Saturday, December 24, 2016

Iraq snapshot

Saturday, December 24, 2016.  Chaos and violence continue, a refugee camp is flooded, death does not take a holiday on Christmas Eve, and much more.


The legendary icon and trailblazer Diana Ross performs Christmas carols above.

Christmas is a celebration around the world.

For Christians it's a religious holiday as well as a celebration.

In Iraq?

AFP notes, "Iraq had well over a million Christians before the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, but the population has dwindled to just 350,000 as sectarian violence wracked the country."

  1. Christmas Eve service in Bartalla, Iraq -- first to be held since its recapture from IS.
  2. Church bell rings after 1st church service since recapture of Bartalla, Iraq from IS. The service was held today, on Christmas Eve.
  3. From the liberated Assyrian Christian town of Al-Qosh, the biggest cross in lights up the mountainside to celebrate .

Muslim Iraqi businessman puts 85-foot-tall Christmas tree in to ease suffering of Christians

  1. Iraqis 🇮🇶🇮🇶💗💗 in Baghdad celebrate now in Baghdad God bless them

AP offers a photo essay by Cengiz Yar here.  More of Yar's photos can be found with this report:

Iraq’s Christian heartland was finally freed from more than two years of ISIS occupation this fall as troops closed in on the country’s second-largest city of Mosul. But not before the destruction wrought on ancient Christian towns like Bartella and Qaraqosh was nearly absolute. There is little left now but broken tombstones, burnt churches, abandoned bomb factories and booby-trapped houses.
Those who remain are often still displaced, living in caravan shelters or camps and struggling to feed their families or access medical care. There’s little chance for change. Job opportunities in the country are bleak, and the Kurdish north is in the midst of an economic crisis.

And elsewhere?   EURONEWS notes:

Late on Friday, unidentified gunmen launched an assault liquor store in the mostly Christian neighbourhood of al-Ghadier in eastern Baghdad, killing three people and wounding three more.

All the victims were Christian, police said.

We're ignoring most of the press ------ today.  And trying to keep the language clean for the holiday.

But here's reality that the liars of the western press -- especially the US press -- 'forget' to report today.

"Iraq's Christian population has fallen from as many as 1.4 million in 2003 to between 500,000 and 700,000 more recently, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom."

That's from a 2008 CNN report.

Today, the estimate is 350,000 Christians in Iraq (some put it at 250,000).

Prior to the start of the war?

1.4 million.

And that number dropped to 500,000 before 2009.

Long before the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq.

So what you're not being told is that the bulk of attacks on Christians in Iraq, the main reasons for fleeing the country, had nothing to do with the Islamic State.

It had everything to do with the Iraq War.

It had everything to do with the US government putting Shi'ite cowards in charge of the country -- Shi'ite cowards who had fled Iraq with all but their grudges and shame to other countries and only found it comfortable to return after the US had invaded.

Let's stay on 2008 for a second to note some attacks:

The most notorious kidnapping case of a Christian cleric was that of Chaldean Archbishop Paulus Faraj Rahho in Mosul. On February 29, 2008, Archbishop Rahho was kidnapped in Mosul. Rahho died in captivity and his body was found on March 13, 2008. The leader of the kidnappers, described by the Iraqi Government as a Sunni Islamist al-Qa'ida leader, was captured, tried, and sentenced to death in May 2008. News accounts reported that the kidnapping was the result of Archbishop Rahho's refusal or inability to continue to pay the kidnappers protection money, frequently characterized by insurgents as jizya. The Government and Grand Ayatollah Sistani issued statements denouncing the kidnapping of Archbishop Rahho.

On October 13, 2007, two Syriac Orthodox priests, Father Pius Affas and Father Mazen Ishoa, were abducted in Mosul as they were heading to conduct Mass at St. Fatima Church in al-Faisaliya neighborhood. Both were released on October 21, 2007, after negotiations conducted by Syriac-Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Basile Georges Casmousa. Archbishop Casmousa told the media that a $1 million ransom of had been demanded, but the amount actually paid, if any, is not known.

 On April 6, 2008, Father Adel Youssef, an Assyrian Orthodox priest, was shot and killed in Baghdad's Karrada district.
In January 2008 Christian churches and convents were the target of ten reported bomb attacks. On January 18, 2008, a car bomb exploded outside the Chaldean Tahira Church in Mosul, slightly injuring two persons. On January 9, 2008, two churches in Kirkuk, in the north, were simultaneously bombed. No one was injured in the blasts, which struck Kirkuk's Chaldean Cathedral and St. Ephrem Syrian Orthodox Church. On January 6, 2008, coordinated bombings in Baghdad and Mosul struck six churches and three convents; six persons were injured. The Baghdad churches were the Saint George Church in the al-Ghadeer neighborhood, the Saint Paul Church and convent in Za'afaraniya, and the Roman Orthodox Church in Taharriyat Square. In Mosul the targeted churches were the Assyrian Church and adjacent convent, the Saint Peter Church, the Convent of Mosul al-Jadeedah, and the Miskanta Church.

And that's from the "International Religious Freedom Report 2008" posted at the archived US State Dept website.

If nothing else, the US press could give the gift of truth this year.

But apparently that's asking for too much.

Not getting it still?  In December 2013  Tom Halland (Guardian) observed:

It is a bitter irony that the invasion of Iraq in 2003, launched under the aegis of two devoutly Christian leaders, George Bush and Tony Blair, should have heralded what threatens to be the final ruin of Christianity in the Middle East. It was Iraqi Christians, trapped between the militancy of their Muslim compatriots and the studied disinterest of their western co-religionists, who bore the initial brunt of the savagery. Extortion, kidnapping and murder became their daily fare.
The venerable churches of Mesopotamia, ancient even in the days of patriarch Timothy, have suffered a terrible reaping. Since 2003, so it has been estimated by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), almost a million Christians have left Iraq. Those few that remain face an ongoing martyrdom. 

But it's time for the western press to pretend like all that never happened and like the Islamic State -- and not a non-responsive government -- is the reason that Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee since the start of the Iraq War.

Mainly, it's time for the US press to pretend like the Iraq War no longer exists and the suffering does not continue.

The great P.P. Arnold performs the Rolling Stones' classic "As Tears Go By:"

In Iraq, the Mosul offensive continues.  It's day 68 of the operation to liberate or 'liberate' Mosul which was seized by the Islamic State in June of 2014.

ALSUMARIA notes that 'victory' today is the death of someone being identified as a lead official in the Islamic State.

RUDAW reports:

However, Major General Maan Zaid, a key commander with the given division, allayed fears of a potential Golden Division destruction by the end of Mosul war. “There are no wars without casualties. The operation to liberate Mosul will surely cost lives,” he explained.  
[. . .]
Zaid also said that they have inflicted heavy losses on ISIS, “1000 ISIS militants have been killed on the front I lead alone.”
Some in the division doubt this number.
“This war is strange. Sometimes we regain control of a complete neighborhood without seeing an ISIS body. We haven’t seen more than 5 ISIS bodies in each of the neighborhoods we have liberated so far,” a Golden Division soldier told Rudaw on condition of anonymity. 

And so the Mosul slog continues.

What's worse than being a refugee in Iraq?

How about being one in a flooded refugee camp.

  1. Oh my God HORRIBLE conditions today insaid camps after rain Pray for Iraqi Sunnis refugees

More photos of the sinking camp in Khalidiya can be found in this ALSUMARIA report.

One of the traditional holiday songs is "Silent Night" from 1818 (written by Franz Xaver Gruber and Joseph Mohr).  Stevie Nicks performs it below.

The impending holiday didn't result in any desire to stop dropping bombs.

Today, the US Defense Dept announced:

Strikes in Iraq
Attack, bomber, fighter, remotely piloted aircraft and rocket artillery conducted six strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of Iraq’s government:

-- Near Bayji, a strike engaged an ISIL tactical unit and damaged a tunnel entrance.

-- Near Mosul, three strikes engaged two ISIL tactical units, destroyed five ISIL-held buildings, four fighting positions, a vehicle, a mortar system, a weapons cache and a car bomb factory, damaged five supply routes, three bridges and a tunnel, and suppressed five tactical units and three mortar systems.

-- Near Rawah, two strikes engaged an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed a vehicle and a weapons cache.

Task force officials define a strike as one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative, effect. Therefore, officials explained, a single aircraft delivering a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against buildings, vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making those targets harder or impossible for ISIL to use. Accordingly, officials said, they do not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike, or the number of individual munition impact points against a target. Ground-based artillery fired in counterfire or in fire support to maneuver roles is not classified as a strike.

MIDDLE EAST MONITOR reports on another broken promise from Barack Obama, turns out the US will aid the Shi'ite militias:

The Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), also known as the PMU or Hashd Al-Sha’abi in Arabic, is receiving “incidental benefit” from coalition airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq, the spokesman for the US-led Coalition said yesterday.
“We do conduct airstrikes against [the Islamic State] targets anywhere that they can be found in Iraq. So we continue to strike their fighters, we continue to strike their resources. And in many cases this has provided incidental benefit to the PMUs, they operate near and around Tel Afar,” said Colonel John Dorrian, referring to the Iraqi Turkmen majority city 60 kilometres west of Mosul.
“The PMU are operating under the command and control of the government of Iraq, they’re executing the Iraqi plan, and they’ve blocked the egress routes from Mosul towards Syria and this is a good thing because it traps ISIL in Mosul,” he added.
[. . .]
In the lead up to the launch of the Mosul offensive, which began on 17 October, the coalition was very clear that it would not be providing direct support to the PMF in light of the fact that they had carried out human rights violations.

Human rights are no longer a concern to the US president.  War Crimes are no longer a problem either.

Laws prevent this -- both international law and US law.

But the law's being ignored the same way the US government has always ignored human rights when they wanted to.

That's Carly Simon singing "I'll Be Home For Christmas."

You'd think a lot of US troops would be.

After all, the Cult of St. Barack insists that Barack ended the Iraq War.

But he didn't.

The Iraq War continues.

US forces remain in Iraq with talk of that number being doubled shortly.

Country music singer Kellie Pickler was among those in Baghdad to entertain US troops for the holiday.

  1. Gen. Dunford leads troupe to Middle East. , , , headline.
  2. . in her battle rattle for the ride in to Baghdad. Gen. Dunford and troupe arrive in Iraq to meet the troops.
  3. . Our meeting with tonight at Holiday Show was exciting for everyone! Thanks so much

  4. Deployments are always a bit easier thanks to . and have brought a touch of home to the team!

  5. Tough!! A 1st Infantry Div soldier sings "Tough" with during a Xmas Eve show at Union 3 in Baghdad.

The following community sites -- plus Jody Watley, Tavis Smiley and Z On TV -- updated: