2011-05-05 In defense of Canadian voters

Image

The recent Canadian election has been the topic of much foreign news coverage, with pundits trying to explain why liberal-minded Canada has given a majority to the most right leaning party in its history, what exactly the New Democratic Party is, and why on earth Canada turned its back so firmly on its ‘traditional ruling party’, headed by a man described in the Guardian as “known to the British as a fine writer, historian and BBC talking head, who had returned to Canada to lead the Liberals”. Embassy Magazine wrote an astoundingly condescending piece about Canada’s lack of interest in foreign policy which contained the following:

Given Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s background, many had expected him to campaign on foreign policy. And at the start of the campaign he did try to frame the election around the question of ethics, especially the tenor of Conservative foreign policy. … But … Mr. Ignatieff failed to inspire with this foreign policy-tinged message. In fact, the more he talked about it, the less traction he seemed to be getting with centrist or progressive voters. … At one point, the Liberal leader’s frustration became quite evident, with Mr. Ignatieff wondering why Canadians were not latching onto the many controversies that had dogged the Conservatives before the election. Mr. Ignatieff’s plea that Canada should regain its international standing was a version of this idea that the country should be undergoing some soul-searching prior to voting. But with his historic low, it appears Canadians weren’t up for that sort of deep think.

So according to this report (and many others, since Ignatieff started campaigning) a public that did not vote for Michael Ignatieff is anti-intellectual, anti-US, and even a nation full of uncaring or stupid people. While it would be excessive to imply that all of the Liberal Party’s current woes can be set at the feet of Michael Ignatieff, or that Canadians feel a great deal of interest in foreign policy, the election result does not prove the writer’s point but rather the opposite.

It is an uncontested fact that public support for the Liberal Party under Michael Ignatieff plummeted, even compared to the disastrous prior leadership of Stéphane Dion. Contrary to much foreign opinion, the Liberal and Conservative parties of Canada are both strong corporatist parties, neither is socialist leaning like the NDP. And labour issues were not a big topic during the election and could not be said to have been a strong influence in turning Liberal voters to NDP. There are, historically, two things that matter very much to Canadian Liberals: a liberal philosophy towards laws and citizen rights, including a dislike of military involvement outside of strict peacekeeping missions and a strong support of human rights, and Canadian federalist sovereignty.

Michael Ignatieff was hilariously brought in by the Liberal Party of Canada, to be the ‘next Pierre Trudeau’, referring to a strong federalist former prime minister who suffered his biggest backlash from his own Liberal party when he invoked the War Measures Act, which allowed the police to arrest and detain without trial, during the October Crisis of 1970. He also received some of his biggest support for standing up to the US. Michael Ignatieff, has advocated torture (which he does not call torture, but others do, more anon), ‘pre-emptive wars’, and indefinite detention without trial. He was a supporter of the Iraq war for far too long. He has openly preached the manifest destiny of the United States for years and self identified as nothing but an American, also for many years. In 2003 he wrote Empire Lite: Nation-Building in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan, which argued that the US had a responsibility to create a “humanitarian empire” through nation-building and, if necessary, military force, and when he talks of Canada’s “leadership in the world” it is always in reference to an expanded military.

He campaigned on an insult to the Canadian system of multi-party governance, decreeingfrom day one that Canadians had but two choices. I am saying as clearly as I can to the Canadian people, looking them straight in the eye”—here he focused his gaze into the TV camera directly in front of him, so it would seem to a television viewer that Ignatieff really was looking him in the eye—“if you want to replace the Harper government, you’ve got to vote Liberal.” Which, if believed, left the Canadian people with two options for prime minister, both strongly disapproving of everything Canada is.

Ignatieff in the past

Here are a few things from Michael Ignatieff’s background that Canadians may have been subjecting to that “deep think” they supposedly were not having about foreign policy. His writings and interviews are many and diverse, but the parts that mattered the most to Canadians were neatly summed up in a New Humanist article by Laurie Taylor at the point where he resigned from the advisory board of the Index on Censorship and requested that all syndication of an article referencing him be withheld. Everything in this article is easily verifiable from Ignatieff’s own writings, but whenever the Conservative party used these facts in their ads, the Canadian people were told that the Conservatives were bad people and were trying to destroy Ignatieff’s reputation. Maclean’s magazine quotes a Conservative staff member as saying, “Michael Ignatieff, in our narrative, is a political opportunist who is calculating, who will do and say anything to get elected.” In Maclean’s narrative, and in that of much of the Canadian media, this constitutes a political attack on Ignatieff. Of course it is. But that does not make the facts any less true or mean that Canadians should not be listening to them. It means Canadians should have been asking why they had to hear this material primarily from Conservative attack ads instead of their own media.

So what are these facts? Given the volume of his writing, it is perhaps most helpful to look at comments from his peers.

Conor Gearty, Professor of Human Rights Law at the LSE, wrote in the February 2005 edition of the Index on Censorship that Ignatieff was “probably the most important figure to fall into this category of hand-wringing, apologetic apologists for human rights abuses.” for his support of the Iraq invasion and more. “The trick… is to take the ‘human’ out of ‘human rights’. This is done by stressing the unprecedented nature of the threat that is currently posed by Islamic terrorism, by insisting that it is ‘a kind of violence that not only kills but would destroy our human rights culture as well if it had a chance’. In these extraordinary circumstances, ‘who can blame even the human rights advocate for taking his or her eye off each individual’s puny plight, for allowing just a little brutality, a beating-up perhaps, or a touch of sensory deprivation?’. But once intellectuals do open this door then scores of Rumsfeldians pour past shouting ‘me too’ and (to the intellectual’s plaintive cries of protest) ‘what do you know about national security – go back to your class work and the New York Review of Books’.” … Ignatieff is the best exemplar of this type of intellectual because of his apparently total commitment to the idea that we are now faced with ‘evil’ people and that unless we fight evil with evil we will succumb. It is precisely because we are democratic and special that, in Ignatieff’s words “necessity may require us to take actions in defence of democracy which will stray from democracy’s own foundational commitments to dignity.” … If Abu Ghraib was wrong then that wrongness consisted not in stepping across the line into evil behaviour but rather allowing a ‘necessary evil’ (as framed by the squeamish intellectuals) to stray into ‘unnecessary evil’ (as practised by the not-so-squeamish Rumsfeldians).”

Michael Neumann, Professor of Philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, called Ignatieff’s Empire Lite (2003) “a web of foolishness, error and confusion” and described Ignatieff’s argument as: “The US should, having first consulted its own interest, occupy ‘failed states’ and suppress disorder. Then, over what Ignatieff repeatedly emphasises is a long period of time, Americans are to teach these little folks abut judicial procedure, democracy and human rights. Then Americans will help their apt pupils to create sustainably democratic institutions.”

Mariano Aguirre, in a 2005 article called ‘Exporting Democracy, Revising Torture: The Complex Missions of Michael Ignatieff’ calls Ignatieff’s arguments ‘and yet and yet’. “Ignatieff considers himself a liberal, so sometimes he criticizes the Bush administration. And he is an intellectual, so he has doubts about almost everything and airs them with the liberal readers of the New York Times. But in the end he shares the US government’s vision of the violent and compulsory promotion of democracy, the war against terrorism and the use of instruments, for example torture, which are apparently in need of revisionist treatment. … he has established a sort of rational framework for democratisation by force and also for the revision of our understanding of human rights. … His proposal (quoting Alan Dershowitz to cover his back) is that “the issue then becomes not whether torture can be prevented, but whether it can be regulated”. He goes even further, and seems to like the idea that when the police need to torture a suspect they could apply to a judge for a “torture warrant” that would specify the individual being tortured and set limits to the type and duration of pain allowed … In this book he plainly says that “actions which violate foundational commitments to justice and dignity … should be beyond the pale”. But next he indicates: “The problem is to protect them in practice, to maintain the limits, case by case, where reasonable people may disagree as to what constitutes torture, what detentions are illegal, which killings depart from lawful norms, or which pre-emptive actions constitute aggression.” According to Aguirre, Ignatieff also feels George W Bush could be recognized in the future as “a plain-speaker visionary”. When the WMD did not appear in Iraq, he wrote: “I never thought that the key question was what weapons Hussein actually possessed, but rather what intentions he had.”

International relations professor, Ronald Steel, wrote in the New York Times in July 2004: “Michael Ignatieff tells us how to do terrible things for a righteous cause and come away feeling good about it … but is it really true that an evil act becomes lesser simply because it is problematic? Does suffering a twinge of bad conscience justify what we do in a righteous cause? It is comforting to think so, but saying ‘this hurts me as much as it does you’ is neither true nor considered an excuse.”

In 2004, Ignatieff wrote several articles in New York Times Magazine defending both the Iraq war and Bush. On 2 May 2004 he wrote: “Permissible duress might include forms of sleep deprivation that do not result in lasting harm to mental health or physical health, together with disinformation and disorientation (like keeping prisoners in hoods) that would produce stress.” (The Abu Ghraib photos of hooded prisoners were released on April 28.) Michael Ignattieff was also interviewed by Charlie Rose on April 28, 2004, the day the Abu Ghraib photos were released. In the interview he is still clearly in support of the Iraq war. In late 2004, Ignattieff was interviewed on CNN about the US role in the war on terror, where he spoke of its duty to “support the right regimes”, etc. And in 2004 the Liberal Party of Canada began talks with Ignatieff asking him to come back and enter the leadership race for the Liberal Party.

Ignatieff in opposition

From the US state cables, a few points about Ignatieff’s time as the leader of the opposition in Canada:

In cable 09OTTAWA341 the Liberals were the first party Canadians tried to turn to as their ‘Not Harper’ party of choice: “some noted specifically that Ignatieff’s leadership and/or anger over Prime Minister Harper’s performance had motivated them to join the party.” The pro-US stance was apparent from the beginning. “A number of delegates cited in private conversations “synergy” between the new U.S. administration and a future Liberal government. An enthusiastic crowd cheered five images of Ignatieff with President Obama during his visit to Ottawa in February as part of a video backdrop to Ignatieff’s keynote speech to the Convention.” Traditionally, free trade and one-America type policy has been the realm of the Conservative Party, not the Liberals.

Differentiating between the parties was difficult in many cases. In 09OTTAWA377 “The efforts nonetheless put greater ideological light between the Conservatives and the Liberals under Michael Ignatieff, who has as of yet publicly identified few clear policy differences with the Conservatives.” Cable 09OTTAWA954 tells of “the New Democratic Party – which previously had boasted of voting against the government on more than 70 consecutive votes and ridiculed the Liberals for failing to act like a genuine opposition party”.

Opponents of torture and tough on crime legislation had no voice in parliament. Cable09OTTAWA452 writes: “Under new leader Michael Ignatieff, the Liberals have been careful quietly to support the robust Conservative anti-crime agenda in order to deprive the Conservatives of a wedge issue in the next election. Similarly, they are unlikely in principle to oppose, or substantially modify, the anti-terrorism bills.” Cable 10OTTAWA84 describes: “The Truth in Sentencing bill spent just over two months in the House of Commons and passed without amendment on June 8. … Reportedly, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff insisted privately that the party not be seen as “soft on crime,” prompting some Liberal Senators to absent themselves from the vote.” Cable 09OTTAWA198 “noted that Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff was “flexible” and has a record in his life before politics of supporting robust anti-terrorism measures,” regarding the government’s reintroduced bill to amend the 2001 Anti-terrorism Act.

On the issue of Afghan detainees being handed over by Canadian forces without ensuring their safety from torture, 09OTTAWA906 states: “The opposition parties, together with Amnesty International Canada, insist that the only way to clear up the contradictions in the two versions of the story is for the government to call a public inquiry. … The detainee issue has consumed the daily parliamentary Question Period, but both PM Harper and Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff have largely absented themselves from the debate.” [Bolding added.] When Harper prorogued parliament, outlined in cable 09OTTAWA909, “Opposition Members of Parliament quickly howled in protest, with Liberal house leader Ralph Goodale calling the move “beyond arrogant, almost despotic” and a “shocking insult to democracy.”(Liberal leader Ignatieff has yet to make a public comment.) [Bolding added.] New Democratic Party house leader Libby Davies called prorogation a “political scam.” There has been widespread speculation in the media and among MPs that the Conservatives’ key goal was to block additional committee hearings on allegations of the abuse of Afghan prisoners whom the Canadian Forces had transferred to Afghan authorities.”

Cable 09OTTAWA944 opines “As in the case of post-2011 Canadian plans for Afghanistan (reftels), public interest is extremely limited, and confidence levels in the PM and the Conservatives remain relatively high.” The cable may feel that public interest was low, but Liberal voters were taking note. As is apparent.

On extending Canada’s involvement in the Afghanistan war, cable 08OTTAWA124 writes “Currently all Liberal MPs are publicly onside to end the combat mission in 2009, but doubts remain over the position of deputy leader Michael Ignatieff and other Liberals who supported a continued combat role in 2006, and probably still do today.”

05OTTAWA696 reminds us: “Ignatieff is best known for his recent writings on political ethics in an age of terror, which lays out a middle course between the requirement for aggressive actions to protect liberal societies against sub-national mega-threats, and the need for Western Civilization to retain its ethical soul in the process. …

“Ignatieff opened by paying tribute to the four RCMP officers killed in the line of duty earlier in the day, reminding the audience that this brutal killing of members of a force that is the very symbol of Canada ought to invoke not only sorrow but anger among Canadians. Ignatieff’s belief in the measured and prepared use of force while also consistently trumpeting the social roots of Canadian liberalism, was a common theme. …

“… Ignatieff suggested, but need our own military, our own intelligence service, and we need to be real players in the global war on terror. He reminded the audience that Canada is next door to the main target of terrorism and must ensure it is not used as a staging ground for terrorists. He then spoke of the larger war on terror, suggesting that the central problem in failed states is security, and if Canada is going to be active working in the failed states that are the breeding ground for terrorism, its military & must be able to fire back. …With regards to missile defense Ignatieff sounded a note of caution over the party’s rejection of the BMD program. He said he understood that the government had listened to the party and the party had listened to the country. But he suggested that it was necessary to balance fear of weapons in space, with the protection of Canada’s own sovereignty.”

While Ignatieff was loudly or quietly refusing to stand up for anything Liberal voters traditionally expect their candidates to stand up for, the NDP’s Jack Layton was hard at work. Cable 10OTTAWA12 tells us “The Liberals’ muted response to PM Harper’s late December prorogation of Parliament (ref b) suggests a lack of energy and hands-on leadership (Michael Ignatieff reportedly remains on vacation in France) … Ignatieff personally trailed PM Harper on indices of trust, competence, vision and leadership, even ranking behind New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton on overall leadership and trust.” From cable 09OTTAWA766“Despite its pledge to work with the government on EI, the NDP is increasingly positioning itself as the party trying to get results for Canada’s unemployed, while the other parties only fight each other for partisan advantage and seek another expensive federal election. New NDP ads feature Layton with rolled-up sleeves, ready to “get to work.””

While the “leadership role in the world” espoused by Ignatieff consistently revolved around a greatly expanded military, Layton was, in cable 06OTTAWA3423 providing leadership of a different kind. “Jack Layton leveraged a meeting with Prime Minister Harper by threatening to bring down the Conservative minority government on a confidence vote unless Harper agreed to meet with him to discuss the Clean Air Act. … the government surprised many observers by agreeing to Layton’s proposal to send its draft legislation (C-30) directly to a “legislative committee”. … Front runner Michael Ignatieff is no Kyoto fan, whereas second-place Bob Rae is more supportive. … Federal Liberal MP John Godfrey, Bloc Quebecois MP Bernard Bigras, Quebec’s Environment Minister Claude Bechard, and Canadian environmentalists openly mocked Ambrose and derided the government’s climate change stance as “scandalous,” “idiotic,” and “ridiculous.” Bechard, whose comments were less vitriolic, said he hoped Ambrose would acknowledge Quebec’s Kyoto plan at the Conference this week. “We can’t say that Kyoto is impossible in Canada when one of the provinces, Quebec, has a plan to meet Kyoto with minimum participation from the federal government”.

The future in Canada.

Yes, Stephen Harper is a Bad Man, found in contempt of parliament and many other things, who was elected by 23% of the eligible voters, including many who were “holding their noses” and voting Anyone But NDP. Yes, he will enact policies that very few Canadians agree with, disrespect all parliamentary and legal restrictions, and, as he has promised so many times, make Canada unrecognizable in four years. But Canada is a democracy, and in four years there will be another election. If 1993 is anything to base guesses on, the Conservative party will be wiped off the political map at that point, after 4 years of unfettered, unpopular policy making. In four years the NDP will be a strong, experienced socialist leaning opposition party. In four years, some form of proportional representation may be implemented which will guarantee at least some seats for the Green, Pirate, Marijuana, etc. parties. And in four years, the Liberal Party of Canada will hopefully have woken up to the fact that Canada is a multi party democracy, the people have choice, and if they are not given a leader they can stomach they will not vote Liberal. The new leader will probably be this guy or this guy. Neither are internationally acclaimed (or reviled) intellectuals. But neither would dream of suggesting torture and pre-emptive wars to the Canadian public as Liberal ideas.

Canadians have not destroyed their home, they are just spring cleaning. This is the point where they have emptied all the closets into the middle of the room and it looks awful. But in four years, it should be much better than ever, and all credit will be to the bravery of the voters who refused to be told by any media or politicians, national or international, that they did not have a choice.

 
 

2011-03-01 Next big protest in #Iraq on #Mar4 #Kurdistan #Iraq4c #Feb25

WL Central will be updating news on Iraq, with new items added at the top. You can contact me on twitter @GeorgieBC or by email at admin@wlcentral.org.

Current time and date in Baghdad:

TUESDAY, March 1

The next protest in Iraq has been set for Friday, March 4. Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki and Baghdad Operations Command have apologized today for restricting freedom of press during the February 25 protest and released all detained reporters. Maliki has alsoproposed a reduction in retirement age from 63 to 61 and called to dissolve the municipal council and to hold early provincial elections.

An account of the fourteenth day in Sulaymaniyah from The Moving Silent. MONDAY, February 28 An account of the thirteenth day in Sulaymaniyah from The Moving Silent.

“100s of civlians r held by #KDP in #Erbil 4 protestin, claims pro-democracy Australian doc (who was abducted by KDP) PLS RT WE NEED UR HELP” via @GorranGuy

“@BayanRahman @BarhamSalih @qubadjt Any comments on the kidnapping and torture claims by Australian doc Dr. Reben Renwar in #Erbil?” via @GorranGuy

“Australian doctor was kidnapped , tortured and beaten by #KDP in #Erbil #Kurdistan for wearing a pro-democracy t-shirt” via @GorranGuy

“protest spread to Jalal Talabani’s birthplace today in #Koya. Security forces halted a protest and forced shops to close down” via @GorranGuy

“Al-Qaeda in #Kurdistan releases statement saying they won’t harm protesters in #Slemani , accusing #KRG of using scare tactics vs ppl” via @GorranGuy

“KDP TV: #Kurdistan might declare independence in near future. #Iraq Other channels: images of Kurdish tanks going to #Kirkuk” via @marius_vh

“Mullah Kamaran, who gave speech yesterday calling for soldiers to join the protests, has been arrested, according to KNN.” via @marius_vh

“Protest continuing in #Sulaymaniya. Couldn’t go yesterday. Today “Peace Wall” and military both absent. Ended w/o incident.” via @marius_vh

SUNDAY, February 27 An

href=”http://themovingsilent.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/sulaimany-twelfth-day-of-protest-they-keep-going/”>account

of the twelfth day in Sulaymaniyah from The Moving Silent. The first major incident of today took place around 5:00 PM of last night, heavy gun fire, it went on for a while. Some people began to gather in front of the City Morgue which is close to University of Sulaimany in the morning. There were news that the anti-terror forces had killed some terrorist. Later, Kurdsat TV showed Anti-Terror and Security forces in an empty building, shooting, later, about 4 dead bodies is shown, looked as if they were dressed in military cloth with Kalashenkov beside them. At one point. there is a sound of an explosion and one the Forces shout “He blow up himself”. The Mayor of city and the head of Security hold a tense press conference later, one reporter asked them if they knew the name or IDs of the terrorist, “They didn’t have any on them”, “then how did they get into the city?” another one asked them that some people think that it was staged to scare people “We well show the footage and you will see it yourself”, they said that if the terrorist had not been stopped, there might have been a terrorist attack tonight in Sulaimany, “If it were not for the Protest, they would not be in the city”. The head of the security mentioned at the press conference that the intelligence leading to the killing was a collaboration between the Army, Security Forces in Sulaimany and the American forces. There were also sound of gunfire around 10:00 PM.

 

“Protesters were upbeat today that #Barzani will not be ruling #Kurdistan come this summer. Our protest is as strong as that of #Egypt” via @GorranGuy

“If Al-Qaeda want to kill protesters in #Slemani, that means they support KRG. Ppl r protesting vs KRG +AlQaeda now want to kill us?Hilarious” via @GorranGuy

“Really disgusting the way PUK/KDP try to divert attention from the ppl’s uprising in #Slemani -news of terrorists bust up is fake ” via @GorranGuy

“General feeling is that PUK has lost the grip over #Slemani. We will not see the same leaders in this city in 2 months time.” via @GorranGuy

“Today we as doctors in #Slemani protested against the killing of innocent people in our city. We are with the protesters” via @GorranGuy

“Heavy gunfire last night in #Slemani , PUK claims they have killed 4 Arabs and arrested 1 – No one believes them” via @GorranGuy

SATURDAY, February 26

The Kurdish child, Garmian Ahmed گەرمیان ئەحمەد , aged 12 who was shot yesterday in Chamchamal (graphic video).

Protest videos of today

Untitled from San Saravan on Vimeo.

Saturday: Another Bloody Saturday from San Saravan on Vimeo.

An account of the eleventh day in Sulaymaniyah from The Moving Silent. My friend is calling me, “You got to see this, lots of Protesters carrying rocks went toward the Peshmerga Force, fight broke out again, but now they are making peace, some members of the Peshmerga Force are putting down their weapons and kissing the protesters, “We are brothers, we Won’t shoot at you”, some are crying”, “How big is the crowd?”, “It is large, very large”. Emotion comes and goes, nothing is predictable. KNN TV and Speda TV on their lower third report “One dead and 11 wounded in today’s protest in Sulaimany.”

“RIP to the 12 year old who was killed in #Chamchamal the 14 yr old who was killed in #Kalar by #Barzani gunfire #Kurdistan” via @GorranGuy

“Shocking news from Fryakawtn Hospital:12 wounded and 2 killed in #Slemani today. I saw both of the deads – multiple bullet wounds ” via @GorranGuy

“Loyalists to #KRG carry out a Scare Bomb in #Slemani Meydani Azadi (Freedom Sq) – ppl attack militia – as a result 2 dead and 12 wounded” via @GorranGuy

“the wounded people says Asaysh + Anti Terror Forces (headed by Talabani’s nephew) fired on protesters” via @GorranGuy

“Asaish forces at my end of demo did not raise their weapons when protesters stormed at them after explosion.” via @marius_vh

“Reports of Iranian Kurds that joined #Sulaymaniya protest being deported from KRG. Death penalty in Iran feared.” via @marius_vh

“4 protest organizers reportedly disappeared overnight.” via @marius_vh

FRIDAY, February 25

France24 reports that security forces used water cannons and tear gas on protesters in Baghdad, and at least 15 protesters were killed. Four government buildings were set on fire and a provincial governor resigned. Like the Gaddafis in Libya, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki called the protesters “terrorists”. Around 5,000 people thronged Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, with angry crowds throwing stones, shoes and plastic bottles at riot police and soldiers blocking off a bridge connecting the site to Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, home to the US embassy and parliament. The protest was the biggest of at least 17 separate demonstrations across the country, some sparking clashes in which more than 130 people were wounded, according to an AFP tally based on accounts by officials.

Kurdistan reported the biggest crowds yet, with around 7,000as many as 35,000 to 40,000 just at Maidany Azady or 60,000 – 100,000 in Sulaymaniya. While those crowds were reportedly peaceful, in Kalar one person died and 27 were wounded, according to Arkan Mohammed, a spokesman for Kalar’s hospital and a child, aged 10 to 12 years old, was killed, and five were injured in Chamchamal.

“Protest in #Sulaymaniya today ended peacefully after “white group” volunteers intervened to prevent a riot.” via @marius_vh

Videos of today’s protests.

A much needed website has been created called Alive in Iraq posting audio and video from the protests.

The Committee to Protect Journalists reported that security forces prohibited cameras from entering Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, where there were thousands of people protesting, and police confiscated tapes that reporters managed to shoot in the square, according to Al-Jazeera. Al-Jazeera reported that dozens of journalists were detained in central Baghdad today.

THURSDAY, February 24

An account of the ninth day in Sulaymaniyah from The Moving Silent. For the first time, the balance of power seem to be shifting toward the Protesters as their number grew and some Religious Leaders join in the Protest. … At Maidany Azady, as one of the Speaker mentioned that thousands in the town of Chwarqurna (Close to Rania and Iranian Border) are protesting, the crowds went into euphoric chant. Today, many of the shop-owners closed their shops and joined the protest. … in Halabja for the third day on a row fight broke out between Protesters and Security Services. KNN report that unknown Militants are arresting the Protesters (not listening to Kurdistan Parliament). The head of Police in Halabja told KNN that he didn’t know who were those Militants and why they were arresting the Protesters.

Despite the fact that this WL Central report has lumped the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan in with Iraq, and they are both holding their “official” protest day tomorrow, most Kurdistan protesters would like it clear that the demands are different.

10:30 PM “Just came back from city center & Iskan street in #Erbil,its calm.Calm before the storm?maybe & maybe just calm with no storm :)” via @ShivanSito

10:30 PM “students in hewler threatened ahead of protests tomorrow.” via @Shkow

10:30 PM “all of Kurdistan has eyes on irbil tomorrow! Will the people of irbil protest or will they stay silent.” via @Shkow

10:30 PM “Less than 24 hrs ago parliament asked for transparency, & guess what! # KRG r banning TV coverage of future protests. Welcome to #Kurdistan” via @HaremKarem

10:30 PM “all major Kurdish parties refuse to support protests in Kirkuk as arab plan is uncovered to attack Kurdish interests in the city” via @Shkow

10:30 PM “Just to be clear, Kurdish demands are different from the demands of Iraqies in the south.” via @RuwaydaMustafah

10:30 PM “8 days on and here I am wondering when will the Western media start to cover the #Kurdistan Uprising! we have #Dictators and #Oil too.” via @HaremKarem

10:30 PM Pictures of today’s protest in Sulaymaniyah via @marius_vh

10:30 PM “Reports that #Sulaymaniya governor resigned and that students from Suli are sent home from universities in Duhok and Erbil” via @marius_vh

10:30 PM “Demonstration in #Sulaymaniya ended peacefully w/o incident. I would say 6,000 protesters in Freedom Square (Sara Square)” via @marius_vh

The Associated Press reports that the Iraqi reporter arrested for throwing his shoes at former President George W. Bush has returned to the country for his first public visit since being freed from prison, and was forcibly detained for questioning Thursday by the Iraqi army. Muntadhar al-Zeidi had returned to join anti-government protests, according to the AP report.

Iraq’s parliament has suspended work for a week according to a report from Reuters which they chose to publish with the extraordinary title “Parliament stops work to listen to Iraqis’ gripes”. “We asked all members to head to all Iraqi provinces … They will be working for more than a week,” speaker Osama al-Nujaifi told a news conference. They will be in their provinces “until they receive all complaints and see the weaknesses and problems … to look for solutions in partnership with non-governmental organisations, local governments (and other parties).”

The Babil Investment Commission says Iraq’s investment law has been “paralyzed” by the state’s failure to implement it effectively in ministries and government departments citing lengthy bureaucratic procedures and long time periods required to attain administrative approval. Although Iraq lacks many basic commodities such as housing, sewerage systems and electricity, the government’s delay in adopting the investment law has left foreign investors reluctant to implement projects in the country. “Investment is the best solution to address the deteriorating economic situation in Iraq and radically resolve the problem of unemployment” said the Vice Chairman of the commission. “The Kawthar housing project was obstructed by all government departments in the province,” and the Ministry of Municipalities “gave itself the right to decide about investment projects although the Investment Authority is the only party in the country authorized in this matter according to law. The Ministry of Municipalities has hindered our projects completely.”

WEDNESDAY, February 23

Report on the Baghdad death on Monday from “about 60 knife wielding individuals who attacked demonstrators who are camping at Tahrir (Liberation) Square in the center of Baghdad.” Also reports that the protesters have received support from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani as well as from Sunni clerics, labor unions, tribal chiefs and civil societies. Al-Sistani confirmed the rights of Iraqis to demonstrate against corruption and the lack of public services, provided that the demonstrations remain peaceful and avoid harming public or private property. Sheikh Assaf al-Duleimi, a Sunni cleric, hailed al-Sistani’s position which, al-Duleimi said, is consistent with the national and popular position.

An account of the eighth day in Sulaymaniyah from The Moving Silent. “As we all know and I have been reminded by Friends, there are also Protest in Diyarbakir and many other cities in Kurdistan, Turkey. There are not many media coverage, please don’t forget them. … The wounded from yesterday’s Protest in Halabja has reached 29, there are many wounded from the Security Service also, most of them from rocks. … Footage is shown of the Protest in Koya, their numbers are at thousands, very peaceful, flowers is given to the Security Services. … KNN show footage of Rania Protest, the number is big, peaceful also.

Footage is shown from Halabja, the street is a battle zone, rock throwing, shooting, tire burring in the middle of the street, there are even big barrel, the Protester push it toward the police as they run away. So far, one Police is dead and 5 wounded. The crowd is large, it started peacefully and when the crowd tried to got toward the City Municipality, the shooting started. The head of Police claim that all the leaders of the protesters will be arrested. Kurdsat TV claim that some Protesters had weapon with them and shot the Police.

Around 9:30 PM, on its lower third, KNN report that students in Koya are going into the street and protesting. At 10:00 PM, Speda TV also report the same news.

On it’s lower third, Al Jazeera Arabic report that 2 are dead in Halabja.

The White Group protects civilians from security forces in Sulaymaniyah.

More pictures of today’s protest in Sulaymaniyah via @marius_vh.

10:00 AM “Violence was averted towards end of protest as protesters form human chain between rioters and military.” via @marius_vh

10:00 AM “Another day of protest in #Sulaymaniya ends without casualties. About 5,000 people in Sara (“Azadi”) Square.” via @marius_vh

As reported on WL Central, the attacks on non-state media in Iraq have been continuing throughout the country all week. Suppression of information has reportedly included preventing hospital staff from reporting accurate numbers of dead and wounded, and preventing certain doctors from even speaking to victims of security violence. There are gross discrepancies between the numbers of dead and wounded in official and unofficial reports in Kurdistan.

The type of coverage being suppressed by the attacks on Sana:

Iraq Freedom Congress satellite TV (Sana) announce: At around 2:30 am Baghdad time a group of anti riot police raided the headquarter of Iraq Freedom Congress satellite TV (Sana) in Baghdad and destroyed every single piece of equipment in the office as well as confiscating a number of documents.

These attacks occurred following broadcasting segments of events took place in Tahrir Square in Baghdad by a number of TV Channels via Sana TV who filmed and documented a particular segments in which protesters clashed with the police on the night of February 20th, 2011 and one protestor was killed as a result, as well as the active participation of Sana TV in assisting of organizing the forthcoming demonstrations in Tahrir Square.

This is the Maliki government and its repressive practices; this is the democracy and freedom of expression which Maliki’s is bragging about. He continues sending his militias to silence his opponents and critics. He is no different than Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi in acts of torture.Iraq Freedom Congress assert that it will carry on the fight and will not bow to the practices of Maliki and his mercenaries and vow that the demonstrations on February 25th, 2011 will continue the pace no matter how brutal this government practices is.

IFC pledges that it will continue organize and fight with full force in the million people march on February 25th, 2011. Iraq Freedom Congress February 23, 2011

Burhan Aydin writes that Hadi JLo Mari, the head of the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory reported a joint military force, led by four officers of various ranks raided the headquarters of the Observatory in central Baghdad, broke doors, and confiscated the contents of the Observatory and the computers and property staff.

Abdus-Samad reports the arrest of two people who made an official request to the government of the province Salah ad Din in order to demonstrate this Friday against the deterioration of services and the growing corruption. The sources said that two people were taken to an unknown destination. The governor of Salah al-Din warned in previous statements by the protesters to leave and said he would deal with them as “terrorists.”

Burhan Aydin writes that in Baghdad, one man died and other eight others were injured after an attack Monday by an alleged pro-government militia on a group of demonstrators trying to spend the night at Baghdad’s Tahrir square.”They came an hour after the midnight curfew. It was a group of around 60, most of them teenagers, armed with knives and clubs. They all jumped of from hummers belonging to the Interior Ministry,” said a witness. Bassam Abdul Sattar, another witness, added that Ministry of Defence vehicles cordoning off the area “had left a few minutes before” the attackers arrived. Bassam Abdul Sattar, another witness, added that Ministry of Defence vehicles cordoning off the area “had left a few minutes before” the attackers arrived.

Galal Lawrani, secretary of the Iraqi Parliament’s deputy spokesman, pleaded for patience and understanding. “We fight against corruption although we do admit that much of the money is lost in the hands of subcontractors. However, people do not understand that there’s very little we can do as these companies are often linked to senior politicians. An intervention could lead to a government crisis almost immediately.” “We fight against corruption although we do admit that much of the money is lost in the hands of subcontractors. However, people do not understand that there’s very little we can do as these companies are often linked to senior politicians. An intervention could lead to a government crisis almost immediately.”

Protest videos via via kchasha کچهشا

TUESDAY, February 22

Pictures of today’s protest in Sulaymaniyah via @marius_vhImage

AFP reports around 4000 protesters in the city square of Sulaymaniyah today as well as a total now of three young protesters have been killed and more than 100 wounded since Thursday (see below for very different numbers). “In a bid to prevent further violence, several of the demonstrators wore white shirts emblazoned with the words “Wall of Peace” and stood between the bulk of the protesters and security forces.”

An account of the seventh day in Sulaymaniyah from The Moving Silent. He also reports a tense but peaceful protest, with many pictures of militia with narcissus placed in their gun barrels, and Kurdistan flags given to them by the protesters. Small children were among the protesters and a young man holds up a sign reading “Don’t Kill Me, My Mom is Waiting for Me”. “There are reports (on KNN TV) of at least 15 wounded in Halabja as fight broke out between the Protesters and Police, the Militias started shooting into the crowds.”

Reporters Without Borders has documented attacks in journalists during the Kurdistan protests and in particular: Reporters Without Borders is outraged by the destructive attack that 50 masked gunmen carried out at 2:30 a.m. on 20 February on the headquarters of Naliya Radio and Television (NRT) in the compound known as “German Village” in Sulaymaniyah, in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, to prevent it from continuing to cover unrest in the city.

After opening fire on NRT’s guards, wounding one of them, the gunmen smashed all the broadcasting equipment and then set fire to the building. Launched on 17 February by the company Naliya, it was Iraqi Kurdistan’s first independent satellite TV station. It had existed for 72 hours and had provided a total of just 17 hours of broadcasting when the attack took place. In this short space of time, it had distinguished itself by its live coverage of the protests against the Kurdistan Regional Government that had erupted on 17 February and it had broadcast footage of police firing on demonstrators and the resulting bloodshed. NRT’s executive had been receiving threats since the day it was launched.

Channel 10 coverage.MONDAY, February 21 Amnesty urges “restraint” and reports two of the deaths, 17-year-old Serkho Mohammed, who was shot dead yesterday and a second protester who died in hospital today after being shot during the protests, which also left at least 30 people injured. Later they state the KDP militia have killed three people in Sulaimaniya, including a 15-year-old boy. “The two political parties that jointly rule Iraq’s three Kurdish provinces continue to operate armed militia which act almost as a law unto themselves and have been permitted to commit human rights abuses with impunity,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

An account of the sixth day in Sulaymaniyah from The Moving Silent. “I would say that more than 20,000 people were taking part in the protest in Bardarky Sara and surrounding area.” The president and teachers of the University of Sulaymaniyah along with almost all the students held a demonstration today from 12:00 to 2:30 PM at the center of the University and promise to do so every day until their demands are met. If their demands are not met they will join the protesters. Their demands were: 1. All the forces must leave the streets and Sulaymaniyah. 2. KDP and Kurdistan Regional Government must apologize to the people of Sulaymaniyah. 3. The Television and Media that called the protesters “Troublemakers” “ئاژاوە گێر” must apologize. 4. Answer to the demands of Protesters. Lawyers and law students protested in front of the Justice Building, demanding justice and an inquiry into the killings. Masud Barzani, the president of Kurdistan and the KDP, is blaming Iran for the protests. It is the sixth day of the protest neither Masud Barzani nor Iraqi president, Jalal Talabnai have spoken to the people. Tear gas is reported used. Some protesters are targeting the KDP’s media, Kurdistan TV, Zagroz TV and PUK, while the security forces are targeting KNN (Goran), Nali (independent) and Speda (Islamist). Some independent reporters were also targeted by the Security Forces. KNN report that as of now, there are 3 dead and 123 wounded. “Speda TV shows footage of protest in Rania, there must be thousands of then, most are Young Men. Unbelievable, the Young Men are throwing rocks at the Forces, one footage show a Militia being hit with rocks coming from every direction, he start to shoot into the people and then into the air. Also footage of streets full of trash, tires on fire and protesters running as they are being shot at. For each Security Force it seems like there are 10 Protester. The city is shut down as of now, shops closed. Also, Speda TV report that their reporter was beaten by Security Service.”

From @GorranGuy, a doctor at the hospital:

  • 5th day of protests continue in #Slemani and surrounding cities today. More than 15 protests today in #Kurdistan So far it has been peaceful
  • Doctors in Fryakawtn Hospital have been warned from using Facebk or Twitter by KRG Depart of Health officials loyal to PUK – hav 2 b careful
  • Word among doctors at Fryakawtn (Emergency) Hospital is many of the victims are dead – they r put on LifeSupport 2 reduce no. of casualties
  • Todays Protest was diff – 1 member of Peshmerga joined the protest- many teachers/docs/women present and very peaceful
  • Photos of Day 5 of Protests in Freedom Square (Maydani Seray Azady)
  • yes there was a meeting between opposition and ruling parties – news says that the KRG did not commit to change- no agreements

Hospital in Sulaymaniyah.


SUNDAY, February 20

An account of the fifth day in Sulaymaniyah from The Moving Silent. “Last night they burn down the Nalia (NTV) Satellite channel, according to Twana Osman who is the president of NTV “50 militia men, all dressed similar and in military cloth, attacked the building, went into every room and shot every single equipment, the with hand grenade and other explosive, they set fire into the building, bullets into computers screens.” They report around 20,000 troops spread out in and around the city but it is unknown who they are. Thousands protest again in Sulaymaniyah, trying to get to Salim street to KDP’s headquarters. At least 2 thousand protesters from Saholaka (South of KDP’s headquarter), tried to go to KDP HQ, and were shot at security forces. KNN report a heavy presence of Security Guards and Police spread out around and inside Erbil, protests starting in Chamchamal, mentions of students protesting at Rania, close to Iranian border and students at Koya close to Ebil. SpedaTV is reporting that in Rania, they are shooting at people and the protesters are throwing stones at the police. Today’s protest in Rania started peacefully but soon turned violent after they Security Service started to attack them with water and then electrocuted them. About 70 Young Men who were arrested yesterday were released today, they talk about been treated badly and beaten. KNN report of 1 dead and 48 wounded.

From @GorranGuy, a doctor at the hospital:

  • New protests will take place today in #Slemani #Kurdistan – We need
  • Foreign reporters to be present in Berderki Sera 1pm PLS PLS PLS
  • This morning in Berderki Sera (tahrir square) in #Slemani #Kurdistanhttp://on.fb.me/igBZmg Heavy presence of the army HELP HELP HELP
  • Presence of Peshmerga in Freedom Square (Berderki Sera) in Slemani Kurdistan
  • Thousands of ppl of all kinds gather in Freedom Square in #Slemani #Kurdistan chanting anti-Barzani slogans #Kurdistan #Slemani NOW
  • Protests extend to Ranya, Germyan and Koya as well as #Slemani #Kurdistan – biggest protest today
  • from my contacts in Ranya & Koya they are civilians no political motivation. Gorran is no longer popular after bein silent 4 long
  • No injuries or wounded reported to #Slemani Hospital today – very peaceful protest bt large strong crowd
  • Peshmerga fire live ammunition on protesters in #Slemani #Kurdistan that is because u watch KRG media – Nalia TV is the voice of the ppl – and it was burnt down last night by Peshmerga
  • Peshmerga fire on protesters – reports of 1 dead and 1 injured reports that casualty have gone to 5 wounded and 1 dead
  • reporter for KNN TV (opposition media) is among the wounded today local radio says Barzani’s forces were firing at protesters #Slemani #Kurdistan reports of 5 wounded 1 dead
  • Journalists & media reporters have been under attack today by Peshmerga in #Slemani #Kurdistan NO respect for free press by KRG
  • No deads have been received by my hospital yet – but 3-5 wounded #Slemani #Kurdistan 2 of them are journalists
  • casualties re: #Slemani protests today: 18 wounded – 1 dead #Kurdistan
  • Hospital sources barr some doctors from speaking to/help wounded just back from a ward round – 33 injured from today’s protest
  • WORLD WE NEED UR HELP – Protesters camped out in Azady (Freedom) Square in #Slemani #Kurdistan were all arrested and removed by bullets number of today’s wounded 48! 1-2 are seriously injured
  • News from Fryakawtn Hospital : One protester was beaten to death today – he is in intensive care – He is brain-dead
  • Surkew 16, is now pronounced dead – he was shot in his chest this afternoon by Peshmerga

Sunday: words or bullets? from San Saravan on Vimeo.


SATURDAY, February 19

Another eyewitness account of the day in Sulaymaniyah from The Moving Silent. They report two or three thousand people, not just young men, but girls from colleges and high schools, older men, women and children protesting, demanding the KDP’s Zerivan Force leave the streets of Sulaymaniyah. Police in the crowds attacked protesters with knives, some buildings were set on fire, the streets were full of rocks, trash, and burning tires. Rumours of US soldiers and humvees protecting the streets leading to PDK’s headquarters, secret service beating protesters with baseball bats, police shooting and arresting people and attacking reporters. “Horrifying footage shown on KNN, after they spry people with water, they chase them and use electricity on them with a stick. A Young Man was shivering after he was electrocuted. More horrifying footage shown on KNN: Security Service dressed in Civilian cloth are chasing down protesters and shooting at them with hand-guns and Pistols, like they are hunting animals.”

Photos from today here and here.

From @GorranGuy, a doctor at the hospital:

  • Video of KDP Peshmerga firing live bullets into the running crowd. [Reportedly the boy in red is Zmnako Rzgar, about 13 or 15 years old, now in a very critical condition.]
  • 1000s of protesters are in Barderki Serah in #Slemani to condemn the killings of civilians on 17/2 by #Barzani peshmerga
  • Photo of the #Slemani protests NOW in #Kurdistan – ppl demand removal of Barzani army- resignation of Barzani
  • PUK forces open fire on protesters in #Slemani ‘s Berderki Serah (tahrir square) – many wounded
  • many youngsters arrested in Berderki Serah – at least 1 wounded by gunfire – many are wounded by beating
  • Many wounded in central #Slemani #Kurdistan #NOW as PUK forces attack peaceful protesters in Bardarki Serah
  • We have just received 8-10 wounded in Fryakawtn Hospital – some of them are Asaysh #Slemani #Kurdistan – We need BLOOD donations
  • Today’s wounded raise to 12 – 3 of them r journalists – 2 r bullet wounds and the rest are beating / stone wounds
  • Main opposition Gorran declares its support to the protesters in #Slemani – ppl now await to see whether they join protests #Kurdistan it is on sbeiy.com It is not as strong as people wanted it to be. Gorran needs to join the people – not just stand by
  • KDP and PUK men burn newly-broadcastin Independent Nalia NRT TV station in #Slemani #Kurdistan just minutes ago..Tv station is ablaze the TV station warned tonight that KDP/PUK Ministers have warned them to stop reporting the protests – appealed for help. It’ll be ugly 2mro

Saturday: Bleeding injuries from San Saravan on Vimeo.


FRIDAY, February 18

10:00AM “Figures from yesterday’s casualties. – 30 gun wound victims have had surgeries – 20 of them are in Intensive Care” via @GorranGuy

10:00AM “Today we were told by hospital directors NOT TO TELL ANYONE about the figure of deads – I CAN TELL U IT IS 10” via @GorranGuy

7:00 AM Facebook page for Iraq protests, with 11,450 likes.

3:00 AM The Belfast Telegraph reports a protest of about 1000 people has blocked a bridge in Basra after repeated protests this week across the country.

3:00 AM A statement from Iraqi Streets 4 Change.

3:00 AM Another video of the Sulaymaniyah atrocity and pictures from the funeral of one of the slain teenagers, Rijwan Ali.

3:00 AM “The #Iraq crackdown continues support #iq4c #Feb25 “@alisaadi: Police prevent journalists documenting demo in Tikrit, Salah Al Din province”” via @MoustafaAyad The Scene At Sulaymania Hospital on the 17th of Feb via Arab Revolution.

5:30 AM Excellent eyewitness account from Kurdistan massacre, also stating 10 dead.

3:00 AM “video of the woudned in Fryakawtn Hospital in #Slemani #Kurdistanhttp://on.fb.me/gUUckV” via @GorranGuy

3:00 AM “http://on.fb.me/eAEFEi another video of peaceful protesters being shot at by KDP”via @GorranGuy

3:00 AM “100s/1000s of ppl are heading towards the #Gorran HQ (Grdaka) in #Slemani #Kurdistan amid reports that KDP r about 2 attack it” via @GorranGuy

3:00 AM “Video of Kurdish 15 yr old being killed by KDPhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIzWqY4j9X0 RIP – We NEED YOUR HELP WORLD” via @GorranGuy

3:00 AM “i work @ Fryakawtn Hosp, the wounded protesters were all shot in the back. deathcount would go to up2 10. Can u justify that?” via @GorranGuy

2:00 AM “WORLD & FREEDOM LOVING PPL @BBCBreaking #Slemani in #Kurdistan NEED your HELP! Barzani has sent his army to the city. We need ur protection” via @GorranGuy

2:00 AM”Main electricity goes in #Slemani #Kurdistan News that KDP has sent its “Barzani Guards” for revenge, ppl are scared of a bloodpath HELP” via @GorranGuy

2:00 AM “I am a doctor in Slemani hospital – the KDP guards who were wounded had NO bullets inside them – They had stone wounds” via @GorranGuy

12:00 AM “video of the uprising in #Slemani #Kurdistan taken by an American girlhttp://on.fb.me/i2x7gw” via @GorranGuy

10:00 PM “protesters are still camping out KDP HQs in #Slemani #Kurdistan – many woundeds r held prisoners by KDP” via @GorranGuy

10:00 PM “This is how a KDP armed guard kills a 16 year old. He smashes his AK47 on the youngster’s head. http://yfrog.com/h2qy86j” via @GorranGuy

9:00 PM “Protesters FORCE KDP HQ (Lqy 4) to leave …Asaysh take over the control of KDP HQ in #Slemani #Kurdistan!! Jubilation by protesters by fone” via @GorranGuy

8:00 PM “we have run out of blood – we had 9 people who needed double operations -they all have 10% chance – 57 wounded before my break” via @GorranGuy

8:00 PM “sorry I can not give u my name. i am a doctor at Tawarreka we need O-/O+ for some of the wounded.” via @GorranGuy

8:00 PM “This video was taken after the massacre – protesters shouting AZADI (FREEDOM) #kurdistan http://on.fb.me/gy5np7″ via @GorranGuy

8:00 PM “More videos of the uprising in #Kurdistan #Slemani – KDP firing on demonstratorshttp://on.fb.me/fr20j7″ via @GorranGuy

8:00 PM “photos of the martyrs in #Kurdistan #Slemani through Facebookhttp://on.fb.me/geMotG” via @GorranGuy

8:00 PM “I was lucky enough 2 escape the bullets- most of the injured r passers by. PLS PLS WE NEED BLOOD O- O+ type at Fryakawtn Hospital” via @GorranGuy

8:00 PM “more like 10 martyred – not dead – they are martyrs – most of the martyrs are between 14-19 years of age” via @GorranGuy

8:00 PM “video of the uprising in Slemani #Kurdistan , KDP forces kill 10 and wound 50 @BBCBreaking on http://alturl.com/4mrqm through facebook” via @GorranGuy “10 killed in Kurdistan 50 wounded (sources in Slemani hospital)” via @GorranGuy


THURSDAY, February 17

Hundreds of protesters stormed political headquarters in Iraqi Kurdistan and were fired on by police. Reports have two dead and 40-53 others injured. The office of the president issued a statement which said, “Enemies of Kurdish people still continue destabilize Kurdistan, but we will not allow that will happen. People of Kurdistan should be aware of what are at stake and calmly and wisely deal with the situation.” The people were protesting against corruption and unemployment and attacked KDP and PUK, the two major political parties who have controlled power since 1991.


WEDNESDAY, February 16

  • 2,000 demonstrators attacked government offices, ripping up pavement stones to hurl at a regional council headquarters. Al Jazeera
  • Protests in Kut left 55 people were injured and three died, including a 16 year old. Some were shot by police while others were hit by stones or suffered burns. Three government buildings were set on fire, including the governor’s official residence.Al Jazeera
  • Iraq government cuts minister and MP salaries “We will submit to the council of ministers next week … a good substantial reduction, in some cases more than 50 percent, of present salaries,” said cabinet general secretary Ali al-Alaak. AFP
  • Iraq protest map via @Hamzoz
  • On Monday Maliki’s government withdrew a planned purchase of 18 F-16 war planes from the US and promised to use the money to alleviate poverty. Source Uruknet.

Other Related News Sources:

 

Previous coverage of the Iraq protests on WL Central.

2011-02-14 Iraq Protest on February 25

Abdulmunir Mohammed from Mosul, a married man with four children, died yesterday after setting himself on fire in what is being reported as a continuation of Iraqi protests against unemployment. Today several hundred Iraqis held a Valentine’s Day demonstration at Baghdad’s Tahrir Square to call on their leaders to love Iraq rather than rob its resources, an organiser, Karnas Ali, a young engineer told AFP. “We do not want Valentine’s Day to be only one day of love but a celebration for reform, democracy, citizenship and freedom.”

On February 11 hundreds of lawyers marched in the streets of Baghdad, Karbala, Kut, Ramadi and Amara to protest corruption and unemployment, and call for open scrutiny of secret prisons and access to legal advice for prisoners. On the 10th, an anti corruption official had made a statement saying that ministerial coverup of corruption was frequent. Around 500 people marched in Baghdad that day. Media representatives had already marched in protest against high usage fees.

In an Al Jazeera video on February 9 (below) a government official states, “We know the suffering of the citizens. But we cannot deal with that by a decree. Electricity cannot come back by a ruling from the minister’s cabinet saying tomorrow electricity should be running 24 hours a day.” However, the government did just that on Saturday the 12th, promising Iraqi citizens their first 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each month free of charge, courtesy of the Ministry of Electricity. In October the government had doubled the price of electicity. The government has promised to increase power imports from Iran and they are also talking with Syria and Turkey and planning to improve their own electrical output.

The most well publicized protest is being organized primarily by The Revolution of Iraqi Rage and advertised on many facebook pages and on twitter leaflets at universities and appealsthrough the internet, including to army and police officials. They are asking people to gather in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on February 25th to protest the corruption and poverty.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has agreed to cut his $360,000 annual salary in half to help “reduce the gap in the living standards for the different classes. … High salaries may create unrest in society and lead to the creation of two classes, the rich and the disadvantaged.” Maliki has also ordered that all Iraqis would receive cash handouts of almost $13 each and promised he would not run for a third term in 2014.

Some protesters say they want a new government and some don’t. The Digital Journal has a very good article today titled “What the Iraq war logs have revealed”, which provides a brief summary of what was the Iraqi people have recently been through. A reminder of the extra hardships they are going through now, not just unemployed with no electricity or clean water, but permanent occupation, nation wide post traumatic stress, care giving to unprecedented amounts of children with birth defects and wounded adults, and dead and missing family members have all created a society where an elected government is not going to cure all ills.

2011-01-28 Cable: Qatar on the Israeli-Palestine talks, Egypt and Iran

US state cable 2010-02-24: 10DOHA71 outlines Senator Kerry’s meeting with Qatar’s Prime Minister, Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani (HBJ) on February 13, 2010. In the meeting, HBJ stresses that it is a mistake to exclude Hamas from Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, equates Egypt to a physician with one patient, and accuses Egypt of having a vested interest in dragging out the talks for as long as possible. He also warned against a US military action against Iran.

HBJ told Senator John Kerry February 13 that “everyone in the region” seems to have a separate plan for moving ahead on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute when only one plan was needed; a plan that both the Israelis and Palestinians would accept and finalize. HBJ underscored that it is a mistake to ignore Hamas in seeking a lasting agreement. Saying this does not mean that Qatar expresses a preference for Hamas, but the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot sign off on an agreement on behalf of the Palestinians where open divisions exist.

Senator Kerry responded that we “are where we are.” He assessed that the Goldstone Report and dissatisfaction in Fatah’s ranks in the West Bank made it difficult for Abu Mazen to “give something to Israel” that would allow direct negotiations to begin between the parties. Add in Abu Mazen’s previous statements on the need for a full settlement freeze, and the ingredients for the Palestinian people to accept direct talks simply are not there.

Abu Mazen is out on a limb, responded HBJ. “He climbed a tree (drawing a line in the sand on settlements) and can’t get down.” HBJ noted that in conversations Qatar has held with Hamas’ leadership, it is clear that Hamas is ready to accept Israel’s right to exist. But the acceptance must come about gradually, not in one day. Senator Kerry said he had heard this elsewhere, but in his own conversations, he did not get the sense that Hamas was ready to accept Israel’s existence.

Qatar’s PM observed that the biggest obstacle on the Palestinian side to an eventual agreement with Israel is the reconciliation of Hamas and Fatah. HBJ maintained that it would have happened during the previous U.S. administration, but President Bush told Abu Mazen not to sign off on it. Reconciliation can happen, HBJ asserted, but only “if bigger countries in the region allow it.” The leaderships in Syria and Gaza consult each other, and no one leader in Hamas can take a decision alone, reported HBJ.

Chairman Kerry asked HBJ if Hamas is feeling political pressure from Gazans over their current living conditions. HBJ responded that anytime people do not have housing, schools or public utilities, their political leaders feel pressure.

According to HBJ, Egypt — the broker — has a vested interest in dragging out the talks for as long as possible. Egypt “has no end game; serving as broker of the talks is Egypt’s only business interest with the U.S.” HBJ likened the situation to a physician who has only one patient to treat in the hospital. If that is your only business, “the physician is going to keep the patient alive but in the hospital for as long as possible.” HBJ emphasized that Qatar, on the other hand, is interested only in bringing about peace in the region — and as quickly as possible.

HBJ noted that since its inception the Quartet has been anti-Hamas and aligned with the interests of Abu Mazen, Egypt and Jordan. These partners of the Quartet, observed HBJ, are the very partners who have not delivered a Palestinian-Israeli agreement.

Returning to his theme that “peace brokers” act in their own self-interest, HBJ observed that President Mubarak of Egypt is thinking about how his son can take his place and how to stave off the growing strength of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egyptian government, said HBJ, has jailed 10,000 Muslim Brotherhood members without bringing court cases against them. The Egyptian “people blame America” now for their plight. The shift in mood on the ground is “mostly because of Mubarak and his close ties” to the United States. His only utility to the U.S. is brokering peace between Palestinians and Israelis, so he has no interest in taking himself out of the one game he has, underscored HBJ. “Tell your friends (in Egypt) they must help themselves.”

As for Qatar, “We want to help Abu Mazen and the Palestinians,” declared HBJ. The short-term needs of Palestinians in Gaza are acute, said HBJ. We need to broker a quick reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah and move forward quickly on rebuilding Gaza. Senator Kerry asserted that HBJ was preaching to the converted and told the PM he was “shocked by what I saw in Gaza.”

Continuing to illustrate how Egypt had not delivered for the U.S. on Palestinian issues, HBJ said Qatar was told in late 2008 that Israel and the U.S. needed the Egyptians to deal with the crisis in Gaza. Yet former Israeli PM Olmert later complained to Qatar that Egypt is a big country and not nimble; it could not move fast enough. Senator Kerry pointed out he was in Cairo at the time Qatar was calling for an Arab League Summit in December 2008/January 2009 and asked HBJ for his perspective on the rift between Qatar and Egypt at that time.

HBJ told Senator Kerry that Mubarak refused to come to Doha for a meeting of Arab leaders, preferring that the meeting take place in Riyadh. The request to move the meeting was relayed to Qatar by the Saudis, not the Egyptians. Saudi Arabia, as a big country like Egypt, has a vested interest in keeping Egypt afloat, said HBJ. The Saudis agreed to host the meeting in Riyadh not because they objected to traveling to Doha, but because the Egyptians did. “So we argued over the meeting location” while the Palestinians suffered, and we in Qatar “called a meeting and said whoever comes, comes.”

Qatar is worried, said HBJ, about Egypt and its people, who are increasingly impatient. Mubarak, continued HBJ, says Al Jazeera is the source of Egypt’s problems. This is an excuse. HBJ had told Mubarak “we would stop Al Jazeera for a year” if he agreed in that span of time to deliver a lasting settlement for the Palestinians. Mubarak said nothing in response, according to HBJ.

Asked his advice on bringing about an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, HBJ said President Clinton recognized before leaving office that Egypt was a problem. When President Clinton sought help at the end of his term in reaching a final deal, the Saudis and Egyptians did not encourage him, said HBJ. “They told him to do what he thinks right.” Culturally, said HBJ, that is the way Arabs say “you are on your own.” And President Clinton was, said HBJ.

Now we are at a stage, said HBJ, where Egypt does not want Arab League involvement in brokering a reconciliation agreement among the Palestinians unless the talks bog down. HBJ said he had told Abbas that climbing down from his tree on no settlement activity so that talks can go forward will require Arab support. But the Egyptians won’t allow it.

Senator Kerry noted that Special Envoy Mitchell had made a lot of requests of Arabs but with little success. Leaving Qatar aside, the Chairman asked HBJ for proposed next steps. HBJ said he trusts the Saudis, but because they talk openly to Egypt and do not want to create more problems for Egypt than the Egyptian government already has, it is essential to bring in the small countries and start there.

HBJ suggested one or two GCC members, Morocco (although the King there is hesitant) and Syria as the core membership of an Arab League committee to address Palestinian-Israeli concerns. HBJ told Senator Kerry the inclusion of Syria might surprise him, but having Syria play a role would create jealousy among the Arabs. Some jealously and rivalry is just what the U.S. needs, opined HBJ, to get the process moving.

Iran, Lebanon and Iraq

HBJ said Iran’s president views the U.S. as a country that is overstretched and in difficulty as a result of too many commitments. Iraq, Afghanistan, and the U.S. economy are the three main problems President Ahmadinejad sees. HBJ observed that a Western attack against Iran for Ahmadinejad would be good politics, because it would allow him to take out his opposition using the war as a pretext. Senator Kerry asked clarification of whether Ahmadinejad had said these things, or if HBJ inferred them from conversation.

Qatar’s PM said Ahmadinejad had told him, “We beat the Americans in Iraq; the final battle will be in Iran.”

HBJ said putting economic pressure on Iran is the best way to get the leadership to rethink its quest for nuclear weapons. To be successful, he told Senator Kerry, Russia would definitely have to be on board, as would the Central Asian countries bordering Iran that provide food and supplies.

Asked his perception of the state of play with the opposition, HBJ said the U.S. had done a good job of standing back and not becoming the symbol of the opposition. Cracks in the regime are appearing. It is highly significant that many demonstrators ignored Khamenei when he called on them to stop their protests. The four key pillars of Iranian power — the court, oil sector, imams, and Revolutionary Guards — all must stick with him, stressed HBJ. There are cracks in the system, but the downfall of the regime may not be in the cards.

Asked what the sanctions should target, HBJ said the money that Iran derives from oil. Depriving Tehran of this revenue would force the regime to negotiate.

Senator Kerry observed that Ahmadinejad was making it easier by his actions. There is wide consensus in the Executive and Legislative branches of Washington to press ahead. Senator Kerry warned that Ahmadinejad “should not equate Afghanistan and Iraq with what he faces.”

HBJ encouraged Chairman Kerry to bear in mind that Iran is clever and makes its opponents dizzy in the quest for deals. They will keep you working on a deal and then start from scratch with a new interlocutor. HBJ stressed that Iran will make no deal. Iran wants nuclear weapons, and HBJ said he would not be surprised to see Iran test one to demonstrate to the world its achievement.

On Lebanon, Senator Kerry asked if Iran and Hizballah are ratcheting up their weapons stockpiles as part of Iran’s war against Israel. HBJ affirmed that is the case.

On Iraq, HBJ told Senator Kerry that Prime Minister Al-Maliki wants a Shia state, even though the Sunnis (when you count Kurds and non-Kurds) have the majority.

2011-01-28 Cable: Mubarak discusses Iran and a “split” within Arab ranks

US State cable 2009-02-23: 09CAIRO326 describes a February 17, 2009 meeting between US Senator Joseph Lieberman and Egyptian President Gamal Mubarak.

Gamal criticizes the Israeli government’s decision not to move forward on the Gaza ceasefire without the release of Corporal Shalit. “The various Palestinian factions are due to begin reconciliation talks in Cairo “in about 10 days” and this development will make those discussions more difficult. It makes Egypt look bad, and strengthens Hamas.”

Gamal discusses a split within Arab ranks between “moderates” (Egypt and Saudi Arabia) and “radicals” (Syria and Qatar). He is of the opinion that Iran has skillfully exploited the lack of movement towards peace. The best way to thwart Iranian ambitions in the region, according to Gamal, is to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and create a unified
Palestinian government. “The Palestinians need elections, both residential and parliamentary.”

Lieberman asks if Gamal thought the US should re-engage with Iran. “As long as Ahmedinejad is there, I am skeptical,” Gamal responded. The one thing that is clear, Gamal stressed, is that by removing Saddam, the U.S. opened the door for Iran to flex its muscles and spread its influence throughout the region. “Like it or not, Saddam was a stumbling block to Iranian aspirations. His fall led directly to an increase in Iranian influence on the region.” Now, it is all the more important not to send a message of weakness to the Iranians, Gamal said, “neither from the U.S., nor from the moderates in the region.” We cannot “concede to their policy of aggression.”

There are many in the region, Gamal explained, who believe that the U.S. was weakened by its actions in Iraq, and that Iran was strengthened. Furthermore, there is a perception that the U.S. has been hurt by the economic crisis …(and) will deal with problems in the region in a “less confrontational” fashion … Lieberman said that the U.S. will nonetheless engage in an even more aggressive Middle East foreign policy than previously, as evidenced by President Obama’s choice of Secretary Clinton and Special Envoy Mitchell.

Senator Lieberman then asked Gamal for his assessment of Qatari behavior. They are coordinating closely with Syria and Iran, Gamal said, “in an orchestrated attack on Egypt and other moderate Arab states.” Qatar has enabled Hamas to hamper every effort we have made to cement a ceasefire in Gaza. For some reason, Qatar seems to want to play the role of spoiler.

Gamal said that while Egypt has so far escaped the worst effects of the crisis, “we are bound to feel the brunt of it eventually.” and advised that the US economy needed “a shock”. “You need to inject even more money into the system than you have, and you need to get as much of the bad debt as possible out of it; “you must remove the toxic assets from the books”.

 

There Is Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

The world has been rightly preoccupied with the plight of people in the countries currently being occupied by the US / NATO armies, which are understood to be the countries they are at war with. No one seems to recognize that the countries most occupied by these forces are the US, followed by their allies.

No, these people are not having bombs dropped on their heads as they starve in toxic environments. But I still cannot ignore the despair and hysteria in some of the people on the internet today. These people were brought up as the chosen ones. They have been told all of their lives that they are the superior race, everyone wants to be them, and everyone hates them for their ‘way of life’. They have been taught to fear and have contempt for all other people in the world. They have been discouraged from ever listening to a viewpoint outside their country on the grounds that it was ‘propaganda’ (old) or ‘biased’ (current).

They have lost all of their personal freedoms and dignity in the name of ‘national security’, because everyone else is jealous and coming to get them. They have lost their homes, their health, their jobs, and the money to buy food, and that is the fault of other countries, probably China. Like a rescued feral animal, these people are not going to view the overthrowing of the MIC and the rise of democracy as anything good. In the minds of these people, all that is standing between them and certain death or worse, is their big strong army, ‘the finest fighting force in the history of the world’.

Like we saw with the civil rights movement, people bred on hate cannot understand that the people they have harmed the most may not want them destroyed. They who cannot forgive, do not understand the potential for forgiveness. This week, they are genuinely terrified. All they can see is that someone is taking away their big strong shield and leaving them at the mercy of all these people who hate them and want to kill them.

We come in peace.

From Martin Luther King, an expert on the subject:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.

The Military Mafia

Donate

Just as I was about to write this overdue article, Google tells me Castro got there before me. Google also informs me that it is the name of several social media fan clubs, WAG’s of the military, etc. Cute.

This past Remembrance Day has convinced me that most people don’t even realize the WAG’s are not joking. This year, I heard the same stories about people’s grandfathers that I’ve heard every Remembrance Day of my life. But these armies are not our grandfather’s armies. The US military and its contractors, are made up of professional, full time, cradle to grave soldiers. They are bred on hate and violent media, they are desensitized from childhood, and they enter the army as teenagers. These are not regular citizens forced to give up their daily lives for a period to defend their country. These are professional killers.

Their actions are criminal, not just as a few individuals going against the system, but by adhering to the system at all.  These armies are not fighting to defend civilians, to protect their families, homes and environments. When the wars are started and run in order to slaughter and terrorize citizens for the profit of industry, when food, shelter and safety are destroyed and drugs, oil and industry are protected, when environments are destroyed and free will is forbidden, this is not a citizen army.

I cannot put it better than this:
“Elected leaders as managers for the nation who misuse the military as a personal tool for usurping the powers of the citizens are known as authoritarian oligarchies, tyrants or dictators. If a nation’s military core role and function to defend its citizens changes to suppressing its citizens, the military loses its national credibility and honors bestowed upon it by its citizens. Then, the military of a nation-state become a mercenary institution whose loyalty and service is for sale to the highest bidder. The generals of the military become co-dictators and become known as juntas which are basically military dictators. Any form of token civil governments under a junta is a just a rubber stamp and mouthpiece of the authoritarian oligarchies, tyrants or dictators. The nation-state categorically becomes a military state. All other legitimate powers within the nation-state become pawns and tools of the mercenary institution and juntas.”

If there is any doubt about the state of today’s military here is a great resource about military contractors, or watch this. These contractors are not only not a citizen army, they are criminals for hire, available to private citizens, criminals, industry, and yes, of course, to any of the countries they are currently fighting against. The mercenary army was elevated to its current status by Bush in the Iraq war. Making money from war, and war crimes, is a family tradition for Bush, it obviously came naturally to him to connect war and industry even further. He created the huge billion dollar no-bid contracts that were awarded to republican backing mercenary firms such as Blackwater in Iraq, Afghanistan, post Katrina New Orleans and several areas in Africa. That’s not me being too lazy to research, it is impossible to say with any certainty where these armies are, what they are doing, or how many torture camp “prisons” they operate.

But those who felt that a new president was the answer have had a shock. According to this article,
“Bob Woodwards new book revealed that the CIA is operating a 3000 man secret army broken in to Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams, and when asked to respond to this the White House basically replied with an answer that suggested we – as Americans – should be proud of this development. For all the political rhetoric otherwise, the Obama administration has been remarkably aggressive in how they fight war – they support the use of CIA army’s, they have expanded the use of drone strikes, and despite campaign rhetoric otherwise – the Obama folks love private mercenary firms.”

This appears to be the new US / NATO army, an international gang of thugs, armed to the teeth and earning billions per contract. How on earth is this to be stopped? The ever astute Castro pointed out:

“They cannot even offer the hope that the world economic crisis can be overcome, or how much longer any improvement would last. The total public debt of the United States, not only that of central government, but the rest of the country’s public and private institutions, has already risen to a figure that is equal to the world GDP of 2009, which amounted to $58 trillion. Did those meeting in Lisbon maybe think to ask themselves where those fabulous resources came from? Simply, from the economy of all the other nations in the world, to which the United States handed over pieces of paper converted into dollar bills which, for 40 years now, unilaterally ceased having their backing in gold, and now that the value of that metal is 40 times superior. That country still possesses its veto within the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Why wasn’t that discussed in Portugal?”

Good point. Especially since, if there is one thing we have learned from Rome, No money, No military, No empire.