My birthday is August
7, sandwiched between the anniversary dates for the
bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (on August 6 and
August 9, 1945, respectively). I was six years old when
the first bomb fell. My course in life was
On September 2, 1945, when the local fire siren
suddenly blared, my teacher asked, “What is that?” and I
knew: The war was over.
It had been a really scary time in Melbourne,
Australia, as the Japanese had
threatened to invade us. Dad dug an air-raid shelter
in our back garden, and the windows were blacked out
while the city’s searchlights scanned the skies at
Elated, I walked home on that lovely sunny afternoon
picking flowers along the way. It would be years later
before I learned the awful truth about how the war
What rained down on those two Japanese cities
seventy-five years ago was destruction on a scale never
seen before or since. People exposed within half a mile
of the atomic fireball were seared to piles of smoking
char in a fraction of a second as their internal organs
boiled away. The small black bundles stuck to the
streets and bridges and sidewalks of Hiroshima numbered
in the thousands.
A little boy was
reaching up to catch a red dragonfly with his hand
against the blue sky when there was a blinding flash and
he disappeared. He turned into gas and left his shadow
behind on the pavement, a haunting relic later moved to
the Hiroshima Museum. A woman was running while holding
her baby; she and the baby were turned into a charcoal
In all, about 120,000 people were
killed immediately by the two bombs, and tens of
thousands more died later due to radiation exposure.
This is a serious issue and it's becoming one again. Only one politician running for president is discussing that.
Howie Hawkins is running for president on the Green Party ticket.
Thursday, August 6, 2020. Oh, look, one of those 'trusted' voices on
Iraq -- one who, of course, got everything wrong -- is back again to
tell us all how great things are going in Iraq.
afternoon, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL published a ridiculous piece of
garbage by Sam Gollob and Michael O'Hanlon. The piece is entitled "At Long Last, Iraq Is Getting Back On Track" -- and that title tells you everything you need to know.
think THE JOURNAL would avoid this sort of garbage if only to protect
whatever's left of their name. It's not a great paper by any means but
their opinion section has long harmed their image and allowed a lot of
partisan Democrats to attack them for anything and everything, whether
they did it or not.
Look at the hideous Paul
Greengrass. If the #MeToo movements was going to start removing
directors from positions of power, you would have thought Greengrass
would have been an early starting point. But his actions on the set
remain as non-criticized as the garbage he churns out. For our
purposes, we're looking at the hideous movie THE GREEN ZONE.
flick completely ignored its source material (Rajiv Chandrasekaran's
IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY) to film a lie. In the bad and boring
movie, facts are tossed aside so that the lie can be told: It was that
bad WALL STREET JOURNAL that lied us into Iraq. Amy Ryan plays the bad
reporter whose work features every baseless claim -- presented as fact
-- that the Bully Boy Bush administration made. And her character works
for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.
The character, as
anyone watching the film knows, is based on Judith Miller who was the
star reporter for THE NEW YORK TIMES. It also cribs from a bad front
page story that Chris Hedges wrote for THE NEW YORK TIMES. But somehow,
history gets rewritten in this bad movie so that the big offender was .
. . a reporter for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL.
things on the above, first off: Chris Hedges. I like Chris. I'm not
his press agent. It's not my job to get him good press. We regularly
highlight his work on RT and will continue to do so; however, that
doesn't mean that we lie about what took place. We are right now
talking about pre-war Iraq press coverage. The character Amy Ryan plays
speaks with an anonymous source supplied to her by the government and
publishes lies given to her from him. You can't talk about that and not
talk about what Chris Hedges did unless you are more committed to
advancing Chris Hedges than to telling the truth. The first front page
'report' linking 9/11 to Iraq -- falsely linking -- appeared weeks after
9/11 -- Chris Hedges had the byline, it ran on the front page of THE
NEW YORK TIMES. Not one claim in that article stands up today. The
government set Chris up with that 'insider' because they wanted their
lies told to the world as fact. Chris made it happen.
don't hate Chris. I like Chris. But if we're talking about the press
lies that got us into war with Iraq, Chris' report is part of those
lies. Yes, Chris went on to speak out against the war and suffered
professionally for doing so. And that's part of Chris' story as well.
But this isn't the "Chris Hedges snapshot." It's the "Iraq snapshot."
And we're not going to use Judith Miller as our daily pinata the way so
many others have. Judith Miller printed a lot of lies and she believed
them all. She was gung-hu in Iraq, once the war started, and trying to
commandeer troops to find those WMDs that she honestly -- and foolishly
-- believed were in Iraq. We have held Judith Miller accountable for
what she did and will continue to do so. We will not, however, present
the lie that it was just her and we will not pretend that no one else
needs to be held accountable. To this day, my problem with Chris, he
has not been accountable. He will admit that his front page report is
nonsense. And after his main source was outed, he did agree with MOTHER
JONES that the Iraqi exile had been a source. But, as we have long
pointed out, the article claimed two sources. If the source lied --
Chris says they did, and I believe him -- then you have been burned by
your source and you do not have to protect them.
knew Judith Miller's source was Scooter Libby. We noted that in 2004.
Long before the court case. When Judith elected to go to jail rather
than betray her source, that was fine, we applauded her for that. But
Scooter didn't burn Judith. (He just told her Valerie Plame was a CIA
agent.) Chris was burned and he should have long ago exposed the other
source and written at length about how that interview came to be --
everyone he knew at the paper that promoted the story as news, everyone
in the administration that was part of providing the paper with the
We called out someone who we
highlighted in a video yesterday. I don't even want to say her name.
She deserved to be called out for what we called her out for. Saying
every US servicemember who went to Vietnam was a War Criminal was an
outrageous and offensive statement. The political leaders who sent them
to Vietnam? They're all War Criminals. But the service members who
were lied to and who were sent there are not War Criminals unless they
were raping or murdering children or . . . In the Iraq War, Steven D.
Green is a War Criminal -- he plotted and took part in the gang rape of
Abeer and he murdered her, her sister and her parents. The Americans at
Abu Ghraib -- unless they were whistle blowers -- were War Criminals.
But every American that served in Iraq is not a War Criminal. The
political leaders who sent them to Iraq and keep them in Iraq are War
My job is not to be a press agent
for anyone. My job is to explain to the best of my ability what is
happening and what happened. Most of us say something that deserves
calling out from time to time -- including me. And if I'm covering
something and it's applicable, we're going to call them out.
At this late date why is anyone treating Michael O'Hanlon as someone to
listen to? How many times can you be wrong about Iraq and still have
the press treat your loony opinions as worth listening to.
is not back on track anymore than the 'surge' brought political
stability to Iraq, anymore than Iraq had WMDs (they didn't) or even of
the other positions O'Hanlon has argued over the years. The only
consistent aspect to his public statements about Iraq? That they have
been wrong over and over.
Iraq is in the midst
of a pandemic -- like the rest of the world. Their economy is in
tatters. They have (still) the issue of the lack of electricity and
potable water. In fact, IOM Iraq Tweeted this morning:
All the crises he inherited have deepened. The coronavirus pandemic,
already alarming when Kadhimi was sworn in, has since only grown more
frightening, forcing him to announce fresh lockdowns.
The Iraqi economy, having suffered extensive collateral damage from
the oil war, has weakened. Powerful, Iran-backed militias have grown
more brazen. Corruption, already ingrained in the body politic, seems to
have metastasised across every aspect of the state.
Even the weather has been worse than expected. Iraq is now
wilting in the hottest summer ever recorded, with temperatures nearing
52 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) in Baghdad and 53C (127F) in Basra
The heat threatens to bring the protests against electricity and
water shortages — a summer fixture in the Iraqi political calendar — to a
fever pitch. Some demonstrations in Baghdad have already boiled over
into clashes with security forces: Two protesters were killed last
On the protesters, how telling that the
same week the world learned of the kidnapping and torture of 16-year-old
Hamid Saeed by Iraqi forces, O'Hanlon would show up to insist that Iraq
was back on track. How telling and how typical. Mina Aldbroubi of THE NATIONAL Tweets:
political blocs that stand to lose in new elections will have sufficient
incentive to try to stall them. Nahrain University Political Science
Professor Yaseen al-Bakri told
Al Monitor that “they want the current parliamentary term to be
completed and avoid going to early elections because they are well aware
of the little chances they have in the early elections.”
the electoral process could be as easy as hampering progress towards
the establishment of a new electoral law. While parliament has passed
the law, it has not sent the law to the president for approval because
of disagreements between parliament’s rival factions.
Who are these unnamed political blocs?
And does he mean stall in Parliament?
stall has traditionally come from one of Iraq's vice presidents -- they
have multiple vice presidents. Often, it is over something like the
issue of the displaced and the refugees and are provisions made to allow
them to vote?
The law is not sent to the
president, it's sent to the the three presidencies. That includes the
Vice Presidents. I really think something has happened in the last
years. Either out of ignorance or out of a desire to elevate the office
of the president of Iraq, journalists keep pretending that the highest
position in Iraq is the president. The presidency was given to the
Kurds. It is a ceremonial position. If it had true power, you can be
sure that Shi'ite majority Iraq would never have given the post to the
News out of Kurdistan this morning is of the death of a prominent political figure. RUDAW reports:
A prominent Kurdish nationalist from Iran has died in Sulaimani on Thursday after a battle with COVID-19.
Jalil Gadani, a long-time member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of
Iran (KDPI), passed away at Hiwa hospital in the Kurdistan Region’s
eastern city on Thursday after being in intensive care for almost a
week, according to an official statement published by the group on Thursday.
Gadani, who has been involved in Kurdish Iranian politics for more than
six decades, split from the KDPI in 2006 with a number of senior members
to form the splinter group called Kurdistan Democratic Party
(KDP-Iran). He held senior positions in both parties for decades.
"Jalil Gadani was a book that was written over a 60 years period, my condolences to the Kurdish people," said Facebook user Hassan Ahmed.
On Sunday, Iraqi security forces detained a Kurdistan 24 team that was covering a clash between Kurdish villagers and several Arab families in the disputed Kirkuk province.
The incident occurred in the Guli Tapa village in southern parts of Kirkuk, where a confrontation ensued over land-ownership disputes. Shortly after, a Kurdistan 24 media team, made up of a reporter and a cameraman, arrived on the scene.
Kurds in Daquq district, where Guli Tapa is located, claimed that the
Iraqi Federal Police had supported Arab families coming and attempting
to take over lands Kurds own.
Upon arrival, "we were detained by a unit of Iraq's Federal Police
for three hours in a window-tinted car," said Soran Kamaran, Kurdistan
24's reporter in Kirkuk province. Kurdistan 24 cameraman Nawzad Mohammad
was accompanying Kamaran.
"We were told [by the security forces] that they do not allow such
incidents to be reported," Kamaran said. He added that the police unit
also confiscated their equipment and still hold on to them.
There are entire generations of kids in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya who have known nothing but war their entire lives. They've grown up with PTSD, anxiety, depression because of Obama. No one talks about the toll on their mental health. Are they not human? Don't they matter?
In late July, former Democratic presidential candidate, Vermont
Senator Bernie Sanders, along with 14 other Democratic congresspeople
introduced legislation calling for the US to increase the production of
masks and distribute them to all Americans at no cost. The legislation
is called “Masks-for-All,” a playoff of Sanders’ former proposal of
Yesterday, Sanders penned an op-ed in USA Today advertising
his bill: “Coronavirus pandemic is raging out of control. Our solution:
Masks for All.” In it, he declares that it is a “tragedy, and
embarrassing, that the United States is practically the only major
country where the COVID-19 pandemic is worsening by the day.”
He goes on to state, “If we are to have any hope of turning this
economy around, opening schools safely, and preventing countless more
deaths, we must first get this virus under control.” His plan to combat
the pandemic is to provide masks for everyone.
A number of points should be made in relation to Sanders’ proposal.
First, there is no doubt that under conditions of a raging global
pandemic, every worker in the US and internationally should have access
to high-quality masks, at no cost. The productive forces that are needed
to carry out such a minor endeavor certainly exist within capitalist
Providing masks to the population is only the most basic measure
that is required to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and save the lives of
hundreds of thousands of workers and youth. As scientists and health
experts have been declaring for months, combatting the pandemic requires
the implementation of a whole series of measures: extensive contact
tracing, the production of PPE for hospitals, and universal access to
quick-response testing to name just a few.
Furthermore, essential workers must be provided with the necessary
equipment and training needed in order to carry out their work safely.
In any rational society (i.e. a socialist society) non-essential workers
would not be permitted back to work until the pandemic was well under
control, and even then, only with the most advanced and extensive
protective and preventative measures in place. Workers would have the
assurance that they would have access to free high-quality care if they
or a loved one did end up falling ill with the virus.
It's a pandemic and we're acting like it's not. We're also not showing workers the respect they deserve.
One of the hospitials here is out of 'wipes' and they're forcing their front staff to use a spray of some mixture and rags to wipe down the counters that the people check in and register at.
Veteran Sean Worsley stopped for gas in Gordo, Alabama to pump gas for
his wife on a family road trip to his grandmother’s house. While pumping
gas he was laughing and playing air guitar. He was approached by Gordo
PD for violating a noise ordinance with his music, and the events that
unfolded from there would change his life forever.
And here is Eboni Worsley, Sean's wife, speaking about the case and Sean joins her on the phone in this video.
drive-by e-mails (non-community members e-mailing the public account)
who insist they are attorneys want it known that I am completely wrong
when I say this needs to be challenged in regards to medical.
Can I be completely wrong? Absolutley. And I probably am many times. I don't think I'm wrong on this.
facing prison because he was going through Alabama and he and his wife
were stopped and he had marijuana. The marijuana was prescribed, he had
his medical prescription. Alabama does not prescribe medical
marijuana. Not only was his medication confiscated but he was arrested.
am on, among other things, metformin, gab-whatever, insulin (injection)
and chemo (which, right now, I'm taking orally). If I go through North
Carolina and am stopped and agree to a search, the officer certainly
has a right to search me. But does s/he have a right to confiscate my
medication? Do they have a right to hold me in jail and deny me my
Alabama's stupid in not prescribing
medical marijuana but I don't see where they have the right to
interfere with a medical treatment.
violated Sean's rights right there. He has TBI and Post-Traumatic
Stress. They knew that. They put him behind bars without access to his
medication despite knowing that. They denied him his medication.
I'd like to know what medical professional in Alabama, who has a background in TBI and PTS treatment signed off on this?
I know the answer: No one did.
The state of Alabama disregarded a patient's treatment plan, stopped the treatment and did so without any medical supervision.
Police officers are not doctors.
This was a violation of his medical treatment.
His attorney has attempted to argue sympathy and that it was prescribed and so blah blah blah.
don't disagree with that argument but I do see that it hasn't had any
effect at all. The attorney's argued that for how long now?
Yes, it's helped in the court of public opinion.
glad people are supporting Sean and that they are behind him in larger
and larger numbers as they learn about this case. But support for Sean
right now is not translating into freedom.
When you're defense doesn't work in court, you go on the offensive.
attorney needs to immediately file charges against the State of
Alabama. We're not talking about the arrest here, we're talking about
the medical issue.
If tomorrow I'm in North
Carolina and they decide to disallow their citizens having prescriptions
for chemo, are they able to interfere with my medical treatment because
I'm driving through their state? Are they able to immediately halt my
medical treatment and to do so with no medical supervision, without
consulting any doctor at all?
No, they're not.
That's what they did.
his attorney has any real sense, he'll file immediately on that. And
he can pursue to victory -- he'd have to really bungle the case to
lose. Or he can drop the case when the State of Alabama realizes how
much they could lose -- Sean could potentially get rich off this case --
if they allow it to go to court. If the State decides they don't want
to go to court, one of the first things they're going to do is either
offer some sort of 'time served' option or drop the original charges.
way, Sean would win. And I'm on the other phone (the snapshots are
dictated). Okay, just ran by a friend with the National Lawyers Guild
and her verdict? That's a sound argument and that's what she would do
were she representing Sean. "Put some fear into them [State of
Alabama]," she says, "and see if they don't suddenly want to resolve the
whole thing without prison time."
any of the fifty, does not have the right to stop our medical
treatment. And to stop it without having Sean see a doctor first who
agrees that this treatment can be stopped? That's not the United States
of America and I don't see any court insisting that the government has
They overstepped their rights and Sean should sue on the medical issue.
e-mails, Brian Stelter of CNN became a news topic late Monday. He lied
that the notion that Joe Biden should refuse to debate Donald Trump was
coming from the right-wing. Several drive-by e-mails insisted I was
wrong not to cover that. One person wrote, "I read your blog because I
think you try to be fair even though you're a bleeding heart lefty. Now
I doubt that because you ignored this topic."
You now doubt that I'm a bleeding heart lefty or you doubt that I try to be fair?
Monday morning, before Brian became a news topic, we already covered this topic. In Monday's snapshot,
I noted Democrat of the Bill Clinton administration Joe Lockhart had
proposed that. I noted he did so in a column he wrote for -- not FOX
NEWS -- CNN. I noted that it was an outrageous suggestion and it went
against everything a democracy stands for.
that day, Brian entered the news cycle. He lied. He lies all the
time. I have no respect for him. He's built his career on lying and
he's one sided -- I'd say he's more centrist than left -- and he's
partisan and he's a clown who is ugly and looks like a child molester.
That he lies and that I think he's ugly and looks like a child
molester? Those aren't new comments. I've made them here and at THIRD
in pieces with Ava.
He has no charisma and he's disgusting ugly.
Why is he on TV in front of camera?
any rate, I don't plan what I'm going to write ahead of time each day.
I have no idea what the snapshot's going to emphasize until I'm about
to dictate or sometimes in the middle of dictating. At which point,
I'll say, "Okay, this is going to go at the top, above everything you've
I missed Sean's case
completely. I did not know about it, had not heard about it. I was
dictating the snapshot when the other phone rang and a friend with a VSO
was on the line asking if I was going to cover Sean? I learned about
him in the middle of the snapshot and we went with FOX NEWS because
hours before they had published a report. (Which was a strong report,
by the way.)
So on Tuesday morning, Brian was
back in the news cycle for lying yet again. And I'd just learned of
Sean's plight. What was I going to go with? Sean.
an Iraq War veteran and the State of Alabama thought they could
overrule his doctor's plan, they thought they could cease his medication
immediately and they thought they could do all of this without having
him see a single doctor to determine the medical impact their actions
I'm always going to go with the Seans of this world, sorry.
need to stand together when we're under attack and what was done to
Sean wasn't just wrong, it was also an attack on every one of us.
The coronavirus is an attack on all of us around the world. Like other countries, Iraq has been heavily hit. ALJAZEERA has a photo essay of the burials of COVID 19 victims and they note:
Every chapter of
Iraq's modern history can be seen in the sprawling cemetery of Wadi
al-Salam outside the holy city of Najaf. Its sandy expanse is growing,
this time with coronavirus victims.
A special burial
ground near the cemetery has been created specifically for COVID-19
victims because such burials have been rejected by Baghdad cemeteries
and other places in Iraq.
In Iraq, the virus has
been surrounded by stigma, driven by religious beliefs, customs and a
deep mistrust of the healthcare system.
Iraq has recorded close to 132,000 coronavirus cases and nearly 5,000 deaths.
"The Iraqi Health Ministry reported on Tuesday 2,836 new COVID-19
cases, raising the total number in the country to 134,722. The new
cases included 769 in the capital Baghdad, 296 in Karbala,
244 in Erbil, 207 in Basra, 194 in Babil, 135 in Maysan, and 129 in
Najaf, the ministry said in a statement. It also reported 83 fatalities
during the day, raising the death toll
to 5,017, while 1,992 more patients recovered, bringing the total
number of recoveries to 96,103." Those are the numbers and they're
frightening. Samya Kullab and Nabil Al-Jurani (AP) look at how this impacts individual Iraqis:
In Iraq’s oil-rich south, the scorching summer months pose painful new
choices in the age of the coronavirus: stay at home in the sweltering
heat with electricity cut off for hours, or go out and risk the virus.
is Zain al-Abidin’s predicament. A resident of al-Hartha district, in
Basra province, Mr. Abidin lost his job due to pandemic-related
restrictions. During the day he listens helplessly to his four-month old
daughter cry in the unbearable heat, too poor to afford private
generators to offset up to eight-hour power cuts.
“I have no tricks to deal with this but to pray to God for relief,” he said.
18 years after the US-led invasion of Iraq, the electricity issue has
never been solved. Somehow, oil rich Iraq can't provide reliable
electricity to its citizens. Mustafa al-Kadhimi became prime minister
on May 7th. He has made public remarks about the failures of previous
administration to fix this problem or even address it. He has promised
reform. Can he deliver?
When Mustafa al-Kadhimi became Iraq’s prime minister on May 7, after five months of political deadlock in Baghdad, I argued his best chance of success was to fail fast.
The only way to clean the Augean stables of Iraqi politics was with the
strong broom of a popular mandate — and that could only be obtained
from elections. Thoroughgoing political and economic reforms would
require a majority — or at least a plurality with which to build an
irresistible coalition — in parliament.
Last week, the prime minister called for early elections — on June 6, 2021, a year ahead of schedule.
But Iraq’s circumstances have deteriorated so much in the three months
since he took office, Kadhimi will have a much harder time convincing
Iraqis to give him a mandate to rule.
Even the weather has been worse than expected. Iraq is now wilting in the hottest summer ever recorded,
with temperatures nearing 52 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit) in
Baghdad and 53C (127F) in Basra last week. The heat threatens to bring
the protests against electricity and water shortages — a summer fixture
in the Iraqi political calendar — to a fever pitch. Some demonstrations in Baghdad have already boiled over into clashes with security forces: Two protesters were killed last Monday.
does he address corruption when so many of the leaders are corrupt?
It's a question few want to address. But the corruption is well known.
When Democrats in Congress knew they could use Iraq to garner votes,
they would hold hearings about what was happening to all the US dollars
being sent to Iraq -- dollars that never managed to help the people.
They stopped those hearing when Barack Obama became president and they
also ended the watchdog office over reconstruction in Iraq -- over the
objection of the person in that office. With Barack in the White House,
Democrats no longer wanted oversight of Iraq. They didn't stop the
flow of US tax dollars to Iraq, they just stopped caring where the money
went. Roopinder Tara (ENGINEERING.COM) writes about the corruption this morning:
In the power vacuum left after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s
government, a thicket of corruption has erupted. The corruption took
hold during the end of Saddam’s reign, when international sanctions
against Iraq resulted in the slashing of government officials’ incomes
and the workers resorting to taking bribes, according to a recent report
in The New York Times.
The World Population Review report ranks Iraq the 11th most corrupt country in the world in 2020.
In 2011, a $148 million project was planned to turn Baghdad’s Sadr al
Qanaat thoroughfare into an idyllic outdoor park with sports fields,
restaurants, playgrounds and a canal with decorative bridges over it.
But that site is now “a dismal dumping ground with little sign that
anything was ever spent on it.”
Where did the money go? According to The Times, it went into
the pockets of corrupt officials who, with the backing of militias,
funnel billions of dollars supplied by the United States for
construction projects into their personal international bank accounts.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi is set to visit Washington soon,
although he does not yet have a date or an invitation, so he is
scrambling to say all the right things in order to secure a meeting with
US President Donald Trump.
Iraq is worse off than it was two weeks ago and this last week has
propelled two items to the top of the list for Al-Kadhimi’s visit to the
US: Kata’ib Hezbollah’s continued attacks on the US and Iraqis, and
calls by Al-Kadhimi for early elections that Kata’ib Hezbollah and its
allies in Iraq’s Council of Representatives won’t allow to happen.
The top agenda item for Trump is for Al-Kadhimi to do something about
the militias that he supposedly commands as Iraq’s commander in chief.
The militias that fall under the government’s security apparatus are
attacking US personnel in Iraq, which are there to partner with the
Baghdad government to ensure the enduring defeat of Daesh. The militias
have now become more of a threat to the US and Iraqis than Daesh.
Trump wants to know if the US has a partner in Iraq. The president is
willing to pull US forces out of Iraq if this “partner” continues to
disappoint. Republicans and Democrats are looking for a reason to end
this experiment. And it won’t be without costs to Baghdad and Tehran.
Two actions by the Democrat-led House of Representatives point to a
breakup if nothing changes. Democrats voted to cut funding for the US
mission in Iraq by $145 million and Republican Rep. Joe Wilson was able
to get two amendments passed that would ensure no US dollars go to any
institution in Iraq where the militias have access to the funds — that
would mean the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior would be
It’s been three years since the guns fell silent in Mosul, the
onetime capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). With
the Caliphate finally pushed out, it seemed the nightmare of extremist
rule was finally coming to an end, giving Iraq’s Christian minority a
chance to reclaim their homes after years spent sheltering under brutal
conditions, fleeing to refugee camps, or taking flight abroad.
Instead, their hopes of rebuilding have diminished even as the threat
of the Caliphate has faded. The region’s few remaining Christians find
themselves caught between Iran-backed Shia militias and an Iraqi
government that, nearly twenty years after the American invasion, is
politically paralyzed and still unable to provide basic security and services—let
alone protect the country’s embattled minority populations. As a
result, most Iraqi Christians are searching for brighter pastures, even
if it means forever parting with the land of their ancestors.
“Of the twenty thousand Christians that fled Mosul when ISIS came,
only one hundred have returned,” said Reine Hanna, director of the
Assyrian Policy Institute. “People can’t work and earn a living among
ruins. There’s little incentive to return.”
The country that is now Iraq has been home to various Christian
communities for more than two thousand years. Falling mostly outside the
Roman Empire, where the Christianity familiar to most Westerners today
took its basic shape, Iraqi Christians developed their own unique forms
of Christian worship and theology which endure to this day; they draw
heavily on ancient liturgical rites, prayers, and customs.
The fortunes of the region’s Christians vacillated with the many
empires that rose and fell over the centuries. Prior to the US-led
invasion in 2003, the country was home to 1.5 million
Christians. But, despite their endurance over the centuries, the
subsequent occupation and insurgency proved to be a breaking point. By
2014, shortly before the rise of ISIS, over eight hundred thousand of Iraq’s Christians had fled abroad, with many making new homes in the United States and Western Europe.
The establishment of the ISIS Caliphate drove the few remaining
Christians out of the region to avoid living under a regime that gave
them an ultimatum:
pay a special tax for non-believers or leave or be killed. Nearly all
chose to leave to the Kurdish north. While ISIS’ territorial defeat
provided an opening for the return of Mosul’s Christians, that hope has
quickly faded in the face of the grim state of Iraqi politics. The
biggest challenge facing the country are the militias that control the
territory formerly occupied by the Caliphate.
Today, the Popular Mobilization Forces
(PMF), an umbrella group of various militias—mainly backed by Shia
clerics and Iran—that were once seen as integral to the fight against
ISIS, are now focused on controlling the areas they liberated. They are
also determined to further their own political agenda. The PMF have already been documented committing a number of crimes across Iraq, including looting, revenge killings against Sunni Arabs, and seizure of property.
There is a growing fear that many PMF units will ultimately occupy
towns indefinitely, since they have not left the ones they liberated.
This is creating a climate where they mete out whatever justice or
injustice their militia leaders dictate. Exploiting Iraq’s fractured
political and security landscape, PMF units have erected their own
system of check points and recruitment offices
in towns across the country, giving them an advantage over the domestic
security situation. They have even entered politics, helping
Iran-backed groups gain even more leverage over Iraqi affairs, such as