Friday, July 1, 2011. Chaos and violence continue, protests continue in Baghdad, the US government continues to target an Iraq War veteran, Iraq scores poorly on the State Dept's report of human trafficking, and more.
Starting with Libya. Yesterday on Flashpoints (KPFA, Pacifica), guest host Kevin Pina spoke with Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya who has left Canada to report from Libya on the illegal war. Michael Birnbaum (Washington Post) reported, "French officials announced Wednesday that they had armed rebels in Libya, marking the first time a NATO country has said it was providing direct military aid to opponents of the government in a conflict that has lasted longer than many policymakers expected." Actually, they didn't just 'announce' it was taking place. Philippe Gelie (Le Figaro) reported that France was dropping weapons to the 'rebels.' Only after Gelie's report got traction and the pressure was on the French government to answer the charge did they 'announce' -- which most of us would call "admit" -- that this had happened. Nick Hopkins (Guardian) explained, "The revelation surprised officials in Nato's headquarters in Brussels and raised awkward questions about whether the French had broken international law -- UN resolution 1973 specifically allows Nato nations to protect civilians in Libya, but appears to stop short of permitting the provision weapons." This is the topic Kevin Pina and Madhi Nazemoroaya are discussing at the start of the excerpt.
Kevin Pina: So let's talk about this. Has the word reached there in Libya that France has openly flaunted the UN resolution?
Madhi Nazemroaya: Yes, yes, it has. And it's no surprise in Tripoli that the French have been involved with this breach of the United Nations resolution.
Kevin Pina: And so what has the reaction been? Has there been any official reaction from the Gaddafi government?
Madhi Nazemroaya: I was at the Rixos Hotel which as your listeners might know is the media center where the government spokesman is. There's been no official statements yet but speaking to the people there at the media center, as I said, they're not surprised. But they are outraged. I'm sure that tomorrow the manifestation of this outrage will appear in Triopli because there is a major protest -- a major protest that is going to take place.
Kevin Pina: And you're listening to Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio and that's the voice of Madhi Nazemroaya coming to us direct from Tripoli in Libya. Madhi, have there been any other sorties of NATO bombers within the last 24 hours?
Madhi Nazemroaya: Well in Tripoli there have been no bombings that I know of but I can tell you that NATO jets have been flying robustly over Tripoli and there noises can be heard to the point where at some points I think I've been woken up to this very moment by them. They've been flying a lot during the day. Most likely going south towards Fezzan bombing God knows what because there are no military sites south of here. But there have been robust flights, that's for sure.
Kevin Pina: And what about actual battles between the so-called rebels and the forces of the Libyan Army?
Madhi Nazemroaya: Well I could tell you this in regards to the front between -- between both sides, between the Benghazi based Transitional Council forces and the military of -- the Libyan miltary of Col Gaddafi . In regards to the front, it was announced yesterday that one city fell. Now I know this because I was witness to the official government spokesperson, Dr. Moussa Ibrahim --
Kevin Pina: This is a city that fell back to Gaddafi forces?
Madhi Nazemroaya: No, it was said to have fallen to the rebel forces. Now this is reported by the rebels and by the mainstream media but Dr. Moussa Ibrahim and the Libyan government, the Libyan regime, have contradicted it and denied it. And what they have dones is actually taken international press with them to this city to prove that it did not fall as was reported. Now I bared witness to them leaving on a shuttle towards the city and they returned this morning. I actually talked to some of the reporters before they left. They came from places such as France, Britian and Hong Kong. So we have misinformation being given about the front when one city's been reported to have fallen when, reality, it hasn't. So this I can tell you right now about the front.
Kevin Pina: Now you've also spoken about the psychological warfare that's been used by NATO and its allies against the people of Libya. Give us a sense of where that's at now. You said there were still fly-bys and they were making a lot of noise over the capitol. Obviously, that's got to make the people very nervous.
Madhi Nazemroaya: Yes, these flights -- these flights are a daily event here in Tripoli and in the districts around Tripoli. And it does make them -- it does make the citizens here think of NATO on a constant basis. This has become a part of their lives. Now I said before too that they're trying to live normal lives and I'm actually very impressed with their efforts to live normal lives here in Tripoli and the districts around Tripoli. But the facts are that these flights make one really nervous and especially at night. Even I myself have trouble sometimes sleeping at night because sometimes these noises wake you up and you might have a problem, like a fear and mistake even a car noise for these flights over Tripoli. It's very disturbing and I have to point out that I've come at a time where the bombings in this area have been reduced compared to what they were. The war is nothing like it was -- the bombings are nothing like it was prior to my arrival. Still, it's a very scary thing, Kevin, it's a very scary thing.
Kevin Pina: It seems like the bombings really fell off after it became clear that NATO was responsible for killing civilians -- that they were claiming they were bombing military targets but civilians were being killed at the same time. And there was an incident that happened about a week ago, right, where it was really clear and they could no longer deny it and it seems that they have fallen off since then. Right?
Madhi Nazemroaya: Well in Tripoli, like I've said, the bombings have been reduced, they're far less [unknown word] to the citizens than before but other places are being bombed. Like these planes are flying south of Tripoli. God knows where they are bombing because there's nothing of military value in Fezzan. And south of Tripoli, I can't imagine what they're bombing down there except for small cities and villages and the desert. But they are bombing south of here, they're bombing places. And we have reports of them bombing the areas in [. . .] south of here. These things are of no military value at all which actually is an indicator that this war is wrong and that NATO is involved in War Crimes, bombing civilian structures.
Kevin Pina: Now you had also said in a previous interview that there was evidence of depleted uranium in bombing -- in the bomb casings that were being dropped on the population. Where's that at now? I understand there's some evidence that's going to be released soon.
Madhi Nazemroaya: That evidence will come forward. It's something that's being waited on. The machinery here -- There is machinery here that's been ordered that will detect radioactivity levels. It's only a matter of time before it comes. I don't know exactly when it will come up but the machinery is here and there would have actually been more machinery had it not been for the disaster in east Asia, in Japan specifically, because a lot of this machinery ended up going there. But I spoke to an American gentlemen the other day about it and they will be using this machinery to prove to the world that depleted uranium has been used here. And not only have I mentioned this but so have others and so has the Stop the War coalition in the United Kingdom.
Kevin Pina: Well Madhi, this is the voice of Madhi Nazemroaya our special correspondent on the ground in Tripoli, Libya. This is Flashpoints on Pacifica Radio.
In related news, AFP reported this week that the 'rebels' (National Transitional Council) has received the equivalent of $100 million in "international donations" according to England's Foreign Secretary William Hague who was speaking to the House of Commons.
Former US house Rep Cynthia McKinney is attempting to raise awareness of the illegal war and this is from her "What America Stands For In Libya" (Information Clearing House):
At a time when the American people have been asked to tighten their belts, teachers are receiving pink slips, the vital statistics of the American people reveal a health care crisis in the making, and the U.S. government is in serious threat of default, our President and Congress have decided that a new war, this time against the people of Libya, is appropriate. This comes at a time when the U.S., by one estimate, spends approximately $3 billion per week for war against Iraq and Afghanistan.
Today protests continued in Iraq. This was "Grandchildren of the 1920 Rebels" -- a not to the Iraq Revolution of 1920 in which the Iraqis -- Shia and Sunni -- protested the British occupation and the policies put in place by British Bwana Arnold Wilson. It kicked off in May 1920 and saw 6,000 Iraqis and 500 British and Indian forces killed from May to October. To avoid further risk, the British handed control over to Faisal bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi who ruled as the King of Iraq from August 1921 to September 1933. Revolution of Iraq features videos of the Baghdad protests filmed by Rami Hayali. During the demonstration, they burned to the United States flag to show their rejection of the occupation. A characteristic of the Baghdad protests are the women with photos of their loved ones who are missing -- some lost in the Iraqi 'justice' system and there are least two such women (plus other women as well) in this video. Families have no idea where their loved ones are. They just disappear one day. Maybe they're seen being hauled away by Iraqi forces, maybe that's not seen. But they disappear and the government is of no use to them, provides no assistance to find them. Southern Iraq protests in the last months have also noted the difficulties in visiting imprisoned/detained Iraqis that the system seems to practice intentionally by repeatedly swapping prisons and by keeping them far from their home base where family would be closer. In this video, the protesters wash their hands of Ayad Allawi and Nouri al-Maliki stating that both men are useless and two-of-a-kind, thieves unwilling to help Iraq. Alsumaria TV reports that they called for Nouri's government to be toppled and to end corruption and that they were joined by "employees from the branch centers of the Independent High Electoral Commission rallied for the second time in Tahrir Square calling to be employed as fixed term employees."
Protests have continued every Friday despite the attacks on the peaceful protesters. Dan Murphy (Christian Science Monitor) reports:
Human Rights Watch charges today that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appears to have ordered the beating, stabbing, and sexual assault of protesters earlier this month.
"It's pretty worrying," says Joe Stork, the head of the Middle East department at Human Rights Watch. "There are a few things that we hadn't seen before, like the sexual molesting, that kind of thing. The pattern of using plain clothes people who to all appearances were working with the connivance of the security people, that's certainly not new … we saw that when the so-called Arab spring protests started in Baghdad in February. This use of 'thugs' who may or may not be security is itself not unique to Iraq; in fact, it seems to be right out of the Egyptian playbook."
In other news out of Iraq, Alaa Fadel (Dar Addustour) reports that Nouri's spokesperson, Ali al-Dabbagh, announced that the increase in oil prices (meaning more income for Iraq) will be used to increase the payment for wheat and barley to Iraqi farmers. The government is planning to spend trillions of dinars on these crops. While that takes place, Al Mada reports UNICEF is calling on Iraq's government to invest some of the money into a one billion a year fund to assist Iraq's disadvantaged children. There are an estimated 4 million severely disadvantaged children thought the number could be much higher and Iraq's estimated to have 15 million children. 15 million children is a large number by itself but especially when you consider that population estimates for Iraq are generally somewhere between 25 million and 30 million. Iraq is a young country, a country of widows and orphans thanks to the illegal war.
And the protests that take place in Iraq are about these issues, the war, the effects of the war, the occupied government's refusal to provide basic services such as potable water, the lack of jobs and much more. Iaq needs housing and every six months or so Nouri shows up at a newly built housing project for a photo-op. Iraq needs many things. So there should be more than enough jobs to go around. Somehow that's not the case. (Also true, a lot of the government funded projects never see the funds because someone uses the money to line their own pockets.)
Al Mada reports on the Iraqi government's reaction to the US State Dept's annual human rights report on human trafficking which finds being put on the "watchlist" good news. Hassan Rashed explains it's so much better to be on the watchlist than on the blacklist. They have no reason to be proud, the report notes:
The Iraqi government demonstrated minimal efforts to protect victims of trafficking during the reporting period. Government authorities continued to lack a formal procedure to identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as women arrested for prostitution or foreign workers, and did not recognize that women in prostitution may be coerced. As a result, some victims of trafficking were incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized for acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as prostitution. Some victims of forced labor, however, were reportedly not detained, fined, or jailed for immigration violations, but they were generally not provided protection services by the government. Some Iraqi police centers have specialists to assist women and children who are victims of trafficking and abuse; the number of victims assisted and the type of assistance provided is unclear. The government neither provided protection services to victims of trafficking nor funded or provided in-kind assistance to NGOs providing victim protection services. All available care was administered by NGOs, which ran victim-care facilities and shelters accessible to victims of trafficking. However, there were no signs that the government developed or implemented procedures by which government officials systematically referred victims to organizations providing legal, medical, or psychological services. Upon release from prison, female victims of forced prostitution had difficulty finding assistance, especially in cases where the victim's family had sold her into prostitution, thereby increasing their chances of being re-trafficked. Some child trafficking victims were placed in protective facilities, orphanages, and foster care, while others were placed in juvenile detention centers. Since trafficking is not established as a crime in Iraq, the government did not encourage victims to assist in investigations or prosecutions or provide legal assistance or legal alternatives to removal to countries in which they may face hardship or retribution for foreign victims of trafficking into Iraq.
The Government of Iraq did not report efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. The government has not conducted any public awareness or education campaigns to educate migrant workers, labor brokers, and employers of workers' rights against forced labor. There were also no reported efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts beyond enforcing anti-prostitution laws. The Iraqi government does not consistently monitor immigration and emigration patterns for evidence of trafficking, but there are reports of isolated instances in which Iraqi border security forces prevented older men and young girls traveling together from leaving Iraq using fake documents.
Their fallback position was to do nothing. When pressed, they did the "minimal." The report also notes:
Iraq is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. Iraqi women and girls are subjected to conditions of trafficking within the country and in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Iran, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia for forced prostitution and sexual exploitation within households. Women are lured into forced prostitution through false promises of work. Women are also subjected to involuntary servitude through forced marriages, often as payment of a debt, and women who flee such marriages are often more vulnerable to being subjected to further forced labor or sexual servitude. One NGO reports that recruiters rape women and girls on film and blackmail them into prostitution or recruit them in prisons by posting bail and then holding them in situations of debt bondage in prostitution. Some women and children are forced by family members into prostitution to escape desperate economic circumstances, to pay debts, or to resolve disputes between families. NGOs report that these women are often prostituted in private residences, brothels, restaurants, and places of entertainment. Some women and girls are trafficked within Iraq for the purpose of sexual exploitation through the use of temporary marriages (muta'a), by which the family of the girl receives money in the form of a dowry in exchange for permission to marry the girl for a limited period of time. Some Iraqi parents have reportedly collaborated with traffickers to leave children at the Iraqi side of the border with Syria with the expectation that traffickers will arrange for them forged documents to enter Syria and employment in a nightclub. The large population of internally displaced persons and refugees moving within Iraq and across its borders are particularly at risk of being trafficked. Women from Iran, China, and the Philippines reportedly may be trafficked to or through Iraq for commercial sexual exploitation.
Iraq is also a destination country for men and women who migrate from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Pakistan, Georgia, Jordan, and Uganda and are subsequently subjected to involuntary servitude as construction workers, security guards, cleaners, handymen, and domestic workers. Such men and women face practices such as confiscation of passports and official documents, nonpayment of wages, long working hours, threats of deportation, and physical and sexual abuse as a means to keep them in a situation of forced labor. Some of these foreign migrants were recruited for work in other countries such as Jordan or the Gulf States, but were forced, coerced, or deceived into traveling to Iraq, where their passports were confiscated and their wages withheld, ostensibly to repay labor brokers for the costs of recruitment, transport, and food and lodging. Other foreign migrants were aware they were destined for Iraq, but once in-country, found the terms of employment were not what they expected or the jobs they were promised did not exist, and they faced coercion and serious harm, financial or otherwise, if they attempted to leave. In addition, some Iraqi boys from poor families are reportedly subjected to forced street begging and other nonconsensual labor exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation. Some women from Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nepal, and the Philippines who migrated to the area under the jurisdiction of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) experienced conditions of domestic servitude after being recruited with offers of different jobs. An Iraqi official revealed networks of women have been involved in the trafficking and sale of male and female children for the purposes of sex trafficking.
The Government of Iraq does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, but is making significant efforts to do so. The government did not demonstrate evidence of significant efforts to punish traffickers or proactively identify victims; therefore, Iraq is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. Iraq was not placed on Tier 3 per Section 107 of the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, however, as the government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. Nonetheless, the government did not enact its draft anti-trafficking legislation and has reported no other efforts to prosecute or punish traffickers. The Government of Iraq continues to lack proactive victim identification procedures, persists in punishing victims of forced prostitution, and provides no systematic protection services to victims of trafficking.
Violence has increased in the last months in Iraq. Aswat al-Iraq reports that MP Hakim al-Zamili has declared, "The premier [Nouri al-Maliki] is the first responsible for the deterioration in the security situation. He has to solve this question by appointing the security miniters who should be specialized and knowledgeable."
Ms. Bokova also deplored the death on 21 June of cameraman Alwan al-Ghorabi, who died in a car bomb explosion in the southern Iraqi city of Diwaniyya, becoming the fourth journalist to be killed in that country this year. Mr. al-Ghorabi, who worked for the Afaq satellite television channel, was reportedly with several other journalists at the entrance of a Government building when the bomb exploded. Ms. Bokova said this latest death is a reminder of how precarious the security situation still is in Iraq.
"Media professionals, working to keep citizens informed, are particularly exposed," she noted.
In other news of violence, Ed O'Keefe and Tim Craig (Washington Post via Boston Globe) note the US officials and military 'chatter' that Iran is behind June's deadly attacks on US soldiers: "Those weapons include powerful rockets, armor-piercing grenades, and jamming-resistant roadside bombs, military officials say. Officials caution that they do not have evidence that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran or his government is ordering Shi'ite militias to strike US forces in Iraq." Michael S. Schmidt (New York Times) reports the US military is happy that Nouri al-Maliki has "unleashed a sweeping crackdown on Iranian-based Shiite militias" and that they feared this wouldn't happen due to the fact that "[m]any of the militant groups have ties to the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr" so it's relief to them that Nouri's sent soldiers and police officers into Maysan Province. Really? Moqtada didn't have a stronghold in the Maysan Province. The closest he is supposed to have had was a toe-hold in Amarah and that toe-hold fell apart during Basha'ar al-Salam in 2008 when Sadr's sole office in the province, in Amarah, was shut down. Now that's 2008. Two years prior to that, Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi milita was supposed to have seized control of the city of Amarah briefly (for one day in October). Where they do have control, Sadr supporters (militia or not) is in the province's government and that's due to Nouri al-Maliki who handed the province over to Moqtada to garner al-Sadr's support for his 2010 prime minister bid. Since Sadrists control the government in the province (including the post of governor) and since there were other militias in the province (going back for years and years) what might be taking place is that Moqtada al-Sadr is using his sway with Nouri to have Nouri take out rivals -- militia and political? -- in the province. Moqtada and his followers did't win control of the province via elections, they won it via a graft with Nouri. This may be an attempt at taking out enemies and 'purifying' the region. In which case, Nouri would be doing Moqtada's bidding and the US military brass would have jumped the gun in its praise for Nouri. If you're wondering what the other 'name' militia in the province is, it's the Badr Organization. If Moqtada was able to knock them out, he might neverhave to worry about control of the province or having to wrestle with Ammar al-Hakim over who's going to run it. He had to repeatedly wrestle with Ammar's father, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, over just that until Abdul Aziz al-Hakim passed away in 2009. Ammar al-Hakim being rather popular with US government officials, now would be the perfect time for Moqtada to work on weakening al-Hakim's support since a number of foreigners think, should Nouri be recalled or forced out, Ammar al-Hakim would be the perfect choice for prime minister.
15 US soldiers have died in the Iraq War during the month of June. Wednesday was the most recent deaths when a missile hit a US military vehicle killing three soldiers. The Intelligencer reports one of them was 29-year-old David VanCamp whose survivors include his wife Chelsea, his parents and his three brothers. David VanCamp first deployed to Iraq in the fall of 2005 and was awarded "the Purple Heart and Bronze Star after being injured in 2006 by a suicide bomber." The State Journal notes his passing and has a photo of him here.
Another of the 15 fallen for the month of June is Dylan Johnson. KJRH (link has text and video) speaks to his father Jeff Johnson who explains his son was known for his sense of humor, "I got a recent message from one of his buddies there and they're still finding remnants of practical jokes that he played on them, that was just the type of guy he was, he enjoyed life to it's fullest." Dylan Johnson was 20-years-old and on his 25th day in Iraq when he died in a bombing.
Staying with the United States, Elisha Dawkins is an Iraq War veteran. He remains a member of the military who was serving until the government recently decided that he had falsified a passport application by saying he'd never applied for one before when, a few years prior, he'd started an application but not finished it. On the basis of that, they have threatened and bullied Elisha. US Senator Bill Nelson has called the treatment outrageous. He's been offered the option of taking probation and the charges against him would be dropped. Probation would not be a felony conviction which would allow him to apply for citizenship. (There's confusion on citizenship. Elisha was raised believing he was a US citizen. He has a birth certificate from the state of Florida. But there's a deportation order from when he was a small child for him and for his mother.) Carol Rosenberg (Miami Herald) reports that his case has now caught US House Rep Federica Wilson's attention and that Wilson has written Janet Napolitano, US Homeland Security Secretary, asking for assistance and noting, "Mr. Dawkins is not someone who should find imself in a detention center. His situation is more than unfortunate, it is inexplicable. I am asking, earnestly, for your help. I am asking that Mr. Dawkins be allowed to continue to be the type of role model he has always been -- here, on American soil." US House Rep Federica Wilson's office has released the following statement:
Washington, DC -- Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (FL-17) today sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to request a removal of detainer on former Petty Officer 2nd Class, Elisha Leo Dawkins, who has been held for the past month in a Miami federal detention facility. Officer Dawkins was originally detained for an alleged passport violation. Even if he is released from detention, he is still at risk of deportation based on an order issued in 1992.
Mr. Dawkins was brought to the U.S. as a baby from The Bahamas and was raised believing he was a U.S. citizen, eventually rising to serve in our military with distinction. He grew up in the heart of Florida's 17th District, attending Poinciana Park Elementary and Miami Central Senior High School.
"This is a man we should be celebrating, not deporting," said Congresswoman Wilson. "He has bravely and heroically fought for our country and deserves our utmost gratitude. His situation is more than unfortunate; it is inexplicable. I am asking that Mr. Dawkins be allowed to continue to be the type of role model he has always been -- here, on American soil.
"This is precisely why we need to pass the DREAM Act. We need comprehensive immigration reform to fix our broken immigration system and ensure that incidents like this never happen again to our brave men and women who served in uniform."
In addition to awaiting a response from Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano, Congresswoman Wilson's district office is working closely with all relevant authorities to resolve the case.
Free Elisha Dawkins is a Facebook page which has been started by friends of Elisha who goes by "Leo" his friend and Jake Birchfield reveals to Ted Hall (11 Alive -- link has video and text) and.Birchfield explains of the friend he served with, "He has done more for this country than most people will in their lifetimes and he's a young man. The fact that he has gone to the front lines to fight for our country. The government needs to say this is a mistake."
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