Sunday, November 28, 2010

And the war drags on . . .

WikiLeaks latest release has begun. They'll be covered and more often miscovered. People will ignore the substance of the documents -- especially if it reflects on the current White House -- and waste everyone's time. We've strongly defended WikiLeaks and will continue to do so. Anything from the release having to do with Iraq falls in our scope. But there are equally important stories that won't get a lot of gas bagging (posing as informing) and that's why we're focusing on Iraqi refugees tonight.

Pari and Dilsa are Iraqi refugees. They are also a couple and one that Sweden insists it is sending back to Iraq despite the fact that Pari and Dilsa are both women and that the LGBT community in Iraq has long been targeted. Melanie Nathan ( reports:

The Swedish Immigration Court has decided they should be expelled in a week. "We are so afraid that we can barely sleep or eat," says Dilsa. The two women, in their 30s, fell in love in Iraq five years ago. But they had [to] hide their relationship for fear of persecution. Pari's family is one of the most powerful Muslim clans in the country with governmental power. Being a lesbian in the environment was impossible and dangerous.
Pari was being forced to marry a relative, but she refused and confessed that she loved a woman.
Death sentences were issued by the clan. First Pari would be killed, then Dilsa. [. . .] Pari managed to flee to Swede in 2006. Dilsa hid at a friend's home in Iraqi Kurdistan. However, the friend's brother raped her, and she became pregnant. "I fled to Sweden three months after Pari and I had an abortion," she said.

Sweden's been sending Iraqi refugees back for some time now. The supposed 'advanced' country has ditched compassion and instead resorted to sending people to what may be their deaths. Dilsa and Pari may become the two latest this week. For more on the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community, you can refer to Iraqi LGBT. And if the US government had elected to make the targeting an issue -- instead of spending months denying it and then offering a mealy-mouthed statement or two -- maybe there would be a world-wide international outcry.

As the United Nations has noted, only a small portion of the external refugees have voluntarily returned to Iraq. In yesterday's New York Times, John Leland and Duraid Adnan (I wrongly credited that to Jack Healy yesterday when mentioning it, my apologies) reported on those who return only to yet again have to flee or who are planning to: "In a recent survey by the United Nations refugee office, 61 percent of those who returned to Baghdad said they regretted coming back, most saying they did not feel safe. The majority, 87 percent, said they could not make enough money here to support their families. Applications for asylum in Syria have risen more than 50 percent since May." That's correct. This is flat out wrong: "Nearly 100,000 refugees have returned since 2008, out of more than two million who left since the invasion, according to the Iraqi government and the United Nations high commission for refugees."

The Iraqi government has always lied about the number about the number of returnees. Leland can check with reporters for his paper who used to be in Baghdad. He can also check the work of Deborah Haynes on how Nouri's government loved to portray things 'happier' than they were. We're not interested in Thug Nouri's p.r. So disregard from the sentence. Do UN figures back up that claim?

The kindest thing we can say about this bad, bad article is that Leland confused external and internal refugees. External refugees left the country. Internal ones were displaced within it. The UN estimate for 2008 was 25,370. 2009 was 37,090. There are no complete figures for 2010 -- the year's not over and it takes time to collect data -- but I'm told on the phone 20,000 is a "good guess" for 2010. Now I'm on the phone with a friend at the UN.

I was told we can have PDFs and graphs on 2008 and 2009 and much more. I said, "No thank you."

And I say that for a reason. We were never wrong.

When it comes the Myth of the Great Return? We were never wrong. When every news outlet LIED in the fall of 2007, we weren't wrong. When some whored for Nouri and some whored just cause they're stupid, we weren't wrong. There was no 'great return.' Damien Cave and Cara Buckley would report weeks into the myth that it just wasn't true. And thank goodness for them and for they're doing that. It was and remains one of the great reporting accomplishments of the Iraq War.

The lie was meant to make Nouri look good -- and let him out of those promises he made about giving oil money to neighboring countries to cover for the Iraqi populations in them -- and it risked making external refugees think it was safe to return to Iraq.

It was not safe to return. It is not safe to return. We didn't get it wrong here and that's not because we're geniuses or even because I have friends at the UN. At the time the lie started, friends with the UN were saying they weren't seeing it but they couldn't deny it. Friends with the Red Cross - Red Crescent were much more vocal that it wasn't happening. But the entire reason we caught on had to do with the fact that a number -- let's say 4,000 -- was used on Saturday by a spokesperson for Nouri and the press ran with it so the figure got inflated and inflated by Nouri's people until Monday when the figure had tripled. If you've raised children you know that when numbers change from one moment to the next, that's generally an indication that a lie is being told. And that's what happened with the Myth of the Great Return. A little lie started it and they were amazed at how well it went over with the press so they added to the lie and added to it and added to it some more and . . .

I find it very sad that the paper of Damien Cave and Cara Buckley -- the two bravest US reporters and the ones who broke through the myth -- is the one to today distort the returns.

The figures I quoted above are UN figures -- and for this year a UN guess -- those do not add up to "nearly 100,000." And it's past time that reporters started being a little more precise with their figures. It's also past time that reporters started grasping what their actions result in. You whore for Nouri, you risk putting people in danger. How many that returned would say the returned due to press coverage insisting things were 'better' -- or maybe the 'things are better' statements by US officials?

These are people's lives and a little more care needs to be taken. That's why we screamed our heads off here for weeks and weeks during The Myth of the Great Return. The Myth made Nouri look good -- as does most press, you have so little bravery in Iraq -- but that wasn't the issue. The issue was the fact that it could convince refugees that Iraq was safe enough to return when it was no such thing.

It's not a minor point. We hit on the same note over and over in the fall of 2007 until the point that even I was sick of it. But we did that because it mattered. If people flee a region due to violence and then every outlet is reporting that huge numbers are returning and it's safe to return when it isn't, it puts refugees at risk. We're talking about human lives here and those should matter even to those who whore for Nouri. It's not a minor point, it's very much a major point.

Iraq is not a safe country. IRIN dubs it "No Country For Women" today:

The improved political representation of women in Iraq is in sharp contrast to their broader disempowerment, as highlighted by the persistence of domestic violence and early marriage, according to a new report by the UN Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit.

Women may hold 25 percent of seats in the Iraqi parliament, but one in five in the 15-49 age group has suffered physical violence at the hands of her husband. Anecdotal evidence alleges that “many women are being kidnapped and sold into prostitution”, and female genital mutilation is still common in the north, the report notes.

“The situation many Iraqi women and girls face is beyond words,” journalist Eman Khammas told IRIN in a telephone interview. “Before, I was a journalist, a professional; now, I am nothing.”

Khammas noted an underlying social climate of intolerance that has become increasingly poisonous for women. She was forced to flee Iraq after receiving death threats that effectively stopped her - like thousands of other Iraqi women - from working. She now lives in Spain.

Iraq is not safe for anyone except the exiles the US government installed into power. It's not safe for Iraqi Christians. AFP reports that when rumors circulated that the French Embassy in the KRG was issuing visa (a false rumors) hundreds and hundreds of Iraqi Christians swarmed the embassy. They weren't looking for a vaction, they were looking for a way out of the country. It's amazing that the US has made Casablanca a touchstone work and yet the US government demonstrates every day that they'd deny Ilsa safe passage.

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, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4432 (but listed as 4430 by the Defense Dept which hadn't updated at the time). Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4432.

In 'safe' Iraq today, Reuters reports a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left four people injured, a second Baghdad sticky bombing left three people injured and that the US military shot dead an Iraqi engineer at Baghdad International Airport. The Los Angeles Times reports airport employees shut down the airport for two hours in protest of the killing of the engineer.

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes "British government is complicit in torture" (Great Britian's Socialist Worker):

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by John Clossick, chair, Save Shaker Aamer Campaign

The British government has publicly admitted complicity in torture and abuse by making compensation payments to 16 Guantanamo detainees.

The settlement means that David Cameron is guilty of complicity in torture—as are previous prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, along with their foreign secretaries.

The government made the payments to stop documents coming out in court that would show definitively that the Cabinet hierarchy—the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office and Number 10—had to give explicit authority to the spooks of MI5 and MI6 to either turn a blind eye to torture or provide questions to torturers.

The judicial inquiry into torture and rendition which has now been announced should be pressurised to consider all these “redacted” (concealed) papers.

The most outrageous part of all this is that while the last British prisoner, Shaker Aamer, is getting compensation, he is still languishing in his Guantanamo cell.

As the prisoners’ leader he has suffered grievously for nearly nine years.

People should join the protest on Saturday 11 December to free him immediately and close both Guantanamo and Bagram camps.

The first Guantanamo Bay prisoner to be tried in a US civilian court has been found guilty on just one out of 286 terrorism charges.

Ahmed Ghailani is the only person transferred from Guantanamo Bay for trial since the US began filling the military jail in Cuba in 2002.

He now faces 20 years to life in prison—despite his trial being racked with the use of informers and evidence taken during torture.

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