Wednesday, April 20, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, the Arab League summit next month in Baghdad is . . . off, protests continue in Iraq, the president of Turkey brags about his behind the scenes influence in Iraq, a Canadian War Hawk denies reality (but it is reality), US political prisoner Bradley Manning is moved to another prison, and more.
Protests have been going on in Sulaimaniyah as well and the response to that? AFP reports that yesterday officials "slapped a ban on unauthorised protests". Ekklesia explains, "Following 62 days of continuous protest in Suleimaniya, Iraq, against corruption and trible rule within the Kurdistan Regional Government, legal permission for the protest has been revoked. A source within the armed Peshmerga Forces has now said that they have been given orders to shoot to kill any demonstrators. The otherwise nonviolent demonstrations in Suleimaniya at Azadi (Freedom) Square ended in major violence on 17 and 18 April 2011. On both days, security forces formed a ring around Azadi Square. Claiming they were provoked by groups of young men throwing rocks, the forces entered the square which has been filled with an average of 1,000 unarmed and noviolent demonstrators, shooting tear gas and live bullets, beating people with batons and clearing the square of all demonstrators." Aswat al-Iraq adds,Kamal Nouri of the Iranian Sahar channel states, "We ["two-people crew"] were beaten by Peshmerga and security forces, which confiscated our equipments and cameras." Press TV notes, "In an indication of how the unrest in Sulaymaniyah is affecting the confidence of the ruling party there, the PUK, regional Prime Minister Dr Barham Salih, wrote a letter to PUK leader and President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, offering to tender his resignation. In the letter, leaked to the French press, Dr Salih complains of Mafia-like practices in his party being used against the press and protesters, and says that some of the leaders of the party are quote 'unable to go on'."
Shwan Mohammed (AFP) quotes Barham Saleh, "I am ready to resign from the leadership of the party in order to renew it and the political bureau." Salih belongs to the PUK -- Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the same party as Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. The two major political parties in the KRG are the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Pary of Iraq which is the party of KRG President Massoud Barzani. A third political party, Goran, sees itself as a challenger. It has US-backing. Alsumaria TV reports, "Goran Kurdish Change Movement said on Monday that the USA is responsible for the people's blood in Suleimaniah and Irbil in Kurdistan. Change Movement pointed that the region's authorities are dealing in a hysteric way with the protesters."
Arab nations will not be stable or democratic unless they grant all their citizens the same citizenship. Arab nations are a mixture of various ethnic groups, cultures, languages, languages and doctrines. They include Arabs, Kurds, Assyro-Chaldeans, Turkmen, Shebeks, Copts, Armenians, Shias, Sunnis, and Christians of various denominations, Yazidis, Druses and more. Their traditional mindset is patriarchal, tribal and sectarian. Education and teaching programmes are usually imposed from above and are viewed as infallible. Thus, they do not stimulate thinking and analyses or kindle the quest for new knowledge or possibilities.
My primary aim was to assess the impact of Kurdish, Turkmen and Arab political discourse on the politics of Kirkuk. My secondary aim was to make some social and political observation about the people of Kirkuk. Initial interviews with representatives from each of these main ethnic groups established some common points in the construction of their discourses. Each group has its own narrative relating to their presence in Kirkuk, the number of their ethnic group present and their roots in the city.
Each group backs up their claims with historical, official and anecdotal evidence. For Kurds, Kirkuk is historically and geographically the center of Kurdistan; as a result, they are not prepared to negotiate under any circumstances. They believe that a political solution around Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, which imposes normalization, census and referendum in Kirkuk, is how to decide its political fate. For the Turkmen and the Arabs, Kirkuk was not, is not and should not be part of Kurdistan; they view it as an ethnically mixed city. To these groups, Article 140 is dead and not applicable. Both groups are happy to acknowledge that the Kurds are victims of Saddam's iron fist policy. The difference is that these other groups claim that the Kurds used and abused this victimization by returning to Kirkuk many more Kurds than Saddam expelled from Kirkuk. One older Arab said, "Yesterday they were the victims [mazlum], but today they are the oppressors [zalim] of Kirkuk." Both groups fear that if the Kurds manage to annex Kirkuk into Kurdistan, they will then declare their independence.
Rawya Rageh: In the yard of his Kirkuk home, Mohammed Raouf Saleh feels the space with folk tunes. They're called hoyrats [also spelled qoyrats] an ancient form of song and poetry unique to Iraqi Turkmen. It's difficult to tell exactly when it began but there's little doubt over where.
Mohammed Raouf Saleh: Centuries ago, hoyrats originated in Kirkuk. People in Azerbaijan and Turkey speak our language but they don't sing our horat.
Rawya Rageh: It's a steadily eroding art song, Saleh says, just like his community in the city that's claimed by several ethnic groups. Turkmen formed the third largest ethnicity in Iraq. There exact number is politically controversial though they believe that they make up up to 10% of the population. Here in the central Kikruk market, most of the merchants are Turkmen. Traditional crafts that were brought by their ancestors dating as far as the 9th century are no longer here. They've been replaced by modern goods instead. But, make no mistake, the sense of identiy here is clear. The older generations who lived through years of Saddam Hussein's assimilation policies still cling to their traditional dress. Many here will tell you their ancestoral heritage is an integral part of both Kirkuk's history and present day life. Unlike the Kurds, the Turkmen have not asked for an autonomous state in modern Iraq, nor did they take up arms over territory. But their involvement in running the country falls short of what they desire.
Sadeddin Ergech (Iraqi Turkmen Front leader): As long as key positions are being divided between the two ethnicities -- Arabs and Kurds, we, the third main group, have a right too. It's a national entitlement. We should get a vice president post too. We feel there are always attempts to get round Turkmen national rights.
Rawya Rageh: In the fight over Kirkuk, the Turkmen have sided with the Arabs in not wanting the city to be folded into semi-autounomous Kurdish Region. But in a recent political alliance, they were given a key post in the city's provincial government controlled for years by Kurdish parties. For this hoyrat master, though, the battle for a say in the new Iraq is pointless iIf not enough is done to stop their folklore, the corner stone of their identity, from slowly fading away. Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera, Kirkuk.
This week Abullah Gul, president of Turkey, has made some interesting remarks. Abdul Qader al-Wendawi (Zawya) reports Gul claims, "Turkey discussed Kirkuk issue with NATO and with the European Union and the rest of the international parties interested in Iraq's situation and assured them that Kirkuk is a miniature of Iraq and our demand that its three spectra (Turkmen, Kurds and Arabs) would live with equality and justice." Gul also bragged that "if not for the Turkish positions, Iraq would be divided, but the problem in this country is the Shiaa-Sunni fighting".
This morning Nizar Latif (National Newspaper) weighed in on the proposed Baghdad summit for the Arab league, "The Iraqi government continues to insist the Arab League summit, scheduled for Baghdad next month, must go ahead. In reality however, few Iraqis expect their capital to host the meeting. Militant attacks, including recent car bombs in the heart of Baghdad, are a reminder of Iraq's persistent danger and the dogged insurgency that years of warfare and billions of dollars have failed to defeat." The summit was supposed to take place in March. It wasn't secure enough then. People pretend it is now. For how much longer or if the summit will be held next month in Baghdad is unknown. Press TV states Iraq may leave the Arab League. While that's in part, Iran's state media working off a grudge against its Arab neighbors, it's also true that Iran has a lot of pull in the puppet government out of Baghdad. AFP reports that the summit has been postponed -- again. It was supposed to be held March 29th but got delayed and then rescheduled to May 10th. The postponement was not a surprise to everyone. Aswat al-Iraq released their reader poll results this morning which found, "76.68% of the total 491 voters believed that the Arab Summit won't be held in Baghdad in its scheduled time, due to the current challenges facing the Arab Region." Alsumaria TV reports, "The Arab League has scheduled an urgent meeting for Arab Foreign Ministers on May 15 to set a new date for the Arab Summit and appoint a new Arab League Secretary General as a successor for Amro Moussa, [deputy secretary Ahmed] Ben Hill said." UPI explains, "The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council expressed outrage over Baghdad's criticism of the minority Sunni leadership in Bahrain, calling for the cancellation of an Arab League summit scheduled next month in Iraq. The tiny island kingdom is under scrutiny for its response to a Shiite uprising." Arab News adds that an unnamed Arab "League official said the summit will probably be held in September. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. [. . .] The Arab League summit was considered by many Iraqi officials as an opportunity to show off the strides the country has made since the height of the US-led war, and they have spent millions of dollars refurbishing buildings and hotels in anticipation of the meeting." Earlier this month, Al Mada reported that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hoshyar Zebari, has declared holding the Arab Summitt in Baghdad (May 10th through 11th) will cost the country $450 million in US dollars. Lost money and lost prestige at a time when Iraq's puppet government is attempting to ignore the violence and pretend they are a democratic oasis in otherwise dry region. Ahmed Eleiba (Ahram) reports, "Iraq's Permanent Ambassador to the Arab League Qais Al-Azzawi said that his country respects the decision to delay the Arab summit, scheduled to be held in May in Baghdad, due to the current uprisings in Yemen, Bahrain and Syria."
On the realities of Iraq versus the illusion the US government and its puppet government in Baghdad would like to sell, Alsumaria TV reports:
Renowned Iraqi poet Saadi Youssof said on Tuesday he doesn't feel he belongs to Iraq anymore and added that Iraq is currently a US colony ruled by an Islamic regime. Youssof cherished the British nationality he holds and said that there's nothing that links him to Iraq but the memories of his childhood. "I don't feel anymore that Iraq is my country. I used to remember Iraq a free and independent country and not a colony or an occupied territory, Youssof said during an interview with the Czech republic official Radio Station Cesky Rozhlas following an homage party in his honor after he won Spiros Vergos Prize for Freedom of Expression organized by Prague Writers Association. "Nowadays I feel that Iraq is a US colony", Youssof added. "Iraq where I used to live was a secular and liberal country, but today it is ruled by an Islamic regime, it became an Islamic republic", the writer declared. "I cannot stand this fact and I cannot imagine myself as a part of this country anymore," he added.
Reuters notes a Baghdad bombing left three people injured, an attack on a Baghdad police patrol left one police officer injured, 1 high school student was shot dead in Mosul, a Mosul sticky bombing targeted an Independent High Electoral Commission employee, a Baghdad roadside bombing targeted a "deputy minister of construction and housing," two Baghdad bombings left 3 dead and another Baghdad bombing left two people injured. Fang Yang (Xinhua) adds, "In Salahudin province in the north of Baghdad, a booby-trapped car parked in central the provincial capital city of Tikrit detonated at about 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) near the convoy of Faisal al- Azzawi, chief judge in the Salahudin's Court of Appeal, a provincial police source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. Azzawi escaped the attack unharmed despite damages to his vehicle, but four of his bodyguards were wounded by the blast, the source said."
Moving over to England, an editorial in today's Independent of London covers yesterday's revelations about the British government and the oil industry:
Prior to the invasion, Mr Blair said that the idea that the invasion was, in any way, motivated by Iraq's oil was "absurd". He argued in a debate hosted by BBC's Newsnight in February 2003 that if oil was the West's goal, it could just as easily have cut a deal with Saddam. Yet this does not serve to refute the argument that oil was a motivation behind toppling the Iraqi dictator. It is perfectly possible that Western powers anticipated getting access to Iraq's oil on favourable terms after the removal of Saddam. This is not fanciful speculation. The US was conspicuously slow to hand over power to an Iraqi civilian government in Iraq after the fall of Baghdad. Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority was only disbanded after protests by the dominant Shia community. The US gave every impression that it wanted to continue pulling the strings in Iraq, including over the awarding of energy contracts. Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the US Federal Reserve, for one, has reached the conclusion that the Iraq war was "largely about oil". As for Mr Blair, the former Prime Minister was certainly not shy about championing the interests of British oil companies around the world. When he met Muammar Gaddafi in the Libyan desert in 2007, Mr Blair saw fit to take the then chairman of BP, Peter Sutherland, along with him. A few days later, BP signed a $900m exploration deal with the Libya Investment Corporation. Realpolitik was entwined with access to fossil fuels in Libya. It is no great stretch to imagine that there were similar motivations over Iraq. These documents do not prove that the British government's invasion was primarily motivated by a commercial desire to profit from Iraq's oil. Indeed, it is probably too simplistic to present any single factor as the decisive motivation for this calamitous misadventure. But they do make it clear that, contrary to ministerial denials, oil was something that ministers were thinking about in those months prior to the invasion.
And maybe somewhere there's the hope that, from across the Atlantic, the British can provide the leadership that the American government refuses to? If so, release that fantasy. If you're expecting to see leadership on the issue, vist the New Labour party organ: the Guardian. In fact, we can make it real simple, just click here and you go to all their Iraq coverage. They have none on the revelations. They are as silent as they were on the Downing Street Memos. Tony Blair was the man who turned Labour into New Labour (think DLC -- only worse -- in the US). The Guardian went along with him and now they continue to cheerlead him and to cover up for him. A newspaper, as opposed to a party organ, would have been reporting on the revelations.
As a politician in Canada, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has said that he was on the sidelines of the Iraq war, but new information reveals he was on the front lines of pre-invasion planning when he worked in the U.S. Ignatieff -- long known to be a supporter of the decision to invade -- was part of an academic advisory team that helped U.S. state department and American military officials conduct strategy sessions. The academic-turned-politician was singled out in a Pentagon briefing the day before the invasion started. One of the top officials in Air Command cited Ignatieff's work in helping the military ready comprehensive plans to mitigate collateral damage while preparing for the invasion. "I personally have been working with The Carr Center for Human Rights," said U.S. Col. Gary Crowder on March 19, 2003. "Michael Ignatieff and Sarah Sewell (another Carr Center employee) and their program are a wonderful program." Crowder told reporters that he was working with Ignatieff on how to best conduct the war while minimizing civilian deaths.
The Carr Center should have been shut down. In a functioning world, it would be and it's notables like Sewer and Power would be shunned. Toronto Life notes that the news "doesn't come off as too much of a surprise" considering Ignatieff's War Hawk support for the Iraq War. Bryn Weese (Toronto Sun) reports Ignatieff is denying the reports and claiming he did other work. Kind of like when Marianne (Elaine May) and Reva (Marlo Thomas) are speaking to Lureen (Melanie Griffith) in In The Spirit and Reva's embarrassed to pose as a form porn actress so she claims she didn't make porn per se, she made porn musicals. ("No, I wasn't in 20 Laps. I was in a musical.")
Sgt. Joseph C. Bozicevich was yelling as he lay facedown on the ground, restrained by at least two other soldiers at Patrol Base Jurf at Sahkr, Iraq.
Nearby, the two soldiers Bozicevich is accused of shooting lay bleeing at medics and fellow students worked furiously to save them.
Staff Sgt. Darris J. Dawson, a 24-year-old squad leader from Pensacola, Fla., and Sgt. Wesley R. Durbin, who, like Bozicevich, was a team leader, later died from their wounds. Durbin, 26, was from Hurst, Texas.
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich: That's right. I put in a request to the Secretary of Defense who referred me to the Secretary of the Army who referred me to the Secretary of the Navy who referred me to the Secretary of Defense and still not an answer on whether or not I can visit Private Manning.
Scott Horton: Unbelievable. I could see them giving the runaround like that to a reporter or something but you're a Congressman. They can't treat you that way, can they?
US House Rep Dennis Kucinich: Actually they shouldn't treat reporters that way but -- they shouldn't treat anyone that way. They should be accountable. But unfortunately, for whatever reason, the Pentagon doesn't have any accountability.
Laurence Tribe, the legendary constitutional law professor, is really ticked off with you. That should be some kind of wake up call. Because he was your constitutional law professor. One of the key backers of your 2008 presidential campaign. Even joined your justice department as a legal adviser in 2010 -- briefly.
This week Tribe and over 250 American legal scholars have a letter in the New York Review of Books. It's about Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with leaking US government documents to WikiLeaks. It calls Manning's reported treatment a violation of the US constitution. In particular, the eighth amendment, which forbids cruel and unusual punishment; and the fifth, which prevents punishment without trial.
Manning's had no trial yet; he's been found guilty of nothing. Still, he's been in military prison for nearly 10 months now in maximum security -- 23 hour a day solitary confinement, with the 24th reserved for pacing a different cell -- again, alone. Under the ruse that Manning's suicidal, which he disputes, his jailors ask if he's okay every five minutes, all day long, and he has to respond. At night, too, if he pulls the blankets over his head, or turns his back to the cell door.
Today Steve Cannane (Lateline, Australia's ABC) reports, "After intense criticism of the conditions of his 10-month-long stinkt in solitary confinement, the 23-year-old Army intelligence officer will be transferred from a marine base in Virginia to a new medium security facility in Kansas." Narayan Lakshman (The Hindu) points out, "The transfer will follow closely on intensifying criticism of the Pentagon for meting out harsh treatment to Mr. Manning, including allegations that he was kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, allowed no contact whatsoever with other inmates, and that he was stripped naked every night and forced to sleep in only a smock. [. . .] Further, a top United Nations official, Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez, said earlier this month that he was 'deeply disappointed and frustrated by the prevarications of the U.S. government,' after he was denied permission for unmonitored visits to Mr. Manning." Bradley's civilian attorney David E. Coombs notes:
The defense recently received reliable reports of a private meeting held on 13 January 2011, involving high-level Quantico officials where it was ordered that PFC Manning would remain in maximum custody and under prevention of injury watch indefinitely. The order to keep PFC Manning under these unduly harsh conditions was issued by a senior Quantico official who stated he would not risk anything happening "on his watch." When challenged by a Brig psychiatrist present at the meeting that there was no mental health justification for the decision, the senior Quantico official issuing the order responded, "We will do whatever we want to do." Based upon these statements and others, the defense was in the process of filing a writ of habeas corpus seeking a court ruling that the Quantico Brig violated PFC Manning's constitutional right to due process. See United States ex. rel. Accardi v. Shaughnessy, 74 S.Ct. 499 (1954) (violation of due process where result of board proceeding was predetermined); United States v. Anderson, 49 M.J. 575 (N.M. Ct. Crim. App. 1998) (illegal punishment where Marine Corps had an unwritten policy automatically placing certain detainees in MAX custody). The facts surrounding PFC Manning's pretrial confinement at Quantico make it clear that his detention was not "in compliance with legal and regulatory standards in all respects" as maintained at the Pentagon press briefing. While the defense hopes that the move to Fort Leavenworth will result in the improvement of PFC Manning's conditions of confinement, it nonetheless intends to pursue redress at the appropriate time for the flagrant violations of his constitutional rights by the Quantico confinement facility.
Barack Obama supports military interventionism: A recent study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found that the United States alone accounts for 43 percent of global military expenditures (more than $687 billion). The people screaming about the military-industrial complex seem to be right. Obama has failed to withdraw troops from Iraq (nearly 50,000 troops still remain, according to CNN), and U.S. troops are still dying in Afghanistan. The recent military assault on oil-rich Libya has convinced me that Obama doesn't deserve the Nobel Peace Prize he was given for allegedly strengthening "international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." Barack Obama continues to break his promises: During his initial campaign, Barack Obama presented himself as a reform candidate and a constitutional scholar. The reality, however, doesn't live up to the fantasy. Obama has broken a vast array of campaign promises, from public negotiation of his health care policy to the immediate closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. We have not seen even minimal progress on the comprehensive immigration reform bill he guaranteed would surface in the first year of his presidency or on the cap and trade bill to limit carbon emissions. The campaign slogan of "Yes we can!" has become "No we didn't." Why would anyone believe his grandiose promises when this man begs for another four years?
Actually, no, we have one more thing. Peace activist, Civil Rights activist, ground breaking attorney, feminist and grandmother Lynne Stewart is also a US political prisoner. She doesn't get the attention that she or her case require. At the end of last month, an appeal was filed to reduce Lynne's current sentence (which you may remember was increased as a result of her refusal to put on a sack cloth and denounce her beliefs and historical actions on behalf of liberty, equality and democracy):
The Brief appealing the Draconian sentence of 120 months/10 years meted out to Lynne Stewart by Judge John Koeltl in July 2010,after he was reprimanded by the judges of her panel on the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, was served upon the Court and Government on 3/30/11. The same panel (Judges Walker, Calabrese and Simon) will hear this case in the fall of this year. Lynne had previously been convicted in 2005 along with two men of Egyptian origin, Ahmed Sattar,and Mohammed Yousry of material aid to terrorism based upon a public press release to Reuters from her client Dr. Abdel Rahman commenting on the long standing struggle in that country against the dictator/thief/torturer Hosni Mubarik.
The points made in the brief, are
I. In relying on Lynne Stewart's public statements to enhance the original sentence of 28 months, her First Amendment rights were abridged
II. The fourfold increase in the sentence was substantively unreasonable and failed to balance her lifetime of contribution to the community and country with the criminal act of which she was convicted.
III The Judge's findings of Perjury and Misuse of her position as an Attorney on which he also based the increase, were error.
She asked for a reversal and remand. Her team of Lawyers are Jill Shellow, 111 BRoadway, NY NY, Robert Boyle, 250 Broadway, NY NY and Herald Price Fahringer, E. 56 Street, NY NY, of counsel. Many lawyers and other supporters also helped in the preparation of the document which can be read in its entirety on the website LynneStewart.org. Lynne, herself can be reached at Lynne Stewart, FMC Carswell, Box 27137, Fort Worth, Texas 76127. Ralph Poynter, her husband and spokesperson can be reached at 917 853 9759.
It was under Barack Obama that Lynne suffered even more greatly. It's under Barack that Bradley Manning joins Lynne as a political prisoner. Things are not getting better.