Friday, December 24, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's incomplete Cabinet continues to receive criticism, a father offers an 'excuse' for killing his own daughter, and more.
Marci Stone (US Headlines Examiner) reports, "Friday afternoon, Santa is currently in Baghdad, Iraq and on his next stop is Moscow, Russia, according to the 2010 NORAD Santa Tracker. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has been tracking Santa as he makes his annual journey throughout the world." Gerald Skoning (Palm Beach Post) quotes Santa saying, "We send our special wishes for peace and goodwill to all. That includes the people of Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea." Please note that this is Santa's seventh trip to Iraq since the start of the Iraq War and, as usual, his journey was known in advance. No waiting until he hit the ground to announce he was going to Iraq -- the way George The Bully Boy Bush had to and the way US President Barack Obama still has to. In the lead up to Santa's yearly visit, many 'authorities' in Iraq began insisting that Christmas couldn't be celebrated publicly, that even Santa was banned.
The congregants on Friday night were fewer than 100, in a sanctuary built for four or five times as many. But they were determined. This year, even more than in the past, Iraqi's dwindling Christian minority had reasons to stay home for Christmas. "Yes, we are threatened, but we will not stop praying," the Rev. Meyassr al-Qaspotros told the Christmas Eve crowd at the Sacred Church of Jesus, a Chaldean Catholic church. "We do not want to leave the country because we will leave an empty space."
Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) reports, "Rimon Metti's family will go to Christian services on Christmas Day, but his relatives will be praying for their own survival and wondering whether this is their last holiday season in Baghdad. If they had any grounds for optimism about the future of their faith in Iraq, it vanished this year amid repeated attacks on fellow believers." Shahsank Bengali (McClatchy Newspapers) adds, "Nearly two months after a shocking assault by Islamist militants, Our Lady of Salvation Catholic Church will commemorate Christmas quietly, with daytime mass and prayers for the dead, under security fit more for a prison than a house of worship. It is the same at Christian churches across Baghdad and northern Iraq, where what's left of one of the world's oldest Christian communities prepares to mark perhaps the most somber Christmas since the start of the Iraq war."
Although the calendar will say December 25, for Theresa, Saturday will not be Christmas. There will be no cinnamon klecha cooling on the dining room table, no outdoor ceramic nativity scene, no readings of hymns with relatives. The 63-year-old Iraqi woman has even refused to put up Christmas lights in the crowded two-room Amman hotel apartment she has called home since fleeing Baghdad last month. "There is no holiday spirit. All we have is fear," she said. This holiday will instead mark another year without news from her 46-year-old son, who was kidnapped outside Baghdad in late 2006.
From Turkey, Sebnem Arsu (New York Times -- link has text and video) notes the increase in Iraq refugees to the country since October 31st and quotes Father Emlek stating, "I've never seen as many people coming here as I have in the last few weeks. They also go to Lebanon, Jordan and Syria but it seems that Turkey is the most popular despite the fact that they do not speak the language." Jeff Karoub (AP) reports on the small number of Iraqi refugees who have made it to the US and how some of them "struggle with insomnia, depression and anxiety."
One group in Iraq who can openly celebrate Christmas are US service members who elect to. Barbara Surk (AP) reports that tomorrow Chief Warrant Officer Archie Morgan will celebrate his fourth Christmas in Iraq and Captain Diana Crane is celebrating her second Christmas in Iraq: "Crane was among several dozen troops attending a Christmas Eve mass in a chapel in Camp Victory, an American military base just outside Baghdad." Marc Hansen (Des Moines Reigster) speaks with six service members from Iowa who are stationed in Iraq. Sgt 1st Class Dennis Crosser tells Hansen, "I certainly understand from reading the paper what's going on in Afghanistan and the attention definitely needs to be on the troops there. But everyone serving here in Operation New Dawn appreciates a little bit of attention as we finish this up."
US State Department official Philip Crowley declared on Wednesday that Washington had not "dictated the terms of the government". In reality, constant American pressure was applied to Maliki, Allawi, Kurdish leaders and other prominent Iraqi politicians throughout the entire nine-month process to form a cabinet. The US intervention included numerous personal phone calls and visits to Baghdad by both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. The key objective of the Obama administration has been to ensure that the next Iraqi government will "request" a long-term military partnership with the US when the current Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) expires at the end of 2011. The SOFA is the legal basis upon which some 50,000 American troops remain in Iraq, operating from large strategic air bases such as Balad and Tallil and Al Asad. US imperialism spent billions of dollars establishing these advanced bases as part of its wider strategic plans and has no intention of abandoning them.
Cogan's only the second person to include the SOFA in his report. Some are impressed with the 'feat' of taking nearly ten months to form a government, stringing the country along for ten months while no decisions could go through. The editorial board of the Washington Post, for example, was full of praise yesterday. Today they're joined by Iran's Ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Danaiifar. The Tehran Times reports that Danaiifar was full of praise today hailing the "positive and final step which ended the 10-month political limbo in Iraq." However, Danaiifar was less pie-in-the-sky than the Post editorial board because he can foresee future problems as evidenced by his statement, "We may witness the emergence of some problems after one and half of a year -- for example, some ministers may be impeached." Of course, there are already many clouds on the horizon, even if Iranian diplomats and Post editorial boards can't suss them out. For example, Ben Bendig (Epoch Times) noted the objection of Iraq's female politicians to Nouri al-Maliki's decision to nominate only one woman (so far) to his Cabinet: "Some 50 female lawmakers went to the country's top leadership, the United Nations and the Arab League to voice their concern and desire for increased representation." BNO notes that protest and also that a group of Iraqi MPs are alleging that Iraqiya bought seats in the Cabinet via money exchanged in Jordan. UPI adds, "Maliki, a Shiite who has a long history of working with Tehran, has named himself acting minister of defense, interior and national security, three most powerful and sensitive posts in the government he is stitching together. Although Maliki appears to be bending over backward to accommodate rivals among Iraq's Shiite majority as well as minority Sunnis and Kurds in his administration in a spirit of reconciliation, he is unlikely to relinquish those ministries that dominate the security sector." DPA reports, "Sheikh Abdel-Mahdi al-Karbalaei, a confident of influential Shiite spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said that the new cabinet is 'below the standards' Iraqi citizens had hoped for and suggested it could prove to be weaker than the previous government." Ranj Alaaldin (Guardian) also spots clouds on the horizon:
Lasting peace and stability depends on resolving outstanding disputes with the Kurds on oil, revenue-sharing, security and the disputed territories (Kirkuk in particular). The Kurds, rather than exploiting their kingmaker position to take a stronger proportion of ministries in Baghdad (they are taking just one major portfolio – the foreign ministry), are instead banking on guarantees from Maliki to implement their list of 19 demands that includes resolving the above disputes in their favour. They may have been naive, though. With their historical and federalist partners, the Islamic supreme council of Iraq in decline, the Kurds may be isolated in the new government – a government dominated by the nationalistic and centrist characteristics of the INM, the Sadrists and indeed State of Law. Maliki may, therefore, turn out to be unable to grant concessions even if he wanted to and could use Osama Nujayfi, the new ultra-nationalist speaker of parliament and Kurdish foe, to absorb the Kurdish criticism and insulate himself from any attacks.
AP reports that Iraqi police sought out a 19-year-old woman because of rumors that she was working with al Qaida in Mesopotamia only to be greeted with the news that her father allegedly killed her and the father showed the police where he buried the woman . . . last month. The story begs for more than it offers. The most obvious observation is: what does it say that a woman's allegedly killed by her father and no one says a word for over a month? After that, it should probably be noted that there are many men in Iraq killing women who, no doubt, would love to also be able to pin the blame on al Qaida. In other violence, Reuters notes a house bombing in Haswa which claimed the life of Mohammed al-Karrafi, "his wife, two sons and a nephew" -- as well as injuring four more people, and a Samarra roadside bombing which claimed the lives of 2 police officers. DPA notes it was two homes bombed in Haswa and that the Samarra roadside bombing also injured four Iraqi soldiers. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports, "Another policeman was wounded in Baghdad Friday night when a roadside bomb detonated by a police patrol, an Interior Ministry official told CNN."
The recent repeal of the US military policy of "Don't ask, don't tell" is far from being the human rights advancement some are touting it to be. I find it intellectually dishonest, in fact, illogical on any level to associate human rights with any military, let alone one that is currently dehumanising two populations as well as numerous other victims of it's clandestine "security" policies. Placing this major contention aside, the enactment of the bill might be an institutional step forward in the fight for "equality"; however institutions rarely reflect reality. Do we really think that the US congress vote to repeal the act and Obama signing the bill is going to stop the current systemic harassment of gays in the military? While I am a staunch advocate for equality of marriage and same-sex partnership, I cannot - as a peace activist - rejoice in the fact that now homosexuals can openly serve next to heterosexuals in one of the least socially responsible organisations that currently exists on earth: The US military. It is an organisation tainted with a history of intolerance towards anyone who isn't a Caucasian male from the Mid-West. Even then I'm sure plenty fitting that description have faced the terror and torment enshrined into an institution that transforms the pride and enthusiasm of youth into a narrow zeal for dominating power relations.
Historically, this latest eruption of American militarism at the start of the 21st Century is akin to that of America opening the 20th Century by means of the U.S.-instigated Spanish-American War in 1898. Then the Republican administration of President William McKinley stole their colonial empire from Spain in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; inflicted a near genocidal war against the Filipino people; while at the same time illegally annexing the Kingdom of Hawaii and subjecting the Native Hawaiian people (who call themselves the Kanaka Maoli) to near genocidal conditions. Additionally, McKinley's military and colonial expansion into the Pacific was also designed to secure America's economic exploitation of China pursuant to the euphemistic rubric of the "open door" policy. But over the next four decades America's aggressive presence, policies, and practices in the "Pacific" would ineluctably pave the way for Japan's attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 194l, and thus America's precipitation into the ongoing Second World War. Today a century later the serial imperial aggressions launched and menaced by the Republican Bush Jr. administration and now the Democratic Obama administration are threatening to set off World War III.
By shamelessly exploiting the terrible tragedy of 11 September 2001, the Bush Jr. administration set forth to steal a hydrocarbon empire from the Muslim states and peoples living in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf under the bogus pretexts of (1) fighting a war against international terrorism; and/or (2) eliminating weapons of mass destruction; and/or (3) the promotion of democracy; and/or (4) self-styled "humanitarian intervention." Only this time the geopolitical stakes are infinitely greater than they were a century ago: control and domination of two-thirds of the world's hydrocarbon resources and thus the very fundament and energizer of the global economic system – oil and gas. The Bush Jr./ Obama administrations have already targeted the remaining hydrocarbon reserves of Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia for further conquest or domination, together with the strategic choke-points at sea and on land required for their transportation. In this regard, the Bush Jr. administration announced the establishment of the U.S. Pentagon's Africa Command (AFRICOM) in order to better control, dominate, and exploit both the natural resources and the variegated peoples of the continent of Africa, the very cradle of our human species.
This current bout of U.S. imperialism is what Hans Morgenthau denominated "unlimited imperialism" in his seminal work Politics Among Nations (4th ed. 1968, at 52-53):
The outstanding historic examples of unlimited imperialism are the expansionist policies of Alexander the Great, Rome, the Arabs in the seventh and eighth centuries, Napoleon I, and Hitler. They all have in common an urge toward expansion which knows no rational limits, feeds on its own successes and, if not stopped by a superior force, will go on to the confines of the political world. This urge will not be satisfied so long as there remains anywhere a possible object of domination--a politically organized group of men which by its very independence challenges the conqueror's lust for power. It is, as we shall see, exactly the lack of moderation, the aspiration to conquer all that lends itself to conquest, characteristic of unlimited imperialism, which in the past has been the undoing of the imperialistic policies of this kind….
On 10 November 1979 I visited with Hans Morgenthau at his home in Manhattan. It proved to be our last conversation before he died on 19 July 1980. Given his weakened physical but not mental condition and his serious heart problem, at the end of our necessarily abbreviated one-hour meeting I purposefully asked him what he thought about the future of international relations.