Saturday, March 24, 2012

He should have played Billy Sive




Let's face it: Big Oil is used to getting its way. But not today... and we have President Obama to thank for standing up to them in spite of the political risk.
[. . .]
The president stood up to Big Oil and listened to Americans saying: "We're done with fossil fuel schemes that destroy our land, poison our water and wreak havoc with our climate so that oil companies can make out like bandits." Now we need to continue to stand with the president and make it clear that tar sands pipelines are not in our national interest.




There is a success story in Iraq. You'd think the White House desperate for someone to paint the illegal war as a success would have seized upon it but, even though Jane Arraf reported on it for Al Jazeera last weekend, the White House and other Operation Happy Talkers somehow missed it. This is a transcript to Arraf's video report:
Jane Arraf: It's a small step pronouncing a word but for parents and children, it speaks volumes. Without this institute, some of these children wouldn't even be making eye contact. Eleven years ago, there were no schools for autistic children, so one of the parents started her own. Nibras Sadoun was doing field research in special education when she adopted an autistic child rejected by his mother.
Nibras Sadoun: There are a lot of obstacles in the country and there were huge needs as well. So we tried to pull together the efforts of the founders, specialists and parents to establish a solid base that can serve this segment of society.
Jane Arraf: The Al Rahman Institute, named after her son, has since grown into six centers around the country -- all without Iraqi government funding. The latest just opened in Baghdad. Iraq's education ministry doesn't have any programs for autistic children. It considers them slow learners. Here in the middle of Baghdad, this is a safe place for children, a refuge. But there are only a few dozen children who have been lucky enough to come here and hundreds on the waiting list. Autism is so widely misunderstood here that a lot of children like this spend their entire lives locked up at home. Mariam has been here for a year. She's five-and-a-half but, before she came, she couldn't say "Mama" or ask for water. Her father says her progress is basic. But having somewhere to bring her during the day is a lifesaver.
Nizer Mustapha Hussein:She's a very active child and she plays with everything. Thank God, we found this place. Her mother can't cope with her at home because she can't control her.
Jane Arraf: The children have varying degrees of autism, a lot have other neurolgical or developmental problems as well. Autistic children have trouble communicating or interacting with others. At school, they teach them basic skills. Their biggest problem is lack of qualified staff. Dealing with autistic children takes training and dedication and the determination to find a place for children who don't easily fit in the world around them.
A small number of autistic children and their families can say their lives have improved. Of course, this improvement did not result from any US military project or US State Dept project and didn't result from Prime Minister and All Around Thug Nouri al-Maliki sliding over any dollars from the billions he sits on. As is so often the case with autism around the world, improvements came as a result of families of those effected doing more than their part.
The Autism Support Network highlights a report Lara Logan did for CBS News in 2008 on autism in Iraq. In the report, Logan observes, "The problem for autistic children in Iraq is that almost nothing is known about this condition. Incredibly, the only doctor who did treat it, who founded this center in the name of his own autistic son, has fled the country. He left behind these social workers who try their best to help but even they haven't been paid in four months." Click here for the CBS report with text and video. However, do not e-mail me and say, "C.I., you're wrong about the report. It aired on February 11, 2009." I have no idea what the problem with CBS and dates is this week. We noted Nancy Pelosi's "off the table" 2006 interview on 60 Minutes earlier this week and didn't link to 60 Minutes. Why? You click on that 2006 60 Minutes report and you've got a 2009 date. I didn't want the e-mails. That interview was well covered in real time (we linked to the World Can't Wait commentary the day after the interview aired). Autism is not usually well covered. So we're linking to CBS. But it aired in 2008. If you doubt it, click here, it's the video at YouTube, uploaded by CBS News on August 10, 2008. If you need further convincing, drop back to the August 12, 2008 snapshot when we first noted Lara Logan's report.
Silence on the improvement for the small number of autistic children able to attend one of the six centers may have also been ignored by the White House due to the fact that the rate of autism in Iraq may be influenced by the various chemicals and weapons and pollutants and toxins the US goverment introduced via many methods of delivery (including burn pits). Last week, Cindy Sheehan wrote about being in Stockholm with the Iraq Solidarity Group to observe the anniversary of the invasion and speaking with an Iraqi doctor who went over a number of stastics:
Two million dead during the sanction years; 1.5 milliion dead after 2003; incidences of leukemia in children in Fallujah and Basra skyrocketing by a factor of ten times normal; clean water and electricity are still in short supply; and the US occupiers do not work for the people of Iraq.
[. . .]
Of course we know that the US used depleted uranium coated weapons in Iraq and the region is now poisoned by the radioactive waste from DU for 4.5 billion years --- that is one of the reasons that incidences of leukemia are on the rise.
One woman who does activism to ban all nuclear weapons, including DU, said that now in Iraq, a woman's first question after giving birth is not: "Is it a boy or a girl," but, "Is it normal?"
No wonder the White House decided to skip the topic of Iraqi children. For more coverage of the damage to the environment and its effects on the Iraqi people, you can refer to:
"Normal" doesn't begin to describe the ongoing political crisis in Iraq or Nouri's attempts to have Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi arrested (he claims al-Hashemi is a terrorist) which are seen as part of the same political crisis and part of Nouri's attempt to lash out at political rivals. (Tareq al-Hashemi is a member of Iraqiya which came in first in the March 2010 elections while Nouri's State of Law came in second.) al-Hashemi was in the KRG when Nouri issued the warrant and he has remained in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region as a guest of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and KRG President Massoud Barzani. The KRG has not assisted Nouri in his witch hunt and Nouri has responded by ordering the arrests of people working for al-Hashmi. Amer Sarbut Zeidan al-Batawi was one such pe
Wednesday, Tareq al-Hashemi charged that his bodyguard had been tortured to death. We covered these issue in yesterday's snapshot. Today Human Rights Watch is calling for an investigation into the death:
(Beirut) – Iraqi authorities should order a criminal investigation into allegations that security forces tortured to death a bodyguard of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, Human Rights Watch said today.

Iraqi authorities released Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi's body to his family on March 20, 2012, about three months after arresting him for terrorism. His family told Human Rights Watch that his body displayed signs of torture, including in several sensitive areas. Photographs taken by the family and seen by Human Rights Watch show what appear to be a burn mark and wounds on various parts of his body.

"The statements we heard and photos we saw indicate that Iraqi security officers may have tortured Amir Sarbut Zaidan al-Batawi to death while he was in their custody," said
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "It's essential for the Iraqi government to investigate his death and report publicly what they find."

The family said that al-Batawi's death certificate listed no cause of death. They said that before his arrest, the 33-year-old married father of three was in excellent health.

"I could barely recognize him," a close relative told Human Rights Watch on March 22. "There were horrible marks and signs of torture all over his body. He had lost about 17 kilos [37.5 pounds] from the day they arrested him."

Iraqi authorities have denied the torture allegations. On March 22, Lt. Gen. Hassan al-Baydhani, chief of staff of Baghdad's security command center and a judicial spokesman, said al-Batawi died of kidney failure and other conditions after refusing treatment. When asked by reporters about the photographic evidence that al-Batawi had been tortured, Baydhani replied, "It is easy for Photoshop to show anything," referring to a digital photo-editing software.

As the United States was pulling its last remaining troops from Iraq in December 2011, Iraqi authorities issued an arrest warrant for al-Hashemi on charges he was running death squads. Al-Hashemi has taken refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan and refused to return to Baghdad, saying he cannot receive a fair trial. Kurdistan Regional Government authorities have so far declined to hand him over.

An unknown number of other members of al- Hashemi's security and office staff have been arrested since late December and are also in custody, including two women. On March 22, al-Hashemi told Human Rights Watch, "I have made repeated requests to the government to find out who else in my staff has been arrested and where they are being held, but they have not responded."

Human Rights Watch called on the Iraqi government to release the names of all those detained and the charges against them, and to ensure that they have access to lawyers and medical care.
Today Al Mada reports that security sources are stating that young Iraqi women and girls are about to be targeted by the militias in part of the ongoing attacks on Iraqi youths thought to be Emo and/or gay. One source stated that the militias have pulled back and 'softened' their approach recently but only due to the fact that the Arab League Summit is approaching. To avoid embarrassing Nouri, they militia's basically about to take a vacation and plans to return immediately after the summit at which point they will "hunt down girls" and security sources are also stating that some security forces may be assisting the militias in these upcoming actions. If you're new to this topic, Scott Lang's column for the Guardian provides a strong overview of what's taking place:
A new killing campaign is convulsing Iraq. The express targets are "emos", short for "emotional": a western-derived identity, teenagers adopting a pose of vulnerability, along with tight clothes and skewed hairdos and body piercing. Starting last year, mosques and the media both began raising the alarm about youthful immorality, calling the emos deviants and devil worshippers. In early February, somebody began killing people. The net was wide, definitions inexact. Men who seemed effeminate, girls with tattoos or peculiar jewellery, boys with long hair, could all be swept up. The killers like to smash their victims' heads with concrete blocks.
There is no way to tell how many have died: estimates range from a few dozen to more than 100. Nor is it clear who is responsible. Many of the killings happened in east Baghdad, stronghold of Shia militias such as Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army and Asaib Ahl al-Haq (the League of the Righteous). Neither, though, has claimed responsibility. Iraq's brutal interior ministry issued two statements in February. The first announced official approval to "eliminate" the "satanists". The second, on 29 February, proclaimed a "campaign" to start with a crackdown on stores selling emo fashion. The loaded language suggests, at a minimum, that the ministry incited violence. It's highly possible that some police, in a force riddled with militia members, participated in the murders.
It's logical to compare this to the militia campaign against homosexual conduct in 2009, which I documented for Human Rights Watch. Hundreds of men lost their lives then. Gay-identified men have been caught up in these killings as well, and Baghdad's LGBT community is rife with fear. Yet there are differences. The current killings target women as well as men, and children are the preferred victims. It's not quite true to say, as some press reports have suggested, that "emo" is just a synonym for "gay" in Iraq. Rather, immorality, western influence, decadence and blasphemy have come together in a loosely defined, poorly aligned complex of associations: and emo fashion and "sexual perversion" are part of the mix.
Turning to 'security' in 'free' Iraq. Thank goodness foreign troops are out is the public pose of Nouri. But it appears that privately he's attempting to get foreign military back into Iraq.
The Sun Daily notes, "Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi today said Malaysia is prepared to sen[d] a special peacekeeping team on a humanitarian mission to Iraq if the costs of operation were to be sponsored by other countries." The Defense Minister is quoted stating, "There's a request for Malaysia to sen[d] a team to Iraq and one particular country has also agreed to bear the costs of operation, but since the country has yet to keep its promise, we cannot send the team to Iraq." Meanwhile Reuters notes a Kirkuk prison break that has 19 prisoners on the loose.

Still on security news, KUNA reports, "All necessary security precautions have been taken in preparation for upcoming Arab summit due to be hosted by Baghdad in the end of this month, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior announced on Friday." The Arab League Summit is set to take place next week in Baghdad. Alsumaria TV notes the announcement as well and -- a press release from the Ministry of Interior -- and that the release claims that terrorists are attempting to create an atmosphere of hysteria. An atmosphere of hysteria? Like Nouri's comments reported by Al Rafidayn that Tuesday's attacks was carried out by terrorist including security officers inside the Iraqi security forces? Citing an unnamed security source, Al Mada reports that Nouri has ordered the closure of at least one bridge and that Baghdad barrier walls are going back up. It's already been reported that Baghdad's about to impose a seven-day 'holiday' and that Bahgdad International Airport will be closed to commercial flights. Salam Faraj and Abdul Jabbar (AFP) observe, "The Iraqi capital's already gnarling traffic has all but ground to a halt, and the government has declared a week of holidays on the days surrounding the March 27-29 summit to encourage people to stay at home." Iraq's a country already plagued with high unemployment and rocketing inflation. Now Faraj and Jabbar report that the prices in Baghdad markets are soaring due to transportation issues as a result of the barriers and checkpoints that have been going up.

On the topic of violence, Charles Tripp (Open Democracy) offers:

Violence in Iraq has now become a central part of the practice of power, both by the government and by certain non-governmental agencies, some of them bitterly opposed to, but others enmeshed in the webs of government practice. For the government of Iraq under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the ever unfinished project of re-establishing the power and thus, he hopes, the authority of the central state has often taken a violent form. This has been clear ever since the campaigns in 2008 that saw a reconstituted, if not always very effective, Iraqi army reconquer a number of Iraq's provinces, with campaigns in the south in Basra, the east of Baghdad, the north in Mosul and the north-east in Diyala.
At the time and in the context of the country's emergence from a bloody civil war, these campaigns were strongly supported by the US and others who saw this precisely as a token of the 'resolve' and the 'seriousness' of the fragile Iraqi government. The fact that al-Maliki had attached to his personal command perhaps the most effective and ruthless of the units of the reconstituted Iraqi armed forces, the Baghdad Brigade, was believed to assist the state-creating project. Equally, the close and some might say politically unhealthy interest that al-Maliki took in officers' careers, promotions and transfers within the Iraqi armed forces through his own Office of the Commander in Chief was regarded as merely fitting if he wanted 'to get the job done'.
The problem, as many Iraqis began to discover, lay in what else was coming into being as a consequence. In public, the military presence was meant to symbolise al-Maliki's grip on power and his capacity to restore order, as his coalition 'The State of Law' promised. It was highly visible and clearly aimed at demonstrating both that the withdrawal of the US forces in 2010/2011 would not leave Iraq defenceless, and that the government was in full control. The effect, however, in the words of one Iraqi was that 'we live as under an army of occupation'. Given the continuing threat of violence from insurgents of one kind and another, this may have been reassuring for some. However, it also seemed to bring with it the idea that any kind of open or public opposition could and should be met with force. Most notoriously, this was evident in the ferocious response in 2011 to any Iraqis who dared to demonstrate during 2011 in the spirit of the 'Arab Spring'. Thus, whether in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, or in Basra, Mosul or in the Kurdish region in Sulaimaniyya, peaceful protestors were killed, abused and beaten up on the orders of authorities for which violence has become the default response to opposition.

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