Friday, October 15, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, when the press brings up the Iraq War it appears to be an issue in some campaigns, the targeting of Iraq's LGBT community continues, the political stalemate continues, rumors abound that the US is telling Nouri to drop Moqtada, Wikileaks is closely watched by more than the US government, and more.
This morning on the second hour of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR), Diane and her guests Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers), Kevin Whitelaw (Congressional Quarterly) and Gordon Lubold (Politico) addressed the wars.
Terry in Detroit: I thought you asked a fairly compelling and pertinent question when you asked what the wars and the prices of the war were going to do for the mid-term elections. And with all do respect, I think the response that this will manifest itself next summer might be a little naive because those of us who are tax payers recognize that the wars cost billions of dollars and considering the state of the economy at present I think this will become a bigger deal in the mid-term elections.
Diane Rehm: Gordon
Gordon Lubold: Well I don't disagree but it's just that you are not hearing that as part of the conversation. Even the veterans who are running for seats in the House are not -- that's not resonating. People are not paying attention to the fact -- And this is different from two years ago, uh, when the surge in Iraq was-was topic A and everybody wanted to weigh in about it. It's just not as much of an issue.
Nancy A. Youssef: Maybe we're talking about two different things? I think it's the war itself that's not resonating. I mean it's the details of the war, it's the -- it's the tactics of the war. We don't talk about that. But I think broadly, sort of Pentagon spending, defense spending maybe-maybe resonating in a way more than the actual war itself because the costs keep on going -- and have gone -- up exponentially since 2001. Remember, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are budgeted for $159 billion this year and remember at a time when the bailout cost $50 [billion]
Diane Rehm: Exactly.
Kevin Whitelaw: But even so, you know, it's quite instructive we really don't know where the candidates, particularly the Tea Party candidates, even stand on the war in Afghanistan. Most of them have-have not addressed it or-or have done their best to avoid speaking too strongly one way or the other. We're certainly not seeing that many of the candidates campaign against defense spending per se, although it's sort of hard to imagine that a whole bunch of the candidates who-who are swept into office on trying to cut the federal budget won't at least have to grapple with that given that defense spending is 50% of the discretionary budget.
The Iraq War is figuring in some races -- including the high profile one -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is running against Sharon Angle. Last night they debate. The Las Vegas Sun has a transcript that may confuse some. Mitch Fox, the moderator, raised the issue in the debate.
Mitch Fox: Our next question is on Iraq, and that's for you Senator Reid. Senator Reid, you were quoted as saying the following: "the war is lost, and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence." Do you believe that your statement demoralized the troops, and were inaccurate as judged by the success of the troop surge?
Harry Reid: Mitch, I first met General [David] Petraeus in Iraq. The statement that I made was made following General Petraeus saying the war cannot be won militarily. He said, and I said, the war can only be won militarily, economically and diplomatically. That's why after I made the statement, we did the surge then, not later. And it was the right thing to do. The surge worked because we brought in the economy, working with the Sunnis, we brought in diplomacy, working with, and that's how we got the Sunni awakening so they started fighting the people who were causing all the trouble.
He's not done but that's enough. First, Angle will go on, in her time, to repeat a charge of demoralization but the issue was raised -- including demoralization -- by Mitch Fox.
Amy Goodman: In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has admitted for the first time that the war in Iraq has been lost. Reid said, "This war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday." On Wedensday over 300 Iraqis died in one of the bloodiest days of the war. The US commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, admitted the events on Wednesday marked a setback for the US.
Gen David Petraeus: Yesterday was a bad day. There are no two ways about it. And a day like that can have a real psychological impact.
We've added Michael Haines' campaign website (on Facebook) but if Wil Stand has a campaign site, we can't find it. If we're informed there is one, we will note him next week. All of the websites should be noted and all of the above candidates should have been on stage at the debate. It's not a real debate when you prevent people running for the office from participating. In my state, we saw a candidate not only prevented from being on stage, but from even being present in the audience for the debate. Betty blogged about it in "Laura Wells, Green Party candidate for governor" and Betty is supporting Laura Wells for California governor.
Iraq is making an impression in some races -- polling on Alan Grayson indicates he needs to note his Iraq War position in the current race (he's against it, that's what got him elected in 2008) and it's impacting Patrick Murphy's attempts to hold onto his Congressional seat. But there are races where the Iraq War has not been an issue. Earlier this week,in "Perriello-Hurt Debate Pathetic" (War Is A Crime), David Swanson reported:
The only debate thus far between the Republican and Democratic candidates for Congress from Virginia's Fifth District was held Wednesday evening. It excluded a third candidate who is on the ballot and was finished in 27 minutes minus the time devoted to advertisements. Somehow, I'm not overwhelmed with the health of our democracy. Have we really got this democracy thing down well enough to be bombing other nations in the name of spreading it -- something that both Robert Hurt (Republican challenger) and Tom Perriello (Democratic incumbent) support? The wars went unquestioned and unmentioned in the debate. The moderator began with a truly useful and substantive line of questioning, using a graphic to display, with only slight inaccuracy, where our federal dollars go, including how much goes to the military. But when Hurt said he would balance the budget without cutting the military, and when he claimed to prioritize job creation (something that military spending is even worse at than tax cuts) he wasn't pressed on it. And when Perriello claimed that he would consider cutting the military, he wasn't asked how or when. He wasn't challenged on his record of having backed every military and war bill yet placed in front of him. He wasn't asked what steps he'd taken (he has taken none) to cut anything at all in the military.
Getting back to Gordon Lubold, does the public care about the wars? To care, the public would have to be informed of the wars and few are. (In fact, it's a rare day when some idiot doesn't claim that all US troops are out of Iraq and/or the war is over.) But if the public is interested in the topic, where would they find details? The bulk of the press -- this includes Diane's panel today -- can't address Iraq. They didn't note the refugee crisis, Diane's never addressed the targeting of gay men and men perceived to be gay in Iraq, go down the list. And the debate Swanson reported on? The moderator could have brought up the wars. It's really easy for the press to claim "no one's talking" while forgetting that they are part of the process. (It was the moderator of th Reid-Angle debate that raised the Iraq War.) So before Lubold next claims the public isn't interested, he might need to check what gets covered. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may bore many in the mainstream press, but the college press is taking notice of them. For example, Sara Jackson (Daily Collegian) reports on a Northampton resolution:
On Oct. 7 the mayor and city council of Northampton passed a resolution called, "Bring the War Dollars Home," which calls on the Northampton's congressional representatives to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the grounds of economic cost to the city. Six council members voted for the resolution, two voting against it and one City Council member abstained. A copy of the resolution will be presented to Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown along with Representative Richard Neal to urge them to oppose further funding of these wars.
The wars have also taken a human toll on the 9th District. Besides the Tech Corps of Cadets alumni who have been killed in action, the following residents of the district have lost their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan: Brandon Asbury, Jesse Ault, Chad Barrett, Jonathan Bowling, Jason Deibler, Michael Dooley, Kenneth Gibson, Jeffrey Kaylor, David Lambert, Ryan McGlothlin and Gregory Pennington. To many of us, these are simply names printed on paper. But for some in the New River Valley, these are the names of loved ones. For most of us, these names evoke no emotional response, but for dozens of our neighbors, each name represents the loss of a son, brother, cousin, nephew, grandson or father. As the wars drag on, America's standing in the world will continue to decline. This will affect 9th District residents, particularly Tech students, in unforeseen ways.
If the public has 'forgotten' those facts, that goes to the press which is yet again sleeping on the job. The public can't follow a war that the media -- especially TV -- ignores. The withdrawal from Iraq is pretty much complete and practically no one's there anymore . . . if you're referring to US journalists. US troops remain in Iraq, the war has ended. The only thing that ended for most outlets was their coverage of the ongoing war.
In Iraq, the political stalemate also continues. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and eight days and counting.
Ashar Al-Awsat reports today that sources (unnamed) close to Nouri al-Maliki are stating the US government is ressuring the puppet to cut off all his ties with Moqtada al-Sadr. The paper notes (there is no byline on the story) that Nouri does not have the support of Ammar al-Hakim or al-Hakim's bloc of votes and that Nouri fears cutting al-Sadr lose will prevent him from reaching the magic number (163) without either al-Hakim or al-Sadr's bloc. Jawad al-Hassanawi goes on the record stating that his bloc (al-Sadr) "did not demand security ministries" in exchange for their support. Though Philip J. Crowley did his usual daily press briefing at the US State Dept today, not one reporter bothered to ask him about these rumors. Nor -- pay attention, Gordon Lubold -- did they bother to ask a single question about Iraq.
It should be noted that while the plight of Iraqi's LGBT community is widely known in the US -- and everyone from the Denver Post to the New York Times has covered the topic in the last two years -- the only time a question was ever raised -- yes, it happened once and only once -- in the State Dept's daily press briefings, it was raised by a BBC employee. US reporters sit through that briefing day after day and never could be bothered even once to ask about the plight of Iraqi's LGBT community. That says a great deal about the press corps.
After having visited Iraq and seen the randomness of the violence firsthand, the disconnect in our attitudes here in the US angers me the most. After reading four installments of my reporting about Baghdad and the dangers gay men face there and beyond -- roughly 16,000 words, including part 1, part 2, and part 3 -- what are you going to do about it? And where does all this fit into the broader crisis facing gay men and lesbians around the developing world, such as in Africa, a new frontier of anti-LGBT violence? It's easy to sit in the comfort of one's home, after watching "The A-List" or "Dancing With the Stars" or the latest escapades of Lindsay Lohan, and say, "Oh, I care about gay Iraqis!" But how is that abstract, touchy-feely thought put into practice? It's true that when I tell other gay men I am writing about gay Iraqis, they often ask me what they can do, some with the utmost sincerity. If you're one of them, well, here's an answer. Are you willing to write letters to members of Congress and to the State Department, provide money to groups like Human Rights Watch, IGLHRC, the London-based Iraqi LGBT, the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq, the List Project, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), or the International Rescue Committee (IRC)? How much does seeking asylum or refugee status even cost? To give you an idea, when Human Rights Watch (HRW) helped gay Iraqis flee to another country, they needed a few thousand dollars for each individual to cover flights and other incidental expenses. One of the men they helped told me he could not legally work in his temporary host country and it would take up to a year for his refugee paperwork to be processed. He paid $250 rent for an apartment out of a monthly $400 stipend HRW provided, which was due to run out shortly after I interviewed him in February - long before he would officially be granted refugee status. Multiply the costs borne by this man by so many months and so many other gay men, and you recognize the exorbitant bill that the warm and fuzzy notion of saving lives means for a group like HRW, even without considering the staff salaries it takes for it do this work in the first place.
Michael T. Luongo has a friend at the State Dept who whines that reporters have the "attitude that we should not have invaded" and that's moot because there's no way to travel back in time but it makes staff throw up "a defenisve wall" and oh, boo hoo. The same friend whines, "Even if I could heli-vac all the gays out of Iraq, what about the Christians, what about the women, what about all the other persecuted people?" Yeah, what about them? And what about the State Dept losing their sniveling little blame everybody else attitude? What about the refugees? Start granting the asylum. It's not difficult. The State Dept tells Luongo that "the 9,000 gay Iraqis in Damscus [Syria] would nearly overload the official US quota system for the number of Iraqis our nation will accept in one year." Raise the quota -- and, no, bringing all those 9,000 Iraqis into the US would not overwhelm the quota system which stands at 18,000 for Iraqis alone.
The Iraqi refugee crisis gets little attention despite it setting records not seen globally since the 1940s for the number of refugees in the MidEast. The US doesn't want them -- rumors abound that the 2010 fiscal year statistics on Iraqis granted asylum are so 'fractured' and backed up due to the fact that the White House is in no hurry to release the numbers -- and admits very few while Europe is continually forcibly deporting them back to Iraq despite the United Nations repeatedly issuing statements that it is not safe for returns. The bulk of the refugees went to Jordan or Syria. In either country, they face many obstacles. They're seen more as guests. Guests who can't legally work. So they're there with their families and unable to get visible employment. That means a large number go underground. That means a large number are driven to acts for which they could be arrested.
And if they're arrested? One more reason to kick them out of the country and force them back to Iraq. Jordan and Syria are suffering, no question. Nouri al-Maliki, when the world was paying attention, made a grand show of promising that some of Iraq's oil billions would go to Syria and Jordan to assist with the cost of housing the refugees. That money never got delivered. With Syria, Nouri can claim that the two governments have only this week healed their year-long breach. He can hide behind that (though it really doesn't explain why, prior ot the breach, Nouri was sending funds to Syria). But what about Jordan? No such breach existed.
And refugees -- especially ones who are not permitted to visibly work -- do place a burden on host countries. So yes, Syria and Jordan have faced problems -- primarily economic -- and that's not fair. And it's also true that when the governments of US and England and Australia -- the three that led on the illegal war -- refused to admit their share of refugees, Syria and Jordan did allow the refugees to stay. But it's also true that the refugee crisis is a humanitarian crisis and everyone's supposed to pitch in to address such a crisis.
For many refugees with or part of families, the answer becomes for one of the women or girls to turn to prostitution -- or for a relative to force them into prostitution -- in order to provide for the families. Dominique Soguel (Women's eNews) reports:
Um Ali is scared. She says male relatives want to kill her and sell her daughters into marriages that are really sex-trafficking arrangements that put young women to work in brothels overseas. She lives in hiding and relocates often. Her pulse accelerates every time an international text message pops into her cell phone. "The world is small," wrote her brother in a recent threat. Um Ali is one of over a million refugees who have sought shelter in Syria since U.S. troops entered Iraq in 2003. She left with her husband and children during a wave of militia violence against Iraqis working--"collaborating"--with Americans in 2006. Some girls and women among these refugees face being sex trafficked by people within their own families. No statistics or studies are available on this specific problem, but there are plenty of stories of men in a pinch treating female relatives as young as 13 as commodities for sex and marriage markets.
The economics are made worse because Iraqis left Iraq for Syria or Jordan (or Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, etc.) thinking this would be a way-station. Some thought they'd stay there for a little while and then either return to Iraq or be granted asylum to a third country. Refugees in Syria especially -- in United Nations surveys -- have been clear that they are not returning to Iraq. And, again, with western countries refusing to do their part, for most refugees there is no third country to immigrate to even if they managed to jump through all the hoops. But in 2006 or 2007 or 2009 or 2009 (officially Syria's borders are closed today but Iraqi refugees continue to cross over), you and your family cross over. You've got all your money, you've sold your stuff, you think three to four months and then you'll move on (back to Iraq or a third country) but there is no moving on and those savings go so quickly -- especially when you're not permitted to visibly work. So your savings are tapped out and what are you going to do?
Spero News reports: "Chaldean Christian refugees from Iraq are turning to prostitution in order to survive in Syria. Fr Farid Botros, head of the Chaldean community in the Syrian capital, is concerned about the trend, which is growing to hitherto unknown levels." They quote Friar Farid Botros stating, "We have about 4,000 Chaldean families from Iraq, some fled with just the clothes on their back with a death threat hanging over them. Under Syrian law, they cannot work. Many do something underground; others, more and more, turn to prostitution." Deborah Amos covers that aspect of the refugee story and more in her book Eclipse of the Sunnis: Power, Exile and Upheaval in the Middle East. Kim Schultz' new one-woman play entitled No Place Called Home is attempting to bring attention and awareness to the issue of Iraqi refugees. Charity Tooze reports on the play for Huffington Post this week.
Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of a Ministry of the Interior employee and left three more people wounded and, dropping back to last night for the rest, 3 Baghdad roadside bombing eighteen people (including four police officers and three Sahwa) and a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of Professor Saad Abulwahab.
Meanwhile the UK's Iraq Inquiry just entered joke-status even for those of us who were waiting for the report to be issued before making a judgment. They announce their Iraq visit and it's nothing like what Chair John Chilcot led people to believe when he twice publicly -- in hearings -- floated the notion that the Inquiry would visit Iraq. When doing that, they were going to speak to Iraqis, they were going to find out about suffering, etc. In fact, all they did was speak to a bunch of Iraqi exiles who returned to the country with US-backing after the US invaded and the exiles were then promptly installed into government positions. You will find no Iraqi victim, you will find the likes of Ahmed Chalabi and other well known crooks and liars. They've made a mockery of themselves and wasted a great deal of money because the exiles are regularly in the West attempting to drum up more cash -- translation, there was no reason to go to Iraq to interview the likes of Ahmed, you just had to wait for him to come to you with the collection plate. (He was just recently in DC for that purpose.) Feburary 3, 2010 when Ann Clwyd appeared before the Inquiry, is when Chair John Chilcot first raised the possibility of the Inquiry going to Iraq. The inference, based on Clwyd's testimony about the Iraqi people and what they were dealing with, was that Iraqis would be allowed to give their input, average Iraqis. As they heard from veterans of the war over the summer, the implication was that they would now hear from the Iraqis who also suffered from the war. Instead, they heard from exiles. The testimony is closed to the public when it shouldn't be. The exiles, you may remember, were working closely with the British and US governments to plot the illegal war.
Yesterday's snapshot included: "Today Lara Jakes (AP) reports that the US military counts 77,000 Iraqi kiled from January 2004 to August 2009. While an undercount, Jakes notes that it 'is the most extensive data on Iraqi war casualties ever released by the Americna military.' (The Iraqi Human Rights Ministry offered an undercount of the same period plus two more months and came up with 85,694 as their total.)" Leila Fadel (Washington Post) notes, "The U.S. military collects detailed information on Iraqi casualties but has largely been unwilling to make it public, only occasionally releasing limited data on civilian fatalities. The report, which was posted on the U.S. Central Command Web site in July but drew little notice until Thursday, was prompted by a Freedom of Information Act request from George Washington University's National Security Archive." Margaret Griffis (Antiwar.com) points out, "The Health Ministry estimate tracks only the deaths in which a certificate is issued. Because many Iraqis were killed without their deaths being reported to the ministry, the real toll of the war is unknown and this new number should be considered only a base estimate." At OpEdNews, Rory O'Connor asks a number of questions including: "Why has the U.S. military repeatedly resisted requests to share its comprehensive figures on Iraqi civilian casualties?" It's a good question and why do they sometimes share it? On the last day Knight Ridder was still Knight Ridder -- before becoming McClatchy Newspapers -- they published a story about the US military figures on the Iraqi dead. If Iraq mattered at all as a topic to the mainstream media, with this story being in the news, it could have been discussed on today's Diane Rehm show. It's a shame it wasn't because Nancy A. Youssef was the reporter who wrote the story about the military keeping track of Iraqi deaths. Appearing on the program this morning, she should have some insight into the issue but no one bothered to bring the topic up.
Some believe -- rightly or wrongly -- that the Iraq War is on the verge of receiving massive attention. Not because the press is suddenly going to care about Iraq's LGBT community or the women under assault or anything like that. New York magazine reports, "The WikiLeaks plan to expose more than 400,000 secret reports on the Iraq war is starting to feel a little like a Hollywood action sequel: a bigger-budget, more explosive rush job to capitalize on the momentum from the original, complete with rumors flying around about infighting on the set."NBC Nightly News with Brian Wiliams notes that the documents might be released as early as Sunday.
Staff Sgt. Joy Clark of the 467th detachment said she was reading on her Kindle when the shooting broke out. Clark, who was shot in the forearm, testified that she waited amid the bodies for the shooting to die down and tried in vain to find a pulse on two fellow soldiers, Lt. Col. Juanita Warman and Capt. Russell Seager. "I thought about throwing a chair," she said. "(But) I saw someone else do so and saw him get shot."
Spc. Keara Bono testified she was reading a book in the Fort Hood building, moving through the paperwork and medical tests to deploy to Iraq. Suddenly, she said, she was wounded in the head. "At that moment, all I smelled was blood because my face was covered with it," she testified Thursday afternoon.
If we had space in the snapshot, we'd go into the psycho AP fired so long ago who just demonstrates how nutty nutty can be. Today at some websites he serves up a revisionary look at the past 50 or so years, massive propaganda that's supposed to scare you into voting Democrat in the mid-terms. That's insane and it's insane that a grown man -- a one-time journalist -- thinks he can use fear to force people to vote the way he wants. He's a sad, sad man. (He's also the sexist pig who trashed Hillary but forgets that in his latest piece. We don't forget sexism here and we dropped his site in January 2008 due to his sexism. His children can send me all the e-mails they want, it hasn't made one bit of difference. As Stevie Nicks sings, "You were gone, you were gone from me, when I remember someone, I remember their dreams . . ."
City of David Lesley Stahl reports from under the city of Jerusalem from a controversial archeological dig that has become a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. | Watch Video
Stand Down Some veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan into the recession are finding themselves homeless. Scott Pelley reports on an annual encampment in San Diego where veterans can find hope, help and services.
Market Street Morley Safer reports on a mystery that was solved about a 100-year-old film that we now know was made on San Francisco's Market Street just days before the 1906 earthquake. | Watch Video
If I ever have to listen to crap like I did yesterday on NPR's Fresh Air, I'm going to ask for a percentage of all the money donated during pledge weeks. They really owe me after making me listen to YET ANOTHER man and Sean Wilentz.
And, by the way, thus far there's only been one woman on Fresh Air this month. If you remember how she only found time for two women in September, that's scary.
Thursday, October 14, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the Iraq War continues, March Forward stages a successful action, we examine the claim that the political stalemate has impacted the rate of Iraqis returning to Iraq, the UNHCR addresses the refugee crisis, in Fort Hood an Article 32 hearing takes place, and more.
He [Barack Obama] has declared an end to the war in Iraq by redefining the mission of 50,000 troops who remain there. Yet the war continues, our soldiers fight and die, and Iraq still lacks a functioning government.
We've seen much the same thing with ObamaCare. As with the Iraq War, Obama has merely redefined the mission. Far from being the universal health-care system that the country needs, Obama's health program is best understood as a bailout of the private health industry that seeks to guarantee some 30 million additional customers for insurance companies and continued obscene profits for large drug manufacturers. The paradox here is that in a system aiming at universal coverage, the actuarial role of insurance companies, which is to determine the precise odds of paying unprofitable claims on a given class of customers, has become obsolete.
Tamara Khoury, a member of the ANSWER Coalition at California State University, Fullerton said, "We're uniting with veterans and anti-war activists today to shut down this recruiting center because we keep being told that our classes are cut and tuition hiked because there's not enough money. But over $700 million a day is being used to criminally occupy the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq. Then, recruiters come into our schools and take advantage of how hard it is to get an education in order to convince young people to go die for the profits of banks and oil giants."
March Forward! supporter Ron Kovic, Vietnam veteran and author of "Born on the 4th of July," sent a solidarity statement to the event. "With this courageous act of defiance, veterans are sending a message to countless others across the country that the time has come to bring all the troops home from these senseless and unnecessary wars."
Iraq war veteran and March Forward! member Ryan Endicott said "We know just how much this government cares about us by looking at how GIs are killing themselves in record numbers after being denied adequate treatment; by how many of us end up homeless and unemployed; by the fact that one in three women in the military are sexually assaulted, but are denied PTSD benefits for their trauma."
After shutting down the recruiting station, Prysner said, "To our brothers and sisters in the military: it's time we stopped fighting for the profits of a tiny group of billionaires; instead, we should struggle together for what's in our interests. But we're not going to fight alone -- we're going to fight with students who are getting their tuition raised, with teachers who are getting pink slips, with families who are suffering layoffs and scraping to get by -- because when we unite together, that's when we win."
Sunday Thom Shanker and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) reported, "The delay has affected much of the American strategy in Iraq, including trade deals and talks over what, if any, military role the United States will have after a deadline to remove the remaining 50,000 American troops by the end of 2011." The Iraq War has not ended.
Meanwhile, for the last two weeks, people have been insisting that the political stalemate in Iraq was slowing the return of external refugees to Iraq.
Prashant Rao (AFP) reported on September 29th that US Brig Gen Ralph Baker stating just that. A lot of people have asserted that and asserted it as fact; however, can that claim be backed up in any way?
The latest statistical update from UNHCR on returnees shows 18,240 returnees this year thus far (January through August 2010). The month-by-month data does not support the claim. March 7th was when elections were completed (early voting started March 4th). For the claim to be correct we would have to see a steady decrease from February. But that's not what the data shows. It shows the second highest number of recorded returns (2,610) was in May. The third highest was in June (2,480). [The highest number of returnees thus far this year was in January: 2,820.] Were the stalemate the issue stopping the trickle of returns, you would see the pattern start in March when the stalemate begins. In other words, January and February -- before the statlemate starts -- would show a higher number of returns and, starting in March, each month would see a steady decrease. PDF format warning, click here for the statistics. The patterns of return -- a small amount, as has been the case for over two years and it wasn't that large to start with -- do not back up the conclusion that the stalemate has prevented returnees.
A careful chart of news stories might indicate an upswing -- MIGHT -- of returnees when the news cycle made it appear Ayad Allawi was going to be prime minister. That could explain the fluctuations. But even a careful chart of the news cycle -- and even if good news cycles for Allawi were followed by an uptick in returns -- it would still be an indication of a causal relationship and could not -- without surveys of the returnees -- be accepted as influencing returns.
There are almost 229,000 Iraqi refugees currently registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in neighboring countries and an undtermined number of unregistered refugees. UNHCR reports that 1.5 million Iraqis remain internally displaced due to sectarian violence following the Samarra Mosque bombing of February 2006.
Since the beginning of 2008, some 464,000 Iraqis have returned to their neighborhoods in Iraq. The majority of the Iraqis returning were internally displaced persons.
In FY09, the U.S. Government contributed $387 million to international and non-governmental organizations to assist Iraqi refugees, internally displaced, and conflict victims.
[. . .]
As of September 2009, a total of 1,143 Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) have been issued for Iraqi translators and interpreters (and their dependents) since FY07 (under the Section 1059 program).
As of September 2009, a total of 1,716 SIVs have been issued for Iraqis employed by the U.S. government (and their dependents) since FY08 (under the Section 1244 program).
Though the State Dept report goes on to mention many of the claims Brig Gen Ralph Baker made September 29th, they don't include his unproven claim that the violence is stopping/slowing returnees from coming back to Iraq.
Guterres said the number of refugees being resettled abroad was rising but the number of resettlement places on offer was inadequate -- roughly 10% of the 800,000 annual applicants. The total number of applicants has doubled since 2005. "Europe currently provides around 6,000 resettlement places a year or about 7.5% of the total worldwide." Asylum seekers faced similar obstacles while forced repatriation policies, as applied to Iraqis for example, sent an "unhelpful" signal to Syria and Jordan where the vast majority of Iraqi refugees was located, he said. Advances had been made. And the UNHCR did not dispute the right of countries to control their borders. "Overall, however, there is still no true European asylum system but a patchwork of different national ones, making the situation totally dysfunctional."
Turning to the issue of Iraq's internally displaced, BBC News reports that UNHCR Iraq Support Unit's Andrew Harper has stated "up to 11 governors were restricting access" to the internally displaced "because they lacked resources to look after the refugees."
Andrew Harper: We're seeing an increasing number of governments or states inside of Iraq closing their borders or restricting entries to new arrivals. And so we're having a pressure cooker building up inside Iraq, that there's no immenent end to the displacement; however, the possibility for the Iraqis to find safety and find assistance is becoming increasingly restrictive. And so where they can move, it's becoming increasingly overpopulated and tense.
Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) reports, "Former Iraqi premier Ayad Allawi stepped up efforts to lure deputies from Prime Minister Nuri al- Maliki’s alliance, in a bid to form the largest group of seats in parliament and secure the right to form the new government, as a political impasse nears its eighth month."
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and seven days and counting.
Yesterday Nouri went to Syria and met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.Alsumaria TV quotes al-Assad stating, "Our attitude about the formation of the government is clear: the solution must be Iraqi. [. . .] Iraqis own that decision." At the State Dept yesterday about the meet-up, spokesperson Philip J. Crowley stated, "Well, on the formation of the Iraqi Government, these are fundamental decisions that Iraq itself must make. And they should make these decisions without outside interference. That said, there is an important role for other countries in the region, including the United States, to encourage Iraq and its political leaders to put aside political interests and work more intensively to form an inclusive government that reflects the will of the Iraqi people and recognizing that all of the major blocs that achieved significant support during the election six months ago deserve to play a role in Iraq's future. But that said, we are certainly supportive of the dialogue that has occurred today between Syria and Iraq. They must have -- they should have constructive relations so that each can play an appropriate role to help reintegrate Iraq into the region." On another meeting,Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) reports:
Former Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi, who heads the country's mainly Sunni Iraqiya bloc, held talks on Sunday with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan received the head of the Shia Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), Ammar Al-Hakim, in Ankara. Both leaders were reportedly discussing with the two Sunni-dominated countries efforts to form a new government as Baghdad marked seven months of political stalemate after the 7 March disputed elections. The Saudi official news agency said Abdullah and Allawi, accompanied by top leaders from the Iraqiya List, "reviewed the current situation in Iraq" at their Riyadh meeting.
Bill Van Auken (WSWS) observes, "It seems likely that the backroom negotiations on a new government will persist for some time, and it is hardly assured that Allawi can deliver the support of his Sunni backers in supporting a Shiite-dominated administration in which they would have even less power than in the last government. With the government having jailed many Sunni leaders over the past several years and having reneged on its promises to integrate members of the US-aligned 'Sons of Iraq' militias into the security forces, grant an amensty and seek reconciliation with former Ba'athists, there is little trust in Maliki among the Sunni population."
"Sons of Iraq," "Awakenings," also known as Sahwa and they were targeted today. Turning to today's reported violence . . .
Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports Baghdad was slammed with bombings and at least 6 people died as a result including four members of the Iraqiya political coalition including Abdul Karim Mahood. AFP adds that the dead included Mahood, three by-standers and Mahood's bodyguard. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the four killed by the bombing were "nearby civilians" and that Mahood was neither killed nor wounded, and a Baghad sticky bombing claimed the life of a Ministry of Interior worker, a second Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life and left another person wounded, a third Baghdad sticky bombing injured two people, and Baladruz mortar attack on "a Sahwa headquarters" left three members injured. Reuters notes a Baghdad car bombing which claimed the life of 1 "university lecturer" and injured two by-standers, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured three people, a Baghdad roadside bombing targeting a Sahwa checkpoint which injured five people, a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured eight police officers plus two civilians and a Mosul bombing in which two police officers were injured.
Today Lara Jakes (AP) reports that the US military counts 77,000 Iraqi kiled from January 2004 to August 2009. While an undercount, Jakes notes that it "is the most extensive data on Iraqi war casualties ever released by the Americna military." (The Iraqi Human Rights Ministry offered an undercount of the same period plus two more months and came up with 85,694 as their total.)
In other news of violence,Today's Zamanreports, "Turkish Parliament on Tuesday approved a government motion seeking an extension of a mandate from Parliament to conduct military operations against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) based in northern Iraq." Hurriyetadds, "The secret session was closed to the press, and details will remain private for 10 years according to Parliament regulations. With 447 deputies in attendance, the decision was passed with 14 objections and one abstention."
As far as combat tours go, Scott's unit's has been underwhelming. The troops have been here entirely too long, with far too little to do, but the notion that they're finished with combat is misguided. In fact, they laugh at the irony that the vast majority of the action they've seen has come after the Aug. 31, 2010, decree that brought U.S. combat operations to an official end. First there was the Aug. 17 suicide bombing right outside of their base, an incident known to the troops as the "suicide pants" bombing. An insurgent walked into the middle of a recruiting drive for the Iraqi security forces and blew himself up. The explosive material was inside his pants, taped with ball bearings to maximize the carnage. More than 40 people were killed that day. Eighteen days later, a team of five fighters stormed the gates of Old MoD. Two were killed just outside the gate, and the driver set off a bomb in the car. The two insurgents who got inside took prisoners in a building, beginning a three-hour standoff before detonating themselves on the third floor. Seven Iraqi army soldiers died.
That's the face to face threats. On YouTube today, AhmadAhmad4 has posted a video entitled "Americans killed in iraq.flv" which utilizes Benny Hill like music scored to videos of explosions. AhmadAhmad4 writes: "WE ARE THE MUJAHIDEN WORLD HERO HAS KILLED MORE THAN 50.000 AMERICAIN SLODIERS AND OFFICER AND BLACKWATER GARD SECRUTY COMPANES PIG IN IRAQ , IRAQ IS BABYLON EREA WHO HAS BEEN KILLED JEWS AND AND PIG LIKE THEM LONG AGO SO WE ARE HAVE IDEA TO HOW TO KILLING AMERICANS AND CHRISTIAN PIG IN EUROP SOON .ALLAH WA AKBAR LONG LIFE AL QAIDAH" How much weight to give that is up to each individual. (SITE will no doubt produce a lengthy transcript with a million 'hidden messages' embedded in the video which only Rita Katz can discern.)
Wade Goodwyn: Well, the first witness was a six-foot, nine-inch non-comissioned officer, Sgt Alonzo Lunsford. That day, Major Nidal Hasan was being processed, getting ready to deploy overseas. The processing center was packed with hundreds of soldiers. Lunsford saw Hasan stand, walk to the front of the room, pull out a laser-sighted pistol, yell Allahu Akbar and opened fire. It was quick and steady bam, bam, bam. A doctor, 64-year-old Michael Cahill, came out from one of the examination rooms, picked up a chair by the legs and advanced on Hasan, but he was shot and killed by Hasan before he could get there. After that, Lunsford decided to make a break for the back door, but Hasan spotted him. And Lunsford testified that he saw the laser sight rake across his face and then Hasan shot him in the left eye. But the sergeant was able to get up and make a run for the back door again. But Hasan followed him out and began shooting his direction. And the bravery that was exhibited this day was amazing. Two soldiers saw what was happening. They ran toward the shooter to come to Lunsford's aid. They threw their bodies over the sergeant, and then they grabbed a tarp and dragged the 6'9" Lunsford behind a truck. He was shot five times, once in the head, four shots to the body, but he lived to give absolutely riveting testimony today.
In a report for Morning Edition (NPR, link has text and audio) today, Goodwyn featured the courtroom artist Pat Lopez explaining, "I watched Sergeant Lunsford as he walked into the courtroom. He's a massive man. He's six-foot-nine and very, very large. He sat down and scanned the courtroom. And I knew he was looking for Major Hasan. When they found each other's eyes, their eyes locked. And Sergeant Lunsford didn't back down. So I looked at Major Hasan, and he didn't back down either. He didn't blink. He didn't move. And it was intense. And every time Sergeant Lunsford had a moment, he would look back and glare at him. It was almost as if he was saying: 'I'm here. I'm still here'."
So you can't say that I didn't warn you and your colleagues that the people shouldn’t be ignored. I now realize that the warning fell on deaf ears and was futile, but also that the political game your party and the other party play are far more important to you than the people of this world are, anyway. With the elections rapidly approaching on November 2, you once again are up for re-election yourself and the people of San Francisco will dutifully obey their Democratic impulses and send you back to DC one more time, no matter how atrocious you have been, (The question of the day, though, Nan, is when you lose your Speakership will you resign your seat? Hey, I know! Maybe you and your good buddy, George Bush, can have play dates in your mutual retirements?) but you do have opponents. I know of two for sure, the firmly antiwar Republican, John Dennis and the firmly antiwar and anti-Capitalist Peace and Freedom Candidate Gloria La Riva.
Tuesday, October 13, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the political stalemate continues, Iraqiya makes a move to check Nouri, cancer rates remain high in Iraq, an Iraq War veteran releases videos of Iraqis being harassed in US custody, and more.
The Tehran Times reports that as Iraq's "Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki tries to hang onto his job," he visits Damascus and speaks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Nouri was hoping for a public signal of support. Instead the Syrian president merely noted that his country supports all Iraiqs. Alsumaria TV reportsthat Islamic Supreme Council head Ammar al-Hakim is in Egypt meeting with President Husni Mubarak to discuss issues such as "the formation of a new [Iraqi] government."DPAnoteshis visit follows that of Ayad Allawi. al-Hakim's party is part of the Iraqi National Alliance, however, he has not issued a statement of support for Nouri the way Moqtada al-Sadr has.
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. TheGuardian's editorial board noted last month, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government.In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's seven months and six days and counting.
In a meeting on Tuesday, the Iraqiya bloc, the Sunni-secular party led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, held a tumultuous meeting at which Iraqiya decided to throw its support behind a rival candidate for prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, according to an Iraqi source who took part in the Iraqiya deliberations. More than seven months after the March 7 election, Abdul Mahdi and Allawi hope to establish a coalition to govern Iraq, toppling Maliki, isolating Sadr and bringing the Kurds into their alignment. Allawi and Abdul Mahdi will travel to the Iraq's Kurdish region to meet with Masoud Barzani, the Kurdish leader and most important power broker for the Kurds, to get his support.
I believe that the Kurds have legitimate concerns that should be addressed. That said, I am not pleased with the decision to support al-Maliki over 'Alwai. I think 'Alawi is the better choice to unify the Iraqis, be they Sunnis, Shi'a or Kurds. Al-Maliki will simply continue the policies that most Sunnis believe are exclusionary to them. Unfortunately, the Kurdish support will easily give al-Maliki the seats he needs to form a new government.
Francona sees Nouri making a deal regarding oil-rich Kirkuk and that inflaming the Sunnis and the Turkmen. He also offers, "Political pundits in Baghdad have referred to al-Maliki as al-maliki al-irani, 'al-Maliki the Iranian,' and to his office as 'the Persian carpet'."
The stalemate continues and only the fools place bets. The violence continues as well . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which injured five police officers, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured four people, four Baghdad bombings which injured nine people (four are police officers) and a Muqdadiyah roadside bombing which injured 7 Iranian pilgrims "and four of their Iraqi guards." AFP counts comes up with a total of 28 people reported wounded today. Reuters adds that a North Oil Company employee was injured in a Kirkuk drive-by.
JUAN GONZALEZ:Patrick, I'd like to ask you about this whole other issue of the report on -- by Chris Busby and some other epidemiologists about the situation in Fallujah and the enormous increases in leukemias and cancers in Fallujah after the US soldiers' attack on that city. Could you talk about that?
PATRICK COCKBURN:Sure. I think what's significant, very significant, about this study is that it confirms lots of anecdotal evidence that there had been a serious increase in cancer, in babies being born deformed, I mean, sometimes with --grotesquely so, babies -- you know, a baby girl born with two heads, you know, people born without limbs, then a whole range of cancers increased enormously. That this was -- when I was in Fallujah, doctors would talk about this, but, you know one couldn't -- one could write about this, but one couldn't really prove it from anecdotal evidence. Now this is a study, a scientific study, based on interviews with 4,800 people, which gives -- proves that this was in fact happening and is happening. And, of course, it took -- you know, it has taken place so much later than the siege of Fallujah, when it was heavily bombarded in 2004 by the US military, because previously, you know, Fallujah is such a dangerous place to this day, difficult to carry out a survey, but it's been finally done, and the results are pretty extraordinary.
AMY GOODMAN:What were the various weapons that were used in the bombing of Fallujah in 2004?
PATRICK COCKBURN:Well, primarily, it was sort of, you know, artillery and bombing. Initially it was denied that white phosphorus had been used, but later this was confirmed. I think one shouldn't lose sight of the fact, in this case, that before one thinks about was depleted uranium used and other things, that just simply the use of high -- large quantities of high explosives in a city filled with civilians and people packed into houses -- often you find, you know, whole families living in one room -- was, in itself, going to create, lead to very, very high civilian casualties. But that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about the increase in cancers and so forth, and the suspicion that maybe depleted uranium, maybe some other weapon, which we don't know about -- this is not my speculation, but of one of the professors who carried out the study -- might have been employed in Fallujah, and that would be an explanation for results which parallel, in fact exceed, the illnesses subsequently suffered by survivors of Hiroshima.
The statistics point to the long-term consequences of depleted uranium contamination. Munitions containing an estimated 300 tonnes of DU were unleashed by coalition forces in southern Iraq in 1991. A decade after the war, DU shell holes are still 1,000 times more radioactive than the normal level of background radiation. The surrounding areas are still 100 times more radioactive. Experts surmise that fine uranium dust has been spread by the wind, contaminating swathes of the surrounding region, including Basra, which is some 200 kilometres away from sites where large numbers of DU shells were fired.
Dr Ahmad Hardan, who served as a special scientific adviser to the World Health Organization, the United Nations and the Iraqi Ministry of Health, says that there is scientific evidence linking depleted uranium to cancer and birth defects. He told Al Jazeera English , "Children with congenital anomalies are subjected to karyotyping and chromosomal studies with complete genetic back-grounding and clinical assessment. Family and obstetrical histories are taken too. These international studies have produced ample evidence to show that depleted uranium has disastrous consequences."
Iraqi doctors say cancer cases increased after both the 1991 war and the 2003 invasion. Abdulhaq Al-Ani, author of "Uranium in Iraq" told Al Jazeera English  that the incubation period for depleted uranium is five to six years, which is consistent with the spike in cancer rates in 1996-1997 and 2008-2009.
* Direct killing during the military invasion operations where civilians were targeted directly. Additional casualties amongst children have resulted from unexploded ordinances along military engagement routes.
* The direct killing and abuse of children during American troop raids on civilian areas like Fallujah, Haditha, Mahmodia, Telafer, Anbar, Mosul, and most of the other Iraqi cities. The Massacre of the children in Haditha in 2005 is a good example of "collateral damage" among civilians.
* Daily car bombs casualties, explosion of buildings and other terrorist attacks on civilians.
* Detention and torture of Iraqi children in American and Iraqi governmental prisons. While in detention, the children are being brutalized, raped, and tortured. American guards videotaped these brutal crimes in Abu Graib and other prisons.
* Poverty due to economic collapse and corruption caused acute malnutrition among Iraqi children. As was reported by Oxfam in July 2007, up to eight million Iraqis required immediate emergency aid, with nearly half the population living in "absolute poverty".
* Starving whole cities as collective punishment by blocking the delivery of food, aid, and sustenance before raiding them increased the suffering of the young children and added more casualties among them.
* Microbial pollution and lack of sanitation including drinking water shortages for up to 70% of the population caused the death of "one in eight Iraqi children" before their fifth birthday. Death of young children in Iraq has been attributed to water borne diseases such as diarrhea, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, etc .
* Contaminating and exposing other heavily populated cities to chemically toxic and radioactive ammunitions. Weapons like cluster bombs, Napalm, white phosphorous, and Depleted Uranium all caused drastic increases of cancer incidences, deformations in children, multiple malignancies and child leukemia. Children in areas like Basrah, Baghdad, Nasriya, Samawa, Fallujah, Dewania and other cities have been having multifold increases of such diseases. Over 24% of all children born in Fallujah in October 2009 had birth defects.The Minister of Environment in Iraq called upon the international community to help Iraqi authorities in facing the huge increase of cancer cases in Iraq.
I thought again of the Iraqi child, whose parents had a beautiful garden, who showed a friend and I her drawing book, before the invasion. One picture had an abundance of flowers, carefully colored, in numerous hues, on the side were American soldiers - shooting at the flowers. "Why are the soldiers shooting the flowers?" We asked. "Because Americans hate flowers", she replied solemnly. It was a deeply saddening moment, that she represented so many children, who saw American as representing only wrath, fear and deprivation. She knew nothing of those Americans who had worked tirelessly to reverse the situation. If she has survived, she will be a young adult. She is unlikely to have changed her views.
Meanwhile at Michael Moore's site, Iraq War veteran Ethan McCord posts videos that were shot in Iraq, videos of detainee abuse and he notes, "I want to point out, first hand, that these soldiers are doing EXACTLY as they ahve been trained. I'm not trying to excuse their behavior, but simply pointing out that this is a systemic problem." In one of the videos (the second one posted), two US service members sit on a bench with a bound Iraqi between them. The Iraqi male is blinded via goggles. The whiney voiced US soldier with no sense of rhythm attempts to start Sublime's "Santeria" off: "I don't practice Santeria, I ain't got no crystal ball" while the one with "EMERSON" listed on his uniform touches the prisoner in a 'familiar' manner and rests his hand on him as he presses his mouth against the Iraqi man's ear and tries to sing the second line but comes up with, "Oh I had a million dollars but I, I spend it all." "EMERSON" then screams loudly in the Iraqi man's ear. ["I'd, I'd spend it all" is the second line as written by the late Bradley Nowell.]
The political deadlock in Baghdad, which has prevented the formation of an Iraqi government more than six months after the parliamentary elections of last March, has not prevented the lame-duck administration of Nuri Kamal al-Maliki from opening its southern oilfields to the world's giant corporations. Nor has it stopped the US Embassy and Commerce Department from reinvigorating the Bush-era program of selling the country's public assets to corporate buyers. And because Iraqi unions have organized public opposition to privatization since the start of the occupation, the Maliki administration is enforcing with a vengeance Saddam Hussein's prohibition on public-sector unions.
The United States may have withdrawn its combat brigades, but it is not leaving Iraq. And while Washington may have scaled back earlier dreams of "nation building," it has not given up on a key aspect of the economic agenda behind that project: sacrificing the rights of Iraqi workers and unions to encourage corporate investment.
Unions have been locked in conflict with the Iraqi government since the occupation began, but in the last year, that conflict has grown much more intense. In March, after oil workers protested low pay and their union's illegal status, worksite leaders were transferred hundreds of miles from home. The oil ministry banned travel outside Iraq for Hassan Juma'a and Falih Abood, respectively president and general secretary of the Federation of Oil Employees of Iraq. Both were hauled into court and threatened with arrest.
"It is our duty as Iraqi workers to protect the oil installations, since they are the property of the Iraqi people," Juma'a explained in early 2005, when the U.S. was still directly governing Iraq. "We are sure that the US and the international companies came here to put their hands on the country's oil reserves." Juma'a's union chased Halliburton's subsidiary KBR from southern Iraq in the first year of the occupation.
The union busting? It goes to how little has changed at the White House, to the continuation of policies despite political party. You can check the December 2003 issue of The Progressive for David Bacon's story about the union busting going on in Iraq and the Bush administration's efforts to ensure that the unions were crippled -- if not done away with -- for the tag sale on Iraq's public sector. You can also read Rebecca Solnit's 2006 interview with Antonia Juhasz on this topic for LeftTurn. (In addition to that interview, Antonia contributed an article entitled "Ambitions of Empire: The Radical Reconstruction of Iraq's Economy" to the March-April 2004 issue of LeftTurn. Neither that nor David Bacon's Progressive article are available online.)
"If you believe in fairness,"offers Jonathan Capehart (Washington Post), "then you cannot help but be overjoyed by the worldwide and immediate injunction against enforcement of the shameful ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military issued this afternoon by a federal judge in California." He then goes on to note Congress' unwillingness to act on the issue with a pointed nod to Harry Reid's failures in the Senate. And let's not forget Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's words of discomfort over the dysfunctional leadership in Congress, "With or without Congress, it will happen." And, lookie there, without Congress it did, Don't Ask, Don't Tell is on hold not because Congress overturned it, not because Barack issued an executive order -- though either could have done so -- but because a federal judge issued an injunction.
Bob Egelko (San Francisco Chronicle) reports, "U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips of Riverside ruled the 1993 law unconstitutional on Sept. 9, saying it intrudes on service members' personal lives and freedom of expression and reduces military effectiveness by needlessly excluding qualified personnel" and yesterday issued an injunction suspending any discharges under Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The Log Cabin Republicans brought the lawsuit against Don't Ask, Don't Tell andthey issued the following statement yesterday:
(Washington, DC) - Log Cabin Republicans praises United States District Court Judge Virginia Phillips' decision to grant a world-wide injunction against enforcement of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."Barring a stay by a higher court, the injunctionsuspends all investigations and prevents all discharges under the policy.However, Log Cabin Republicans urges caution by servicemembers considering coming out at this time, as the Obama administration still has the option to appeal.
"After finding inLog Cabin Republicans v. United Statesthat 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' violates servicemembers' First and Fifth Amendment rights, a world-wide injunction was the only reasonable solution," said Christian Berle, Deputy Executive Director of Log Cabin Republicans."These soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guardsmen sacrifice so much in defense of our nation and our Constitution.It is imperative that their constitutional freedoms be protected as well.This decision is also a victory for all who support a strong national defense.No longer will our military be compelled to discharge servicemembers with valuable skills and experience because of an archaic policy mandating irrational discrimination.The United States is stronger because of this injunction, and Log Cabin Republicans is proud to have brought the case that made it possible."
"We are extremely pleased with Judge Phillips's decision granting an immediate and permanent injunction barring the US military from carrying out its 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. The order represents a complete and total victory for Log Cabin Republicans and reaffirms the constitutional rights of gays and lesbians in the military who are fighting and dying for our country," said Dan Woods, partner with White and Case, and the lead counsel for Log Cabin Republicans v. the United States.
Log Cabin Republicans filed suit in federal district court against "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in 2004.The case went to trial in Riverside, California in July of 2010, and Judge Virginia Phillips ruled on September 9, 2010 that the policy violated the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution. Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United and member of Log Cabin Republicans, served as the named plaintiff in the suit.
Legal experts have concurred: President Obama can permanently end "don't ask, don't tell" today, simply by ordering the DOJ not to appeal the Log Cabin ruling. This is now the White House's ideal option for ending "don't ask, don't tell," for no shortage of reasons.
First, DADT is harmful to our military. Leading DADT expert Nathaniel Frank looked at the history of the policy, and found the disturbing facts: Far from improving unit cohesion, performance, and morale, DADT undermines it by encouraging gay and lesbian service members to be dishonest. It has harmed recruitment by making the military a discriminatory, anti-gay institution in the eyes of our young people. And it has cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Perhaps most crucially, it has led to the discharges of hundreds of specialists serving in the very fields -- linguistics, intelligence, and medical services -- in which recruitment is sorely lacking.
Ending DADT now is not only good for the military; for the White House, it is also good politics. Nearly every article about the upcoming election has made note of the vast "enthusiasm gap" that has Republicans far more excited to vote than Democrats. Much of this gap can be traced to the failure to accomplish key Democratic priorities. If Obama's Department of Justice declines to appeal the Log Cabin ruling, he will not just fulfill a promise he has repeatedly made from the campaign trail to this year's State of the Union address -- he will awaken his base and their faith in his leadership.