the Turkmen Front as well as five other people, a Hawija roadside bombing which injured one person and, dropping back to Wednesday night for the rest, a Mosul bombing which injured one adult and one child and Kirkuk attack in which one person was wounded in a shooting.
Meanwhile Arthur MacMillan (AFP) reports on Sahwa Sahwa reaction to the news of the drawdown which is fear in light of the targeting leading Sahwa's Samarra commander Majid Hassan to ask, "If our houses are being attacked and destroyed by the terrorists even before the withdrawal, what will happen to us when the US forces leave?" For Morning Edition (NPR), Mike Shuster files a report about other reactions to the waves of violence.
Mike Shuster: They did the bombings because of the Americans, said Abu Salman at his butcher shop in the Karada neighborhood of Baghdad. They claim that when the Americans leave, there will be more bombs in Iraq. Abu Mohammed, a construction worker, agreed. "They do think the Americans are weaker now, so let's do it," he said. Abu Salman added, "They are getting stronger because there's no government and there's no protection in the street."
Meanwhile the Arab Times reports on a poll by Asharq Research Centre which surveyed 1,150 Iraqis (18 and older) from August 15th through 23rd and found:
* 59.8% stated that the it wasn't the right time for US forces to leave; 39.5% felt it was
* 53.1% did not agree that "combat" operations should end August 31st; 46.2% did agree
* 51% felt the drawdown would have a negative effect; 25.8% felt it would be positive
* Does Barack Obama care about the situation in Iraq? No = 41.9%; Yes = 39.8%; don't know = 15.5%
Bobby Ghosh (Time magazine) observes, "The attacks exposed as a fiction the Obama administration's long-standing claim that the Iraqi forces were ready and able to take over from U.S. troops. While that claim may have played well with war-weary Americans, Iraqis have never been fooled: only last week, the commander of the Iraq military said his forces would not be fully ready until 2020. The bombings don't automatically mean all (or even much) of Iraq is once again in the grip of the insurgency. But they suggest the country is in for a great deal more violence in the months ahead." The Hindu adds, "The spate of murderous attacks in cities across the whole of Iraq over the last 10 days has taken the August 2010 death toll to 535, with nearly 400 wounded. This exceeds the July total of 500 deaths; the authorities attribute the bombings to Sunni-militant followers of al-Qaeda. Only one attacker was stopped in advance: in Mosul, Iraqi soldiers spotted and killed a suicide bomber before he could blow his car up. Above all, the intensified attacks show how little control the United States and the Iraqi authorities have."
Surveying the landscape, The Economist offers, "American commanders were quick to remind Iraqi and American audiences this week that their troops could still return to patrolling the streets if needed. That is meant to be reassuring, and to a growing number of Iraqis it is. But it does not address the underlying problem, namely the inability of the Iraqi state to function effectively, including running the police. Many Iraqis expect the police to respond to the latest attacks by hiding behind even more sandbags and blast walls." March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 19 days. Phil Sands (National Newspaper) notes that if the stalemate continues through September 8th, it will then be a half a year since Iraqis voted.
While the stalemate goes on, the US Ambassador -- new US Ambassador -- to Iraq, James Jeffrey is getting 'comfortable.' You've been advised to pay attention to his background ("national security") and to who's running things on the US side now. If you have, you'll find the report by Michael Christie and Jon Hemming (Reuters) not at all surprising, if you haven't, your jaw may drop. War with/on Iran can't just spring up, it has to be sold. Today Jeffrey informed the reporters that "he believed groups backed by Iran were responsible for a quarter of U.S. casualties in the Iraq war but that Tehran was not as infuential in Iraq as thought." Give the 'diplomat' time, he'll offer more 'thoughts' and 'beliefs' and watch the way they skew.
In the US, Marisa Guthrie (Broadcast & Cable) reports, "On Aug. 31, President Obama will deliver a primetime speech from the Oval Office about the end of combat operations in Iraq. The speech, which will be about 15 minutes long, will begin at 8 p.m ET. All of the major networks will carry it live. Diane Sawyer will anchor ABC's coverage of the speech. She'll be joined by George Stephanopoulos. Brian Williams will anchor NBC's coverage, and Harry Smith will be on hand for CBS' coverage. Fox, which has on occasion demurred in handing over prime-time for the President's addresses, also will carry the speech live." The drawdown didn't end the Iraq War and repeating the lie it did effects many. Ann Rubin (KSDK) reports some soldiers in Iraq are afraid their pay is going to be cut as a result of the creative terminology the spin is pushing. US House Rep Russ Carnahan tells Rubin, "The bottom line is they're in a dangerous part of the world, but we've got to continue to do everything we can to be sure they get that support." Meanwhile Jarrod Wise (KXAN) reports that 800 members of the Texas Army National Guard's 36th Infantry Division are preparing to deploy to Iraq where they will be stationed in Basra and the 800 include people like Bank of America's Charles Clemons and police officer Stephanie Dugan. Jennie Huerta (KVUE) adds that the 800 head to Fort Lewis at the end of next month and will be in Iraq following Thanksgiving for what "is only the second major deployment of the 36th Infantry Division headquarters since World War II, when the T-Patch soldiers were the first American troops to land in Europe." Nikasha Dicks (Augusta Chronicle) notes that the 63rd Expeditionary Signal Battalion's Bravo Company had a send-off ceremony on Saturday as Bravo Company prepares for a year-long deployment in Iraq and quotes Colen Ortiz whose husband Sgt Ortiz is among those deploying, "The very first three [deployments], I just had to worry about myself. Now I have someone else to worry about." Colen Ortiz "is expecting the couple's first child in October." Heath Druzin (Stars and Stripes) explains, "On Sept. 1, the date the U.S. mission in Iraq officially changes, troops will still patrol the dusty fringes of this violent insurgent stronghold. They may raid the house of a suspected terrorist. They will continue to face the ever-present danger of roadside bombs. What they won't do is conduct combat operations, at least on paper." At least on paper. The Iraq War didn't end and won't end September 1st.
Early Monday morning, a major action took place as a group of activists joined in an action to block a troop deployment at Fort Hood in Texas. They chanted and held a huge banner "TELL THE BRASS: KISS MY ASS YOUR FAMILY NEEDS YOU MORE." The group was originally longer but the time on Sunday for the troops to leave in their bus was repeatedly changed. It left early in the morning and several dedicated activists were still present. Stephen C. Webster was present to report for Raw Story (and was among those harassed by the police) amd reports that the activists managed to halt the deployment "for approximately 10 seconds while police and military personnel shoved them out of the road," that those participating feel it was a success (it was, my opinion) and that "not a single one of them was arrested." One of those participating in the action was Matthis Chiroux who explains (along with others at the link) why he participated:
I am a former Army sergeant and war resister. I was press-ganged into the Army by the Alabama Juvenile "Justice" System in 2002. While in the military, I occupied the nations of Japan and Germany for more than four years, with shorter tours in the Philippines and Afghanistan.
I was a Public Affairs noncommissioned officer specializing in strategic communications. In reality, I was a propaganda artist. I was discharged honorably to the Individual Ready Reserve in 2007.
While I have always been against the war in Iraq, I began resisting it actively in 2008, after I received mobilization orders for a year-long deployment to Iraq. I refused those orders in Congress in May of 2008, calling my orders illegal and unconstitutional. I believed appealing to Congress would end the war. When 13 Members signed a letter of support for my decision and sent it to Bush, I thought we had won a victory for peace. This was more than two years ago. The president has changed, and the wars and destruction drag on.
Today, I am blocking the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment with my fellow vets and military family members because the wars will continue to victimize our communities until we halt this bloody machine from within. I am putting my body on the line in solidarity with the people of the Middle East, whose bodies have been shot, burned, tortured, raped, and violated by our men and women in and out of uniform. I cannot willfully allow Americans in uniform to put their lives and the lives of Iraqis in jeopardy for a crime. We are here because we have a responsibility to ourselves as veterans and as humans of the world. I will not rest until my people, ALL PEOPLE, are free.
The others participating who write of their actions are Bobby Whittenberg-James, Crystal Colon and Cynthia Thomas. Monday, World Can't Wait reported, "Five peace activists successfully blockaded six buses carrying Fort Hood Soldiers deploying to Iraq outside Fort Hood's Clarke gate this morning at around 4 a.m." Alice Embree (The Rag Blog) reports:
Under darkness at about 4 a.m. this morning, buses carrying the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3rd ACR) to planes were stopped by a group of five protesters that included two Iraq veterans, one Afghanistan veteran, and one military spouse whose husband had been deployed to Iraq three times.
The Fort Hood Disobeys group clambered down from a highway overpass where supporters held banners and signs. Holding banners that said, "Occupation is a Crime" and "Please Don't Make the Same Mistake We Did. RESIST NOW," the protesters spread across Clarke Road. Police with automatic weapons and dogs beat them out of the roadway. They were not arrested.
In a video Jeff Zavala made about the issue several of the activists share their thoughts. This is an excerpt:
Geoff Gernant: I think it's important people resist the occupations -- the illegal occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. And I think it's important to do that in a such way that it's the people themselves resisting in a direct action and not doing something like lobbying Congress or writing letters to Congressmen or relying on politicians to do something -- which they've shown that they're not willing to do which is end this war. We all need to start doing, actively opposing it ourselves. And I've been involved in activsim here, Under The Hood, for like a year or so.
Crystal Colon: Because I think it's time that people do something about these wars. I don't feel like there's enough support for the wars in the American population. But there aren't enough people actually getting out there and doing something about it, trying to stop it. And I want to be one of the people that goes out there and says, you know, "This is exactly what I think, this is how I feel about this and I am going to try and stop you from doing this anyway I possibly can. I came out to Under The Hood -- I've been here since June for two months just organizing around Fort Hood, doing all the protests that we've done, like the one at the East Gate and the Col Allen banner that we made specifically for the 3rd ACR. I just really want these soldiers to know that this is not something that they have to do because I know if someone would have done this for me when I was in, I wouldn't have gone back a second time. I probably wouldn't have gone the first time if someone would have done this for me back in '06. So I really just want soldiers to know there's support for them out there, that what they're feeling -- If they're feeling like this is not what they want to do, this is against their moral values and it's against their feelings and they feel like this is not the right thing for them to do, we are there to support them and that's what I want them to see.
Bobby Whittenberg: War in our time always kills innocent civilians, it kills children, it kills women and it destroys families both in the Middle East and here in the United States. The United States has always been predatory, has always been violent -- a country built on the land of slaughtered Native people. It was built by slaves. The United States is always killing innocent people to take things that do not belong to them. I do not lend my consent to the actions of the United States government. I'm here today to say no more. A lot of us have just been talking and, you know, holding signs -- that's great. But we decided that it's time that we moved beyond that and what we're planning is totally non-violent but it's definitely a sign to say that we've had enough and that we can't trust the politicians, the capitalists to end these wars because they make them more wealthy and consolidate their power. So if we want to see any change, we have to do it ourselves. They always say, if you want something done right, do it yourself. Right? That's what we're doing, do it yourself.
New York State Green PartyUS Senate Candidate Cecile Lawrence Says that the War in Iraq Continues Despite Fanfare over departure of "last" Combat Troops
New York State peace and social justice activist Cecile Lawrence and Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate remembers being amazed at former President Bush's advice to Americans after planes hit the towers at the bottom of Manhattan that we all should go shopping.
Less than two years later, the U.S. attacked Iraq in an invasion dubbed "Shock and Awe." Major cities in Iraq were later bombed into the Middle Ages, as at least one commentator put it.
Dr. Lawrence, running for the seat to which Kisten Gillibrand was appointed by Governor Paterson last year, is aghast at the likelihood that the Obama administration is playing with words by announcing that he's ending the war in Iraq with the departure from that country of the last full Army combat brigade. With 50,000 members of the U.S. military to remain in Iraq, Lawrence is convinced that the war continues but just under a new label.
Lawrence added that every since Kirsten Gillibrand was appointed Senator, she has regularly voted for more funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
From Lawrence's perspective, this move of some military out of Iraq is a game of smoke and mirrors. According to the State Department the numbers of private security guards will be massively increased and a "small army" of contractors will remain. Lawrence noted that a member of the military commented, "Combat operations is a sort of relative term." Lawrence also noted that the American people have no clear picture of the roles of these private security guards and contractors, who are highly specialized and well trained. Their private status excludes them from the scrutiny that troops would have. Lawrence agrees with the conclusion that this move is simply a privatization of the occupation.
Today is Equality Day, the celebration of the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. Join the celebration by registering to vote, or by encouraging the women in your life to register to vote.
Did You Know?
Ninety years ago, one mother's plea to her son helped pass the 19th Amendment by one vote and gave American women the vote. After thirty-five of the necessary thirty-six states had ratified the amendment, the battle came to Nashville, Tennessee. One young legislator, 24 year-old Harry Burns, had previously voted with the anti-suffrage forces. But a telegram from his mother urging him to vote for the amendment and for suffrage made the difference. Burns broke a 48 to 48 tie making Tennessee the 36th and deciding state to ratify. One vote does matter. Your vote matters. Today, even though women turnout at equal or great numbers than men on election day, more than one in four American women is still not registered to vote. If you're one of them, celebrate Equality Day today by visting Women's Voices. Women's Vote website and registering to vote. If you are already registered, use your voice to talk to five women you know about the importance of voting.