Iraq snapshot - January 23, 2012
The Common Ills
Monday, January 23, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, we explore the silence on the political crisis and the connection to the silence on Iraqi women, and more.
Actions do have consequences and the decision by the White House to back Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister in 2010 has had very serious consequences for Iraq and that becomes more obvious each day. Along with the ongoing political crisis, now there's a new report with observations on Iraq was issued. The Associated Press quoted Human Rights Watch's Sarah Leah Whitson stating, 'Iraq is quickly slipping back into authoritarianism. Despite U.S. government assurances that it helped create a stable democracy (in Iraq), the reality is that it left behind a budding police state'." She was referring to what Human Rights Watch found and documented in their [PDF format warning] World Report: 2012. We'll emphasize the focus on Baghdad protests:
On February 21, Iraqi police stood by as dozens of assailants, some wielding knives and clubs, stabbed and beat at least 20 protesters intending to camp in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, the capital. During nationwide demonstrations on February 25, security forces killed at least 12 protesters across the country and injured more than 100. Baghdad security forces beat unarmed journalists and protesters that day, smashing cameras and confiscating memory cards.
[. . .]
On June 10 in Baghdad government-backed thugs armed with wooden planks, knives, iron pipes, and other weapons beat and stabbed peaceful protesters and sexually molested female demonstrators as security forces stood by and watched, sometimes laughing at the victims.
Authorities also used legal means to curtail protests. On April 13, Iraqi officials issued a new regulations barring street protests and allowing them only at three soccer (football) stadiums, although they have not enforced the regulations. In May the Council of Ministers approved a "Law on the Freedom of Expression of Opinion, Assembly, and Peaceful Demonstrations" that authorizes officials to restrict freedom of assembly to protect "the public interest" and in the interest of "general order or public morals." At this writing the law still awaited parliamentary approval.
[. . .]
On September 8 an unknown assailant shot to death Hadi al-Mahdi, a popular radio journalist often critical of government corruption and social inequality, at his Baghdad home. The Ministry of Interior said it would investigate his death, but at this writing no one has been charged. Immediately prior to his death al-Mahdi received several phone and text message threats not to return to Tahrir Square. Earlier, after attending the February 25 "Day of Anger" mass demonstration in Baghdad, security forces arrested, blindfolded, and severely beat him along with three other journalists during their subsequent interrogation.
In addition, Human Rights Watch notes in a press release:
In January 2012, Human Rights Watch observed that Iraqi authorities had successfully curtailed the Tahrir Square anti-government demonstrations by flooding the weekly protests with pro-government supporters and undercover security agents. Dissenting activists and independent journalists for the most part said that they no longer felt safe attending the demonstrations.
"After more than six years of democratic rule, Iraqis who publicly express their views still do so at great peril," Whitson said. "Al-Mahdi's killing highlights what a deadly profession journalism remains in Iraq."
Dan Morse (Washington Post) reports on the report and also carries a response from Nouri al-Maliki's spokesperson including this statement, "Their number [Baghdad protesters] is gradually decreasing and they do not reflect strong opposition to the government." The denial might be more convincing were there not so many reports which already demonstrate Nouri's thugs are shutting down protest and attempting to intimidate free speech. Yesterday Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera -- link is video) reported on the ever-closing society in Iraq.
Jane Arraf: These days at Baghdad's Liberation Square, there are more soldiers and police than protesters. Not just these but dozens of riot police waiting just under the grid. But they won't have any trouble from these demonstrators. With the killings and arrests of anti-government protesters, these young men chanting support for Nouri al-Maliki have taken over the square. A few won't give up.
Iraqi female protester: I can talk freely, right? This is Tahrir Square. And it's about freedom.
Jane Arraf: But it's not. These men drown her out when she starts criticizing Maliki. They won't give their names. Here at Radio al Mahaba, an independent women's radio station, the staff used to see all their friends at the Friday protests. That's until Hadi al-Mahdi, a controversial radio host, was arrested and badly beaten and then killed at home. And before the first set in the station's cafeteria last fall.
Kamal Jabar (showing the remains of the bombing): This was an in door.
Jane Arraf: One of the founders of the station who was beaten up after a protest last year says they've had enough.
Kamal Jabar: And we got the message. We are moving out of here. I don't feel secure. I don't want to be responsible for any death or injury or harm to any of the staff.
Jane Arraf: There were high hopes for the democracy meant to take root in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled. But in between the fall of Saddam and an increasingly authoritarian government, the freedom to say what you want has been shrinking. Hundreds of activists have either left the country or gone underground. While some of the radio staff have quit, Ahlam al-Daraji wants to continue her show at a new, safer location.
Ahlam al-Daraji: Life is meaningless if you remain afraid and worried all the time. And if I say, "I can't say this because someone might object"? If that's the case, why are we living? Maybe I should leave Iraq?
Jane Arraf: They're staying for now. With fewer voices left, they believe they need to speak up for the rest. Jane Arraf, Al Jazeera, Baghdad.
January 10th, Jomana Karadsheh (CNN -- link is video) reported:
Jomana Karadsheh: Last month, Oday al-Zaidy and a small group of people gathered in a Baghdad square to celebrate the US media withdrawal planning to burn the US flag. But more than 200 security forces swarmed around them, banned us from filming and stopped the protests because they said the group had not obtained a permit. But they still managed to burn the flag. Oday and others were beaten up and detained for a day. Security officials say, they assaulted policemen, something the group denies. "Democracy in Iraq is an illusion," Oday says. "An American illusion and an American lie. Whoever wants to see that for themselves, should come and see what's been happening in Iraq since February 25th." That's when thousands of Iraqis -- partly influenced by the Arab Spring -- took to the streets of cities across the country protesting against corruption and a lack of basic services. [Gun shots are heard and security forces move in.] But from the start, they were met by a fierce crackdown. The government denies an orchestrated effort to put down protests, saying there were just minor violations committed by to put down protests by individual security officers. Activists groups disagree. Human Rights Watch says the violations have been systematic and ongoing documenting dozens of cases where protesters were beaten up, detained and, in some cases, even tortured.
Human Rights Watch's Samer Muscati: People are afraid to go to demonstrations, are afraid of being rounded up, of being assaulted, of being beat up, of being followed to their own homes.
And we can drop back to December 30th when Jomana Karadsheh captured a Friday Baghdad protest in a series of Tweets:
Police Gen. there said gathering was "unauthorized" &kept asking them 2 leave. Hrs later, protesters set
Protesters down to 8 ppl at the end kept asking us not leave, saying our presence stops security forces from detaining them.
Camera of 1 Iraqi channel confiscated, our cameraman prevented from filming& my cell phone almost confiscated after taking one still.
protesters surrounded as we left, 1 telling me now 3 were detained after being beaten up. cant reach them 2 confirm, their phones off.
We can go back further and further. What Nouri's spokesperson wants to deny is in the public record, has been in the public record for some time. Iraqi's suffer and they suffer because of an illegal war and occupation and because of decisions imposed upon the Iraqi people by the US government. In March 2010, Iraqis voted. At great risk to themselves. Candidates ran for office -- at great risk if they were Iraqiya because Iraqiya candidates were banned, they were arrested, they were assassinated in the lead up to the March elections. Nouri and his thugs insisted that Iraqiya was "Ba'athist" and "terrorist" and would destroy Iraq. State of Law, his political slate, was supposedly going to destroy all the other choices. But that didn't happen, Iraqiya came in first.
These were serious issues and some people treated them as such in real time. But most outlets either looked the other way or resorted to cretins as 'trusted voices.' It was a cabal of men, men who didn't like women, promoted by other men and by women who backstab other women because that's what Queen Bees do (Amy Goodman is but one good example).
Recently, video surfaced of US service members urinating on corpses. While disrespectful, it's not the end of the world for the corpses. The end of the world for them was how they were killed. Yet Diane Rehm, to name another example of a Queen Bee, will waste forever on the urination and then take calls on the urination and the shock and the dismay. Maybe the shock should be that Afghans in their own country were killed by foreigners?
Now if you're confused -- and much of the American media is -- urination and killing? Most people, if givien the choice, would say, "Piss on me." But if it's too much to grasp, let's bring up a War Crime that resulted in actual convictions as well as some US soldiers agreeing to admit guilt. Felicity Arbuthnot (Global Research) noted the incident earlier this month:
Nuri Al Maliki made his groveling subservience to Washington clear, when on the 12th December he requested to go to the city's Arlington Military Cemetery and jointly lay a wreath with President Obama, at the Memorial to the Unknown Soldier, to pay his respects to US service personnel who lost their lives, decimating the country of which he is -- for now -- Prime Minister.
Thanking the murderous, marauding, illegal, infanticide-addicted, raping and pillaging invader, must be a historic first.
An extensive search has found no record of Maliki visiting Iraq's lost and bereaved -- from Falluja to Basra, Mosul to Mahmudiyah -- the latter, where fourteen year old Abeer al Janabi was multiply raped by US troops, then murdered and set fire to, with all her family. Presumably, they were also Obama's "unbroken line of heroes", to which he referred, in another defeat ceremony at Fort Bragg.
Diane Rehm devoted how many shows to Abeer al-Janabi? Zero. Democracy Now! devoted how many shows to Abeer? Zero.
The 14-year-old caught the eye of Steven D. Green. He and other soldiers decided to invade her home and gang-rape her. They'd also decided that everyone residing in the home would die, so that there would be no witnesses and the crimes could be blamed on Iraqi insurgents.
So they left base, forced their way into the home, started the gang-rape of Abeer with Green leading Abeer's parents and her five-year-old sister into another room where he shot them dead. And Abeer heard it as she was gang raped. She heard her parents murdered, she heard her little sister murdered. And the guys in the room took turns until Green joined them and he went last. At which point, he then shot Abeer dead.
To destroy evidence, they attempted to set her body on fire.
These were disgusting War Crimes. And the media remained silent. Even when soldiers were standing up in open court and admitting what they did, the media really wasn't interested. I slag on Arianna Huffington for a number of things but, to her credit, when Green went on trial, she made sure her site (The Huffington Post) covered it. Arianna took the trial more seriously than did any US outlet with the exception of the Associated Press.
Diane Rehm wanted to grand stand on the horror of dead people being pissed on but chose to ignore the gang-rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl by US soldiers.
Again, what took place with the urination was disrespectful. It does not, however, rise to the level of War Crimes. (Though the continued US occupation of Afghanistan may rise to the level of War Crimes.)
CBS News' Lara Logan was sexually assaulted while reporting from Egypt. For those who've forgotten, trashy Nir Rosen elected to mock her, to say she deserved it, to turn around and wish it on Anderson Cooper and much worse. (See Ava and my "The Damned Don't Apologize" if you've forgotten what he did or if you're new to the topic.) People who don't respect women don't usually respect people. That's why Nir could attack Lara and then, when called on it, think he could expand it beyond women by attacking Anderson.
People like Nir Rosen don't respect women and don't respect the people. Nir was 'brave' we were told, Nir was 'wonderful.' And when he finally got called out for his garbage, Amy Goodman and his other little friends avoided the issue. Amy Goodman, who please remember, is one of the few female broadcasting personalities who has ever elected to appear in Hustler magazine. They didn't call out their little buddy for the same reason that they didn't cover Abeer, they just don't care about women. And people like Nir never cared about the Iraqi people.
While some people were sounding alarms about Nouri's attempt to remain prime minister, others were excusing Nouri. In 2010, ahead of the elections, Nir was declaring that it really didn't matter and the Iraqi people didn't really care. Let's check those keen observations:
The government is in Shiite hands and now it's a question of whether it will remain in the relatively good Shiite hands of Maliki, who provides security and doesn't bring down an iron fist on you unless you provoke him (sort of like Saddam), or the dirty corrupt and dangerous Shiite hands of Maliki's rivals -- Jaafari, Hakim, etc. I think these elections mean a lot more to Americans (as usual) and maybe to Iraqi elites than they do to Iraqis.
[. . .]
I hate to admit that I hope Maliki wins. He's the best of all the realistic alternatives. It's not like a more secular candidate is likely to win, so if it's not Maliki it will be Jaafari or Chalabi. Frankly this is a rare case where I hope Maliki violates the constitution, acts in some kind of authoritarian way to make sure he wins the elections, because the alternative is fragmentation, or a criminal, sectarian kleptocratic Shiite elite taking over, and then Iraq might unravel.
You may notice that the winner isn't even mentioned in Nir Rosen's crazy. Ayad Allawi makes no appearance. So much for the wisdom of Nir. He was also wrong about the turnout. But his beloved Nouri did stay on. And has violated the Constitution.
You know it takes a real asshole to publicly declare that they hope someone violates a constitution. But it takes a bigger asshole to provide Nir Rosen an outlet.
Who provided the outlet? Thomas E. Ricks. The same Thomas who could never even recognize Deborah Amos's book on Iraqis (Eclipse of the Sunnis) or the work of any women. Excuse me, one woman got recognized. She took off her top and posed for a picture and Thomas E. Ricks was more than happy to run that photo at Foreign Policy -- in violation of Foreign Policy's own guidelines. And Thomas E. Ricks has written how many times about Iraq and avoided the plight of Iraqi women how many times in the process.
If you pay attention, not only do the creeps reveal themselves, but you also begin to see a pattern emerge, a profile in fact, of those who are never about We The People.
As Hillary Clinton rightly observed at the close of the 90s, women's rights are human rights. She and that speech were mocked by Laura Flanders in 2008. Laura Flanders never managed to call out Nir Rosen for his Lara Logan remarks. Lara Logan never managed to address the War Crimes against Abeer. Are you seeing the pattern? If they dispresect women, if they ridicule or ignore women, then they really aren't about the people. You can't be willing to attack and/or ignore half the population and be about We The People.
When women are ignored, half the population is ignored. When you're willing to do that, you're really not about "the people." And the gas bags that Iraq's had to depend upon in the US have repeatedly ignored Iraqi women. It's no surprise that when Nouri made his power-grab in 2010, when he demanded to remain prime minister in spite of the results, in spite of the will of the people, in spite of the Constitution, that these gas bags didn't sound the alarms. They didn't care. They identify with the ruler and dismiss the people, the same way (and for the same reasons) that they dismiss women.
While they remained silent, a message was sent by the White House when it elected to back Nouri -- after warnings from human rights group and, reportedly, warnings from the CIA. If everything that was going on in Iraq right now was going on under Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, the US could say, "Well, that's who the Iraqis picked when they went to the polls." But everything's going on right now -- the political crisis, the increase in violence -- with Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister and he's only prime minister because he was the White House's choice, the Iraqi people chose someone else.
Nouri got the political crisis really going in December when, among other things, he declared Tareq al-Hashemi a terrorist and ordered his arrest. al-Hashemi was already in the KRG and has remained there as a guest of President Jalal Talabani's. Yesterday was to have been a meet-up in Iraq among political blocs to plan a national conference to address the political crisis Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki started. Last month, President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi began calling for a national conference. Two Sundays ago, some political blocs met up to work on preliminary details of such a conference. The plan was to meet up again yesterday; however, Talabani had to leave the country instead. Aswat al-Iraq notes that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's Adel Murad states, "President Jalal Talabani shall return to Iraq within one week after his successful spinal surgery in Germany; he is feeling well now."
Dar Addustour reports Tareq al-Hashemi filed a formal request with Baghdad's Supreme Judicial Council to transfer the case to Kirkuk. Saturday there were rumors that the KRG was sending a delegation to Baghdad to discuss the case. Al Mada reported Sunday that the spokesperson for the Supreme Judicial Council of the KRG stated that no delegation was sent. Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) adds that there are rumors that al-Hashemi will be tried in absentia and that the Parliament has formed a seven-member committee to review the charges and the investigation.
Reuters notes 1 soldier was shot dead in Mosul, 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Rashad (three other Sahwas were injured -- "Sahwa," "Awakening" and "Sons of Iraq" are all the same term for resistance fighters the US government put on the payroll to get them to stop attacking the US military; Nouri was supposed to have brought them into the system via government jobs but has not done so) and a Falluja roadside bombing which left two people injured.