House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia met this afternoon. It was one of the hearings we attended.
What was my take away?
First, I honestly did not know there were Palestinian Christians. I'm more surprised that I'd never thought of it (one way or the other) than that they exist. Gary Ackerman chairs the committee and he raised the issue with the State Department's Michael Posner.
"I want to ask you about a minority that's very often overlooked in the Middle East," he declared (I'm using C.I.'s notes). "I'm talking about Palestinian Christians."
And they had been overlooked by me. I had never even considered them.
He then declared, "It would be almost sinful -- if I can use that word in a political context -- for the birthplace of Christianity to be devoid of Christians." He attempted to get Posner to address the issue. It really did not go well. So much so that Ackerman had to state at one point, "I don't think the problem within the Christian Palestinians community is that they thirst to serve in the Israeli military." I had to laugh when he said that.
The other big moment -- there were two actually. But I only remember when one happened (I'm not going through all the pages of C.I.'s notes but I will flip through for one section).
You've got to be taught to hate and fear
You've got to be taught from year to year
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a different shade
You've got to be carefully taught
You've got to be taught before it's too late
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You've got to be carefully taught
You've got to be carefully taught
That's the lyrics to the song "You've Got To Be Carefully Taught."
It's from South Pacific -- a Rogers & Hammerstein musical.
Why am I mentioning it? Because Representative Jim Costa did. He raised the song -- he mentioned some lyrics -- to ask about the issue of Saudi textbooks (no, I didn't make that up).
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Thursday, November 19, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the 'intended' elections remain up in the air, the US State Dept ignores warnings on refugees, another Iraqi is sentenced to execution, and more.
Starting with the 'intended' January elections in Iraq which are in question as a result of the veto by Iraq's Sunni vice president Tariq al-Hashemi. Waleed Ibrahim, Suadad al-Salhy, Aseel Kami and Deepa Babington (Reuters) reports that the MPs are stating presently they intend to ignore his objection and just revote on the same draft law -- while exploring whether or not he has the 'power' to veto. This will reportedly take place on Saturday. Abu Dhabi's the National condems al-Hashemi's action in an editorial, "Mr al Hashemi has claimed that his veto was in defence of the constitution, but that is seriously in doubt. Even his right to a veto is dubious as the constitutional provisions regulating the presidency council state that all its decisions must be unanimous. This was not the case here. If anything, it appeared to be motivated by blind sectarian interest, which is all the more shameful considering the effort it took to overcome those same interests and pass the law in the first place." But the paper's Phil Sands and Nizar Latif report that Iraqi exiles are ecstatic over al Hashemi's move and quotes Jalil Abu Arshad stating (from Syria), "I fully support the need to give more seats to exiles. The .parliament agreed to have one MP representing each 100,000 Iraqis and nobody can believe that the seven or so seats that would be chose by refugees is enough. There are millions of Iraqis with no choice but to live outside the country and they have the right to a say in choosing the next government. This is a matter of democratic principles, it has nothing to do with Sunni, Shia or Kurd."
On Democracy Now! today pampered Raed Jarrar joined Amy Goodman for a segment of non-stop spinning. Baby Raed treated Iraqi refugees as an afterthought, a footnote. But then Baby Raed's never wanted for a damn thing his entire life. And the spoiled candy ass sure does spin so very well. Here's Raed revealing that his tiny, limp brain doesn't allow him to read:
Now, unfortunately, the Obama administration -- in the beginning, it was good in being vocal and clear about the withdrawal being time-based, not conditions-based, which is the main difference between the Obama plan and the Bush plan. Bush talked for six years about how the US will leave when conditions permit. But Obama talked about a timetable for withdrawal that is not conditions-based, and that's why his plan had a lot of support in the US and Iraq.
Poor, stupid Raed, apparently play-acting tires him out. Reality, Barack always talked conditions based. Raed was too busy self-stroking to posters of Barry O to deal with reality but those of us who aren't WHORES knew reality some time ago. Let's drop back to the January 15th snapshot -- before Barack was even sworn in:
Today Elisabeth Bumiller and Thom Shanker (New York Times) report on the US military commanders contingency plan for Iraq. Last month Bumiller and Shanker reported on the military commanders presenting a partial drawdown of US troops in Iraq on a slower scale than Barack's 'pledge' of 16 month withdrawal (of "combat" troops only). No objections were raised over the timeframe by the president-elect but, in case objections are registered in the immediate future, they've come up with an alternate plan they could implement. This calls for a high of 8,000 a month (more likely four to six thousand) to be pulled. Using the high figure, 48,000 US service members could be out of Iraq (with at least 30,000 of that number redeployed to Afghanistan) in six months. That would still leave close to 100,000 US troops in Iraq. And there is no full withdrawal planned by Barack. That is why he refused to promise that, if elected, all US troops would be out of Iraq by the end of his first term (2012). Of course, Barack also rushed to assure the Times (2007) that he would easily halt any drawdown and rush more troops back into Iraq (and no words to declare this a temporary measure) when he sat down with Michael Gordon and Jeff Zeleny (see this Iraq snapshot and Third's article and the actual transcript of the interview -- a transcript Tom Hayden should have read before humiliating himself in public, then again Tom-Tom seems to enjoy public humiliation). So the article tells you that the military's preparing for all possibilities . . . except the possibility the American people want (and some foolishly believe Barack ever promised) full withdrawal of Iraq. That is not an option the military even considers.
"In the beginning," Raed? Before Baby Jarar Jarar grabs his crayola to do another one of those laughable e-mails, let's note that the "this Iraq snapshot" links back to November 2, 2007. Yes, before Barack was even the Democratic Party nominee, he was explaining any subtracting of troops (not a full withdrawal -- he never promised that outside of campaign slogans) would be conditions based. From the November 2, 2007 snapshot:
So let's be clear that the 'anti-war' Obama told the paper he would send troops back into Iraq. Furthermore, when asked if he would be willing to do that unilaterally, he attempts to beg off with, "We're talking too speculatively right now for me to answer." But this is his heavily pimped September (non)plan, dusted off again, with a shiny new binder. The story is that Barack Obama will NOT bring all US troops home. Even if the illegal war ended, Obama would still keep troops stationed in Iraq (although he'd really, really love it US forces could be stationed in Kuwait exclusively), he would still use them to train (the police0 and still use them to protect the US fortress/embassy and still use them to conduct counter-terrorism actions.
Facts is hard for Baby Raed. Someone change his diaper, he's looking cranky.
Raed does what Amy loves her guests to do: Channel spirits from the Land of Fantasy. Having no facts, Raed starts offering fantasies of why the vice president vetoed the election law. Naturally, since Raed wants the election law, the vice president must be evil and full of malice to do something Raed doesn't approve of. Amy laps that s**t up because, after all, this is the Crazy who, in Decmeber 2003, was broadcasting across the air waves -- with fellow lunatic John Nichols -- that Hillary would take over the 2004 DNC convention in an attempt to grab that year's presidential nomination. It takes a lot of crazy to live in Amy Goodman's world and Raed's crazy enough to qualify as a next-door neighbor.
Raed's real tight with CODESTINK -- which we all know isn't a peace group (by their actions, they revealed themselves) -- so he spins for Barry and states that the US military withdrew from all Iraqi cities at the end of June. The bases? Raed doesn't want to think about them, that would require work and the only work most could picture him doing is deciding which photo of Barry to place on his pillow while he humps the bed to climax each night. Hey, anyone remember when Raed was 'informing' that the 'surge' was really going to be used to attack Shi'ite militias? Oh, that fact-free, wacky child. Kisses, Raed, kisses.
Also making an ass out of himself is Baha al-Araji who has given multiple statements to the press today (they may or may not print them tomorrow). The Shi'ite who serves on Iraq's Constitutional Court states/rules (depending upon which outlet he's speaking to) that Tariq al-Hashmi doesn't have the power to veto the election law. Now that would toss the issue up in the air and require examination but chatty al-Araji goes on to weaken his own case by blathering on about how his own (al-Araji) deciding was based on what al-Hashmi objected to. That would undercut al-Araji's alleged conclusion. Either the presidential council has the power to veto or they don't -- it doesn't matter what their reasoning is. They possess the power or they don't. At every other point, the council's possessed this power. Most outlets will probably ignore the ravings of al-Araji because the Parliament's taking up the issue on Saturday. Today at the Pentagon, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates spoke on the subject of the veto and where things stand currently, "And we hope that the concerns that have been expressed can be resolved quickly and a -- and new legislation passed to that the election can take place within the constitutional framework, meaning before the end of January."
Al Jazeera interviewed (link is video) Tariq al-Hashemi.
Tariq al-Hashemi: What I have done in fact is based on my Constitutional obligation. When I discovered there was a major loophole, it's our duty -- according to the Constitution -- to try to make some sort of remedy on a legal basis and that is what I have done today.
Kamahl Santamaria: Okay, so you've done it according to the Constitution. You've done what you say is legal. My question to you though is the repercussions of this. If this election can't happen as it is supposed to happen by January the 31st, then what happens? It is a huge opportunity lost for Iraq.
Well I don't think that this sort of amendment is going to defer the timetable of the commission. I made a thorough discussion with the commission staff the day before yesterday. I very much assured that all logistic had been already covered, action had been taken, so just to make this amendment is going to take one or two days, is not going to make any major shift to the timetable that has been agreed upon.
Kamahl Santamaria: But what's interesting is I spoke to a member of the electoral commission only an hour ago. He said everything's off, they're not pressing on with anything, of course it's been thrown into doubt.
Tariq al-Hashemi: I'm not -- I'm not agree. I think this announcement is not based on any -- on any acceptable ground because, as I told you in fact, I-I-I had a lengthy discussion the day before yesterday. I checked everything and the chairman of the commission told me specifically that all action being taken, all what we need in fact to press the button on the form which will be according to number of seats and this could be sorted out within hours.
Kamahl Santamaria: Why is five-percent, the sticking point of five-percent for Iraqis in exile, Iraqis abroad, why is five-percent not enough?
Tariq al-Hashemi: Well five-percent, in fact, if you just -- if you just reflect it to a number of seats -- we are talking a number not exceeding, in no way, seven seats. Seven seats according to Article 49 of the Constitution doesn't mean anything. According to the text of this article, we have to ensure that each 100,000 Iraqis, whether they are living inside or out -- or outside Iraq, they should be entertained by one seat. So seven seats doesn't entertain the least figure which ministry of migration has maintained time being. The number of Iraqis outside of-of Iraq which has been recorded as per Ministry of Migration is one-million-five hundred. If you're talking NGOs, international human rights, this figure could reach to 4.5 million. So if we are allocating only seven seats, this means that we are entertaining 700,000 Iraqis and ignored 800,000.
If you paid attention, not only did Amy Goodman not book anyone to present the side above, it was never addressed. Just nutty conspiracy theories from Raed. Amy calls it "public affairs" -- no one knowledgable would use that term.
Monday's snapshot noted the assassinations of the Sahwa members in Sadan village and that the assassins were said to be wearing Iraqi forces uniforms. Aswat al-Iraq reports Tariq al-Hashemi declared at a Wednesday news conference, "What happened in Abu-Ghraib two days ago is that groups in army uniform arrested 17 people from their houses, then killed them with cold blood in a nearby ceremony." Staying with the topic of Sahwa, we're dropping back to the March 30th snapshot:
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) explained Saturday, "16 people were injured (seven Sahwa members, four Iraqi soldiers and four civilians) after clashes broke out between the Iraqi army and Sahwa members in Fadhil neighborhood in downtown Baghdad around 2 p.m. The clashes broke out during an operation of the Iraqi army to arrest the leader of Fadhil Sahwa and one of his deputies. Five Iraqi soldiers were kidnapped in the incident." McClatchy's Leila Fadel added Adel Mashhadani was the arrest target and that the arrest of him (as well as an assistant) "heightened fears among Sunnis that the Iraqi government plans to divide and disband the movements now that its taken control of all but a few thousands of the 94,000 members across the country."
Adel Mashhadani is in today's news cycle. The Telegraph of London reports that he has been "condemned to death" for an alleged kidnapping and murder. John Leland (New York Times) adds that he has his defenders and detractors and that rumors swirl including: "Many Fadhil residents said that Mr. Mashhadani was not in police custody but was in Turkey, and that the courts announced the sentence to incite Sunni violence and justify a government crackdown. Some said the plan was led by Iranians in the government." Larry Johnson (Seattle PostGlobal) reports, "Iraq is planning to excute up to 126 women by the end of the year. At least 9 may be hanged with the next two weeks. Human rights goupt say the only crime committed by many of these women was to serve in the government of Saddan Hussein. Others, according to human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, were convicted of common crimes based on confessions that were the result of torture." Last September, Amnesty International released a report [PDF format warning] entitled "A Thousand People Face The Death Penalty In Iraq" which noted that the country "now has one of the highest rates of executed in the world" and:
Defendants commonly complain that "confessions" were extracted from them under torture during pre-trial interrogation, often when they were held incommunicado in police stations or detention facilities controlled by the Ministry of Interiror. These "confessions" are then often used as evidence against them at their trials, and are accepted by the courts without taking any or adequate steps to investigate defendants' allegations of torture. Defendants also complain that they are not able to choose their own defence lawyers; those tried before the CCCI [Central Criminal Court of Iraq] on capital charges have defence lawyers appointed by the court if they are unable to pay for defence counsel, but the quality of such representation is low. Some lawyers refuse to represent defendants accused of "terrorism", mostly Sunni Muslims, fearing reprisals by armed milita groups linked to Shi'a political parties represented in the Iraqi Council of Representatives (parliament).
Back in November of 2006, Brian Bennett (Time magazine) reported on the "glitches and logistical snafus" in the executions including a man hanged September 6th -- the rope broke and he fell fifteen feet and declared "Allah saved me! Allah saved me!" while a debate took place among officials for forty minutes over whether it was divine intervention or not. In October of 2008, Robert Fisk (Independent of London) reported on the executions and quoted an unnamed British official who explained a hanging recently observed, "They made him stand on the bench, put the rope round his neck and pushed him off. But he jumped on to the floor. He could stand up. So they shortened the length of the rope and got him back on teh bench and pushed him off again. It didn't work. They started digging into the floor beneath the bench so that the guy would drop far enough to snap his neck. They dug up the tiles and the cement underneath. But that didn't work. He could still stand up when they pushed him off the bench. So they just took him to a corner of the cell and shot him in the head."
"The reports already out," declared Michael H. Posner this afternoon to US House Rep Jim Costa. "Those designations will happen in the next few months. The human rights -- the broader human rights report is just a factual summary." Posner, the Assistant Secretary for Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the US State Dept, was appearing before the US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. The report he was refering to was the State Dept's International Religious Freedom Report which was released October 26, 2009.
On Iraq, the State Dept's publication notes:
At the end of the reporting period, national identity cards continued to note the holder's religion, which has been used as a basis for discrimination; however, passports did not note religion.
Law No. 105 of 1970 prohibits the Baha'i Faith, and a 2001 resolution prohibits the Wahhabi branch of Islam. Although provisions on freedom of religion in the new Constitution may supersede these laws, no court challenges have been brought to have them invalidated, and no legislation has been proposed to repeal them.
In April 2007 the Ministry of Interior's Nationality and Passport Section canceled Regulation 358 of 1975, which prohibited the issuance of a nationality identity card to those claiming the Bahai' Faith. In May 2007 a small number of Baha'is were issued identity cards. The Nationality and Passport Section's legal advisor stopped issuance of the cards thereafter, claiming Baha'is had been registered as Muslims since 1975 and citing a government regulation preventing the conversion of "Muslims" to another faith. Without this official citizenship card, Baha'is experience difficulty registering their children for school and applying for passports. Despite the cancellation of the regulation, Baha'is whose identy records were changed to "Muslim" after Regulation 358 was instituted in 1975 still could not change their identity cards to indicate their Baha'i faith, and their children were not recognized as Baha'is.
A March 2006 citizenship law specifically precludes Jews from regaining citizenship if it is ever withdrawn.
[. . .]
There were allegations that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) engaged in discriminatory behavior against religious minorities. Christians and Yezidis living north of Mosul claimed that the KRG confiscated their property without compensation and that it began building settlements on their land. Assyrian Christians alleged that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)-dominated judiciary in Ninewa routinely discriminated against non-Muslims and failed to enforce judgments in their favor. There were reports that Yezidis faced restrictions when entering the KRG and had to obtain KRG approval to find jobs in areas within Ninewa Province administred by the KRG or under the security protection of the Peshmerga.
There were also allegations that the KRG exhibited favoritism toward the Christian religious establishment, and it was alleged that on February 17, 2008, KRG authorities arrested and held incommunicado for four days an Assyrian blogger, Johnny Khoshaba Al-Rikany, based on articles he had posted attacking corruption in the church.
Yezidi and Shabak political leaders alleged that Kurdish Peshmerge forces regularly committed abuses against and harassed their communities in Ninewa Province. Districts that are within the security control of the Peshmerga include Sinjar, Sheikhan, Ba'asheq (sub-district of Mosul), and Bartalla (sub-district of Hamdaniya). Minority leaders alleged that Kurdish forces were intimidating minority communities to identify themselves as Kurds and support their inclusion in the KRG. Yezidi political representatives also reported that because of their religious affiliation, they were not allowed to pass through security checkpoints in areas controlled by Kurdish Peshmerga as they traveled from Baghdad to their communities in northern Iraq.
The KRG denied allegations that it was behind violent incidents directed at Christians and other minorities. Moreover, despite such allegations, many non-Muslims reside in northern Iraq and the KRG area, and there were reports that some sought refuge there from other parts of the country where pressures to conform publicly to narrow interpretations of Islamic tenets were greater. In February 2009, the IOM estimated that there were 19,100 internally displaced families in the Ninewa Plain and that 43,595 internally displaced families were located in the Kurdistan region.
In reply to a question from US House Rep Bob Inglis today, Posner said there were three things the US government could do to support religious communities being targeted around the world:
1) Be very viligant when religious communities are targeted and in trouble.
2) The US government can help amplify their voices.
3) The US government can provide direct, material, financial support.
With regards to the US government speaking out against targeting of religious communities, Posner declared that "governments take notice of that" and that "it is always valuable for us to speak out."
Religious minorities are among Iraq's refugee population. The genocide and ethnic cleansing of Iraq led to millions of refugees -- some internal, some external. Julien Barnes-Dacey (Christian Science Monitor) reports that "up to 2 million" of the external refugees "remain stranged in neighboring countries" while the United Nations faces shortfalls in funding. As Barnes-Dacey reports, that has not prevented Iraqi refugees from continuing to leave Iraq. One example of that is Abu Ali who entered Syria in August and states, "I had to leave: they say there's security, but on the ground it's a different story. They still kill you because of your ID papers." As a backdrop to the crisis, the US State Dept's Eric Schwartz wrapped up a multi-day bad will tour today. Over the weekend, Schwartz made the usual ass of himself including when AP interviewed him and, despite the fact that various humanitarian organizations have issued studies this year pointing out how little the Baghdad government or 'government' has done for refugees, he declared 'strides have been made'. And the 'answer' is for Iraqi refugees to return to Iraq -- despite the fact that the Red Cross and the United Nations both have stated that that Iraq is not 'safe' enough for refugees to begin returning nor is that country able to handle a mass return. Wednesday he was in Syria which estimates they currently house 1.2 million Iraqi refugees. Khaled Yacoub Oweis (Reuters) reports that Schwartz declared the influx of Iraqi refugees to the US this current fiscal year would be "substantial." And Schwartz declares it will be "at least 17,000." That's substantial? By whose measurement? Or have we forgotten Schwartz promised 20,000 would be settled in FY '09 -- a little over 18,000 were re-settled in the US for that fiscal year. So 'substantial' is now even less than his predications for the last fiscal year? Phil Sands (The National) reports:
Abdul Rahman Attar, the president of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, criticised the international community and the Iraqi government, saying both were failing in their duty to care for displaced Iraqis. And he cautioned there were dangerous implications in four million people continuing to live as refugees, many of them struggling to cope with increasing levels of poverty.
"Perhaps the world is underestimating the significance of the Iraqi refugees issue," he said. "It is not a short-term matter. We are talking about medium- and long-term impacts. It has already been six years or more for some refugees and they need greater support. "The international community should not allow its attention to drift easily away from the refugees. This issue is a bomb that can still explode at any time."
It would certainly seem that Eric Schwartz is underestimating the significance. But the State Dept has always done that with Iraq -- especially with regards to Iraq's LGBT community and the continued assault on the community. Tuesday, Kelvin Lynch (Dallas Examiner) was reporting that Iraqi LGBT was estimating the number of LGBT men and women murdered in Iraq since the start of the illegal war is 720 and Lynch observes, "But the big question continues to be, why hasn't the U.S. government done anything to help?" Taylor Luck (Jordan Times) reports on the Sabian Mandaeans who left Iraq due to the violence and are currently in Jordan:
Fatwas were issued declaring Mandaens kuffar, or infidels. Mandaens, known for their gold and jewellery craftsmanship, became frequent targets of kidnappings, with ransoms set as high as $100,000.
Since the US-led invasion, the Mandaean Human Rights Group has recorded around 180 killings, 275 kidnappings and 298 assualts and forced conversions within Iraq.
As Jake Armstrong (Pasadena Weekly) notes, it's day 2420 of the Iraq War. And as the war continues, so does the violence.
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured one "governmental employee". Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 3 police officers (five more injured).
Mohammed al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports Mohammed Aziz Al Shamari was injured in a Baghdad assassination attempt on his life (he is "an advisor for the Iraqi government"). Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports 1 man shot dead in Mosul with another left wounded.
Please note, Reuters has filed no story on violence today. That is why you do not use ICCC for an Iraqi body count -- ICCC only goes by Reuters, 'their' count is a tally of Reuters.
Meanwhile in the United States, Gidget Funetes (Navy Times) reports that Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy, "rejected a clemency request from a Marine infantry squad leader convicted of killing an Iraqi man in 2006, a case that drew two jury convictions and five guilty please from seven other members of his squad." This is the case where US service members ("the Penleton 8") plotted to kill an Iraqi and went to his home April 26, 2006 only to find him not at home and instead grabbed another Iraqi whom they bound, dragged and shot dead. Jeanette Steele (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports Mabus was asked to review the case in terms of Lawrence Hutchins conviction and eleven year sentence and that Mabus denied Hutchins clemency and "also ordered that four of the other seven defendants in the case be discharged from the military." Mark Nero (LA Examiner) identifies the four, "Marine Lance Cpls. Tyler Jackson, Jerry Shumate and John Jodka III, and Navy Corpsman Melson Bacos were the servicemembers ordered removed. They had been originally been allowed to stay on active duty after serving short jail terms for lesser offenses."
Finally, NOW on PBS debuts its latest episode Friday on most PBS stations and this one examines:
The Pentagon estimates that as many as one in five American soldiers arecoming home from war zones with traumatic brain injuries, many of whichrequire round-the-clock attention. But lost in the reports of thesereturning soldiers are the stories of family members who often sacrificeeverything to care for them. On Friday, November 20 at 8:30 pm (checklocal listings), NOW reveals how little has been done to help thesefamily caregivers, and reports on dedicated efforts to support them.
reuterswaleed ibrahimsuadad al-salhyaseel kamideepa babington
laith hammoudimcclatchy newspapers
the new york timesjohn leland
the seattle postglobelarry johnson
kelvin lynchthe telegraph of london
time magazinebrian bennettthe independent of londonrobert fisk
gidget fuentesjeanette steelesan diego union-tribunemark nero
pbsnow on pbs