The Day of Dignity follows last week's Day of Rage which saw protests across Iraq with demonstrators often attacked by police leaving less than 30 dead and hundreds injured. The attacks were not just on the demonstrators, Iraqi forces also attacked the press. Physically attacked the press. The groundwork for that physical attack was laid by Nouri who ordered forces to bust into news outlets and journalistic organizations in the days prior to last Friday's Day of Rage. In addition, Nouri also outlawed live broadcasts from Baghdad on that Friday. Through his actions, he sent the message that his government did not respect or support a free press and his thugs then acted accordingly -- in one instance, barging into a Baghdad restaurant and physically attacking four journalists who were eating lunch, beating them in the heads with the butts of their rifles and then arresting them. Stephanie McCrummen (Washington Post) reminds, "Witnesses in Baghdad and as far north as Kirkuk described watching last week as security forces in black uniforms, tracksuits and T-shirts roared up in trucks and Humvees, attacked protesters, rounded up others from cafes and homes and hauled them off, blindfolded, to army detention centers. Entire neighborhoods -- primarily Sunni Muslim areas where residnets are generally opposed to Maliki, a Shiite -- were blockaded to prevent residents from joining the demonstrations. Journalists were beaten." In an essay on last Friday's protest, Danial Anas Kaysi (Foreign Policy) observes:
After the March 2010 elections, the Iraqi people waited close to ten months for their political representatives to agree on a framework and form a government (which is yet to be truly completed due to disputes concerning the naming of security ministers). Those were months in which the population continued to live in the shadow of an occupation, in face of high unemployment levels and in deteriorating conditions -- from low levels of electricity and water to mismanaged sewage systems and ration card provisions.
Al Mada notes that yesterday a vehicle ban was placed on Basra in anticipation of the protest (in anticipation of curbing the protest) and those violating the ban will not have their vehicles returned until some time after Friday. Basra is where 23-year-old Salem Garuq al-Dosari died last Friday, killed for the 'crime' of protesting. In reply to a question about violence from McClatchy's Hannah Allam, AFP's Prashant Rao Tweeted:
@HannahAllam We have reports of a cameraman injured in Basra, but its not clear how. No violence reported to us against journos in Baghdad
Most of the participants today were young people, waving Iraqi flags and plastic flowers. Many were college-age students, dressed in red and black caps and gowns, upset because, they say, they couldn't find work after graduation. Some demonstrators had walked for hours to get to Tahrir Square.
I've changed the term to "home maker." It's 2011 and I'd love to Alicia explain why NPR is using the term I'm not allowing at this site. Was today "Remember Glen Campbell Day"? I don't know. Reporting for Al Jazeera (link goes to Al Jazeera's YouTube page which provides a live feed) from Baghdad, Jane Arraf stood in front of a large crowd gathered in Tahrir Square explaining the thousands "have walked for hours to come to this square," that the government had put up conrecte blocks at the end of Sinak Republic Bridge and walled off the Green Zone and "despite this, thousands of people came to chant that they believe the government they elected are liars and they can do better." Iraqi Streets 4 Change has a photo essay of the Baghdad protest at the top of their web page.
The Dar Addustour live screen crawl noted so reports that Baghdad Operations have been ordered to evacuate the square of journalists and protesters. Al Rafidayn reports that Iraqi state television reported the protest in Baghdad was over and there were no incidents and that, after this was announced by state TV, Baghdad security forces in Tahrir Square dispersed the protesters --- still present, the protest hadn't ended despite the TV claims -- and did so with force and utilizing batons after one p.m. (Baghdad time). On this violence, Iraq Oil Report Tweeted a reply to AFP's Prashant Rao and McClatchy's Hannah Allam:
@prashantrao @HannahAllam we've got reports that those in baghdad who defied the 1pm "official" end to the protest were pushed away by ISF
Alsumaria TV adds, "In Diwaniya, hundreds of citizens rallied against weak services in their province and called to dismiss the governor and dissolve the provincial council. Demonstrators criticized the government's delay in meeting their demands. Protestors called to dismiss governor Salem Alwan along with head of the provincial council and its members on account of their failure to provide their province with basic services, Alsumaria News reporter said." Dar Addustour live screen crawl noted protesters in Muthanna wants the provincial council and the governor removed. DPA reports Mosul protesters were repeatedly intimidated and quotes Mohamed Saadon stating, "Security forced me to return home though I was planning to join protests. They threatened to shoot me in the leg if [I] did not go back to myhome. They also prevented my three children from leaving home."
Al Rafidayn notes that MP Kamal Saadi has invited the protesters to meet with the Parliament on Saturday and discuss their demands according to Jalal Iipoidica who states that a call for this meet up with go out across Facebook.
In one of the saddest developments, Gilbert Mercier (News Junkie Post) observes, "The US media and most world news outlets (including the BBC) have been strangely silent over the situation in Iraq. Of course it can be explained by the fact that our current news cycle is on steroid. Tracking the Arab revolution's progress is overwhelming even for big news outlets. Libya and the armed revolution to finish off Gaddafi is the big headline, but not for long as it seems that the days of the mad man are counted. Egypt and Tunisia are still in mid-revolution limbo. Both are under military control, but the people are still putting pressure on their respective military to make sure that the revolution doesn't get hijacked by a military junta." Iraqis will most likely be gain ingored by the bulk of US media but with the White House refusing to support the protests, media lackeys will fall in line and declare it 'non-news'. Which is so very true. The outlet that's owned the story domestically would be the Washington Post. (CNN has done some very strong reports -- most of which didn't air on CNN but aired on CNN International.) Kelly McEvers (NPR) did some strong reporting but she left Iraq Tuesday. AP has done strong and consistent work. Monday morning we were noting how the New York Times couldn't be bothered mentioning the assault on Iraqi journalists.
Days later, they still had trouble despite the fact that by Monday evening, The Committee to Protect Journalists had called out the assaults, as had Simone Vecchiator (International Press Institute) and Reporters Without Borders released their open letter to KRG President Massoud Barzani while Nouri al-Maliki had apologized to one reporter, Wissam Ojji (Turkman Eli TV), publicly. Al Rafidayn reported Ojji accepted Nouri's apology. No report on that in the New York Times today. Alsumaria TV reported Tuesday that the White House National Security Council spokesperson Tommy Visor issued a statement which included: "We were also deeply troubled by reports that Iraqi Security Forces detained and beat Iraqi journalists and civil society leaders during Friday's demonstrations." Testifying to the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton never mentioned it despite offering a media critique (for her appearance before the Committee, see Tuesday's snapshot, Kat covered it in "Is you're Congressional district in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?," Wally covered it at Rebecca's site with "Pitching the State Dept. budget (Wally)" and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "Hillary's foreign policy aims (Ava).") US President Barack Obama hasn't said a word. March 1st, Marian Wang (ProPublica) reported:
As the Mideast protests and government crackdowns continue, one country to watch closely is Iraq, with whom the U.S. has a long-term partnership  and where clashes between protesters and government forces recently turned violent. Even as Iraqi security forces detained and abused hundreds of intellectuals and journalists , the U.S. government -- in keeping with a pattern of silence on Iraq's abuses -- has withheld criticism of its strategic ally. (Salon noticed this too .)
Wednesday, Sami Ramadani (Guardian) reported on efforts to stop last Friday's protests (more protests are scheduled for this Friday) -- efforts by the US government to stop the protests:
For its part, the world's biggest US embassy -- the power behind the throne -- took the unprecedented step of broadcasting in Arabic, on state TV, a thinly veiled threat to protesters not to go too far in their demands. The US, it stressed, fully backed the "democratically elected" regime, while supporting the right to peaceful protest. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama must be pretty confused as to which dictatorship they should now abandon and which to prop up.
So it's not silence -- bad enough -- it's also actively attempt to scare Iraqis from protests. The US is supposed to be a democracy and shame on any White House that uses tax payer money in another country to encourage people not to utizlize the right to assembly and the right to free speech. Shame on the White House.
From the shameful games of US politics, to the circle game that is Iraqi politics, American University Cairo's Firas al-Atraqchi Tweeted:
An older looking Muqtada Sadr meets with Iyad Allawi - both say they support #iraq peaceful protests
EuroNews notes, "Earlier, former Iraqi premier Iyad Allawi and Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr held talks to discuss the protests. Last week, al-Sadr asked his supporters to give the government six months to try to address their demands." UPI notes, "Allawi conducted a joint news conference in Najaf with his one-time enemy, Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, calling on his followers to protest in support of the Libyan people and against U.S. intervention. Sadr did not directly call on his followers to join the demonstrations." Relationships may be shifting in Iraq. From yesterday's snapshot:
Regressing? Standing still on the issue of Kirkuk to be sure, the oil rich, disputed territory in Iraq. The central government or 'government' in Baghdad claims it has the right to it while the KRG claims it belongs to them. Both lay claims about this period of time where their own was most discriminated against and forced out. The issue was supposed to have been addressed sometime ago. Supposed? The Constitution mandated that it be addressed. The US White House's 2007 benchmarks -- signed off on by the US Congress and Nouri al-Maliki -- demanded that progress be made on the issue or US funds would be cut off. That didn't happen -- it didn't get addressed and US tax payer dollars continued to flow like honey to Nouri. The issue has been postponed repeatedly. More recently, the Constitutionally mandated census -- long pushed back -- was supposed to finally take place in December. That got 'postponed'. It's an issue that's been kicked down the road repeatedly.
Today, Al Rafidayn reports that a source close to Nouri al-Maliki is stating that Nouri is demanding the KRG remove the thousands of pesh merga they've deployed to Kirkuk without his permission. Nidhal al-Laithi (Azzaman) reports KRG President "Massoud Barzani, in comments on his decision to send in his militias, said he wanted to protect the Kurds in the city. However, he did not say from whom. The presence of the Kurdish militia has ignited harsh criticism from both Arab and Turkmen communities in Kirkuk who charge that the Kurds are intent to resort to force to annex the city." Wednesday, Wisam al-Bayati (Press TV -- link has text and video) filed a report noting, "Turkmen lawmakers and officials described the presence of these troops as unconstitutional. They say Iraqi security forces have the capability of dealing with the situation by themselves, and that the Kurds have the ambition to take over the city." The report (video) also notes Mohammed al-Juburi, of the Kirkuk Provincial Council, who asserts "that the US presence in Kirkuk is one of the main obstacles to stability. He claims that the US is creating instability by supporting the Kurds against the Arabs and the Turkemen." He is quoted stating, "An active role has been played by the US troops in the city and allowing US troops to commit violations against the Arabs means that they are supporting these violations." What to do about Kirkuk? This week, American intellectual Noam Chomskey observed, "Look how hard it is just to try to settle the issue of Kirkuk," when speaking with Namo Abdulla (Rudaw):
CHOMSKY: You know better than I do. I don't think anyone really knows. For another thing, I don't really think that it's very likely that the American forces will be completely withdrawn. It doesn't look like it, but it is a hard problem. I have not seen a sensible proposal about Kirkuk. I am not in a position to make any sensible prediction about it.
Staying in the US, Wednesday's snapshot covered the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on the VA's refusal to implement the caregivers law Congress passed. Kat covered it in "Burr promises VA 'one hell of a fight'" and Ava covered it at Trina's site with "The VA still can't get it together." Also Wally covered yesterday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing at Rebecca's site with "No one gives a damn about your money (Wally)." Kimberly Hefling (AP) reported on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing and noted, "President Obama on May 5 signed a law instructing the VA to provide a monthly stipend, health insurance, mental health help and other aid directly to caregivers to help keep wounded veterans out of nursing homes. But the VA missed a Jan. 31 deadline for implementation. And the Associated Press reported last month that while the VA did announce plans soon after that to help caregivers, aid was available to fewer families than Congress intended." Which is why, see Wednesday's snapshot, Committee Chair Patty Murray wanted VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to explain how that happened.
Chair Patty Murray: I've already discussed the caregiver issue with you, I've talked about it with Jack Woo, I've talked with senior staff at the White House and I have spoken directly with the president of the United States. VA's plan on the caregivers issue was overdue and once submitted it hardly resembled the bill that unanimously cleared this Congress. Three weeks ago, my Committee staff requested information on how that plan was developed and to date no information has been provided. Rather than following the law, the administration set forth some overly stringent rules bureaucratic hurdles that would essentially deny help to caregivers. Sarah and Ted Wade who were staunch advocates and worked hard with us to get this passed were invited by the president to attend the bill signing at the White House, they won't be eligible for the program under the plan that the department submitted. We're also hearing a lot from veterans and caregivers from across the country who fall outside of this new line in the sand the VA has drawn, who have been left in limbo and now don't know if this benefit that they advocated and worked so hard for will support them. Mr. Secretary, it appears your that department is not complying with the law as we have written. Can you please tell this Committee why?
We included Shinseki's non-response in full in Wednesday's snapshot. The short answer is: He doesn't know but he sure used a lot of words to say that. Rob Hotakainen (McClatchy Newspapers) reported, " According to Murray, Congress wanted the law to serve at least 3,500 caregivers, at a cost of $1.7 billion over five years. The VA's plan, which calls for covering only 840 caregivers, "is simply not good enough," she said." Richard Burr is the Ranking Member on the Committee (most senior Republican) and Kat covered his comments to Shinseki which included promising "one hell of a fight" with the Committee if the law they passed was not properly implemented. Rick Maze (Army Times) explained, "The Obama administration's narrow interpretation of a new law granting benefits and support to the caregivers of severely injured Iraq and Afghanistan veterans has sparked bipartisan outrage in Congress, with a key senator warning of a 'hell of a fight' if the administration moves ahead with its pending regulations." There weren't a lot of strong reports on the national level (and I'm sure I missed some strong local reporting). There wasn't room to note the coverage of Wednesday's hearing in Thursday's snapshot so we're noting it today and we'll close (today) this topic out with this from the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs (also on yesterday's hearing):
(Washington, D.C.) -- Today, U.S. Veterans' Affairs Committee, heard testimony from Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki and (D-WA), Chairman of the representatives from veterans groups and the American Federation of Government Employees on next year's budget for the .
The President's budget request includes an overall increase of $1.8 billion in discretionary spending over Fiscal Year 2011 levels. It also includes various proposed funding cuts, however, including a reduction in spending for construction and non-recurring maintenance, and a proposed $72 million cut for VA research funding.
Meanwhile as protests rocked Iraq today, the question is whether a planned demonstration against the ongoing war will rock the US? A.N.S.W.E.R. and March Forward! and others will be taking part in this action:
March 19 is the 8th anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Iraq today remains occupied by 50,000 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of foreign mercenaries.
The war in Afghanistan is raging. The U.S. is invading and bombing Pakistan. The U.S. is financing endless atrocities against the people of Palestine, relentlessly threatening Iran and bringing Korea to the brink of a new war.
While the United States will spend $1 trillion for war, occupation and weapons in 2011, 30 million people in the United States remain unemployed or severely underemployed, and cuts in education, housing and healthcare are imposing a huge toll on the people.
Actions of civil resistance are spreading.
On Dec. 16, 2010, a veterans-led civil resistance at the White House played an important role in bringing the anti-war movement from protest to resistance. Enduring hours of heavy snow, 131 veterans and other anti-war activists lined the White House fence and were arrested. Some of those arrested will be going to trial, which will be scheduled soon in Washington, D.C.
Saturday, March 19, 2011, the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, will be an international day of action against the war machine.
Protest and resistance actions will take place in cities and towns across the United States. Scores of organizations are coming together. Demonstrations are scheduled for San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and more.
And finally, David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon has a new report for In These Times entitled "Divide and Deport: On Immigration, Thom Hartmann and Lou Dobbs Have Much in Common:"
There has always been a conflict in U.S. labor about immigration. Conservatives historically sought to restrict unions and jobs to the native born, to whites and to men, and saw immigrants as job competitors-the enemy.
This was part of an overall perspective that saw unions as businesses or insurance programs, in which workers paid dues and got benefits in return. Labor's radicals, however, from the IWW through the CIO to those in many unions today, see the labor movement as inclusive, with a responsibility to organize all workers, immigrant and native-born alike. They see unions as part of a broader movement for social change in general.
In 1986, the AFL-CIO supported the Immigration Reform and Control Act, because it contained employer sanctions. This provision said employers could only hire people with legal immigration status. In effect, the law made it a federal crime for an undocumented person to hold a job. Since passage of the law, immigration raids have led to firings and deportations of thousands of people in workplaces across the country. In many cases employers have used the law as a way to intimidate immigrant workers, and rid themselves of those trying to organize unions and protest bad wages and conditions.
Transnational corporations invest in developing countries like Mexico, moving production to wherever wages are lowest. Treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement promote low wages, privatization, the dumping of agricultural products, and other conditions that increase corporate profits. But those measures also impoverish and displace people, forcing them to migrate to survive.