Iraq snapshot - May 10, 2010
The Common Ills
Monday, May 10, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraq slammed the worst violence of the year with over 100 people dead, the post-election madness continues and is noticed by the Arab world, Allawi warns it may go global, in the US Lena Horne has passed away, and more.
As Sarah Garrod (In The News) notes, a wave of attacks slammed Baghdad today. Steven Lee Meyers (New York Times) explains, "The attacks, which began as the sun rose on a hot and hazy morning, followed a recent series of arrests and killings of members of Al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist groups." The Irish Examiner notes, "The government blamed al Qaida in Iraq for violence in Baghdad, saying the terror group is stepping up its attacks now to exploit political instability." And outside of Baghdad. Lin Zhi (Xinhua) reports, "A bomb exploded at a crowded popular market close to a Shiite mosque in the town of Suwayra, some 60 km southest of Baghdad, the source with Wasit police told Xinhua on condition of anonymity." England's Channel 4 counts 8 dead and seventy-one injured in the Suwayrah bombing. Albawabareports 2 Hillah car bombings which claimed at least 25 lives. Reuters notesthat the death toll for the Hilla bombings has now climbed to 35 with the injured being one-hundred and thirty-six. Ben Lando (Wall St. Journal) reportsthe death toll has now reached 45 with one-hundred and forty injured. CNN adds, "And in the city of Falluja, at least 10 civilians were wounded when four roadside bombs were detonated outside the homes of four police officers."Omar Ghraieb (Palestine Telegraph) reports, "In Sulaiman Bek, a town 160 km north of Baghdad, police said a bomb exploded outside the house of a government official in the region, killing his mother and one of his bodyguards and wounding two others." "Meanwhile," Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) adds, "in neighboring Kut province, also in the heavily Shiite south, a bomb detonated outside a restaurant killed at least nine people and wounded 12." And, back to Baghdad, Alsumaria TV reports, "At least 24 people were killed in a series of attacks targeting a number of security checkpoints and other targets in Baghdad. Gunmen using mute weapons attacked six checkpoints in Baghdad on Monday killing a number of soldiers and policemen, a source from the Interior Ministry reported." Ian Black (Guardian) observes, "Armed men used silenced and automatic weapons, roadside bombs and cars packed with explosives to hit six checkpoints manned by local and federal police and the Iraqi national army in the capital."BBC News notes, "The BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad says smaller scale shooting attacks are becoming a more frequent tactic by insurgents as security forces try to prevent the kind of large suicide car bombs that have killed hundreds in the past year." Adam Arnold (Sky News -- link has text and video) adds, "An Interior Ministry source said of the co-ordinated raids: "This was a message to us that they can attack us in different parts of the city at the same time because they have cells everywhere." Mark Memmot (NPR) quotes Peter Kenyon in Baghdad stating that "the spike in violence is adding to the anxiety in Iraq as the U.S. military prepares to reduce its presence dramatically, and as Iraqi politicians struggle to form a new government in the wake of inconclusive elections back in March." Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) quotes Kurdish MP Tania Talaat stating, "The parliament is in limbo, so who is there to call the government to account and demand to know why security is slipping? It's because there's no one to monitor their performance. The security forces should not be affected by the political atmosphere and the tensions between the political rivals." Parliament's session long ago expired and the newly elected members of Parliament have yet to be sworn in. For all the talk of Iraq's stalemate with regards to a prime minister and a cabinet, there's little to prevent the seating of the new Parliament which is not dependent upon a prime minister being first chosen. Issa also writes a round-up of today's violence and, in addition to what's noted above, includes that Falluja bombings injured four and claimed 2 lives (that's in addition to the ten wounded already noted above), a Mosul suicide car bomber targeted a checkpoint and killed him/herself and 2 Peshmerga members, a Mosul drive-by claimed the lives of a father and son and left two females wounded, another Mosul drive-by claimed the life of 1 high school student and Basra where two car bombings (one after the other) took place and a third car bombing might be the most deadly incident of the day: "in the main motorbike marked in the old city in Basra that resulted in more than 60 civilians killed and injured, according to health officials in Basra." Richard Spencer (Telegraph of London) counts 102 as the death toll for the day.
Al Jazeera observes, "The attacks come just two days after reports that the Iraqi defence ministry was considering building a "security fence"around the capital as a way of curbing violence and controlling the movements of anti-government fighters.Access to the city would be controlled by eight checkpoints, and construction could be completed by mid-2011, reports from local broadcaster Al Iraqiyya Television said." Counting 52 dead, Abbas al-Ani (AFP) stated this morning, "Monday's death toll was the highest since April 23, when 58 people were killed in series of bombings in Baghdad and western Iraq, days after the government said Al-Qaeda was on the run." As the death toll continue to rise, Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) updated that: "It was the bloodiest day in Iraq since Dec. 8, when insurgent bombings in the capital killed at least 127." Caroline Alexander (Bloomberg News) includesthis news in her report on the violence, "Iraq holds the world's third-largest oil reserves. Crude oil for June delivery rose $2.93, or 3.9 percent, to $78.04 a barrel at 1:00 a.m. in London on speculation an emergency fund by European policy makers will contain sovereign debt risks and maintain economic growth." Possibly because the theft of Iraqi oil is Nouri al-Maliki's sole accomplishment? Tom Hundley (Global Post) noted last month:
After a spectacularly successful auction of drilling rights last December, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government spent the first few months of this year putting the finishing touches on 10 separate deals that, if implemented successfully, could see Iraq challenging Saudi Arabia as the world's leading producer within the decade.
By any measure, these deals were the singular accomplishment of Maliki's tenure. Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani earned the respect of the international oil community for driving a very hard bargain and delivering a deal that should quickly put his nation on the path to prosperity.
Thursday Sardasht Osman's body was discovered. The 23-year-old journalist and college student was kidnapped from Salaheddin University. Kurdish Media noted that Kamal Rauf, Ahmad Mira, Asos Hardi and other Kurdish journalists have issued a statement which includes:
To kidnap a journalist in the regional capital; taking him outside the Kurdistan region; and killing him, raises serious questions. This act cannot be done by one person or small group of people. That is why we believe in the first instance that the Kurdistan Regional Government and the security forces should take the responsibility. We must take maximum step to find this perpetrators responsible. [. . .] We, as a group of Kurdistan's writers and journailsts, believe that kidnapping and threatening of journalists have increased rapidly, and cannot be accepted anymore.
Satuday, Yahya Barzanji (AP) reported protesters took to to the streets in Sulaimaniyah today to decry the kidnapping and murder of Sardasht Osman, the Iraqi journalist and college student. Barzanji quotes Kurdish journalists Riben Hirdi at the protest stating, "Kurdish security services want to instill fear in us by killing the journalists and forcing them to stop their writings, but their attempts will fail." Student Saman Karim declared, "They claim democracy and security . . . while a journalist is kidnapped and murdered in broad daylight." The photo accompanying the report featured a large crowd and the three in front carry signs. One sign displays a photo of Sardasht while another is a drawing of a gun and a pen or pencil. The gun has a large "X" over it. Protests did not end on Saturday. Sam Dagher (New York Times) reports demonstrations continued today with "hundreds" attempting "to storm the local parliament building" in Erbil and "There were signs on Monday that Mr. Osman's death was fast becoming a rallying cry for reformists, particularly among the young."
Elsewhere in Iraq, Chris Hill continues to be both US Ambassador to Iraq and Global Embarrassment. Arthur MacMillan (AFP) reports on Hill and it's as if he thinks he can work furiously and now save his job. It's so embarrassing and, worst of all, it just makes him (by proxy the US) look like a moron. Hill's rushing to insist everything's fine and dandy -- better even! "The counting is going faster," AFP quotes him stating of the recount in Baghdad "and we do expect it to be over by the end of the week." Do we expect it? And that's fast? Go back in real time to when the recounts were announced and it was stated that it would take two weeks to do the recounts. They started last Monday . . . Hill's saying that they'll end this week. Which would be? Two weeks. So they're going according to schedule, as predicted and Chris Hill's so damn out of it or so eager to make it look like he's on top of things that he's insisting the counting's taking place "faster" when it's going at the pace that it was predicted to take. And his other statements?
Hill's supposed a diplomat, he's supposed to be a public face of the US. His idiotic rantings do not play well in the Arab world nor are they attempting to Happy Talk recent events the way the US moron is. Mohammad Akef Jamal (Gulf News) expresses a popular opinion: "In reality, the appeals of the State of Law coalition, which happens to be the government coalition, represent the real obstacle. The coalition, formed by Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and his Dawa party, insisted on a manual recount. At the same time, it has used all its power and influence to target the alliance that won the largest number of votes. Clearly, it aims to rob the winning alliance of its constitutional right to put together a government. [. . .] Al Maliki, who insists on holding on to his post, and the Dawa party are ignoring the rights of others. The party which is in control of many key posts in the Iraqi government is the primary obstacle to the formation of a new government, thus creating a dangerous power vacuum." Musa Keilani (Jordan Times via Al-Arabiya) explains, "The sum of the political equation in Iraq today does not bode well for the ordinary people of Iraq. The government is largely ineffective outside the fortified Green Zone. A majority of the people does not have enough water and power. Jobs are scarce and most hospitals do not have any facility to handle any serious case, let alone emergencies. Schools are functioning, but at a level that does not permit any learning beyond rudimentary education."
Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya was the winner in the March 7th elections. Nouri's circumvented that win by abusing his powers. DPA reports Iraqiya spokesperson Hani Ashour states that Nouri, while playing the glad-hander for public consumption and insisting he wants all involved, has not met with Iraqiya: "There was no initiative or a serious action that confirms the intentions of the State of Law coalition to set a date to meet with the head of Iraqiya, to bring their views closer and confirm their national partnership."Sun Yunlong (Xinhua) reports that -- excepting Baghdad -- all vote counts were being sent to the Supreme Court for ratification. Which means only Nouri gets a recount. Martin Chulov (Guardian) interviews Allawi and quotes him stating of the latest post-election mess, "This conflict will not remain within the borders of Iraq. It will spill over and it has the potential to reach the world at large, not just neighbouring countries. Now Iraq is at the centre stage in the region. But it is boiling with problems, it is stagnant and it can go either way. I feel that we are not done and that the international community has failed this country."
"The irony is that al-Maliki himself spent two decades in Syria plotting the downfall of Saddam's regime but Syria had repeatedly refused to extradite him to Iraq despite a wave of bombing campaigns carried out by the Dawa Party in the 80s killing many Iraqi civilians," Jasam al-Azawi observed on the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera). Jasam al-Azawi spoke with Thabet Salem (Syrian journalist) and Saad al-Muttalibi (advisor to Iraq's Ministry of National Dialogue).
Jasam al-Azawi: Saad al-Muttalibi, what is the evidence that Syria is really plotting to re-impose the Ba'athists back on Iraq? What is the evidence?
Saad al-Muttalibi: First of all I would like to make an objection on the introduction when you said that the Dawa Party was responsible for killing Iraqi civilians. That is unfounded, untrue and historically incorrect. Secondly, nobody's accusing the Syrian government. Actually, we have the highest regards for President Bashar al-Assad who proved to be a brother to the Iraqi nation and proved to be an ally for Iraq. So we have no issues with the Syrian government or the Syrian authorities. Actually, as I said, we hold them with the highest respect and regards. We do have -- This is a very complex picture where there is multiple international agendas interacting and crossing over each other within the wider Middle Eastern conflict. So it is very hard to separate one issue from another but if we manage to slightly pull out the Iraqi conflict -- if we can call it that -- from the Syrian point of view, we find that President Bashar al-Assad was very helpful and very gracious in calling for a reconciliation in Iraq and calling for a continuous dialogue, with his care and attention, that Iraq should include all its citizens or representatives of its citizens within the government. Now we no objection to that at all. As long as these political representatives work on a political agenda and not using violence. As you know, violence and terrorism is a destructive method and not a constructive one so it is important to differentiate between our help and support and cooperation with the Syrian government and from some quarters that back a-a-a-a violence organization that is causing Iraq a great deal of blood and casualities.
Jasam al-Azawi: Well before I go to Thabet Salem, let me go back to the first thing that you objected to and this is not the bone of contention of this program, the evidence for the Dawa Party engaging in bombing campaigns has been amply established not only in Iraq but also in Kuwait. If you remember the very reason for the start of the Iraq-Iran War was an attempt by a member of the Dawa Party to kill Tariq Aziz -- at that time the Foreign Minister and that was simply because they were linked to Iran. But that is not our subject for the time being, Saad al-Muttalibi. Perhaps we can have another episode one day about the terrorist activities of the Dawa Party. We'll go to it later on.
Saad al-Muttalibi: These are all allege -- these are all alleged.
Jasam al-Azawi: From your perspective it's alleged. From other point of view, it's clarified and documented. But then again, you're an advisor to the Prime Minister, you have to say that. Otherwise, perhaps, you might even lose your position. Thabet Salem, we listen to Saad al-Muttalibi articulating -- at length, if I may so -- basically we did not hear any point of evidence that Syria is plotting. He claimed that Syria is plotting to impose the Ba'ath back on Iraq again.
Thabet Salem: Well actually I can't obeject to what Mr. Muttalibi said from Baghdad. Actually, I didn't really understand if this is a view point, why you are here and is there any difference in views regarding this accusation. But we don't have to forget, regardless of what Mr. Muttalibi says, that the Iraqi prime minister -- this time we don't have to forget that the Iraqi prime minister accused Syria, more than once at least, of being terrorist and that it has carried out criminal acts inside Iraq which resulted in the deaths of many Iraqis. I think that until now that this is the basic argument of Mr. Malaiki -- but this hides really something else. The other thing is that he's not happy that there are Iraqis who are opposed to his regime and the American occupation of Iraq in Syria. This it the vital thing, I think, this is the essence, the very essence, of the issue. Just to make it clear, until now the Iraqi accusations have reached no result and they have failed in presenting any document or any evidence or clue even that Syria has really contributed or helped any criminal element in doing these acts in Iraq. This is first. Second, I just want to make it clear that Syria cannot say "no" to any Arab political refugee who comes to Damascus. This is one of the rules --
Jasam al-Azawi: We shall come to that point, later on, Thabet. Let's give Saad al-Muttalibi another chance to see whether he can come up with the evidence that Syria is plotting to reimpose the Ba'athists on Iraq again.
In the United States, the woman once called "the female Paul Robeson" has died. She long surpassed that moniker and stood in no one's shadow. Singer, actress and activist Lena Horne passed away at the age of 92 (Washington Post multi-media link). At wowOwow, photographer Harry Benson remembers her. Margena A. Christian (Ebony) reflects on Lena's life and meaning (and link is text and video). NPR's Mark Memmott notes Lena's passing and compiles multiple audio of NPR's past coverage of her. Avoid Crapapedia. I'm borrowing liberally from a piece we did at Third in April 2009 (word-for-word with some editing out and a tiny bit of wrap around to make the below flow).
Crapapedia can't get her family correct. (Two relatives of Lena Horne's maternal grandfather would pass for White, one an actress, the other a singer.) They can't get the pressure on her correct either. (Early on, while trying to establish herself in the New York theater, she was advised to pass for Latino by agent Harold Gumm and producer George White -- Horne refused).
Most significantly, they leave out Horne's signing with MGM. Horne didn't want to make movies and was quite happy in New York City. So happy she was turning down an offer from the Trocadero in Los Angeles when the NAACP's Walter White explained to her that not only could this lead to a break in films for Horne, it could lead to a huge advanced for African-Americans. She took the town when she opened at the Trocadero. After MGM offered a contract, Horne went to speak with Walter White. They discussed the roles African-Americans were relegated to -- servants and native caricatures. It was for this reason that Horne refused to play demeaning roles and had that written into her contract. In her autobiography, Lena, Horne explained of the roles offered to African-Americans at the time, "They were mainly extras and it was not difficult to strip down to a loincloth and run around Tarzan's jungle or put on a bandanna and play one of the slaves in Gone with the Wind."
Crapapedia leaves out that and they also tell you that Lena Horne never starred in a film while under contract to MGM. Apparently they missed Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather (the first was for MGM, the second was made by Fox with MGM loaning Horne out for the film).
She refused to do an MGM-backed Broadway play because it was flat-out racist. As a result, MGM started screwing her over by refusing to let her do night club work. Joan Crawford advised her to get a bigger agency and she went with MCA. They did the bare minimum. That's in terms of getting 'permission' for her to work in nightclubs and in terms of 'representing' her. They were more than happy to take her money. But MCA was a highly racist agency and Lena would find, in town after town, that while a White star or White personality far less famous than her, raising far less money than she did, would be greeted immediately by MCA, receive congratulatory telegrams on opening night, MCA would mosey on over to see her when they damn well felt like it, maybe three, maybe five days after she opened. The telegram would arrive on the second or third night. They were racists, they were damn racists. Even for the time. They were also cowards. And of course Jules Stein ran MCA.
Lena Horne's Civil Rights work including raising the profile of African-Americans in film and in clubs, ending segregation in New York City clubs as well as clubs outside of NYC. It includes joining James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Jerome Smith, Rip Torn, Dr. Kenneth Clark, Lorraine Hansberry and Dr. Brewton Berry for a meeting with then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to discuss the segregation and violence in Birmingham (the violence included police sicking dogs on the marchers and fire fighters turning the hoses on the marchers on May 3rd, which followed the April arrest of MLK and other assaults on peaceful protests). Her activism found her traveling to Jackson, Mississippi to speak and sing at an NAACP rally -- which is where she met Medgar Evers for the first time. Horne was booked on NBC's Today Show June 13, 1963 to talk about the Civil Rights movement and learned, shortly after arriving at the studio, that Medgar Evers had been assassinated the night before. Horne would manage to compose herself and go on live TV to discuss Evers life and legacy. She participated in the August 28, 1963 March on Washington. She would do a Carnegie Hall benefit for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
At that performance she would debut two new songs. "Silent Spring" was written by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg about the September 15, 1963 Birmingham 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham in which four young girls -- Carol Denise McNair, Cynthia Diane Wesley, Carole Rosamond Robertson and Addie Mae Collins -- were murdered. The second song was "Now!" which is a Civil Rights anthem and was a hit song. Like "Kumbaya" its role in the Civil Rights movement seems to be forgotten by many today. Adolph Green and Betty Comden wrote the lyrics and Lena sang it full out, brimming with passion. That wasn't unique to this one song but, as Lena knew, it wasn't a song some expected from her. Especially those who didn't grasp that she always took the big steps that pulled everyone along with her.