Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Waving the green flags of Islam and the national Iraqi colours, thousands rallied in the centre of Samarra vowing to punish those responsible for attacking the Imam Ali al-Hadi mausoleum whose golden dome collapsed after two bombs exploded inside the mosque. "A group of armed men attacked the mausoleum of Imam Ali al-Hadi at 7:00 am (0400 GMT), neutralized the policemen guarding the building before placing two explosives charges and blowing them up," police said. There were no immediate reports of injuries, but angry demonstrators called for immediate retribution against the bombers, shouting "You will not escape us".
Shops closed and muezzins recited prayers from the loudspeakers of nearby mosques and blamed the United States for the turmoil, saying "God is Great, death to America which brought us terrorism." Demonstrators carried the turban, sword and shield said to have belonged to Ali al-Hadi, the 10th Shiite imam, shouting "Iman, we are your soldiers".
Tension spread to Baghdad where many Shiites also gathered outside mosques and the headquarters of Shiite political parties. An official close to Shiite radical leader Moqtada Sadr said the army had turned away young men who had tried to take buses to go to Samarra. Shi’ite Cleric Urges Protests Over Shrine Bombing
Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on Wednesday for protests over the blast that destroyed a Shi'ite shrine in the town of Samarra. A statement from his office said Sistani also called for seven days of mourning over the destruction of the shrine, where two revered Shi'ite imams are buried. The attack, by gunmen who entered the shrine at dawn and planted bombs there, is likely to heighten already severe tension between Iraq's Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari declared three days of mourning after the blast which he described as an attack on all Muslims. Little Help Available for Mental Trauma
Iraq is struggling to establish a mental health system to treat survivors of bombings and other attacks. But adequate services are years away, in part because mental health professionals are fleeing the violence themselves. Sabah Sadik, the country's first national adviser for mental health services, said only two mental health hospitals are operating in the country, both in Baghdad. Nearly 100 Iraqi psychiatrists are practicing in the nation of 26 million people, a tiny fraction of what would be expected in a Western nation. "This is probably a drop in the ocean for what Iraq needs," he said.
Prospects are poor for swiftly increasing the number of mental health professionals in Iraq. A key reason is Iraq's insurgents have frequently targeted Iraq's medical professionals. "A lot of colleagues would like to leave the country" before it happens to them, Sadik said. The Health Ministry is trying to recruit medical professionals who fled during Saddam Hussein's time and ask them to return. "I must admit it is very difficult," he said.
The full impact of the current violence in Iraq on the mental health of its people could be years off. Stress diseases, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, sometimes don't appear for years or even decades after an individual is exposed. (When US troops return home and engage in violent or bizarre behavior, it is explained away as the result of the war. Yet, when Iraqis show violent and bizarre behaviors, Americans find that inexplicable. – Susan) 98 Prisoners Died in US Custody: Report
Ninety-eight prisoners have died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, the US-based Human Rights First organisation says. Speaking on BBC television, the organisation says a report to be published by a group of US lawyers details at least 98 deaths, with at least 34 of them suspected or confirmed homicides. Their dossier claims that 11 more deaths are deemed suspicious and that between eight and 12 prisoners were tortured to death. The number of deaths in custody discounts those due to fighting, mortar attacks or violence between detainees. They were directly attributable to their detention or interrogation in American custody, the BBC's Newsnight program said. The report's editor Deborah Pearlstein says the writers are comfortable with the reliability of the facts. "These are documents based on army investigative reports, documents that we've obtained from the Government or that have come out through Freedom of Information Act requests in the United States," she said. Rumsfeld: Planting Stories Under Review
Defense Secretary Donal Rumsfeld said Tuesday that the Pentagon is reviewing its practice of paying to plant stories in the Iraqi news media, withdrawing his earlier claim that it had been stopped. Rumsfeld told reporters he was mistaken in the earlier assertion. "I don't have knowledge as to whether it's been stopped. I do have knowledge it was put under review. I was correctly informed. And I just misstated the facts," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news briefing. Rumsfeld had said in a speech in New York last Friday and in a television interview the same day that the controversial practice had been stopped. US Envoy in Iraq Accuses Iran of Assisting Militas, Insurgents
At a news conference, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad criticized what he called Iran's "negative role" in Iraqi affairs, saying the country's diplomatic relationship with its neighbor was tainted by a policy "to work with militias, to work with extremist groups, to provide training and weapons." He added that there was evidence the Iranians provided "indirect help" to Sunni Arab insurgents who attack U.S. and Iraqi government troops.It was not the first time the United States and its allies have made such accusations. In October, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said his government was investigating evidence that Iran had sold sophisticated bombs to insurgents in Iraq. But Khalilzad's remarks were unusually blunt.
"I have said to Iraqis that we do not seek to impose our differences with Iran on them," Khalilzad said. "But we do not want Iranian interference in Iraq."At the news conference, Khalilzad reiterated a call for Iraqis to form a government representing all of the country's ethnic and sectarian groups and to staff their security ministries with competent, nonsectarian leaders. He implied that the United States could cut off aid to Iraq if they do otherwise. "We're not going to invest the resources of the American people to build forces run by people who are sectarian," Khalilzad said.
At a news conference in Najaf on Monday, Ibrahim al-Jafari, the Iraqi prime minister, said foreign governments were not expected to interfere in the process of forming a government. "The next government will be formed by Iraqi hands and it will take into account the election results," he said. "And will seek to apply standards of honesty, competence and efficiency so that the performance of the government shall be strong."
The Iraqi prime minister today reacted angrily to warnings that the country risked losing US support unless it shunned sectarianism in its new government. Ibrahim al-Jaafari spoke out after Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, said Iraqi leaders could lose support unless they established a government in which the police and army were beyond the control of religious parties. Mr Khalilzad said Washington was investing billions of dollars in Iraq and did not want to see that money go to support sectarian policies. His comments were echoed by the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, during a visit to Baghdad for talks on a new Iraqi government. However, Mr al-Jaafari said Iraqis did not need to be told what to do by outsiders. "When someone asks us whether we want a sectarian government, the answer is no, we do not want a sectarian government - not because the US ambassador says so or issues a warning," he said. "We do not need anybody to remind us, thank you." The Ambassador Versus the Ayatollah
On Monday, the stage was set for an epic struggle between the two forces behind the scenes in Iraqi politics, US Ambassadro in Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad and Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani of Najaf, the spiritual leader of Iraq's majority Shiites. In every previous such contest, Sistani has handily won against his American opponent.
Nancy Youssef of Knight Ridder reports on the press conference in Baghdad on Monday in which Khalilzad publicly threatened to cut off funding for the training of Iraqi troops if the ministries of defense and the interior are under "sectarian" control.In plain English, Khalilzad was saying that the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) may not retain control of Interior (which in Iraq is a security organization) and continue to pack it with members of the paramilitary Badr Corps, most of them trained originally by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Sunni Arabs have charged that Interior Ministry police commandos have functioned as death squads, conducting reprisal killings against Sunnis.It is in fact important for the recovery of social peace in Iraq that SCIRI and Badr be gotten away from Interior. The problem is that the Shiite religious parties have 132 MPs who will vote with them in a parliament of 275. Barring an unforeseen and substantial defection from among their ranks, they will almost certainly form the government. SCIRI has made it clear that it wants Interior, i.e. federal domestic policing and surveillance, under its control. Foreign Hostages in Iraq
A Jordanian embassy driver kidnapped two months ago by Iraqi militants demanding the release of a failed woman suicide bomber has been freed, officials said on Tuesday. They did not say how Mahmoud Saedat was released after his kidnap in Baghdad on Dec. 20 by a little-known group which had demanded the release of Sajida al-Rishawi, the Iraqi woman who said in November that she had tried to blow herself up alongside her husband in hotel bombings in Amman. More than 200 foreigners and thousands of Iraqis have been kidnapped since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Fifty-four foreign hostages are known to have been executed by their captors -- 41 in 2004 and 13 in 2005. Nipped in the bud - Iraq's new intellectual property laws
Iraq's revised intellectual property laws have stifled any chance of escaping US control, reports Rob Ray. The trademark and patent offices in Baghdad reopened soon after the invasion on 19th September 2003. Since then they have been working primarily with Iraq's original pre-invasion system, but some major changes have been introduced as part of the occupation's time as the Coalition Provisional Authority. The changes were part of a more radical overhaul of Iraq Intellectual Property (IP) law by Abu Ghazaleh Intellectual Property (AGIP), the largest IP company in every one of the 22 Arab states and commissioned by the CPA. General orders, such as an amendment to article 7.5 of Iraq's IP law, bind Iraq to international agreements, effectively barring Iraqis from using inventions discovered previously in any country covered by WTO or Paris Convention agreements. This affects all new technologies, from improvements to fuel and refining technologies, through to drugs and medical equipment. It's not good news.
Order, 81 states, "Farmers shall be prohibited from reusing seeds of protected varieties." In amongst the other comprehensive measures curtailing Iraq's right to its own production sources, Order 81 gives companies the right to own any seed that is not of traditional stock. This should not be a problem in the short term. Farmers would still be able to farm as they had done in the past, though increasingly they would fall behind the production techniques of agribusiness, should it choose to product-dump in the country. It would only be in the long term that sustainability problems would rise, in theory, due to the US-imposed rules. Although they would eventually only be able to keep up by buying terminator seeds from companies such as Novartis and Monsanto, the transition would be a more gradual one overall. But thanks mostly to the occupation, the problem is actually a great more immediate. Iraq's stores of seed and grain were destroyed in the fighting.
The UN are currently concerned that the seed stocks are so low that there won't be enough to supply more than four per cent of requirements for the coming year. The Food and Agriculture Organisation warned that $5.4bn would be needed to replace the seed stock or face a possible humanitarian disaster. This two years after it was reported that Iraq, against all the odds, had a "stable and functioning" seed system in 2003 and with outlawed seed ownership. And the original location for the seed banks, before it was bombed, cleared and reused? A location regarded as so important it has wheat strains named after it? Abu Ghraib. British Troops Executed Unarmed Iraqi
AN UNARMED Iraqi shot dead in one of the most controversial incidents of the Iraq war is suspected to have been the victim of an execution by British soldiers angry at the death of their sergeant. An army investigation into the case, potentially one of the most damaging allegations against British troops to emerge from the war, has allegedly repeatedly been stalled by senior officers, including one of the army’s most respected generals. But a Metropolitan police investigation is understood to have confirmed the initial suspicions of army investigators that, despite being disabled by machinegun fire, the Iraqi was shot at point-blank range.
Taylor pulled strings to have the case reopened in Iraq, where SIB officers recovered Zaher’s body and an examination found that it was not the machinegun bullets that had killed him. It was two pistol shots to his head as he lay helpless on the ground. “That evidence was very clear,” a source close to the investigation said. “He died from two pistol shots to the head. There were clear grounds to suspect an execution, ie murder. You don’t do that to a prisoner.” US Funded Power Plant Comes On Line
Glistening in Iraq's barren southern salt plains, a natural gas-driven power station has come on line, generating sorely needed electricity for war-weary Iraqis and demonstrating that much-maligned U.S.-led reconstruction efforts are beginning to bear fruit. U.S. officials said Sunday that increasing Iraq's electricity generating capacity through facilities such as the 250 megawatt electricity plant near the southern city of Basra is crucial to American efforts to encourage Iraqis to turn their backs on the insurgency.
Among the most infuriating problems for Iraqis nearly three years after the U.S.-led invasion remains the lack of regular electricity to run lights and home appliances, including air conditioners during Iraq's summer, when temperatures soar beyond 120 degrees. Col. Larry McCallister, the U.S. military official in charge of reconstruction projects in southern Iraq, said giving Iraqis more electricity was crucial to winning local support and defeating the insurgency. McCallister acknowledged that insurgent attacks had reduced the number of projects he and other U.S. officials hoped to bring on line with the $18.4 billion of funds earmarked for reconstruction projects. "We came here with a plan two years ago that we were going to do a lot of projects, but the insecurity increased and our priorities had to shift," McCallister said during a tour of the Khor Az Zubayr site. "We had to suspend some big water projects, but we have continued to push electricity."
Audit reports released recently by Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that guerrilla attacks have forced the cancellation of more than 60 percent of water and sanitation projects in Iraq, in part because American intelligence failed to predict the brutal insurgency. Iraq's incessant insurgency absorbs as much as 22 percent of project costs, more than double the 9 percent originally budgeted. Normal Power Supply Years Away
Ordinary Iraqis will have to wait another five to seven years for a reliable electricity supply that runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week across the country, according to US authorities in Iraq. While statements by the US government that the production and availability of electricity is improving are true, they ignore the fact that production is barely back to pre-war levels. The US has spent US$1.4 billion (HK$10.92 billion) on power supply, with 117 projects completed and another 230 in progress, but electricity is still limited to three hours on and three hours off in many places. Baghdad gets even less power. That leaves an estimated US$1.6 billion to be spent completing existing projects and another 54 contracts still to be bid. Record Sales by Steel Enterprise
Al-Simoud State Enterprise, the country’s largest steel manufacture, achieved record sales in 2005, company figures reveal. The figures show that the company had sold products worth 10 billion dinars. The highest figures the company had achieved were in 1995 when it sold products worth 8.5 billion. The company is part of the domestic industry. It was the pride of former regime’s military industries. A company source said the enterprise had abandoned manufacturing of military equipment and has completely converted to civilian products. It was involved in the production of missiles and ammunition. But currently it produces cranes, pylons, communication towers, concrete bridges and steel as well as power infrastructure equipment. 250,000 Families in Basra Have No Homes, Official
More than 250,000 families in the southern city of Basra are without homes, according to Housing Department’s director, Hamad Ghali. Ghali said many of these families live in squalor conditions. Basra, home to nearly 2,5 million people, is overcrowded with several families crammed into one house or one flat. “We simply need 250,000 housing units but I cannot imagine that will ever be possible,” he said. Ghali said with the fall of Saddam Hussein, Basra residents hoped their housing crisis would be given the first priority by any government. However, he added, only 550 new flats have been built in the city since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. New housing complexes are planned but they will fall far short of the actual demand, he said. Basra has suffered more than any other Iraqi city as it was the theater of the wars waged by former leader Saddam Hussein. The number of families without homes amounts to more than one third of Basra’s population. Food Import Bill Hits $4 Billion; More Than 12,000 Companies Registered
The government has imported more than $4 billion in the past worth of food in three years, Minister of Trade Abelbaset Maulood said in an interview. Maulood also said more than 12,000 newly started businesses were registered with the ministry in the same period. Iraq relies almost solely on imports to meet its food needs and the ministry is in charge of the so-called food-rationing program started in 1990 to offset impact of U.N. trade sanctions. But the program, which continued smoothly for nearly 13 years under former leader Saddam Hussein, is facing serious hurdles. For millions of Iraqis these rations are the main source of food but now many Iraqi families say they do not get their full rations and that the quality of food being handed out is deteriorating. The minister declined comment when asked about these complaints. However, he outlined the difficulties his ministry was encountering in buying, transporting and distributing the food. Some 4.8 million Iraqi families are registered with program and reports of government’s intention to scrap the rations have sent shock waves across the country. The ministry relies on a fleet of 1,785 trucks to ferry food from terminals at the head of the Gulf to 42,000 agents all over Iraq, the minister said.
A coalition of American churches sharply denounced the U.S.-led war in Iraq on Saturday, accusing Washington of "raining down terror" and apologizing to other nations for "the violence, degradation and poverty our nation has sown."
The statement, issued at the largest gathering of Christian churches in nearly a decade, also warned the United States was pushing the world toward environmental catastrophe with a "culture of consumption" and its refusal to back international accords seeking to battle global warming.
"We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights," said the statement from representatives of the 34 U.S. members of World Council of Churches. "We mourn all who have died or been injured in this war. We acknowledge with shame abuses carried out in our name."
The World Council of Churches includes more than 350 mainstream Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox churches; the Roman Catholic Church is not a member. The U.S. groups in the WCC include the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, several Orthodox churches and Baptist denominations, among others. The churches said they had "grown heavy with guilt" for not doing enough to speak out against the Iraq war and other issues. The statement asked forgiveness for a world that's "grown weary from the violence, degradation and poverty our nation has sown." UK Radiation Jump Blamed on Iraq Shells
RADIATION detectors in Britain recorded a fourfold increase in uranium levels in the atmosphere after the “shock and awe” bombing campaign against Iraq, according to a report. Environmental scientists who uncovered the figures through freedom of information laws say it is evidence that depleted uranium from the shells was carried by wind currents to Britain. Government officials, however, say the sharp rise in uranium detected by radiation monitors in Berkshire was a coincidence and probably came from local sources. The results from testing stations at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) in Aldermaston and four other stations within a 10-mile radius were obtained by Chris Busby, of Liverpool University’s department of human anatomy and cell biology. Each detector recorded a significant rise in uranium levels during the Gulf war bombing campaign in March 2003. The reading from a park in Reading was high enough for the Environment Agency to be alerted. POLLS IN IRAQ
The poll also found that 80 percent of Iraqis think the United States plans to maintain permanent bases in the country even if the newly elected Iraqi government asks American forces to leave. Researchers found a link between support for attacks and the belief among Iraqis that the United States intends to keep a permanent military presence in the country. At the same time, the poll found that many Iraqis think that some outside military forces are required to keep Iraq stable until the new government can field adequate security forces on its own. Only 39 percent of Iraqis surveyed thought that Iraqi police and army forces were strong enough to deal with the security challenges on their own, while 59 percent thought Iraq still needed the help of military forces from other countries.
Seventy percent of Iraqis favor setting a timetable for U.S. forces to withdraw, with half of those favoring a withdrawal within six months and the other half favoring a withdrawal over two years. "Iraqis are demanding a timetable for U.S. withdrawal, and most believe that the U.S. has no plans to leave even if the new government asks them to," said Steven Kull, the director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, which conducted the poll. "This appears to be leading some to even support attacks on U.S.-led troops, even though many feel they also continue to need the presence of U.S. troops awhile longer." "If you put it all together, it's clear there is a center of gravity, not towards immediate withdrawal, but for the U.S. to be there in a way that affirms their intent to withdraw eventually," he said. "There is real consensus on that point." According to the poll's findings, 47 percent of Iraqis approve of attacks on American forces, but there were large differences among ethnic and religious groups. Among Sunni Muslims, 88 percent said they approved of the attacks. That approval was found among 41 percent of Shiite Muslims and 16 percent of Kurds. Ninety-three percent of Iraqis oppose violence against Iraqi security forces, and 99 percent oppose attacks on Iraqi civilians.
According to the poll, 80 percent of Iraqis overall assume that the United States intends to keep bases in Iraq. The breakdown of people who have that belief is 92 percent of Sunnis, 79 percent of Shiites and 67 percent of Kurds. More than 80 percent of Sunnis favor a six-month withdrawal period; 49 percent of Shiites favor a longer withdrawal. Just 29 percent of all Iraqis surveyed say U.S. forces should be reduced only as the security situation improves, though more than half of the Kurds surveyed favor that option. What the Iraqi Public Wants
A World Public Opinion Poll, which was conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes.
A large majority of Iraqis think the US plans to maintain permanent bases in Iraq, even if the Iraqi government asks them to leave. A large majority of Iraqis favor setting a timetable for US forces to leave Iraq. Almost half approve of attacks on US-led forces. Most Iraqis believe many aspects of their lives will improve once the US-led forces leave, but are still uncertain that the Iraqi security forces can stand on their own.
The majority of Iraqi people view the recent elections as valid and are optimistic that the country is going in the right direction. They feel the overthrow of Saddam has been worth the costs. The Sunnis overwhelmingly reject the validity of the elections, see the country going in the wrong direction, and regret the overthrow of Saddam. (They are speaking of Sunni Arabs, not Kurds or Turkomen. – Susan) Many Iraqis want international assistance, including the presence of foreign security forces, and UN leadership on reconstruction.
IRAQI CHILDREN AND MEDICAL CARE IN THE USA
A 12-year-old Iraqi girl has finally made it to a Cincinnati hospital to be treated for scars she received from burns in a 2003 bombing in Iraq. Waghdan Al-Jayashi, who speaks almost no English, said through a translator on Monday that she was happy and excited to be at Cincinnati Shriner's Hospital for Children, which is treating her at no cost. The girl is scheduled next week to have the first of what will probably be many surgeries.
Waghdan was at her family's farm in Samawah, Iraq, when it was caught between American and Iraqi forces in March 2003. She was hospitalized for months in Iraq, but she couldn't get the specialized treatment she needed there and her family couldn't afford more advanced medical care. The girl's uncle, Haider Al-Jayashi of Fort Wayne, Ind., found the Shriner's hospital. Then, the U.S. Air Force helped her cross the border from Iraq into Kuwait so that she could fly to the United States, said Jody Greenlee, a volunteer with Children of the Americas, a nonprofit agency that brings children to the United States for donated medical care. After visa difficulties were resolved, Children of the Americas paid for the girl and her grandmother to travel to the United States. Surgeries on Iraqi Children Have Gone Well
Corrective heart surgeries on two Iraqi children have gone very well, according to doctors at Geisinger Medical Center.Five-year-old Khadija Abod Jabar had her surgery yesterday and is currently recovering in the pediatric intensive care unit. Surgery on Mustafa Manthar Bender, 7, was done last week. He has been released from the hospital and is staying at the Ronald McDonald House.Dr. Kamal K. Pourmoghadam, Geisinger's director of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, performed both surgeries and said he is very pleased with how they turned out.Mustafa came to the hospital the other day for a check-up, Dr. Pourmoghadam said, and he was "walking around and running around in the hallways ... His level of energy is much higher than it was before. He looks extremely lively."Prior to the surgery, Mustafa's condition limited his physical abilities to the point where he had to be frequently carried around by his father. To see the impact the surgery has had on his quality of life is a wonderful feeling, the doctor said."It's a lot of work, a lot of late nights," he said. "But it makes everything totally worth it. Words can't describe how delighted I am." Iraqi ‘Baby Noor’ Still in Good Condition Post-op
Four-month-old "Baby Noor," who was flown to the United States from Iraq on New Year's Eve for treatment of spina bifida, underwent a post-operation evaluation at a US hospital and was declared in "good condition." Dr. Andrew Kirsch, a urologist, said the baby "remains in good condition" and "has an excellent prognosis in terms of her kidney health," the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia, a pediatric health care system, said in a statement.
"Dr. Kirsch determined that she will not need to undergo bladder surgery," it said. The doctor also said the baby's health could be "maintained at home by her family with intermittent catherization." Seeking to Recover From Wounds of War
After nearly three months in the United States, 3-year-old Alaa' Khalid Hamdan Abd still gets frightened when she hears the word "Americans." The Iraqi toddler associates Americans with the American military. Her home in Al Qaim, Iraq, was inadvertently hit by a tank round on May 3 during a military operation in the area. The round killed her two brothers, 4 and 5, and a cousin, while the children were having a tea party. Abd needs surgery to reconstruct her abdominal wall, which was damaged in the explosion. A surgery in Orlando to remove micro-shrapnel from her eyes and reattach her retina was successful. The surgeon there said if the eyes had gone untreated a few more days, she would have been blinded forever.
This week she'll meet with Dr. Ali Kavianian, a pediatric surgeon at Children's Hospital of Orange County in Orange. The surgery will likely be scheduled for next week. The biggest danger to Alaa's health was the shrapnel in her eyes. Now her sight is improving. Alaa' wears thick blue-rimmed glasses that are strapped to her neck by a black cord. Still, her father says, Alaa' struggles with the many adjustments she's had to make in America. Alaa's father said a trip to Disney World, while they were in Florida, turned sour when the little girl started crying during a fireworks show. "Americans," she'd scream, said her father, Khalid Hamdan Abd, 28. She associated the blasts of pyrotechnics with bombs. NoMoreVictims.org, a nonprofit group that funds medical treatment for children injured in the war, brought the father and daughter to the United States. Iraqi Girl and Her Mother Headed Home After Unsuccessful Surgery
An Iraqi girl and her mother who were brought to the US through the efforts of a Tennessee National Guard soldier are headed back home. Doctors were unable to correct 6-year-old Hajer Salam Yousef's birth defect. Hajer has relied on a discharge pouch from a colostomy performed in Iraq and needed a new rectum. During surgery last month, doctors at East Tennessee Children's Hospital found that Hajer was missing most of her colon, making it impossible for her to go through the necessary surgery. The girl and her mother, Nidda Jabbar, were brought to Knoxville after meeting Lieutenant Colonel Kim Dees, a physician's assistant from Cleveland who was serving with the 278th Regimental Combat Team. Members of the Muslim community asked Jabbar if she wanted to try to stay in the US permanently, but she said no because she thought it would be a long time before the rest of their family could join them. Iraqi Boy Begins Medical Recovery in Pittsburgh
A terrible accident in Iraqi sends a small Iraqi boy to Pittsburgh for recovery. He lost an eye in a bombing in Fallujah and now eight-year-old Abdul Hakim Ismael Hussein has been brought here to get medical attention. Abdul arrived in Pittsburgh yesterday with his father in a trip arranged by the group “No More Victims.” Right now, he is staying with a woman who volunteered to house him. Today, he was scheduled a doctor in the first of what may be many medical evaluations. The damage to the left side of his face was so extensive, he will at least need a prosthetic eye, skin grafting, jaw surgery and tooth replacement. (Accident? – Susan) COMMENTARY
OPINION: Opposing Experts Agree Saddam's Trial is Fiasco [Additional comments were added by Shirin. – Susan]
But an American lawyer on the defense team and a former U.S. official helping prosecutors differ on the reasons for that. - Curtis Doebbler is one of two American lawyers on Saddam Hussein's international legal defense team.Michael Scharf, a Case Western Reserve University law professor and former State Department official, heads an international team of war crimes experts advising the trial's inexperienced Iraqi judges and prosecutors.[In the context of the Iraq occupation, of course, the term "advising" has its own meaning. From the beginning of the occupation until now, for example, American "advisors" in each ministry make the decisions and issue the orders, and the Iraqis are expected to carry them out.]
In the first of several expected war crimes trials, Saddam stands accused of ordering the killings of more than 140 Iraqi Shiites in Dujail, a town north of Baghdad, to avenge an attempt on his life during a 1982 visit. [And there is little question as to his guilt.]Doebbler and Scharf agree on only one thing about the nearly four-month-old trial of the deposed dictator: It's a mess. [Really?! No! They are joking! We know, of course, that it is a kangaroo court intended to give a political boost to the ailing Bush administration, AND to dispense with Saddam and the others before they can give testimony embarrassing to the U.S. regarding its complicity in their other, bigger crimes such as oh, you know, the use of chemical weapons in the Iran war, their use of U.S. and other western technology against the Kurds, things like that - but it's a mess as well? Who would have guessed from what we see going on there?]
Doebbler blames the U.S. government, which he accuses of running -- and rigging -- the trial behind the scenes and of denying Saddam basic rights of due process such as being able to have confidential conversations with his lawyers. [And he is absolutely correct.]Scharf blames Saddam and his attorneys, who he says are intent on turning the trial into a circus. [And he, too, is correct.] After an 11-day hiatus, the trial is set to resume Monday, and no one seems sure what will happen.[Well, by now we have seen what happened - the fiasco continues.] The trial was adjourned Feb. 2 after Saddam and four co-defendants refused to appear in the courtroom.
Their boycott began after Judge Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman ejected Saddam's half-brother and one of his lawyers from the courtroom because they refused to stop shouting. [Of course he was right to do this! It is part of his job to make sure to maintain proper decorum.]Since the trial began in October, there also have been periodic outbursts from Saddam, who declared that he is still president of Iraq [he has an arguable point here], challenged the trial's legality [he is absolutely right here] and claimed to have been tortured by his guards [this I do not believe for a moment - unless being tortured means being forced to wash his own underwear.] Beyond the theatrics, two defense lawyers and an investigative judge have been assassinated by suspected Shiite vigilantes, and a third defense attorney fled abroad in fear of his life. [And of course we have no idea who is responsible for these events.]
The first chief judge either resigned because he was fed up with Iraqi and U.S. government interference (his explanation) or was fired because he was incapable of maintaining proper courtroom decorum (the Iraqi and U.S. governments' explanation). [That the U.S. government - and probably the Iraqi so-called "government" - interfered is indisputable. Whether he quit because he was fed up with it, or fired, I don't know. That he did not maintain proper courtroom decorum is obvious, but based on Monday's events - in which among other things Saddam used real gutter language to the judge - the current judge (who at his appointment was aburdly dubbed by the propagandists "The Sword of Justice") is not having much better luck in that area.]
Abdel-Rahman, the new judge, is an Iraqi Kurd from a town where 5,000 people, including several of his relatives, died during a 1988 poison gas attack ordered by Saddam. [Abdel-Rahman is a Kurd from Halabja and is also one of the former regime's torture victims. I don't care how strong his character might be, he cannot possibly be impartial under the circumstances. Oh, and by the way, Halabja is one of the crimes the U.S. would prefer Saddam NOT be tried for. Not only did they - to put it as kindly as possible - turn a blind eye to that atrocity, the regime used American technology - helicopters to be exact - in the attack. All that is likely to come out one way or the other if there is a trial.]Doebbler, who shuttles between law offices in Washington and Jordan when he isn't teaching law at a Palestinian university on the West Bank, counts Saddam as the fourth head of state he has helped represent, though he refuses to identify the other three. [yawwwwn!] Joining Doebbler on Saddam's defense team is Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. attorney general who is also advising former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic in a separate war crimes trial that marks its fourth anniversary today at The Hague. The only way to save Saddam's trial, in Doebbler's view, is to start over under U.N. control somewhere outside Iraq. "There's been a total disrespect for the right to a fair trial," he said in an interview. "That can probably not be remedied except by a trial outside the country under U.N. auspices. Otherwise, I think this is nothing but a lynching mob." [I agree completely with his assessment of the trial, but I am not sure the U.N., which is strongly controlled by U.S. and right wing Israeli interests, would be that much better than the U.S.]
Doebbler said he has received e-mail death threats from Americans angry over his legal aid to Saddam, many from active or retired U.S. soldiers. [Well, e-mail death threats are so much more civilized than actually killing them, after all!] "The real test of human rights and our commitment to due process is when we apply them to people we don't appreciate," Doebbler said. "Saddam Hussein has those rights. When we apply them only to people we like, we miss the whole point of those rights, and we make them worthless." [This is absolutely THE central principle in the concept of human rights. They must be equal for all, including the worst of the worst. If we deny them to the Saddam Husseins of this world we guarantee them for no one.]
Doebbler ridicules the legal acumen of the Iraqi judges and prosecutors, some of whom were trained by Scharf and his colleagues. [And of course we all understand what "trained" means in this context.] "The American lawyers are puppeteering things," he said. [duhhhhh! And we expect this show trial to be different from every other aspect of the occupation because...?] "It's admirable that they want to use Iraqi lawyers, but it's important to have judges and lawyers who know the law. If you compare them to judges on The Hague tribunal or the International Criminal Court, these judges sitting on the Iraqi Special Tribunal could not even be law clerks to them." [No doubt true, but unfair to the people he is criticizing. What chance do they have? They have no independence at all, and are not in control of any part of the situation, including what they have been "trained" to do - everthing they "know" they have been told by their American controllers.]
Scharf, who says Doebbler "takes extreme positions and makes them entertaining," said the trial should continue in Iraq because the Iraqi people have told pollsters in overwhelming numbers that Saddam should be tried and judged by his countrymen. [Oh, come on! Since when are matters of legal legitimacy decided by what people tell pollsters? And in any case, Scharf knows very well what this trial is really about, and exactly how legal and legitimate it is.]
Given all the pressure, attention and security threats, Scharf said he thinks the Iraqi judges and prosecutors are actually doing a decent job. [I guess that is why they keep firing them and finding new ones.] Twenty-five witnesses, most of them from Dujail, have given compelling, straightforward testimony about the revenge killings Saddam is accused of ordering and about alleged torture at the hands of his security officials, he said. [Given a properly run, fair court any good trial lawyer could shoot most of the testimony presented so far full of very large holes. In any case up until now there has been nothing to show that Saddam even knew about the crimes that were almost certainly committed in Dujail by members of his regime. He may turn out to have plausible deniability in this case - something politicians know all about.]
"It's a strong narrative, with a logical order of progression of evidence," Scharf said. "The testimony about how young people were killed or tortured really counters the defense argument that Saddam was trying to root out terrorists. Eight-year-old children cannot be seen as a military threat. So the prosecution is doing its job pretty well." [Of course this is pure P.R. talk.]Iraqis could haul Saddam back into court and place him in a glass box that was soundproofed to muffle his yells, but that would "look a bit heavy-handed," Scharf said. [Well, I have no objection to shutting up his gutter mouth! And in any case if the Americans told the Iraqis to do it, they would.] And simply allowing the trial to proceed in Saddam's absence, Scharf said, would deprive it of "an important educative value," [Oh my God! Setting aside the disgustingly patronizing nature of this comment, exactly what is the "educative value" of this current fiasco of an ill-disguised kangaroo court?], especially for moderate Iraqi Sunnis from Saddam's religious sect who need to see that he is being treated better than he treated those he detained. [By which he really means Sunni Arabs - he is clearly ignorant of the fact that the great majority of Kurds and many Turkmens are "Sunnis from Saddam's religious sect". And OF COURSE at some point he has to drag out the "sectarian card"- as if this whole matter has anything to do with educating "Sunnis from Saddam's religious sect", moderate or otherwise. He appears completely ignorant of the fact that some of the worst criminals of the regime, including some of the defendants in this very trial, are NOT "Sunnis from Saddam's religious sect", and that "Sunnis from Saddam's religious sect" were victimized by the regime based pretty much on the same criteria as non "Sunnis from Saddam's religious sect" were.
And please add to all this the stunning hypocrisy of this statement given that the American occupiers and their Iraqi proxies have not treated those THEY have detained a whole lot better than Saddam treated his prisoners.]So Scharf is proposing a novel solution to the Iraqi Special Tribunal: Place a TV in Saddam's cell, deliver a live video feed to it so that he can watch the trial in real time and have a separate video feed back into the courtroom, showing him watching the trial on TV. "That way we could see his facial expressions and have a virtual feeling of him being in the courtroom," Scharf said. [And with this we see clearly what the trial is REALLY about - not about justice, but about what "we" see. In other words, it is all about P.R., folks.]
OPINION: How Will We Know When We Have Lost, America?
We will know we have lost when we do what we have done in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Diego Garcia, Bagram and the other entirely secret and not so secret CIA and military detention centers round the world. We will know we have lost when the first target in the massacre of a village or city is its hospital. We will know we have lost when we don’t bother to learn about war and about the realities of war. We will know we have lost when we avoid impeaching a president who allows “his” Pentagon to defy a federal court order to release photos from Abu Ghraib showing, among other things, the rape of children and murder of prisoners.(3)
We will know we have lost when our elite military units use the torture and suffering of their prisoners for sport and entertainment(4) . We will know we have lost when we don’t care how similar our methods in Falluja are to those of the Nazis in Warsaw or the Russians in Chechnya. (No, I am not a bleeding heart liberal who thinks wars should be fought with powder puffs and cream puffs, but I am a very disillusioned American veteran who sees the horrors of Stalingrad, Warsaw, Falluja or Waco coming soon to a location very near to each of us). We will know we have lost when we don’t know where Jose Padilla is or how long he has been detained. We will know we have lost when we allow one million illegal aliens to cross our borders each year – any of which could be a suicide bomber, a “pilot-in-training” - or just a voter taking a job from an American non-voter. We will know we have lost when we have a Patriot Act I and are crafting a Patriot Act II behind closed doors in our Congress. OPINION: Despotism & Democracy : Measures how a society ranks on a spectrum stretching from democracy to despotism.
Explains how societies and nations can be measured by the degree that power is concentrated and respect for the individual is restricted. Where does your community, state and nation stand on these scales? OPINION: Barbarian Nation: The Torturers Win
We're in a new world now and the all-powerful U.S. government apparently has free rein to ruin innocent lives without even a nod in the direction of due process or fair play. Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen who, according to all evidence, has led an exemplary life, was seized and shackled by U.S.authorities at Kennedy Airport in 2002, and then shipped off to Syria, his native country, where he was held in a dungeon for the better part of a year. He was tormented physically and psychologically, and at times tortured.
If kidnapping and torturing an innocent man is O.K., what's not O.K.?
This is the "democracy" and "freedom" that the United States seeks to impose on other nations by means of military force, bombing, death and devastation, even on nations that represent no threat to us. And the defenders of this administration and of these policies still wonder "why they hate us"? Here's a simple clue for those who insist on such massive denial even at this late date: it's not because of "who we are." It's because of what we do. That is much more than sufficient reason. OPINION: I Weep For Our Errors in Iraq
Not many years ago, I used to say that our troops were some of the best peacekeepers in the world. Having learned their lessons in Northern Ireland, their performance in Bosnia, East Timor, and Sierra Leone - and in leading the establishment of the peace-keeping force in Kabul - was exemplary.
The Department for International Development, of which I was Secretary of State, provided some funding, and the troops worked in ways that enabled them to get to know the local people. They helped with emergency repairs, set up football clubs, and got involved in other activities. The secret of the troops' success was that they treated local people with respect. And so - despite all the deceit on the road to war in Iraq - it was easy to believe the claims that life was better in Basra than Baghdad partly because our troops knew how to behave.
We can no longer be under that illusion. The video footage that came to light last week showing the beatings of young men by British troops - and the decision of the people of Basra to refuse all contact with British forces - suggests that all is not as we were led to believe. We can no longer feel the same pride in the performance of our armed forces. And their loss of reputation makes them more vulnerable in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On top of what we have just learnt about British military conduct, we have seen more despicable photographs of the mistreatment by the American military of prisoners in Abu Ghraib. Quite apart from anything else, they are a reminder that at no time since the scandal emerged in 2004 has there been a proper inquiry into it, and that nobody in a position of authority has been held to account. OPINION: Pandora’s Box Opened in Iraq: Looking Backward, Forward, and Beyond
Are the Iraqi people better off today? No. A 2004 Lancet study based on U.S. approved research methods puts the war’s Iraqi death toll at 100,000. However, Johns Hopkins epidemiologist Les Roberts, who led the study, said that the results were based on “conservative assumptions.” Deaths increased 1.5 times since the invasion, mostly among women and children, and caused by diverse factors, like U.S. air strikes and military interventions, devastated water and health care systems, and militia or death squad activities. International news sources cite studies pointing “to about 250,000 excess deaths since the outbreak of the U.S.-led war" when deaths in Falluja are included.
Surviving Iraqis confront multiplying tragedies: Poverty rose to 20%; A year-old UN report shows childhood malnutrition doubled; Minority Rights Group International cites Iraq as the country where minority rights are most under threat; the brain-drain of professionals leaving Iraq takes away its future; a rampant "kidnap-and-ransom" industry complicates security; inflation is skyrocketing; the U.S. backed Iraqi constitution privatizes State industries, expatriating profits into Western pockets; and the budget for the highly touted U.S. Iraqi reconstruction has dried up. Iraq is a deadly mess.Even if Iraq overcomes internal maladies, effects reaching beyond its borders make this war a disaster for the world and the U.S.Is the world (including the U.S.) safer? No. Ethnic cleansing in Iraq is pushing the country closer to civil war, risking chaos in the region. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (London) stated “al-Qaeda's recruitment and fundraising was greatly boosted by the U.S. invasion of Iraq.” Militants expanded their influence across the region, be it the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the growing militant threat on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan (New York Times), increased al-Qaeda influence in Afghanistan (noted by its Defense Minister), the recent success by Hamas in Palestine, and the hard-liners in Iran (now also influencing Iraq).
Iraq is now a breeding ground for terrorism. An embarrassed State Department discontinued its annual terrorism report because international terrorist attacks are at the highest level since the first report in 1984. The U.S. sponsored National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism counted 3,991 global terrorist attacks in 2005, up 51% from 2,639 in 2004. Ironically, a war intended to produce freedom has, according to Amnesty International, lead to an increase in worldwide human rights violations. Tyrants can legitimately argue that since the U.S. waged pre-emptive war, so can they. In 2003, North Korea stated “preemptive attacks are not the exclusive right of the U.S.” OPINION: Hurting Iraqi Pride
WHEN Iraq's Prime Minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari lost his temper and said his country knew how best it could handle its sectarian issues, it was a note of caution to the US-led coalition forces occupying the country. It also reflected the increasing restiveness among the political leaders over outside meddling. There is frustration that there is still no peace, stability, reconciliation and reconstruction. Jaafari was angrily reacting to the constant US interference in Iraqi affairs. He spoke his mind after talks with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Britain, the closest partner in the war, repeated US demands that there should be no place for sectarianism in the Iraqi government. The advice was provocative enough for Jaafari to remind the world that the Iraqis knew what was good for them.
Washington's stand is that it has spent billions of dollars to topple Saddam Hussein and it wants to see a government in Baghdad that would suit its interests. US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has been reminding Iraqi leaders that America does not want to see that its money is used to support sectarian politics. Straw picked on this theme to add that the December elections proved that people did not want any particular sect to dominate. No party, ethnic or religious grouping could dominate the elections. It showed that the Iraqis wanted a government of national unity. But what Jaafari could not stomach was attempts to impose the coalition's agenda on his government.
Let the Iraqi leaders sort out the problems among themselves without outside interference. They are holding a reconciliation conference during the first week of June, the second such meeting after one held in Cairo late last year. The initiative is being taken by the Arab League, which wants to see stability in Iraq. PEACE ACTION: How you – yes, you – can end the war.
Simple acts and a little courage have worked wonders in the world. Nonviolent people's movements won democratic reforms in Russia, booted the British out of India, resisted the Nazi occupation in Denmark, drove a dictator out of El Salvador and another out of the Philippines, ended Jim Crow, crushed Soviet power in Poland, toppled military regimes in Argentina and Chile, ended Apartheid, and brought democracy to the Ukraine. George W. is no match for a force this powerful.
There is a multitude of ways in which each of us can alter our daily habits to help make this happen. While there may be a value to picking one or two angles of attack and focusing our collective energies there (and while I will recommend some priorities), it is also worthwhile to pursue the many avenues of resistance to the war machine in which every little bit of pressure will help. Different tactics appeal to different individuals and groups, and it is a multifarious movement that will restore the rule of law to the United States and the world. CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: Alabama Marine dies in humvee explosion in Iraq. Local Story: Soldier from Georgia’s 48th Brigade died in Iraq from non-combat related injury. Local Story: 100th war death soldier’s funeral. Local Story: Community says goodbye to fallen soldier. Local Story: Family mourns Marine killed on Valentine’s Day. Local Story: Fort Worth Officer Killed in Iraq Local Story: Body of local soldier returned to east Tennessee. QUOTE OF THE DAY: Peace has its victories no less than war, but it doesn’t have as many monuments to unveil. –Kin Hubbard