Friday, December 16, 2011

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Today on The Takeaway (PRI), the issue of Iraq was addressed. Excerpt:
Celeste Headlee: Ned Parker has covered the war since the beginning as the former Baghdad bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times now at the Council on Foreign Relations. So let me ask you about the future of Iraq. Obviously, we've gotten comments from American generals who are worried that this country will descend into chaos. You heard an Iraqi woman just a moment ago talking about how she's optimistic although the government is weak. What -- what do you think? Is this a country that will remain united? Where the path to diplomacy is shaky but-but sure?
Ned Parker: In terms of the country's internal politics?
Celeste Headlee: Yeah.
Ned Parker: Well -- I -- That's what struck me so much my recent trip to Iraq. I was in Iraq this summer from May 'till early August. And at that time I saw many worrying trends in Iraq. The politics of the country were becoming very polarized again and very sectarian -- reminiscent of 2003, 2004 and '05 and the build up to civil war. And also saw a lot of alarming trends from the government by -- from the prime minister's office of security forces being used in questionable raids where people were detained and would disappear into special jails where their families and lawyers could not talk to them. Pro-democracy protesters who were trying to have their own equivalent of an Arab Spring to criticize the corruption among the elite government officials and the lack of transparency started to be attacked in May and June by plain clothes government agents and pro-Maliki supporters. While army looked on, these men would go around and beat people on one occasion. And I had been in Egypt in Tahrir Square in February and had some mobs there attacking pro-democracy protesters. And it was the same thing. So I saw all of that this summer and when I came back it was the same if not worse. And Iraqis are in charge of their destiny and America I don't think in recent years has effectively used its clout and leverage to try to help promote this process of national reconciliation or the respect of civil liberties and freedom of speech.. Particularly I think since 2010 there was an effort of getting a government in place because there had been [crosstalk] Yeah and with the deadline on troops leaving, there was an emphasis on just having a stable figure in power that America could deal with at the expense of these important things: rule of law, freedom of speech. So all of these seems to be going and that was the case when I went back.
Celeste Headlee: Well we've got like a minute-and-a-half left so let me ask you this very complicated question which is Iraq five years from now, ten years from now, stable? Peaceful?

Ned Parker: It's uh -- I mean, I wish I had a crystal ball. I sure hope so. You know I very much respect Iraqis, I have spent a lot of time there and I think everyone wants to see Iraq work out for the best but we really don't know there are so many worrying and different trends there. As I said, the politics have become far more sectarian, in the political class there's very little trust between kind of the Shi'ite elite and Sunnis. There's talk within different provinces of creating their own regions because --
Celeste Headlee: Separating off.
Ned Parker: Right Sunni provinces no longer trust Baghdad so they want to declare their own region. With what's happening in Syria that could also polarize things So it's so complicated. That could lead to more unrest and an authoritarian regime. Or perhaps Iraq will have their own Arab Spring that will lead to responsible government and a process of reconciliation.
From radio we'll switch to TV but before noting something worth noting will first note PIG BOY Willie Geist. Willie is part of the sewer of MSNBC -- the non-news shows, the yackety-yack where buffoons pass themselves off as informed -- and today on Morning Joe he felt the need to weigh in on those US service members who had lost their lives serving in Iraq. It's a serious issue and it's insulting to here people say "4500" -- try getting the actual number you lazy ass fools (and, yes, I'm aware that would include Barack). But Willie did all of them one better, he wanted to talk about the "brothers" who were left behind because they died there. The "brothers." And no one corrected him, not one damn person -- guest or the huge cast of Morning Joe -- stopped the frat boy Bob Somerby has so rightly and so often criticized to inform him that US service members who died in the Iraq War were not just men, women died as well. In July of 2008, CNN would note that the number of female US service members who have died in the Iraq War had already reached 100. As of September 23, 2011, 111 female US service members had died in the Iraq War according to Noonie Fortin -- and 13 US civilian women died in the Iraq War as well. Fortin provides a write up on each one of the dead (including the civilians like DynCorp contractor Deborah Klecker who died at age 51 in June 2005). The first US female service member to die in Iraq was PFC Lori Ann Piestewa (also the first Native American to die in the Iraq War) on March 23, 2003. And the last so far was August 7, 2010, SPC Faith R. Hinkley of Colorado. Here's the link to trash (only because Ava and I will be commenting further at Third on Sunday unless Bob Somerby grabs it Friday).
Twelve minutes and 17 seconds into the clip, Willie Boy asks, ". . . what is the bitter-sweet feeling if that's the way to put it for some of these guys who are happy to be going home but remembering the brothers left behind?"
111 women dead. And no guest or cast member of Morning Joe (it's not a news show) could bother to object when "Tucker Carlson's boy toy" bothered to render women who have served in the Iraq War invisible, including those who died while serving. Maybe Morning Joe can spend tomorrow apologizing to the loved ones of the 111 women who died serving in Iraq as well as to the women who served in Iraq and made it home? (And the total number of US military personnel killed in the Iraq War? The Pentagon's official count currently stands at 4487 -- one up from last week. If you're going to note the deaths and if you think they matter, you bother to get the number right and not go with an estimate.)
Richard Engel: But the biggest change for Iraq may be closer ties with it's Shi'ite neighbor Iran. These days Alkadhimiya is full of Iranian tour groups who come with their own guides with signs in Farsi. Under Saddam, no Iranians came to Iraq, Saddam was Iran's enemy. Today, more than 2 million Iranians visit Iraq every year. Iraq's new dynamic is on display here every day. After nearly nine years, it's Iraq Shi'ites who have benefited the most, they have won this country. The United States toppled a dictator who's been replaced by a Shi'ite government with close ties to Iran. It's hard to imagine how that was ever part of the plan. Across town at Baghdad's famous book market, Kareem Hanash, himself a Shi'ite, doesn't want US troops to leave. He says Iran has calculated all of this very well; they want a Shi'ite Iraq so they can control the assets, economy and politics. Fear of Iran's growing power is sharper still in the Sunni-stronghold of Falljua. Once Iraq's deadliest war zone, Falluja remains violent. A bomb killed 3 policemen here just after we arrived. Police say Sunni radicals killed them because they work for the Shi'ite government. Compared to other parts of Iraq, there's been little development in Sunni towns like Falluja. This building was destroyed by US forces seven years ago and still looks like this. People here accuse the government of persecuting them, ignoring them, trying to cut Sunnis out of the new Iraq. A cloth merchant told me, "You crossed a thousand miles from America. Why? If you want the oil, take the oil. If you want our money, take it. But you have destroyed life, the whole system."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"Continued stalemate"
"Stand up"
"I wish . . ."
"The liars of TV news"
"7 men, 2 women"
"listen to the crap that comes out of their mouths"
"More on Amanpour"
"Who would have thought he could disappoint me?"
"Caving Craven O"
"When Arianna Loved Newt starring Cybill Shepherd and William Shatner"
"You've got a lot of nerve"
"War Criminal Barry"
"AP's whore Ben"


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