Thursday, March 20, 2008

Counting the flowers & candy

Five years after the made-for-teevee 'Shock 'n Awe' invasion of Iraq, journalists are seizing this war-i-versary to count the flowers and candy.

Overflowing cemetaries. Unclaimed bodies.

Refugees in Syria, refugees in Jordan, Refugees in their own cities.

Oh but the "surge" is working. Divide, subdivide, and sub-subdivide. Arm the militias, arm the death-squads, and arm the sheikhs in the "awakening" councils. Pay no mind when these same sheikhs are bought off, assassinated, or accidentally killed by US forces. Go back to sleep.

IPS, Oct 19, 2007:
Abu Risha, who had been arrested by Saddam Hussein, became the centrepiece of Bush administration efforts to show that its troops surge in Iraq had been a success.
Many Iraqis, even one of Abu Risha's distant cousins, think differently.
"Sattar was a common thief, and we all knew him to be chief of a highway robbers gang," Salim Abu Risha told IPS in Baghdad. "He and his gang brought shame to our tribe and the whole province, but the Americans tried to make a hero of him."
It is no secret in Anbar province that Abu Risha's activities were not legal either before or after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. When the U.S. government began to support the 'Awakening of Anbar' led by Sattar Abu Risha, which operated under the flag of fighting al- Qaeda, some people did begin to think differently.
"Americans always choose the worst of their collaborators to be leaders of their campaigns," Sheikh Ahmed Ali of the Muslim Scholars Association told IPS in Baghdad. "Look at the governments and councils they chose to lead Iraq. This Sattar Abu Risha only provoked a division among the people of Anbar, and that was exactly what the Americans wanted."
[...]"Americans applied a strategy that has affected some weak brains and hearts," former Iraqi Army colonel Jabbar Saed from Fallujah told IPS. "They starved people, arrested those who opposed their occupation, killed a million Iraqis, supported sectarian militias and death squads, destroyed infrastructure to increase the rate of unemployment, and divided Iraqis into sects and now into tribes, just to make us feel that life would not be possible unless we work for them."
Well, at least that nasty Moqtada al Sadr has extended the cease-fire. The 30-something cleric is currently preoccupied with a crash course, of sorts: he's studying to become an ayatollah. I'm sure his militia will remain loyal and respect his call for continued peace. I mean, it's not like anyone's antagonizing his followers or anything...
Many Mehdi Army members and Sadrist political leaders want the truce scrapped, accusing Iraqi security forces of exploiting it to detain Sadrists, especially in Shi'ite southern Iraq, where rival Shi'ite factions are locked in a struggle for power.
[...] Analysts say he sought to impose order on the unrulier elements of his militia, some of whom have degenerated into gangsterism and organized crime. It is a powerful force in Baghdad and the southern oil hub of Basra.
One can only hold a thumb on the spigot for so long.
Some fear that the rampant violence of one year ago may be coming back, especially as the 30,000 soldiers sent to Baghdad last summer to help end a sectarian war begin returning home.
But Iraqi politicians are still gridlocked over sharing power, and citizens appear to have little hope that Iraqi forces could control al-Qaida in Iraq and renegade Shiite militias on their own.
[...]According to an Associated Press count, at the height of unrest from November 2006 to August 2007, on average approximately 65 Iraqis died each day as a result of violence. As conditions improved, the daily death toll steadily declined. It reached its lowest point in more than two years on January 2008, when on average 20 Iraqis died each day.
Those numbers have since jumped. In February, approximately 26 Iraqis died each day as a result of violence, and so far in March, that number is up to 39 daily. These figures reflect the months in which people were found, and not necessarily — in the case of mass graves — the months in which they were killed.
[...] On Wednesday, a group of Iraqi tribal leaders, former politicians and intellectuals appealed to the United Nations to take control of Iraq, a move they say would help U.S. troops leave the country while maintaining calm.
In the letter, delivered to the U.N. office in Cairo, the group wrote that "the only opportunity left for Iraq to be saved from a dark, but not inevitable future, is to engage the international community. ... Such a step will allow the American troops to leave and the occupation to be brought to its end."
Regardless of how many American troops remain in Iraq or if a broader international coalition takes responsibility, Yassin said until the root of the nation's woes are addressed, blood will continue to flow.
"The Americans and the Iraqi government must get to the bottom of the problem and determine the reasons behind all this violence," he said. "There is unemployment among young people, there is revenge by those who lost their loved ones ... There is organized crime and a lot of other reasons.
"So the presence of the Americans or the Iraqi tanks and soldiers in the street is not enough to decrease the violence and get the country and its people back to the better days of the past."
Neighbours are still killed for having the 'wrong' name. Parks become graveyards. Nobody knows how many have died.

Five years on and the water isn't potable. Doctors and nurses kidnapped...murdered. And yet a 744 million dollar, Vatican-sized embassy is erected in the heart of Baghdad. It is built with the blood and sweat of frightened Filipino workers who had no idea they were going to Iraq:
RORY MAYBERRY: I believe I am one of only a few Americans that have recently worked on the site of the new embassy in Baghdad. My impressions about how the construction was being managed left me incredibly disturbed.
BILL MOYERS: Mayberry described how he boarded a plane in Kuwait City along with 51 Filipino laborers - who thought they were heading for hotel jobs in Dubai.
RORY MAYBERRY: Mr. Chairman, when the airplane took off and the captain announced that we were heading to Baghdad, all you-know-what broke out on the airplane. The men started shouting, it wasn't until the security guy working for First Kuwaiti waved an MP5 in the air that the men settled down. They realized that they had no other choice but to go to Baghdad. Let me spell it out clearly: I believe these men were kidnapped by First Kuwaiti to work at the US Embassy. They had no IDs, no passports, and were being smuggled past U.S. security forces. I had a trailer all to myself on the Green Zone. But they were packed 25 to 30 a trailer, and every day they went out to work on the construction of the embassy without proper safety equipment. I saw guys without shoes, without gloves, no safety harnesses, and on scaffolding 30 feet off the ground, their toes wrapped around the rebar like a bunch of birds.
While we've all heard about the overpaid mercenary contractors like Blackwater and Triple Canopy, it's been estimated that 30% of the 155 000 private personnel in Iraq are so-called "third country nationals," many of them from impoverished countries:
"We’ve seen a lot of third country nationals where their passports are taken, or where they were delivered to a place to work which was different to what they were promised," said Erica Razook, legal fellow at Amnesty International USA’s Business and Human Rights Unit.
Rights groups told IRIN that some TCNs effectively work in conditions of "indentured servitude," in which they sign employment contracts that last for three to five years, "but spend their first year just paying off travel expenses," Razook said.
Last November, SOC-SMG came under fire for exploiting and sexually abusing Ugandan guards at Al Asad Airbase, in Iraq:
SOC-SMG has hired more than 2,000 Ugandan guards to secure the base and now those guards are accusing SOC-SMG of serious crimes.
When some guards tried to speak up about low pay and working conditions at Al Asad Airbase, they were allegedly sexually abused and women were passed around as, quote, "sex objects."
Ugandans hired by SOC-SMG were deported for participating in a drug ring.
[...] Senator John Ensign (R-Nevada) said, "Well, at a time of war, we'd love to have more oversight before a check is given, but you're at a time of war and decisions have to be made."
Republican Senator Ensign has no problems with private military contractors in Iraq. He says the people on the ground know best. Ensign doesn't question SOC-SMG's practice of hiring Ugandan guards. "As long as they are protecting the United States, protecting the United States assets, we should welcome them," Ensign continued.
Across the aisle, Senator Harry Reid has not been able to create serious reform. He avoids criticism, blaming it all on partisan politics. "I'm saying this war is not good for the American people and I personally have done everything I can to change direction of that war," Reid said.
But nothing changes, even five years after the lies that lead to war. 935 lies. As many (or more than?) a million Iraqis have died since the first bombs fell, five years ago. The invasion and occupation of Iraq may well wind up costing $3 trillion. Almost 4000 Americans have died, too, but only 28% of their countrymen are aware of that. But no matter: as dday pointed out, the American newsmedia have clearly done their level-best to give people what they really need to be informed citizens. That same survey found that "84 percent identified Oprah Winfrey as the talk-show host supporting Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) for the Democratic presidential nomination."

Yes, who can concentrate on all that death and lying and missing money when there's the year-long game-show-of-game-shows to be covered? And while a presidential election should be the BEST time to challenge the candidates on their plans to continue the occupation, it's mighty impolite to bother them with questions about dead people and disfigured Lieutenants when there's perfectly good ribs on the grill.

...Or when you'd rather give someone a full religious colonoscopy for 7 days straight.

...Or when you'd rather find an excuse to re-post 10 year old photos of a blue-stained dress.

Or maybe you'd like to put down the dirty dress for a moment and look at the faces of the men and women who are trying to revive you from your 5 year nap? They have something to tell you:

So what will it be?

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Muppets: is there anything they can't do?

This made me happy, today. I know it's the day after St. Paddy's, but that's ok: Danny Boy isn't really an Irish thing, anyway ;)

Read on, MacDuff!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

What do you think you'll do then?

What do you think you'll do then
I bet that'll shoot down your plane
It'll take you a couple of vodka and tonics
To set you on your feet again

Maybe you'll get a replacement
There's plenty like me to be found
Mongrels who ain't got a penny
Sniffing for tidbits like you on the ground

© 1973 Dick James Music Limited

Read on, MacDuff!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Pay no mind to the recriminalization of abortion; the important thing is that you had a good time. (UPDATED X3)

***3 Updates follow***

So, like Ken Epp's fetus-personhood-granting Bill passed 2nd Reading in the HoC on Wednesday evening, 147-132.

What's that? Didn't hear a peep about this on the news, last night? JJ and Birth Pangs were all over this story since last November, when C-484 was but a glimmer in Epps' eye. Here's what JJ said, Nov 23, 2007:
The UVOC [Unborn Victims of Crime] bill would "protect a mother's choice to give birth", making it a crime to cause the injury or death of a fetus in the commission of violence against the mother.

Don't get excited. Nothing "anti-abortion" to see here, noooooo, just move along. Why, the UVOC bill is just about protecting "choice" -- the mother's choice to carry a pregnancy to term and have it culminate on Day 273 as a baked-to-perfection babycake. And anyone who wields a knife or baseball bat (or scalpel?) and stops that from happening would be committing murder, as surely as it would be murder to kill the mother. Fetus? Hell, never mind that, this bill would protect embryos... zygotes, even. "At any stage of development before birth"
And for a while there, it even looked like a lot of our elected representatives "got it:" this Bill offered nothing in the way of added protection for pregnant women; it was merely a vector for introducing anti-abortion legislation through the backdoor. Heck, even Raymond Gravel (BQ), a Roman Catholic priest, knew that enacting C-484 would set us all back many, many years:
“I’m against abortion, but this is no way to solve the problem of abortion. It’s through education, through outreach, through helping women who have undesired pregnancies I think that’s how to solve the problem of abortion. But not recriminalizing abortion, I don’t ever want to see that happen.”

Speaking in French, Gravel acknowledged that the murder of a pregnant woman is abominable. “But,” he added, “at the same time when the fetus is still in the mother they’re just one being. Its only when the fetus is born is when it becomes another being, when it becomes a human being.”
So they had their first round of debate about it on Dec 13, 2007, with 2nd round scheduled for Feb 29--Sadie Hawkins Day! Birth Pangs and Joyce Arthur (ARCC) issued alerts and exhorted anyone who would listen to post/write/call/fax/carrier-pigeon their MPs to vote against this Bill. We even caught a break, and got an extension of sorts when the debate was post-poned till March 3rd--even more time to contact recalcitrant MPs! Meanwhile, Joyce and Carolyn of the ARCC stuck their necks out and hit the airwaves for us: Joyce, going up against the likes of John Hof (Campaign for Life Coalition, BC), and Carolyn against Ken Epp AND Mary Talbot (the mother of Olivia, who was murdered when she was 27 weeks pregnant).

A lot of us did the quick "parliamentary fetus fetishizer" arithmetic and grew worried: could this thing really pass? Here's what I posted last week:
Ok. There are a total of 308 seats in the HoC, and only 90 anti-choice MPs. But here's the problem: if you add the 65 undeclared MPs to the 90 anti-choicers, you get a potential maximum of 155 votes for Ken Epp's backdoor anti-choice bill. That's 50.3%.

[...] Given that the Bloc and NDP will probably whip their respective caucuses to vote NO on C-484, we don't have to worry about them. Nope, the disquieting 'sect' is the Liberal caucus: Dion has not said that he will whip his group, so we have no assurances that those anti-choice or undeclared Liberals will vote against this Bill.
And here we are. Our worst-case-scenario is reality: too many Liberals voted for this Bill. A freaking Dipper even voted for this thing (I'm lookin at YOU, Peter Stoffer!). But you wannu know what really takes the cake?

Cake!!! Dion was MIA for the vote because he was hosting a party at Stornoway for...*drumroll*...International Women's Day. Susan Delacourt explains (h/t Antonia & matttbastard):
Liberals and New Democrats also are unleashing a raft of women-friendly events this week in Ottawa and beyond. Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion, for instance, will spend International Women's Day in Toronto on Saturday, while his wife Janine Krieber is speaking in Montreal.

Female journalists on Parliament Hill are invited tonight [March 5] to a reception hosted by Krieber at Stornoway, the official opposition residence, and female MPs and Liberal candidates have various events scheduled for the weekend.
Ok, I haven't even BEGUN to unleash my fury at these people for rolling the dice on this one. Thought it wouldn't pass? Fuck you: it passed. And now it's onto Committee. Go visit JJ for the Cmte member list, and see how each MP voted on the Bill. JJ's also posted the full HoC shitlist--all the 'yeas.'

Save that shitlist, folks. We're gonna need it for the days and weeks ahead. I wonder if eVite has a template for this kinda thing? Hmm...I wonder if Dion can give us the name of a good caterer?

More on this:
***Cathie found a doozy of a post on a so-con blog: "... the momentum is clearly moving in our direction. If not this time, it will happen in the future. It’s inevitable now."

Here it comes. Here it fucking comes.

Update: Bene Diction Blogs On and Red Tory have more to add. Red Tory actually has the complete list of Liberals who voted FOR this fetus-personhood Bill, along with an equally important list of those who were MIA (including the aforementioned Dion!):
Voting For: Raymond Bonin; Gord Brown; John Cannis; Hon. Raymond Chan; Hon. Roy Cullen; Sukh Dhaliwal; Hon. Albina Guarnieri; Hon. Charles Hubbard; Hon. Jim Karygiannis Derek Lee; Hon. Lawrence MacAulay; Hon. Gurbax Malhi; Hon. John McKay; Hon. Joe McGuire; Hon. Dan McTeague; Hon. Shawn Murphy; Massimo Pacetti; Francis Scarpaleggia; Hon. Raymond Simard; Lloyd St. Amand; Paul Steckle; Paul Szabo; Hon. Robert Thibault; Alan Tonks; Roger Valley; Tom Wappel; Borys Wrzesnewskyj

Absent: Stéphane Dion; Bryon Wilfert; Joe Volpe; Scott Simms; Nancy Karetak-Lindell; Hon. Mark Eyking; Ujjal Dosanjh; Denis Coderre; Brenda Chamberlain; Gerry Byrne.
Update: More reactions from:
Update: More reactions from:

Read on, MacDuff!