Saturday, May 29, 2021

Memoridal Day weekend

Don't know about you but I don't have the time or energy for big projects around the house anymore.  So my 'big' project this holiday weekend?

Get a new shower curtain and put it up.

Went to Wal-Mart this morning and was not pleased.  They had all these empty spaces where selections should have been.  Ended up buying a 'Better Homes & Gardens' over-priced shower curtain because it was about the only thing they had.  

I got it home with groceries.  Unpacked the groceries and put them away.  Then we went to Subway to get some subs.  We came back and ate.  I kept looking at the last Wal-Mart sack, I'd left it on the coffee table.  Finally, after we ate, got tired of staring at it.  

So I put it up.  Now I can pretend I've been productive and say I didn't let the three day weekend go to waste, right?

I did get my hair done on Friday so there's that too.

I'm just so tired and drained lately.  I'm sure part of it is the whole Covid Times we're living in.  Maybe we'll be able to shake it off in a few more months?

Who knows?  But I'm sticking to my claim that I did do something on the long weekend.


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

 Friday, May 28, 2021.  Some news is seen fit to print.

At the top of yesterday's snapshot, the following appeared:

The militias surround the prime minister's compound and you may be saying, "Huh? This wasn't on THE NEWSHOUR or CBS EVENING NEWS or . . ."  No, it wasn't.

To its credit, 13 hours ago THE NEW YORK TIMES published Jane Arraf and Falih Hassan's report on what's been taking place:

Iraq’s leader has been under intense pressure to rein in the dozens of paramilitary groups that are nominally under the command of the Iraqi government but have proved seemingly impossible for him to control.

That was made abundantly clear this week, when Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered a move against one militia leader and quickly paid a price.

After government forces arrested a paramilitary commander on Wednesday, Iraqi militias backed by Iran mounted a show of force in and around the heavily guarded Green Zone in Baghdad, in a confrontation that goes to the heart of who controls security in Iraq.

Curbing the Iranian-backed militias that emerged in 2014 to fight the Islamic State — and have now become an entrenched part of Iraq’s security — was one of Mr. Kadhimi’s key promises when he took power last May. Bringing to justice those who kidnap and kill government protesters was another pledge.

A year later, he is seen as having failed to deliver on either of them.

The catalyst for the latest confrontation was an interior ministry arrest warrant in the killing of two young Iraqi activists shot in the Shiite holy city of Karbala. One was shot dead on May 9 by gunmen on motorcycles using silencers. He had survived a previous attempt on his life that killed a fellow activist, Fahem al-Tai, in Karbala last December.

As noted in yesterday's snapshot, while the western press (wire services) were avoiding the issue of the activists, the Iraaqi press was reporting that the charges included the targeting of activists.  The one that is referred to in the last NYT paragraph above, the one who had survived one assassination attempt before being killed earlier this month, was Ihab al-Wazni.

As THE NEW ARAB notes:

Qasem Muslih is accused of giving the order to kill anti-government campaigner Ihab Al-Wazni, who was shot outside his home by men on motorbikes on 9 May in the holy city of Karbala.

Ihab al-Wazni was on the minds of activists that turned out in massive numbers on Tuesday

The protest movement in Iraq is organizing a mass demonstration on May25under the slogan(Who Killed Me)to demand justice for Ihab Al-Wazni, Hisham Al-Hashemi, Reham Yacoub and 800 others who have been killed with impunity since October 2019 #Tishreen_return_in_May

"Liar Kadhimi! Liar!" a woman holding an image of assassinated protest leader Ihab al-Wazni leads a chant as protesters gather for a mass demonstration in Baghdad to condemn government failure to end killings of activists.

Also, freedom of expression is lacking in Iraq when you are a civil activist and criticize the parties and militias of Iran. You will be killed, as happened by the Iraqi activists, Ihab Al-Wazni, Fahim Al-Ta’i and others, thousands who were killed because of saying the truth.

Wazni’s family have publicly accused Musleh of killing Ihab. "We charged him with the murder of my brother Ihab. My mother filed a lawsuit against him. We are sure that he was the mastermind of my brother's assassination," Marwan al-Wazni told MEE.

The Crisis Group's Lahib Higel offers her take in the following thread:

[Thread] As embarrassing as today’s events seem for Kadhimi there may be something gained for political elites that stand with the ‘state’ against the ‘non-state’.

Whether Muslih is released or not, the reaction of Hashd faction’s only serves to discredit their own image. Since the Tishreen protests, and even before, the Hashd’s sanctity has been on steady decline among Iraqis.

The killing of Ihab al-Wazni in Kerbala provided an opportunity for the government to capitalise on the street outrage and renewed calls for accountability.

It facilitated the protests and utilised it as a pretext to target Muslih, whose background is not coincidental. From Kerbala, he long served as a commander of the Atabat security but during the war on ISIS turned to pro-Iran, Liwa al-Tufuf.

With October elections around the corner, the government and its political backers, may benefit from provocations that discredit the forces opposing it.

The question remains, however, to what degree these forces are ready to up the pressure. So far, it appears that negotiated settlements keep the political peace.

In comparison to the aftermath of the June 2020 Dora raid when arrested KH members were released, the detainee is now held in shared custody of the joint operations command and the security of the Hashd. A minor nuance, yet a concession on part of the Hashd, even if temporary.

I'm sure it was a political calculation as much as anything else.  Elections are supposed to take place this fall.  Despite stating he was going in as prime minister for a very brief time, he'd get elections and then get out, Mustafa quickly changed his mind.  He now wants a second term.  

Where are the votes going to come from?

Not from supporters of former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki.  His alliance is strongly critical of Mustafa.  The October Movement (the activism that began in the fall of 2019) might seem an ally; however, factions of the movement have announced that they don't intend to vote because Mustafa has done nothing as one activist after another has been killed.

Remember, this is the movement that overthrew the previous prime minister. 

And Tuesday's huge protest in Baghdad (and elsewhere, but Baghdad had the largest turnout) no doubt reminded Mustafa and his advisors of just how strong and large The October Movement actually is.  

Due to COVID, a number had stopped turning out at the protests in recent months.  Rallying behind the assassination of Ihab, they turned out in full force and then some.

That could be a huge voting bloc.  And Mustafa needs something to get a second term.  He's done nothing as prime minister. Nouri is his enemy (Nouri's State Of Law remains a large bloc with strong support) and the only one he's had any success with when it comes to reaching out has been cleric Moqtada al-Sadr whose influence has waned.

Let's go into that for just a moment because it goes to the power of The October Movement -- a movement the US outlets have largely ignored -- from WSWS on through the corporate media.  Moqtada is a failue all by himself.  But people need hope and they rallied around him when he returned to Iraq after fleeing yet again.  He seemed to mature with the realization of how many people were vested in his success.  But then came The October Movement.

As Moqtada always does, he saw a popular movement and tried to co-opt it and tried to use its popularity to argue for his own.  He didn't organize, he didn't inspire.  He tried to hitchhike on an already popular issue -- just like he did recentl on the demonstration in support of Palestinians held in Baghdad.  He was one of many militia leaders calling for a large turnout.  But the lazy, western press credited the turnout to him in one wire article after another.  Despite the fact that he and his spokesperson have a public record of verbally attacking the Palestinians going back to 2006 -- a reality ignored by the wire services but well documented on Arabic social media.

Moqtada forgot that he had hitched a ride and then began trying to control the movement -- issuing orders to people who were not his followers.  When they refused to comply, he denounced them.  This resulted in a huge backlash so he quickly backed off that.  

Then he tried to controlling them.  He issued orders that men and women could not protest together.

That went over about as well as you would expect.

At the next demonstration, women were only more prominent and various activists carried signs denouncing Moqtada.  He just couldn't let it go and still can't.  It was only weeks ago that he was serving up a veiled threat that women who are protesting should be "gang-raped."  Out of concern, you understand he raised the issue of "gang-rape."

This is the man the western media refuses to challenge and instead glorifies over and over.  It wasn't always that way.  (Reminder, this is the same western media that reduced these protests to men only while we repeatedly objected to that lie.  I note that the wire services, when they carry photos of this week's demonstrations make a point to select ones that include women; however, with their large turnout, it's really impossible for the wire services to continue to ignore the women.)

At any rate, Mustafa wants a second term but doesn't have the votes.  The arrest can be seen as a campaign offering, no question.

I'm glad that THE TIMES reported on what's going on; however, it needs to be noted that the story was published hours after the US State Dept had already issued its own statement raising the issue:

           Rule of Law in Iraq

The United States is outraged that peaceful demonstrators who took to the streets to urge reform were met with threats and brutal violence.  Moreover, the violation of Iraqi sovereignty and rule of law by armed militias harms all Iraqis and their country. We welcome every effort by the government to hold accountable the militias, thugs, and vigilante groups for their attacks against Iraqis exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly as well as for their assault on the rule of law.

We reaffirm the U.S. government’s enduring commitment to the Iraqi people and a strong, sovereign, and prosperous Iraq.

The following sites updated:

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

The future for brick and mortar book stores?

The Seattle Times has an interesting article about a new Barnes & Noble book store opening.  Apparently, the new model for the book store, what's going to save the chain, is local control and listening to local customers when it comes to what is stocked.

He argues, the British owner of the chain, that his British store has a 3% return policy. 

Do you believe that?

I don't and I've worked retail.  Nor do I believe that he can get the return rate down to 3% and still satisfy customers with inventory.  I could be wrong but I just don't see it.



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


Wednesday, May 26, 2021.  At least two dead and hundreds injured in the Baghdad protest that took place Tuesday.

Yesterday, across Iraq, the people took to the streets to honor the many protesters who have been assassinated since The October Movement began in 2019.  The government responded?  By killing more of them.

And, no, Alanis, that's not ironic -- it's just tragic and criminal.  Seth J. Frantzman (JERUSALEM POST) observes, "As if to show that there is complete impunity for killing civilians in Iraq, the forces shot the very people who were angry that people are being targeted and killed.  In short: If you protest in Iraq they will shoot you. If you are an activist you will be hunted down by militias, many of them linked to Iran, and killed."

Jordan's ROYA NEWS notes, "Wednesday, the hashtag ‘Iraq is uprising’ topped the list of trending hashtags on Twitter after an Iraqi protester was killed Tuesday by security forces' bullets and at least 13 others were injured by tear gas following clashes that occurred due to mass protests that took place in Tahrir Square in Baghdad."  This morning, #IRAQILIVESMATTER is trending on social media.  Hawraa is among those using the hashtag:

In Iraq,everything equal death,and in the shadow of a fake democracy controlled by armed groups loyal to Iran through which power cannot be changed,the people have found no way but to protest and protest while they are still being killed for a year and a half. #Iraqi_lives_matter

As does Mohamed 2020:

"In Iraq, everything equal death, and in the shadow of a fake democracy controlled by armed groups loyal to Iran through which power cannot be changed, the people have found no way but to protest and protest while they are still being killed for a year and a half" #iraqiprotest

Protests took place throughout Iraq (and Iraqis in Germany also demonstrated).  The photos in Mortada's Tweet capture how large the turnout was in Baghdad:

Protesters at Baghdad Tahrir square protests the new wave of activist assassinations in #Iraq #iraqiprotest #MiddleEast #women

RUDAW also offers photos testifying to the large turnout.

Thousands protest killings of #Iraq activists

Jane Arraf (NEW YORK TIMES) sets the scene:

“Who killed me?” the signs asked, alongside images of dead men and women, among the roughly 80 Iraqi activists murdered since late 2019. Young demonstrators held aloft the posters in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday, illustrating both the enduring spark and diminished strength of Iraq’s anti-government protest movement.

The demonstrators (publicly) and Iraqi officials (privately) say they know who killed many of the activists: Iran-backed militias that have essentially crushed a grass-roots anti-corruption movement that blames Iranian influence, and the militias, for many of Iraq’s ills. In a country where militias — nominally a part of the security apparatus — operate with impunity, the killers have gone unpunished.

The several thousand young men gathered in Baghdad’s central square Tuesday constituted the biggest protest in the Iraqi capital since the anniversary last October of demonstrations in 2019 that swept Baghdad and southern cities and brought down a government. The movement is driven by anger at the government’s failure to make promised reforms, including curbs on Iranian-backed militias.

Suadad al-Salhy (MIDDLE EAST EYE) reminds, "Those protests, which erupted due to widespread corruption, a lack of jobs and an out-of-touch political class, resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi."

AFP adds:

Mohammad Baker from the southern town of Diwaniya died in al-Kindi hospital from a gunshot wound in the neck, a medical source said.

Waving portraits of victims, gunned down with silencers by unknown assailants, the demonstrators converged on the Iraqi capital's main squares including Tahrir, as police were deployed in force.

"Revolution against the parties," they chanted.

"Who killed me?" banners read.

AFP notes these numbers, "Two Iraqis were killed and 28 others were injured in clashes Tuesday as thousands protested in Baghdad to demand justice over a wave of deadly attacks on pro-democracy activists and journalists."  Of the two killed, Louisa Loveluck (WASHINGTON POST) explains, "One of the young men killed in Tahrir Square yesterday was born the year the US invaded Iraq. 18 years on, he was shot demonstrating against the corrupt and unaccountable political system that occupation helped install."

The killings never end.  NRKHWND notes:

What is happening in #Iraq is horrendous. Since their first protest against their governmental corruption in 2019 to our present day, more than 36 activists and political researchers have been assassinated, aside from 19 other assassination attempts.

The assassinations refer strictly to those hunted outside of a protest.  If you include the Iraqis that have been killed since this movement against corruption began in the fall of 2019, you are looking at hundreds.

FACEBOOK offers this translation from IHCHR:

* OHCHR documents its field monitoring of the demonstrations in Baghdad and a number of governorates on Tuesday 25 May 2021
* UNHCR monitoring teams document the fall of the martyrs of (2) and (150) injured from protesters and security forces, the outcome of the demonstrations in Tahrir Square.
While the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq emphasizes the right of citizens to opinion, expression and peaceful demonstration, it deeply regrets the fall of martyrs and injured of protesters and security forces due to clashes in the Liberation Square in Baghdad Ald, which killed a protester (2) and injured (20) others, many of them are still severely injured, (130) security forces were injured and a large number of protesters were arrested. The remaining (11) detainee protesters were presented to the judiciary with the burning of caravan number (2) of the regime's maintenance force due to the use of live bullets and tear gas by the security forces, stones and sharp machines by protesters.
From the beginning of the protests until this moment, the Office has been demanding that the use of excessive violence be prevented and subjected the lawkeepers and the security forces supporting them to more than (500) training workshops on how to deal with and protect the protesters, and at the time In which she asserts the protesters full commitment to the norms of peaceful demonstration and to avoid any clashes with the security forces, she renews its demand to all parties to take the utmost restraint and maintain the peaceful demonstrations.
UNHCR demands the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to take responsibility and take more serious action against those who used live bullets and excessive violence and bring them to justice and release all detainees against the background of the demonstrations.
It also renews its demand to the brothers protesting to prevent those who want to deflect the demonstrations off their peaceful path and continue exercising this right through cooperation with the security forces and the conservation of public and private property.
High Office for Human Rights - Iraq
26 / May / 2021

AP quotes activist Kamal Jaban stating, "Today’s protests took place because the weak government did not keep its promises to bring the murderers to justice."  Sofia Barbarani (ALJAZEERA) quotes activist Laith Hussein declaring of the demonstrations, "This is a response to a call of Ihab al-Wazni’s family … and to object against a political system that is not truly democratic but pretends to be.  We want to get rid of the parties in power, [we want] real freedom, true democracy and to make radical changes to this system."  Ihab was assissanted earlier this month.  KIRKUK NOW Tweeted about him May 9th:

UK Ambassador to Iraq tweeted: I strongly condemn the killing of the activist Ihab al-Wazni . Impunity for the killing of activists since Oct 19 has only led to more deaths. There is an urgent need for concrete measures to hold perpetrators accountable & protect Iraqi citizens

At their official Twitter feed, the Iraqi government offers:

PM issues orders to open a transparent investigation to uncover the circumstances of what happened in the last moments at the Tahrir Square demonstration yesterday. PM confirms his support for freedom of peaceful protest and the need to protect the demonstrators.

Take that assertion seriously?  With Mustafa's history of doing nothing?

Mina Aldroubi (THE NATIONAL) reports:

The human rights community for over a year has been warning the government that if there is no accountability for the horrific assassinations, kidnappings, threats and other attacks, the protest movement will not go away, Belkis Wille, a senior researcher on Iraq at Human Rights Watch said.

“Protesters will be more and more galvanised by calls for accountability and justice and people on the streets will continue to remain angry that their government has been completely unable to bring killers to account,” Ms Wille told The National.

“As long as accountability isn't delivered by the government I think that protests will continue,” she said.

Although the government has said that it has ordered armed forces to not use violence and live ammunition against protesters, that has not been the case.

“This instance really begs the question of the extent to which the prime minister can actually fulfil his role as commander in chief and to which security forces are actually doing what the prime minister is ordering them to do,” she said.

Amnesty's Donatella Rovera notes a paradox:

#Iraq’s security forces never find the murderers of civil society activists but always have capacity to repress protesters. Today in #Baghdad young & old demanded justice & end to killings and impunity #Iraqprotest


The following sites updated: