Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Some have guts, some don't

Jemima Pierre (Black Agenda Report) covers The Drone War:

Two separate reports about the impact of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan were released this past week. The first report, “Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda,” was from Human Rights Watch. After investigating six drone strikes during two trips to Yemen in 2012 and 2013, Human Rights Watch found large numbers of civilian casualties – with at least 57 known civilians killed. The second report, “Will I be Next?,” was from Amnesty International. Amnesty conducted extensive field research into nine of the reported 45 drone strikes that occurred in North Waziristan (Pakistan) between January 2012 and August 2013. Here are two examples of what they found: On September 2, 2012, a Toyota Land Cruiser carrying 14 people was attacked by a warplane or drone near the provincial city of Radaa in central Yemen. The strike by a missile or a bomb killed 12 passengers, including three children and a pregnant woman.
On a sunny afternoon in October 2012, 68-year-old Mamana Bibi was killed in a drone strike that appears to have been aimed directly at her. Her grandchildren recounted in painful detail to Amnesty International the moment when Mamana Bibi, who was gathering vegetables in the family fields in Ghundi Kala village, northwest Pakistan, was blasted into pieces before their eyes.
Both reports challenge official U.S. claims that civilian casualties from drone attacks have been minimal. Both reports question the legality of targeted killings in Pakistan and Yemen. Both reports argue that civilian drone deaths violate international law, while demanding that the Obama administration explain its legal rationale for its targeted killing in Pakistan and Yemen. These reports were followed by the release of another, from the United Nations, calling for increased transparency in the U.S. drone program and for the release of data on civilian casualties.
Both reports question the legality of targeted killings in Pakistan and Yemen.”
While these reports have forced mainstream media attention on the practice of extrajudicial killing by the Obama administration, they only represent the most recent of critiques of the drone assassination program. For years now the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has been tracking U.S. drone strikes and other covert actions in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. It has found that in Pakistan alone, drone strikes have killed between 2550 and 3613 people, including between 168 and 200 children. In Yemen, drone strikes have killed between 148 and 377 people, including 25 children. In Somalia, drone strikes and other covert operations have killed between 48 and 150 people. Another report released last year by human rights experts at Stanford and New York University, “Living Under Drones,” documented the physical and psychological harm of drones in the communities under attack, stating: “Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities…striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian[s].”

But over at the pathetic The Progressive?

The most you can find is one audio commentary -- no text -- by Matty Rothshcild while  RACIST  Ruth Conniff is going after Sarah Palin.

Ruth Conniff, you're still the same racist you always were.  You can go after all the Republicans you want but Black America knows the truth about your ugly ass.

Go back to your gated community before you ruin The Progressive further -- and who would have thought that was possible?

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"

Wednesday, October 23, 2013.  Chaos and violence continue, Nouri gears up to run for a third term, Zach Roth wastes everyone's time, some focus on the upcoming meet-up between Nouri and Barack, US Senator Charles Schumer calls for an archive to be returned to its rightful owners, not a government, and more.

The crazy never ends because it's fed all over the world.  As an American, I should point the finger first at my own.  That means MSNBC and Zach Roth.  Roth made his bad (minor) name at CJR where he proved he could play partistan but demonstrated skills for little else.  He's at MSNBC now - -and are we surprised. He suddenly 'cares' about Iraq.  Why?  So he can bash Bush again.

Bully Boy Bush is a War Criminal.  He will probably never be punished.  Henry Kissinger still walks free.  At some point, you let go and you focus on what matters or else you're the crazy pushing a cart down the street and ranting to yourself.  Zach's doing his version of Ross Geller (Friends) screaming, "We were on a break!" At this point, life has gone on, why can't you go with it?

Peter Baker's published a book that's not going to break sales records.  It's about the Bush administration.  So, on the left, some of us will use it for source material and inspiration and some of us will read those articles.  But most people won't buy the book.  Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House.  I have nothing against Baker, who is a strong journalist, and we'll gladly give his book a mention and link.

But not only do I have limited interest in reading it (I'm thrilled Bully Boy Bush is out of the White House, why would I want to relive those days?), I don't have the time.  Because Iraq's on fire.  Some people complain about the snapshots of late -- where are veterans (good question, I'm trying to work them in this week), where's Syria, where's the war press, where's The Drone War.

The snapshots of late really have just focused on Iraq because so much is going on there.

Zach Roth's nonsense isn't helping the Iraqi people.  The Iraq War did not end -- rising death tolls make that very clear as did Tim Arango's September 2012 reporting for the New York Times noting (in the middle of the report) that Barack had sent more US troops into Iraq ("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.")  The only thing that ended in Iraq was American media interest.

Zach Roth makes that clear yet again with another story about America.  It's funny that on the left, we repeatedly -- and rightly -- complain about American journalists writing books about Iraq that ignore Iraqis.  How is that any different Roth's unnecessary and useless article that doesn't note the Iraqi people?

Let's all hope that at the end, as Roth typed one handed and used the other to grind his tiny gherkin, he reached climax because, truth be told, his bad article doesn't do a damn thing for anyone else, especially not the Iraqi people who continue to suffer all these years after Bully Boy Bush left the White House.

Zach's offered us a useless piece that demonstrates bad writers shouldn't fancy themselves George Lucas and falsely think that they can handle the epilogue of American Graffiti.  Zach can't.  Even at his embarrassing and limited task, he fails.  Because sexist trash eventually fails.  He included Dan Senor.  Why?  Is Dan Senor an architect of the Iraq War?  No.   Is he even the early public voice -- spokesperson division -- for the illegal war?  No, that would be Victoria (aka "Tori") Clarke who was the Pentagon spokesperson in the lead up to the war and after.  We get it,  empty sack Zach, your piece wasn't journalism.  It was chance to attack Republicans.  And Senor worked on Mitt Romney's campaign.  So you plug him in and you ignore Clarke.  But, as Danny Schechter observed years ago, "Pentagon publicist Victoria Clarke, around the time the war began, said that journalists who went out on their own were 'putting themselves at risk'."  Here's SourceWatch on Victoria Clarke:

In early 2002, as "detailed planning for a possible Iraq invasion" began, then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke launched an effort to recruit "key influentials" to help sell a wary public on the war, reported the New York Times's David Barstow in April 2008. Clarke and her senior aide, Brent T. Krueger, eventually signed up more than 75 retired military officers, who appeared on television and radio news shows as military analysts, and/or penned newspaper op/ed columns. The Pentagon referred to the military analysts as "message force multipliers" or "surrogates," and held weekly meetings with them, which continued at least until the time of the April 2008 Times report. [4]
The Defense Department also paid for some analysts to travel to Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, encouraging them to counter negative press with Pentagon talking points. Former NBC military analyst Kenneth Allard called the effort "psyops on steroids." Many of the analysts were also lobbyists for defense contractors, and boasted of their Pentagon access to potential clients. This financial conflict discouraged the analysts from questioning or criticizing the Pentagon's claims. The Pentagon also tracked what the analysts said, via a six-figure contract with Omnitec Solutions, as William V. Cowan learned. He was fired from the Pentagon analysts group after saying on Fox News that the United States was "not on a good glide path right now" in Iraq. [4]

In April 2003, a month after the Iraq War started, Democracy Now! did a piece on Victoria Clarke.  From the intro:

In many ways Victoria Clarke has become the voice of the Pentagon. As the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, Clarke oversees daily press briefings. She has also been credited with forming the idea of embedded journalists.
Her ability to spin the news should come as little surprise. Clarke came to the Pentagon after a successful career at PR giant Hill and Knowlton.
You may recall Hill and Knowlton and its role before the first Gulf War. A decade ago, Hill & Knowlton crafted a PR campaign that purposely mislead Congress to help justify the bombing of Iraq.
At a Congressional hearing, Hill and Knowlton represented a woman who testified she saw Iraqi soldiers throw Kuwaiti babies out of hospital incubators. But what Hill and Knowlton didn’t say was that the 15-year-old girl identified as Nayirah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador and that what she said wasn’t true. She had left Kuwaiti long before the Iraqi soldiers arrived.
The White House has also tapped another PR pro, Margaret Tutwiler, to serve as spokesperson to the Pentagon’s Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for Iraq.

The segment featured John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper's magazine,  who had just 'debated' (they weren't live, as he pointed out, they were "adjacent") Victoria Clarke on 60 Minutes.

John R. MacArthur:  You'll recall that before the war a lot of people assumed, or the administration wanted us to assume, that the Iraqi people would rise up and help overthrow Saddam Hussein.  And, of course, we were rudely surprised and were not welcomed. In fact, at this time, it seems like the welcome has already worn thin -- even among the people who are glad that Saddam is gone.  So instead of addressing that, she says-says -- and this, again, speaks to the brilliance of their p.r. campaign -- she says, 'You'll recall that before the war, a lot of anti-war people said that Arab countries would rise up in rage -- that the street, the Arab street would rise up in rage against the United States if we invaded Iraq or entered Iraq.  And that hasn't happened.'  You see, so she completely changes the subject.  Instead of addressing the fact that we weren't welcomed, that there was not an uprising welcoming us, she says, 'You see, the leftists, the anti-war people were wrong about the Arab street rising up and overthrowing other Arab governments. 

Even at bad journalism, Zach Roth fails and it's probably past time that outlets started examining whether or not their 'reporters' are working biases or reporting.

Zach's crazy helped no one -- barring his own nutting at the end.  Again, Zach, let's hope you reached climax, you'd be the only one in the room but that's probably true of most time times you climax.

FYI, Lucas' American Graffiti is now 40 years old.  One of the first events observing the anniversary is Candy Clarke's Friday and Saturday appearances in Fort Worth, Texas:

Friday and Saturday, Clark will return to her Tech stomping grounds as part of a celebration of the 40th anniversary of Graffiti. At 9 a.m. Friday, the school will present “A Conversation With Candy Clark” in the school auditorium as part of its Green B. Trimble Distinguished Lecturer Series.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, the school will present the Central City Fall Festival & Classic Car Show, a tribute to Graffiti, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Director George Lucas’ movie recalled his youth in Modesto, Calif., by telling the stories of several young people on the cusp of adulthood during one eventful night on the streets of a small Northern California town.

Read more here:

Candy Clark played Debbie Dunham in American Graffiti and in the sequel More American Graffiti.  For the first film, she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award.  Also in the cast of the 1973 classic were Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Suzanne Somers, Mackenzie Phillips, Paul Le Mat, Ron Howard, Cindy Williams, Charles Martin Smith, Kathleen Quinlan, Manuel Padilla Jr., Bo Hopkins, Kay Lenz, Debralee Scott and Susan Richardson, among others.  And for those who don't get the connection between the film classic and Zach's bad 'reporting,' American Graffiti follows events on a fall 1962 night and, at the end, features a where-are-they-now epilogue to explain what happened to the characters.  George Lucas can pull that off. Zach Roth can't pull of his attempted imitation.  Or even note he's ripping off the film as American Graffiti celebrates its 40th anniversary.

And if you want to talk about the Iraq War and the US, if you want that conversation to take place, maybe you show the guts Bruce A. Dixon (Black Agenda Report) does and address Jeh Johnson?

Let's move to crazy in northern Iraq, in the KRG where kissing is being painted as a crime.


BBC News notes, "Kurdish photographer Kamaran Najm posted Facebook photos of himself and his Dutch girlfriend on the pedestal where the statue stood in Azadi Park, in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah. The artwork, created by local artist Zahir Sidiq in 2009, had been set alight days earlier." Who's having a ridiculous fit over this?   Ahlul Bayt News Agency reports:

The two Kurdish Islamic parties; Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) and Kurdistan Islamic Movement (KIM) denounced the couple’s actions and said their deeds were against Islamic traditions.
“We are against anything that may be offensive, and we recommend that the love statue be replaced with one of executed Kurdish youths,” said KIM spokesperson Shwan Qaradaghi.
[. . .]

Meanwhile, Human and women rights activists have taken to social media to criticize the Kurdish Islamists.
“In my country kissing is forbidden, but braking graves and statues and blowing yourself up is OK,” wrote women’s rights activist Avin Ibrahim on her Facebook page.

The photos are, the kiss is, an embrace of life and the living.  That a statue of kissing offends you goes to some serious problems you have that are only underscored by your highly messed up statement that you want a statue "of executed Kurdish youths."  Maybe you can offer realistic blood on that statue too, right?  Maybe your overwrought condemnation of a kiss, your rejection of love and your embrace of violence, goes to your own sickness?  Maybe you do everyone a favor and stop trying to spread it?

Rudaw reports:

“Our kiss was not the first kiss between two lovers in this city or anywhere in the world,” said Kamaran Najm, whose picture of him kissing his Dutch girlfriend went viral on the Internet. “Every day people kiss each other for love, for accepting each other.”
Najm’s act won the support of many intellectuals and artists inside and outside Kurdistan. But it also brought the condemnation of many, among them the public prosecutor in Sulaimani, who said “the couple should be jailed for acting against public.

You can't talk crazy in Iraq without talking Nouri al-Maliki.  The thug and prime minister is gearing up for a DC visit where he expects to receive the White House's approval for a third term.  The White House approval is necessary because the White House insisted he become prime minister in 2006 and insisted he be given a second term in 2010.  He has never been the choice of Iraqis.

AFP reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki warned on Wednesday that the country is facing a 'war of genocide' after officials said militants had killed 48 people in two days of attacks."  I try to be nice most days because AFP is one of the few outlets with a staff in Iraq.  But, damn, can they crawl any higher up Nouri's ass?  If they must report that, don't they need to offer perspective?

Let's do the work AFP fails to.  The two days of attack?  That death toll is insignificant when compared to the numbers for other days.  Why is Nouri finally worried?  Because it was his forces that got killed.

When 80 people died from violence on Sunday, no statement from Nouri, but, according to Iraq Body Count, only two of those are listed as security forces.  No word from Nouri last Thursday when 69 people died from violence (again, only two are listed as security forces).

So when 80 people die in one day, he doesn't give a damn and makes no statement.  But when 20 or so of his security officers die in a 48 hour period, he's unhinged and railing in public.

This goes to who he is.  He does not defend the Iraqi people, he does not provide security and he's not bothered by death or violence unless it targets his own.  He's failed to represent Iraq, he's failed to heal Iraq. He's not a leader, he's a divider.

He does have his sycophants, such as Abbas J. Ali (Middle East Online) who has a new column.  We can agree on this:

The scheduled meeting between President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister, Nuri Al-Maliki, on November 1, should be an opportunity for Maliki to frankly convey to President Obama the state of the current situation in Iraq. The Iraqis expect that their Prime Minister will use this opportunity to express their feelings, aspirations, and disappointments. They are fed up with a dysfunctional governing system and the failure of the U.S. to live up to its responsibility of building a functional unified democratic country free of daily atrocities and with independent and healthy institutions.
That Maliki should assertively articulate the depth of the Iraqis’ suffering to President Obama is not only a moral responsibility but a necessity, as Americans in general are more attentive and receptive to frank talk than avoidance of serious issues. The daily atrocities in Iraq seem to be either ignored or no one is willing to hear about them. In just one terroristic incident on the same day that terrorists attacked a Kenyan mall, more Iraqis were killed thanKenyans. Nevertheless, the media extensively covered the latter and almost all governments denounced it, while the same governments remained mute about the more frightening atrocitiesin Iraq.
Maliki should provide a coherent and organized presentation that realistically conveys the seriousness of the ongoing calamities,while at the same time emphatically emphasize that the perpetrators of these tragedies are free and have never been brought to justice. In particular, he should focus on critical and primary issues, including:

That's all we can agree on because Ali is deeply dishonest and always has been.  I believe we last addressed him in "Abbas J. Ali loves Nouri al-Maliki."  We don't have time for all his latest crazy or his latest lies.

As disclosed many times before, I know US Vice President Joe Biden and I like him.  I've known and liked him for years.  When we have to here, I hold him accountable.  I write things here about him that make me cringe but it's how everyone else gets treated so he gets the same.  When he does something that needs calling out, we call him out.

But doing that also means when someone lies about him and Iraq I can defend him.

Abbas J. Ali is deeply stupid and a real liar.  Joe is not trying to break up Iraq.  As a US senator, Joe supported what I saw and see as breaking Iraq up into three regions: Kurd, Shi'ites and Sunnis.  He didn't see it that way and referred to it as federalism.  As we stated here repeatedly, year after year, if Iraqis decided to split their country into thirds, that was their choice but it should not be imposed upon them by a foreign country.  Not only has Joe Biden not advocated for federalism or splitting up Iraq as Vice President, he walked away from the idea in his last year as a US Senator -- and did so publicly.  At the start of 2008, he noted that if the idea didn't garner support in Congress, it was dead.

Over five years ago, he publicly walked away from the proposal and has never raised it again yet liar Abbas J. Ali wants to attack him for pushing it today and insist that he's only meeting with the Speaker of Parliament (Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni) because it's an effort to split Iraq.

How does a Pennsylvania university justify employing such a dishonest person?  UPI offers an analysis of Iraq today which includes:

Unlike the Americans, who eventually realized they had to win over the Sunnis if they wanted to beat al-Qaida, Maliki's government is not getting a flow of intelligence from Sunni tribal leaders who turned against al-Qaida. Instead, he is trying to eliminate them.
There has also been a surge in executions by Maliki's government under the country's draconian 2005 Anti-Terrorism Law, generally viewed as an attempt to intimidate his political opponents.
Amnesty International reported Oct. 10 that 41 men and one woman had been hanged in Iraqi prisons in a two-day period after what the human rights group described as "grossly unfair trials."
All told, 125 people have been executed this year, making Iraq one of the world's most prolific executioners after China and Iran.

Maybe what Nouri needs to talk about in his DC meet-up is that or how peaceful protesters are targeted and killed in Iraq?   Ali Mamouri (Al-Monitor) reports:

Two years ago, famous Iraqi activist Hanaa Edwar stood up against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki while attending the National Conference on Human Rights in Iraq. She told him that he harbored hatred toward civil society organizations operating in Iraq, and that he was trying to destabilize them by fabricating accusations of terrorism and collaboration against them, instead of arresting the real criminals.

  Edwar’s action came after several attempts on the government's part to crack down on civilian activists — many were arrested and  others assassinated. It should be noted that until now there has been no serious investigation in this regard. The relationship between the government and civil society has worsened. Today, the civil movement in Iraq is facing great hardships, as various parties have issued threats and accusations against it. Every now and then some governmental and militia parties express their dissenting voices against the civil movement, especially those activists in social society, media and journalism.
The last governmental stance was expressed by former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in a speech delivered as part of the Charter of Honor and Social Peace Conference. He said, “We are going through media turmoil these days. This is the will of Western countries, the countries that withdrew their camps and bases and maintained their presence in the form of civil organizations, media outlets and empires.” Days prior to this speech, Kataib Hezbollah — a militiaman claiming to have close links with the Iranian government — disseminated a video saying that the group had acquired documents about CIA officers attempting to jeopardize stability in Iraq. According to the video, someone by the name of Louis Mendoza, who is in charge of some youth movements waging protests in Baghdad every now and then, met with a leader of these movements in the Iraqi capital. The video also mentions someone called Dwayne Davis carrying out vandalism in Iraq under the umbrella of civil society.
The escalating attacks of the government and militias against the civil movement have received wide criticism; the government and militias, unable to stop the increasing terrorist acts in Iraq, instead attack civil society organizations that are not protected by any official or nonofficial party. It seems that the cause of this campaign is that the civil movement in Iraq has started to unite and to become more effective after having started a number of demonstrations in the past few years.

The true opposition in Iraq has moved from the parliament to the street. On the streets of Iraq, people are near boiling point, while spontaneous demonstrations carry banners that are also spontaneous and unorganised or studied. Some of these banners may harm Iraq, as they push towards violence and chaos, especially after they have been infiltrated by foreign groups with their own agendas for Iraq.
I have previously pointed out that Iraq will only be rescued by its own people that do not have any interest in fighting each other, while the Green Zone goblins eat away at the country’s flesh.
The people’s anger expressed through their demonstrations has to be translated into a decisive resolution in the upcoming elections for new faces that no one doubts their devotion towards Iraq and its well-being.
Not everyone is supportive of the human rights movement in Iraq.  Hamza Mustafa (Asharaq al-Awsat) files an overview on Iraqi violence which includes:

For his part, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Hayes, a senior member of the Anbar Salvation Council told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Al-Qaeda has returned to Anbar province, and it has expanded to other regions from here, including Mosul, not the other way round.”
Hayes has blamed the anti-government protests and sit-ins taking place in western Iraq for “opening the door” to Al-Qaeda.
“We said from the beginning that these protests and sit-ins have nothing to do with any kinds of popular demands, whether legitimate or illegitimate, rather they have one central goal and that is to facilitate Al-Qaeda’s missions in the western provinces of Iraq,” the Sons of Iraq Council chairman added.

al-Hayes regularly attacks the protesters.  As a government employee, he should probably be ordered to stop the verbal attacks.  As someone whose livelihood depends on unrest in Sunni areas, his remarks are as questionable as his shady reputation.

Hurriyet Daily News observes, " Al-Maliki will be visiting Washington next week to meet President Barack Obama. It could be a good starting point for the U.S. to own up its responsibility in the Iraqi saga, and persuade al-Maliki, who needs U.S. support and equipment to end the violence in Iraq, to become more conciliatory towards different groups. If he can compromise, then a stable Iraq would be a good starting point towards a peaceful Middle East. An unraveling Iraq, on the other hand, would easily ignite even more ugly manifestations of sectarian, ethnic and political conflicts in the region, which even the U.S. would not be able keep under control."

Iraq's Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi delivered a major address last week -- you can read his speech in full via the National Council of Resistance of Iran. or here.  Aswat al-Iraq emphasizes  his remarks that he should be "the president of Iraq because I am the first vice-president of the country when the president is absent."  He is correct.  And yet he's not able to because Nouri's targeted him in violation of the country's Constitution.  Maybe Nouri can explain that?  Or why his country has gone almost eleven months without a president?

Last December,  Iraqi President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke.   The incident took place late on December 17th (see the December 18th snapshot) and resulted in Jalal being admitted to Baghdad's Medical Center Hospital.    Thursday, December 20th, he was moved to Germany.  He remains in Germany currently.

Tareq al-Hashemi is the next in line.  Maybe that's why Nouri and his political party have refused to call for Jalal to be removed as president?

Turning to the most recent violence,  Prensa Latina notes, "Twenty-five police officers and three civilians were killed last night and in the early morning hours, in extremist attacks in the western province of Al Anbar, Iraq, official sources are reporting." Mary Casey and Joshua Haber (Foreign Policy) add, "Four of the attacks targeted a police station and checkpoints in the town of Rutba, about 70 miles from the Syrian border. Gunmen also hit a checkpoint in Ramadi, killing three security forces and injuring a fourth. No one has taken responsibility for the attacks, although al Qaeda linked militants have frequently targeted Iraq's security forces."

Leaving Anbar Province, NINA reports a mall in Mosul was blown up "killing 5 women and two children" with twelve more people injured,  an armed attack in Tikrit claimed the life of 1 police officers and left three injured, a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the lives of 2 Iraqi soldiers, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 4 lives and left eleven people injured, 1 farmer was shot dead "in one of the orchards near Abu Garmah,"  2 Baquba bombings left five people (including three security forces) injured,  a bombing in southern Baghdad Mada'in) left 3 people dead and eight more injured, a northern Baghdad (Shula) bombing left 2 people dead and seven injured, and 2 Sahwa were killed in Kirkuk by men wearing Iraqi military uniforms.

Lastly, US Senator Chuck Schumer is in the news regarding Iraq -- specifically over Jewish archives.  Sunday, we covered the archives at Third in "Editorial: Stolen property does not belong to the thief"

Last year, a guy broke into my home and stole all my family albums and scrapbooks.  Then he ran me out of town.  Now he's insisting he has the right to keep my family albums and scrapbooks.
That actually didn't happen to us.
It happened to the Jews of Iraq.
For background, let's go the US National Archives:

On May 6, 2003, just days after the Coalition forces took over Baghdad, 16 American soldiers from Mobile Exploitation Team Alpha, a group assigned to search for nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, entered Saddam Hussein’s flooded intelligence building. In the basement, under four feet of water, they found thousands of books and documents relating to the Jewish community of Iraq – materials that had belonged to synagogues and Jewish organizations in Baghdad.
The water-logged materials quickly became moldy in Baghdad’s intense heat and humidity. Seeking guidance, the Coalition Provisional Authority placed an urgent call to the nation’s foremost conservation experts at the National Archives. Just a week later, National Archives Director of Preservation Programs Doris Hamburg and Conservation Chief Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler arrived in Baghdad via military transport to assess the damage and make recommendations for preservation of the materials. Both experts share this extraordinary story and take you “behind the scenes” in this brief video []. This video is in the public domain and not subject to any copyright restrictions. The National Archives encourages its use and free distribution.
Given limited treatment options in Baghdad, and with the agreement of Iraqi representatives, the materials were shipped to the United States for preservation and exhibition. Since then, these materials have been vacuum freeze-dried, preserved and photographed under the direction of the National Archives. The collection includes more than 2,700 Jewish books and tens of thousands of documents in Hebrew, Arabic, Judeo-Arabic and English, dating from 1540 to the 1970s. A special website to launch this fall will make these historic materials freely available to all online as they are digitized and catalogued. This work was made possible through the assistance of the Department of State, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Center for Jewish History.
The Jews of Iraq have a rich past, extending back to Babylonia. These materials provide a tangible link to this community that flourished there, but in the second half of the twentieth century dispersed throughout the world. Today, fewer than five Jews remain. 

The Jews of Iraq may have had a rich past.  But since 2003, they've all but disappeared to the point that the total number of Jews now in Iraq can be counted on one hand.  Judit Neurink (Rudaw) notes:

Director Saad Eskander of the National Library in Baghdad will be glad to receive the archives. From the start, he was against their trip to the United States, although he admits that Iraq could not look after them in 2003. “Iraq was in a chaos. Nobody was interested in our cultural heritage.”
Yet, the documents should have stayed, he says: “Instead of taking them away, the Americans should have taught the Iraqi’s how to repair and maintain them.”

The US shouldn't have taken these documents out of the country to restore them?
That was the crime, was it?
No, the crime was thieves stealing them from Iraqi Jews.
The crime is people like Saad Eskander thinking they have a right to stolen property that has nothing to do with their own heritage.  Stewart Ain (Jewish Weekly) reported last week:

 Harold Rhode, who discovered the trove while working as a Defense Department policy analyst assigned to Iraq’s transitional government, said he is “horrified” to think the material would be returned when it had been “stolen by the government of Iraq from the Jewish community.”
“It would be comparable to the U.S. returning to the German government Jewish property that had been looted by the Nazis,” he told The Jewish Week.
Attorney Carole Basri, whose great-grandfather served as chief rabbi of Iraq, pointed out that there was “no consultation” with the Jewish community before the Bush administration entered into that agreement. International law stipulates that national treasures be returned to the country of origin.
Rhode said the material, which been stored on the second floor of a Baghdad synagogue by Iraqi Jews at the time of their mass exodus in 1950-52 – some 135,000 Jews left the country, allowed to carry no more than one suitcase of clothing each – was taken by Saddam Hussein in 1984. (There are thought to be only five or so Jews left in all of Iraq.)
Joseph Dabby, 67, an Iraqi Jew in Los Angeles who was one of about 25,000 Jews who initially remained in his homeland, said he fears that should the items be returned, they would simply be locked away and never exhibited. Board chairman and former president of Los Angeles’ Kahal Joseph Synagogue, home to 300 Iraqi Jewish families, said he escaped from Iraq in 1971 after several imprisonments and does not trust the present Iraqi leadership.

The National Archives notes the collection includes:

  • A Hebrew Bible with Commentaries from 1568 – one of the oldest books in the trove;
  • A Babylonian Talmud from 1793;
  • A Torah scroll fragment from Genesis - one of the 48 Torah scroll fragments found;
  • A Zohar from 1815 – a text for the mystical and spiritual Jewish movement known as “Kabbalah”;
  • An official 1918 letter to the Chief Rabbi regarding the allotment of sheep for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year);
  • Materials from Jewish schools in Baghdad, including exam grades and a letter to the College Entrance Examination Board in Princeton regarding SAT scores;
  • A Haggadah (Passover script) from 1902, hand lettered and decorated by an Iraqi Jewish youth ; and

  • The stolen property belongs to the Jewish community and with the Iraqi government having failed to protect the Jewish community, they certainly have no right to stolen property.

    End of editorial.  Today, The Yeshiva World News reports:

    U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the State Department to not return more than 2,700 Jewish artifacts to Iraq. In 2003, American soldiers found the collection of Iraqi Judaica in a flooded Baghdad Intelligence Center. The collection, which includes partial Torah parchments and ancient prayer books, had been seized by Saddam Hussein’s troops and belonged to members of the once-vibrant, exiled Iraqi Jewish community. The collection is being preserved by the National Archives in Washington, DC and the United States has agreed to return the materials to Iraq in 2014.
    Schumer said that because these ancient items were stolen, they do not belong to Iraq and therefore, the United States should not return them. Schumer is asking the State Department to work with Jewish organizations and the Iraqi Jewish community to determine an alternative location for these sacred artifacts.

    Dan Friedman (New York Daily News) adds:

      Schumer Wednesday urged the State Department “to do everything in their power to ensure that these treasured artifacts remain available and accessible to Jews worldwide.”
    In a letter Wednesday to Secretary of State John Kerry, Schumer urged the department to work with Jewish groups in the United States and abroad to find another home for the documents.
    "Since the exile of Jews from Iraq, virtually no Jewish life remains in the country,” Schumer wrote. “This treasured collection belongs to the Jewish community and should be made available to them."
    Schumer is now the most public face of a growing movement of people saying these documents do not belong to the Iraqi government.  There are Jewish people in this movement but it not limited to Jewish people.  My objection to this is rooted in the ethics of anthropology.  I feel the need to stress for Iraqi readers because Al Mada recently reposted an article from World News Daily making the (false) claim that this is a Jewish movement.  I am not Jewish, I was not born Jewish, I never converted to the faith.  I'm not a practicing or non-practicing Jew.  This has to do with the rights a people have to their culture -- and how a government cannot steal it from them and have legal or ethical rights to that property. 

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