For all of 1969 and most of 1970 I was a rank and file member of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. For many young people like me, the BPP, or as we still call it, “the party” was a personally and politically formative experience, a challenging graduate level introduction to the practical politics of black, and of human liberation, full of many more lessons than our heads could absorb at the time. These lessons came at a great cost to many of our families and comrades, including decades of imprisonment for some of us, exile and early deaths for others.
It's the job of peoples' historians to and interpret and share those lessons, to nail them up where everyone can debate and discuss them, so that ordinary people can better understand the forces that shape our lives. Unfortunately, the peoples history of the Black Panther Party and the movement in Chicago hasn't been written yet.
“From the Bullet to the Ballot:” Dr. Jakobi Williams 2013 book for which the author says he interviewed a number of my own comrades and accessed Chicago Police Red Squad files at some personal risk to himself, falls well short of helping us understand the party in Chicago, the context from which it emerged, why it flourished and eventually folded, or what its lasting impacts were. Though Dr. Williams denies that his book draws a direct and causal link between the efforts of the party in Chicago and the current crop of black faces in high corporate, military and government places, with President Barack Obama at the top of that heap, there can be no doubt that his title alone does precisely that.
Establishment historians have a different sort of gig than peoples historians. The establishment historian has to justify, to legitimize the forces currently in power, to depict their rule as the inevitable outcome of just and meritorious struggle. The black misleadership class needs its historians to tie it firmly to the Freedom Movement, the Black Power movement, and even to the Black Panther Party because even when power flows from the top down, legitimacy flows from the people, from the bottom up, from the streets to the suites.
Henry Louis Gates and Peniel Joseph are the best examples of black establishment historians, spinning tales of black history whose happy ending is always the election of Barack Obama in 2008, omitting, bending and distorting inconvenient facts as needed along the way, and swapping marketing constructs for explanations of social forces to achieve their happy ending. In the final chapter of Gates' PBS series, Many Rivers To Cross, they ascribed the success of the Black Panther Party mostly due to the romantic appeal of big naturals and black people with guns.
Good for him.
It's really important to call out this nonsense of 'Barack's like Fred Hampton! Barack's like Bobby Rush!'
Barack is nothing like Bobby Rush. Bobby Rush remains the only person who has ever beaten Barack in an election.
Bobby Rush stands for something and has stood for something.
Barack's just a corporate politician.
His skin color is meaningless.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
As Stacy Lattisaw observed in "Love on a Two Way Street" (written by Sylvia Robinson and Bert Keyes):
How could I be so blind
To give up love the very first time
To be fooled is a hurting thing
To be loved and fooled
Is a darn shame
Poor College Democrats, it's such a darn shame to be made such a fool of.
Anticipating their post collegiate years and a lifetime of whoring, College Democrats serves up a ridiculous column in the Badger Herald which includes:
Just more than four years ago, Americans saw no end to the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thousands of troops remained abroad, although former President George W. Bush had already declared, "Mission Accomplished." In the last four years, President Barack Obama has solidified his role on the international stage as hard on terror, while maintaining a more logical and diplomatic approach.[. . .]. During the Obama administration, we saw the historic end to the decade-long war in Iraq that took the lives of many American troops.
It's a darn shame.
First, Bully Boy Bush did not "declare" mission accomplished. It was on a sign (that the White House prepared and ordered hung behind him for the cameras). Second, that had nothing to do with Afghanistan. Barack has not maintained "a more logical and diplomatic approach" (his many murders with The Drone War alone disprove that claim). Third, what "historic end to the decade-long war in Iraq"?
David King (Akron Beacon Journal) observes today:
Here's a typical Obama quote on the subject from November 1st, 2012:
"...the war in Iraq is over, the war in Afghanistan is winding down, Al Qaeda is decimated, Osama Bin Laden is dead".
Not quite so, Mr. Obama.
The Iraq War is not over. We are just no longer involved in it. It rages on.
And Al Qaeda is not decimated either. Far from it:
Ten years after the capture of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is at risk of becoming a failed state again as al-Qaeda reclaims vast swathes of the country.
Friday’s anniversary of the Iraqi dictator's arrest sees the country still struggling with his legacy, with al-Qaeda launching a fresh campaign of terrorist atrocities from new territory carved out in western and northern Iraq.
The Iraq War has not ended for the Iraqi people. How sad that College Democrats elected to be so xenophobic and self-centered. When I was in college, fair or unfair, we expected that sort of behavior from Republicans. We weren't xenophobic jingoists.
To be fooled is a hurting thing
To be loved and fooled
Is a darn shame
And, we were also literate. College Democrats don't know how to read these days?
Not only does the illegal war continue in Iraq but it does so with US forces. That 2011 'withdrawal' (drawdown)? It was followed in the fall of 2012 by what? note Tim Arango (New York Times) reported in Septmeber 2012 (a year after the 'withdrawal'):
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.
So quick to offer whorish talking points, so slow to recognize facts.
Sad, sad College Democrats.
To be fooled is a hurting thing
To be loved and fooled
Is a darn shame
It is a darn shame.
But it's also so much worse if you're an Iraqi living in the continued violence of the continued war.
EFE reports, "Eighteen men - 15 of them Iranian - were slain Friday by an armed group while they were working on a gas pipeline that runs from Iranian territory to a power plant in eastern Iraq, a source in the Iraqi security forces told Efe." CNN adds, "Gunman ambushed the workers with small arms fire, authorities said." Reuters quotes worker Ibrahem Aziz who as injured in the attack, "Three of them got out of a car and started firing on the workers inside and outside the trench." Aziz was one of seven workers injured in the attack. BBC News notes five of the injured were Iranians and two were Iraqis.
But don't worry, College Democrats didn't shed a tear, they were not troubled, they were too busy living in Bliss in the state of Ignorance.
NINA notes an armed attack in Ramadi left 1 police officer dead and another injured, 2 people were shot dead in the al-Shulah section of Baghdad, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 2 lives and left twelve injuted, and a Ramadi car bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers and 1 police officer with ten more people left injured. All Iraq News notes 1 police officer was shot dead in Beji and 1 corpse was discovered in the streets of Tikrit (shot in head and chest, hand cuffed). Alsumaria adds that today 2 corpses were discovered in the streets of Aldiom (the two were security officers for the province) and a Baghdad home invasion last night left 1 woman dead.
Yet more violence today? Another prison escape took place. National Iraqi News Agency explains, "Conflicting stories about the number of escapees from the prison of al-Adalah of the Federal Police in Kazimiyah area at dawn today." AFP says 22 escaped -- "most were later recaptured" -- and two guards were killed. Reuers says the Ministry of Interior spokesperson is declaring that all but 3 of 22 escapees have been caught; however, "three police sources told Reuters at least 14" remained on the lam with eleven recaptured and that 1 prisoner and 1 police officer were killed in the prison break. All Iraq News notes their police source states 30 escaped originally. Through yesterday, Iraq Body Count notes 370 violent deaths in Iraq so far this month.
The prison break today? All Iraq News notes the Ministry of Justice made a point to issue a statement declaring that they don't run the prison, "The escapees escaped from the intelligent department of the Eighth Brigade of the Federal Police where Adala prison is under the custody of the Ministry of Interior and the MoJ has no relation to it." For those not grasping the point, Nouri al-Maliki is over the Ministry of the Interior.
Back in July, 2012, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed, "Shiite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has struggled to forge a lasting power-sharing agreement and has yet to fill key Cabinet positions, including the ministers of defense, interior and national security, while his backers have also shown signs of wobbling support." He never has and he won't. If elections are held at the end of April, Nouri's not going to rush, in the final moments of his second term, to finally nominate people to head those three posts. This should be a huge issue in the election -- not just that this was a power grab, although it was -- but mainly that while the security situation worsened each year of Nouri's second term, he failed to nominate people to head the security ministries.
We're in politic now, so let's stay here for a bit more. April 30th, parliamentary elections are supposed to take place in Iraq. Mustafa Habib (Niqash) offers an analysis of the political groupings today:
Iraq’s Sunni Muslim politicians have re-grouped in preparation for the 2014 general elections. Their main alliance is split and it seems that they’ve left their non-sectarian former leader and turned toward their own kind. The country’s Sunni Muslim voters may well have a new leader in outspoken, high profile MP, Osama al-Nujaifi.
During Iraq’s 2010 general elections, Sunni Muslim politicians formed one major bloc, which meant that, in effect, they won the elections. [. . .]
And now, in preparation for the next general elections, slated for April 2014, Sunni Muslim politicians have split their group again.
As a result, Iraq’s Sunni Muslims seem to have gained a new political leader in the form of Osama al-Nujaifi, the current Speaker of the House. Over the past fortnight, senior Sunni Muslim politicians have been conducting meetings to decide what will happen with former members of the mostly Sunni Muslim, opposition Iraqiya bloc next year.
The outcome of the meetings: instead of one, there will be three mostly Sunni Muslim alliances competing in the next elections. These are the United bloc, headed by al-Nujaifi, the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue headed by current Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq and then finally the National Iraqiya bloc to be led by the former head of the Iraqiya bloc, Ayed Allawi.
Sources inside the meetings told NIQASH that the reason that negotiations broke down on putting up a cohesive front was Allawi’s insistence that he lead the bloc again. However al-Nujaifi, whose profile has certainly been rising over the past few years, also wanted that position at the head of the table. Additionally neither Allawi nor al-Nujaifi wanted to ally themselves with an increasingly unpopular (with Sunni Muslims anyway) Saleh al-Mutlaq. Al-Mutlaq is seen as far too close to al-Maliki and he has recently been at the receiving end of Sunni Muslim protestors’ dislike for him.
The United coalition, led by al-Nujaifi, will include 14 other Sunni Muslim groups as well as a group of Turkmen politicians. Meanwhile Allawi’s National Iraqiya group is composed of a variety of different political entities from right around Iraq. These include Sunni Muslim, Shiite Muslim and tribal based groups and many of them don’t have major voter support. Allawi has said he is staying with this group because of his ongoing belief in non-sectarian politics.
On the topic of Ayad Allawi, he posted to his Facebook today a note that he didn't participate in Iraq's current government because the governments of the United States and Iran colluded to give second place Nouri al-Maliki a second term. He notes that per the Constitution, Iraqiya had the mandate. In February 2011, Nouri was publicly insisting (to AFP) that he would not seek a third term. And now?
All Iraq News reports that State of Law MP Ibrahim al-Rikabi declared that Nouri will be their nominee, declaring, "The SLC does not have any nominee for this post except Maliki." As a leader, Nouri has been an abject failure. Iraq Times points out that Iraq is one of the richest countries in the world yet thousands of Iraqis are homeless. All Iraq News noted earlier this week that cleric and movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr referred to Nouri's talk of distributing plots of land to be "electoral propaganda." Noting the failures of the current government, Mutahiddon Coalition MP Wihda al-Jumaili tells All Iraq News, that she believes the country should elect more business people -- with successful track records -- in the next election.
Iraqi Spring MC reports protests took place in Baquba, Jalawla, Samarra, Falluja, and Rawa, Protests have been taking place non-stop since December 21st. Next Friday will be one year of continuous protests.
Ghassan al-Hamid (Alsumaria) reports that Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi's coalition noted today that the protesters have been attacked -- most infamously the Hawija attack which left over fifty dead -- by Nouri's forces, that they've endured that and harassment in order to represent the ideals of Iraq, that their voices are only going stronger and that the choice is to be a part of the voice of Iraq or to be someone who cares only for themselves.
Hawija? That's the April 23rd massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from Nouri's federal forces storming in. Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk) announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault. AFP reported 53 dead -- indicating that some of the wounded did not recover. UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).
That's not the only attack on the protesters, it's just the most infamous one.
National Iraqi News Agency reports:
Sheikh Ali al-Suleiman Amir of Duleim tribes said that Sahwa forces should take out of Anbar province., if the central government want security and stability in the province for the next phase.
He said in a speech in the courtyard of the sit-in north of Ramadi : "At the beginning of the formation of Sahwa forces was to fight terrorism, and has been integrated into the security services , but in these days , Sahwa works in favor of a particular parties. so if the central government want security to preavail in Anbar then must get them out of the province.
That's the smartest request he could make. Sahwa leaders in Anbar are becoming an embarrassment and a menace. They are threatening the protesters and this week began telling the press that the way to deal with the protests is to go into the sit-ins and bash heads.
The heads that need to be bashed? Sahwas. No one really gives a damn about 'em. They're part of the mafia in Iraq -- that's why so many leaders hail from the concrete business. They're whorish little toadies who took money from the occupying power (the US) to spy on and attack other Iraqis.
Now the whores have sold out to Nouri and have become his muscle to attack the protesters.
They thought -- as did Nouri -- that they could take the heat of SWAT and other of Nouri's forces -- forces that are primarily Shi'ite. But the Sahwa in Anbar? Those are Sunnis. Sunnis attacking Sunnis, they and Nouri thought, would be able to pull off violence.
It doesn't work that way.
And if Sahwa can't be put on a tighter leash, Iraq's really going to erupt.
The State Dept, the White House and US Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Beecroft need to explain this to Nouri real quick.
Call them militants, call them rebels, call them insurgents, call them terrorists -- it doesn't matter one damn bit.
What happens if Sahwa doesn't sit its ass down? What happens if they go after the protesters?
The resistance/the terrorists/the militants/the insurgents suddenly and immediately get street cred in Anbar because they're the only ones who will be seen as standing up for the Sunni population.
If you think things are bad in Iraq right now, you're right. But if Sahwa launches a violent attack on the protesters, things will get much worse and militants will be able to move much more freely because they will have many people in Anbar aligned with and/or sympathetic to them and their cause.
Nouri can't protect the Iraqi people, he can attack them -- as he's attacked the Camp Ashraf residents all along. There are 7 Ashraf members who were kidnapped this fall. Where are they?
Last month, Brett McGurk, the State Dept's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, appeared Wednesday before the US House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa (see the November 13th "Iraq snapshot," the November 14th "Iraq snapshot" and the November 15th "Iraq snapshot"). In that hearing, this exchange took place.
US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee: [. . .] But there are hostages in Iraq that we must have now. There's documentation that those hostages are there by our French allies, by the United Nations and other supportive groups and information. I can't imagine with the wealth of sophisticated intelligence authorities that we have, that we have funded who have a vast array of information about Americans cannot pinpoint where starving Iranians, loved ones [are] whose families are trying to save their lives after being on a hunger strike for 73 days. And so I would ask this question of you, already knowing about your heart and your concern, I will not judge you, I already know that you're committed to getting this right/ Will you -- will you demand of Maliki, not next week or months from now, but can we expect in the next 48 hours a call to the head of the government of Iraq demanding the release of these hostages and demanding their release now? Or the documented, undeniable evidence that they are not held in Iraq? Second, would you be engaged with -- or the Secretary [of State John Kerry] be engaged with -- and I have spoken to Secretary Kerry, I know his heart -- with Maliki to demand the security of those in Camp Ashraf for now and forever until a relocation to a homeland, a place where their relatives are or where they desire to be? [. . .]
Brett McGurk: [. . .] We can pinpoint where the people are and I'd like to follow up with you on that. The seven are not in Iraq. But I will guarantee in my conversations with Maliki on down, the safety and the security of Camp Ashraf, Camp Liberty, where the residents are, the government needs to do everything possible to keep those poeople safe but they will never be safe until they're out of Iraq. And we all need to work together -- the MEK, us, the Committee, everybody, the international community -- to find a place for them to go. There's now a UN trust fund, we've donated a million dollars and we're asking for international contributions to that fund for countries like Albania that don't have the resources but are willing to take the MEK in. And we need to press foreign captials to take them in because until they're out, they're not going to be safe and we don't want anyone else to get hurt. We don't want anymore Americans to get hurt in Iraq, we don't want anymore Iraqis to get hurt in Iraq and we don't want any more residents of Camp Liberty to get hurt in Iraq and until they're out of Iraq, they're not going to be safe. This is an international crisis and we need international help and support.
US House Rep Sheila Jackson Lee: May I follow -- May I just have a minute more to follow up with Mr. McGurk, Secretary McGurk? And I hear the passion in your voice but let me just say this. We're in an open hearing. You know where they are. Who is going to rescue them? Whose responsibility will it be to get them from where they are into safe haven? Because otherwise, we're leaving -- we're leaving Maliki now without responsibility. We're saying, and you're documenting that they're not there. Let me just say that when my government speaks, I try with my best heart and mind to believe it. But I've got to see them alive and well to believe that they're not where I think they are, they're in a pointed purse. I'm glad to here that but I want them to be safe but I want them to be in the arms of their loved ones or at least able to be recognized by their loved one that they're safe somewhere. So can that be done in the next 48 hours? Can we have a-a manner that indicates that they are safe?
Brett McGurk: I will repeat here a statement that we issued on September 16th and it's notable and I was going to mention this in my colloquy with my Congressman to my left, that within hours of the attack, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Score issued a statement praising the attack. We issued a statement on September 16th calling on the government of Iran to use whatever influence it may have with groups that might be holding these missing persons to secure their immediate release. And I can talk more about details and the status of these individuals. And I've briefed some members of the Subcommittee. I'd be happy to follow up.
Brett McGurk and the US government are not believed on this statement and, as we noted when we reported the above exchange, the whereabouts shouldn't be classified.
If the US was physically protecting the 7, that might -- briefly -- be a reason for not giving their whereabouts. That is not what the government has suggested. So if they're being held against their will by the Iranian government or a proxy for the Iranian government -- or by Nouri or a proxy for Nouri's government -- newsflash, the ones doing the holding no where the 7 are being held.
It's not classified and kept from the holders. So why the need for the State Dept to play like the location cannot be spoken of?
Tuesday Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It was a testy hearing. John needs to stop being so damn combative in hearings. He also needs to stop insisting over and over that he get to yammer on. There's a five minute rule in House hearings. He was often rude (but at least he spread it around -- he was rude to Republicans and to Democrats). .
US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: And lastly, two issues. Regarding Camp Ashraf, are the Ashraf 7 being held in Iran or are they in Iraq? And, Mr. Secretary, [. . .]
He went on and on. I'm not including it. I'd love to include the insult to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (and I agreed with him 100% on that), for example that took place in the exchange that followed Ros-Lehtinen, but I don't have the time. As it is, I'm pushing back coverage of another hearing to Monday's snapshot. So we'll ignore all of his words that had nothing to do with Camp Ashraf and pick up here.
US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: If you could answer the Ashraf and the Cuba question?
Secretary John Kerry: Beg your pardon?
US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: If you could answer the question about Ashraf --
Secretary John Kerry: The question of Ashraf was where-where are they?
US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: Iran or Iraq?
Secretary John Kerry: Well they're in Iraq.
US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: They're in Iraq?
Secretary John Kerry: The people.
US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: The seven hostages that were taken from Ashraf?
Secretary John Kerry: I-I-I . . .
US House Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen: They have not -- We have not known where they are.
Kerry spoke with the people sitting behind him, then returned to the microphone.
Secretary of State John Kerry: Uh, I can talk to you about that in classified session.
We're talking about the Ashraf residents so, before we note one more exchange, let's include the overview on the Ashraf community. As of September, Camp Ashraf in Iraq is empty. All remaining members of the community have been moved to Camp Hurriya (also known as Camp Liberty). Camp Ashraf housed a group of Iranian dissidents who were welcomed to Iraq by Saddam Hussein in 1986 and he gave them Camp Ashraf and six other parcels that they could utilize. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq.The US government had the US military lead negotiations with the residents of Camp Ashraf. The US government wanted the residents to disarm and the US promised protections to the point that US actions turned the residents of Camp Ashraf into protected person under the Geneva Conventions. This is key and demands the US defend the Ashraf community in Iraq from attacks. The Bully Boy Bush administration grasped that -- they were ignorant of every other law on the books but they grasped that one. As 2008 drew to a close, the Bush administration was given assurances from the Iraqi government that they would protect the residents. Yet Nouri al-Maliki ordered the camp repeatedly attacked after Barack Obama was sworn in as US President. July 28, 2009 Nouri launched an attack (while then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was on the ground in Iraq). In a report released this summer entitled "Iraqi government must respect and protect rights of Camp Ashraf residents," Amnesty International described this assault, "Barely a month later, on 28-29 July 2009, Iraqi security forces stormed into the camp; at least nine residents were killed and many more were injured. Thirty-six residents who were detained were allegedly tortured and beaten. They were eventually released on 7 October 2009; by then they were in poor health after going on hunger strike." April 8, 2011, Nouri again ordered an assault on Camp Ashraf (then-US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was again on the ground in Iraq when the assault took place). Amnesty International described the assault this way, "Earlier this year, on 8 April, Iraqi troops took up positions within the camp using excessive, including lethal, force against residents who tried to resist them. Troops used live ammunition and by the end of the operation some 36 residents, including eight women, were dead and more than 300 others had been wounded. Following international and other protests, the Iraqi government announced that it had appointed a committee to investigate the attack and the killings; however, as on other occasions when the government has announced investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations by its forces, the authorities have yet to disclose the outcome, prompting questions whether any investigation was, in fact, carried out." Those weren't the last attacks. They were the last attacks while the residents were labeled as terrorists by the US State Dept. (September 28, 2012, the designation was changed.) In spite of this labeling, Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) observed that "since 2004, the United States has considered the residents of Camp Ashraf 'noncombatants' and 'protected persons' under the Geneva Conventions." So the US has an obligation to protect the residents. 3,300 are no longer at Camp Ashraf. They have moved to Camp Hurriyah for the most part. A tiny number has received asylum in other countries. Approximately 100 were still at Camp Ashraf when it was attacked Sunday. That was the second attack this year alone. February 9th of this year, the Ashraf residents were again attacked, this time the ones who had been relocated to Camp Hurriyah. Trend News Agency counted 10 dead and over one hundred injured. Prensa Latina reported, " A rain of self-propelled Katyusha missiles hit a provisional camp of Iraqi opposition Mujahedin-e Khalk, an organization Tehran calls terrorists, causing seven fatalities plus 50 wounded, according to an Iraqi official release." They were attacked again September 1st. Adam Schreck (AP) reported that the United Nations was able to confirm the deaths of 52 Ashraf residents. It was during that attack that the 7 hostages were taken.
US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher: I am introducing a bill today that will allow 3,000 refugees from Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty -- now Camp Liberty -- status --refugee status and thus will permit them to be able to come to the United States. Hundreds of these people have been slaughtered. They live under constant threat of being murdered, we know that. And, uh-uh, will this administration be supporting my legislation to prevent these people from being slaughtered by this pro-Mullah regime that we have in Iraq now?
Secretary John Kerry: Well Congressman, I've gone to the lengths of appointing a special representative to work exclusively to get the, uh, --
US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher: I'm just asking about my legislation.
Secretary John Kerry: Well I need to see the legislation but in principle we're trying to find a place for --
US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher: So in principle -- you would agree with letting these refugees have status -- refugee status so they can come here
Secretary John Kerry: Uh, we are -- We're trying to find a place for them to go now.
US House Rep Dana Rohrabacher: Okay, so in principle --
Secretary John Kerry: In principle, I'd like to see the legislation but I can't speak for the President.
Turning to the topic of the Jewish archives that Saddam Hussein stole from the Jewish community and that the US government paid to restore, the ones the White House insist should be handed over to the Iraqi government despite the Iraqi government's lack of legal claim to this stolen property. Ruth's already noted the column David A. Andelman wrote for U.S.A. Today:
At the end of World War II, there were more than 130,000 Jews in Iraq—a quarter of the population of Baghdad. By the time of the Six Day War in 1967, that number had dwindled to barely 3,000. Today there are at most seven Jews left — each fearful even of disclosing his identity — indeed not even a minion, the minimum number (ten) required for Jewish worship. But abroad, they constitute an enormous community, united under the banner of the World Organization of Jews from Iraq, according to its president, Maurice Shohet who himself fled Iraq in 1970 at the age of 21. The largest single Iraqi Jewish community, outside of Israel, is in the United States. And this is where the Iraqi diaspora wants these artifacts to remain.
Just why the Iraqi government wants these items returned is an open question—likely a pastiche of the public position authorities have expressed to Urman, that it wants to showcase the "contributions of the Jewish people to Iraq," and the reality that they are aware of their enormous and unchallenged value.
"From our point of view, they were taken from us and as a result we are the official heirs of the material," Urman observes. "This is not like material looted from national museums. It was taken by force by intelligence agents."
And now, some substantial force is being brought to bear on their behalf. On November 13, a bipartisan group of 47 House Democrats and Republicans signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging the State Department to "facilitate the return of these items to their rightful owners or their descendants, and not to the government of Iraq." Why? "The government of Iraq has no legitimate claim to these artifacts," the letter concludes.
And they don't. There's nothing in the law that allows the government to claim stolen property stolen by a previous government.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:An exhibit on now at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. features books, manuscripts and photographs taken from generations of Iraqi Jews that were found in Saddam Hussein's intelligence headquarters in 2003. Cynthia Kaplan Shamash and Edwin Shuker were childhood friends in Bagdad. They escaped from Iraq in the early '70s and they're both members of the World Organization of Jews from Iraq. They're with us now.
That's Jeremy Hobson speaking on Here and Now (NPR -- link is audio and text) Thursday. Let's note an excerpt.
SHAMASH: We took the train from Bagdad to the North, to Kirkuk, to make it over the mountains in Iran, and we were caught and we were imprisoned. I was eight; I was interrogated separately, being the youngest in the family.
As a matter of fact, I have the doll here that was ripped apart. They took the intestines out that says Mama and that would be proof of espionage device. And then we were transported to Bagdad and separated with my sisters; my mother and me separated from my father and brother. We didn't know each other's fate and that went on for like five weeks.
Eventually we applied for passports. We got the passports after like two months and we left as if we're leaving on a vacation, because you, of course, cannot say that you're leaving for good, even though they knew how to read between the lines. And so we left to Turkey and eventually we ended in different countries abroad.
HOBSON: And you still have that doll?
SHAMASH: Yes, I have it with me right here.
HOBSON: What does it mean to you?
SHAMASH: It means something, now it's darkness, and it brings darkness and despair when I look at it. And I show it to my children. Like, when I came on the train to the studio, I held onto it for dear life. For me, this is more than gold. It is a part of my heritage. It is an evidence that I have where I came from and what oppression we had to go through to be where we are and not take for granted our safety.
HOBSON: Edwin, do you have something like that?
SHUKER: I do. I have something like that in the (unintelligible) exhibition.
HOBSON: Your school certificate?
SHUKER: My school certificate. This is my doll and my doll is behind glass and I can't touch it, and I'm waiting for the day, just like Cynthia did, to actually hold my doll.
HOBSON: Well, tell us the story of that certificate and how it was found, first of all.
SHUKER: Well, back in 2003, the American Army was informed that there was a cache of Jewish artifacts and documents, and what they saw was a huge collection of books and artifacts and documents, but unfortunately, because of the bombing, the water system had collapsed and the whole cache was under a meter and a half of water. So that was really the vast collection of our identity sitting underwater. Eventually the water was drained and they were transported to Texas, to America, and for the past 10 years they've been lovingly restored, preserved, digitalized, and a small collection of it is exhibited in Washington at the moment.
HOBSON: Do you think that it should stay in Washington, or do you think it should go back to Iraq or what?
SHUKER: Well, quite honestly, I have to tell you that when I looked at that certificate for the first time, my heart stopped. I just felt I have left this, but more than a certificate, this was the community's identity. That collection is much more than its intrinsic value. I just looked at that certificate and I saw that little boy staring at me, that picture of Edwin Shuker when he was 12, and I just felt connected back to him after 43 years, a little boy that was abandoned back home with his certificates, with his identity, with his toys, with his stamp collection. We just left him behind in Baghdad. And last month I got reconnected with him, and just as Cynthia described her doll, that was my identity, and boy, do I want it to be with me, do I want it to stay for my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And no, I don't want it to go back.
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