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Media Analysis - When Did Sources Become So Unimportant? - 04.15.2006

It’s increasingly interesting to me how the specific sources for stories are becoming less and less important and arbitrary statements are becoming more acceptable in the press.

In one example, the Los Angeles Times, which I’ve previously felt was doing a pretty fair job covering the conflict in Iraq, posted this story yesterday:

Sunni group demands action as body count surges in Iraq

In his third paragraph Mr. Daragahi states:

The facts remain sketchy and difficult to confirm, and the political groups making the claims previously exaggerated figures and accounts. Two ranking members of Iraq’s security forces said they knew nothing about the fresh reports of abductions and deaths.

But the accusations, broadcast over radio stations and posted on political Web sites, likely will further inflame tensions between Iraq’s Sunni minority and Shiite majority. The reports come as each group’s political leaders try to depict the other side as carrying out sectarian violence in an attempt to gain leverage in the country’s power struggle.

At this point, Mr. Daragahi has not named any of the “political groups” although, if his claims are accurate, it seems like it would be easy enough to name them, as they have been “broadcast over radio stations and posted on political Web sites.”

Later in the piece the writer mentions the Muslim Scholars Association, and appears to connect them with the statements, however the MSA is not a “political group” anymore than the American Friends Service Committee in the United States is a “political group.” My point, essentially, is that neither of these organizations are directly involved in the politics of their home countries.

Furthermore, he writes “Two ranking members of Iraq’s security forces”, without explaining any further details. Without these details, it becomes very difficult to understand what political agendas might be at play. The Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior both command “security forces” in Iraq, but have been increasingly at odds with each other.

Essentially, this section of the article works primarily not as an informative news piece, but as an ad hominem attack against Sunni groups who oppose the occupation and are speaking out against corruption and killings by the majority Shi’a government.

* * * *

In other news, I was informed by a friend this afternoon that apparently Tom Fox was carrying a Marines ID card with him at the time of his kidnapping. The card was old and reflected his past service, but apparently some now believe this is the reason his kidnappers executed him. If anyone has further information about this, please write me, or post a comment after this article.




There’s Something Rotten in Kurdistan… - 04.14.2006

The content here at Alive in Baghdad has, understandably, focused primarily on the goings on in Baghdad; and particularly the issues related to Iraq as a state more generally. Today I feel the issues at hand make it reasonable to spend some time shedding some light on the other side of Kurdistan. Although Kurdistan has been repeatedly held up as a paragon of interventionism and a beacon of democracy in an otherwise muddled quagmire of Iraqi political infighting.

Unfortunately there’s a bit of a dark underside to Kurdish politics infrequently alluded to in the press. I’ve already mentioned the issue of a Kurdish-Austrian journalist who was nearly imprisoned for reporting on the appearance of corruption by Kurdistan’s regional leader, Masoud Barzani.

To make things more complicated, the anniversary of the massacre at Halabja passed just under a month ago-on March 16th. To mark the anniversary Kurdish politicians prepared a memorial gala, angering many Kurdish citizens who saw the events as more evidence of corruption in their local government.

Here are some of the highlights of this event:

HALABJA, Iraq, March 16 (Reuters) - Hundreds of Kurdish protesters destroyed a memorial to the 1988 gas attack in the Iraqi town of Halabja on Thursday, setting the museum ablaze on the 18th anniversary of the deaths of 5,000 local people.

A hospital official said one man was shot dead when a gathering to commemorate the attack turned into a protest over poor local services.

Kurds destroy Halabja memorial in protest

Kurdish security forces shot dead one man and wounded at least eight others when they opened fire on protestors on the 18th anniversary of what became the most notorious atrocity of Saddam Hussein. “The Kurdish government exploited Halabja to draw attention to the plight of the Kurds and get donations that have never reached us,” said one angry protestor.


Hundreds protest as Kurds remember Halabja gas attack

“We’ve had enough of these liars and we don’t want to see them in our town,” said Rizin Walid, a university student.

Most of the demonstrators were students from universities around the Kurdish region home for vacation and they expressed widespread anger over the lack of services and reconstruction in the impoverished town.

After blocking the roads into town with large rocks and burning tires, the mob converged on the memorial to the tragedy where a number of local officials were speaking and clashed with security guards who opened fire on the crowd, killing 14-year-old Kurda Ahmed and wounding six.

The site was eventually overrun by the mob and the museum and meeting hall of the memorial were set on fire.

Iraqi Kurd killed in riot on Halabja anniversary

Given those events, its difficult to understand how the press has gotten their coverage of Kurdistan previously so wrong. Difficult except for the fact that no one is covering Kurdistan. Kurdistan has repeatedly been covered from an embedded reporter military viewpoint, and considered uninteresting from any other angle. The foreign press continues to set up its bureaus in Baghdad and report continuously on the numbers of wounded and killed by various explosive devices, while failing to get at the root issues of unrest and disenchantment with nearly all of Iraq’s new political elite.

Coming on the tail of the reporter scandal, we’re now hearing that protesters involved in the riots at the Halabja museum may face the death penalty!

The frustration of Kurds with their leaders was exemplified in a piece in Kurdish Media. Kurdish Media is a UK based organization which is an “independent information provider, not affiliated to any political or non-political organisation. Its vision is to become a one-stop-shop information provider on Kurds and Kurdistan.”

Here are some highlights from Dr. Kamal Mirawdeli’s piece, “Moral Contract:”

Elections are before anything else moral contracts between the voters and people elected by them. This moral contract is based on trust and proved by action. But is this the way the so-called Kurdish leaders understand elections? If trust is proved by action then the actions of these leaders have proved that they treated the trust of our people with indifference, insult and contempt. And for this they deserve nothing but the contempt of our people.

Kurdish society is hollowed from its every soul. It is enough to understand this just by looking at what happened in Halabja, by considering the monstrous growth of Shekh Zana, by seeing what happens every day to the families of the martyrs of anfal, and by thinking of the fact that every day at least two women are either killed or committing suicide and at least ten people are killed just as a result of car crashes and road accidents.

Yet, in spite of all this, again and again our people have generously given them opportunities to re-humanise themselves, to redeem themselves from their sins, to ask forgiveness for their crimes and to do something honourable that makes our people proud of it and of them and when they die they have some honour left in them.

We have waited and waited and waited and this did not happen.


Moral Contract

Regarding the possibilities of the death penalty’s usage for protesters at the Halabja memorial:

Demonstrators who last week torched a monument to the victims of a gas attack on Halabja could face the death penalty if convicted, according to a judge investigating the incident.

Investigative judge Karwan Wrya Ali said that under a Baathist-era law adopted by the Iraqi Kurdistan government, the punishment for destroying government property is life in prison or death by hanging. “Anyone convicted of setting the monument on fire will be executed,” he said.

He also said that demonstrators would be held responsible for the death of a 17-year-old boy, Kurda Ahmed, who, witnesses reported, was shot by security forces during the protest.

So far, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani and Kurdistan regional president Masood Barzani have declined to comment on last week’s incident.

Organisers claim the demonstration was a people’s movement that drew residents of all political affiliations - including members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the party that dominates Sulaimaniyah’s government.

Halabja has been eerily quiet as Kurdish authorities chase down suspects and raid houses. A four-year-old boy, Mohammed Karim, was shot last week as security forces pursued and fired at a 53-year-old man. Both are being treated in a Sulaimaniyah hospital.

A security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said authorities have arrested about 80 people. Kurdish regional government spokesman Jamal Abdullah said 40 to 45 remain in custody, suspected of setting the monument on fire and inciting violence. Local human rights groups have not been allowed to see the detainees.

At least seven journalists were beaten during the demonstration and others had their cameras and recorders seized. The authorities have demanded that local reporters cooperate with the investigation by turning over any footage, photos and notes taken at the protest. The Kurdistan Journalists’ Syndicate, widely seen as an arm of the government, is supporting that demand.

Halabja Protesters May Face Death Penalty

It’s really incredible to consider that not only is the Kurdish regional government apparently continuing to repress journalists in its region, but it may also resort to a Ba’athist era law enabling the use of the death penalty against demonstrators who did not directly cause harm to any person! Jalal Talabani’s refusal to comment on the incident immediately laso demonstrates a new level of cyncism in Iraqi politics. Although Talabani would condemn the idea of executing Saddam, he did not immediately do the same for the use of the death penalty on his own people!

And another piece suggesting that the memorial protest was not an isolated incident:

Observers say, however, the recent protests and the government’s violent response are not isolated incidents. A March 8 protest in the town of Koya, in which students demonstrated over not being paid their stipend for the past three months, was also attacked by police.

“The youth discontent has been going on for a while,” says Tiare Rath, international editor of IWPR’s Iraq Crisis Report, adding that the protests partly reflect Kurdistan’s success in schooling young people in freedom, democracy, and human rights.

“It’s a generational thing,” she says. “Young people here have grown up under independence. But no one here understands why there is no reconstruction up here in Kurdistan as the security situation is good. And we don’t get any answers because there is no transparency.”

Kurds’ quest for justice overshadowed by economic discontent

Lastly, in a bizarre turn of events, there was this report, detailing the arrest, apparently, of Kurdish sympathizers or supporters of a Kurdish rebel group which operates in Turkey and has been branded a terrorist organization, the PKK:

The KDP sympathizers held demonstrations in Suleymaniye, which is under the control of Jalal Talabani’s Iraq Kurdistan Patriots Union (PUK).

Police intervened in the demonstrations protesting the recent happenings in Turkey.

The Order Directory of Suleymaniye informed the demonstrators were taken custody as the demonstration was illegal. KPD supporters; however, had asked for permission two days ago, but their demand was turned down, according to an anonymous police official.

PKK Supporters Taken into Custody in Suleymaniye

Although perhaps the Kurdish government has decided its best served by dealing with “terrorist organizations” operating in their territory, this feels simultaneously a great deal like actions motivated by a far more domestic political unrest.

If you are interested to see a wider face of Kurdistan, please keep an eye on Kurdish Media, which appears to be a fairly wide ranging news aggregator for issues facing the Kurdish region of Iraq.

As I prepare for my return to the Middle East at the end of the month, these issues are guiding me more and more towards considering travel to the Kurdish region, rather than remaining in Amman or risking the dangers of Baghdad.

Expect to see more details about my upcoming return trip here in teh next few days, and please, if you feel the insight here is providing a truly valuable resource on the goings on in Iraq, consider hitting the red donate button and helping support this project.

Alive in Baghdad is entirely reader-supported, and our work is directly connected to the support of the community.




Capital Punishment in Iraq Seen Simply As Death Not Justice - 04.13.2006

Brian Conley and Isam Rashid

BAGHDAD, Apr 13 (IPS) - The execution of 13 suspected insurgents in March marked a revival of the death penalty in Iraq - and sparked a debate among Iraqis about whether capital punishment should be written into the laws of a modern society.

The death penalty was suspended by the US when it took control of Iraq 2003. The nation’s new government, however, reinstated it two years later, stating that the death penalty will be a deterrent to criminals in Iraq. Still, many Iraqis on the street say they are not convinced of that argument.

Most Iraqis, war-weary, make no distinction between executions under the newly-elected government and those carried out under Saddam Hussein.

“In Saddam’s time and in all times the death penalty is not good. There is no justice and sometimes innocent people are killed without good reason,” Baghdad resident Omar Abdul Aziz told IPS.

Others favour capital punishment but question how it should be applied - especially to insurgents. “The Iraqi government calls Iraqis who resist the occupation ‘insurgents,’ and this is the problem because they are not insurgents but freedom fighters. We should give them rewards, not use the death penalty against them,” said Zuhair Hasan, a 38 year-old veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, in the 1980s.

The thirteen insurgents hung March 9 allegedly confessed responsibility for many unspecified crimes “which frightened the citizens in Nineveh,” according to Al’Iraqiya, Iraq’s state television network. Iraqi authorities declined to elaborate further about the crimes of those who were hanged or their identities. Nor did they give details about their trial. They did, however, release one name; that of Shuqair Farid, a former policeman.

It is unclear how many people were executed during the 30 years of Saddam Hussein’s rule. Hands Off Cain, an Italy-based organisation that opposes the death penalty, estimates that Saddam Hussein executed at least 113 individuals in 2003 before the invasion, but that number does not reflect mass murders of large populations.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say they have no accurate estimations of the number of people killed Saddam’s regime. This is partly due to the widespread use of the death penalty in Kurdish and Shia regions of Iraq after the Gulf War in 1991.. There appears to be disagreement between the organisations whether such killings, as well as those carried out through some manner of judicial process, should be counted similarly. Saddam had expanded use of the death penalty in 1994 to cover crimes such as theft, corruption, currency speculation and desertion from the military.

Following the occupation of Baghdad, Gen. Tommy Franks, then-US Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Central Command, suspended the death penalty. It was reinstated in August 2004 by Iraq’s interim government. The hangings in March are believed to be the second executions since Saddam was removed following the U..S.-led invasion in 2003.

Three men were executed in Kut in September 2005, according to an AP report. No further details — including the names of the men, what crimes they were charge with or how they were tried - are available.

Immediately after the March hangings, Amnesty International reiterated its call for a moratorium on executions, and asked the Iraqi government to move towards “full abolition of the death penalty.”

Amnesty officials said reinstatement of the death penalty is partly due “to the continuing spiral of violence in Iraq.” But they added that the death penalty “has never been shown to deter crime more effectively than any other method.”

Iraqis are divided about whether the new government should keep or abolish the death penalty. How they stand depends in part to their personal experience. Baghdad resident Aziz says his father was executed in 1969 because he repeatedly spoke out against the Ba’ath party. Now Aziz continues to oppose the death penalty because he is not convinced the current government is assuring justice is being served, though he conceded that the Koran provides for the death penalty in come cases.

“I hate the death penalty, but I respect Islam’s law, because this law came from our God and our God is always just,” he told IPS. “Islam says we must be sure about any murderer and then we can try him in the Islamic court, and then (the government) can use the death penalty.” But he added that he was not convinced the government has safeguards in place to be totally sure of a crime.

A 28-year-old unemployed Iraqi, Mustafa Rahomi, agreed with Aziz. His uncle, Akram Ahmed was executed in 1984 because he joined the Da’wa party, the current party of now Prime Minister Ibrahim Al’Jaafari.

“Al-Da’wa party was not allowed during Saddam’s time, especially during the Iraq-Iran war because this party was based in Iran at that time,” Rahomi said. “My uncle didn’t join this party and his charge was not true but with that they killed him.”

Like Aziz, he appeared to be conflicted with his religious belief that the Koran allows for the death penalty in some cases and the fact that executions by governments do not always appear to be meted out justly. “The death penalty must be the last way to use, because we can imprison (criminals) for a long time.”

Baghdad teacher Ahmed Ali, spoke out unequivocally against capital punishment. “I’ve lived in Iraq all my life and we haven’t seen any government bring justice to Iraq; especially in Saddam’s government and this government under occupation. Because of that, I say don’t use the death penalty because too many Iraqi people killed before were innocent.”

Moreover, people’s experiences with the Iraq-Iran war brought heightened fears of the death penalty.

“I was a soldier in the Iraqi army during the Iraq-Iran war, I was young and I was afraid of the sound of the bombs,” veteran Hasan said. “I always thought about running away from the army especially when I was on the front, but I couldn’t because of the death penalty. There were Special Forces at the front. Their job was to execute anyone trying to run away from the enemy.”

But, he added, “The people who join the (current) resistance want to die, and they don’t care about the death penalty.”




Violence Driving People Out - 04.12.2006

Brian Conley and Isam Rashid

BAGHDAD, Apr 12 (IPS) - Tens of thousands have fled their homes or the country since the bombing of the Shia shrine in Samarra Feb. 23.

At least 30,000 Iraqis have been displaced from their homes since then, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says.

The IOM, a leading international organisation that works on migration issues closely with United Nations agencies, says the number of fleeing refugees is increasing as more people begin to feel unsettled by the violence. The IOM estimate is in line with that of Iraq’s Ministry of Displacement and Migration.

But this is only an official estimate. Many believe the number is far larger.

Iraqis have been fleeing their country for long. More than a million are believed to have left under the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Under Saddam Iraqis fled the country for economic as well as political reasons. Under the occupation now, the primary cause of migration appears to be a complete breakdown of security.

Iraqis have much to be worried about, from lack of social services such as electricity and clean water, to rampant crime plaguing Baghdad and Iraq as a whole.

So far, wealthy families had been leaving homes and the country more than others. But since the Samarra bombing, many lower income Iraqis have begun to change neighbourhoods. Sunnis and Shias are moving to areas dominated by their own kind.

Iraqis fleeing the country have left mostly for Amman in Jordan. By official estimates, Amman now has more than half a million Iraqi refugees. Unofficial estimates put the number at one to two million.

“During the war we left Baghdad for Amman because there was such heavy bombardment of Baghdad,” 35-year-old Sundus al-Mashdani told IPS. “When the war ended we returned to our house in Baghdad, but we found U.S. troops there, and they refused to leave.” Last year Sundus returned to Amman with her three children.

Baghdad resident Osama Bahnam plans to leave. “I have been thinking about this for the last two years, but now I’m serious because of the killing between Sunni and Shia,” he said. “We can’t sleep at night, we all worry, there’s killing every day, just because he is Sunni or because he is Shia.”

“I have lived in Adhamiya in peace,” Uday Dakhil, a Shia who lives in the Sunni Adhamiya neighbourhood with his Sunni wife told IPS. “I have many friends, and we never asked each other before if we are Sunni or Shia. One week ago my Sunni friends asked me to leave Adhamiya for some days, because they are afraid for me.”

Dakhil spoke of mysterious dangers. “There are many strange groups killing Shia people who live in Adhamiya, and they also do the same in Shia areas, killing Sunnis who live there.”

Ammar Hussein, whose Sunni uncle was shot dead while out shopping in Shula, a predominantly Shia area of Baghdad, says the city is in the hands of militias.

“Many Sunni people get killed in my neighbourhood, just because they are Sunni. Militias are in control of our area, and they work for sectarianism.”

Dakhil says Iran is exerting undue influence over some of the militias and politicians in Iraq. This is a commonly held belief now.

Bahnam sees a game being played out in Iraq between Iran and the United States. “The Iraqi government allows some parties to set up militias, and some of these help Iran to create these tensions between Sunni and Shia,” he said. “They want U.S. troops to be busy in Iraq, because when Iraq becomes quiet, U.S. troops will invade Iran.”

Amidst such tension and violence, many Iraqis still hope that calm will return, and that many who fled the country will come back.

Sundus says Jordan is safe, but her heart is in Iraq. “I hope my country will be safe soon, and all of the Iraqis will come back to Iraq.”

Bahman speaks of his unease at the thought of leaving. “I feel shame when I say I will leave Iraq in this situation, but what can I do? Everyday murder, arrests without reason, people disappear because of kidnapping, and there is no hope to end this problem in the near future.”

Iraqis have begun to feel defenceless. “The U.S. troops allow the militias to carry guns but they didn’t allow us to do that,” Ammar Hussein said. “The occupation is responsible first for the sectarianism, and then the militias.”




A Tale of Two Emails, from Ramadi and Capitol Hill - 04.11.2006

[EDITOR’S NOTE - PLEASE SEE UPDATE AT BOTTOM 2PM PST]

So when I woke up this morning I had two emails of considerable note.

One email came from a friend of a friend, Qasem Aldulaimy(Al’Dulaimi), who is Iraqi. He is apparently from Ramadi and has family there.

The other email came from a friend, who is apparently on John Kerry’s mailing list.

Let’s start with the words from John Kerry:

>Two weeks ago, President Bush said that the timing of complete withdrawal
>from Iraq “…will be decided by future presidents….”1 But this is our
>responsibility now, not the responsibility of future presidents or a future
>Congress.
>
>I believe that American combat troops should come home from Iraq in 2006 -
>not the distant future as President Bush does. Furthermore, I believe we
>must set a May 15th deadline for the Iraqis to form an effective unity
>government. And, if the Iraqi politicians choose to ignore that deadline,
>then I believe things will only get worse and we will have no choice but to
>withdraw immediately.

Apparently the email came last week, when Kerry introduced a resolution to the Senate calling for withdrawal. Demonstrating his own ignorance of the situation and tendency toward Orientalism, later Kerry says,

>President Bush is willing to let American soldiers and their families wait
>endlessly, while risking life and limb, as some Iraqi politicians incite
>sectarianism to grow their personal power and private militias.

>We want democracy in Iraq, but it’s now the job of Iraqis to build it. Our
>troops have performed gallantly and heroically. The best way to keep faith
>with them is to set deadlines for bringing our troops home and getting Iraq
>on its own two feet. That’s the only way to give their sacrifice its best
>chance of resulting in success.

Kerry apparently doesn’t realize what’s happening in Ramadi, or the role of the United States’ in destabilizing Iraq, indirectly aiding and abetting militias, and devastating Iraqi infrastructure and lives.

The individual members of the military, although many of them desperately want to believe they are helping the Iraqi people and have made a long-lasting difference, are part of a larger machine. The military, when it acts cohesively, as an organization, sublimates individual will and has led to repeated atrocities inside Iraq. Some of the latest are detailed in these recent reports:

Report finds U.S. shooting of Reuters soundman unlawful

3 U.S. commanders relieved of duty as Iraqi town mourns its dead

And those are just some of the latest reports. Here are two reports from last year, detailing some of the long term issues that have faced the occupation:

New Accounts of Torture by U.S. Troops

Iraq: Checkpoints Lack Basic Safety Measures

Although the shoot first, questions later doctrine has been repeatedly supported as a “necessary evil” in combatting a “faceless insurgency” the report by TRAG regarding a Reuters cameraman is one of many stories suggesting that this doctrine disguises a more accurate accounting of events in Iraq.

An even better source for an accurate accounting of events in Iraq comes in the words and messages of the Iraqis themselves. Here is Qasem’s email, in its entirety, minus the target email addresses of the dozen or so recipients. His English is broken, so please bear with it:

Date: Apr 11, 2006 3:37 AM
Subject: Help Ramadi people now……peace getting worse

hi all peace friends
I am Qasem from Iraq

at 10/ April 2006 during being in Amman …I got news about my people in Ramadi….I got news that there is big fighting when US troops start military operation ( as usaul ) .
I became sure later that fighting was closed to my house ( almost infront of my family house)…but…. I couldnot contact them at all to make sure if they are ok or not …all telphone lines and mobile had been already destroyed few monthes ago.
I am scared and thinking to go back Iraq to my house now even I cant reaching them I will try strongly…..
what happened to my family ??? what can be happened ??? killed ??? US bombing destroyed and killed my family my nephews ????
I need to see them now I realy need to be with them.
now my mind full with images of destroyed house that could be my house ,killed family could be my family and dead bodies could be my father,mother brothers ,sisters ,nephews ………it is almost middnight now and I can imagine what kind of night terroble darkness they living in with fighting and explosions sounds and house shaking .
I am checking the news that can I knew from the Taxi drivers who arriving to Amman at mid night …..every body came from there saying it is very big fighting and many Hamvees burned and many civilians killed……not clear yet if my family are hurted or not……on tv there is news that 3 US soldiers killed there but as usaul no news about how many Iraqis killed by US troops!!!!
3 soldiers killed it means hard fighting is there…….and alot of civilians killed……..so the hard image about my family is getting bigger.

I cant sleep …………now its 3 oclock after midnight………..I wish that I am sharing my family what they facing now …..living with or dying with them.

I have to ask my peace freinds to notice this hard day of my family & my people that happened many times for them along the last 3 years.

please my friends tell every body you can contact that civilians dying now in iraq and they need your notice for their life and death

thanks for all care that you can make

Qasem Aldulaimy
Iraq / Anbaar / Ramadi

Here are some accounts of the recent fighting in Ramadi, from some of the latest foreign press news sources:

101st Soldier Killed Sunday In Central Iraq


Ramadi Insurgents Develop Clever Tactics

‘Pope Glass’ proves to be a blessing

And apparently this story may actually be what Qasem is referring to, regarding the deaths of three US Soldiers, who may actually be Iraqis:

In other developments, three Iraqi soldiers died Tuesday during a firefight with insurgents in Ramadi that ended when US troops stepped in and imposed a curfew on the western Iraqi city.

There are different fronts in Iraq right now. Much of the violence in Ramadi is likely directed at the United States military and other occupation forces. Inside Baghdad however, sectarian militias have fostered under the watchful eyes of the Bush administration and the State dept. The politicians in Iraq have little connection with the Iraqi people being, by and large, made up of ex-patriates who have spent decades living outside the country.

It is President Bush, and the rest of Capitol Hill’s desire to foment a Western, and not Iraqi-minded government that has led to the sectarian violence which currently precludes the formation of a new government.

Failing to recognize this, Kerry and Bush’s policies both push Iraq towards civil war and continued rebellion, whether it be a full-scale civil war between factions vying for power in a government etablished under occupation-in direct violation of the Geneva IV and Hague 1907 conventions on civilian rights in wartime-or between a puppet government beholden to the United States and what will likely be an expanding resistance movement upon US departure.

Please keep in mind however, I am not advocating that US forces remain indefinitely inside Iraq, but that, rather than supporting an orientalist, isolationist policy such as the one Kerry puts forward, or a neo-liberal agenda for global hegemony such as that of the Bush administration, we call for an immediate handover of governance to an international committee able to demonstrate its dedication to soveriegnty by and for the Iraqi people.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Apparently there were three US soldiers killed in Ramadi in the last few days]




And They Call This Guy a Scholar??!? - 04.10.2006

On the anniversary of the occupation, the Washington Post published an editorial by Caleb Carr, a professor at Bard College. I have to say that today I am ashamed to hold a joint undergraduate degree through Simon’s Rock and Bard Colleges.

Carr’s editorial, titled, “Let Them Have Their Civil War” has to be one of the most reactionary pieces of “Orientalism” I’ve read in recent days concerning Iraq.

Before I tear into Carr, here’s some commentary from Juan Cole:

But Iraq is not like the US in the 1860s. It is an industrialized, modern country floating in modern armaments. A million or more people could die in such a war, and millions be displaced. For another thing, Iraq unlike the US is not a virtual island. It is deeply imbricated in social, religious, political and economic relations among Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Turkey, etc. That is, a civil war in Iraq won’t stay a purely Iraqi affair. If Shiites are massacred and look as though they may lose, Iran will come in on their side. Likewise the Saudis will fund a defense of the Sunni Arabs, and the vast Sunni Arab hinterland gives them strategic depth. And, a Kurdish massacre of Turkmen, if that happened in Kirkuk, would certainly bring in the Turkish government.

Not only would an Iraq civil war not stay in Iraq, it would not leave the world unscathed. A regional guerrilla war with pipeline sabotage could take 15% of the world petroleum production off the market. If you don’t know that the total production is 85-86 million barrels a day, and don’t know what Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait produce and export of that, you shouldn’t be prescribing civil war in the region.

Carr begins his piece a tthe misleading entrance:

Does the United States have any right to forcibly stop such a war, when and if it begins?

Before I go on, let’s be clear. Entering the debate at this point ignores the far more fundamental question, “Did the United States have the right to forcibly eject Saddam in what was apparently a war of aggression?” or “Did the United States have the right to establish a Vichy-style twenty-five member governing council during its occupation of Iraq?” or lastly, “Did the United States have the right to foment sectarian and ethnic tensions because it was in such a rush to establish a “democracy” that it failed to adequately navigate the delicate ethno-sectarian balance of Iraqi politics?”

Against that framework, I’d like to analyze Carr, who clearly ignores that framework, apparently in favor of believing that we should accept “the current reality” and that somehow the steps leading to the current reality in Iraq are completely divorced from the current situation.

Carr suggests that an important element for rallying support from outside forces can often include “some high motivating moral principle.” Apparently Carr doesn’t feel that resistance to an occupation borne of a “war of aggression” accounts for this. I guess he should explain to the rebels of the French Resistance that, had it not been for other un-defined occurrences in WWII, we had no “moral principle” for helping them fight the Nazi occupation. Perhaps Carr should tell that to the framers of the Geneva IV Convention, set up to further define the rights of civilians under occupation in war, feeling that the Hague Convention of 1907 was no longer enough protection.

According to Carr,

one of the insurgency’s glaring deficiencies has always been its lack of a coherent ideological rallying point for all Iraqis. Its aim, by contrast, has been simple: the return to power of the Sunni Muslim minority that held sway under Saddam Hussein, or, failing that, the kind of endless anarchy that will make any other government’s rule impossible.

Apparently Carr is not particularly educated about the specifics of the resistance vs. the insurgency in Iraq. First and foremost, he needs to understand that there was not a “Sunni Muslim minority that held sway under Saddam Hussein” there was a party establishment that held sway, some members of which were Shi’a, and many of whom were Sunni. Certainly there are well known to have been many Sunnis oppressed by Saddam also.

Furthermore, if Carr is suggesting that the “insurgency” is only intending to defend the Ba’ath Regime in Iraq, then he should properly label them as a representative of the remnants of Saddam’s army, and thus the legitimate combatants against the United States’ invasion of Iraq.

Were Carr to make this distinction, he would be presenting the type of nuanced understanding of Iraq that he clearly lacks. He further demonstrates his ignorance of Iraq in the latter half of the very same paragraph:

Although an Iraqi National Assembly and executive branch have been created and elected, the assembly has met only once and briefly, and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari is widely viewed as ineffectual and corrupt.

While this is a minor point, and perhaps Carr’s letter was submitted after the fact, the parliament met for its third time on the day his letter was published. The result of ignoring the United State’s role in creating divisiveness between Iraq’s government factions becomes deadly apparent as Carr continues.

Thus, all the courage that went into organizing and carrying out Iraqi elections would seem to have produced a government unworthy of the sacrifices made to bring it into being. The resulting frustration is clear in the words and increasingly deadly actions of many Iraqis who appear to be giving up on a political solution to their country’s problems. This means mainly the once-persecuted Shiites (who are showing dangerous signs of splintering into fighting sub-factions) and Kurds.

These “deadly actions” are being carried out by individuals directly supplied by the US and its allies. The Shi’a “militias,” particularly the Badr Organization, are directly tied to the SCIRI and Badr parties in the United Iraqi Alliance. Thus, you can only be confused about the nature of “their civil war” if, like Carr, you are confused about who has supplied and supported the rise to power of the political parties backed by these militias.

Furthermore, given Carr’s apparent belief that the “insurgents” consist entirely of remnants of Saddam’s regime, then the reason that

The insurgents do not want their people seduced into participating in the new Iraq,

is obvious: they don’t believe there IS a legitimate “new Iraq.”

At this point Carr diverges into a discussion of his own opinion of the specifics of America’s Civil War, but before that, he askes a question that demonstrates ignorance in epic proportions:

Are we morally justified in trying to prevent it?

Obviously whether or not we are “morally justified” to prevent it, should be considered in direct proportions with our responsibility for causing it. This does not mean that US soldiers need to be the “boots on the ground” for establishing the kind of rapprochement between Iraq’s diverse communities that was established for a short time between Iraq and its neighbor Iran. It does mean that the United States should consider itself immediately responsible for fostering a solution, however that might be found.

Lastly, Carr alleges that the US is keeping the Shi’a and Kurdish forces at bay, and failing to prevent Sunni violence. This appears dangerously out of touch when one considers that, while violence is still apparent in Sunni areas, even Ambassador Khalilzad admits that the violence of our allies, Shi’as and Kurds is now outstripping that of either the Resistance or Insurgency.




April 9th is the Important Anniversary, Someone Tell the Anti-War Movement and the Press - 04.09.2006

April 9th 2003 is the day credited as the anniversary of the “fall of Baghdad.” Although the recent invasion of Iraq began in March, its important to have a historical context for the war.

The United States first attacked Iraq in 1991, in what is commonly referred to by the Foreign Press as the “Gulf War.” In the Arab world this is considered the second Gulf War, the first being the eight year conflict between Iraq and Iran.

After the supposed completion of the Gulf War, the United States pushed the Sanctions Regime on Iraq, along with continuing to bomb Iraq, regularly, sometimes on a daily or near-daily basis, including a hundred-hour long strike under Clinton in 1998. These sanctions combined with destruction of infrastructure via bombing runs devastated Iraq’s infrastructure and is believed to be the direct cause of half a million child deaths over the twelve years of sanctions.

Given the near-constant military assault on Iraq since 1991, its easy to understand how April 9th, rather than March 20th, might be a more present anniversary in the mind of Iraqis.

Given the prevalence of this anniversary for Iraqis, its difficult to understand why the anti-war movement has been incapable of recognizing the importance of the April 9th anniversary.

Even Antiwar.com, long-considered one of the premier mouthpieces and clearinghouses for news about US-sponsored war efforts, at the time of this writing, has no piece today marking the anniversary of the occupation. This disregard may also indicate a major reason for the failure of any Iraq Solidarity Movement to gain traction.

The foreign press have also, by and large, failed to relate the Iraqi perception of April 9th.

A handful of publications have alluded to the idea of an “occupation” in the minds of Iraqis, here are a few:

The Daily Telegraph

CNN

KSBI-TV (Who ran one of CNN’s stories)

CNN and KSBI-TV both depended heavily on this story from the AP:

More Violence Marks Holiday in Iraq

Vanessa Arrington’s story for the AP has been reprinted in literally dozens of outlets all over the world and particularly in the United States.

Her story essentially ignores the impression of occupation held in the minds of many Iraqis, although she quotes the Iraqi Islamic Party,

The “Freedom Day” holiday appeared to draw little public attention. The Iraqi Islamic Party, a the biggest Sunni party, issued a statement rejecting the day, saying it was “an anniversary of occupying Iraq, not liberating it.”

I would argue this serves to marginalize the opinion, by equating it with the Sunni mindset, which has been continuously marginalized in the press as a “minority viewpoint.”

Here is a sampling of other articles which ignore the concept of “occupation” in their coverage of Iraq on this anniversary:

British Broadcasting Corp

Reuters

Financial Times

Agence France Presse

Although this article in the Indian journal, Deepika, appears to be more cynical regarding the United States’ project in Iraq, it also fails to use the word “occupation.”

Perhaps the results of this study should come as no surprise. It appears only the Arab press overwhelming utilized the phrase “occupation” to describe the anniversary:

Al’Manar Television


Syrian Arab News Agency

There is also this piece in the Turkish Zaman Daily:

Zaman
‘Too Late to Invest in Turkey for Those Hesitant’

Perhaps most tellingly, this is not even an article specifically about Iraq, but is in fact about the Turkish company, Cola Turka. Zaman uses the occupation of Baghdad as a historical reference for discussing the entrance of Cola Turka into the Turkish market.

The use of the occupation of Iraq in general vernacular, to provide insight to the timing of another important event, is far more telling than any of the above articles.

Just as everyone in the United States knows the day we declared our independence from Britain, and many can recall the dates of Pearl Harbor, or JFK or Martin Luther King’s assassinations, the dates of the occupation of Iraq in 2003 or Palestine in 1948, have taken on a sginificance in the Muslim/Arab mind that transcends history and place.

Finally, to as a counter to Zaman’s usage of the word “occupation,” I’ll leave you with today’s statement from Zalmay Khalilzad and General George Casey about the anniversary of “Freedom Day.” I’ve bolded the parts I think will be of most interest to my friends in Iraq:

Iraqi Freedom Day is a time to reflect on what has happened and what still needs to happen. Despite much progress, much work remains. We must continue to help Iraqis create a strong, stable and successful new democracy. The Iraqi people and their elected representatives must choose a competent government that will develop a program for Iraq that benefits all Iraqis. The legitimate security forces must quell sectarian violence.

Population centers must be secure
to allow Iraq’s new institutions to take root and businesses to flourish. Finally, the people must be able to trust their leadership and the institutions of the state.

Through it all, the United States and its coalition partners will remain steadfast partners and encourage progress. In the end, Iraq will succeed. Its success will help transform the wider Middle East and give even greater meaning to Iraqi Freedom Day.

I believe each of these bold sections will be the pieces that play most to the Iraqi people. By play, I mean ring most true to their perception of the United States’ real intentions in Iraq.

What has happened, is the systematic deconstruction of the Iraqi state.

Much work remains, yet rebuilding time is running out.

Population centers will be secured by the American bases

These bases are being constructed throughout the heart of the country. The locations of the American bases coincide more closely with Iraq’s major population centers than the locations of its oilfields.

The United States will remain,

Many Iraqis suspect the United States intends to remain in the Middle East indefinitely, whether to maintain its preeminence through global hegemony, or to destroy Muslim culture while

success will help transform the wider Middle East




Religious Parties Running Iraq’s Government? -

It’s taken a little while, but I’m getting back to analyzing my friend Ali’s 5 point plan for withdrawal.

Previously I discussed the need for removing sectarianism and ethnic division from Iraq’s security forces, a paramount need if Iraq is to pull together as a united country.

Part 2 of Ali Al’Kaissi’s plan involves the impact of religious parties in the government.

2. Stopping the religious parties from being inside the government.

Currently, the United Iraqi Alliance is the major power broker in Iraq’s nascent government. They possess ____ seats and thus are the majority party in the government. However, they do not have enough seats by themselves to elect a prime minister and move Iraq’s new parliament forward.

In the current government there are religious figures sitting in parliament seats alongside secular ministers. Prominent figures in Iraq’s religious community began to exert influence early in the occupation. Juan Cole was writing about the impact of religious parties in Iraq as early as late April 2003. In this article from Middle East Report Online Juan says:

Religious Shiite parties and militias in Iraq have recently stepped into the gap resulting from the collapse of the Baath Party, especially in the sacred shrine cities. This development must have come as a shock to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who in early March preferred Iraqis as US allies to Saudis, saying that they are secular and “overwhelmingly Shia, which is different from the Wahhabis of the peninsula, and they don’t bring the sensitivity of having the holy cities of Islam being on their territory.” Wolfowitz and other pro-war policymakers were right that large numbers of Shiites, from the educated middle class to factory workers, are secular Iraqi nationalists. But they were dead wrong to discount the power of the religious forces, and seem ignorant of the centrality of the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala.

Despite the large presence of secularism inside Iraq, on both sides of the Shi’i/Sunni split, politicians backed by religious mandates are increasingly filling positions of power in the new Iraq. Many of these politicians, in particular the high-ups from SCIRI and Badr, are seen to have direct ties to Iran.

Furthermore, as Reidar Visser writes on his website, Historiae.org, which focuses mainly on in-depth analysis of Shi’a movements in Iraq:

It is often claimed that the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is the most important person in Iraqi politics today. But there is less agreement on exactly what kind of political ideology the ayatollah stands for. Two dominant paradigms for understanding Sistani are explored in this paper: is he a “quietist” or is he a Machiavellian prince? The discussion also covers Sistani’s stand on contentious issues like sectarianism, federalism, the implementation of the Sharia Islamic law in an Islamic state, and the Khomeini-inspired principle of wilayat al-faqih (“the rule of the jurisprudent”).

This question of religious parties influencing Iraqi politics is of course directly tied to the previous point in Ali’s withdrawal plan. There are sectarian security forces primarily as defenders of these religion-oriented political entities.

Again from Juan Cole’s article in Middle East Report:

The US warned Iran not to allow Badr Brigade forces into Iraq during the US invasion. Al-Hakim maintains that they slipped into the country even so. As of April 17, Badr Brigade gunmen controlled the town of Baquba (pop. 163,000) near the Iranian border, and a Badr Brigade force allowed SCIRI cleric Sayyid Abbas to occupy the mayor’s mansion in Kut (pop. 360,000).

and also:

According to the Daily Telegraph’s correspondent, “Mr. Abbas voiced what are quickly becoming the standard demands: an Islamic, Shia-dominated state for Iraq, and an end to American occupation.”

Abd al-Aziz al-Hakim, deputy head of SCIRI, returned to Iraq on April 16, arriving at Kut to cheers, presumably preparing the way for his older brother to do the same. In a press interview, the younger al-Hakim pledged that SCIRI would work together with other parties in the new Iraq. In Kut on April 18, he gave an interview with Iranian television in which he said, “we will first opt for a national political system, but eventually the Iraqi people will seek an Islamic republic system.” He added that the will of Shiites for an Islamic system would prevail in democratic elections, since they are 60 percent of the population.

One of the major issues regarding Hakim’s assertion about the elections stems from a fundamental misunderstanding in the press regarding Iraqi politics. Sixty percent of Iraq’s citizenry may well stem from Shi’ite religious and familial backgrounds, but just like there are plenty of Catholics in the United States whose actions rarely reflect the edicts of the Pope, Iraqi Shi’as also exist widely in a secular vein.

The ignorance of the foreign press with regard to the nuances of Iraqi life, both politically and in terms of religion, paved the way for Shi’a dominance in Iraq. These leaders, without an alternate narrative, constructed Iraqi political identity directly in conjunction with religious sect.

According to Iraqi Parliamentarian Maysoon Al’Damluji, who was interviewed by the Austin American-Statesman:

Damluji, 44, faces a tide of religious fundamentalism and tribalism surging throughout Iraq. She said it goes hand-in-hand with the lawlessness since the fall of the Saddam three years ago.

“It will fade with law and order,” she said. “Unfortunately when any country gets to the situation we are in now, the government has no authority and laws are extremely weak, it is the extremists who take over the public domain.”

Damluji claims the foreign press fails to recognize Iraq’s liberal and secular mainstream.

The influence of Iran, particularly through its clerical infrastructure and Ayatollah Khomeini is believed by many Iraqis to be very strong, and rather than dedicated to a sovereign Iraqi identity, is intent on exporting Iran’s Islamic Revolution and exerting its hegemonic influence over Iraq.

Because of all these issues, many Iraqis see the role of religious parties as to dangerous to Iraq’s sovereignty and national unity. The removal of these parties from the government would be as simple, and as difficult, as re-authoring the Iraqi constitution. Furthermore, words from Ayatollah Ali Sistani, forbidding the presence of clerics in the political establishment would make strong steps towards ending the overt influence of the religious establishment.

Without putting forward an Iraqi government where Iraqis make decisions on the nations’ direction, based on an Iraqi character and democratic decisions, it seems unlikely that any withdrawal could secure a democratic peaceful Iraq.




Which “Enemy” Does Bush Mean? Iran Seems Ever More Likely… - 04.07.2006

President Bush today reiterated his resolve to remain in Iraq, if necessary. According to the AFP, he also agreed to increase the troop presence inside Iraq, if America’s commanders there saw fit to do so.

According to the AFP:

“If he says he needs more troops, he’ll get them. And if he says he can live with fewer troops because the Iraqis are prepared to take the fight, that’s the way it’s going to be,” Bush said.

The US president said he understood and even welcomed debate on whether US troops should be pulled out of Iraq.

Yet “during the Vietnam War there was a lot of politicization of the military decisions. That’s not going to be the case under my administration,” Bush insisted.

A premature pullout “would be a huge mistake,” he said, arguing that “would embolden the enemy,” Bush said.

“”Pulling out before the mission is complete would send a terrible signal to the United States military,” he added.

This news, combined with the Marines recent assurance that,

“To our own surprise, we are able to sustain this tempo, we think, probably indefinitely,” Magnus told reporters. “We can sustain 20-25,000 in Iraq indefinitely,” he added.

leads me to begin wondering, just who the “enemy” Bush is worried about “emboldening” may be.

Furthermore, the ongoing and increasing rhetoric against Iran’s influence in Iraq is also alarming. According to a statement from US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad late last month,

Iran is publicly professing its support for Iraq’s stalemated political process while its military and intelligence services back outlawed militias and insurgent groups.

Also, President Bush and Defense Secretary Donal Rumsfeld have both alleged that Iran is secretly supplying groups in Iraq with materials for producing improvised-explosive-devices or IEDs. When these statements were released, the press jumped to the quick, and ignorant, conclusion that President Bush and the Defense Secretary were suggesting Iran is supplying Iraq’s intransigent Resistance and Insurgency forces.

This is a laughable contention and, more than anything, typifies the extreme lack of insight much of the press have regarding the political history between Iraq and Iran. Although it is not unknown for Iran to support Sunni groups(there are rumors that they are offering to match whatever aid western nations withdraw from the new Hamas-led Palestinian government), as well as historically engaged in policies reflective of the “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” doctine, there is a long history, tracing back well over five hundred years to wars between the Persian Empire and various empires who have controlled the area of Iraq, ranging from the Abbasids to the Ottomans.

What is conceivable, and runs directly in line with the increasing rhetoric against Iran’s influence in Iraq, is that the Bush administration believes, or perhaps has evidence, that Iran has been engaged in causing or supporting black ops inside Iraq. Many of the worst terrorist attacks during the occupation have never been claimed.

The press, continuing to show their unwillingness or incapability of fully investigating the news, have continuously reprinted the statements of officials of the Iraqi government, who continuously accuse Al Qaeda for various attacks. Yet the press fail to seek the empirical evidence to support such claims while simultaneously failing to mention there is apparently no evidence for the claims.

One of the most recent examples is the Samarra shrine bombing, for which no one has yet claimed responsibility, is blamed on Al Qaeda by virtually every government official or expert, in the face of a total lack of empirical evidence.

The only evidence presented was that by the Agence France Presse through an interview with Jassem Mohammed Jaafar,

Construction Minister Jassem Mohammed Jaafar said Friday, adding that the placing of the explosives must have taken at least 12 hours.

“According to initial reports, the bombing was technically well conceived and could only have been carried out by specialists,”

“holes were dug into the mausoleum’s four main pillars and packed with explosives.”

“Then the charges were connected together and linked to another charge placed just under the dome. The wires were then linked to a detonator which was triggered at a distance,”

The Needlenose blog has some interesting discussion about the bombing, with a particularly intriguing version of the story about Atwaar Bahjat.

I would not go so far as to suggest that Iran was directly complicit in this bombing or other unclaimed bombings of mosques and other areas. However, according to the good ambassador Khalilzad,

“Our judgment is that training and supplying, direct or indirect, takes place, and that there is also provision of financial resources to people, to militias, and that there is presence of people associated with Revolutionary Guard and with MOIS,” the Afghan-born Khalilzad said, referring to Iran’s main military force and its Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

Let’s not forget, the Revolutionary Guard trained the members of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, in order to export Iran’s Islamic Revolution to its neighbor Iraq. Furthermore they trained and equipped the Badr Militia as the armed wing of SCIRI’s revolution exporting efforts.

This same militia was provided carte blanche over security in southern Iraq by the British forces after the invasion, as detailed here in the Times Online:

Following the end of the conflict in Iraq, the Coalition Provision Authority sought to reintegrate militia members into civil society,” Mr Reid said. “This process included members of the Badr organisation, formerly known as the Badr Corps, among others.

Furthermore:

Sunnis have accused the Badr organisation of torturing prisoners, a claim rejected by the Shia-dominated Government.

Finally, an article published on the 5th by ADN Kronos International-an Italian news agency-alleges:

Shiite sources in Baghdad say the men are all on the payroll of the Iranian intelligence services. They note that the six broke ranks with their own faction in the recent leadership vote, and voted against Adel Abdel Mahdi, the designated candidate of SCIRI. This allowed the one-vote victory of Jaafari as prime ministerial candidate.

They also endeavor to explain something of the background of Iraq’s militia:

Nourizadeh, in Baghdad to follow negotiations between Tehran and Washington over the protacted Iraqi crisis, due to start Saturday, recalls that all six deputies accused of working for Iranian intelligence have in the past been part of the al-Badr militias.

Armed Shiite militias were born in Iran in the mid 1990s and are condisdered a brainchild of the Pasdaran or Revolutionary Guards.

These militias crossed the border into Iraq some months after Saddam Hussein was toppled and have made no secret of their ties to Iran which for years was responsible for their training.

Taken separately, all of these elements could be misunderstood or looked at from a seemingly coincidental angle. Taken together, I feel it almost certainly suggests that the President’s statements are not always what they seem.

The next time President Bush suggests that a premature pullout “would be a huge mistake,” and “would embolden the enemy,” consider the possibility that the assumption by the press and most experts that he means Al Qaeda and Iraq’s intransigent Resistance, is not necessarily the proper conclusion.

Iran remembers well the eight years of insult and injury during its war through the eighties, and quite likely remembers as well the hundreds of years of conflict with its neighbor Iraq.




Aquitted Journalist Apparently Still Detained in Iraq - 04.06.2006

[Editor’s Note: I’m traveling today, so this post will be short. I’ll try and continue my analysis of Ali’s withdrawal plan later this evening, I’ll be in Seattle on the West Coast, so anyone not out there should look for that post fairly late or tomorrow morning.]

Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, who I’ve mentioned previously, is an Iraqi camera operator who works for CBS News.

He was arrested on April 5, 2005 after, according to the CBS News Agency’s website:

The U.S. military alleged that Hussein was standing near a man waving a gun and inciting the crowd after the bombing — a man that troops killed at the site. Hussein denied that he was with anyone who had a gun.

Hussein himself claims:

“All the time they were cursing me, and calling me a terrorist, I kept saying, I’m not a terrorist, I’m a correspondent.”

Despite this, Hussein was detained by Coalition Forces and had been detained by them until his trial yesterday. He was apparently formally charged, however those charges were not clarified publicly until his trial.

After a brief trial yesterday in Baghdad, he was acquitted due to lack of evidence. This is clearly a victory for press freedom in Iraq, however it must be noted against the backdrop of a continuing and alarming trend.

As I’ve noted here previously, numerous journalists and media workers have been detained by the Coalition since the invasion began in March 2003. The accurate numbers are difficult to find regarding journalists in detention.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, when Hussein is released it will mark the release of the last journalist known to be held by Coalition Forces.

Contradicting this statement, I was informed on April 4th by a military spokesperson that 3 known journalists were detained in what were referred to as “Coalition Theatre Internment Facilities.”

[Editor’s Note: I’m working on a longer article highlighting recent developments for journalists in Iraq, so look for more details about this soon]

As the comment came on April 4th, this certainly could include Younis Hussein, however I believe he was in Iraqi custody at that time. Also this may include facilities outside Iraq, whereas the CPJ’s statement appeared to refer specifically to Iraq.

For example, there is still an Al Jazeera correspondent, Sami al Hajj, held in Guantanamo Bay.

At the time of this writing, there have been no reports of Younis Hussein being released on his own recognizance, after the trial he was apparently released into the custody of Coalition Forces, and is pending their approval for his release.

This is appears to be in direct violation of the Iraqi Constitution:

Article 21:
First: No Iraqi shall be surrendered to foreign entities and authorities.

However, as I’ve stressed numerous times, the current Iraqi government barely holds itself together, and has taken few pains to act in concert with its constitution, except where it benefits the elites. Kurdistan is a great example of this, through their interpretation of the constitution’s articles detailing federalism. They have taken this section as license to move forward with sales of rights to new oil prospects in Kurdish territory.

And of course, the various militias engaging in torture and secret prisons to advance their own interests is another glaring violation

The news isn’t all bad. For anyone who hasn’t yet heard, in another abrupt turn of events, Kamal Sayyid Qadir was released from Kurdish prison, after the courts, bending to international pressure, again reconsidered his case.

But just in case you thought press freedom was suddenly breaking out all over Iraq, don’t miss this piece of news from the Younis Hussein’s trial:

After Hussein was cleared by an Iraqi court, guards stated at the courthouse threatened journalists covering the trial, with one guard reportedly shooting a gun into the air, then pointing it at a camera before the journalists scattered.




Media Analysis 3 - Deconstructing News Coverage of the “Civil War” - 04.04.2006

Yesterday the New York Times ran this article, regarding the increase in gun sales in Iraq:

Sectarian Strife Fuels Gun Sales in Baghdad

Some of the recent arguments for the ongoing or looming civil war have focused on the increase in gun prices and the fluidity of gun transfers, from smugglers, shops, and the government.

In the opening of this article, Jeffrey Gettleman describes the situation, and sets the scene for his conclusion, that the Samarra shrine bombing has directly resulted in the free flow of weapons in Iraq, exhibiting the presence of a civil war:

With chipped, painted fingernails, Nahrawan al-Janabi picked up a cartridge and slid it into the chamber.

“Like this,” she said, loading her new Glock pistol with a loud, satisfying click. “You see, like this.”, why do they need militias

In this article, Charles Levinson alleges the costs of all guns have risen:

Weapons prices have skyrocketed. A used Kalashnikov that sold for $100 before the Samarra bombing now sells for $150. The price for a 9mm Browning handgun has gone up from $800 to $1,200.

Back to the article from the Times however, the Iraqis showcased in this article all appear to be from a higher social class, a journalist, a bookseller, and a gunseller. The only voice not of the wealthier, apparently middle class Iraqis, is an identified member of the Mahdi Army. It’s obvious he received his weapon from the militia.

The presence of the militias time and again appears to be the telling issue in the gun trade and the high presence of guns in Iraqi society and on the streets. This piece of Mr. Gettleman’s article appears to be a small glimmer of truth amidst the misleading, prescribed narrative of the foreign press:

But the reality is that Iraqi politicians have been reluctant to disband militias or to disarm the populace. The Shiite leaders who control the government rely on militias to stay in power. And guns have become so embedded in Iraqi life that they are now as ubiquitous as palm trees.

Again, the evidence of the role of militias in fomenting a civil war. “The Shiite leaders who control the government rely on militias to stay in power.” Is anyone else out there as surprised by this statement as I am? If Iraq has a democratically elected government, supported by the majority of Iraq since, as we’ve heard repeated constantly by the media, Shiites are the majority of Iraq, why do they need militias to remain in power?

Either,

A. The respective resistance and insurgent movements in Iraq are far more intransigent than it at first appeared.

B. The “Shi’a majority” is not a monolithic group whose religious identity is their defining character.

C. The elites currently running Iraq, as wealthy intellectual expatriates who’ve lived outside Iraq for decades, do not represent any major constituency on the ground in Iraq, and must utilize the creation of political identity along sectarian lines to remain in power.

Gettleman, like many of the foreign correspondents now in Baghdad, contends that:

But the destruction of Askariya Shrine in Samarra in February uncorked a different kind of bloodshed and a different kind of fear, ratcheting the personal arms race even higher. Mobs of mostly Shiite men killed Sunni civilians. Some Sunnis fought back, killing Shiites.

However Martin Shieff at the World Peace Herald suggested a different perspective:

The trigger for the current eruption of violence was the bombing of the historic Golden Mosque in Samara on Feb. 22, apparently by Sunni insurgents. But the real underlying cause of the massive Shiite retaliation was the outcome and consequences of the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections that the Bush administration and its media supporters had for so long predicted would take the fight out of the Sunni insurgency.

Instead it did precisely the opposite: It propelled the most militant, Iranian-backed Shiite political groups and their powerful militia forces into the cockpit of power in Baghdad.

This is the very issue I am trying to explain to my readers. Political power and wrangling, under occupation, not liberation, is the major cause of the current situation in Iraq. Furthermore, the establishment of militias has a far greater influence on security and instability than the purchasing of guns by those who are likely only a small percentage of the Iraqi nation, given the crushing poverty most Iraqis are now experiencing.

One final comment, Martin Shieff suggests:

They[ the Sunni Resistance] have not yet fully achieved that goal, but the emerging conflict between Jaafari and other Shiite political leaders backed by the United States and Britain who are now seeking to oust him shows that they have certainly come far further towards achieving that goal than anyone dreamed was possible six weeks ago.

Unfortunately I have to disagree with Shieff on this point. I feel that the meddling of the United States and the desire for a “national unity government” which is western-minded and supports the neoliberal agenda of the Bush administration is the main cause for the instability in Iraq. The Multinational Forces might have prevented much of the violence in Iraq simply by supporting Iraq for Iraqis and allowing the Iraqi Army to establish security in Iraq, while keeping the oil fields and other resources nationalized.

This would not have led to a democratic Iraq, but then again, is Iraq really democratic right now?




End Sectarianism and Ethnic Division in Iraq’s Security? - 04.03.2006

Yesterday I posted Ali Shalal Abbas Al’Kaissi’s proposal for ending the occupation and minimizing the chances for civil war in Iraq. I’m going to provide an analysis based on my own perspective and experiences in Iraq, and I will take one piece at a time, to provide a detailed discussion, without being too excessively long winded.

I’ll add some links to this post later to further bolster my assertions.

1. The men who will be in charge of the security of Iraq must not be sectarian or ethnic in focus.

When thinking about this point from Ali’s proposal, readers should consider that the current structure of the security is such that sectarianism and ethnic divides are the determinant for membership in the security apparatus.

Although there are some exceptions, the very framework established by the Coalition Provisonal Authority and the occupation bureaucrats that remain virtually assured these divisions would occur.

The Ministry of the Interior is controlled by the Badr Militia, which now bears the slightly less confrontational title, “Badr Organization.” The Badr Militia is the armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, initially founded by Tehran to export Iran’s Islamic Revolution to its neighbor, Iraq. Being the armed wing of the Council, Badr’s initial focus was to provide protection and enforcement of the Council’s goals.

As well as being in control of the Ministry of the Interior, Badr Militia loyalists now fill many positions within the Iraqi National Guard, and are the controlling force.

The other major branch of security forces, the Iraqi police (who are separate from the traffic police), focus on providing security at the local level, however they rarely deal with domestic issues. More often than not the police are employed at cleanup and responding to car bombs and other improvised-explosive-devices (IEDs). The Mahdi Army essentially controls large swaths of the Iraqi police, who are loyal to Muqtada Al’Sadr

While their loyalty is to Muqtada Al’Sadr and the Sadrist movement founded by his father, it is Muqtada’s lieutenants who seem to direct their actions. The Iraqi police currently receive their orders from Sadr City and Muqtada’s office in Najaf, rather than from the “Iraqi government” located behind the barricades and blast walls securing the Green Zone.

By focusing their post-invasion plan on the “Shi’a majority” the United States greatly underestimated the diversity of Iraq. Shi’a and Sunna are sects of Islam, but the clear divisions highlighted constantly by the clergy of both sects had a much greyer understanding when the first US military boots touched Iraqi soil in 2003.

Now, because of the divisions of Iraq, Shi’is and Sunnis recognize their newfound political identity. Prior to the war politics were the purview of Baathists and activists. The majority of focused more on their families and day-to-day life rather than being engaged in the political life. Sunnis and Shi’is intermarried, as did Kurds and Arabs, as well as Turkomans, Assyrians, and Iraq’s other indigenous groups.

Even the Kurds, seen as the moderate democratic force in Iraqi politics have turned to sectarianism and ethnic divisions to protect themselves. Rather than calling on the establishment of security forces that are ethnically and religiously diverse, to reflect the character of Iraqi society, Kurds have turned inward. In Kurdistan the military and police are dominated by Kurdish peshmerga militia.

Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan area, has already proclaimed the right and intention of the Kurdish people to secede and establish secure borders at the moment when Iraq is fully engaged in a civil war.

Massoud Barzani is a questionable character and his arrogance has resulted in a new element of corruption being recognized in Kurdistan. Kamal Sayyid Qadir, a Kurdish-Austrian journalist, was sentenced last week to one and half years in prison for reporting on Barzani’s alleged corruption.

One of the earliest mistakes of the CPA was to disband the Iraqi army with Order no. 2 The Dissolution of Entities, but I’ll discuss this later, when addressing Ali’s fourth point.

However, were the new Iraqi government to have the authority of a sovereign state, rather than continuing to be subservient to the occupation’s wishes, real change may be possible. As Jalal Talabani admitted in November of last year, ” “I categorically refuse the use of Iraqi soil to launch a military strike against Syria or any other Arab country . . . “But at the end of the day my ability to confront the US military is limited and I cannot impose on them my will.”

When the security forces are no longer seen as puppets of the occupation, Iraqi politicians will be free to demand non-sectarian security, and being forced to depend on each other, this sectarianism will likely cease. Currently however, the United States is fanning the flames of this sectarianism by providing support to the Shi’a parties behind most of the “sectarian killings” right now happening in Iraq.

These killings have now become the primary killer in Iraq, more than improvised explosives. Only the security forces have the resources, support, and freedom of movement to cause such a drastic change in the focus of deaths in Iraq.

Those outside Iraq should recognize this drastic change and understand that as the United States strengthens the Shi’a governing bodies, many of whom have repeatedly demonstrated loyalties only to their own interests or to those of Iran, the worse the abuses by the security apparatus will become.




An Iraqi Plan for Withdrawal - 04.02.2006

I was speaking with an Iraqi friend of mine today. Ali Shalal Abbas is currently in Amman, where he is working with the Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons.

The Association was initially formed after the Abu Ghraib scandal, but now works for the rights of all detainees and people hurt by the invasion of Iraq.

This is the Association’s statment about itself:

A HUMANITARIAN ASSOCIATIONv NOT FOR PROFITS.v NOT SECTARIAN.v NOT ETHNIC.v DEFEND HUMAN RIGHTS, DETAINEES, PRISONERS, WHO ARE ACUSED IN RESISTING THE OCCUPATION, DEMANDING FOR RELEASING AND FOR THE MORAL AND FINANCIAL COMPENSATING DUE TO THE VIOLATION THEY FACED AND EXPOSING THE NON – HUMAN ACTIONS HAPPENED AGAINST THEM.v TAKING CARE OF THE DETAINEES, PRISONERS AND WHO ARE ACCUSED OF RESISTING THE OCCUPATION FAMILIES AS MUCH AS WE CAN.

Something which I am constantly asked in my presentations is, “what should be done abotu the situation in Iraq?”

Now, for sure I am not confident what the answer is for this question, but I am always looking for solutions.

Haj Ali related a proposal for calming the situation in Iraq through another Iraqi friend, Mustafa, who translated for me, so I apologize for any stilted grammar. He seems to have some very interesting insight and a good plan to consider:

1. The men who will be in charge of the security of Iraq must not be sectarian or ethnic in focus.
2. Stopping the religious parties from being inside the government.
3. There must be an international body like the United Nations to build the new security system and apply the rule of law.
4. Allow all members of the old Iraqi Army to return.
5. Release all prisoners and detainees and compensate them.

I hope my readers will think about these suggestions, direct from an Iraqi familiar with the issues at play inside his country. Please comment on them and respond with your own feelings. I will try to provide some more insight and commentary on the specific pieces soon, to make it clear why some of these principles are not as far-fetched as they may first appear.




The Sadness of Friends in War Zones -

I want to write a short piece about my continuing concern for my friends and colleagues inside Iraq.

The release of Jill Carroll this week by her captors has been greeted with great fanfare and relief by media outlets all over the world.

Unfortunately I fear this may result in distracting the media from current issues facing journalists in Iraq. This week one journalist who has been held for nearly a year by the United States will begin trial, while, in Kurdistan, a Kurdish-Austrian journalist has recently begun his sentence, commuted from thirty years to one and one half years, for defaming Massoud Barzani.

On my own end, I continue to worry each day about my friends in Iraq, each day I have not heard from them, I worry they may have been one of the senseless victims of today’s carbombings or US and Iraqi government assaults.

I received this in an email recently from one colleague of mine in Iraq, I am withholding his name out of respect for his family, and due to the very real possibility that he will receive retribution of some kind:

the situation in Iraq became very very dangerous now and my friend he is Iraqi journalist try to leave Iraq and i told him i will never leave my job because my job now became very important for all Iraqi more than before ,and i hope i can keep my life safty as long as i can

While I was in Iraq, my fixer Omar had three friends or friends’ family members shot or killed. Since that time the violence has only expanded, and I myself have lost a friend to the war.

With Tom Fox’ death I was forced to reassess the situation in Iraq and rethink my own position on the war and whether or not to return.

Now, with Iraq’s electricity grid, social services, and security still in disarray, I worry each day about the position my friends in Iraq find themselves in, and yet still I hope to be with them.

Now more than ever the role of Alive in Baghdad to provide cameras and equipment to Iraqis, to show the world what is happening in their country is so important.

I expect to travel to Jordan at the end of this month, and if it is possible to gather together enough digital and video camera equipment to pass on to Iraqis, I suspect the visual component of Alive in Baghdad will drastically increase.

Please consider supporting the project with a donation of equipment or money, and look forward to further commentary about the ongoing situation in Iraq here at Alive in Baghdad.




Resistance Frees Jill Carroll, Occupation Still Detains One Journalist - 03.30.2006

Jill Carroll was released today at approximately 11 am in Baghdad into the custody of the Iraqi Islamic Party. Despite the apparent efforts of the United States and the Interior Ministry to arrange Jill Carroll’s release it was a small Sunni political party, the Iraqi Islamic Party, which was able to win her release.

According to SITE Institute, who presents information on the video interview released by the Revenge Brigades:

Near the close of the interview, a statement is read in Arabic announcing Jill Carroll’s release, and noting that the Americans forces and CIA did not assist in her freedom. It was the American government agreeing to some of their conditions that brokered her release. The mujahid states: “Jill Carol, go back in peace to your family and to your country, to tell them and to the American people what you saw and heard during these three months. You are a witness of the events here and we have full confidence in you that you will tell the truth without any falsification.”

I was speaking with a friend of hers yesterday who told me he felt the Interior Ministry was just putting up an illusion, that they have control of the situation in Iraq. Keep in mind there is very little control in Iraq right now, even in Baghdad, you can be killed or kidnapped at any time.

We saw this also with the near-simultaneous attacks on two Daewoo electronics stores in Baghdad, in broad daylight.

Iraqi journalists and media workers have been repeatedly detained without charge for much longer than Jill Carroll’s four months. As I have written before, the media and the international community have failed to make any solid demands of the United States to clarify the reasons for detaining these journalists.

Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, a CBS cameraman, is the only Iraqi journalist currently known to be held by the United States in Iraq. It was revealed last week that he will be facing a military trial starting April 5th.

No public charges have yet been made against Hussein, nor were any charges ever levelled at the other 6 journalists known to have been detained by the United States, some for at least 11 months. By the time Hussein reaches trial on the current schedule, he will have been held, apparently without charge, for one year. The Iraqi constitution, mind you, says that Iraqis may not be detained without charge more than 48 hours, and appears to suggest American troops may not detain Iraqi citizens.

Although it is important to mark Jill Carroll’s release, which is something for which I and all journalists are grateful for, it must be set against the context of the war in Iraq. A war in which more than 70% of media workers killed are Iraqis.

As I write this, Jill Carroll’s story is being discussed on CNN, and they are interviewing a representative from the Christian Science Monitor, Jill Carroll’s most recent employer. While I’m writing this, at 2:05 PM CNN has chosen to cut away from the interview with the Christian Science Monitor to cover a “live press conference” with the Major League Baseball associaiton, regarding new investigations into steroid use.

This conference is also broadcasting live on every other news station I have access to currently, MSNBC, FoxNews, and CNBC.

Perhaps I shouldn’t expect we’ll ever have contextualized coverage of Iraq so long as tabloid investigations into “America’s past-time” are considered more important to cover than understanding more clearly the reasons for the deaths of more than 2500 soldiers in Iraq and tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths since 2003.




United States: “Elect al’Mahdi or get a civil war” - 03.29.2006

Ok, so no one in the US administration has put it quite that way yet, but I’m feeling more and more that this is the facts.

Please read this dicussion happening over at “Just World News”

My response to their discussion is at the end, and also located here, I will try top expand on these theories in the near future as well:

I have 2 words for you:

post-colonial africa.

Before I read all of these comments I couldn’t put it all together in my mind. Previously I was only able to look at it on the surface as something that seemed plausible.

What I mean is, how many countries in Africa can you name who neither have pro-western(US) neoliberal style governments nor are engaged in pitched/constant “civil wars”?

Particularly given the insight raised here about Abd Al’Mahdi, his penchant for political “flip-flopping” his western, possibly pro-privatization attitudes, etc. The motive seems clear to me.

We need to stop looking at this from a United States vs. Iraq vs. the World perspective. GWB and Cheney do not represent the United States proper. They represent the neo-liberal agendas of transnational corporations. There is little reason to think the efforts of the Bush Administration are as directly related to US World Dominance as they are to the dominance and profit of transnational corporations.

What does it matter if Iraq has a stable democratic popular government if these corporations are able to extract the national resources under cover of “civil wars” and divisiveness and weak central governments?

After reading all of this, I’m tending towards the perspective that the Bush Administration is practically giving Iraq an ultimatum, either you elect al’Mahdi Prime Minister, or you get a civil war.

One or the other, and although the neo-liberal agenda certainly fares better in South Africa and Egypt, among others, Nigeria’s still managing to keep the oil flowing, and let’s not even talk about the so-called diamond coast.




World Demonstrations Strengthen Iraqis -

By Brian Conley and Isam Rashid

BAGHDAD, Mar 29 (IPS) - Three years after the occupation, calls for unity in fighting it are gaining ground across Iraq.

The memory of the invasion brings sadness, but Iraqis still take heart each year when they hear and see the demonstrations of solidarity with them all over the world.

Usama Asa’ad, a 34-year-old living in Baghdad told IPS that the anniversary of the invasion last week was “a very sad day for all Iraqis because it was the beginning of the destruction of Iraq by occupation forces without real reason.”

Although the anniversary always brings new frustration in Iraq, there is some hope too. The continuing anti-war movement is welcomed. Those Iraqis who can receive images of anti-war marches by television are excited to do so, others read about them in the papers, or hear from their neighbours.

“Your demonstrations are a great help for Iraq and for justice, and thank you so much for this help,” Zainab Rahman said, as if addressing the demonstrators.

The Muslim Scholars Association, a group representing Sunni Muslims in Iraq, issued a statement contesting Bush’s claims of ongoing progress in Iraq.

“Three years ago the U.S. and UK forces came from across the world to occupy Iraq without reason and without respecting UN and the Security Council decisions,” the Association said. “Now, after three years you can see how the Iraq situation is very bad, and we don’t know what kind of help we can get from occupation.”

With the third anniversary come and past, Iraqis are still looking for basic services such as electricity and clean water.

In January and February, Baghdadis could only count on three to five hours of electricity a day. This has improved to an average of perhaps seven hours of electricity on a given day.

Asa’ad is one of many Baghdadis increasingly frustrated by the services situation in the capital. He is heartened, however, by the understanding of demonstrators around the world.

“I can’t thank them enough because they feel for Iraq and Iraqi peoples’ suffering. We will do the same if anything bad happens to any of these countries, to share their feelings as they do now and because we are human and we must all feel for each other.”

Many Iraqis talk at length about the future of Iraq and in particular the future for the Bush Administration and other nations involved with the Multi-National Forces-Iraq. Discussions take place all the time about war crimes and what the United Nations could do to deal with the occupation force.

“I think the international court must try the U.S. government for their crimes in Iraq, like they did with Germany’s officers after the second world war,” Baghdad resident Ahmed Noor told IPS.

The foreign press rarely discuss the initial drive to war now, having tired of the changing reasons the Bush Administration offers to excuse the war. Iraqis however, remember the approach to war each year.

Usama Asa’ad remembers well the beginning of the war and the various excuses for war presented by Bush. “I would like to say to him, there is no real reason for this war and he lied to all the world when he said the Iraqi government had thousands of tonnes of chemical weapons, and they were working to make nuclear weapons. After this three years the world discovered all of this was lies.”

Asa’ad added: “It was not a war for justice. The U.S. government wanted only to control the Iraqi oil, and that would help them to control the world after Iraq.”

Ali Fathi, a 38 year-old member of the Iraqi Islamic Party agreed with Asa’ad about the lies of the Bush Administration and the coalition. “They haven’t a real reason for this war,” he told IPS. “All of their reasons were fake, but their purpose was to destroy Islam and Iraq. Iraq was their first step.”

Ali Fathi was thankful for the demonstrations around the world, but said only the resistance will end the occupation. “I would like to say to the resistance, keep up with your work because their work is the main force to end the occupation, and then Iraqi people can do whatever they want in their country.”

Ahmed Noor said “we don’t need to hope, we need to work very hard to end the occupation and then we can build a new Iraq with a real democratic government; to show all the world how we wish to live in peace without blood and without bombs and wars.”

The Muslim Scholars Association also called for action. ” Now we ask Iraqi people to join hands together to end the occupation, and at the same time, we ask occupation forces to withdraw their troops as soon as possible.” (END/2006)




Four Provinces, Including Baghdad, Not Cooperating with United States - 03.28.2006

The Iraqi government has demanded that the United States cede control of security, particularly inside Baghdad. This has been well-publicized and discussed already, despite having occurred only yesterday.

What has not received such clarity of coverage however is the role of the local governors of each province. At this time at least four provinces in Iraq have severed their direct communication links with the United States and the Multi-National-Forces-Iraq and occupation authorities.

At this time the provinces of Basra, Maysan, Karbala, and now Baghdad, have all severed ties with the occupation.

For information regarding the earlier severance of diplomacy see these articles regarding the conflicts in Basra, Maysan, and Karbala:

Karbala, ties severed February 20th

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=1641548

Basra, ties severed February 14th

http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,87916,00.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1709524,00.html

Regarding why Maysan is important, Al’Amarah, the capital of the Maysan province is the location where British troops savagely beat several Iraqi teenagers:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7374-2039626,00.html

These developments are very important, possibly important in inverse proportion to the degree they are reported on. The popular movements in Iraq are certainly controlling these provincial governorates more directly than they are influencing the central government of Iraq.

The leaders in these central governments, people such as Abd Al’Aziz Al’Hakim, Ibrahim Al’Jaafari, Ghazi Al’Yawr, Bayan Jabr, Ahmad Chalabi, Iyad Allawi, and others returned to Iraq after living as expatriates or exiles in Iran and the UK. Some of these men have lived outside Iraq for as long as thirty years.

In many ways it seems that the sectarian identities being advanced today in Iraq, which are serving to exacerbate tensions and conflict there, are necessary if these leaders are to stay in power.

Its really textbook nationalist thinking. By advancing the Shi’ite identity of Iraq, Al’Hakim, Al’Jaafari, and Bayan Jabr, among others, strengthen their claims to the leadership of Iraq. What’s rarely understood or discussed in the media is the fact that all of these individuals, these elites running the government, in regards to social class, have more in common now with Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush than the Iraqis at the level of the Baghdad street.

At the same time, particularly in terms of Abd Al’Aziz Al’Hakim, this is too simplistic of an analysis, because he is also an Ayatollah. In the Shi’a sect of Islam Ayatollahs are the supreme authority, and as such Hakim may command a stronger influence on the Shi’a populace of Iraq as a religious authority than he may have as a social or popular authority.

On the flipside of this, Muqtada Al’Sadr never left Iraq, and his movement is directly related to the assassination of his father by Saddam Hussein in 1999. Muqtada also is believed to be around 30, making him only slightly older than the majority of Iraq’s populace. Iraq’s population is considered to be at least 50% under 18, and although I haven’t been able to find specific numbers for this, certainly a fair percent more are in their 20s.

Muqtada and the various provincial leaders certainly have more direct connections with the populace of Iraq, as do the Sunni leaders, Adnan Al’Dulaimi, Saleh Mutlak, and the Association of Muslim Scholars.

If the Iraqi Government is demanding cession of power from the United States to the central governing authority, but the provinces are still isolating themselves without the direct influence of the central government, it makes the divisions of conflict appear much more varied. It may very well be that the elites in the central government are desperate to maintain control over the militias and security forces without the United States breaking these organizations apart.

At the same time, there are certainly alliances between all members of the United Iraqi
“Alliance,” as is clear right in their parties’ title. The complexity of the political landscape is certainly outside of the current media discourse, and this is a large part of the problem in the understanding of Iraq.




Muqtada, Shi’ite Hope for Unified Iraq? Again Targeted - 03.27.2006

It appears Muqtada Sadr, the “firebrand populist cleric” is again being targeted by the Coalition and other more shadowy forces.

Certainly there are some questionable things about Muqtada’s past and his dealings around Iraq. However, he seems now to be the least duplicitous of Iraq’s Shi’a politicians.

The Badr Militia and SCIRI, their more politically-minded partners are increasingly alienating themselves within Iraq and are increasingly understood to be carrying out the majority of the sectarian extra-judicial executions occurring these days in Baghdad.

If the United States’ Senators really hope to foster fairness and cooperation within Iraq’s struggling new government,
perhaps they should be putting more force on President Bush, as commander in chief, to stop supporting wholesale violence by arming Shi’a deathsquads and looking the other way.

The cursory attempts being made currently to curb violence at the hands of the nascent Iraqi state are certainly a far cry from anything which might be considered a truly dedicated attempt at garnering a peaceful solution.

The recent raids as well as revelations that US Marines may have been involved in murdering civilians on two occasions are further increasing tensions between the occupation and Iraqis at the street level.

Muqtada Sadr and the increasingly alienated Association of Muslim Scholars are really the only individuals who seem, at this point, to have a handle on curbing violence at the street level.

I hope Coalition forces and the international community will soon start to take responsibility in a serious way for the situation in Iraq. Even the so-called Democratic opposition is suggesting the solution to civil war, rather than highlighting US responsibility for the near-dissolution of Iraq and engaging in conflict resolution, is to leave and let the parties involve fight it out if they can’t work together.

The failure to recognize our responsibility for the Iraq mess could well be the first Rwanda style tragedy of the twenty-first century. Let’s not give up on pressing Iraqis to negotiate with each other before we’re absolutely certain we won’t look back on 2006 with the same shame and horror we now reserve for reflecting on our inaction in 1994.




Media Analysis 2- It’s Almost Too Easy - 03.14.2006

So this evening I found this gem in the Guardian Unlimited.


Iraqi leaders call for ‘national unity’ after al-Qaida attacks

Iraqi leaders on all sides today blamed al-Qaida for attempting to foment civil war by launching yesterday’s bloody attack on a market that killed at least 58 people.

How can the Guardian run this title when they present ZERO empirical evidence within the article that Al’Qaida is behind these attacks in Sadr City? As I posted earlier today, we desperately need the media to start asking hard questions and doing real investigative journalism.

From examining this article, and another posted on Al’Jazeera, it appears that the mainstream press is taking liberties with Muqtada Al’Sadr’s statement:

Muqtada al-Sadr has said he will not order his militia to strike al-Qaida fighters after Sunday’s bombing of his stronghold in Baghdad because that would mean civil war.

“I could order the Mahdi Army to root out the terrorists and fundamentalists but this would lead us into civil war and we don’t want that,” the Shia cleric told a news conference in the city of Najaf on Monday.

In al’Jazeera’s article they at least do not make a direct connection between Al’Qaida and the Sadr City bombings over the weekend.

In another translation of Sadr’s comments in adnkronos international, it appears Sadr makes a more clear connection to the occupation’s responsibility for these attacks, which appears more in line with Sadr’s general trend:

“We consider the attack was carried out by groups of Takfir [a derogatory term used to describe terrorists literally meaning ‘those who have put themselves outside Islam’] thanks to the cover of American spy aircraft” he said.

Back to the Guardian article, however, there is only one more reference to Al’Qaida in the entire article:

Abdel Karim al-Bahadli, 42, wept as he hobbled on crutches to survey the devastation at one of the stricken markets.

He blamed the extremist Sunni Takfiri sect of terror boss Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.

“This is not resistance [to foreign occupation] because there were no US troops in the markets yesterday,” he said. “The Takfiris are only after Shias. We will not be silent any more.”

The article discusses the contention of various Iraqi politicians that the attacks in Sadr City were conducted by the vague group known as “terrorists.”

Given that today President Bush alleged Iran was responsible for at least some portion of the equipment used to build IEDs in Iraq, it seems at least worth asking whether the Iranian government, or its proxies inside Iraq, may be responsible for the bombings for which no responsibility has been claimed.

As I have previously stated, Muqtada Al’Sadr is not allied with Iran, and any steps taken to lessen his influence in Iraq and increase the influence of other Shi’is, such as SCIRI and Badr who do have direct ties to Iran, can be understood to strengthen Iran’s influence inside Iraq.

My point in this whole post is just this; It is irresponsible and unprofessional for members of the press to accuse any group of engaging in an attack or other violent act without empirical evidence of that groups’ responsibility.




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