Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mourning in America

This is from Hillary is 44's "Census Apportionment Data - The Rise Of The Black Party:"

During the past few months we have slowly been working our way to writing several “painful discussion” articles focused on the census data which have been released today. Just about everyone wants to avoid the implications of what the census data tell us.

Chief liar or fool, take your pick, Robert Gibbs:

“President Barack Obama’s spokesman says he doesn’t expect the results of the new census to have a “huge practical impact” on national politics.”

Gibbs is either a liar or a fool because the census, a count of the population taken every decade, will not only describe the demographic face of the United States it will also be used to reapportion seats to the House of Representatives. But it is more than that.

The census will determine the practical day-to-day tactics and long-term strategies of political parties, political organizations, Big Media and just about every business that hopes to succeed or at least survive.

So the census put a nail into the sinking coffin that was Give-the-nomination-to-Barack-and-the-demographics-change-for-a-generation/century.

The lies they told to steal the nomination from Hillary. And I think that's really what hurts Barack the most.

I think America -- whether you were for her (I was) or against her in 2008 -- gets that she won the most votes and the nomination was stolen from her. They get that. And they see her as Secretary of State focusing on that role. And they see her doing it with maturity and humility. And then they look at the guy who stole the nomination and they see him doing a bad job and they see him whining and they see him griping and they get that he never owns his mistakes.

And it just drives home that Barack is a loser and America was robbed.

I think Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, et al screwed the party over good when they stole the nomination from Hillary and gave it to the unqualified Barack. I hope Hillary announces shortly that she's stepping down as Secretary of State.

Not to run for president. If she were to announce that, she'd have my support. But I know how much hatred would be spewed at her if she tried to run for the nomination and I wouldn't wish that on her. (But, again, she runs in 2012, I'm supporting her.)

But I think she's demonstrated as much as she can in this role and would love to see her do foundation stuff and travel and just be a goodwill ambassador for the country as a private/public citizen.

Going out with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri al-Maliki moves from prime minister-designate to prime minister -- and manages to appoint no or one (reports vary) woman to one of the many Cabinet posts, for some it means oil talk, for some it means fear of militias, for some it means does the war go past 2011, Iraqi Christians remain under attack as do two women who may have been raped, Steven D. Green just wants to fool you, and more.

Starting with every rape survivor's 'friend' Naomi Wolf. For those who are late to the party, Naomi continues to attack two women who may have been raped by Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. She insists that she's a big friend to rape survivors -- apparently when not implying they're liars or CIA agents or whatever else. Naomi, when did you cover Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi? That's right, you didn't. You had 'other things to do,' important ones. For example, when the final trial was taking place in Kentucky, you had a 'pressing' issue to cover instead as Cedric's "Naomi Wolf wins Dumbest on the Face of the Planet" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BACKLASH NAOMI WOLF!" noted May 4, 2009:



Robin Morgan was able to write about it, Naomi. Video here of Jane Fonda speaking on the War Crimes. See, Naomi, most of us feminists were tackling this story. Where the hell were you? You couldn't be bothered, now could you? But now you want to boast about your expertise and commitment to the issue?

Late to the party like Naomi? Fortunately the ring-leader is trying to get sympathy so we can provide the catch up. May 7, 2009 Steven D. Green was convicted for his crimes in March 12, 2006 gang-rape and murder of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, the murder of her parents Kassem and Fakhriya and the murder of her five-year-old sister Hadeel while Green was serving in Iraq. Green was found to have killed all four, to have participated in the gang-rape of Abeer and to have been the ringleader of the conspiracy to commit the crimes and the conspiracy to cover them up. May 21, 2009, the federal jury deadlocked on the death penalty and instead kicking in sentence to life in prison. September 4, 2009, he was sentenced. Throughout it all, he failed to take accountability, instead whining and playing the victim. AP's Brett Barrouquere was one of the first reporters to cover Green's crimes ad he continues to cover the case. Sunday he was reporting on an interview he's done with Green.

During the interview, Green whines about himself a lot and -- as with his court appearance -- demonstrates no remorse or real accountability for his actions. At one point, he tells Barrouquere, "If I hadn't ever been in Iraq, I wouldn't be in the kind of trouble I'm in now. I'm not happy about that." Well he could have gotten the death penalty, maybe he should be happy. Death is what he sentenced two young Iraqi girls and their parents to. Abeer's surviving family was very upset that he was going to prison and not getting the death penalty.

Green killed four people, in cold blood. While he likes to lessen the rape, it was gang-rape and he went last. Plenty of time to 'cool off' (he's claiming he couldn't think more than 10 minutes into the future). He took part in the gang-rape and he killed Abeer. And before he killed her, he'd already killed her sister and her two parents.

He killed four people. He gang-raped a 14-year-old girl. A 14-year-old girl he'd already been stalking. He'd stopped her at the neighborhood checkpoint, made unwanted advances and comments, her parents were getting her out of town, she would have been gone the next morning. But he and his friends broke into the family's home and gang-raped Abeer while she could hear Green killing her parents and her sister in the next room, then Green raped her, killing her after he got off and then attempting to set her corpse on fire.

He tries to claim in his latest revision of history that he was despondent over deaths in Iraq but, as the jury was informed during the trial, "screwing Iraqi chicks" was what they'd been talking about as they began plotting, not about any deaths.

Green was tried in civilian court because he had already been discharged when the crimes came to light. His co-conspirators were tried in military court (and were found guilty or admitted their guilt). On the military side, it started with an
August 2006 Article 32 hearing held in Iraq in which US Army Capt Alex Pickands pointed out:

Green's been playing the victim for some time. In his interview today, he's claiming he enlisted out of 'duty to country.' Really? Because it's already on record that he enlisted because he'd been arrested (again) and exhausted all other avenues. (He's also very lucky his juvenile records remain sealed.) At 19, with his record, he was looking at doing time. It was jail or the military and he made his choice. From day one, he's been convinced (and his attorneys believe it as well) that he doesn't belong behind bars for life and that's how he's acted all along (it's why he wasn't able to pull off a plea bargain, Marisa Ford wasn't going to go along with a slap on the wrist for a gang-rape and four murders). He killed four people in cold blood.

To this day, there has been no effort on his part to acknowledge what his actions did -- that's why Abeer's family was outraged in the courtroom with her aunt having to leave the courtroom so enraged was she by his cavalier remarks. Green needs to take responsible for his actions. He wants to blame the military. The killers of Pfc Joseph John Anzack, Sgt 1st Class James D. Connell, Spc Daniel W. Courneya, Pfc Byron Wayne Fouty, Spc Alex Ramon Jimenez, Cpl Christopher E. Murphy and Sgt Anthony J. Schober are responsible for their actions as well. But it is something that Green has still never mentioned the 7 dead US soldiers whose killers claimed that they attacked because of the War Crimes carried out in Abeer's home -- they named.
And this was before the US military was aware of what took place, they made their claim of retaliation for the murder and rape before the US military knew about what really happened at Abeer's home (it had been done by 'insurgents' was the finding at that time). After the assault on the seven soldiers (three of whom were in kidnapped status at the time and would later be found to be dead), Pfc Justin Watt came forward with what he'd heard the co-consipirators say and do (he came forward at the end of June 2006, a month after the assault on US soldiers). Green has never publicly acknowledged the deaths of those 7 soldiers. But he wants to repeatedly claim his actions were forced on him.

Hey, maybe Naomi Wolf can take up his case next? Maybe, when he was killing the five-year-old girl, she didn't scream, "NO!" Maybe she just cried and so it wasn't -- in Naomi Wolf's mind -- Green's fault? Maybe when Green became the third man in a row to rape Abeer, she just sobbed and didn't get out the words "NO!" which made it okay with Naomi? Irin Carmon (Jezebel) takes on the 'logic' Naomi offered yesterday on Democracy Now!:

She added, "If you're going to treat women as moral adults, and if you're going to take the issue of rape seriously, the person who's engaging in what he thinks is consensual sex, has to be told, 'I don't want this,' and again and again and again, these women did not say, this was not consensual."

Friedman replied that if the women had been consenting, Assange wouldn't have needed to pin one down with his arms, or penetrate the other while she was sleeping, without a condom, contrary to her stated demand to use one. "Taking your clothes off with someone does not mean you consented to all sexual activity," she reminded Wolf.

Wolf claimed Assange "consulted with the women" and that they had told him "yes, yes, yes," which isn't in the police report leaks that I read. "You're not respecting women by casting them as unable to assert what they want, or unwilling to speak about what they wish," she said.

In a perfect world, every rape would be clear-cut and involve someone shouting no so as to make legal enforcement easy. Oh wait, in a perfect world, all sex would be consensual and no one would be woken up with an unwelcome, unsheathed penis inside of them.

Carmon also tackles Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann. Moore we've called out here multiple times over the years. We were never, ever stupid enough to quote Olbermann here because his reputation with women is so vile that even the dark days of the Bush era, we knew to stay away from him. Bob Somerby has long documented Olbermann's sexism so you can refer to The Daily Howler. I don't excuse the behavior of either man but, as Ava and I have argued, they couldn't get away with it today if a woman wasn't waiving them through and providing them with cover so they could hide behind her and claim, "Hey, even 'feminist' Naomi Wolf . . ." Jessica Valentie offers a roundup of links on the topic here.
On Democracy Now!, Naomi claimed that she'd heard from tons and tons of women which is surprising since her Facebook page is largely all male. When a woman does comment, she's either a right-winger supporting Naomi or someone calling her out like Rachel Casebolt:
Rachel Casebolt Naomi: "So... if you're going to take the issue of rape seriously, the person who's engaging in what he thinks is consensual sex has to be told, "I don't want this." And again and again and again, these women did not say, "This is not consensual."
This is some repugnant, anti-feminist trash.
No one has a right to someone
... else's body without affirmative consent. Unless you get a "yes," you do not have consent. Lack of "no" is not consent. This is Feminism 101 stuff. What were you thinking?
As Harriet J posted today, "With friends like these, who needs rape culture?"

I wonder if those 'women' Naomi claims to 'hear from' exist only in her head? At Girlfriend Junction, Jenn writes in the comments, "Also, I am still confused as to why Naomi Wolf gets to be some sort of 'feminist spokesperson' on this, after repeatedly putting her foot in ther mouth. And repeatedly being hell privileg-y." Naomi Wolf is not a spokesperson nor is she an expert on rape and if anyone bothered to read her bad books, they'd know that. Since January 2009, Ava and I have been calling her out on the gang-rape she enabled in college, refusing to call out the rapists (her friends) because she didn't want to be called a (her term) "lesbo." Realizing how few people read (and how few readers bother to read Naomi Wolf in the first place), Elaine posted that section from Promiscuities last night (it pages 177 - 178, by the way) so you can refer to that if you're just now discovering that Naomi repeatedly spits on women and stands with male sexual assailants. Yesterday on Democracy Now!, Naomi wanted to brag and get credit for "my 23 years of supporting rape victims" which would be after the gang-rape she helped cover up and for "working in rape crisis centers". Really? She thinks she can claim credit for the latter. Has she not read her own writing? Check out chapter eleven of her second book, Fire With Fire ("Case Studies" is chapter eleven), which is nothing but a rant about the rape center and the women at it. Here are some of her written complaints in her own words:

* my spirits collapsed the instant I walked in the door
* deadening atmoshpehere
* [trapped in the beauty myth of her own making] people's skin look[ed] dead white or liverish gray-brown
* a phone bank that was always too busy
* dried-whey powdered coffee creamer, bulk freeze-dried coffee

And that's just her opening. If only the workers at the center valued flowers as much as Naomi and physical appearance as much as she did. She confesses to treating "myself to a nice long drink of self-righteousness" thereby establishing where her current bad habits started. She whines that her work at the rape center (pay attention to this) would leave her "prompted to pick a fight with my perfectly friendly, nonabusive, housework-sharing boyfriend" (the one who dry humped the unwilling woman?). She whines that volunteering at the rape center meant "You were not allowed to laugh too much" and "You were never supposed to talk affectionately about your boyfriend". And, she whines, "The rape crisis center starved for lack of fun." Guess the Peace Corps must be thrilled right now that they didn't get college-era Naomi.

Reflecting on Fire With Fire today, you quickly grasp that Naomi was actually charting how to succeed via sexism. She pretended otherwise but how else is page 95 to be read, for example? It's there that she confesses that declaring "Rape is bad" "can position a woman as a peculiar outsider." That sort of explains why she now attacks women who may have been raped, doesn't it? And certainly pages 97 through 99 (semi-charting her self-embarrassing encounters with an anti-feminist who publicly referred to her as an "air head") read as though they're not only describing that woman, they're describing herself. Choosing one sentence at random from page 97: "A writer who defines herself as a feminist while she generates some traditionally antifeminist opinions, ___ was feted in the very press that had assiduously neglected over the course of a decade to present to the public the currents of thought she indicted." Reads like Wolf's autobiography today.

Wolf claims that she's now reaching more and more women. When the reality is -- check out any site with comments -- she's actually reaching men who loathe women and self-hating women and feeding into their hatred of women. She is the woman she criticizes starting on page 97. What a proud moment for her. This crowd ignores an actual feminist -- Susan Faludi, for example, who emerged in the book world at the same time as Naomi and whose books have always outsold Naomi's -- and embraces Naomi and the reason is obvious (even to Naomi): She's selling attacks on women and providing the yes-you-may to attackers. That's why they've embraced her. Caroline May (of the right-wing Daily Caller) files an article on the Naomi versus feminists. In it, Women's Media Center's Yana Walton calls out Michael Moore and Keith Oblermann and states, "When sexual violence and rape is such a huge part of women's lives internationally I don't think it is ever helpful to legitimize it. Rape is rape is rape is rape, and should be prosecuted as such." The New Agenda's Amy Siskind is quoted stating, "[Wolf] trivialized these women and rape generally and if you look online and at the blogosphere, she certainly stands alone. If this is what it is to be a Progressive, that we sublimate women and rape so thatw e can celebrate whatever [Michael Moore] is celebrating with freedom of speech. And I think women on the Progressive side need to reexamine how they are being treated." Angus Johnson (Student Activism) critiques (f-word warning) Naomi's nonsense on Democracy Now here. And Jill (Feministe) notes a campaign to raise awareness in Sweden of sexual assault.

Julian Assange is the public face of WikiLeaks. He may or may not have raped two women. He does seem in danger of losing it these days and WikiLeaks would be wise to find a new public face quickly. Adam Gabbatt (Guardian) documents Assange's rants that the Guardian is out to get him and deliberately attempted to destroy his chances at receiving bill:

The discussion was broadcast as the Times [of London] published its own interview with Assange, in which he said documents had been leaked to the Guardian in an attempt to undermine his final bail hearing, held on 16 December.
However, the documents were not leaked to the Guardian, and details from the documents to which Assange referred were published only after the 16 December hearing.
Assange was granted bail on 14 December, but remained in prison for a further two days after the Swedish authorities challenged the decision.
[. . .]
The Guardian published an article which included some details from the police statements online at 9.30pm on Friday 17 December, and in the Guardian newspaper on Saturday 18 December.
Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) adds, "Assange's falling out with former allies may come as little surprise to many who have worked closely with him. Former WikiLeaks No. 2 Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who formerly went by the pseudonym Daniel Schmitt until breaking with the group earlier this year, has described Assange as "dictatorial" and has said he's creating a rival group dedicated to releasing government secrets in a more open and transparent manner." Nitash Tiku's "The WikiLeaks Sage Is All Working Out According to Assange's Plan" (New York Magazine) explores an essay/manifesto Julian Assange wrote and its meaning in light of his actions today:

Provoking a stronger enemy into an overreaction is a classic strategy for insurgents, and it's not hard to see how some of the U.S. reactions to WikiLeaks have not been in the nation's best interest. Pressuring private companies to cut off websites the government doesn't like, especially without due process, will make it pretty hard for the U.S. to maintain the high ground with authoritarian governments like China or Iran. And prosecuting Assange will set a dangerous precedent that could land just about any newspaper or media outlet in the crosshairs next time, dangerously undermining the First Amendment.
Yesterday the Guardian posted one of the US State Dept cables WikiLeaks had released in which the State Dept detailed a visit by Italian government officials expressing that the death of Nicola Calipari was not something the government is concerned one and that they desire "to put the incident behind us" and to avoid harming "our strong friendship and alliance." If true, that's appalling. Nicola Calipari was an Italian government agent. He was sent to Italy to secure the release of journalist Giuliana Sgrena. After doing so, he was shot dead by US soldier Mario Lozano Jr. and Sgrena was left wounded. Rajeev Syal (Guardian) reports on another cable which John Nagal wrote (January 2010) that "Halliburton's senior executive in Iraq accused private security companies of operating a 'mafia' to artificially inflate their 'outrageous prices'."
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections, today they may have concluded the stalemate, weeks and weeks after setting the world record for longest time taken after elections to form a government. Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) insist, "The Iraqi parliament approved Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and his new government Tuesday, bringing to an end nine months of torturous political stalemate." In keeping with Thug Nouri's thuggery, Shashank Bengali and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) note not one of the ministers approved today was a woman. Nizar Latif and Phil Sands (The National) observe, "The new government includes members of all of Iraq's major political, sectarian and ethnic groups, including Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds." But, again, not one woman. In a statement, US President Barack Obama declared that this was "a significant moment in Iraq's history and a major step forward in advancing national unity." Without women? Barack went on to insist that "the Iraqi people can also seize a future of opportunity" -- yes, Barack, if they're women. He sounds a bit like someone applauding the government of South America in 1971, doesn't he? And it also calls to mind an observation the Guardian's editorial board made in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." US Vice President Joe Biden issued a statement that may indicates he was misinformed of the occassion since he sounds as though he's accepting a Grammy, "I especially want to congratulate Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqiyya leader Ayad Allawi and Kurdistan Regional Government President Massoud Barzani for the hard work and wise leadership that has brought Iraq to this promising moment." What do you say after that? "Word!"?
In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. In 2010, it took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a National Security. Meaning it took five months and five days in 2006 for Nouri to establish a government. This go round? Nine months and 14 days. That's not "progress," that's not an "improvement." It's scary as hell and should make everyone concerned what happens next go round in terms of how long to form a government and in terms of Nouri who clearly sees himself as the New Little Saddam.
The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's office issued the following statement: "The Secretary-General welcomes today's announcement of a new government in Baghdad, which has been approved by Iraq's Council of Representatives, and congratulates Mr. Nuri al-Maliki on his confirmation as Prime Minister. This represents a major step forward in Iraq's democratic process. The Secretary-General also congratulates Iraq's political leaders for their concerted efforts to ensure that the new government is inclusive, broadly participatory and has the support of the people of Iraq. He calls on them to continue working in the spirit of national unity to swiftly conclude the govenrment formation process, and address the major challenges that face the country, including national reconciliation, reconstruction and long-term stability. In accordance with its comprehensive Security Council mandate, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq will continue to support the people and Governmnet of Iraq in building a prosperous and peaceful Iraq." UPI tamps down on the enthusiasm by noting right off the bat that "13 seats on the 42-member Cabinet are temporary holdovers." Shashank Bengali and Mohammed al-Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) report point out the Cabinet is missing "the key ministries responsible for security and military affairs for now, because lawmakers haven't agreed on who should fill them. There's still no deal, either, on creating a yet-to-be named strategic council -- a U.S.-backed initiative aimed at curbing al-Maliki's powers -- which lawmarkers said could be weeks away." Liz Sly and Aaron Davis (Washington Post) explain, "Maliki appointed himself acting minister of interior, defense and national security and said the three powerful positions would be filled with permanent appointees once suitable candidates have been agreed on."
Dow Jones always knows who butters their bread and were first out of the gate to file a story, by Hassan Hafidh, -- a whole story -- on one post: Minister of Oil which went to Abdul Kareem Luaiby and knew they had to hit the important note: "Luaiby maintains good relations with international oil companies." Well let's all breathe easy now! And the news was so important that Hafidh had to file an update to it almost immediately: "The new oil minister's appointment is seen as a sign of continuity for international firms that signed deals to develop Iraqi oil fields, which are among the world's largest but suffer from lack of investment, war and sanctions." Did we say one update? Try another. Today meant various things to various people. To Dow Jones it all came down to Luaiby. For Martin Chulov (Guardian) the key meaning appears to be, "The naming of the 29 ministries marked a return to prominence for the hardline Sadrist movement, which has been jostling for influence ever since being urged by Iran to support Maliki, a one-time foe. The staunchly anti-American Sadrists claimed eight ministries and are also angling for one of the security positions." Charles McDermid and Nizar Latif (Time magazine) note that the al-Sadr bloc won eight of the 29 announced positions today. Omar Karmi (The National) explores the biggest issue:
Charles Dunne of the Middle East Institute, who from 2005 to 2007 was the director for Iraq at the National Security Council in the previous administration, said the priority that could now be addressed is what kind of security arrangements the US would have with Iraq after 2011.
"If American troops stay [in Iraq] beyond 2011, it's going to require a negotiation of the security agreements that we have. That discussion has not even begun between the Iraqis and the Americans, and we are kind of running out of time."
Mr Dunne characterised the Iraq war as the "forgotten war" in America and argued that it would go almost unnoticed should the US leave some troops after 2011, something he said would be important politically rather than militarily. "It's very important to keeping political assurances, in terms of the Kurds, for example, who really want an American presence there after 2011, [and] to simply assure people that we are committed. That's the major effect, and I don't think the actual numbers of American troops are that important in terms of security."
"Parliament in separate votes gave its approval to Mr Maliki three deputy prime ministers and 29 other cabinet ministers, as well as the government programme," explains the Telegraph of London. John Leland and Jack Healy (New York Times) note that there were "angry shouts" during the votes and that "one small party walked out, and several lawmakers -- including women, who received only one cabinet ministry -- protested their treatment". They then go on to quote the idiot Chris Hill who manages to be insulting and demonstrates YET AGAIN that he never should have been the US Ambassador to Iraq ("Iraqis are not fond of giving Christmas presents, but I think they gave us one today."). By contrast, and to no surprise, Ryan Crocker is left to do the heavy lifting of actual interpretation (and does so without insulting Iraqis). (Ryan Crocker was the US Ambassador to Iraq prior to Chris Hill's brief foray.) Martin Chulov (Guardian) offers, "Several other pressure points loom, first among them the demands of the unpredictable Sadrist bloc, which walked out on Maliki's first government and is a reluctant bedfellow in his second administration. The Kurds could also prove to be a challenge to Maliki's tenure. Their strong showing in the March poll has emboldened them to press home two key demands -- a referendum on the disputed city of Kirkuk and a national hydrocarbon law, which would significantly boost their oil revenues."
Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing which left three people injured and a Baghdad assault which left one "employee of the Shi'ite Endowmen" injured.
Alsumaria TV reports, "Kirkuk Christians cancelled Christmas festivities and plan to hold the sacred holiday mass during the day to mourn the victims of Baghdad Church attack, Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako said." Deutsche Presse-Agentur notes, "No group could feel safe, especially during the worst years, in 2006 and 2007. But vulnerable minorities, scattered across the country, have been particularly hard hit, as they had little protection of their own to rely on. Larger sects formed militias that sometimes attacked other groups, but also had defence forces to protect their own neighbourhoods. Christians, Yezidis and Shebeks remain the most targeted of Iraq's small religious groups, once a source of pride for many in the country who enjoyed diversity." Iraqi Christians have been targeted throughout the Iraq War and the latest wave of attacks began October 31st with the assault on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad. Rebecca Santana (AP) notes, "They have suffered repeated violence and harassment since 2003, when the interreligious peace rigidly enforced by Saddam Hussein fell apart. But the attack on Our Lady of Salvation in which 68 people died appears to have been a tipping point that has driven many to flee northeward to the Kurdish enclave while seeking asylum in the U.S. and elsewhere." Margaret Wente (Globe & Mail) adds, "In recent years, Muslim extremists have stepped up their attacks on Iraq's Christians, who used to number about a million (3 per cent of the population). Today, the Christians are fleeing, as the Jews once fled, and the population has been cut in half. Extremists have firebombed their homes, kidnapped their relatives, and shot them in cold blood." Amnesty International issued the following yesterday:

Amnesty International today called on the Iraqi government to do more to protect the country's Christian minority from an expected spike in violent attacks as they prepare to celebrate Christmas.
Amnesty International today called on the Iraqi government to do more to protect the country's Christian minority from an expected spike in violent attacks as they prepare to celebrate Christmas.
"Attacks on Christians and their churches by armed groups have intensified in past weeks and have clearly included war crimes" said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
"We fear that militants are likely to attempt serious attacks against Christians during the Christmas period for maximum publicity and to embarrass the government."
Last year armed groups carried out fatal bomb attacks on churches in Mosul on 15 and 23 December. Some 65 attacks on Christian churches in Iraq were recorded between mid-2004 and the end of 2009.
The increase in violence against Christians in the last month takes place against a backdrop of sectarian violence in Iraq, including several bomb attacks on Shi'a gatherings last week during the Ashura period, which have reportedly killed more than a dozen people.
"We utterly condemn the ongoing attacks against Iraqi civilians carried out by armed groups, and call on the Iraqi government to provide more protection, especially for vulnerable religious and ethnic communities" said Malcolm Smart.
Attacks have increased since around 100 worshippers were taken hostage in a Baghdad Assyrian Catholic church by an armed group on 31 October, with more than 40 people killed as Iraqi security forces tried to free the hostages. The Islamic State of Iraq, an armed group linked to al-Qa'ida, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Following the hostage crisis, Christian families in Baghdad have been subjected to increasing bomb and rocket attacks on their homes, as well as systematic threats in the mail or by text message.
Christians in Mosul have also been increasingly targeted for assassination by gunmen, with reports in Iraqi media of at least five killed by armed men in November. Reports of killings and abductions of Christians in Mosul have continued in December. Dozens of Christian families have fled Baghdad, Mosul and Basra and have sought refuge in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.
In May this year, a bus-load of Christian students were targeted in a bomb attack as they travelled from a predominantly Christian area in Mosul to Mosul University. A Christian from Mosul who must remain anonymous for security reasons has told Amnesty International: "Many students who were in those buses in May have not gone back to university."
"The security situation in Mosul is very bad... 90 per cent of the Christian students have dropped university - they are all very afraid of something happening to them. ...When I leave the house I am always under alert..."
These comments are consistent with a summary of testimonies from Iraqi Christians who have recently fled to Syria, released by a Christian organisation called the Church Committee for Iraqi Refugees in al-Hassake.
The summary, released by the Barnabas Fund, another Christian NGO, says that Iraqi Christians in threatened cities like Mosul "are living behind locked doors. They are compelled to take long leaves of absence from work, in Mosul and other cities, as a result of the dangers they face at work. The universities are almost empty of Christian students, as are the schools."
The summary tells of regular threats against Christian families in Mosul and other cities, including a dead bird being nailed to the door in warning, extortion, and offensive graffiti on houses.
Tenants renting the homes of Christians who have fled Iraq are allegedly being forced to hand over the rent payments to armed groups who consider themselves the new owners, according to the summary. When Christian families have sold their houses to leave Iraq, armed groups have also allegedly threatened the new owners for taking 'their' property.
According to media reports, as Christmas approaches the Iraqi authorities have started constructing concrete walls to protect Mosul and Baghdad churches from security threats, and are introducing stringent security checks at their entrances. Religious services have been scaled back due to fear of attacks.
"Building walls around churches is a sign that the government has failed to provide real security" said Malcolm Smart.
The wave of attacks on Mosul Christians since the 2003 invasion of Iraq has greatly reduced the community's population which then stood at over 100,000.
Iraqi politicians have taken since elections in May to form a government, creating a climate of uncertainty and power vacuum for months, which has been exploited by armed groups.
"Now that Iraq is finally forming a government, that new government's effectiveness will be measured by whether it achieves an actual reduction in sectarian attacks by armed groups, and helps stem the flood of Christians fleeing Iraq to escape the violence" said Malcolm Smart.

Monday 20 December 2010
Make a difference!

The Iraq War has created the biggest refugee crisis in the region. Many of the millions of external Iraqi refugees have sought sancturary in surrounding countries. Suha Philip Ma'ayeh (The National) reports from Jordan where Yousef Abdullah and his wife and their two daughters managed to escape from Iraq after a home invasion in which they were told leave now or be killed. Abdullah's mind is very much on Iraq, "How are we going to feel the joy of Christmas? My son is in Baghdad with his wife. He called me the day before yesterday and told me he wants to flee to [the Iraqi city of] Irbil. We cannot celebrate when tragedy struck Our Lady of Salvation Church," he said of the October 31 attacks that killed 68 people. "Even children were slaughtered at the altar. Our wounds are deep."
In non-Iraq news, David DeGraw (Amped Status) declares he will not participate in journalistic appeasement while the middle class in the US is slaughtered. Read about it here.

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