Saturday, February 12, 2011

Don't ask, he won't tell





This week on Antiwar Radio, Scott Horton spoke with Jason Ditz ( and the discussion included Iraq.
Scott Horton: What's going on in Iraq?
Jason Ditz: Well what's going on in Iraq is sort of the same thing that's going on all across the region. There's a high level of unemployment and increasing concern about a leader of the government taking more and more power for himself and there are starting to be some pretty big protests.
Scott Horton: Well be more specific about more power for himself?
Jason Ditz: Well right now Nouri al-Maliki the Prime Minister is also Nouri al-Maliki the Interior Minister and Nouri al-Maliki the Defense Minister and the National Security Minister and I believe he might have another title or two in there too. But basically he's -- when he announced his new unity cabinet, he kept every single cabinet position that has any police or military forces or even some of the smaller law enforcement groups are all under his control. He -- he literally controls, as the leader, every single, uh, every single non-foreign force in Iraq now.
Scott Horton: But that's unconstitutional according to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iraq from 2005, right?
Jason Ditz: Well it certainly is. He's sort of skirting that by claiming that he's the interim Defense Minister and the interim Interior Minister and interim all these other ministers but -- And that he's going to appoint somebody. But it's been awhile now and he certainly doesn't seem to be moving forward with it.
Scott Horton: So now tell me about the reaction to this now too because across the Middle East, there's been protests. What's the effect of the "Egyptian virus" -- as John McCain called it -- in Iraq?
Jason Ditz: Well there have been some protests particularly in some of the poorer Shi'ite cities in the south. There's been some pretty good size protests demanding economic improvement, criticizing the government and police reacting as they have in a lot of places just by opening fire on the protesters.
Scott Horton: Do you know if there were any reports about Iraqi reaction to the international reports? I guess it was Amnesty -- No, it was Human Rights Watch and I guess CBS News followed up on all of this about Nouri al-Maliki and his secret prisons and torture and all of that. Is that part of the narrative in Iraq about the protests in the south, for example?
Jason Ditz: That I'm not sure about. It seems like the protests are pretty non-specific to the extent they're reported in the media. They're more angry at the general situation that they've got this not particularly elected government, Maliki's party came in second in last year's election and he ended up dominating the situation even more than he had before and that the economy is getting worse and worse so it seems like the specifics of torture, the specifics of his policies are sort of being drowned out by just the overwhelming annoyance at the situation in the hope that something similar that happened in Egypt might happen in Iraq too.
Yesterday attorneys led protests in Baghdad, Basra and Mosul. Alsumara TV notes, "The wave of demonstrations in Iraq does not only stir up underprivileged. Iraqi lawmakers staged a protest on Thursday in Baghdad against the ruling of the Iraqi Government to ban access for citizens and lawyers into State institutions mainly the Trade Ministry directorates. [. . .] Demonstrators believe that banning them from accessing state directorates to follow up their clients' formalities is an invitation for corruption." Al Rafidayn reports on the 500 in Baghdad and notes that 200 also demonstrated in Karbala and in Kut which saw two different protests -- one by attorneys. Haider Roa ( adds demonstrations also took place in Samawah, Kut, Amara, Diwaniyah and Ramadi yesterday. Al Mada adds that the Islamic Supreme Council has declared it will protect any Iraqi who is protesting against the government's policies. Ammar al-Hakim, president of the Islamic Supreme Council, is warning that the government needs to start providing the basic services, providing jobs and end the corruption. He issued a call for the security forces of Iraq to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Iraqi people and ensure they are protected during demonstrations and marches. He demanded that Iraqi officials stop offering easy and false assurances of improvements and actually deliver improvements. In response, Baghdad Operations Command agreed that they will protect Iraqi citizens who are taking part in demonstrations. Alsumaria TV adds, "Head of Islamic Supreme Council Sayyed Ammar Al Hakim rebuked the way Iraqi officials including Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki are dealing with the concerns and interests of Iraqis. Al Hakim called to deal more seriously with people's demands and restrain from fake vows and pledges, he said."
Also yesterday Oxfam published the report "Whose Aid Is It Anyway?" and AFP notes, "The non-profit group Oxfam said on Thursday that major powers were concentrating too much aid on countries for political and military reasons and were overlooking other severe crises. The aid organisation said billions of dollars had been used for "unsustainable, expensive and sometimes dangerous aid projects" supporting short-term foreign policy and security objectives. Oxfam particularly highlighted tens of billions of dollars spent in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade." The topic was the focus of the latest Guardian Focus podcast with Madeleine Bunting and guests the Guardian's Jonathan Steele, the European Council on Foreign Relation's Daniel Korski, Oxfam's Mike Leis and War on Want's John Hilary. In the discussion Bunting played a clip of Hillary Clinton speaking on the issue of Afghanistan women which led Jonathan Steele off on a raving loon moment. I've thought about that and that's the only term for it. (This was supposed to be addressed in yesterday's snapshot but there wasn't room.) Jonathan Steele needs to think about his remarks. Madeleine Bunting and the Guardian need to stop the women bashing.
Had I written yesterday, I wouldn't have called it that. But Madeleine specifically criticized David Cameron by name (as did guests) and they also criticized Hillary by name. Does no one see the problem with that?
David Cameron is the Prime Minister of England. Is Hillary Clinton the President of the United States? No, she's not. Her equivalent in the UK would be Theresa May. May, the UK Home Secretary, was never mentioned. Nor should she have been. Jonathan would argue he was building on her voting record from her days in the Senate. When she and Barack both served in the Senate, there wasn't a big difference in their voting records when it came to Afghanistan or Iraq. And you're not building on her voting record if you're talking about the status today. If you're talking about the status of that war today, the United States military has only one commander in chief and that is Barack Obama.
Instead of popping open a can of crazy, Jonathan should have asked Bunting why she played the clip to begin with? She's calling out David Cameron who's the leader of England. Why is she not calling out Barack? He should have asked her was the clip played because Hillary's a woman? Was the clip played because Barack makes no statements -- as he pursues these wars -- about the women in the countries he keeps the US military? If the latter's the case, that's not only troubling, it's worthy of an entire broadcast. People need to stop using Hillary as their chew toy. The Cult of St. Barack ensured that he got the White House. He now needs to take the criticism for his policies. And if that's too much for Jonathan Steele and Madeleine Bunting, then the Guardian Focus needs to find more mature guests and more mature host.
Some basic facts on Iraq from the United Nations Country Team Iraq -- young population with nearly 50% being less than 19, only 18% of women are employed. Those are 2011 figures. In 2009, Oxfam published their survey of Iraqi women and the number of them who were head of household was approximately 36%. The bulk of them are not receiving any assistance from the government and the meager amount offered to widows by the government (the few that receive assistance) is not enough to live on. In December, IRIN noted, "An IOM survey of 1,355 female-headed displaced families who have returned to their places of origin found that 74 percent are struggling to secure adequate nutrition for their families. Delays in receiving subsidized government food rations or lack of some food items in the rations force women to buy food with whatever money they have, adding to their struggle, the report, issued on 3 December, states. The survey also found that health problems and social norms had prevented nearly 40 percent of them from finding jobs. Of those who are able to work, 71 percent are unemployed." Nizar Latif (The National) reported last week on how the Iraqi Women's Association's Madia al Rawai was warning that the al-Maliki government needed to look at what was happening in surrounding countries, "The Iraqi government should pay attention. There is an army of women, with no jobs and no money, and they are ready to take to the streets unless something is done to improve their situation." Tupperware's Elinor Steele has been writing entries for The Huffington Post about Iraqi women she encountered on her recent visit to the country. She noted earlier this month:
Iraq has always been a pioneer in the Middle East for integrating women into society and promoting women's rights; however, over the past 30 years many laws that empowered women have been retracted and some men in society have become more conservative and less open-minded to women-owned businesses. This kind of thinking could set Iraq's economy back by decades.
During my visit, I had a chance to meet a group of Iraqi female politicians. The first comment they made was about unequal representation within the Iraqi government. While the Iraqi parliament is complying with its constitutional mandate that 25% of the seats must be held by women, there are no women in senior-level government positions such as vice president or serving as ministers at high-ranking ministries.
Sunday, Iraq's representatives in Parliament are supposed to vote on the vice president. In the past, the country has had two vice presidents. Three has been expected to be the number this year and all men. However, Al Rafidayn reports that there may be four vice presidents and that the fourth expected to be a VP is a woman with the Turkmen bloc, Faihaa Zine El Abidine. Supposedly, on Monday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani asked parliament to allow for four vps and that was to provide a post for "the women of Iraq." The Turkmen bloc issued a statement noting that women in Iraq are maginalized in the current government and that they did not receive any posts from Nouri to his cabinet ("the center of political decision-making"). How very telling that the country might have their first female vice president when Nouri -- his Cabinet still not full -- can't find slots for women. His Cabinet is so bad that even the head of the Ministry of Women is a man.
Iraq has many problems but Elinor Steele and the New York Times ignore the obvious. The puppet government is installed. The forces terrorizing Iraqis were picked by and endorsed by the US and British governments. The terrorizing was supposed to keep the Iraqis too frightened to fight the occupation. So religious extremists were put into positions of power and it has made life hell for Iraqi women, Iraq's LGBT community and Iraq's religious minorities. These thugs doing the terrorizing were elevated to their positions not by accident. John Leland and Duraid Adnan (New York Times) report on the situation in Baghdad for women and reveal just how close minded so many are (including some women). A store's window display promises eternal damnation to women who allow even bits of the hairs on their head to be seen. (Iraqi women should reject that store window display by rejecting the store itself.) 34-year-old Maysson Ibrahim vows she will continue to wear her "tight jeans and skirts" and the curses and harassment will not force her "to cover herself." And all of this could have been addressed. The US government controlled Iraqi media. They could have set a tone (hell, if they knew what they were doing, they could have shaped the society -- that's not me encouraging it and I've refrained from stating how that could happen -- either in personal conversations or at this site). They chose not to. Yet again, they decided it was more important to support terrorism and allow the thugs free reign. Journalist Anna Badkhen writes:
No one knows exactly how many Iraqi women have been raped since the U.S-led invasion in 2003, but activists in Iraq and abroad put the numbers in the thousands. Human rights groups began to see an increase in rapes in Iraq immediately after the fall of Hussein's regime, and evidence that different factions were targeting women. In 2008, Amnesty International reported that "crimes specifically aimed at women and girls, including rape, have been committed by members of Islamist armed groups, militias, Iraqi government forces, foreign soldiers within the U.S.-led Multinational Force, and staff of foreign private military security contractors."
Badkhen writes the above for a Frontline video report she and Mimi Chakarova did on the safe houses for Iraqi women. They visit one in the Red Zone which, for safety reasons, they must visit "in the dead of night," Chakarova explains. They discover "a two bedroom apartment full of women and children. One of the women warns us that the rats will keep us awake. [. . .] There are six women living here with their children. Four have been raped." From the video report:
Mimi Chakarova: When we were in Iraq, did you witness any women getting raped.
Male US service member: Yeah, definitely. On both tours I would say at least 8 rapes that I saw with my own eyes.
Anna Badkhen covered the women shelters for Ms. magazine in 2009. Utne re-runs her article for Ms. Excerpt:

The Underground Railroad was founded in 2004 by Baghdad-born architect-turned-feminist-organizer Yanar Mohammed, head of OWFI, along with MADRE, an international women's rights group based in New York. It provides the only sanctuaries for victims of sexual abuse and domestic violence outside the quasi-autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, where the local government and nongovernment organizations operate several shelters. In addition to providing temporary asylum, it helps women resettle in places where their abusers cannot find them easily. Since its inception, says MADRE policy and communications director Yifat Susskind, the railroad has helped thousands of women. Several have been transferred to Turkey and at least two now live in the United States, but most of the rescued women have remained in Iraq.

Saddam Hussein's regime persecuted political dissidents but allowed women personal rights and freedoms; assaults on women were rare. But when violence engulfed the country after the U.S. invasion, women became "the easiest targets," says OWFI member Dalal Juma. Violence against women is now rampant and goes virtually unchecked by Iraq's new legal system. Sexual violence is "severely under­reported," Amnesty International wrote in March, and along with other crimes against women and girls, is usually committed with impunity.

[. . .]
Women learn about the shelter through word of mouth and OWFI's quarterly newsletter; the only people who know its location are the women who run it and a thoroughly vetted handful of male security guards armed with handguns. One of these guards lives at the shelter with his young wife, an OWFI employee. As far as the landlord is concerned, the couple is renting the apartment and the other women are their relatives, in town for a visit. Just to be on the safe side, the organization pays $350 a month for the place, which would normally cost about $150. "Money for silence," Juma explains.

Women in Iraq have not been afforded equal access to justice or protection by law enforcement agencies, so have stayed more vulnerable and likely to face abuse.
"The security situation in general has obviously hit the vulnerable populations worst, and when we look at the situation for women, there is a fear that -- rather than improving -- the situation since 2003 has deteriorated," said Helen Olafsdottir, a UNDP Iraq advisor for Crisis Prevention and Recovery. "We've found that there was a huge gap in terms of addressing issues of domestic violence, and gender-based violence in general."
According to surveys conducted jointly by the Government of Iraq and UN agencies from 2006 to 2009, women in Iraq face high levels of violence, but lack adequate access to care and justice in the aftermath.
One in five women from 15 to 49 years old has suffered physical violence at the hands of her husband -- some 14 percent of whom were also pregnant at the time. The real numbers are likely higher, however, since reporting of gender-based violence cases is generally low, as women fear social stigmatization and lack confidence that authorities will investigate complaints. [See
here and here for sources of stats above and facts in the next paragraph.]
In Iraq, there is not a strong legal framework to protect women from abuse, compounded by a lack of shelters and a lack of adequate training for medical and law enforcement authorities to respond to instances of gender-based violence.

The US government created the conditions women in Iraq now live in. It's amazing how little press coverage Iraqi women receive. The best thing the US can do for Iraqi women is to remove all forces immediately. US forces are used to prop up the puppet government and the thugs who terrorize. A quick departure by the US could spell an end to them. The longer US forces prop up this anti-woman government, the longer the anti-women sentiment exists and begins to appear 'normal' to many Iraqis.

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"It's all so familiar"

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's all so familiar






We'll open with Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan. Abby Martin (Media Roots Radio) interviewed Cindy and you can stream it here.
Abby Martin: We just wanted to jump kind of straight to the point here.
Abby Martin: You know, it seemed like when you were the figurehead of the peace movement, the mainstream media was fully behind you and then it seemed like they turned against you and the antiwar movement turned against you too. They used you as a symbol and they used you as kind of a scapegoat. Do you want to elaborate on that? What did you think about when that happened?
Cindy Sheehan: Uh, well first of all when I went to Crawford in 2005 it was a media circus. I remember like on the third or fourth day, there was this really cool AP photographer named Matt and he was down there constantly. And every day, I'd say, "Matt, is it a media circus yet?" And he'd go, "Not quite. Not quite." Then about Thursday, it was a media circus. He agreed that it was a media circus. And I think that -- You know, I used to think that the media was biased towards the right when Bush was president. And so a lot of that media -- and all the media, when they started to realize that I was like serious, I wasn't just a fluke and I wasn't going to go away, they like put the brakes on it and started to marginalize me, painting me as just a grieving mother or a slightly off-kilter because of my grief. And so that started to happen that summer. But still the so-called progressive liberal media, I was still like featured so many times on, you know, like Randi Rhodes or Stephanie Miller or Ed Schultz or whomever was considered on the left up until the Democrats came back into power in 2007. And then they didn't like it that I was saying the same thing about the Democrats that I said about the Republicans. So that came to an end. And I realized then when the Democrats came back into power -- and, you know, I'm just naming names. You know. Organizations like United For Peace & Justice and MoveOn. I realized then that they were not peace organizations. You know, United For Peace & Justice should really be United For Electing Democrats. And MoveOn really is like 'Let's Move On To Full Democratic Tyranny of Our Government.' And so, yeah, they didn't like somebody who realized that it was a systemic problem not a problem of political parties or -- You know, it wasn't just a problem for one side, it was a problem for the world. And so it's been hard -- especially since Obama's been elected because, especially in the beginning, I felt like I was one of the only people in this entire country who was saying, "No, he's -- First of all, why did you support him when he said he was going to send more troops to Afghanistan? When he said he was going to increase hostilities to Pakistan? And, you know, all of his hostile rhetoric against Iran and places like that. And his votes during the Senate? Supporting war, paying for the war, supporting the reauthorization of the Patriot Act for example? Things like that." I was like, "How can you? We have good candidates."
Abby Martin: Right.
Cindy Sheehan: We have Cynthia McKinney. We have Ralph Nader. They always have said and done the right things. So why are you supporting someone who's against what you supposedly believe in? You were against those same things when Bush was president. Why are you now pro these things now that Obama's president? So it was really, really hard, you know. But I never once considered saying, "Oh, let's just give him a chance. Let's wait and see." You know, because of the three days after, the three days after he was [sworn in] he bombed Pakistan. So it-it seems to be getting a little better. A lot of people are starting to come around. But I think that it's just -- it's just like finally, two years into this administration, you're against the wars again.
Abby Martin: Again, yeah. That's why I loved that, I remember I saw you immediately after Obama got elected, I think I saw you in San Diego speaking at the peace rally.
Cindy Sheehan: Right, it was a couple of months after, yeah.
Abby Martin: And you were just saying the same things. You said, "Why are we surprised he said he was going to do the things."
Abby Martin: "We shouldn't be shocked that he's doing them. He's an aggressive imperialist. This is -- this is who he campaigned on -- as." So I loved that. You didn't skip a beat. So that means you're a true advocate for peace. And a lot of people align themselves with the Democrats and think that's-that's an alternative and that's for peace. It doesn't make any sense. They're both aggessive imperialists, they're just two sides of the coin.
Cindy Sheehan: But there's -- but there's some people who are so-called anti-war, so-called peace activists who know the two party system is a sham, who know the Democrats are no different from the Republicans. But still it's about political party over policy and over peace and over progressivism. And so we can't -- There's some people who had just had it after eight years of the Bush administration, like all of us did. And they wanted a change and they didn't care what Obama was saying. They saw how he was saying it, they didn't hear what he was saying. So those people are one thing. But the people who are high up in the anti-war movement, high up in these organizations that literally used me to promote anti-Bush -- you know, the anti-Bush agenda -- which I was anti-Bush, I still am anti-Bush -- to promote that agenda without following through on, you know, what I felt was the most important thing and that's ending the wars.
Abby Martin: Yeah. Right. Exactly.
Cindy Sheehan: There's no excuse for those people.
Abby Martin: Right. There isn't. And just going along with what you're saying, it's astounding, that video I sent you about just interviewing people in the Bay Area and how asleep they are. All these people, they love Obama but they don't know why. They can't tell you one thing that he's doing.
Abby Martin: And just encountering other peace activists. Do you think -- Do you see more of a trend now, like you said, two years into his presidency, finally, do you see people waking up more and saying, "Oh my G**! I was duped!"
Abby Martin: So you are encountering that a lot more?
Cindy Sheehan: Yes and just like it happened when Bush was president that so many Republicans e-mailed me and said that they felt the same way. You know, at first they hated me but then they really started to research or he did something that sent them over the edge or whatever. And that started happening at the end of the Bush administration. And it's starting to happen now too because, I think really, the people who were opposed to Bush and opposed to his policies are -- I would think they were more of the intelligent people in our country. So it's not going to take them eight years to wake up like it took some Bush supporters. I'm not saying Bush supporters are stupid. [Laughter.] I guess I am saying that. If you supported Bush and still support him, what's the matter with you? Really. Come on.
Abby Martin: It's just, I almost feel like they're -- Yeah, I'd love to give people the benefit of the doubt and be like, you know, it's going to take you a couple of years to wake up. But I mean, if you got it and you woke up during the Bush administration, I don't see how you got duped at all.
Cindy Sheehan: Absolutely.
Abby Martin: There was really no -- I just don't see it. No change in civil liberties, no change in foreign policy.
Cindy Sheehan: Except for the worse. Except since Obama's been president, many things have gotten worse.
Abby Martin: Oh, yeah, exactly.

Again, you can stream it here at Media Roots Radio. Time permitting, we'll note more of the interview tomorrow. It's a really frank and important interview (as is to be expected from Cindy). And she has praise as well, including for World Can't Wait which she sees as a real organization dedicated to peace. (In fact, World Can't Wait should make their slogan, "Peace Mom approved.")
Death was in the ancient fortress
Shelled by a million bullets
From gunners, waiting in the copses
With hearts that threatened to pop their boxes
As we advanced into the sun
Death was all and everyone
-- "All and Everyone," written by PJ Harvey, from her forthcoming album Let England Shake released next Tuesday
CNN reports that an Al-Dujail "suicide bomber drove into a rest tent for Shiite pilgrims" and took his own life and that of 8 other people while thirty more were left wounded. Xinhua has the pilgrims marching and a car rigged with explosives going off as they passed and notes: "The pilgrims were heading to Samarra, some 110 km north of Baghdad to mark the death of Iman Hassan al-Askari at his tomb in the shrine of Ali al-Hadi in the Sunni dominated city. The shrine of Ali al-Hadi is one of the four most revered Shiite shrines in Iraq. It contains the tombs of Ali al-Hadi who died in 868 A.D. and Hisson Hassan al-Askari who died in 874 A.D." AFP adds, "The mosque itself was built in 944, and the golden dome was added in 1905." The golden dome, Lara Jokes (AP) reminds, was "sheered off" in February 2006 bombings, "Its destruction in 2006 sent Iraq into a downward spiral of violence between Sunnis and Shiites that left whole neighborhoods around the country cleansed and divided by sect." Sabah al-Bazee, Waleed Ibrahim, Jim Loney and Mark Trevelyan (Reuters) notes 8 people died and quotes Raysan Abood stating, "I know them by name. They were our friends and they were delivering food and tea to the pilgrims who came from other towns." They also note it was a suicide car bombing. In other reported violence?
Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) reports a Baghdad bombing which left two people injured. Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured one Iraqi soldier, a second Mosul roadside bombing wounded one police officer and a third Mosul roadside bombing left a young girl injured.
Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) reports 1 corpse was discovered in Baghdad.
How is our glorious country ploughed
Not by iron ploughs
How is our glorious country ploughed
Not by iron ploughs
Our land is ploughed by tanks and feet
Our land is ploughed by tanks and feet
-- "The Glorious Land," written by PJ Harvey, from her forthcoming album Let England Shake released when? This Tuesday.
Alsumaria TV reports protests took place in Babel Province today with one protest calling for the release of prisoners and another calling out the continued lack of public services. Dar Addustour reports the the Council of the Bar Association issued a call for a Baghdad demonstration calling for corruption to be prosecuted, for the Constitution to be followed and sufficient electricity in all the schools. Nafia Abdul-Jabbar (AFP) reports that approximately 500 people (mainly attorneys "but also including some tribal sheikhs") marched and that they also decried the secret prisons. They carried banners which read "Lawyers call for the government to abide by the law and provide jobs for the people" and "The government must provide jobs and fight the corrupt." Bushra Juhi (AP) counts 3,000 demonstrating and calls it "one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in Iraq" this year. Juhi also notes that attorneys staged smaller protests in Mosul and Basra today. Al Rafidayn reports that five provinces saw protests yesterday as the people demanded reliable public services and an end to government corruption. Noting the Babylon Province protest, the paper quotes Amer Jabk (Federation of Industrialists in Babylon president) stating that the provincial government has not provided any of the services the province needs, that basic services have deteriorated and that heavy rains have not only seen streets closed but entire neighborhoods sinking. Hayder Najm (niqash) observes protests have taken place across Iraq, "The protesters' grievances have been many and varied: the quality and level of basic services, government restrictions on civil liberties and freedom of expression, violations against civil servants, and the rampant financial and administrative corruption within state institutions. [. . .] Eight years after the US invasion of Iraq, the electricity supply in most areas of the country still does not exceed two hours a day, and the country still suffers from poor infrastructure, a weak transport network, and an acute crisis of drinking water and sanitation."
October 31st kicked off the latest wave of targeting Christians in Iraq with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Catholic Culture reports that Iraq's Ministry of Tourism has announced Pope Benedict XVI may visit Iraq, specifically make a pilgrimage to Ur. Meanwhile Simon Roughneen (National Catholic Register) reports:

Al Qaeda in Iraq has targeted the country's fast-disappearing Christian population, describing them as "legitimate targets" and causing unknown hundreds of thousands to flee in recent years. Out of an estimated 800,000 to 1.3 million Christians during the Hussein era, now less than half are thought to remain in the country.
Since an Oct. 31 attack on Baghdad's Our Lady of Salvation Church, thousands more Iraqi Christians have run to Turkey. Exact figures are unknown, but Chaldean Church records show more than 600 arrivals in December 2010 alone, which exceeds the total arrivals for all of 2009.
The Oct. 31 attack began when Islamic militants with ties to al Qaeda took Sunday worshipers hostage. As police moved in, 58 people, including two priests, were killed. According to accounts of the carnage, a young child was killed when one of the attackers blew himself up inside the church. Over 100 more were wounded.
The latest arrivals are seeking asylum in Turkey and applying for formal refugee status in the hope of transfer to third countries, such as the United States, Canada and Australia. According to Father Gabriel, a Turkish Chaldean priest from the east of that country and now on sabbatical from his parish in Brussels to assist refugees in Istanbul, the resettlement process takes about two years.

Some of the injured in the October 31st assault found medical treatment and asylum in France. Jim Bitterman (CNN) reports, "They are part of a group of nearly 60 brought here in early November after a bloody massacre at their church in Baghdad. In that attack, believed to have been carried out by al Quaeda, 56 people died, including two auxiliary priests, and more than 70 were injured -- among them the parish priest of Our Lady of Salvation, Father Raphael Kuteimi." The International Organization for Migration provides [PDF format warning] an update on Iraqi Christians through January 31st. The report notes that Erbil has seen an increase in Internally Displaced People families. It explains, "Monitors in Baghdad report that Christians continue to face grave threats. Some Christians remaining in Baghdad rely on newly-created security checkpoints near their homes for protection, and church leaders are in contact with Iraqi security forces for assistance in protecting their communities. However, despite increased security measures an atmosphere of extreme insecurity persists among Christians remaining in Baghdad and many still intend to move or emigrate." And beyond temporary?
An increasing number of displaced Christian families intend to integrate into their current location. IOM monitoring teams in the field report that a clear majority of the displaced Christians in Erbil, Dahuk, and Sulaymaniyah governorates now plan to settle in their current location due to stable security environments and welcoming host communities. However, a far smaller number of the displaced Christians in Ninewa governorate expressed a desire to remain in their location of displacement. Monitors estimate that fewer 10% of the displaced in the Bashiqa district of Mosul intend to integrate locally.
While many displaced Christian families intend to locally integrate, monitors also report increasing Christian emigrations. IOM monitors only assess internally displaced persons, but monitoring teams have been told by community leaders of increasing Christian emigration to Turkey since November 2010, which is confirmed by colleagues in Turkey as well as recent media reports.
Turning to England where the Tenth Imperial War Museum Film Festival Awards were held in London. Richard Moss (Culture reports, ". . . Iraqi filmmakers dominated the honours in the museum's Annual Film Festival Awards by grabbing two out of the three main prizes. Doctor Nabil (2007), a searing documentary recounting the experiences of a surgeon working in a busy and under-resourced Baghdad hospital, won the Audience Poll for the young Iraqi documentary maker Ahmed Jabbar. Best Documentary went to fellow Iraqi Emad Ali for A Candle for the Shabandar Cafe (2007). The film tells the story of a the favourite haunt of Baghdad's writers and intellectuals which was destroyed in March 2007 by a suicide bombing which ripped the heart out of the historic Al-Mutanabbi street book market killing 26 people."
I have seen and done things I want to forget
A Corporal whose nerves were shot
Climbing behind a fierce, gone sun
I seen flies swarming everyone
Soldiers fell like loads of meat
These are the words, the words are these
Death lingering, stunk
Flies swarming everyone
Over the whole summit peak
Flesh quivering in the heat.
This was something else again
I fear it cannot explain
The words that make, the words that make murder
What if I take my problem to the United Nations
What if I take my problem to the United Nations
What if I take my problem to the United Nations
-- "The Words That Maketh Murder," written by PJ Harvey, from her forthcoming album Let England Shake

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"Grading the new Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee"
"JP Morgan Chase broke the law"
"No Ordinary Family"
"Nicole Colson can't stop lying"
"The distractions"
"No surprise at all"

No surprise at all





US Senator Jim Webb stabbed Vietnam veterans in the back with his attack on the VA's Agent Orange Registry and that all came down to money -- Webb is more than happy to spend the American tax payers' money on more weapons, he just wants veterans to foot the bill. He was also one of the big opponets to Evan Bayh's proposal for an Iraq and Afghanistan War Registry. Evan presented that himself to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee where it was roped off and couldn't make it out of committee. One of the strongest objections to a registry was Jim Webb whining yet again about the costs. What about the costs the Torres family's paying? What about the cost of a holiday that the children won't spend with their parents because Le Roy and Roise Torres have to fight and battle just for him to receive NEEDED treatment?


Today we heard US Senator Jim Webb babble on and, when he's insincere, his voice cracks. It was like the episode of The Brady Bunch where the kids are set to record a song but Peter's voice begins changing and won't stop cracking. As he used opening remarks to recount his entire resume at length -- everything but working the counter one night and giving a veteran a free milk shake -- that voice cracked and cracked. Why was that such a hard thing for him. "We have a duty," Webb insisted as he added coughs to his bag of tricks. And "this is not simply a cost item." Oh, now you may be getting why Webb was freaking out.
If not, join us as we drop back to the June 15, 2010 snapshot:
WAVY reports (link has text and video) that victims of Agent Orange (specifically Vietnam era veterans) could recieve addition beneifts for B-Cell Leukemia, Parkinson's disease and coronary heart disease. Could? A US Senator is objecting to the proposed changes by VA. Jim Webb has written VA Secretary Eric Shinseki that ". . . this single executive decision is estimated to cost a minimum of $42.2 billion over the next ten years. A regulatory action of this magnitude requires proper Congressional review and oversight." Besides, Webb wrote, "Heart disease is a common phenomenon regardless of potential exposure to Agent Orange." That is really embarrasing and especially embarrassing for the Democratic Party (Webb is a Democrat today, having converted from a Reagan Republican). It also goes a long way towards explaining Webb's refusal to get on board with Senator Evan Bayh's bill to create a national registry that would allow those Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans to be able to receive treatment for their exposures without having to jump through hoops repeatedly.
And if you doubted that Webb was about to try to pull out the axe on Vietnam veterans benefits, you had to only give him a few more seconds as he began bemoaning that the law was written one way (yes, he is a 'framers' intent' and 'original construction' type politician) and then expanded (to "dual presumptioms both based on very broad categorizations"). What are the expansions? It's been expanded to allow payments to Vietnam Veterans suffering from Parkinson's disease, ischemic heart disease and hairy cell leukemia. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is not someone we praise blindly here (to put it mildly) but the hearing was really about Shinseki's 'performance,' specifically with regards to expanding the categories -- based on medical and science evidence -- qualifying for payments.




This morning, House Veterans Affairs Committee US House Rep Jeff Miller Chaired the first oversight hearing of the Committee for the new Congressional session exploring violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act by JP Morgan Chase Bank. Chair Miller explained in his opening statement, "The Servicemember Civil Relief Act has existed in various forms since the war of 1812 and each version has shared a singular goal: to protect those who protect us. The 2003 version, which I co-sponsored, and the amendments we have made since continue that tradition." He also provided a goal for the hearing: whether or not the SCRA was meeting the needs of service members and their families.
US House Rep Bob Filner was the Chair in the previous session. The 2010 mid-term elections gave control of the House to the Republian Party. Bob Filner is now the Ranking Member on the Committee. In his opening statement, he noted:
Today's hearing seeks to examine why banks such as JP Morgan Chase have overcharged our military familes who are actively engaged in defending our country. While we want to know how these overcharges havppened, I also want to know what they are doing to prevent them from occurring again. As foreclosure filing continue to rise, the effect on Americans has been acute, with my state of California having one of the most affected populations. According to RealityTrac -- I'm sorry, RealtyTrac, California metro areas such as San Diego have been seriously affected by the foreclosures. Like most Americans, many of our nation's heroes see home ownership as an integral part of the American dream. Unfortunately for a number of military families, that part of the American dream became a nightmare when JP Morgan foreclosed on their homes. It is my sincerest hope that JP Morgan Chase will be taking immediate corrective steps to restore these families to their homes as soon as possible.
For context, last Friday's snapshot included this: " Gregg Zoroya (USA Today) reports that many veterans who mistakenly put their trust in 'special government-backed mortgages,' such as DoD's Homeowner's Assistance Program, have seen their homes taken away from them in foreclosures. In related news, Rick Maze (Army Times) reports that the US Labor Department released unemployment figures today and the unemployment 'rate for veterans climbed to 9.9 percent, up from 8.3 percent the previous month. For Iraq and Afghanistan-era veterans, the unemployment rate for January was 15.2 percent. This is a sharp increase from 9.4 percent in November and 11.7 percent in December, a clear trend of worsening job market for younger veterans, many of them combat veterans'." Last Friday, Senator Patty Murray (Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee) released a statement on the sharp rise in unemployment for veterans which included, "This is very disappointing report that demonstrates clearly the need for us to move quickly to help ournation's veterans find jobs. We all know that veterans going from the battlefield to the working world face a unique set of challenges. And as we see with today's numbers, far too many of our veterans coming home from overseas are having trouble finding work in this tough economic climate." Murray promised in her statement to continue fighting for veterans and to continue her work on job legislation for veterans.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee heard from three panels today. The first panel was made up of Julia and Capt Jonathan Rowles and their attorneys Richard Harpootian and William Harvey. Panel two was JP Morgan Chase's executive vice president from the Office of Consumer Practices Stephanie B. Mudick. The third panel was Col Shawn Shumake (DoD) and Hollister Petraeus (US Treasury Dept).
Richard Harpootian noted Chase's opening statement in his opening remarks and referred to it as "Woops! I made a mistake." He declared, "I was a state prosecutor for 12 years in South Carolina. Every person we ever caught breaking the law, taking something that wasn't theirs, was more than willing to give it back, give a mea culpa and go the other way, be on their way." He stated he wanted to ensure that they were deterred from similar activity in the future and that included upgrading the actions from misdemeanor to felony.
So what happened to the Rowles specifically? They were harassed and threatened. JP Morgan Chase repeatedly threatened to foreclose on their home and attempted to bully the Rowles into payment of more money than they owed on their home mortgage. They also invented little hoops for the Rowles to repeatedly jump through. For example, knowing that Capt Rowles was on active duty, they demanded a verification every 90 days with new threats accompanying them. The Rowles' attorneys are also representing Lt Col Sarah Letts-Smith and Lance Cpl Martin Hupfl who faced similar problems. Letts-Smith, for example. was being threatened with home foreclosure while she was stationed in Iraq.
Chair Jeff Miller: When did you first realize that Chase had violated SCRA? Did you notify the Marine Corps legal staff? And, if you did, what actions did they take on your behalf?
Capt Jonathan Rowles: Yes, sir, I first learned about SCRA while I was at OCS [Officer Candidates School] -- and my rights, thereof. Afterwards, in 2008, after lengthy letters and calls and what not, I did go to the legal staff at NAS Pensacola where I was a flight student at the time. They looked over the case but they were unsure of how to proceed and, due to the volume of other cases that they had at the time they just did not have the resources to pursue it. At which time, we were told, 'We are doing pretty much everything that we could, sir."
Chair Jeff Miller: And you say you were first educated about it at OSC?
Capt Jonathan Rowles: Yes, sir. We got a class while we were at OSC there in Quantico, Virginia, on our rights there to SCRA.
Chair Jeff Miller: Can you give us some idea of the reaction when you contacted JP Morgan Chase and how they handled the situation? And I'm sure you both had conversations with them, so feel free to elaborate.
Capt Jonatha Rowles: Yes, sir. I would characterize it as a delayed and confused. I was asked to fax my orders several times and, being in the field, you would have to -- You would fax your orders, you would go away for a week or two, you'd come back to find, they'd asked for it again. You get a statement that is not correct, so you call to recognize it, they see they need your orders again. Again. At that point, got a letter from my commander as well, just to emphasize the point that I was active duty and sent my orders along with that as well, sir.
Richard Harpootian: Mr. Chairman, I think if Mrs. Rowles could speak, she was pregnant with their second child, he's deployed, the child was born prematurely. She was having to deal with the birth of a child alone and Chase at the same time and she's a little more emotional about it than he is.
Julia Rowles: Yes, sir. Chase always had a problem with acknowledging any of our evidence or of our -- homework, I guess you would say in our SCRA benefits. We would instruct them that we were doing everything we could. We did make our payments every month, on time, in the full amount that they were supposed to be for; however, every month our statements were different. While Jonathan is away -- either in training, flight school or any of his Marine Corps duties, I was left at home to deal with Chase and their problems. We have two children. One of them was born prematurely and had to have a lengthy stay in the hospital but yet at the same time I'm dealing with Chase and getting their phone calls, getting their harassment around the clock. Jonathan missed two hours of our daughter's birthday party because Chase would simply not hang up the phone until he made a payment in which we had already paid our mortgage. This constant harass -- this constant ignorance for the SCRA benefits to service members is ridiculous and it's actually very -- It's very upsetting that for five years, we've had to educate Chase as to the benefits that we were privy to.
Chair Jeff Miller: Entitled to.
Julia Rowles: Entitled to, I'm sorry.
Chair Jeff Miller: Did they ever acknowledge -- I mean, obviously if they kept asking for orders, they must have known that there was something that they had to abide by.
Julia Rowles: We were -- Sir, we were sending them orders quarterly which we later found out we did not have to do. Once you send in orders and verify that you are active duty military, we were acknowledged. We were granted the persmission under the SCRA. That should have been it until his cotract expired and he continued military service. We had -- We have done that time and time again. And it's very -- We didn't have to do this. It's harassment. Even without collection calls, constantly sending them, I guess, his orders and all other paperwork was harassment.
Ranking Member Filner noted that he found what was going on illegal and that it was effecting all Americans and thanked the Rowles for sharing their experience. Filner agreed the actions being taken were illegal but wondered whether or not upgrading the punishment to felony level would just prevent the banks from making the loans? Richard Harpootian noted that the actions were not being taken by banks who had done the loans but by banks who bought the loans when they were resold. (JP Morgan Chase was not the bank the Rowles took their loan out with.) US Rep Michael Michaud wondered if the Rowles had been in contact with JP Morgan Chase management at any time during their ordeal?
Julia Rowles: Yes, there were numerous times when we tried to speak with anyone in management. There were times when we were told we were speaking with management and, to our surprise, management did not know how to fix our problem either. Jonathan and I traveled to Colorado from South Carolina briefly, right before he deployed in July, because we thought we found a mortgage branch manager that said he could help us. And after sitting with him for hours on two different dates, he threw his hands up into the air and said, "I have no clue how to fix your situation. There is nothing I can do. Sorry." And that was pretty much the consensus of every manager we spoke with. I would spend hours trying to find people that would actually talk to us and that would not just write down our name and number and say that they would call us back. We've spoken with managers in South Carolina, to Texas and California. Nobody knew how to fix our problem.
"But when you call your wife at two in the morning just to see how things are going," Capt Jonathan Rowles stated, "and you spend 20 minutes talking about how we can send another letter or how we can make another phone call instead of 'Honey, I love you. How was the day? How's the babies?' It's rough."
As Bob Filner noted during the first panel, "The fact that we have some publicity for what you're going through means we'll have some changes." After identifying herself on the second panel, JP Morgan Chase's Stephanie B. Mudick stated, "Before I go further, I'd like to express to the men and women serving our country and to the memebers of this Committee Chase's deepest regret over the mistakes we made in applying those protections. I commit to you that we will get this right." She acknowledged that Chase charged above the 6% capped interest rate and stated that Chase had identified over charges of $1.8 million and that they intended to repay that amoung along with "7.25% interest from the date of the overcharge." On the issue of forms, she noted that the SCRA requires that the service members is protected from foreclosure or sale while on active duty and for nine months after. (Which would mean that no one needs to supply repeat proof of status every 90 days.) She stated that they have discovered 18 service members who SCRA protections were violated (at least 18 times when Chase broke the law) and that, "In twelve of these cases, we have eitehr rescinded the sale or entered into a settlement with the borrower. We will attempt to make the remaining borrowers whole as quickly as possible."
We'll leap ahead to an exchange between Ranking Member Filner and Mudick.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Uhm, how many executive vice presidents are there at Chase? Or, let me put it another way, how high are you up in the heirarchy there?
Susan Mudick: Uh, I am a member of Chase's Executive Committee which is fewer than a hundred employees at Chase -- at JP Morgan Chase.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: And what does the 100 people do? I mean, that's the highest policy making thing in Chase?
Susan Mudick: Uh, there is an Operating Committee which is a group of approximately 20 people.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: How many executive vice presidents are there?
Susan Mudick: I don't have the answer to that question, sir, I'm sorry.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: But you'll find out for me, right?
Susan Mudick: I will indeed.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Could you fix things if we need to ask? I mean, you're here on behalf of Chase so I assume that means you can fix things. Can you fix things? I mean, you said you weren't aware of that hotline number [a JP Morgan Chase number to deal with SCRA problems which Julia Rowles testified was just an answering machine passed off as a hotline and one that has now been disconnected for months]. Can you find it out right away? Can you call someone and say, "What's going on there?"
Susan Mudick: Uh, together with-with my colleagues -- There is -- I would say --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Okay, so you can't fix things.
Susan Mudick (Con't): -- there are many -- Excuse me, sir. I would say that we try and fix whatever --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Okay, the Rowles testified that they didn't have any statements for a year, you hadn't cashed their last mortgage check. Can you fix that today?
Susan Mudick: Uh --
Raking Member Bob Filner: You said you were going to make them whole. They've brought up several questions. Can you fix that?
Susan Mudick: We are trying to fix --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: I don't want a "we." You? Can you fix that?
Susan Mudick: I can, together with my colleagues causes changes to be made in our organization. Uh -- and with respect to the Rowleses -- Uh, uhm, you know,,we are trying to figure out how we can come to an agreement --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Come to an agreement because of a lawsuit. But you said you were going to make them whole. As I read your statement, your average payment to make people whole was seventy dollars. Does that make people whole who've gone through this stuff?
Susan Mudick: The-the median payment is $70 and-and let me explain to you how-how we get to that number.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Because you're just dealing with the amount of interest you overpaid plus some fees, that's all you're dealing with. You're not dealing with any human costs or any emotional costs or any pain and suffering as they would say. You're just dealing with the amount of interest and fees that you overcharged. Right? I mean that's what it says here [holds up Mudick's prepared statement] anyway.
Susan Mudick: Congressman, most of the, uh, service members who were impacted by this, uh, are-are not even aware that they overpaid. And in part that's because the amount they overpaid was not-not material to them.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: I can't believe that there's nobody else going through what the Rowles did. But, you know, I mean, you can't make the changes, you're not making them whole. Why should -- You broke the law. Your bank broke the law. Shouldn't someone go to jail for that?
Susan Mudick: Uh --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: And who should? Who should? Who's responsible? Are you as the executive v.p. who was given us by the bank to answer for this? Should you go to jail?
Susan Mudick: Uh, we are doing a review internally in order to --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: I want to know --
Susan Mudick: -- figure out --
Ranking Member Bob Filner: -- who's responsible?
Susan Mudick: -- who's responsible for what happened.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: Are you going to tell us who? Are you going to give us a person? Or people? That are responsible?
Susan Mudick: Well we will certainly hold those folks who are resposible for this accountable.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: I want to know about you. You broke the law. How are we going to hold you accountable? Are we going to know who did what when?
Susan Mudick: Uh-uh, as a result of that -- our-our review -- we will be happy to share more information with the Committee.
Ranking Member Bob Filner: I'm sure you will. I think you'll have to probably do it in discovery [legal period in a lawsuit before trial in which the opposing sides are supposed to know what the other side knows and have access to paper work, etc.] before you're going to give it to us. It just seems to me that you all, you're not alone in this. You all have no responsibility. Everything you said was impersonal. Nobody is responsible. You said the SCRA coding 'fell off' the statement? I mean nobody took it off, nobody was responsible, it 'fell off.' Wow. Every -- You look at your testimony, everything is impersonal, everything is "we," "they." Nobody is ever responsible. And yet these people's lives have been turned upside down. Somebody or some group of people should be held responsible. And mabye then -- as the attorney said -- maybe then you'll take this seriously, if somebody went to jail, with a white collar. There's no more Mr. Morgan or Mr. Chase, I take it, but somebody should have responsibility for what's going on. You just cannot hide. As the Supreme Court tells us now, you're an individual. You're not just a corporation. Somebody has to come forward and take responsibility for this. You just cannot apologize and give back people 70 bucks and to think this is over. This is not over for them and they're still going through the thing. You heard what they're still going through. And now you can't fix it anyway. So when are they going to get their mortgage statements? Just to take one thing. You should be able to call somebody right now and say, "Get them their mortgage statements." But apparently you can't. You know, I appreciate your apology. But you've broken the law, you've ruined people's lives and people ought to take responsibility for that.
Back to her opening statement, of the Rowles, she stated she'd examined the files "and we clearly made mistakes. The customer service that we provided to him and to his wife was unacceptable. And the fact that this was a service member makes our mistakes all the more inexcusable." Actually, the fact that Rowles is a service member makes JP Morgan Chase's mistakes illegal. "We deeply regret any hardship we caused the Rowles family," she continued. I didn't buy it but it may be the most the Rowles get publicly from JP Morgan Chase so we'll note it.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Maturity required to give lessons on it





Al Mada reports that yesterday the province of Dhi Qar in sourthern Iraq saw protests in Nasiriyah as people demanded rations card items and jobs. The protesters noted that the price of "sugar, flour and other essential goods" have doubled at the markets putting further strain on struggling families. One man explains that only a few months ago they were paying less than 10,000 dinars (around US $8) for a bag of flour but are now paying over 30,000 dinars (approximately $25.46 in US dollars). And he explains that the price of sugar has similarly increased. Which is why the decision by Nouri al-Maliki and his Cabinet to increase the monthly ration card by 15,000 dinars a month (see this Al Rafidayn article) is so meaningless. The prices have soared and 15,000 dinars (approximately $12.73 in US dollars) per month isn't going to help. Take the price of flour in Nasiriyah. A few months back, they paid less than 10,000 dinars. Toss in the 15,000 dinars and that's 25,000 dinars which still won't pay for the current price of one bag of flour. Dar Addustour notes protests are increasing and now include Kut, Hilla and Missan and notes Sheikh Qasim al-Tai decreed yesterday that citizens excercising their rights are engaged in activities which demand integrity and should be free of abuse. Haider Roa ( quotes University of Baghdad political science professor Ali al-Jubouri stating that the Iraq protests are different from others in the region because they relate specifically to government performance and services. Related, Alsumaria TV reports, "The amendments made on Iraq's 2011 budget includes allocating 15% of the budget to the Iraqi people, member of the parliamentary financial committee Najiba Najib told Alsumaria News." Al Mada reports that the Parliament yesterday decided to form an investigative committee to examine the ration card system in relation to the years 2008 and 2010. Kholod al-Ziyadi (Zawya) adds:

The Iraqi parliament put off today's session to tomorrow, after reading the first reading of the draft law of the Supreme Judicial Council, according to the KBC member.
The Deputy, Sheriff Soliaman told AKnews that the Iraqi Parliament Speaker, Osama Nujaifi raised today's meeting to tomorrow after the postponed of the second reading of the law of the federal budget draft for 2011 and the first reading was read for the draft law of the Supreme Judicial Council.
"Today's meeting was limited to discuss the ration card items and mechanisms adopted in the provision and distribution of flour exclusively that is experiencing scarcity in distributing it with in most of the provinces."

Alsumaria TV notes the government's fears over protests which have been taking place in Diwaniya: "Iraq's Trade Ministry took drastic measures to meet the people's demands. The Ministry approved to provide full ration cards and acknowledged that the level of poverty in the province has approached the limit of 88%. [. . .] Diwaniya residents believe the latest measures taken by the central and local governments have come a bit late." And, as Al Mada observes, protests gathered steam quickly after starting with small demonstrations last week. And Alsumaria reports MP Alia Nassif (Iraqiya) has issued a statement warning about "an uprising in Iraq. All the motives of uprising are there, namely unemployment, bad services and mounting poverty, she said. The Iraqi people expected a lot from its Parliament and Government after the changing developments in the past years, Alia uttered. Recent demonstrations in Iraqi cities are alarming and should be a warning for the government and Parliament to take responsibility, she added." And she's not the only one with concerns. Al Mada reports on a new Babuz survey in which the majority of respondents declared that they did not believe the government would be able to provide adequate security or services any time soon. The newspaper notes that the poll can be seen as a warning to various figures that if the fight against corruption and lack of services is not resolved, there ould be a "political explosion." Hari Sreenivasan (PBS' NewsHour -- link has text, video and audio) stated last night, "The government of Iraq is moving to address a wave of protests there." However, Al Mada reports today that Iraq's housing crisis will require the construction of two million additional housing units over the next five years.
Today Amnesty Internation released [PDF format warning] their report "Broken Bodies, Tortured Minds." For clarification, this report was noted this morning. A number of visitors e-mailing insist there is no such report. Use the link. Before we get to the report, let's talk about why people wrongly think there is no report: Amnesty did a report and now Amnesty decides TO BURY IT. Why? Because they can't resist being part of the useless gasbags. Go to their sites (whichever country you prefer) and you will see it's Egypt, Egypt, Egypt. That is not the only story in the world. And when you release a report, YOU NEED TO HAVE IT FEATURED PROMINENTLY ON YOUR HOME PAGE. Let's talk about the ambulance chasing of the soap opera for a moment. As January ended, Pew examined the coverage and US viewers response. The Middle East unrest made up 36% of the US news coverage (January 27th through 30th) with 30% of that being just Egypt. During this period, the media made it the story despite the fact that "[o]nly about one-in-ten (11%) cite news about protests in Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries as the story they followed most closely last week." Today Pew released this report on the US public's attitude to the story the media really needs (a) to spend less time on and (b) to offer more insight when they do cover it. (All the wall-to-wall has produced is mass confusion. But that's what happens in a world of EZ Bake Gasbags.) If you need another example of how people are saturated with this story, ask the Pacifica program that tried to raise money on air and began yammering away -- for no reason -- about Egypt and ended up with their worst fundraiser ever. In the US, people are very much aware that Egypt is not the only story. And an already struggling fundraiser (only two lines were in use when they went into the Egypt pitch and then all the lines were available . . . forever). If you're not getting how much time has been spent oversaturating America with this story, Pew explains today, "Last week's turmoil in the Middle East registered as the biggest international story in the past four years- -- surpassing any coverage of the Iraq war, the Haiti earthquake and the conflict in Afghanistan. From Jan. 31-Feb. 6, the Middle East saga, driven by televised images of the protests and power struggle in Egypt, filled 56% of the newshole studied by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. Not only was that easily the biggest overseas story in a single week since PEJ began its News Coverage Index in January 2007. It registered as the fourth-biggest story of any kind -- trailing only two weeks in the 2008 presidential campaign and the aftermath of the Jan. 8, 2011 Tucson shooting spree." Repeating, oversaturation. (And with all that, unable to effectively communicate the story -- with all the wall-to-wall, they still couldn't communicate it to the public.) Taking it back to Amnesty, if the US home page lists 22 items (and it does), one of those items should be a headline about the report you issued today.
Backstory, at the tail end of last month, Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) broke the story of the secret prisons in Iraq and how they were run by Nouri's security forces. Last week, Human Rights Watch issued their report adding many more details. Throughout it all, including Sunday to CNN, Nouri and his spokespeople have denied the reports.
AFP notes that at least 30,000 people are held in these secret prisons, according to the report, and that torture is routine.
The report includes the stories of prisoner abuse. Example:
Samar Sa'ad 'Abudllah, aged 27, says she was beaten on the soles of her feet -- a form of torture known as falaqa -- and given electric shocks to force her to "confess" to killing her uncle and his family for money. Based on her "confession", she was sentenced to death in 2005 and her sentence was confirmed in 2007. The judge failed to order an investigation into her torture allegations. She says that her fiance carried out the killings; he is still being sought by the authorities. She is now in al-Kadhimiya Prison and, according to her father, suffering from depression, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Another prisoner told Amnesty last April:
We [father and son] were tortured in the same manner: suspension from a bed upside-down, suffocation by putting plastic bags on our heads, beatings, use of electric shocks on various parts of the body. The suspension is for about 30 minutes. . . I was tortured three times. They used electric shocks on me twice. I was beaten several times. After that I confessed. I confessed to things I never knew what they were.
Forced confessions are one of the most common features of 'justice' in Iraq. Torture has many consequences (including imprisoning the innocent and letting the guilty go free). The report notes:
Most torture victims have long-term psychological issues to deal with. A common consequence of torture is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including flashbacks, nightmares, depression, anxiety and memory loss. Many of the detainees interviewed by Amnesty International are not receiving psychological support for the torture they endured. Torture also affects families of detainees. According to the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, children are particularly vulnerable. They can suffer feelings of guilt and personal responsibility for what has happened to their tortured parent. Family members also experience anxiety and a sense of loss. Many psychologists believe that family members would benefit from therapy along with the survivor of torture.
There are many forms of torture including rape. The report notes:
In Iraq, rape or threat of rape of detainees or their loved ones has been widely alleged. Sexual assault shares with other forms of torture the objective of inflicing suffering, humiliation and degradation. It is also used to force "confessions", extract information or punish detainees.
A member of Iraq's parliament who met four male inmates at al-Rusafa prison in Baghdad in June 2009 said they told him that they had been raped and otherwise tortured, and that he had seen marks on their bodies that supported their allegations. Hundreds of inmates at the prison went on hunger strike in May and June 2009 to demand an end to torture and other ill-treatment.
Other Iraqi members of parliament have raised serious concerns about sexual violence in prisons. In mid-June 2009, for example, one said that security forces had sexually assaulted at least 21 male detainees at al-Rusafa and al-Diwanya prisons in southern Iraq since the beginning of the year. In May 2009, a delegation from the Council of Representatives' Human Rights Committee visiting al-Kadhimiya women's prison in Baghad heard testimony from two female prisoners who said they had been raped repeatedly after their arrest.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a 68-year-old man with dual Iraqi-UK citizenship, was held in communicado and tortured, including by being raped with a stick, after he travelled to Iraq to secure the release of his son Omar. Both men were beaten, suffocated, given electric shocks to the genitals, and supsended by the ankles. Interrogators also threatened to rape Ramze's first wife, who lives in Mosul, in front of him, and threatened Omar that he would be forced to rape his father if he did not confess to killings. Both men signed "confessions".
Rape or threat of rape has serious psychological and physical effects on survivors. The physical consequences for men and women can include sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV; sexual dysfunction; tears or lacerations to the anus and vagina that cause long-term pain; and bruising. Women can also suffer from unwanted pregnancy and gynaecological problems resulting in infertility.
The long-term mental effects on both sexes can include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, phobias, eating and sleeping disorders, PTSD and suicidal behaviour.

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