Sunday, March 20, 2005

War News for Sunday, March 20, 2005 Bring 'em on: Body of an Iraqi policeman found in the Misaiab surburb of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Two Iraqi contractors working for the US Army killed and three civilians wounded in a drive-by shooting in Baquba. Bring 'em on: US troops wound three as they mistakenly fire on a group of policemen in Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Two Egyptians claimed to be kidnapped west of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Gunmen kill regional police commissioner in the Doura suburb of Baghdad. Bring 'em on: Top anti-corruption police officer assasinated in Mosul. Unbelievable: "The cases we are getting are unbelievable," Dr. Taha Qassim says. "Huge crimes, assassinations, beheadings. Why, only today I dissected three beheaded bodies. We will probably break the record for beheaded cadavers in any forensic department in the world." As Iraq's newly elected leaders cobble together the foundation of a fledgling democracy, a killing epidemic has taken hold of this troubled nation. Ministry of Health statistics show that record numbers of Iraqi civilians are coming to violent ends, particularly here in the capital. Assassinations and bombings have garnered worldwide attention. But Iraqi officials say violence unrelated to the insurgency is growing and Iraqis are more likely to die at the hands or in the cross-fire of kidnappers, carjackers and angry neighbors than they are from car bombs. In some cases, authorities say, the motives are so opaque that they cannot tell whether they are investigating a crime disguised as an act of war or a political assassination masquerading as a violent business dispute. Wider Instability? A car bomb blast tore through a theater frequented by Westerners in Qatar, command center for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq which began exactly two years ago, killing one Briton and wounding at least 12 people. A Qatari official investigating the blast said a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into the theater near a British school in the capital Doha on Saturday, badly damaging the playhouse. "There are two dead, including the suicide bomber," said another Qatari source, who also declined to be named. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack -- the first of its kind in the small oil-producing Gulf Arab state, a U.S. ally and host to the American military's Central Command. Commentary Analysis: With the increase in Iranian influence, Iraq has the potential to become a battlefield between a Sunni minority that is backed by Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and a Shia majority supported by non-Arab Iran. Given the potential for a civil strife between the Shia, the Sunnis and the Kurds, and the possibility of a regional conflict between Arab states and Iran, the United States cannot afford leaving Iraq any time soon. The departure of the U.S. troops at this time would also undermine the credibility of the United States in the region and it would encourage an increase in terrorist acts, and perhaps more importantly, it would undermine U.S. efforts to restore the peace process between Palestinians and Israel. While the United States legitimizes its occupation of Iraq in the name of establishing a democratic government in that country, Washington cannot continue its unconditional support for repressive and tyrannical regimes that violate the most basic human rights of their citizens. American support for these repressive regimes has allowed the Islamist opposition groups in these countries to mock U.S. foreign policy as an exercise in hypocrisy. We will not be able to create democracy in Iraq as long as our allies are the like of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and the Saudi royal family. Deadlock by Design? It’s a long list, but in effect the Kurds already have it in hand, as they have controlled most of the territory they claim under US protection since the end of the first Gulf War in 1991, and now control most of the Kirkuk area too. The new “Iraqi” Army that has been created under the US occupation has no ability to drive the Kurds back — indeed, many of its troops in the north ARE Pesh Merga wearing a different uniform — and the US would not allow it to be used in that way anyway. The Shiite coalition cannot contest the Kurdish claims by force — but neither can it accept them without being seen by most Arab Iraqis (including its own Shiite supporters) as a traitor to Iraq. That is why it’s taking so long to create a new transitional government in Baghdad, and may take quite a while yet. This is not just petty bickering over government jobs: The basic structure of the future Iraqi state is being negotiated between the Kurds and the Shiite Arabs right now (with practically no Sunni Arabs present at the table). Paul Bremer did not design this whole mess, but he did write the voting rules that give the Kurds an effective veto on any coalition government in the new assembly (and a veto on the new constitution, too, if and when it is finally written). One is tempted to see a Machiavellian calculation here: Maybe we lose the rest of Iraq, but at least we get to keep Kurdistan and half the oil. However, the temptation should be resisted. The Bush administration hasn’t even accepted yet that it has lost in Iraq. The Democracy Lie: The modern history of the Middle East does not suggest that politics travels very much from one country to another. The region is a hodgepodge of absolute monarchies, constitutional monarchies and republics, characterized by varying degrees of authoritarianism. Few regimes have had an effect on neighbors by setting an example. Ataturk's adoption of a militant secularism in Turkey from the 1920s had no resonance in the Arab world. The Lebanese confessional political system, which attempted to balance the country's many religious communities after independence in 1943, remains unique. Khomeini's 1979 Islamic Revolution did not inspire a string of clerically ruled regimes. Is Iraq even really much of a model? The Bush administration strove to avoid having one-person, one-vote elections in Iraq, which were finally forced on Washington by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Despite the U.S. backing for secularists, the winners of the election were the fundamentalist Shiite Dawa Party and the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Nor were the elections themselves all that exemplary. The country is in flames, racked by a guerrilla war, a continual crime wave and a foreign military occupation. The security situation was so bad that the candidates running for office could not reveal their identities until the day before the election, and the entire country was put under a sort of curfew for three days, with all vehicular traffic forbidden. The argument for change through inspiration has little evidence to underpin it. The changes in the region cited as dividends of the Bush Iraq policy are either chimeras or unconnected to Iraq. And the Bush administration has shown no signs that it will push for democracy in countries where freedom of choice would lead to outcomes unfavorable to U.S. interests. Special Request An Iraqi exile living in Canada emailed me this week and asked me to cover the story regarding new laws introduced by the Coalition Provisional Authority concerning the patenting of seeds used by Iraqi farmers. What he is referring to is the favourable treatment given to Monsanto; the US multinational. Many of our readers here will have come across this story before; but for the benefit of those that haven't here is a summary of what has happened.
As part of sweeping "economic restructuring" implemented by the Bush Administration in Iraq, Iraqi farmers will no longer be permitted to save their seeds. Instead, they will be forced to buy seeds from US corporations -- which can include seeds the Iraqis themselves developed over hundreds of years. That is because in recent years, transnational corporations have patented and now own many seed varieties originated or developed by indigenous peoples. In a short time, Iraq will be living under the new American credo: Pay Monsanto, or starve. When the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) celebrated biodiversity on World Food Day on October 16, Iraqi farmers were mourning its loss. A new report by GRAIN and Focus on the Global South has found that new legislation in Iraq has been carefully put in place by the US that prevents farmers from saving their seeds and effectively hands over the seed market to transnational corporations. This is a disastrous turn of events for Iraqi farmers, biodiversity and the country's food security. While political sovereignty remains an illusion, food sovereignty for the Iraqi people has been made near impossible by these new regulations. "The US has been imposing patents on life around the world through trade deals. In this case, they invaded the country first, then imposed their patents. This is both immoral and unacceptable", said Shalini Bhutani, one of the report's authors. The new law in question heralds the entry into Iraqi law of patents on life forms - this first one affecting plants and seeds. This law fits in neatly into the US vision of Iraqi agriculture in the future - that of an industrial agricultural system dependent on large corporations providing inputs and seeds. In 2002, FAO estimated that 97 percent of Iraqi farmers used saved seed from their own stocks from last year's harvest or purchased from local markets. When the new law - on plant variety protection (PVP) - is put into effect, seed saving will be illegal and the market will only offer proprietary "PVP-protected" planting material "invented" by transnational agribusiness corporations. The new law totally ignores all the contributions Iraqi farmers have made to development of important crops like wheat, barley, date and pulses. Its consequences are the loss of farmers' freedoms and a grave threat to food sovereignty in Iraq. In this way, the US has declared a new war against the Iraqi farmer. "If the FAO is celebrating 'Biodiversity for Food Security' this year, it needs to demonstrate some real commitment", says Henk Hobbelink of GRAIN, pointing out that the FAO has recently been cosying up with industry and offering support for genetic engineering. "Most importantly, the FAO must recognise that biodiversity-rich farming and industry-led agriculture are worlds apart, and that industrial agriculture is one of the leading causes of the catastrophic decline in agricultural biodiversity that we have witnessed in recent decades. The FAO cannot hope to embrace biodiversity while holding industry's hand", he added.
Blogwatch A new blogger, The Bloogeyman has added Today in Iraq to his blogroll. In this post he sets out the reasons why this site should be on his blogroll. You may wish to visit his site and leave some words of encouragement.


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