Monday, April 24, 2006

Progress in Iraq?

I haven't written much about Iraq lately, or much about Iraq at all really. It's hard to know where to begin.

Well, for starters, things sure aren't getting any better in Iraq. Eight US soldiers and dozens of Iraqis were killed over the weekend, and car bombs again rocked Baghdad monday morning, as work began on forming a new government there.

I wish that type of news was surprising, but sadly, those type of stories have become more and more frequent. Of course, as the Whitehouse would like you to know, all of what is happening in Iraq isn't bad. It's just mostly bad. There is always the National Review if you only want to hear the good news...
Iraq finally has a new prime-minister designate, Jawad al-Maliki. Maliki lived in exile during Saddam's reign, fleeing Iraq after a death sentence was placed on him. He has been active since returning to Iraq, working on de-Baathification and on the country's new constitution.

As much of the reporting on his appointment makes clear, it isn't known what kind of leader Maliki will be, but we should be encouraged by the fact that both Sunni and Kurdish political leaders have said they will support him.

In his first public speech, Maliki said that private militias will not be allowed, and must disband or join with the army.
Even with all of that success in Iraq, it's apparent the US isn't planning on leaving Iraq anytime soon. If it's not because of the oil (yeah right), then I don't understand. I mean Saddam is gone, they have a government, and there were no WMD's, so why are we committing ourselves to being there for another decade?
US forces planning for the long haul in Iraq
The US armed forces are planning to stay in Iraq for at least a decade, a media report claimed on Monday, quoting military strategists.

A report in Newsweek said that the 38 square kilometres mini-city and airport Balad was the evidence that American forces were preparing for the long haul.
They might be laying the groundwork for a decade of occupation, but I really don't believe the American public, or the world, will put up with 10 more years of this shit...
Stolen Away

As criminal gangs run amuck in Iraq, hundreds of girls have gone missing. Are they being sold for sex?
No one knows how many young women have been kidnapped and sold since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The Organization for Women's Freedom in Iraq, based in Baghdad, estimates from anecdotal evidence that more than 2,000 Iraqi women have gone missing in that period. A Western official in Baghdad who monitors the status of women in Iraq thinks that figure may be inflated but admits that sex trafficking, virtually nonexistent under Saddam, has become a serious issue. The collapse of law and order and the absence of a stable government have allowed criminal gangs, alongside terrorists, to run amuck. Meanwhile, some aid workers say, bureaucrats in the ministries have either paralyzed with red tape or frozen the assets of charities that might have provided refuge for these girls. As a result, sex trafficking has been allowed to fester unchecked.

"It is a problem, definitely," says the official, who has heard specific reports from Iraqi aid workers about girls being kidnapped and sold to brothels. "Unfortunately, the security situation doesn't allow us to follow up on this." The U.S. State Department's June 2005 trafficking report says the extent of the problem in Iraq is "difficult to appropriately gauge" but cites an unknown number of Iraqi women and girls being sent to Yemen, Syria, Jordan and Persian Gulf countries for sexual exploitation. Statistics are further made murky by tribal tradition. Families are usually so shamed by the disappearance of a daughter that they do not report kidnappings. And the resulting stigma of compromised chastity is such that even if the girl should resurface, she may never be taken back by her relations. ...(more)
Abuses found in hiring at Iraq bases

Violations of laws on human-trafficking prompt U.S. military's order for change
The top U.S. commander in Iraq has ordered sweeping changes for privatized military support operations after confirming violations of laws against human-trafficking and other abuses by contractors involving possibly thousands of foreign workers on American bases, according to records obtained by the Chicago Tribune.

Gen. George W. Casey Jr. ordered that contractors be required by May 1 to return passports that have been illegally confiscated from laborers on U.S. bases after determining that such practices violated U.S. laws against trafficking for forced or coerced labor. Human brokers and subcontractors from South Asia to the Middle East have worked together to import thousands of laborers into Iraq from impoverished countries.

Two memos obtained by the Tribune indicate that Casey's office concluded that the practice of confiscating passports from such workers was widespread on American bases and in violation of the U.S. anti-trafficking laws. ...(more)
First off, props to Gen Casey for apparently trying to get to the bottom of this problem. Why do they need to bring in forced or coerced labor from other countries when putting Iraqis to work is clearly needed to win the hearts and minds? Somehow I don't think the hearts and minds are going to be won as long as young women are being shipped out as sex slaves and shipping in slave labor.

I have to wonder if anything will really change though. Haliburton has frequently been cited for human trafficking abuses, and instead of stopping the practice they just lobby against it so that nothing ever gets done. Perhaps you remember this story from last December.
U.S. stalls on human trafficking

Pentagon has yet to ban contractors from using forced labor
Chicago Tribune: A proposal prohibiting defense contractor involvement in human trafficking for forced prostitution and labor was drafted by the Pentagon last summer, but five defense lobbying groups oppose key provisions and a final policy still appears to be months away, according to those involved and Defense Department records.

The lobbying groups opposing the plan say they're in favor of the idea in principle, but said they believe that implementing key portions of it overseas is unrealistic. They represent thousands of firms, including some of the industry's biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, both of which have been linked to trafficking-related concerns.
Just sickening. The US should nationalize the defense industry altogether. All of the Haliburtons and Dyncorps should be absorbed by the Pentagon. These companies don't bring the price down for the taxpayer, they extort the Pentagon and the taxpayer. Our military and our leaders have become puppets to these corporate behemoths. Watch Why We Fight.

Then there's this story.
Inspectors Find More Torture at Iraqi Jails

Top General's Pledge To Protect Prisoners 'Not Being Followed'
Last Nov. 13, U.S. soldiers found 173 incarcerated men, some of them emaciated and showing signs of torture, in a secret bunker in an Interior Ministry compound in central Baghdad. The soldiers immediately transferred the men to a separate detention facility to protect them from further abuse, the U.S. military reported.

Since then, there have been at least six joint U.S.-Iraqi inspections of detention centers, most of them run by Iraq's Shiite Muslim-dominated Interior Ministry. Two sources involved with the inspections, one Iraqi official and one U.S. official, said abuse of prisoners was found at all the sites visited through February. U.S. military authorities confirmed that signs of severe abuse were observed at two of the detention centers.

But U.S. troops have not responded by removing all the detainees, as they did in November. Instead, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials, only a handful of the most severely abused detainees at a single site were removed for medical treatment. Prisoners at two other sites were removed to alleviate overcrowding. U.S. and Iraqi authorities left the rest where they were.

This practice of leaving the detainees in place has raised concerns that detainees now face additional threats. It has also prompted fresh questions from the inspectors about whether the United States has honored a pledge by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that U.S. troops would attempt to stop inhumane treatment if they saw it. ...(more)
Forced labor, kidnappings and sex slaves, and torture. Is this the freedom and democracy chimpy has been pitching? Are these just unintended occurrences, perhaps enabled by an incompetent leadership, or are these things all part of the actual plan? You know, the old Orwellian say they're doing one thing but then do exactly the opposite, kind of like the Clear Skies, Healthy Forests, and No Child Left Behind?

:(

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