The Common Ills
October 22, 2012
Monday, October 22, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri’s targeting of the Central Bank brings him some unwanted international attention, an Iraqi legend — one who found international fame as a singer and whose lovers reportedly included a prime minister — passes away, protests return to Iraq, Barack mentions Iraq in a new advertisement, is nepotism enriching the Biden family, and more.
The character of Pinocchio first appears at the end of the 19th century in Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio. The wooden puppet who wanted to be a human boy had a nose that grew and grew as he told more and more lies. In 1940, Disney would make the film Pinocchio and reach new audiences. It and similar themed tales — such as Aesop’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf — experience popularity not just because they impart the lesson that lying is wrong but also because we want to believe that those who lie are made to suffer in some manner for their deceptions. We want to believe that lying has consequences and we want to believe that because, when we look around, we rarely see any punishment or even social disgrace for lying. Bully Boy Bush, for example, with the help of a compliant press, lied the country into an illegal war. And did so without any apparent suffering.
The lies about Iraq never end. Today it’s Bernard Whitman (Huffington Post) rushing to explain to you that number two on his reasons he thinks you should vote for Barack is the Iraq War. Writing with the sort of engorged passion generally reserved for erotica, Whitman wants you to believe, “President Obama would not have started the war in Iraq, but he certainly delivered on his promise to end it.” He wouldn’t have started it? How is that known? Here’s what I know. Barack Obama to the New York Times about how he would have voted in 2002 on authorization for the Iraq War — had he been in the Senate — in an article published July 26, 2004, “But, I’m not privy to Senate intelligence reports. What would I have done? I don’t know. What I know is that from my vantage point the case was not made.” Again, the lies about Iraq never end.
As for his alleged ending of the Iraq War? Here’s Cindy Sheehan (Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox) weighing in on Candy Crowley’s nonsense on CNN:
First, she claimed that Obama “ended the war in Iraq like he promised during the 2008 campaign.” Actually, A: It ended because of an agreement that was entered into between the US and the Puppet Government of Iraq before George Bush left office; B: the Obama administration did everything it could to NOT have to leave Iraq; and, C: the occupation continues to this day with tens of thousands of independent contractors and thousands of other civilian employees staffing the enormous embassy and consulates around the country. But the above are inconvenient facts that we are supposed to forget so we can triumphantly trumpet: “Vote for Obama, he ended the war in Iraq!”
And we should also remember what Tim Arango (New York Times) reported September 26th:
Iraq and the United States are negotiating an agreement that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.
Today, Barack Obama released an ad proclaiming he ended the Iraq War and that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would have left 30,000 troops in Iraq. James Rainey’s writing about it for some reason — not to fact check — at the Los Angeles Times.
Were he a functioning journalist, Rainey might want to ask, “Is Barack saying Mitt’s a better negotiator?”
The ad includes this line, “Mitt Romney would have left 30,000 troops there” — so Barack thinks Mitt would have been able to have done that, to have successfully negotiated the agreement that Barack’s still working on today?
So why Barack’s sudden interest in Iraq and Afghanistan today? The last of the three debates between Barack and Romney is tonight. As we pointed out at Third yesterday, the same media that loved to cluck about how the candidates weren’t talking about the wars, that same media that was in charge of the debates hasn’t been keen to ask questions about the wars.
Possibly because, despite Barack’s attempts to brag, there’s nothing to praise there. Dr. Ivan Sascha Sheehan (McClatchy Newspapters) observes, “Iraq’s Nouri al-Maliki maintains a strong grip on his fledgling country but the emerging realization that he is a puppet of the Iranian regime has diminished his stature on the world stage and led to criticism of his continued leadership by U.S. lawmakers.” Peter Feaver (Foreign Policy) notes:
According to Michael Gordon: “Mr. Biden also predicted that the Americans could work out a deal with a government led by Mr. Maliki. ‘Maliki wants us to stick around because he does not see a future in Iraq otherwise,’ Mr. Biden said. ‘I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA’ he added, referring to the Status of Forces Agreement the Obama administration hoped to negotiate.”
Feaver is responding to a critique of his earlier comments — a critique by F. Gregory Gause III. Feaver actually shouldn’t have bothered. When you’re either as stupid or as much a liar as Gause, you don’t deserve a response. In fact, we’re only going to include one paragraph. We were doing three but the person I’m dictating this too just told me he’s not sure how to clean up everything. (Meaning turn so many curse words into work-safe ones.) So we’re wiping out everything and emphasizing one tiny sliver only:
In the end, Maliki accepted a political deal brokered in Tehran that returned him to the prime ministry with the support of Shiite political groups closely aligned with Iran, like Muqtada al-Sadr’s followers and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.
The Erbil Agreement was negotiated by the US, not by Iran. Iran had nothing to do with the Erbil Agreement.
And briefly, one more section:
Once that coalition was formed, no U.S. diplomatic effort, no matter how skillful and concerted, was going to convince Maliki to alter the original withdrawal agreement and allow a substantial U.S. force to stay. Maliki was not so inclined anyway, but with the backing of Iran so central to his return to power, there was no conceivable set of inducements Washington could offer Maliki to move him off his position.
Am I doing the Saudi Arabia snapshot? No. You can’t be an expert on everything. And that’s something that the writer might consider. So when he was brushing up on Saudi Arabia for those bad articles he wrote during this period, he missed the coverage in the Iraqi press. Nouri was fine with it. Nouri wanted US troops on the ground. He’d made that clear when he visited DC in the summer of 2009.
The issue was immunity. That was the big issue with the SOFA in 2008. It was the big issue as 2011 drew to a close.
If you don’t know what went down, maybe you should find another topic to address?
We may return to this idiot tomorrow when I can hopefully be a little more calm on this topic. But there are neocons who are more factual than Gause The Third is. Again, we embrace the tales like The Boy Who Cried Wolf because we want to believe that those who lie get punished.
On tonight’s debate, Ian Wilder (On The Wilder Side) explains:
It’s four years later, and here I am back speaking at the public area on the edge of the Hofstra campus before the presidential debate. It saddens me to report that the ills I spoke of in the presidential campaign four years ago remain unchanged. The corporate media still uphold the charade of the so-called Commission on Presidential Debates. The commission is still controlled by the Democratic and Republican Parties. Its’ still is funded by large corporations like Anheuser-Busch. The commission still excludes any candidate outside of the Democratic and Republican parties even if the candidate is on enough ballots to win the electoral college. Both the Green Party and Libertarian candidates are on enough ballots to win, but are excluded from the debates. And by the the terms of the Democratic-Republican debate agreement, Debate hosts such as my alma matter Hofstra are even excluded from scheduling other qualified presidential candidates to speak on campus. I am disappointed that my college would sell out the quest for knowledge so cheaply.
Of course, the corporate media never reports on these restrictive terms of the agreement. nor do they report that debate sponsor Anheuser-Busch is not an American company. It is owned by Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate. Lastly, the corporate media failed to report on the biggest debate stories of the year that 3 of the 10 sponsors have pulled out of the debates because they realized that the debate is not nonpartisan. The YWCA, Philips Electronics, and British advertising firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty have all pulled out of sponsorship. The YWCA and Phillips have issued statements that the debates are bi-partisan, not nonpartisan.
I support one of the candidates wrongfully shut out of the debates, Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein. Dr. Stein is on 85% of the ballots in the country. She has called for all qualified candidates who could win the electoral college to be in the debate. She understands that the corporate control of the debates and our democracy needs to be remedied. She has consistently supported the reforms called for by the occupy movement. She has chosen anti-poverty crusader Cheri Honkala as her running mate. As Green Party candidates, they follow the party policy of refusing all corporate donations.
On the topic of the presidential tickets, Barack’s running mate and current Vice President Joe Biden is in the news cycle. Charlie Gasparino (Fox Business) reports that when Hill International’s president David Richter was asked about the success of the subsidiary HillStone International:
Richter didn’t mince words. It really helps, he said, to have “the brother of the vice president as a partner,” according to a person who was present.
The “brother” Richter was referring to during the meeting is James Biden, the younger brother of Vice President Joe Biden.
Since November 2010, James Biden has been the executive vice president of Hill International’s housing subsidiary despite little if any documented work history in residential construction. And if the company’s projections are accurate, both Hill and Biden are on the verge of a huge payday, beneficiaries, some analysts believe, of James Biden’s connections to the Obama Administration through his older brother.
Indeed, the Iraq project may be the most lucrative single development in Hill’s history. Since 2011, Hill, located in Marlton, NJ., has been losing money; the shares were recently trading at $3.82, down about 28% this year on New York Stock Exchange trading.
We’ll cover Iraqi oil tomorrow but the above is breaking in the news cycle and I know and like Joe Biden but I don’t play favorites. Hopefully, the story is not as bad as it sounds but we noted it here the day it broke, we didn’t try to hide it or play personal favorites.
Turning to Iraq and violence, Al Rafidayn reports a Nineveh Province roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left another injured and a Salahuddin Province roadside bombing left one police officer injured. Also in Salahuddin Province, All Iraq News notes a Samarr cemetery bombing targeted a mosque but left no one dead or injured. Alsumaria reports a Shirqat bombing targeting a police chief that left his assistant injured, 1 Sahwa was shot dead in Azlerarip, 1 woman was killed in Wasit, 2 security officers shot dead in Baghdad, and the Turkish military continued to shell northern Iraq.
Saturday, Alsumaria reported “hundreds of teachers” had taken to the streets on Friday in Basra to protest the lack of advances in education and their living conditions. In addition, they demanded the government imporve the public services and address the crumbling infrastructure. That was actually the second day in a row of protests in Basra. Al-Hasany reports that Friday, following morning prayers, various social sectors in Basra turned out to demonstrate. Some had signs and placards with carttons calling out the government’s corruption and authoritarian nature, others decried the ongoing violence, and some called for the United Nations to step in and end the unjust rule by a corrupt government. As you look through the pictures that illustrate the article, it’s clear that “hundreds” turned out on Friday, possibly even “thousands.” The protesters are all male but they’re of all ages — including the little boy carrying a sign decrying the lack of public services. In a possible response to the teachers, Alsumaria added State of Law MP Mohammed Chichod has stated that basic services can wait and that it is more important that the government focus on the military and weapons. (State of Law is Nouri’s political slate.) Dar Addustour reports a Maysan Province demonstration on Sunday in which people gathered (dozens) to protest the lack of basic services as well as a probelm specific to the province, sinking homes. Though the protest was peaceful, the people were surprised to see Nouris security forces storm in using batons and attacking the people, hurling threats and insults at the people, firing into the air and injuring one child who was shot. This morning, All Iraq News reports, the Maysan Province Council questioned the provincial governor and two of his deputies about yesterday’s attack and demanded the launch of an investigation to determine what took place and that a formal apology be made to the family of the child shot on Sunday as well as to the families of any other injured children.
For those who remember January 2011, this is how it started in Iraq. Scattered protests building up to the February 25th protests across Iraq, as the cry for improved basic services, jobs and addressing ‘the disappeared’ in Iraq’s ‘justice’ system. As various governments were threatened in the region and a few brought down, Nouri grew worried. That’s when he made his ‘promise’ that he wouldn’t go for a third term (since rescinded by his attorney and many others), insisted that he would fix things in 100 days, begged Iraqis to stop protesting. It was kick the can, what Nouri always does. Stall, distract and hope your opponents are exhausted and just give up. In this case, Nouri’s opponents were the Iraqi people.
Now it would appear that the protests are re-starting.
Dropping back to Saturday, ” In other scandals, Nouri fired Sinan al-Shabibi as Governor of the Central Bank (despite Article 103 of the Constitution making clear that he doesn’t have that right — Parliament does). Since then a warrant’s been put out for al-Shabibi who is said to be in Europe. An unnamed MP tells Al Mada that Nouri fired al-Shabibi because the man refused to loan Nouri $63 billion that Nouri said was for the government’s budget. Al Mada notes that Moqtada al-Sadr is calling out Nouri’s attempts to politicize the Central Bank and he also asks where is the reform that Nouri promised in early 2011?” Today Prashant Rao (AFP) reports, “The targeting of Iraq’s well-respected central bank chief appears to be a move by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to consolidate power and sends a bad message to international investors, experts and diplomats say.” Long time Iraq observer Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group tells Rao, “The Maliki government will claim it (the move against Shabibi) is part of long-standing efforts to root out corruption. It looks more like a long-standing effort to gain control over independent institutions.” Michael Peel (Financial Times of London) adds:
Some analysts see the affairs as more evidence of a growing autocracy established by Mr Maliki, particularly since the withdrawal of US troops in December. The paradox of power in his administration is that, while his coalition grouping controls well under half the parliamentary seats, he has steadily increased his authority over important security and financial institutions. In December, Tareq al-Hashemi, vice president, fled the country after a warrant was issued for his arrest on terrorism charges, claims he says were orchestrated by the premier.
The political crisis continues in Iraq. Ahmed Abdul Murad (Kitabat) reports a delegation of Kurds arrived Sunday in Baghdad to discuss the political crisis. Ayad al-Tamimi (Al Mada) reports they have met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and National Alliance leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Rudaw explains:
A group of intellectuals, academics and political analysts gathered in Salahaddin on Oct. 20 to talk about the current political situation in Iraq. At the meeting, Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani said, “We welcome constructive talks with Baghdad.”
Deputy Iraqi Prime Minister Roj Nuri Shaways and Barham Salih, deputy secretary general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), were also in attendance.
According to the official website of the presidency of the Kurdistan Region, those at the meeting “praised the role of the President Barzani in building the new Iraq and in creating the new Iraqi government. They also informed Barzani that Iraq is deeply upset by the current political crisis and that their mission in visiting the Kurdistan Region is to take a positive message back to Baghdad in order to end this political crisis.”
Alsumaria notes that today’s meet-up was with Nouri who spoke of the need for real solutions. Nouri’s second term may end before the political crisis is resolved. The crisis is usually pegged to December 2011. The political stalemate pre-dates the crisis. Political Stalemate I is the eight months after March 2010 when Nouri brought the country to a stand still as he demanded a second term as prime minister. The US-brokered Erbil Agreement (November 2010) ends Political Stalemate I. Nouri’s trashing the contract starts Political Stalemate II. In the summer of 2011, Moqtada al-Sadr, the Kurds and Iraqiya called for a return to the Erbil Agreement so you can see that as the start of Political Stalemate II or you can date it back further when Nouri refuses to create an independent national security commission headed by Ayad Allawi as outlined in the Erbil Agreement.
Afifa Iskandar passed away Sunday. The singer was not just an Iraqi institution, she was acclaimed throughout the region. She was also an actress, knew pretty much everyone, reportedly was the mistress of one prime minister, retired to avoid another prime minister, a very interesting life. All Iraq News reports she was 91-years-old, born in 1912 to an Iraqi father and a Greek Christian mother. The paper explains she began singing at the age of five and gave her first concert when she she was 8-years-old (gave the concert in Erbil).
Alsumaria notes that she married at the age of 12 and that she began singing in Baghdad clubs in 1935. She’d go on to sing at all the leading clubs including Cabaret Abdullah and the Paradise. In 1938, she’d travel to Egypt where she wowed Cario. The History News Network shares a story of a social get together where Afifa Iskander performed:
To compare any singer to Um Kulthoum was the biggest compliment a singer could receive, especially in the fifties (this is before Arab rock had been invented). Afifa Iskander deserved it, not because of her overpowering voice nor her magnetic presence (factors which had made Um Kulthoum a star) but because of the warmth of her personality and the astonishing way she sang Iraqi ballads and made them her own. She was Iraq’s Um Kulthoum because she sang Iraqi songs that spoke to Iraqis everywhere in the same way that Um Kulthoum, despite her great Arab following, sang primarily to Egyptians; and she became a national icon precisely because she was able to sing songs that did not imitate the style of Egyptian or Lebanese chanteuses, but were profoundly, natively Iraqi.
Al Rafidayn notes that she will be buried in a Baghdad cemetery near her mother. Her mother was a strong influence and played four instruments. Last month, Warvin reports, she was admitted to Baghdad Medical City Hospital, suffering from intestinal bleeding. Afifa was celebrated for her singing and her beauty. Jabra Ibrahim Jabra shared a recollection in his posthumous Princesses’ Street: Baghdad Memories:
Some of the writers were not happy at the Brazilian Cafe unless they sat on the front line chairs facing the street, which was always noisy and busy with its ever-changing scenes, people, colors, carriages, cars, and lottery ticket sellers shouting, “Five thousand dinars! Five thousand dinars!” The din did not ceasue until about midnight, especially because next to the cafe was a famous nightclub, in which Afifa Iskandar sang.
Desmond Stewart introduced me to Afifa Iskandar at her request, for he used to give her private English lessons. To my surprise, I found her to be young, bright, and thirsty for knowledge and culture. Desmond and I used to boast that we were the only two men in Baghdad, on going to the nightclub, whom the “artiste” would offer a drink and pay for it, not the contrary.
Another memory is shared in the book Outside In Marginality in the Modern Middle East (Eugene Rogan, editor):[Amin] Al-Mumayyiz’s wedding party in 1940 was a different affair. By then he was a diplomat, and had moved house to al-Salihiya, a leafy suburb. The musical entertainmnet started with the chalghi accompanied by singing of maqams and pastas by professionals and amateurs. At midnight, the then renowned singer Afifa Iskandar arrived with her takht (band) headed by Salih al-Kuwaiti. They came from the Otel al-Jawahiri (which belonged to the Kuwaiti brothers) after the end of their peformance there. Afifa danced and sang and charmed all present with her smiles and jokes.
Skies explains that last year, during Ramadan, the series Baghdad Beauty aired — a series tracing “the life of Affifa Iskandar, one of the first Iraqi singers which started to gain her fame in the 50s of the last century. [. . .] She sang in the same cabaret in which her father, Iskancer, plays the violin. Known personalities attend to the cabaret to listen to her. Among them, Naseem, the British, who reprsent what the UK wants from Iraq, Bakir Sidqi, an Iraqi Army leader, and lately a Nazi German, who offers his country as a new ally to Iraq.”
In 2010, Hadani Ditmars (CounterCurrents) remembered a trip he took to Iraq and seeking out a Catholic doctor who as very popular in Baghdad, “Young and old, rich and poor, Kurds and Arabs, even Afifa Iskander — the former star of Baghdad’s old cabaret scene and mistress of Abdul Karim Qassim (the Iraqi leader who flirted with Russian Communists and was overthrown in the 1963 CIA-backed Baathist coup) — came in for a visit. She was in her eighties then and being treated for dysentery, in a neighourhood that, less than a decade earlier, had been middle class.”
General Abdul Karim Qassim overthrew the (British installed) Iraqi monarchy in a 1958 coup and was Prime Minister of Iraq until 1963. For demanding that the British and American venture Iraq Petroleum Company share ownership and profits with the Iraqi government, Qassim was targeted for overthrow by the CIA during the Kennedy administration. When Saddam Hussein came to power, Afifa Iskandar declared her retirment in order to avoid performing for him. As one of Iraq’s legendary and most popular singers, she’d performed before the previous prime ministers and the royal family.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia notes that, in the thirties, the “best-known” were “Muhammad Kubbanshi, Salima Murad, Afifa Iskandar, and Sabiha Ibrahim.” She would perform in the film Layla in Iraq (1949) directed by Ahmed Kamal Morsy and an Iraqi film classic, the second film from the Stuiod of Baghdad. From 1930 to 1950, Susannah Tarbush (Saudi Gazette) notes, “Saleh Al-Kuwaity was the pre-eminent song writer in Iraq, writing songs for stars such as Zakiya George, Munira Al-Hawazwaz, Afifa Iskander and Zohour Hussein.” In June 2008, Akhbaar notes, Afifa Iskandar was one of the artists honored during a cultural salute in Baghdad.
Among her influences was the Iraqi Jewish singer Salima Murad who was famous for the song “On The Banks of the Tigris.” In the documentary about Iraqi music, On The Banks of the Tigris, Afifa Iskandar shared, “Salima Murad was my teacher. She was a real Iraqi!” And many feel that way about Afifa Iskandar. At Alsumaria’s Facebook page, already 151 comments have been left at the story on Afifa’s passing.
Earlier this year, Kurd Net noted a concert that was “reviving the Iraqi folklore song festival performed by a group of Iraqi artists in Sweden” and that among the famous and beloved Iraqi songs being performed were ones originally presented by Afifa Iskandar. Rotanata Radio notes that one of the songs she made famous was “It Burned My Soul.”
It burned my soul when we parted
I cried and drowned them in my tears
What did my heart say when we parted
It burned my sould when we parted
As I bid farewell I say how can I forget them
My heart, for God’s sake, go with them
I would rather die than us be apart
I want those who left me to come back the journey
I want to give them part of my soul as a keepsake
I’ve experienced every kind of affliction