Sunday, December 21, 2008

Is This Freedom?

"There is still more work to be done. The war is not over," Bush said, with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki next to him. "But with the conclusion of this agreement . . . it [the war] is decidedly on its way to being won."

By now we've all seen and heard ad nauseam the video clip of the Iraqi reporter throwing both of his shoes at Bush during Bush's "magical victory tour" of Iraq and Afghanistan. The week before his clandestine trip to Iraq, before the shoes were flung, Bush said:
"When Saddam's regime fell, we refused to take the easy option and install a friendly strongman in his place. Even though it required enormous sacrifice, we stood by the Iraqi people as they elected their own leaders and built a young democracy."

Bush has repeatedly touted the new-found freedom of the Iraqi people and even referred to this "freedom" in his post-shoe-throwing interview. He described it as a bizarre attention grabbing act - an act that would not have been possible in Saddam's Iraq. Perhaps, that is so, but once again Bush obtusely missed the point. The point is that the Iraqi people do not perceive themselves as freer, less oppressed, and any closer to a democracy than they did in 2003 before the United States invaded and subsequently occupied (read destroyed) their country.

One of the most glaring examples of this lack of freedom is the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in a country that was once happily secular. The action of the group of thugs reminds us that there is less and less freedom for women who once had nearly equal rights in Iraq.
Gunmen broke into the house of a women's rights activist in the volatile northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on Thursday and beheaded her, police said. The victim was identified as Nahla Hussain, the leader of the women's league of the Kurdish Communist Party. She was alone in the house at the time of her death. It is not known what the circumstances were that led to the attack. Violence against women has been an ongoing problem in Iraq.

The killing comes ahead of next month's provincial elections, a post-Saddam era watershed event that's generating an uptick in civil unrest and political infighting....

...As for the Interior Ministry, a September 2007 report assessing the status of Iraq's security forces slammed it and the National Police, which it operates. The report by the Independent Commission on Security Forces in Iraq, called Interior "a ministry in name only" and said it was "widely regarded as being dysfunctional and sectarian, and suffers from ineffective leadership." It said the National Police force has been "operationally ineffective" and "sectarianism in its units undermines its ability to provide security; the force is not viable in its current form. The National Police should be disbanded and reorganized." The Defense Ministry oversees the military. The 2007 report had promising words for the Iraqi army, special forces, navy and air force, describing them as "increasingly effective" and "capable of assuming greater responsibility for the internal security of Iraq."

From Women's Rights Activist Beheaded in Iraq, CNN, December 18, 2008
Nahla Hussain was profiled in a CNN Report (May 15, 2008): "On Deadly Ground: Woman of Iraq."
Rest in Peace Nahla - we will never forget you or your work on behalf of your sisters in Iraq!

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