Audie Cornish (NPR's All Things Considered) reports that the lame-duck Congress, which went back into session today, still needs to extend unemployment benefts. That just slipped the Congress' mind, you understand. Because things were going so swimmingly with unemployment. This isn't a difficult position. The Los Angeles Times reports today, "The majority of Americans support the idea of extending unemployment benefits to the jobless, according to a poll out Monday from Hart Research Associates (available here as a PDF). Nearly three-quarters of the 802 registered voters surveyed agreed that it was 'too early to start cutting back benefits for workers who lost their jobs'."
When it's the right thing to do and a clear majority and then some of voters favor it, it shouldn't be this hard for our elected officials to do their jobs.
Monday, November 15, 2010. Chaos and violence, Nouri wants to hit the snooze button, Iraqi Christians continue to be targeted with 2 more killed in today's violence, the US federal government continues to crack down on activists, speculation as to who lost and who won in Iraq, and more.
Even if things go well between now and then - a big if - 2014 would not be the end of the war. The end of "combat operations," as the Iraq war has shown, does not mean the end of American troop deaths - nine Americans have died in Iraq since Mr. Obama hailed the end of combat operations there in September.
That's because if the combat operation does end in 2014, America will most likely still keep "non-combat" troops - who will be combat capable - in the country. (The "non-combat" troops in Iraq are still fighting alongside Iraqis and engaging in "targeted counterterrorism operations.")
Turning now to Iraq War Veteran Bradley Manning. Monday April 5th, WikiLeaks released US military video of a July 12, 2007 assault in Iraq. 12 people were killed in the assault including two Reuters journalists Namie Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Monday June 7th, the US military announced that they had arrested Bradley Manning and he stood accused of being the leaker of the video. This month, the military charged Manning. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reported in August that Manning had been charged -- "two charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The first encompasses four counts of violating Army regulations by transferring classified information to his personal computer between November and May and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system. The second comprises eight counts of violating federal laws governing the handling of classified information." Manning has been convicted in the public square despite the fact that he's been convicted in no state and has made no public statements -- despite any claims otherwise, he has made no public statements. Manning is now in Virginia, under military lock and key and still not allowed to speak to the press. The Bradley Manning Support Network notes that today is day 139 of imprisonment for Bradley.
Washington, DC, November 10, 2010 – Last week, David House, a developer working with the Bradley Manning Support Network, was detained and had his computer seized by the FBI when returning from a vacation in Mexico. He committed no crime, nor was he ever alleged to have committed a crime. He was questioned extensively about his support for alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning, who has been imprisoned at Quantico for over 160 days.
This invasive search is of great concern to all Americans who value the Constitutionally-protected rights to free speech and free assembly. The campaign to free Bradley Manning – which has garnered the support of tens of thousands of individuals from across the United States and the world – is rooted in a belief that government transparency is key to a healthy democracy. Our network stands firm in support of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning and has raised over $80,000 for his defense. If he is a source for documents published by WikiLeaks illuminating the campaign of disinformation about US foreign wars, then Manning deserves the gratitude of the entire nation. House sent an email to the Network describing his detainment, saying that, "My computer, video camera, and flash drive were confiscated, leaving me in a tough spot in terms of research obligations; the reason for the seizure, said the officials, was 'border search.'" The FBI denied House's requests to have a copy of his research data. This seems to be part of a disturbing trend of intimidation and property seizure being carried out against activists critical of US policies, including the detainment and laptop seizure of activist Jacob Applebaum in July and the September 24th FBI raids against antiwar and social justice activists.
Scott Horton: Something happened to a guy named David House who works with you.
Mike Gogulski: Yeah, yeah. David House is a friend of Bradley's and he was in touch with us very early on when we were first putting the network together as an organization. He was on our founding conference calls and also provided us with some technical assistance on the website. Being that he's a friend of Brad's, he's visited Bradley at Quantico two or three times since Bradley was moved from the field confinement facility in Kuwait to the -- to the US Embassy brig at Quantico, Virginia. So David, last week, was returning from a vacation to Mexico and in the process of making a connection at Chicago O'Hare Airport was detained by customs initially, later DHS and FBI, questioned extensively about his involvement with Bradley Manning, why he was visiting Manning in prison, what his connection was to us and, additionally, his electronic devices were seized and detained including a laptop computer. Now he was requested to provide the encryption keys to decrypt the contents of his computer which he refused to do. And he requested of the DHS and the FBI that he be able to get the twenty hours worth of programming work that he'd accomplished at some point during his vacation so that he wouldn't lose that product of his labor. And he wasn't allowed to do that. So he was given a receipt for the equipment which listed the laptop as worth $30 and the camera and the cell phone -- sorry, the camera and the memory stick as worth nothing and apparently the cell phone was returned to him after its contents were copied.
This is part of the ongoing harassment of activists by the federal government. Friday, September 24th FBI raids took place on at least seven homes of peace activists -- the FBI admits to raiding seven homes -- and the FBI raided the offices of Anti-War Committee. Just as that news was breaking, the National Lawyers Guild issued a new report, Heidi Boghosian's [PDF format warning] "The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass Dissent in the US." Heidi and Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner covered the topic on WBAI's Law and Disorder Radio including during a conversation with Margaret Ratner-Kunstler which you can hear at the program's site by going into the archives and the program has also transcribed their discussion with Margaret and you can read it here. Nicole Colson (US Socialist Worker) spoke with Michael Ratner about the raids and you can also refer to that. November 8th, Juan Gonzalez (Democracy Now!) noted a development, "We turn now to an update on the fallout from the FBI raids in late September that targeted antiwar activists in Minneapolis and Chicago. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury were served on thirteen people but later withdrawn when the activists asserted their right to remain silent. But this week the Justice Department said it intends to enforce the subpoenas for some of them and require them to appear before a grand jury. All those subpoenaed have been involved with antiwar activism that is critical of US foreign policy in Colombia and the Middle East." The National Lawyers Guild's Bruce Nestor joined the show briefly:
BRUCE NESTOR: Three people are now being -- looking at reappearing in front of the grand jury and likely being forced with the choice between talking about who they meet with, what the political beliefs of their friends and allies are, or perhaps risking contempt and sitting in jail for eighteen months. These are people who are deeply rooted in the progressive community in Chicago and Minneapolis. These are grandmothers, they're mothers, they're union activists. They were some of the organizers of the largest antiwar march at the 2008 Republican National Convention. And so -- and they're being prosecuted under this material support for terrorism law, a law that was really enhanced under the PATRIOT Act and that allows, in the government's own words, for people to be prosecuted for their speech if they coordinate it with a designated foreign terrorist organization. What you run the risk of there is that even if you state your own independent views about US foreign policy, but those views somehow reflect a group that the US has designated as a terrorist organization, you can be accused of coordinating your views and face, if not prosecution, at least investigation, search warrants, being summoned to a grand jury to talk about who your political allies and who your political friends are. So, so far, this law has largely been used against individuals, often Muslim Americans.
At the Nov. 6 meeting, civil liberties attorney Bruce Nestor, who represents those subpoenaed, said the Department of Justice is re-subpoenaing three of the 14 targeted anti-war activists. Nestor explained that they have the choice of testifying against their friends and the movement or potentially serving jail time for contempt of court if they refuse. Among those speaking were several of the activists whose homes were raided: Steff Yorek, Mick Kelly, Hatem Abudayyeh and Jess Sundin. Tom Burke co-chaired the meeting with Cherrene Horazuk. Kelly gave an overview of the FBI offensive, which reached as far as California and North Carolina, although most of those subpoenaed were in Minneapolis and Chicago. He also thanked the movement in general for the quick and widespread solidarity expressed in demonstrations in more than 60 cities in the first weeks after the home invasions. Sundin and Abudayyeh added more political insight, and also gave a feel for the personal side of being ambushed by the FBI and having your home, your life and your children's sense of security disrupted by the brutal state apparatus.
On the Law and Disorder Radio broadcast that began airing October 4th, hosts Michael S. Smith and Heidi Boghosian explained what you should do if the FBI attempts to question you:
Michael S. Smith: Heidi, when the FBI knocks, what do you do?
Heidi Boghosian: It is crucial that if anyone listening to this show is contacted by the FBI or if your friends or family members are, that you do not talk to them. You just say, "I would like to consult with my lawyer. May I have your business card? My lawyer will get back to you." Never say anything because anything you say, no matter how seemingly mundane -- answering a question: Do you live here?, Is your name such and such? -- can be used against you in further grand jury proceedings.
Michael S. Smith: Well they can go after you saying that you lied to them. Don't talk to them. Call your lawyer. Call our hotline. Get out a pencil. Heidi, give them the hotline.
Heidi Boghosian: If you're visited by the FBI, you can call the NLG's Hotline. It's 888-NLG-ECOL. Or 888-654-3265.
Michael S. Smith: Heidi, please repeat the hotline.
Heidi Boghosian: The hotline is 888-NLG-ECOL. And how you can remember that is that originally we started this as a hotline for environmental and animal rights activists so it was for ecology. It was Eco Law but we shortened it.
Sahar Issa (Miami Herald) reported Saturday, "Iraq averted a new political crisis Saturday when the head of the main Sunni-backed bloc ended a walkout and returned to parliament, paving the way for the formation of a new government." Leila Fadel (Washington Post) reminded, "The return came after Iraqiya's leader, secular Shiite Ayad Allawi, told CNN on Friday that he would 'not be a part of this theater,' adding: 'I am thinking of forming a council for opposition from inside parliament to start building the issues that we think are right for this country and to use all possible peaceful means to achieve the objectives'." Fadel also notes that Allawi is out of the country currently (in London). Ned Parker and Raheem Salman (Los Angeles Times) offered, "But Saturday's session could be a fleeting "kumbaya" moment: The weeks ahead are sure to be stormy as the sides brawl over the meaning of the often vague language of the agreement. In fact, even as the sides celebrated the end of the political crisis, the head of Iraqiya, Iyad Allawi, muddied the waters." John Leland and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) broke it down to the basics, "On Saturday, members of Iraqiya took part in a low-key session that consisted largely of ceremonial remarks. Representatives avoided initiatives that might have renewed the fractiousness of the previous session. In the end, they voted on a general plan for sharing power, but did not address any of the details that have divided the blocs. The members agreed to meet next on Nov. 21, after the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha."
March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with via "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, eight days and counting.
Well, the power-sharing agreement between these three parties was actually pretty detailed. And a couple of things that the Sunnis got in the deal, in addition to the parliament speaker job, was that they would head a new version of Iraq's security council. This was an idea floated by the Obama administration. The hope is to get all the country's top leaders in a room, Sunni, Shiite and Kurd, and let them dictate major issues. Like, you know, whether American troops will stay past the December 2011 deadline. Also, the Sunnis were pushing to allow the return of some of their fellow party members who were banned from parliament because of their previous associations with Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. So, the walkout in parliament was basically because they wanted all of these things that they had agreed to to be voted on in the first session of parliament, to be sort of codified while everyone was watching on TV. And instead what the parliament members wanted to do was just name these top three posts.
Sami Moubayed (Gulf News) wonders about the commission McEver's reduces to a half sentence: "What exactly will the new council, which has been tailor-made for Allawi, be mandated to achieve? What will its powers entail? Who will it report to and to what extent will there be an overlap, and perhaps conflict, between it and the [prime minister's] Cabinet?" Moubayed refers to Article 108 of the Constitution. Article 108 is a single sentence: "Other independent commissions may be established by law, according to need and necessity." David Dayen (Firedoglake) sees the arrangement as "a clear sign that the dream of a unity government is little more than a sham. Maliki and Talabani have pretty close ties to Iran, and the nationsl security council that Allawi will helm doesn't appear to have the kind of power satisfactory to him." Assad Abboud (Middle East Online) quotes Baghdad University's polical science professor Hamid Fadhel stating, "Maliki succeeded in behing the acceptable choice of both Iran and America -- that choice kind of balances the interests of America in Iraq and Iran in Iraq. Iran felt he was closest to Iran's policies, and the United States did not see him as against their policies, he was cooperative."
In the mess that is Iraq's continued inability to fill their top post, the White House's red-faced embarrassment has led them to insist that they accomplished something, honest. Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported: "Hoping to rebut criticism that it had lost influence in Iraq and was too passive over the eight months since the March election there, or that its efforts were designed to keep Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in power, the administration offered a detailed written account of previously unreported meetings, visits and calls it said Biden and others had made." Michael Jansen (Gulf Today) noted the obvious, "The deal making that produced last Thursday's session of parliament is nothing to boast about." She then goes on to note:
It is not clear why Iraqiya thought Maliki -- a sectarian Shiite whose Dawa party was a bitter enemy of the Baath -- would implement this pledge. Maliki has also failed to carry out solemn promises to recruit into the security forces or find civil service jobs for fighters of the Sunni Awakening Councils -- or Sons of Iraq movement -- who helped US and government forces curb Al Qaeda in 2007-08. Maliki has shown himself to have absolutely no intention of sharing power with Sunnis and certainly not with secular politicians like Allawi who represents the "old Iraq" where politics was non-sectarian. In spite of Obama's declaration that an "inclusive" government formula had been found after months of wrangling, Maliki is not interested in including Sunnis, secularists, former Baathists and others who do not subscribe to the ethno-sectarian system imposed on Iraq by the previous Bush administration.
Many pundits are offering that Iran seems a clear winner and that Iraqiya seems a clearr loser. The Kurds didn't really win either -- though the Kurdish leaders got what they wanted. The new Speaker, for example, Osama al-Nufaifi was popular with Shi'ites and the Kurds went along with it after some initial discussion where they considered rejecting the choice due to the fact that he and his family are seen as incredibly anti-Kurdish. If that impression is strengthened by the way Osama runs the Parliament, look for Kurdish leadership to face some of the most difficult and stinging criticism thus far. The sort that could, in fact, allow the non-home grown Goran to be the serious challenger that the CIA was hoping it would be back in 2009.
Should Nouri al-Maliki be able to put together a cabinet in the designated time-frame of 30 days or '30' days (we'll come back to it), the Kurds may emerge as the biggest loser. Turning down the position of Minister of Oil to keep the presidency was a huge screw up. The two vice presidents were not an issue in the negotiations so the Kurds might have been smarter to have taken -- as offered -- the Speaker post and the Minister of Oil and insisted that they also be guaranteed a vice presidency. The presidency is a ceremonial post whose only real power is the ability to block legislation.
The vice presidents also have that power. When the election laws were being written for this go around, the world saw the Sunni vice president able to stop the process as least temporarily.
So if the concern was that losing the presidency meant no ability to object to the proposed laws, that was misplaced concern because a vice president slot would carry the same power.
It may turn out that Jalal Talabani's ego trumped Kurdish interests and should the Kirkuk census not take place at the start of next month -- as Nouri has promised or 'promised' -- the choices the Kurdish bloc made -- including to back Nouri and not someone from Iraqiya -- will look beyond politically stupid and come off to many Kurds as political suicide. Equally true, their decision to rebuff the White House -- specifically Barack -- will most likely result in less efforts to 'rescue' when "the Kurds come whining" according to one friend in the administration.
Who is the biggest loser right now? The Iraqi people. Nouri was able to utilize the power of the state to campaign for him. He was able to use the media, he was able to bribe -- both in soft bribes and in criminal bribes. Doing all of that still didn't let his slate get the most seats. He created State of Law because he thought he was all powerful and beloved. He refused to run with his own party or any alliance with them. And the results were a rejection of Nouri since Iraqiya managed to pull ahead of it -- managed to do so when some of their best known candidates were prevented from running, managed to do so when the entire slate was threatened repeatedly and publicly.
Had the US supported Iraqiya, there might be an indication to the people that elections matter. Instead, in a country where elections have only recently become anything resembling so-called 'free' elections, the message was sent that, in the end, it didn't matter. Considering how many people resisted threats and 'warnings' to turn out and vote in the March elections, that's a horrible -- and democracy stunting -- message to send.
Contrast that with the US in 2004. Massive resistance to the Bush administration's policies led to large turnout. It wasn't enough to throw Bush out of the White House but it was the building block for the 2008 elections. Then 2010's midterms saw a rejection of Barack Obama leading some pundits to inist that 'the American people don't know what they want.' Reality, the American people have not received what they want and what they thought they were voting for.
Some might point to 2000 and how the Supreme Court ignored the Constitution -- which already had a way to resolve disputed election returns -- and issued their 'one time only' ruling awarding the presidency to George W. Bush. Some might point to that and say, "See, that spurred action on the part of the opposition." It did. The theft of the presidency did. And while the theft that appears to be taking place in Iraq currently could potentially spur action and activism in their next election, such an argument ignores the fact that the US had an established tradition of elections before 2000 while Iraq really just has the last five years -- unless you want to go back to the pre-Saddam era. (Which most Iraqis didn't live through but may be historically familiar. Iraq has a young population. The median age is 20.6 years old.)
If you look at the two national elections they've held (2005 and 2010), you see that the Sunnis largely boycotted the 2005 elections and large numbers later decided that was the wrong move. Which is why Sunnis turned out in such large numbers in 2010 (not all Sunnis voted for Iraqiya and some voted for State of Law -- not all of Iraqiya's votes came from Sunnis) while Shi'ites, unhappy with what had taken place since the last elections in 2005, elected to stay home in larger numbers than in 2005. Had the US backed Iraqiya, the message would be in place that voting does matter. Instead the US backed Nouri and underscored the message: Your vote doesn't count.
Now let's talk Nouri al-Maliki and 30 days or '30' days. He was named prime minister-delegate Thursday and the 30 day countdown to form a cabinet of ministers or be replaced by another prime minister-delegate should have begun then. It now looks like the 'starting date' for the countdown will be around November 20th (November 20th was what the parties had agreed to with the US Ambassador last week -- before Thursday's events in the Parliament). It should start when he was named prime minister-delegate -- or as many bad news outlets, including NPR, 'reported' when 'he was named prime minister.' Article 76 of the Iraqi Constitution is not open to interpretation. It is very clear as to when the countdown starts and as to what happens if you're unable to form a cabinet in 30 days -- form and have it approved by Parliament.
If the thinking is that this will give Nouri more time (and that's really the only way to interpret this effort to hit the snooze button), it's ignoring the reality that when the next month starts, time moves even quicker. Especially if the promised Kirkuk census does not take place. And if that doesn't take place, the Kurdsih bloc may be the strongest bloc in opposing ministers nominated by Nouri.
That's how you kill Nouri's chances at prime minister at this point. You prevent his ministers from being named. Each one has to pass a vote in Parliament -- as does his program itself -- and 163 is the minimum each minister will have to receive. That's also the magic number for creating a government. We saw it take eight months for something to work out on the previous magic numbers. Don't be surprised if reaching 163 over and over to approve his ministers throws a little snag in the proceedings. Equally true, you hardly look ready to lead to the world when violence continues to scar your nation and you're named prime minister-delegate but won't do any work on that for at least a week. In fact, it makes the White House look even more out of touch having hailed this standing still as a 'move forward.'
In other news,e Minority Rights Group's Mark Lattimer tells Michael Grubb (Media Line), "There is a widespread perception in the West that violence in Iraq has gone down and that there is a stable situation there, and with the new government and all. But the situation for minorities is at least as dangerous as it was in 2006 and 2007." The Telegraph of London reports, "Christians have again been targeted in Iraq in an attack that killed seven people on Monday including two Christians in the latest in a spate of violence against the minority community." Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) adds, "Gunmen stormed two adjacent homes in the northern city of Mosul late Monday and shot dead two men, the latest in a series of attacks targeting Christians, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said."
In other shootings, Reuters notes a Sahwa leader was shot in Samarra and left injured while in bombings Reuters notes a Mosul roadside bombing injured two people, a Qaim bombing claimed the life of 1 police officer and left four by-standers injured, a Qaim roadside bombing injured five people, a Qaim bombing injured a suspect, a Rashad bombing claimed 2 lives, a Kirkuk roadside bombing injured one security force, two Mosul car bombings claimed 2 lives and left at least seventeen people wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing left five people wounded, another Baghdad roadside bombing injured three people and a Baghdad sticky bombing claimed 1 life ("an embassy security guard") and injured one person.,
Staying on the topic of the targeting of Iraqi Christians, Robert Cheaib (Zenit) quotes an Iraqi priest (unnamed) stating the October 31st attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church was the only one of the more covered (by the media) assaults. The priest states, "As a Christian an Iraqi I ask all to commit themselves to letting the voice of Iraqi Christians heard throughout the world using the authority of the media, because our own means are limited and poor, and we are in great need of a strong and multilingual means to make our voice and cry reach international governmental authorities." On AM With Tony Eastley (link has text and audio, Australia's ABC) , Ben Knightly filed a report from St. Ephraim's Church in Amman, Jordan where many Iraqi Christians who have fled to Jordan now worship.
The most recent arrival is Susannah. Two weeks ago 50 people were massacred at her church in Baghdad. Days later she picked up her baby son and left. "We put up with so much," she says, "but after the attack on the church, we were much more scared." Nijem Abdallah's two cousins also died in that church. He and his family might have been among them too had he not left Iraq just before after receiving a visit from Islamic militants. "They came into my shop and demanded I give it to them," he says. "So I did. Then they followed me home and demanded a thousand dollars a month or they would kill me and my son." Nijem Abdallah says the men were from the Mahdi Army. It's the military wing of one of the main power blocs in Iraq's new Government. Nijem Abdallah says he spoke to his brother in Baghdad two day ago, who told him that Christians are now finding posters on their houses, telling them they have three days to get out.
And the fear doesn't vanish if you're among the few lucky enough to make it out of the region. Vivienne Walt (Time magazine) notes Iraqi Christians in Sweden fear they'll be deported back to Iraq:
Swedish immigration officials have been deporting Iraqi refugees to Baghdad on flights about every three weeks, declaring that some of them have no legitimate claim to political asylum in Sweden. That includes Iraqi Christians — a category that does not automatically imply a risk of persecution, according to Swedish guidelines. Of the 80,000 or so Iraqi refugees in Sweden, about 6,000 of them are Christian, according to estimates by the Syriac Orthodox Church in Stockhold. That Swedish interpretation of the main criterion for refugee status under U.N. treaties has spread widespread panic among refugees. "There are hundreds of Iraqis here who are not legal who have simply disappeared," says an Iraqi engineer in Stockholm, a Catholic, who fled Baghdad in 2004 with his family after Islamic militants ordered them to leave their home, or be killed. "The refugees are hiding in churches or basements, working illegal jobs, trying to survive, transferring from place to place."
And lastly, US Senator Byron Dorgan weighs in on the push by some to make permanent the Bush tax giveaways -- transferring the monies of the low income and middle income workers to the wealthiest people in the country:
For Immediate Release CONTACT: Barry E. Piatt or Jennifer Bronson
November 15, 2010 PHONE: 202-224-2551
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) --- U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) said in a speech on the Senate floor Monday that backers of a permanent extension of all the 2001 tax cuts set to expire on December 31 forfeit all credibility when they also claim to want to do something to reduce the federal deficit.
"Our country is at war. We have a $13 trillion federal debt. We have a $1.3 trillion yearly budget deficit. Yet some are insisting our country borrow another $1 trillion to give – permanent -generous tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans.
"You can't add $1 trillion to our federal debt and, at the same time, say you want to reduce our federal debt. You've given up all claim to saying you want to reduce the deficit when you are willing to increase the federal debt to give $100,000 a year tax cuts to those who make $1 million a year," he said.
Dorgan told his fellow Senators he believes Congress should extend the middle income tax cuts, for those with annual incomes of $250,000 or less, for a two year period and make a judgment at that time about what the state of the economy is and what more needs to be done.
Dorgan argued that the 2001 tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans should be allowed to expire at the end of this year as originally intended by President Bush and the Republican Congress that enacted them.
"The 2001 tax cuts were created to return an expected $5 trillion surplus in the coming ten years to the American people," Dorgan noted. "But the fact is there were no surpluses. Instead, we've experienced record budget deficits and financed then by borrowing money from the Chinese and the Japanese.
"If ever there was a moment when the American people should expect and deserve real leadership on issues that matter, it is now," Dorgan said. "Our economic future still hangs in the balance and this time Congress ought to make the right decision rather than the easy decision.