Friday, March 25, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqis turn out to protest across the country, Nouri attempts to diminish turnout be utilizing his usual tactics, Iraq is facing big water issues, a promise on electricity surfaces, and more.
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports on the Baghdad protest and notes that women calling for the "government to release sons and husbands who are in prison awaiting trial or investigation" were often "carrying photos of their loved ones" and that "in Najaf, Diwaniya, Kut and Hilla -- Shiite provinces south of Baghdad -- hundreds of demonstrators rallied Friday against unemployment and corruption, police said." The Great Iraqi Revolution notes Iraqi forces were sent to Ramadi and Falluja but protesters still turned out and demonstrated ("thousands" in Falluja). Mostafa Badr reports, "The people of Tikreet have come out from the Grand Mosque, Tikreet, after Friday Prayers in a large demonstration demanding the release of detainees and the change in government and for the Parliament to go!!!!" The Great Iraqi Revolution reports, "The People of Babil are out in a very large demonstration demanding that Parliament and government resign!" And they report, "The Askeriein Regiment is surrounding the Aisha Mosque in Sammarra'a in an attempt to break the large demonstration taking place now despite suprresion tactics and methods -- the people of Sammarra'a demand the exit of the Parliament and the government as well as are refusing to sell their land around the 'Hathra'. God Save Iraq all Iraqis."
The war in Iraq is supposedly over. The U.S. administration says the occupation, which began on March 20 eight years ago, is ending as well, with the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops. But as the U.S., Great Britain and France begin another military intervention in North Africa, their respective administrations are silent about the price Iraqis are paying for the last one. Not so the Iraqi, however. Demonstrations have taken place in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk, among other cities, calling on the U.S. in particular to stop its escalating military intervention in Libya. Iraqi unions have been especially vocal, linking the U.S. invasion of Iraq with continued misery for its working people. According to one union representative, Abdullah Muhsin of the General Federation of Iraqi workers, "Eight years have ended since the fall of Saddam's regime, yet the empty promises of the "liberators" - the invaders and the occupiers who promised Iraqis heaven and earth - were simply lies, lies and lies." The GFIW, which supported the recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, says the U.S. should "allow the people of Libya, Bahrain and other countries to determine their own destiny by themselves." Falah Alwan, president of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, says violence directed against workers and unions is intended to keep a lid on protests against miserable living conditions. "We are still under occupation," he charges. "The new Iraqi army, created by the U.S. occupation, is doing the same job, protecting the corrupt government while we are suffering from the difficulties of daily life." "There's no electricity most of the time, and no drinking water - no services at all," says Qasim Hadi, president of the Union of Unemployed of Iraq. Eight years after the start of the U.S. military intervention, "there's hardly even any repair of the war damage - there's still rubble in the streets. People are going hungry." Despite often-extreme levels of violence in the years of occupation, Iraqis have never stopped protesting these conditions. When demonstrations broke out in other countries of the Middle East and North Africa, people in Baghdad, Basra and Kirkuk had been taking to the streets for years. In large part, protests continued in Iraq because living conditions never changed, despite promises of what the fall of Saddam Hussein would bring.
There was an attack on detainees in Rassafa Tasfeerat Prison according to The Great Iraqi Revolution, a week lon gattack, where "militias in plain clothes with knives and sharp instruments" attack the detainees and they note, "Journalist, Sa'ad Al-Awsi who has been detained for several months in Rassafa Prison in Baghdad on charges of terrorism, has an hour ago, been kidnapped by armed militias from the prison dressed in their black plain clothes uniform! Please mount a campaign for him -- they plan to liquidate him. Imagine prison officers colluding all the time with militias!"
In other violence news, Al Mada reports that the Baghdad Operations Command has announced the recent wave of assassinations are being carried out by . . . al Qaeda in Iraq. Did you see it coming? That puts you several up on the Baghdad Operations Command, doesn't it?
No word on how many people it took to conduct that 'investigation' or how many 'hours' of 'investigating' before they 'cracked the case.' Al Rafidayn adds that Baghdad Operations Command has also 'solved' the weapons issues: the assassins are using silencers (on guns) and bombs. Shocking. It's only been a pattern for how long now? Al Rafidayn also reports that an intelligence officer with the Ministry of Defence was found shot dead in his Al Muthanna Airport office in Baghdad.
In other patterns, Al Mada reports that the Ministry of Electricity has announced a 'plan' to provide 16 hours of electricity come 2012. This sort of thing has been promised before and apparently everyone's supposed to pretend otherwise. Part of what is fueling the protests in Iraq is the refusal to forget all the broken promises of the last eight years.
Meanwhile UPI notes UNICEF's report on Iraq's water issue which includes that at least 1 million Iraqi children get their water from 'open source' and that "water-borne illnesses like diarrhea are the second-largest killer of Iraqi children." Iraq lacks a needed supply of potable water. This is due to the fact that in his five years and counting as prime minister, Nouri has failed to fix the infrastructure so Iraq's water contains sewage and otehr items. The recommendation each summer -- as the yearly cholera outbreak approaches -- is that Iraqis boil their water before drinking. Which is possible for some. It's not, of course, possible for Iraqi orphans living on the streets. A real answer would be for Nouri to spend some of those billions on rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure but you can't prepare for a palatial, post-prime minister life and also ensure that Iraqis' basic needs are met, apparently.
In Iraq, water is a major issue that's only become more of one in recent months. They share a border with many countries. Iran has been a problem with regards to water. There have been accusastions that Iran is building dams to prevent the flow of water. More seriously in the immediate term, the water is becoming too salty for consumption because water flowing into Iraq through Iran has too much saline in it. Not only does that make for problems with drinking water, it can be very bad for fertile land which might otherwise be productive and help Iraq restart their agriculture sector -- Iraq was the bread basket of the Middle East -- the Iraq War changed that as it did so many things. Within Iraq, a new move may heighten tensions. AFP reports that the Kurdistan Regional Government is constructing 11 damns with plans for an additional 28 to be built. AFP notes that "rainfall is now 60 percent below average" and that accusations were already flying in Kirkuk that farmers were being denied needed water due to Kurdistan dams.
Yesterday on Morning Edition (NPR), Mike Shuster reported on the efforts to rebuild the Askariya Shrine in Samarra and how it was contributing to the tensions: "It is over this plan, which is expected to generate millions of dollars, that new sectarian tensions have surfaced. The development project remains firmly in the hands of the Shia community, not in the hands of the city or provincial government, which are dominated by the Sunnis, who make up a majority of Samarra's population. They resent being cut out of what will almost certainly be a very rich project." Many groups are targeted in Iraq and that includes Iraqi Christians. The latest wave of attacks on Iraqi Christians began October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church. Sarah MacDonald (Catholic News Service) reports that Erbil's archbishop, Father Bashar Warda, has stated that the country has "near-genocide conditions" and, "We are living a region which cannot decide if it is for democracy or Islamic law." He notes 66 churches "attacked or bombed" as well as 2 "convents, one monastery and a church orphanage".
Intellectuals in Iraq have also been among the targeted populations. Gumer Isayev is the head of the St. Petersburg Center for the Study of the Modern Middle East, a professor at St. Petersburg State University and has his doctorate in history. Gazeta.ru interviews Isayev about events in Libya and their relation to Iraq.
Q: Being an expert on the Middle East, how do you assess the recent events in Libya? What's actually happening there, is it a "clash of civilizations", a "crusade', an attempt to protect democracy in Libya, or an attempt to overthrow Gaddafi's regime orchestrated by some countries, or perhaps a war for Libya's natural resources, or still something else?
A: Any attempts to explain the events in Libya drawing on the abstract concepts produced by the West -- such as for instance the "clash of civilizations" -- are doomed to fail just as much as the attempts to come up with a strictly rational explanation. Revolutions, overthrows, and uprisings are irrational by nature and often develop in an unpredictable manner which does not fit any conventional theories. The events in Libya unrolled rapidly and were shaped by a number of factors, and while both Egyptian and Tunisian presidents gave up quite quickly, Muammar Gaddafi made it clear right away that he will fight to the end. Consequently, the internal uprising against Gaddafi which started in February developed into armed aggression against Libya by March, and God knows what it will be like by April… Obviously, the "uprising" in Libya was inspired by popular unrest in the neighboring Arab countries. But unlike the peaceful protests in Tunisia and Egypt, Libya's uprising was armed, and quite possibly relied on some external support.
The revolution bug appears to have bitten a large number of Arab countries, but in Libya it seems to have developed into an acute condition. There are witnesses who confirm that the uprising was pre-planned, that groups of youths attacked police and local authorities' buildings in different towns at the same time. But the crucial role was played by the fact that Gaddafi secured the support of a large share of the population, especially in the country's capital and in the West. There were no massive protests in Tripoli, and the rebellious East has demonstrated the breakaway ambitions of Cyrenaica that Libyan Jamahiriya had already dealt with before (although the number of rebels there did not exceed a few thousand). Gaddafi wisely waited out the critical phase and went on to some successful attempts to re-unite the country but faced serious counteraction from the West.
The attempt to overthrow Gaddafi by "global effort" has been quite cynical.
Libya's business partners, including Italy, France and other European countries, which until recently were signing multi million dollar contracts with Gaddafi now all of a sudden claimed his regime to be illegitimate and openly took the rebels' side. It's no secret that Gaddafi has ceased to be a thorn the West's side over the last decade as he gave up a number of notorious projects related to development of weapons of mass destruction, let the U.S. oil companies in on the Libyan market, paid compensation for the Lockerbie bombing, and started liberalizing the domestic economy. Nevertheless, the colonel didn't entirely "mend his ways": the Americans got hold only of a small share of Libya's oil reserves; the Lockerbie bombing, though paid for, was never admitted guilt for, and the project to privatize the state oil production company also fell through. Gaddafi was actively promoting the idea of African unity and a single currency pegged to gold, and he heavily criticized the West's policies in Asia and Africa. Removal of sanctions in 2003 stimulated economic growth and turned Libya in a rapidly developing economy capable of making Gaddafi's dream come true i.e. turning Libya into the leading power of the region.
Therefore it is not about Gaddafi's Western partners suddenly becoming appalled at his being cruel to the rebels. Western powers simply took advantage of the situation, i.e. a temporary weakness of the Libyan leader, to back up the uprising.
An unstable situation in Libya is in the European and U.S. hawks' opinion better than a strong and ambitious Gaddafi. That is why the desperate West started to stir up the almost gone fire of the civil war. And whereas for the United States, this war would be across the ocean, Europe might harvest some big problems ensuing from it in the very near future. And this tells us that in fact European leaders followed their U.S. counterparts.
Q: How do you explain the fact it wasn't the U.S. but France who was the first to bomb Libya? Is it simply part of the West's overall campaign against Gaddafi's regime, or
maybe France has its own interests and accounts to square? A: The United States is already running two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq. The incumbent president, Barack Obama, came to power surfing a wave of anti-war sentiment in American society. He positioned himself as a man to dramatically change U.S. foreign policy and withdraw the troops from Iraq. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in anticipation of his achievements. Therefore Obama hardly stands a chance of convincing the voters that the United States must get involved in yet another war. According to recent polls, the majority of Americans do not support the idea of the U.S. intervening with Libya's affairs in any way. Voters won't forgive their president any more losses. It was no coincidence that as soon as a report of an F-15 fighter aircraft being shot down was released, Robert Gates hurried to make a statement that the active phase of the operation is nearing its end. The U.S. fear getting involved in a war for the same reason Germany had to give up aggression. They fear the public reaction. But that seems to be of no concern to Sarkozy who was never hiding the special nature of his relations with the United States. While the U.S. is biding in the shade, Sarkozy is willing to do the dirty work and take the risks as he has nothing to lose. The French president's ratings are quite low, and he badly needs a "little glorious victory." Neither is Sarkozy concerned with the fact that destabilizing Libya will send off new waves of illegal immigrants straight to France. "After us, the deluge" -- this famous French by-word aptly characterizes the president's demeanor. Under current circumstances, it would be appropriate to recall the events of 1956 when the U.K., France, and Israel attacked Egypt attempting to win back the Suez Canal nationalized by Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein. The initiative belonged to Israel while France and the U.K played peace-makers while breaking into Egypt's territory. The United States stayed out of this, not wishing to mar their reputation with the Arab world.
Q: The fact that the Libyan conflict has been broken into by the Western powers means that it's altogether a different story than that in Tunisia or Egypt. Can we say that Libya is going through what Afghanistan and Iraq did? Can we draw parallels between Muammar Gaddafi and, for instance, Saddam Hussein?
A: The recipe for intervening with internal affairs of countries in disfavor is basically the same. The parallels with Iraq are obvious. Aggression was preceded by a media attack whose goal was to justify the necessity to overthrow the ruling regime. In case of Iraq, Hussein's regime was accused of secretly developing weapons of mass destruction, and the media unrolled a massive misinformation campaign. It only takes to recall Colin Powell flashing photographs of Iraq's alleged secret WMD facilities and mobile laboratories to media cameras. In case of Libya, the focus was made on "bloodthirstiness" of the regime, and the story of dealing cruelly with peaceful protesters circled the world. The global community was thus prepared for the news of air strikes and bombings. As soon as it became clear that insurgents have lost the battle, the UN Security Council was called up to pass Resolution 1973 whose ample wordings in their essence granted freedom to the anti-Libyan coalition and resulted in the country being bombed. On top of all the similarities with the situation in Iraq, one more thing might get similar -- the end result. Libya may cease to exist de facto, the way Iraq did. And both Libya and Iraq would degrade into "black holes."
A speech by Gold Star Mother Celeste Zappala, mother of Sgt. Sherwood Baker, KIA April 26, 2004 in Iraq. Sad anniversaries are marked in the faces we see here tonight, this weekend marks 8 years since the disastrous Iraq invasion, nine and a half years ago the official chapter of the misguided war on Afghanistan began – Joyce just told me that today is Jeffrey's 30th birthday, and my son Sherwood will always be 30 years old.
Members of MFSO traveled to Washington DC from all over the country to participate in a weekend of trainings and grassroots lobby visits. We delivered postcards to 80 Senators and 175 Representatives with the message "Bring our troops & tax dollars home"
On March 18, 2011, the Cape Cod Chapter of Veterans for Peace will dedicate and rename our chapter in honor of Corporal Jeffrey M. Lucey. A 23-year-old Iraq War veteran, Lucey suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD and in his anguish took his own life on June 22, 2004, almost a year after his discharge from active military duty. Jeff's family home is in Belchertown, Massachusetts. His parents have, since his death, become tireless advocates for active duty and discharged military personnel who are experiencing this horrendous and widespread disorder.
March 19, 2011 - Eleven military family members and veterans were arrested for civil trespass today in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre where they staged a sit in on the 8th anniversary of the occupation of Iraq. They brought with them the photographs and boots of soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. The family members brought a block of cement with them when they sat among the hand and footprints of Hollywood legends and pressed the foot prints of an empty pair of combat boots into the cement signing the footprints 'Forgotten Dead.' copying what the stars do when they get their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
MFSO members and other peace activists protested Senator Susan Collins' induction into the Maine Women's Hall of Fame Saturday in Augusta. Shortly after Senator Collins was awarded the honor at the University of Maine campus, a woman stood up in the audience and began speaking, reading a written statement, and saying Senator Collins should refuse the award for her role in helping advance the war in Iraq eight years ago. Senator Collins was among the majority in the Senate that gave then President Bush the authorization to use force against Iraq.
The Iraq Veteran's Against the War (IVAW) hosted a rally last Saturday, March 19 on the 8th anniversary of the Iraq War. Todd E. Dennis, former nuclear machinist mate on an attack submarine and current Madison Chapter President for the IVAW was one of several responsible for organizing the event. The rally began at the library mall on the campus of UW-Madison. Songs and speeches were shared as people from all over the state assembled. The IVAW then lead a march of several thousand to the Capitol where several speeches were given by both veterans of several wars and union leaders of the state. Attached is a part from that day. Please take the time to view one of the most important speeches that connects the dots between our wars and workers rights.
The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to April 8, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they've earned under the program guidelines.
The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama Friday, providing funding for federal government operations through April 8, 2011.
Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009. Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.
When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit. Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts to reach them and remind them to apply. Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through April 8, 2011.
To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to http://www.defense.gov/stoploss.
American companies are finding new overseas tax havens to legally protect some of their profits from the U.S. tax rate of 35 percent, among the highest in the world. Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video
One Child At A Time Wars can literally shatter children's lives and Elissa Montanti is on a mission to make some of them whole again through a network of volunteers. Scott Pelley follows the progress of one of them, a badly maimed Iraqi boy. | Watch Video
The Sage of St. Anthony Tiny Catholic high school St. Anthony in Jersey City, N.J., doesn't even have its own gym, but it has Coach Bob Hurley, who has taken the team, now ranked number-one in the nation, to 24 state championships. Steve Kroft reports. | Watch Video