Hundreds of Iraqis protested in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday to express diverse, long-brewing grievances, including, a lack of basic services, rampant corruption, and unequal treatment within the Iraqi Army.
Civilian protestors expressed anger about the Friday dismissal of Iraqi Army commander Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, credited with the defeat of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq, from the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services (ICTS). Civilian protestors holding pictures of al-Saadi disapproved of his subsequent transfer to the Ministry of Defense.
“We don't want this is corrupt government,” civilians chanted, while others extended their discontent to the parliament and presidency. “All are corrupt equally,” a protestor said.
Also on October 1st, Mustafa Habib observed, "All the world expected big protests in Iraq this summer bud did not happen because they want to give the govt a chance despite the continued poor services, but after the govt's decision to remove Saadi, the protests began today from Baghdad & may be the biggest." Somehow the western press that has followed has left out the firing of the lieutenant general and the fact that the protest started at the end of September." The protests over the firing of al-Saadi only reached Baghdad on October 1st but they were already taking place. And on October 1st, protests also took place in Basra and Missan. The Iraqi government set the pattern for their response that day: Violence. Margaret Griffis (ANTIWAR.COM) noted, "Protests across Iraq have left at least 10 dead and 286 wounded. [. . .] The fatalities occurred in Baghdad and Nasariya. At least 11 people were arrested in Basra. [. . . ] Security personnel at some point had turned to live ammunition to disperse the crowds. Demonstrations were also reported in Basra, Dhi Qar, Diwaniya, Karbala, Najaf, Nasariya and Wasit. Use of live ammo to clear protesters was also reported in Nasariya, where a fatality occurred. Among the complaints are lack of basic services, rampant corruption, and unequal treatment within the Iraqi Army."
By October 2nd, the Iraqi government had imposed a curfew. Ali Alzzawi pointed out that the government also "blocked the internet so they can do whatever they want to those peaceful protesters." ALJAZEERA's Imran Khan reported, "They are restricting live broadcasts from the protest scene, as well as social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter." At that point, the death toll was at least 20. By Saturday, Hamdi Alkhshali, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Tamara Qiblawi (CNN) would report the death toll had reached 93. December 14th, the REUTERS death toll stood at 440. That was one count. There are others.
In October 361 civilians were killed in Iraq, and 274 in November. I don't know the number yet for December. But it is probably over 700 by now. Mainstream news only now reporting on the protests, but saying very small numbers have been killed. Why is the world hiding the truth?
The large death toll was reached via a world that turned a blind eye and indulged in gossip and trash while avoiding the reality that was taking place in Iraq. October 3rd, Amnesty International noted, "Amnesty is concerned at reports of arbitrary arrests of protesters and journalists in several Iraqi governorates. In Basra, Baghdad and Najaf, protesters told Amnesty that security forces are randomly arresting protesters."
Everything that is taking place right now and being met with some level of outrage throughout the world -- not nearly enough outrage -- has been going on for some time.
One thing the western press has gotten better at as their coverage has continued? Including women. Early on the western press wrongly insisted that women were not part of these protests. See, for example, "AP strips women out of the coverage yet again." Yes, women were and continue to be part of the protests. BBC NEWS notes today, "Since October, a wave of anti-government protests has swept across Iraq. The protesters represent a cross-section of society and, unusually for a traditionally patriarchal country, women have taken a leading role. Their prominence is celebrated in murals which have sprung up across the capital, Baghdad."
In Najaf, one activist described the tactics of the security forces towards protesters:
Many of the protesters are unemployable college graduates. Riots during the summer of 2018 turned deadly as well. Today, however, the recent removal Iraq’s counterterrorism chief, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi from his post was an added motive to demonstrate; many marchers carried his photo with them.
When it comes to protests, I always have to question Margaret's wording. The headline, for example, "protest turn violent." Really? Now Margaret can rightly question me back (that I'm too sympathetic to protesters) but the protests didn't turn violent, the security response was violent. For me, her voice is always too passive when Iraqi security attacks the Iraqi people.
Joe Biden. The War Hawk. If you look back at the things we wrote in the first week of October, even then we were noting that self-appointed 'expert' on Iraq Joe Biden had said nothing about the protests and the press wasn't asking him about it. Anderson Cooper would infamously waste everyone's time in a Democratic Party debate by bringing up Ellen DeGeneres for the final question, but prissy pants couldn't ask about Iraq.
Joe's gotten a real pass on this. But he's gotten so many passes, hasn't he? We're going to quote from Spencer Ackerman (DAILY BEAST):
But Iraq had been so shattered by war and occupation that it could not withstand the rise of the so-called Islamic State. It would be absurd to consider that Biden’s fault alone. But, as Mike Giglio recently explored in The Atlantic, Biden and other U.S. officials appeared at times dangerously unconcerned about Maliki’s consolidation of power that once again marginalized Sunni Iraq, which the war had already proven would give jihadis the opportunity they needed. Biden successfully argued within the administration for continued support of Maliki as prime minister during Iraq’s nine-month process of forming a new government in 2010—even as blatant U.S. intervention, predicated on empowering rivals to mitigate Maliki’s excesses, failed. A former senior State Department official who worked with Biden on Iraq at the time told Giglio that “we should have been much more outspoken” about the need for Maliki to share power. In any event, while the administration believed itself a driver of Iraqi politics ahead of the withdrawal, an aide to the Iraqi Kurdish president told The New York Times that the Americans were “picking events and reacting on the basis of events. That is the policy.”
Blinken, who was part of the diplomatic team shuttling between Baghdad and Washington at the time, rejects the criticism. Biden “absolutely had no brief for Nouri al-Maliki,” he said, but there was no viable alternative.
Biden reflected America’s schizophrenic attitude toward ending post-9/11 wars, in which leaving a residual force amidst an unsettled conflict does not count as continuing a war. He reportedly predicted that Maliki, whom Biden had argued for supporting, would modify an expiring troop-basing accord known as a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to permit an extended U.S. presence. “I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA,” the Times quoted him. Instead, the following year, the Iraqi parliament did no such thing. The U.S. withdrew in full at the end of 2011. Not three years later, when ISIS overran Mosul, Obama felt compelled to reinvade with a smaller U.S. force—though this time, the U.S. refused to support Maliki. Five thousand U.S. troops remain in Iraq today.
There is so much wrong with the above. I'm going to be nice (and lazy) and wait and see how angry I am on Monday. If I'm still bothered by the inability to include, for example, the 2010 Erbil Agreement that gave Nouri a second term -- we'll go into in a snapshot.
The following sites updated: