DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, APRIL 7, 2006
AND THE CHILDREN SUFFER THE MOST FROM WAR - PHOTO: Young victims of a car bomb lie in a hospital where they were taken for treatment Thursday April 6, 2006 in Najaf 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq. A car bomb exploded Thursday in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, killing at least 10 people and threatening to sharpen sectarian tensions. (AP Photo/Alaa al-Marjani)
Bring ‘em on:
US soldier killed in Beiji by IED.
Suicide bombers kill 40 at Baghdad mosque. One suicide bomber blew himself up inside the mosque, another outside. Also, 45 people were wounded.
Baghdad on alert after car bomb threat. Iraq’s interior ministry cautioned people in Baghdad to avoid crowds near mosques and markets due to a car bomb threat.
Gunman shot dead four men in two separate incidents in Baquba. Two unidentified bodies riddled with bullets in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah neighborhood.
Son of an Arab tribal chief was kidnapped in Kirkuk. Four senior officers in charge of protecting oil facilities were arrested by Multi-National Forces.
Salah Abdel Aziz, a teacher at an art school in Basra, was found dead on a city street. Six bodies found in western Baghdad.
Governor of Karbala
said that he was ceasing cooperation with the US troops due to the arrest of 16 Karbala residents who were transferred to un undisclosed location.
Life in Iraq:
Day at a Glance
The BBC News website is reporting in detail on events in Iraq throughout 7 April, to try to convey the fullest and most accurate picture we can of the reality of life there, almost three years after the fall of Baghdad. On this page, from dawn to dusk Baghdad time, we aim to report the news in greater detail than usual as well as taking a look at what the Iraqi media are saying.
Channel 4 Video Report
on UK Mercenaries shooting Iraqi Civilians:
"We don't know whether it was an innocent civilian or whether that was an insurgent - we don't know, because we never stop". The words of a former security consultant, explaining the story behind the video footage.
Wary Iraqis Steer Clear of US Troops
Frequent shootings at checkpoints, plus raids by U.S. troops and airstrikes resulting in Iraqi deaths, have angered many Iraqis, who contend that ignorance of their culture and the Arabic language hamper the Americans. Some say flatly that American soldiers act like "cowboys in Western movies," in Kamal's words. Some U.S. commanders acknowledge the problem exists. But they blame it on insurgents who disguise themselves as civilians. U.S. officials insist soldiers and Marines are careful to identify targets before opening fire. Nevertheless, a spate of deaths has badly strained relations between Americans and Iraqi leaders:
_ In the most serious recent case, about 12 U.S. Marines are under investigation for possible war crimes in a Nov. 19 incident in western Iraq in which one Marine and 24 Iraqis, including women and children, were killed. The U.S. military launched an inquiry after Time magazine said last month that it obtained a video taken by a journalism student who disputed the Marines' initial account of the incident, which began after a Marine was killed in a car bombing.
_ On Feb. 26, an Iraqi special forces team accompanied by American advisers killed 16 people, described by U.S. officials as insurgents, and rescued an Iraqi hostage in a gun battle in northeastern Baghdad. U.S. officials said no American soldier fired a shot. Nevertheless, the Shiite governor of Baghdad suspended contacts with the United States, and Shiite lawmakers boycotted a planned meeting to discuss formation of the new government because they said the raid occurred at a mosque complex.
_ Police accused American troops of killing 11 people, mostly civilians, in a March 15 shootout near Balad north of the capital. U.S. officials disputed the allegation, saying only one militant and three civilians were killed. They included two women and a child, and the case is under investigation. No figures are available on how many Iraqi civilians, including women and children, have been killed in shootings, airstrikes and other violence involving American forces since the 2003 invasion. However, light sentences for U.S. troops convicted of killing civilians have left some human rights groups seething. At least 16 American troops have been sentenced in such cases, according to a count by The Associated Press. Six received prison sentences of three or more years in prison. Four cases are pending.
Rebels in Full Control of Samarra, Cleric Says
Anti-U.S. forces have spread their control over the city of Samarra, according to a Shiite cleric in charge of Shiite shrines in the city. “Samarra is still in the hands of terror … It is outside the jurisdiction and control of the state,” said Saleh al-Haydari in an interview. A bomb attack in February had badly damaged a major Shiite shrine in the city sparking protests and revenge attacks. The country is still reeling from the consequences of the bombing which have plunged it into political turmoil and sectarian infighting. Haydari said the people of Samarra, estimated at more than 200,000, were powerless in the face of there rebels. “We distinguish between the terrorists and the citizens of Samarra,” he said. U.S. troops have so far mounted two massive attacks to regain control of the city. One of them led to large-scale displacement of the population.
Uprooted Shia Flood into Kut
Fleeing Baghdad’s sectarian violence, Shia families find shelter in southern city. The old woman's face and hands are covered with traditional Arab tattoos. Passing her hands through her granddaughter's hair, Wuzyia Mubarak Salman, 60, told her story with tears streaming down her cheeks. Salman, a Shia, moved with her family to Abu Ghraib in western Baghdad thirty years ago. Last month, she abandoned her home after she received an anonymous death threat. "They wrote on the wall of our house, 'You have 24 hours to leave or we will blow up the house [with] you and your children [inside]’," said Salman, who fled to Kut - a majority Shia city, 160 kilometres south of Baghdad - after the warning. Salman, who presently lives in two tents with her two married sons and ten grandchildren, says Shias are targeted because they are taking over the reins of power in Iraq and Sunnis don’t like it. "'Leave this area,’ they said. ‘We don't want you. You are Shias and do not have a place here'," recalled Salman, who’s nephew was killed on his way to work. Since the 2003 US-led invasion, Kut has escaped most of the unrest afflicting some parts of the country, and in the past month it has become a refuge for Shias escaping the sectarian violence that has boiled over since the February bombings of two Shia shrines in Samarra. Iraq's ministry of migration and displacement estimates that as many as 30,000 Shias and Sunnis have been uprooted by the recent fighting. More than 500 displaced families, the vast majority of them Shias, have registered in the Kut office, seeking a place to live. Ali Abbas Jahakir, the head migration ministry in Kut, said the city is overwhelmed by the new arrivals, "Our governorate is unable to accommodate all of these families." Most of those who’ve found shelter here have received death threats and more than half have lost relatives in the sectarian violence.
Mixed Marriages Confront Sectarian Violence
According to estimates, two million out of Iraq's 6.5 million marriages are unions between Arab Sunnis and Shi'ites. "In the beginning, my family was worried about our marriage," Hadeel explained. "But in the end, we convinced them that religious differences were not important enough to prevent a family from being built." Many of the doctrinal differences between Sunnis and Shi'ites are minor enough to be dismissed, except by puritans of both sects. Mixed marriages between Arab Sunnis and Shi'ites – and also between the predominantly Sunni Kurds and Arabs of both sects – have been common, even in the days of former president Saddam Hussein, when Shi'ites were heavily discriminated against. Hadeel's husband, Jamal Jomaa, noted that the current wave of sectarian violence was unlikely to disrupt the homes of mixed marriages, since they were living proof that such violence was useless and unnecessary. "During the Saddam Hussein regime, we never heard of sectarian violence, despite all the problems that we went through," Jomaa said. "Now we have to be strong to show our children that those committing sectarian violence are doing wrong."
Working the Iraqi Health System
Corruption at all levels means millions of dollars of investment is making no difference to suffering citizens. The Washington Post ran a recent article on the problems with US plans to construct 142 new primary care clinics across Iraq. The endless chain of subcontracting has left almost all of these clinics unfinished. Often a clinic is declared "reconstructed" after a quick paint job, and a couple of desks and stethoscopes are provided to the clinic. I have witnessed the construction of one such clinic over the last two years. It lies on the southern Baghdad-Basra highway in Madain province. Once completed it was to serve the inhabitants of a dozen surrounding villages. The still unfinished building is now a barracks for interior ministry commandos. I've heard that numerous requests from the health ministry to abandon the site were all turned down or ignored. But reconstruction failures are just the tip of the iceberg.
Iraq has over 1,200 existing primary healthcare clinics and about 240 hospitals. They all continue to operate, though over half of those could shut down with no noticeable difference. Iraqi healthcare problems are of course not news. Symptoms include poor sanitation, shortage of essential drugs and basic medical equipment, erratic electricity and water supply, below average service, increasing deficiency of specialized, and even junior training staff, lack of protection for health workers. They have been omnipresent ever since the sanctions, but they have been exacerbated lately by the corrupt, lawless environment that surrounds most Iraqi governmental departments. The culpability lies mostly on the shoulders of the new Iraqi government. It often blames terrorism for the deterioration of health services, which is true to a certain extent, but Iraqis in safer regions, such as southern governorates, where there is no impediment to reconstruction, continue to suffer from the same problems. I have served a full year at a state clinic in Basra and I have faced the same problems I face today in Baghdad. The real reason is the cancer that is threatening to deliver the deadly blow to the system: widespread corruption from the lowest janitor in a public clinic up to the minister of health's office.
Patients Pay Heavy Price As War Guts Healthcare System
Patient care in Iraq has been the main casualty of an exodus of experienced doctors caused by rising levels of crime and violence. Those who leave are replaced by younger doctors with more limited experience - a problem in Iraq, where many people suffer from chronic complaints including heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. Aziz Ali, a 40-year-old resident of the al-Zafaraniyah neighborhood south of Baghdad, has had heart disease and blocked arteries since before the 2003 war. Now he is worried because his doctor has gone. "He left the country because he was threatened," said Ali. "I have tried three others but I feel uncomfortable with them. The one I'm using now is an inexperienced student. I think my case has gone from bad to worse." Like other professionals, Iraqi doctors have been targeted for attack and kidnapping because of their relatively high income and social status. Dr. Alaa Hussein, manager of the Health Ministry's Labor Development department, says 400 medical specialists have left the country since early 2004. His ministry has tried to tempt doctors back to Iraq, but rising violence has kept them from returning - 176 medical workers have been killed over the same period, while others have been abducted and held for ransom. "We are trying to fill the gaps by (employing) recent graduates to meet hospitals' needs," said Hussein. " At the present time, we have no alternative." In some tense areas around Baghdad and in the so-called Sunni triangle, licensed nurses have replaced doctors. "Healthcare in Iraq since 2003 is worse than during the sanctions," said Naomi. "At that time we had little equipment and medicine, but in the last three years we have lost almost all the specialists."
Iraqis Struggle to Cope with Lower Food Rations
A government decision to cut food rations has hurt poor Iraqis who cannot afford high prices on the open market, say economists and Baghdad residents. Despite rising poverty in Iraq, the government has decided to cut the food ration budget from $4 billion to $3 billion in 2006, as the country shifts from a socialist to a free market economy. The Iraqi government has provided subsidies on basic food items such as flour and sugar for decades. The United Nations expanded the program when the country was under crippling economic sanctions. However, subsidies have now been cut on staples including salt, soap and beans. Trade Ministry spokesman Faraj Daud said the government will continue to supply Iraqis with free rice, sugar, flour and cooking oil. The ministry claims that items that were once scarce during sanctions are now widely available on the open market and therefore do not need to be distributed by the government. Approximately 96 percent of Iraq's 28 million people receive food rations managed by 543 centers. The UN World Food Program estimated in a 2004 report that one-quarter of the population is highly dependent on the rations, warning that without them "many lower-income households, particularly women and children, would not be able to meet their food requirements." Daud, however, insists that the ministry has studied the impact of canceling the subsidies and found it would not hurt families economically. For Qadiryia Mohammad, a mother of eight with a disabled husband who cannot work, the cuts are devastating. "We have no income and totally depend on the rations," said Mohammad, 48, a resident of Baghdad's al-Karkh neighborhood. "The cut on some items and problems with food distribution might force us to beg." (And I think the politics behind this, which is the same politics behind the IMF and World Bank actions in Iraq, are what is really fueling the rebels. The Iraqis are fighting because they see things getting worse and worse and worse as ‘making the world safe for corporations’ is the main policy agenda. – Susan)
Five Days of April in Iraq
Clearly smarting under charges that they are "failing" to tell the good news in Iraq, the major TV network and cable channels appear to have abandoned any effort to report what is going on in Iraq. Fearful of being accused of undermining the war effort, the TV side of journalism apparently decided to punt and do nothing. Fortunately, the print media and wires continue to tough it out. Working from the info collected on http://www.icasualties.org/
, I have assembled a snapshot of the first five days of April in Iraq. It is not a pretty picture. While it certainly could be worse, the facts on the ground make it very tough to argue that the U.S. is making progress in securing Iraq.
All violence is relative. In the United States our cable networks have no trouble spending weeks covering the disappearance of a teenager in Aruba. In fact, the saturation coverage of the disappearance of Natalie Holloway would lead a visitor from Mars to conclude that she was some sort of goddess and that our very security depended on finding her. Compare that coverage with the actual events in the last five days in Iraq. If we had 25 car bombings in New York City and Washington, could George Bush's White House get away with chiding the media for not focusing on the good news in the United States? Based on the lingering shock from the four terrorist strikes on September 11, 2001, I wager that news coverage would be borderline, if not full blown, hysteria in this country if we were experiencing what the Iraqis are confronting on a daily basis.
The problem is not what the news media is reporting. The real problem is that the White House continues to delude itself into believing that the problems in Iraq can be solved simply by managing the news. The events on the ground in Iraq, however, reflect centuries of deep seated sectarian and ethnic strife. If we cannot create effective security forces or provide such security ourselves, the Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds in Iraq will seek protection from their own militias. A functioning government requires, at a minimum, that the people be protected. If it cannot fulfill that task then the government has little chance of being accpeted as legitimate. Until that problem is solved Iraq will remain in the throes of a low-grade, but escalating, civil war.
Iraq’s Public TV Network a Dangerous Place to Work
When two employees of government-owned al Iraqia television were killed on assignment a year ago, station managers decided they had to be memorialized. They soon realized, however, that the photo cabinet they'd selected wouldn't be big enough. Now, with 35 dead in the last year and 55 wounded, they're planning to devote a newsroom wall to remembering departed colleagues. Al Iraqia, Iraq's public broadcasting network, must surely be among the most dangerous places to work in the world. The 3,000-employee network includes a large daily newspaper, two radio stations - one devoted to readings of the Quran - and three television stations, broadcasting everything from news to soap operas and children's programming.
"When we go to restless areas, I try to hide the Iraqia logo, in order not jeopardize the life of the crew accompanying me," she said. "I do not know why they target our station. All we do is talk about real life in Iraq." No one can say for sure who's killing al Iraqia's staff. Many of the deaths clearly were the work of insurgents who see the station as an extension of the government and American forces. But others can't be laid to any group, and al Iraqia's staff presents itself as besieged from all sides. Death isn't limited to reporters. In recent weeks, two children's radio programmers were murdered after revealing where they worked at a fake checkpoint. A station manager and his driver were shot to death as they approached the station in March. Muhammed Jassim Khudhair, who's second in charge at the pro-government network, notes that they've asked the prime minister's officer to consider murdered network employees as national martyrs, similar to soldiers, which would make their families eligible for special pensions. Currently, the station pays out about $1,400 per death.
Wrong on Iraq? Not Everyone.
Four in the Mainstream Media Who Got it Right.
When former U.N. chief weapons inspector David Kay told the Senate Armed Services Committee in January 2004, “We were all wrong,” he was admitting that officials had been wrong to claim Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The we-were-all-wrong trope entered the political lexicon as a mea culpa, but today the White House and its media defenders employ it as a defense of a war started over phantom weapons. We may have been wrong, they argue, but so were the Clinton administration, congress members of both parties and other Western intelligence agencies. Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, appearing on CNN’s Lou Dobbs Tonight (11/11/05), told the host: “One of the things we have to recall here is, every leading Democrat, including the Democrats who had access to the same intelligence information like Jay Rockefeller, approved of the war in Iraq.” National Review editor Rich Lowry told PBS’s NewsHour host Jim Lehrer (11/11/05), “Many Democrats were saying the same thing because they were all looking at the same body of intelligence.” On November 13 Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace declared (11/13/05), “Democrats saw basically the same intelligence the president did and made statements, by and large, that were just as alarmist.” Though the Washington Post (11/12/05) and Knight Ridder (11/15/05) debunked this partisan version of the claim, showing that the White House had access to far more extensive intelligence, the we-were-all-wrong theme does have a grain of truth to it—particularly when it comes to mainstream journalism. New York Times Baghdad bureau chief John Burns made a valid point when he told a U.C. Berkeley conference on Iraq and the media (3/18/04): “We failed the American public by being insufficiently critical about elements of the administration’s plan to go to war.” Strong cases for the general failure of mainstream journalism regarding Iraq were featured in the Columbia Journalism Review (5–6/03) and the New York Review of Books (2/26/04). But the fact that mainstream media in general suspended critical judgment when it came to reporting on pre-war Iraq claims should not be viewed as an excuse—because, in fact, not all mainstream journalists and pundits got it wrong. Some got it right—simply by carrying out the basic journalistic tasks of checking facts and holding the powerful to account. The four who got it right: Scott Ritter, Warren Strobel, Jonathan Landay, and Charles J. Hanley.
Kurdish Writer Learns Words Are Risky in New Iraq
Writer Kamal Karim came away with a troubling lesson from his Kurdish homeland in northern Iraq -- an opinion can get you a 30-year jail sentence. The Iraqi Kurd, an Austrian citizen, returned to the semi- autonomous Kurdistan expecting a new era of human rights after a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. But he soon learned the risks of exposing what he said was the abuse of power by regional President Masoud Barzani. After facing a 30-year prison term in December for defamation that was reduced to 18 months in a retrial, he was pardoned on Monday. "It affected me so much. It proved to me that the road to justice in Kurdistan will be long," he told Reuters in an interview this week. Karim was arrested by the Parastin intelligence service attached to Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) after he wrote articles on a Web site accusing the Kurdish leader of abusing power and corruption.
Hypocrites and Liars:
US, Britain Stress Iraq Self-Rule
From email I received:
Hearing Of The Military Quality Of Life And Veterans Affairs, And Related Agencies Subcommittee Of The House Appropriations Committee on March 14, 2006
REP. PRICE: … I'd like to ask you one very direct question about our goals in Iraq and then move to a question of strategy. Our ambassador Mr. Khalilzad recently stated, and I'm quoting, "we have no goal of establishing permanent bases in Iraq". I'd like to have that clarified because, as you know, this question has arisen as to what our ultimate intentions and goals are. Can you make an unequivocal commitment that the U.S. does not plan to establish permanent bases in Iraq?
GEN. ABIZAID: No sir, I can't, primarily because I don't formulate U.S. policy. I advise on U.S. policy. The policy on long-term presence in Iraq hasn't been formulated. And I don't imagine that it will emerge until a government of national unity emerges.
REP. PRICE: Well, you understand, I'm not asking you about the duration of our current involvement in Iraq, that's an important question of course, as well but clearly that depends on various contingencies. I'm asking you about our long-term vision for our military presence in the region.
GEN. ABIZAID: Clearly out long term vision for military presence in the region requires a robust counter-terrorist capability. I think all of us need to understand that groups like Al Qaeda and associated movements are with us for a long time. We need to be able to face them out there with the assistance of host governments, where we need to be able to deter the ambitions of an expansionist like Iran. We need to be able to provide institutional assistance in particular, throughout the region so that we're helping others help themselves. And I think that the institutional assistance that we have to provide to the Iraqi's and the Afghans over time, to build the training, to do the training; to do the mentoring; to help them build institutions that serve a democratic government, are commitments that will have to take a long time. But even there, I think it would be premature for me to predict what they're going to be for Iraq until an Iraqi government emerges; and the discussions between Iraq and the United States take place.
REP. WALSH: …General, Mr. Price asked a question about permanency in the Middle East of our military. I think that's a really important question. And the fact that people back home say "well, how long are we going to be in Iraq" and I said "well, I really don't know but we're still in Germany, you know, 50 years later". And they kind of say "are we going to be in the Middle East for 50 years". I don't know but it's not really an (alias ?), our role in Germany was really to fortify the eastern flank of Europe against the Soviet aggression. It is a very different situation. But in the long run, do you believe that it's in our national interest to have permanent bases in the Middle East?
GEN. ABIZAID: Sir, we've been in the Middle East more than 50 years. We've been in the Middle East ever since the -- however you would like to call the dependency upon oil has developed. And our forces have been there either as naval, air or land forces in one way or another for an awful long time. And once the British pulled out the Arabian gulf, it became more and more necessary for us to provide more and more force in the region. I think it's very important that we understand what's happening in the region. It's a struggle between extremist on the one side and moderates on the other. And clearly it's in our national interest to help the moderates prevail. That struggle will go on for a long time. But it doesn't need to go on at the current footprint that the United States of America has in the region provided we can stabilize Iraq; stabilize Afghanistan; give confidence to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia that they can defeat the extremists on their own; and other nations: Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt. This struggle that's taking place out there is, to a certain extent, driven by an increasingly shrinking world, the global economy, the global information revolution, etcetera. And I think that there is no doubt that there's a need for some presence in the region over time, primarily to help people help themselves through this period of extremist versus moderates, they give the moderates a chance to win. To continue to deter Iran against a strategy of hegemony in the region. And ultimately, it comes down to the free flow of goods and resources on which the prosperity of our own nation and everybody else's depends upon. And so as long as we are the United States of America, it's unfortunate but it's true that we've got to carry the burden of protecting that with our allies. And our allies do a good job helping us. So do we need 200,000 Americans in the Middle East for the next 20 years? No, but we've got to stabilize Iraq. We've got to stabilize Afghanistan. We need to maintain a presence that protects the small nations and ensures the continued stability of the region and the flow of those resources that are essential to our well-being. I think that that number which I wouldn't want to speculate at here, can be much less than it currently is. But what's more important is that you have to have a spirit of partnership in the region. Where people know if they need your help, they can call on you and you will come. Unlike our experience in Vietnam where they called on us and we didn't come, after we left.
The Tethered Goat Strategy
Rather than being received as invaluable intelligence, the messages are discarded or, worse, considered signs of disloyalty. Rejecting the facts on the ground apparently requires blaming the messengers. So far, two top attaches at the embassy have been reassigned elsewhere for producing factual reports that are too upsetting. The Bush administration's preferred response to increasing disintegration is to act as if it has a strategy that is succeeding. "More delusion as a solution in the absence of a solution," said a senior state department official. Under the pretence that Iraq is being pacified, the military is partially withdrawing from hostile towns in the countryside and parts of Baghdad. By reducing the number of soldiers, the administration can claim its policy is working going into the midterm elections. But the jobs the military doesn't want to perform are being sloughed off on state department "provisional reconstruction teams" (PRTs) led by foreign service officers. The rationale is that they will win Iraqi hearts-and-minds by organising civil functions. The Pentagon has informed the state department it will not provide security for these officials and that mercenaries should be hired for protection instead. Internal state department documents listing the PRT jobs, dated March 30, reveal that the vast majority of them remain unfilled by volunteers. So the professionals are being forced to take the assignments in which "they can't do what they are being asked to do", as a senior department official told me.
Here's what the Iraqi women are saying about their experience in the US:
Eman Ahmad Khamas: "I knew I had to come to the US to speak to the American people about what is going on in Iraq. It is only the American people who have the power to change their government's policy from one of military aggression to one of peaceful negotiation in Iraq. If I can tell the American people about the death and destruction I see everyday in Iraq committed in their name at the hands of the US military, I know they will fight that much harder to stop it."
Dr. Rashad Zidan: "I was astonished to find that the majority Americans don't agree with Bush's war and I am pleased to tell my fellow Iraqis about the many Americans I met who are struggling to stop the war and put an end to the occupation. We Iraqis believe that in a democracy, such as in the US, the politicians do what the people want, so most of us believed that the majority of Americans want to occupation to continue. I was surprised to find that in the US the politicians are not listening to the people. This is not the kind of democracy Iraqis want to see in Iraq."
Dr. Entisar Mohammad Ariabi: "I can see how beautiful a country the USA is, but it was difficult for me to enjoy this beauty when my own country lies in ruins. I see the tall beautiful buildings, many of them new, with windows and steel intact. They only served to remind me of what my country used to be and how destroyed it is now. Why would a government of a country that has so much beauty and wealth choose to come to Iraq to destroy it? We need to end the occupation now!"
Faiza Al-Araji: "Saddam was a terrible dictator. He stole Iraq from the Iraqis, and now the occupation has stolen Iraq from the Iraqis. We must find a solution to this present disaster, but the solution cannot be found through a US military occupation."
Sureya Sayadi: "The Kurds have been used by Saddam and now by the US as political pawns. We are not any safer now than under Saddam. Our current "government" doesn't represent the people, the leaders are there for their own self interests. If all's well in Khurdistan, then why do we have two presidents?"
Nadje Al-Ali: "Women, and ultimately the children, are the big losers in this tragic US-UK military misadventure. Iraqi women enjoyed the best position in terms of equal rights, education and employment in the Middle East region and today are relegated to prisons in their own homes. The government bends toward being a fundamentalist Islamic administration. Women are losing many of their prior freedoms."
A Marriage Made in Hell
Have the brakes been put on the progress of democracy? Is, indeed, the process actually moving in reverse? To ask such questions would once have seemed implausible to the positivists who, with a sweep of the hand across a map of the world, pointed complacently to the countries that were advancing by leaps and bounds towards democracy or, if not by leaps and bounds, at least moving inexorably forward. The train has started moving and has picked up too much speed to stop, they insisted. Democratisation is both a pledge and an imperative, they said. It was a pledge on the part of Third World governments to the international community which had declared it would no longer put up with non-democratic regimes. And it was a prerequisite for world peace. Peace is only possible between democratic nations which don't go around attacking other nations, said Bush. With Sharansky's book on democracy firmly tucked beneath his arm the US president promised that peace in the Middle East would follow in the wake of democracy. In so saying he raised the neo-conservatives' romantic, if not entirely innocent, banner, "make democracy not war", launched a campaign to impose democracy on the region using all the violence and coercion available to the world's only superpower, and drove the Middle East further away from peace than it has been for centuries.
The Arab public quickly sniffed out the hypocrisy in the Bush administration's appeals. There was too much wavering, procrastination and lack of coordination, and it was not long before the people lost whatever confidence they had in the efficacy of American support for democratisation in the region. This erosion of confidence occurred a time when voices from within America's ruling conservative right began to protest against the squandering of US material and political resources on policies that only seemed to augment the power and influence of Muslim fundamentalists in the Middle East. Washington stopped talking about democracy as a condition for peace and Bush stopped citing Sharansky as one of his primary sources of inspiration.
A Visiting Iraqi’s View of Americans
The Americans usually ask, at the end of each meeting: What can we do to help the Iraqis? And I usually say: Tell your friends and neighbors the truth of what is happening in Iraq, this isn't a noble mission, do not send your sons to war, put pressure on your government to pull the armies out of Iraq, and stop building the bases. Do not interfere with the future of Iraq, leave Iraq for the Iraqis. The last time, we had two days of joint activities in various neighborhoods inside San Francisco, we had many participants, one of them was Scott Ritter, the Weapons Inspector in Iraq during the embargo. He spoke to the audience about his rejection of the war since the beginning, that Iraq had no Weapons of Mass Destruction, that this American administration is practicing an incorrect policy in Iraq; they waged the war for false reasons, and until now they are justifying their staying in Iraq with false justifications. And when people asked him- What should they do, he got angry, and answered harshly: Don't be fools, you put this administration as a government, don't say –someone forged the elections. You should open your eyes and change your lives. Change your life style from relying on Oil and its revenues that come from occupying other countries, tell your government that you can live in austerity on your resources only, there is no need for wars and steeling the revenues of others. I sat in amazement, watching this angry, frank debate. He accused them, and they refused these accusations. I knew the truth of America here, during this month. People here are weak, submissive, their will taken from them.
They want the change, but do not know how, or else, they are yielding people, who lost hope in their ability to cause change. The decision in this country is in the hands of the wealthy, who own the money, the banks, and the giant companies, and of course- the Media, that controls the minds of simple people. Even the election system is controlled by money; the Candidate needs millions of dollars for the election campaign, meaning- who would care for a Candidate of principals, humanity, justice, and peace, who shall take care of him, or finance his campaign? But that who is ready to market the ideas of the rich class, the class that loves wars and investments, will find someone to spend millions on his campaign, will tell people all the nice promises and glamorous slogans. They will elect him, and when he gets to the chair, and sits in the position of decision- making, he will carry out the instructions of the major companies that financed his campaign, not the poor Americans who elected him. And so, people would live in one realm, and the decision- maker, having abandoned them, would live in another. This is the reality of things in America. And the Iraq war is the most evident example.
There is a huge popular anger, from before the war, till now, but people's opinion is marginalized, no one sees that opinion in the newspapers or the media, not even give a hint about it in a petty way. It gets lost with the tide of news, with different features about actors and athletes, then the commercials, the weather broadcast, the financial and ecological news. And the issue of Iraq gets lost in the jam of stories, commercials, and empty talk. I keep asking myself, when I see the American's sorrow and their inability to change decisions, or influence its makers in the country: Is this the democracy that Bush and Gondalisa Rice brag about? For which they destroyed Iraq in order to implement? The government is strong, rich, and opinionated about decision and opinion, the people are poor, weak, and no one cares about them, they walk out in demonstrations, they shout, some of them are arrested and go to jail, others make documentary films, and talk against the government's policies. But in result, who cares? How many of the 350 million Americans will hear him? And where is the decision? The decision is in the hands of those who sit in the White House, the Pentagon, and the Congress. And they are as far off as can be from the ordinary citizen and his opinion. As far off as can be…. I felt sorry for these people. This country is definitely living in a crisis, and the Iraq war is the issue that revealed everything as it truly is. (This link was in yesterday’s post also. I really liked it, so I posted it again. – Susan)
OPINION AND COMMENTARY FROM AN IRAQI-AMERICAN
As you read this article (below), please make note of the fact that it is Sunni, Shi`i and Christian religious officials (aka “clerics”) as well as some Kurds who are supporting legitimate resistance against the occupation. Note also the spin and out and out lies in the article: “the ‘legitimate right’ of Iraqis to resist what they called the occupation.” Notice that it is the newspaper that places scare quotes around legitimate right when in reality resistance against foreign domination and all forms of tyranny is a right under international law. As for “what they call the occupation”, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it is a duck regardless of the official legal designation someone has managed to put on it.
What is going on in Iraq now fits the legal definition of an occupation regardless of the legal technicalities the Bush and Blair administrations have manipulated into being. And then there is this little gem from Air Force Maj. Todd Vician: "the violence is brought about by the terrorists who try to attack Iraqi security forces, civilians and coalition forces as well." That statement goes well beyond spin. It is purely and simply a lie that flies in the face of well know reality – reality which the US military (if not the US government) has openly and repeatedly acknowledged.
And here is an example of how a subtly spun statement can create a completely false impression: “The remarks of the 16 religious leaders… suggested a growing feeling among Iraqis that the presence of foreign forces is adding to
the country's instability.” (emphasis is mine) Notice how, according to this, the presence of foreign forces is mere ADDING TO the country’s instability, when in fact the presence and actions of foreign (i.e. occupation) forces is the originator and the cause of Iraq’s instability. And then there is this recent poll result: “an overwhelming majority of Arab Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds believe the U.S. plans to keep troops in Iraq permanently. Most also believe the United States would refuse to leave regardless of whether the Iraqi government requested it.” They are absolutely right, of course. One of the real purposes behind the invasion was to establish a permanent US military presence in Iraq. Even as we speak the Americans are building several huge permanent – oh, excuse me “enduring” (and the effective difference between permanent and enduring is what exactly?) - military bases that look like small American cities – at least one even has an auto dealership). And the US will not have to refuse to leave. Right now the Bushies are working very hard, and somewhat effectively, to prevent Ibrahim Ja`fari from being reinstalled as “prime minister” (lack of upper case is intentional) in favour of wannabe US puppets `Adel `Abdul Mehdi and Qasem Daoud (more about this later, insha allah – i.e. God willing). Even if Ja`fari succeeds in becoming “prime minister” the US has probably already created economic, political, and military conditions that will make it quite impossible for any Iraqi government – or “government” – to request an end to the occupation. Perhaps there is one sign of hope in this article, and that is that the Bush administration has not completely succeeded in dividing Iraq against itself.
Iraqis are right to attack troops, clerics say
Two years after U.S. authorities ceremoniously declared Iraq to be sovereign again, top religious leaders say Iraqis remain under military occupation, have a right to fight foreign troops and still don't govern themselves. Their statements, made at the conclusion of a peace conference in London on Tuesday, provided a stamp of approval from Iraq's most influential Sunni and Shiite Muslim clerics for their countrymen to step up attacks aimed at hastening the withdrawal of U.S., British and other troops. Two Christian archbishops and ethnic Kurdish leaders, whose community has previously supported the foreign military presence, joined Jordan's Prince Hassan bin Talal in endorsing a communiqué underscoring the "legitimate right" of Iraqis to resist what they called the occupation. The U.S. and British governments say their forces are in Iraq at the request of the government to assist in security operations. An expert in the law of armed conflict concurred, saying that because foreign forces are in Iraq with approval of the U.N. Security Council, they are not legally occupation forces regardless of how Iraqi religious leaders might define them. The clerics were adamant in their interpretation of Iraqis' rights to resist. Their call comes at a time when Shiite militants, like their Sunni counterparts, have engaged in armed confrontations with troops of the U.S.-led coalition, including a raid on a Shiite mosque Sunday in which at least 17 Iraqis were killed. "We are here to say that any military action against an occupying force is a legitimate act authorized under international law," said Sheik Majid al-Hafeed, a representative of the Ulmma Kurdish Union of Iraq. "The occupation is something that everybody is calling for an end to," added Sayyid Salih al-Haydary, outgoing minister of Shiite religious affairs.
No More Victims was founded in September 2002. We work to find medical sponsorships for war-injured Iraqi children and to forge ties between the children, their families and communities in the United States. We believe one of the most effective means of combating militarism is to focus on direct relief to its victims. We are committed to developing information and strategies that empower local communities to engage in direct aid and advocacy.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: We seek a world free of war and the threat of war,
We seek a society with equity and justice for all,
We seek a community where every person's potential may be fulfilled,
We seek an earth restored.
-from the Friends Council on National Legislation (Quakers) in the USA.