November 21, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Thanksgiving looms in
the US, Osama al-Nujaifi attempts to ease tensions between Baghdad and
Erbil, Nouri's power grab continues, and more.
Did you know that before the 1940s Thanksgiving was not on a fixed date but was whenever the President proclaimed it to be?
the beginning of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Presidency, Thanksgiving was
not a fixed holiday; it was up to the President to issue a Thanksgiving
Proclamation to announce what date the holiday would fall on. Tradition
had dictated that the holiday be celebrated on the last Thursday of the
month, however, this tradition became increasingly difficult to continue
during the challenging times of the Great Depression.
first Thanksgiving in office fell on November 30, the last day of the
month, because November had five Thursdays that year. This meant that
there were only about 20 shopping days until Christmas and statistics
showed that most people waited until after Thanksgiving to begin their
holiday shopping. Business leaders feared they would lose the
much-needed revenue an extra week of shopping would afford them. They
asked President Roosevelt to move the holiday up from the 30th to the
23rd. He chose to keep the Thanksgiving holiday on the last Thursday of
the month, however, as it had been for nearly three-quarters of a
In 1939, with the country still
reeling from the effects of the Great Depression, Thanksgiving once
again threatened to fall on the last day of November. This time
President Roosevelt did move Thanksgiving up a week to the 23rd.
Changing the date seemed harmless enough, but it proved to be quite
controversial. Small business owners felt it put them at a disadvantage
and they sent letters of protest to the President.
While Thanksgiving is tomorrow, US Vice President Joe Biden celebrated early. CBS News reported
Monday, "The Bidens hosted wounded warriors for Thanksgiving dinner. It
was their fourth Early Thanksgiving for servicemen and women and their
families. At the dinner were five from the Army, four from the Marines
and one from the Air Force." On Thanksgiving, the American Legion notes
thousand veterans across America are $60 richer for Thanksgiving,
thanks to checks sent to them by The American Legion to pay for food
during the holiday. The checks went to veterans who have disabilities
suffered while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Included with each check
was a letter from the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, the
Connecticut-based organization that donated the money, thanking veterans
for their "enormous personal sacrifices."
Jones, director of the Legion's Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation
Division, said that $60 can make a big difference for a veteran's family
on Thanksgiving Day – especially if that veteran is out of work. "Given
the high jobless rate among our younger veterans and the state of our
economy, these checks do a lot for veterans and their families," she
said. "Over the years that we've been distributing these checks, you'd
be surprised by the thank-yous that we get back. Veterans call us and
say, 'You know what? I would not have had a Thanksgiving meal for my
family – I didn't know how I was going to put food on the table for my
children – and this check came, and I was able to give my family a good
Thanksgiving.' And they have food left over to carry through the rest of
American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) estimates the average cost this
year for a 10-serving Thanksgiving dinner is $49.48. AFBF says that
amount of money can provide a 16-pound turkey, 12 rolls, a 1-pound
relish tray of carrots and celery, a half-pint of whipping cream, 14
ounces of cubed stuffing, three pounds of sweet potatoes, one gallon of
whole milk, 12 ounces of fresh cranberries, one pound of green peas, 30
ounces of pumpkin pie mix and two pie shells.
cost slightly more this year, according to the AFBF. In 2011, a 16
pounder went for an average price of $21.57; this year it has increased
Legion's national headquarters contacted its department service
officers across the country, asking them to submit contact information
for wounded or disabled veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Then
the Legion started mailing out checks last week.
said many disabled veterans can't work or are working part-time, and
sometimes are still waiting for disability benefits from the Department
of Veterans Affairs. "So a $60 check showing up in your mailbox that
makes it possible to treat your family at Thanksgiving – it makes it
seem more like Christmas," she said.
jobless rate for veterans who have left active duty since 9/11 stands
at 10 percent, higher than the national average of 7.9 percent. Women
veterans are even worse off, with an unemployment rate of 15.5 percent.
letter that accompanied the checks thanked veterans for their "enormous
personal sacrifices" and said the $60 was being presented by the
coalition and The American Legion "to help you celebrate the
Thanksgiving holiday by sharing a special meal with those closest to
you." A "Thank You and Get Well" card was also enclosed.
behalf of our organization and the Legion," the letter continued,
"please accept this gift and card as a combined gesture of gratitude,
along with our best wishes for a wonderful holiday and continued success
along your personal road to recovery."
American Legion has chapter throughout the country. Many will be
hosting Thanksgiving dinners tomorrow for veterans and many of those
dinners will be at no charge. If you are a veteran and don't know where
your closest American Legion chapter is located, you can visit the American Legion website
and in the top right-hand corner there is a gold box labeled "FIND IT
QUICK" -- in the box click on "Find a Post" and a pop up will allow you
to enter the address you are at and search for the closest chapter.
The things that I have done that I regret
The things I seen, I won't forget
For this life and so many more
And I'm trying to find my way home
Child inside me is long dead and gone
Somewhere between lost and alone
Trying to find my way home
-- "Trying To Find My Way Home," written by Jason Moon
, from Moon's latest album Trying To Find My Way Home
wasn't until after being misdiagnosed with major depression and
insomnia, after telling a VA mental health worker what he'd seen in
combat only to be told to "just forget about it," after a failed suicide
attempt, that music resurfaced and quite literally saved his life.
Today, Jason Moon works with veterans of all wars to put the emotions of
combat and the hidden terror of dealing with it alone into song. WarriorSongs
is a non-profit that matches veterans with songwriters and together, a
song becomes the saving grace that embodies what veterans so often
cannot find the words to say. How war impacts the human soul. How combat
affects the mind. How life after war is never a matter of "just getting
on with it."
And how there is hope. For
healing, for managing symptoms, for making something meaningful out of
something that took all meaning away.
was an incredibly dark time," recalls Moon. "The VA system wasn't
prepared for PTSD when my unit got home. No one even mentioned it to me.
So all that time I thought I was weak, that there was something wrong
with me, that I was the only one this was happening to. I mean, they
tried me on nine different anti-depressants and several different
sleeping pills -- but when the cause of your symptoms is not depression
or insomnia, those pills do weird things to you. I started drinking, I'd
go out looking for a fight, I was hypervigilant, couldn't work,
couldn't do anything. After four years of this, I took all the pills I
had and some alcohol. I was done."
wasn't done with Moon yet. "I woke up three days later in the hospital.
The VA finally decided I had PTSD -- but only thanks to a music
therapist who happened to have a pamphlet on it and gave it to me. It
laid out every symptom I'd had for the last four years. It meant I
wasn't weak or alone. There was a name for this and a reason I was
feeling the way I was," Moon says. It took a suicide attempt to get the
attention he should have had from the day he arrived home. "All of a
sudden, I had the top professional at the VA attending to me, they got
my medication figured out, I was able to get three to four hours of
medicated sleep. I took every program they offered from biofeedback to
meditation, to breathing exercises."
his big "aha" moment came at a Soldier's Heart retreat -- where they
take groups of vets and lead them through a healing process based on the
ancient traditions of warriors. "I had Vietnam vets coming up to me,
one after another and telling me: 'hey, I lost my marriage, my kids,
I've lost it all, don't wait 30 years to deal with your war.' I realized
if it could happen to these hard-core veterans, it could happen to me. I
knew I had to fight to win this battle."
And for those who are fortunate enough to be able to spare some money and are looking for a worthy cause, this is the donation page for Paralyzed Veterans of America
(That is not a guilt trip. Times are tough, most people are struggling,
the economy remains in the toilet. I'm not suggesting anyone do without
or suffer to make a donation. I'm merely tossing that out as a worthy
organization if, this time of year, you're looking for one to make a
donation to.) We'll note another organization worthy of donations at
the end of the snapshot.
In Iraq, the rains have been falling with significant consequences. Tuesday, All Iraq News reported
that the rest of the week would be rainy and foggy. And Iraq had
already seen heavy rain fall. Sadr City was one of the areas
effected. Joseph Muhammadwi and Mahmoud Raouf (Al Mada) reported
on the flooding of Sadr City and included a photo of the water up to
the frame of a mini-van. Despite the flooding and continuing heavy
rains, traffic police stand outside directing vehicles. One resident
jokes that Nouri can replace the food-ration cards with free small
boats. The water's flooded the streets and also gone into homes and
schools and a makeshift bridge of bricks has been constructed to allow
access to one school. Dar Addustour noted
that many of the cities, such as Kut, have been hit with the heavy
rains. Baghdad residents protested the lack of public services --
proper sanitation (i.e. drainage) would alleviate a great deal of the
standing water. Nouri's had six years to address Baghdad's sewer system
and done nothing. AFP reports
today the heavy rains in Kut led to houses collapsing resulting in the
death of six children and leaving one adult male injured.
Amani Aziz (Al Mada) reports
that Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc is ready to oust Nouri al-Maliki over the
arms deal which has led to confessions from State of Law that there was
huge corruption in the Russian arms deal. MP Jawad al-Hasnawi states it
is a logical step to remove him after Nouri signed the deal while
refusing to provide details including who were the go-betweens. This
was the deal -- that's now supposedly broken -- that found Nouri signing
a contract worth $4.2 billion. Alsumaria reports
the Kudistan Alliance today announced that an investigative committee
was being formed in Parliament to review the Russian arms deal. Omar Sattar (Al-Ayyam via Al-Monitor) adds
"The Iraqi parliament's Security and Defense Committee collected the
names of more than 50 MPs demanding the formation of a committee to
investigate the caneled Russian arms deal. The committee has confirmed
its intention to interrogate all the officials whose names were linked
to this case." Dar Addustour reported
yesterday on Nouri's plan to isolate Jalal and that Speaker of
Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi, Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi and KRG
President Massoud Barzani are in conversations with people assuming it
is over withdrawing confidence in Nouri.
As rumors continue to circulate about the corruption involved in the arms deal, All Iraq News reports
Nouri's spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh felt the need today to publicly deny that he had any involvement in the deal. Alsumaria adds
that al-Dabbagh declared he warned Nouri about suspicions before Nouri left on the trip to Russia.
Nouri's problems never go away. Al Mada reports
that in the Kurdistan Regional Government, the KRG is able to meet 85%
of the electricity needs in the region but in the rest of Iraq that
Nouri's responsible for? Nouri's still not even able to meet 50% of the
Security's needed in Iraq as well. Alsumaria reports
that 1 Sahwa and one assailant were killed in a Baghdad clash, a
Bahgdad home invasion claimed the life of 1 council member and 2 of his
sons, a Mosul kidnapping resulted in the abduction of a Ministry of the
Interior employee and a Kirkuk roadside bombing left a husband and wife
continue in Iraq and threaten to roll the region over Nouri's decision
to send forces into Iraq's disputed areas. That should come as no real
surprise. Dropping back to the July 26, 2011 snapshot
Of greater interest to us (and something's no one's reported on) is the RAND Corporation's report entitled "Managing Arab-Kurd Tensions in Northern Iraq After the Withdrawal of U.S. Troops."
The 22-page report, authored by Larry Hanauer, Jeffrey Martini and Omar
al-Shahery, markets "CBMs" -- "confidence-building measures" -- while
arguing this is the answer. If it strikes you as dangerously simplistic
and requiring the the Kurdish region exist in a vacuum where nothing
else happens, you may have read the already read the report. CBMs may
strike some as what the US military was engaged in after the Iraqi
forces from the central government and the Kurdish peshmerga were
constantly at one another's throats and the US military entered into a
patrol program with the two where they acted as buffer or marriage
counselor. (And the report admits CBMs are based on that.) Sunday Prashant Rao (AFP) reported
US Col Michael Bowers has announced that, on August 1st, the US
military will no longer be patrolling in northern Iraq with the Kurdish
forces and forces controlled by Baghdad. That took years. And had
outside actors. The authors acknowledge:
to contain Arab-Kurd tensions will require a neutral third-party
arbitrator that can facilitate local CMBs, push for national-level
negotiations, and prevent armed conflict between Iraqi and Kurdish
troops. While U.S. civilian entities could help implement CMBs and
mediate political talks, the continued presence of U.S. military forces
within the disputed internal boundaries would be the most effective way
to prevent violent conflict between Arabs and Kurds.
There is no neutral third party present today. The study came out in 2011. Where was the White House? Diaa Hadid (AP) explains
"The commander of Kurdish forces dispatched fighters to a disputed
northern area of Iraq Wednesday, as tensions mounted between Iraq's
central government and the Kurdish-ruled autonomous region." Alsumaria
quotes the Ministry of Peshmerga's Anwar Haji Osman stating that the
Peshmerga remain prepared to act if needed.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan stating, "The [Baghdad]
regime wants to lead this [country] into a civil war." He's referring
to the crisis Nouri's provoked by sending his forces (Tigris Operation
Command) into disputed territories in the north. Trend News Agency sums
up the comment and notes a skirmisk outside Tikrit that appears to be last Friday
-- but that claimed 1 or 2 lives depending upon the outlet (1 of
Nouri's forces and some outlets also noted a civilian) whereas Trend News Agency
is saying "12 Iraqi soldiers and one civilian" died in the skirmish.
Unless the wounded died -- which the Iraqi press hasn't covered, if
the outlet's covering Friday's incident, their fatality numbers are
incorrect. Liz Sly (Washington Post) offers
a different take on who was involved with the fight on Friday -- it
involves unpaid for gasoline, the Iraqi police, the Tigris forces and
Kurdish guards with, in the words of Tuk Hurmatu's Mayor Shalal Abdul,
"everyone started shooting at everyone else." Sly also establishes just
how up-in-the-air and tense things are:
Kurds said they suspect that the reinforcements, which include tanks
and heavy artillery, signal an intent to attack their forces. "If the
central government keeps sending these extra troops, we fear there may
be clashes," said Jabar Yawar, the pesh merga's secretary general. "If
one bullet is fired, the whole of the disputed areas will erupt in
Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes
, "The fight goes well beyond just Kirkuk, however. KRG officials have been predicting a fight for years, and earlier this month
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki demanded the KRG transfer the
Peshmerga to his personal control. With Maliki also the nation's Defense
Minister, Interior Minister, Public Security Minister, etc, he
currently directly every single force in Iraq except for the Peshmerga."
when, at the start of 2011, Iraqiya said Nouri was staging a power-grab
by refusing to nominate people to head the Ministry of the Defense, the
Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of National Security? And
remember how the Western press scoffed, rolled their eyes and swore
Nouri would nominate people to those posts in a matter of weeks?
Weeks turned into months and now we're approximately six weeks away
from the two year mark when they were promising Nouri would fill those
spots. And he never has. That was a power grab.
It's a power grab today on Nouri's part -- sending troops into disputed territories. Condi Rice pens a piece
that tells you all you need to know about US policy in one sentence:
"If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cannot count on the Americans, he
will take no risks with Tehran." Condi is the former Secretary of State
and National Security Advisor during the Bully Boy Bush years. Bully
Boy Bush installed Nouri as prime minister. Ibrahim al-Jafaari was
the choice of the Iraqi Parliament (which -- on paper -- elects their
prime minister). Bully Boy Bush said no and wanted Nouri to get the
job. The US puppet went on to run secret prisons -- bravely and
repeatedly exposed by Ned Parker and the Los Angeles Times
-- and do other crimes against humanity.
Barack Obama loves Nouri al-Maliki. So much so that when Nouri's State
of Law came in second in the 2010 elections and this meant that he
didn't get a second term, Barack pulled out his penis and pissed on the
Iraqi people, pissed on their votes, pissed on their Constitution and
pissed on any thoughts of democracy. Nouri would get a second term,
Barack would ensure it, votes be damned. So the White House backed
Nouri as he refused to budge, refused to give up the post he no longer
had. For eight long months this political stalemate continued in Iraq.
Then the US government negotiated the Erbil Agreement, a contract
that they swore was legal and that the US government would stand by.
The parties signing the contract? All of the leaders of the political
blocs. Kurds wanted Article 140 of the Constitution implemented? Okay,
you let Nouri have his second term, he'll implement that. That's how
they got people to sign off. What was Nouri willing to trade to have a
Nouri used that contract to get the second term and then refused to honor it.
And Barack did nothing. Gone were the promises of the US government standing by this contract.
Because, as Condi puts it, "If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cannot
count on the Americans, he will take no risks with Tehran."
White House has put the interests of Iraqis behind -- far behind -- the
desires of Nouri al-Maliki and they have done so repeatedly and done so
because they doubt there would be a better puppet for the US
government. So they look the other way as he demonizes Iraqi youths
-- starts a witch hunt on Emo and LGBTs. That came from the Ministry of
the Interior -- they sent out a letter, they went to schools
encouraging the targeting, this was all Nouri. He's refused to nominate
anyone to head the Ministry of the Interior which makes him the head of
it. Add that to the secret prisons. Add that to his possible
involvement in murder (the former governor of Basra, journalists
including Hadi al-Mahdi). But it doesn't matter to the White House.
Like Condi Rice, they believe, "If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki cannot
count on the Americans, he will take no risks with Tehran." So they
indulge the petty tyrant. And dishonor the Iraqi people.
by al-Maliki and his supporters in parliament that they will seek a
majority government have become more frequent, even as news reports say
that the president of the Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani, has been
leading a movement alongside Allawi and others to thwart al-Maliki's
efforts to create such a government. Al-Maliki has also been quick to
respond to his political opponents' threats to oppose his running for a
third four-year term in 2014. Discussion of a majority government
emerged earlier in the year from within al-Maliki's camp, as a response
to threats of a motion of no confidence issued by his opponents in
parliament, specifically members in Allawi's coalition and the
parliamentary faction supporting Barzani.
are three likely scenarios that could play out as a push for a majority
government grows, beyond the maintenance of the status quo. The first,
as some of al-Maliki's supporters have speculated, would be that some
members of the Iraqiya and Kurdish parliamentary coalition join elements
of the Shiite coalition to form a majority government that maintains at
least a minimum level of sectarian and ethnic representation. However,
the viability of this scenario is uncertain, at least in the current
parliamentary session, and it is even less likely given the lack of
international and American support.
second scenario would be the resurrection of the 2005 Shia-Kurdish
coalition which would keep Iraqiya out of the government and maintain
the historical Shiite-Kurdish alliance. If this were to occur, it would
completely exclude the bloc that represents the Arab Sunni population
from the government and could possibly lead to the return of armed Sunni
rebellion -- something al-Maliki's ally, former Prime Minister Ibrahim
Jafari, has warned of.
The third scenario
would be the revival of the "Erbil Alliance" between the Kurds, Sunnis,
and the Sadrist bloc. However, this possibility already failed earlier
in the year and does not currently have much resonance among politicians
or the media, due to the prevailing mistrust between the three parties
in this alliance.
In this climate, Nouri's moves are especially striking. Ipek Yezdani (Hurriyet Daily News) speaks
with the KRG's Dr. Molla Basher al-Hadad and Yezdani notes,
"Authorities in Baghdad want to run the country like a dictatorship that
recalls Saddam Hussein's rule by using anti-democratic and sectarian
policies, according to the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) top
cleric." That's a description that certainly seem apt.
Yesterday, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was in Erbil where he met with KRG President Massoud Barzani. Al Mada reports
that they were also meeting with the National Alliance. That is a
large Shi'ite political group headed by Ibrahim al-Jafaari. Al Mada
notes Talabani was surprised that Nouri was sending in the Tigris forces
while he and Barzani were awaiting a delegation from the National
In March 2010, Iraq held parliamentary
elections. The winner was Iraiqya, headed by Ayad Allawi, which won the
most seats. Any so-called 'majority government' that shuts out Iraqiya
would be shutting out the most popular political slate in Iraq. Alsumaria reports
Iraqiya's Haider Mulla is stating that mediation between Baghdad and
Erbil is needed and that Iraqiya is more than willing to play the role
of mediator. Already an Iraqiya member is acting as mediator. AFP reports
Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi is speaking to political leaders
on both sides "in order to defuse the crisis." Representing
approximately a half-million of Iraq's 31 million people, Amin Farhan
Jeju spoke today. All Iraq News reports
that the Yazidi Movement for Reform and Progess head is saying Nouri is
within his rights to send the Tigris forces into disputed area.
Probably a good idea to read the Constitution before commenting on it.
Just a thought. Also carrying water for Nouri is Shaker Darraji. All Iraq News notes
that the State of Law MP is accusing the Kurds of upsetting the political process.
the US, the winter holiday season has begun. Some people, this time of
year, look for an organization to donate to. One of the many worthy
organizations is Doctors Without Borders and their donation page is here
. Where people are in need, Doctors Without Borders goes. That includes Iraq. Doctors Without Borders notes
Domeez camp, near the city of Dohuk in the Kurdish region of Iraq, was set up at the beginning of 2012 and is now serving as a temporary home for nearly 15,000 Syrian
refugees of Kurdish origin. Since May 2012, Doctors Without Borders/
Médecins Sans Frontières(MSF) has been running a 24-hour clinic in the
camp, in collaboration with Dohuk's Department of Health.
the camp's main health provider, MSF has been offering medical
consultations and mental health care to the refugees, while also
providing training for local health staff. To date, MSF teams have
provided more than 20,500 consultations.
June, there were about 2,000 people settled in Domeez, and the camp was
running well," says Anja Wolz, MSF field coordinator in Dohuk. "But in
August, the situation deteriorated because of a sudden massive arrival
of refugees. With up to 1,000 people crossing the border each day [at
the time], the camp quickly became overcrowded and, despite the efforts
of the authorities, the level of assistance was clearly insufficient."
the past few months, major efforts have been made to improve the
situation before the onset of winter. But at present, as roughly 500
people cross the border into Dohuk governorate each day, some of the
newly arrived refugees in Domeez camp still have to share tents,
blankets, mattresses, and food with other families.
arrived with two of my children, but had to leave my husband and my two
other daughters behind," says a middle-aged Syrian woman. "We walked
for more than six hours to cross the border. We don't have our own tent
yet, so we must share with another family. I have a kidney stone and it
is very painful. Since we arrived here I have been lying down all the
time because of the pain. I need surgery to remove the stone. Here, we
Syrians suffer from sickness, but also from the difficult situation we
have gone through."
Most of the refugees in
Domeez arrived with nothing, having left everything behind in Syria.
Once in Iraq, they are issued with a six-month renewable residence
permit by the Kurdish authorities, which allows them to look for work.
Most find jobs as daily laborers. People who have been here for some
time have begun to build extensions to their shelters, and some have
opened small shops within the camp.
of the refugees have had no news from their families back in Syria, and
many report having lost family members as a result of the violence.
our consultations, we see many patients suffering from psychological
distress," says Wolz. "So in August we decided to open a mental health
program to provide them with specific care." By the end of September,
MSF's mental health team had carried over 290 psychological
major US press organizations will not do this. They aggrandized General
Petraeus through the surge and after, willfully ignoring the horrific
consequences of the Iraq occupation and then abandoning coverage of Iraq
when President Obama announced US troops were leaving Iraq at the end
of 2010. (There is no press mention of the large US mercenary forces
that remain in Iraq and the guerilla war there.)