Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 3rd, 2012

Has the US military departed from Iraq? How can we explain the current facts?

Barack Obama has announced that US troops will be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year.  Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/AP

Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/AP

Is the announcement an illusion? James Denselow reported on Tuesday 25 October 2011:

“Barack Obama has made good on one of his election promises, announcing: “After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over.” The Iraqis’ assertion of their sovereignty – meaning no legal immunity for US troops – was the deal-breaker, and 39,000 US soldiers will leave Iraq by the end of the year. The regular troops vacated Iraq, but those not directly under contract with the US Army are still on Iraqi land. How that?

There is a huge gap between rhetoric and reality surrounding the US departure from Iraq. In fact, there are a number of avenues by which the US will be able to exert military influence in the country.

These can be divided into four main categories:

Embassy, consulates and private security contractors

The US embassy – the largest and most expensive in the world – is in a green zone of its own in Baghdad, supplied by armed convoys and generating its own water and electricity, and treating its own sewage. At 104 acres, the embassy is almost the same size as Vatican City. It is here that the US is transforming its military-led approach into one of muscular diplomacy.

State department figures show that some 17,000 personnel will be under the jurisdiction of the US ambassador. In addition, there are also consulates in Basra, Mosul and Kirkuk, which have been allocated more than 1,000 staff in each of the three consulates.

All these US staff, including military and security contractors, will have diplomatic immunity. Essentially, the Obama administration is reaping the political capital of withdrawing US troops while hedging the impact of the withdrawal with an increase in private security contractors working for a diplomatic mission unlike any other on the planet.

This “surge” of contractors has even raised the possibility of controversial firm Blackwater, now known as Xe, returning to the country. The firm was responsible for the deaths of 17 Iraqis in 2007 in the infamous Nisour Square massacre, yet president and chief executive Ted Wright told the Wall Street Journal recently that he would like to do business in Iraq again.

In 2008, much was made in of the fact that as part of the Status of Forces Agreement (Sofa) between the US and Iraq, contractors would lose their immunity. However, as a congressional research report noted: “The term defined in the agreement, ‘US contractors and their employees’, only applies to contractors that are operating under a contract/subcontract with or for the United States forces. Therefore, US contractors operating in Iraq under contract to other US departments/agencies are not subject to the terms of the Sofa.”

Congressman Jason Chaffetz questioned the replacement of military forces with contractors, asking: “Are we just playing a little bit of a shell game here?” There is some irony in the fact that a decision by the Iraqi government to deny US soldiers immunity will result in an increase in the numbers of much hated and unaccountable security contractors.

Military trainers included as part of arms deals

There are an estimated 400 arms deals between Baghdad and Washington, worth $10bn, with an additional 110 deals, worth $900m, reportedly pending. Many of these, as part of the deal, require US trainers, who would be working through the Office of Security Co-operation in the embassy.

Bloomberg news reported that this “newly established office will have a core staff of 160 civilians and uniformed military alongside 750 civilian contractors overseeing Pentagon assistance programmes, including military training. They will be guarded, fed and housed by 3,500 additional contract personnel”, working in 10 offices around the country .

In September, Iraq made the first payments in a £1.9bn deal to buy 18 F-16s. The agreements mean that despite the claim that Iraq took full responsibility for its airspace in October, effective aerial sovereignty will be in the hands of the Americans for years to come as they help to patrol the country’s skies and control its airspace, and train its air force.

A senior Iraqi politician explained to me last week: “We are absolutely incapable of defending our borders. We don’t even have one fighter jet to defend our airspace.”

US moving under the Nato umbrella

Nato has a training mission in Iraq that will stay through 2013. The alliance is providing expertise in logistics and policing and Iraqi lawmakers are currently discussing an extension of the Nato mission that could see US military trainers move under the jurisdiction of an agreement originally made in 2004.

Drones and targeted assassinations

With the US in de facto control of Iraq’s airspace, Obama is likely to increase his reliance on drones and targeted killings as a means of attacking al-Qaeda targets. As the US is still at war with al-Qaeda, it can find justification in self-defence and article 51 of the UN charter.

With continued concern over a potential conflict with Iran, it is perhaps unsurprising that the US is unwilling to surrender the ability to influence events on the ground in Iraq. Hillary Clinton told reporters on Sunday: “No one, most particularly Iran, should miscalculate about our continuing commitment to and with the Iraqis going forward.”

In his speech on Friday, Obama said the US sought “a normal relationship between sovereign nations, an equal partnership based on mutual interests and mutual respect”. Whatever shape the relationship between the US and Iraq takes in the long-term, for the short-term the US is definitely remaining in the country.” End of quote

The number and intensity of “terrorist” activities have not abated in Iraq.  I am wondering: Is Iraq security forces under trained, heavily infiltrated by “unwanted” elements, or most probably being mainly used to providing security for the remaining 25,000 US military and civilan personnel in Iraq? 

I am wondering: Why Iraq need to purchase F-16 fighters and spend billion on these junk military hardware? Is Iraqi planning to invade any country? Is Iraq afraid of being invaded? And by whom? How can F-16 be used to killing more Iraqis if the pilots are not Iraqis? 

Are these military hardware just US stocks left in Iraq for long-term interventions somewhere else in the Middle-East, like the billion purchased by the absolute monarchies in Saudi Arabia and the tiny Gulf Emirates?

On Palestinian Land Day: Price of freedom by Shahd Abusalama

On Land Day, Palestinians Remember the Price of Freedom.

Palestinian poet Said Taha Muhammad Ali wrote:

“We didn’t cry during farewell! For we didn’t have time, nor tears,

Nor was it farewell

We didn’t realize that the moment of farewell was farewell

So how could we cry?”

Shahd Abusalama wrote  on Fri, 03/30/2012:

My drawing of “the ruins of my homeland”

“Said Taha Muhammad Ali was 17 years old, old enough to remember the gloomy day when he was ethnically cleansed from his original village Saffuriya, along with most of its inhabitants, and more than 600,000 Palestinian from 512 other villages, during the 1948 Nakbha.

But in 1949, Taha returned to Nazareth, making it his home.

However, my grandparents and hundreds of thousands couldn’t.

They had fled to Gaza. They thought that it would be a matter of two weeks and they would be back. But ever since, they lived and died in Gaza’s refugee camps.

Ethnic cleansing has continued in many forms.

On March 30, 1976, more Palestinian land in the north was confiscated so that Jewish settlements could be built on its ruins. But Palestinian people rebelled against the Israeli occupation and confronted its forces.

A popular uprising took the form of peaceful marches and a unique general strike that provoked the Israeli occupation forces, causing their murders of six heroes, together with the wounding or detention of hundreds of other people.

Their only crime was that they refused to give up their land and protested non-violently, but powerfully, against dispossession.

It is significant, as the first time since 1948, that the Palestinians or “Arabs in Israel as Israel keep labelling them” organized a strong response to Israeli policies as a Palestinian national collective. That’s why this day was etched in the history of the Palestinian struggle and ever since, Palestinians have commemorated March 30 as “Land Day”, to emphasize our embrace of Palestinian land and our rejection of the criminal occupation and its illegal settlement.

In Gaza, I joined several thousands of people to march toward Erez checkpoint calling for the end of occupation and for our legal rights of the land.

March 30, 2012 marks the 46th anniversary of Land Day. As I welcome this immortal day, a flood of memories flows through my mind. I can’t remember my grandfather well, as he died when I was very young. But I can very clearly recall my memories of my grandmother’s lullabies, who helped raise me.

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky! “

Only when I got older did I learn that lullabies are songs sung to kids until they fall asleep. I never slept to a lullaby. Yet I can’t count the times I slept while listening to my grandmother telling her favorite, most touching story, the story of Nakba, the story of her stolen lands.

Unlike other kids around the world, The Nakba was my lullaby.

“Behind every great man there is a woman.” This proverb could not find a better example than my father. He always said, “I have God in the sky and my mother on the ground.” She had been always his role model and the reason he embraced the resistance during his youth.

Now my dad’s resistance is centered on planting his patriotic values and his love for the homeland in his children, in us, so we, the third generation, carry on demanding our people’s stolen rights.

I vividly recall how my grandmother steady wide eyes struggled with tears every time she narrated that story. She must have repeated it thousands of times, and I am sure she would never have stopped, were she still alive.

My siblings and I heard it many times. And, every time, grandmother’s wrinkles evoked the same feeling, her voice shook the same way, calmly flowing with memories, then suddenly rising in anger as she said the same proverb: “The homeland is ours and the strangers fired on us.”

“Your grandfather used to go every day to a high hill in north Gaza called Alkashef,” I remember her saying. “People used to see him sitting on the top, pondering his raped homeland, Beit Jerja, and crying.” Their wound was too deep to be healed or forgotten.

In Beit Gerga, my grandparents were farmers, living for the glories of the land as the majority of Palestinians did then. Every single day after their expulsion, they said, “Tomorrow we will return.” They were simple and uneducated people who didn’t understand the political games of Israel and its allies. They died before smelling their precious sand again.

The generation of the Nakba is dying. But another revolutionary generation was born, the generation of Intifadas, to which my parents belong.

My father has always described his resistance, and his 15 years of youth inside Israeli prisons, as “the price of homeland and the cost of freedom and dignity.”

My father’s friend Jabber Wshah, who was released in the same 1985 swap deal, has another amazing Palestinian mother. Jabber is just as inspiring as my dad. He now heads the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and always prioritizes the political prisoners’ issue.

I love sitting with elderly people who witnessed the Nakba to listen to their stories, even if they are mostly alike. They remind me of my grandmother and my memories of her, which I cherish very much. Jabber is another example of a man born from a great woman’s womb. I met his mother once in a festival for the prisoners released in the Shalit exchange.

Jabber’s mother does not know her own date of birth, but assumes she is in her 80s. I heard her telling the story of when her son Jabber was sentenced to two lifetimes. She described how she stood, proudly and strongly, and confronted the Israeli court for being unfair to her son, then started singing for Palestine, for resistance.

Jabber mother said: “I didn’t cry nor scream. If Netanyahu is hardheaded, we are even more so. We’ll never stop resisting. Resistance will continue until we restore out rights. I had four sons in prison at that time, and I walked to prison every day for 15 years hoping to meet them.”

She made me proud to be the daughter of a Palestinian mother when she said, while pointing to her breast, “My milk was fed to my sons, the milk of our homelands.” She continued firmly, “As long as there are Palestinian women giving birth and bringing up new generations, we will breastfeed them the milk of our homeland, we will breastfeed them with toughness and resistance.” Then she smiled and said that she told a CIA officer the same thing while looking at him in the eye, adding, “The land of Palestine is for her people, not for you!”

Palestinians have spent more than 6 decades sacrificing, paying the price of freedom for themselves and their lands that were stolen by the Zionist entity. You can rarely find a Palestinian family from whom none were killed, or have experienced imprisonment or deportation, or have had their houses demolished or lands confiscated. Not only people have paid the price for the freedom of the lands, but even the trees, stones, and even sands.

Israel continues to build more and more illegal settlements on what is left of our lands, leaving less than 22% for Palestinians. They openly violate all international agreements, but no agreements, nor human rights organizations, can limit Israel’s daily violations and crimes against Palestinians and their lands.

That’s why the Palestinian resistance will never die. Many more Land Days will happen, and they will be celebrated in one way or another, every day of every coming year, inside or outside the occupied lands, until we restore our stolen rights.

For this 46th anniversary of Land Day, I’d like to share a poem with you. I wrote it last May, speaking for every Palestinian refugee whose nostalgia grows with every passing day. This is to emphasize our spiritual attachment to our stolen lands, from which our grandparents were ethnically cleansed, and to stress our right to return.

My drawing of our embrace of the right to return to our stolen lands

“My village, in which I didn’t live a single day
Has been living inside me everyday.
Since I was born, I grow and my nostalgia
Grows more and more till it tears me up.
It wasn’t me who chose to live far away
And neither my grandparents did
They were beaten, cleansed and dispossessed
Into tents of exile their souls were left
Gone with their olive groves and citrus fields
Leaving a wound to never be healed.
Since my grandparents fled away
They thought they would return the next day
They died, but no need to sigh
As, their heritage, their songs and memories persist
They say that elderly people die
And after that the young will forget.
But no way
Until return, Palestinians will resist
Our tears of hope will never dry
And when we return to our homelands
From ashes, trees will rise high
And white doves will over fly
And we’ll caress with our bare hands
Every precious berry of sand.
This dream might not happen soon


Shahd Abusalama's picture

Shahd Abusalama, age 20, is a Palestinian artist, a blogger and an English literature student living in Gaza City. Being a daughter of a former Palestinian prisoner has been the primary source of inspiration for her work fighting injustice through her drawings and writings. She blogs at Palestine From my Eyes, and she can always be followed at @shahdabusalama.

Hahkam Yesrael Weiss: “Zionism is colonialism, and Israel is apartheid” on Palestinian “Land Day”

Hahkam Israel Dovid Weiss led a group of 6 Hakhams from Neturei Karta Jewish organization to participate in demonstrations in Beirut against Zionism occupation and apartheid State of Israel during the Palestinian Land Day celebration.

The Land Day is celebrated every year since 2002 when Israeli police forces killed over 13 and injured 45 Palestinians with Israeli citizenship for participating and sharing with the civil disobedience against Israel oppression in the West Bank and Gaza.

During the mass memorial this year, Israel has quelled many demonstrations in the occupied territories and killed and injured over 50 civil Palestinians.

In Lebanon, a big demonstration was organized on the border between the two towns of Kfarkella and Odeissi and in front of Shkif Arnoun Castle (Beaufort Castle) by the city of Nabatieh. Israel sent motorized contingents in the region extending from Ramia to Aitarun, in order “to keep an eye on the demonstrations”…

Weiss said: “Zionism adopted the Star of David and every Jewish symbol in order to fake Jewishness. Jewishness is fundamentally at the service of God. It is a religion.  Whereas Zionism is a material statehood using God as a cover to all sins committed against the Palestinians.

“Zionism claims to be democratic, but it is a facade to circumvent legal obligations and responsibilities. Jewishness has no right to kill, steal, and specifically Palestinian lands…Jewishness tried hard to stay away from the lure of establishing a statehood.

Jewishness swore on three:

1. Never to come back to Jerusalem to build a State

2. Never to rebel against any other State

3. never to quit their diaspora…

We shed tears with the Palestinians. We feel their oppression and suffering. All these sins committed in the name of Jewishness…

Zionism is abusing the media and censuring information on the multitude of demonstrations organized by Jews against Zionism…

Weiss pull out from his bag pictures of Jews clobbered and bleeding at the hand of Israel police forces. Weiss identity card states: “Jews united against Zionism

Neturei Karta Jews have met several times with members of Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas organization.

Weiss said: “We visited Gaza, the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Chatila in Lebanon (where Israel committed genocide in 1982), the door of Fatema in south Lebanon border with Israel in 2005…and we have been welcomed grandly.

Jews lived in Islamic lands during the Arabic Empires for thousand of years and they didn’t need any protection from outsiders.  We strongly oppose Israel contentions that Moslems constitute threats to Jews: These are Zionist propaganda.

Weiss resume: “I want to meet Hassan Nasr Allah (General Secretary of Hezbollah) to convey to him our appreciation for confronting Zionism expansionist and apartheid policies in Lebanon. We feel dejected from the indignities done in our name.  Zionism is the Devil personified…”

I abhor taking any God for party and as umbrage to opinions and positions, but Weiss statement: “Zionism is colonialism, and Israel is apartheid” stands correct.




April 2012

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