Iraqi Refugees forced into Prostitution

September 16, 2007

Iraqi Refugees forced into Prostitution

I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought this would be a good post to get back in the swing of things.

One would think that by now people in the U.S. would be experts regarding Iraq. Since George W. Bush talks so much about “bringing freedom” to the Iraqis, saying things like “the safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad”, I assume all law-abiding, patriotic citizens should at least know something about Iraq’s culture, its geography, languages spoken, not to mention everything about the daily struggles of the Iraqis. Yeah right, and first thing tomorrow morning, I’m buying a Jaguar for myself and a Porsche for my wife.

It is so incredibly frustrating that the average American is completely ignorant of the current human crisis and refugee situation in Iraq. If this were the 1930’s, with no TV, print, or internet, I would understand, but nowadays information is at the tip of the fingertips, one search engine away.

Take this recent article from WireTap Magazine:

Child prostitution is an increasingly widespread phenomenon in Damascus. Out of economic desperation, Iraqi refugee women and girls are forced into these roles. Frequently, women who have lost their husbands or girls who have lost their fathers resort to prostitution to support their families. And sometimes families that have no other financial resources sell their daughters into the sex industry. It is a tragic and horrifying reality.

There are no official figures as to how many of the Iraqi refugees work as prostitutes. But Hana Ibrahim, founder of the Iraqi women’s group Women’s Will, told The Independent that she puts the figure at 50,000. No one knows how many of the prostitutes are children.

Take a guess if this has EVER been discussed, or at least mentioned, in the mainstream media, with the seriousness this deserves. You certainly won’t hear it from the likes of George W. Bush or Dick Cheney. They just don’t to talk about the problems, and even if they do, they certainly won’t address the causes of it:

The increased trafficking and prostitution is yet another result of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. There are roughly 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria, perhaps 2 million within the Middle East. UNHCR estimates that 50,000 Iraqi refugees arrive in Syria each month. This situation represents the largest refugee crisis in the Middle East since 1948 and is currently the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world. Syria has been accepting more refugees without visas than any other country in the world. On Sept. 11, however, the Syrian government announced new visa restrictions that will sharply decrease the numbers of Iraqis wishing to enter Syria.

50,000 Iraqi refugees each month. That’s over half a million last year just to Syria alone. Syria has done a lot for Iraqi refugees, yet you really don’t hear much about it. What you do hear is that Syria might get a can of good ol’ butt whoopin’, shock-and-awe style, if it doesn’t do what the U.S. wants. If George W. Bush really cares that much for Iraq’s people, then he must be bending over backwards helping Iraqis, right? Wrong:

[…]In a July 2007 press statement, Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program, states, “The Syrian authorities have responded very positively to the Iraqis’ needs, but they and the Jordanian authorities should not be left to bear the weight of this crisis alone.” He went on to scold nations who had previously committed to providing financial assistance but had yet to cough up the funds.

But a lack of money is not the only problem. Refugees International underscores that offers from the international community to resettle Iraqi refugees have also been scarce. For example, the United States initially promised it would accept 7,000 Iraqi refugees by October of this year, yet, to date, has accepted only 133. Sweden, which had allowed thousands of Iraqis to resettle, has recently closed its borders to them. The silence of other nations on this issue is deafening.

7,000 measly visas for Iraqi refugees that are fleeing violence, civil war and ethnic cleansing, and of those only 133 have been accepted. Is this the high standard the U.S. currently has in place for the refugees in the very same fucking country it is “liberating”? I mean, give me a fucking break. It’s not like the U.S. has never helped refugees before. In 1975, President Ford brought to the U.S. 131,000 South Vietnamese that had worked for the Americans.

We can do a lot better. But I digress. The average American, especially those belonging to that elusive “28%” of the population that still backs Bush in whatever fantasy he spits out of his mouth, doesn’t have a clue as to what an average Iraqi refugee has to live with:

According to the UNHCR, Iraqis arrive with three to five months’ worth of savings. Due to a scarcity both of resources and of housing, they live in overcrowded neighborhoods outside of Damascus, such as Jeremana, often cramped seven to a room with few furnishings. Iraqis are not allowed to work in Syria, so when their funds run out, they are unable to support themselves. Consequently, many work illegally. Yet these jobs are difficult to come by and poorly paid, and workers frequently face discrimination. A report published by UNHCR and UNICEF last year states that an estimated 450,000 Iraqis in Syria “face aggravated difficulties” related to their “ambiguous legal and unsustainable income.” As their savings dwindle, the situation of Iraqi refugees is bound to deteriorate further. Sybella Wilkes, the UNHCR Regional public information officer in Damascus, says that “64 percent of the people who have arrived here have run out of savings.”

Bassam Alkadi, of the Syrian Women’s Observatory, agrees that the economic desperation is leading to an increase in prostitution. “The standard of living for Iraqis,” he says “has gone downhill very quickly.”

Yet according to Dubya, freedom is on the march. Sometimes I wish I were more eloquent so I can convey my thoughts and emotions better, but such is not the case here. The Iraqi refugee crisis is something I, along with others that truly give a damn about human rights, have been discussing since before the U.S. invasion of Iraq. One of my main gripes, though, is the hypocrisy that people have towards all of this. They care about the Iraqis, yet don’t want or don’t care to find out what’s really happening. It is all horseshit. Just admit it – this war has nothing to do with WMDs (guess who still believes that nonsense), democracy, or human rights. The average American does not understand or care much about human rights, and neither does Dubya.

Who are you going to believe, me or the president of the United States? Hint: I have been known to be right on occasion.

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Apocalypse Soon?

January 26, 2007

Robert McNamara - Apocalypse Soon?

I’ll let Robert McNamara, the former Defense Secretary of the U.S., to lay it out for me instead:

It is time—well past time, in my view—for the United States to cease its Cold War-style reliance on nuclear weapons as a foreign-policy tool. At the risk of appearing simplistic and provocative, I would characterize current U.S. nuclear weapons policy as immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary, and dreadfully dangerous. The risk of an accidental or inadvertent nuclear launch is unacceptably high. Far from reducing these risks, the Bush administration has signaled that it is committed to keeping the U.S. nuclear arsenal as a mainstay of its military power—a commitment that is simultaneously eroding the international norms that have limited the spread of nuclear weapons and fissile materials for 50 years. Much of the current U.S. nuclear policy has been in place since before I was secretary of defense, and it has only grown more dangerous and diplomatically destructive in the intervening years.

I am no fan of McNamara’s lasting legacy – the Vietnam War, the “metrics” of the time, how many were killed on both sides just to prove who was right… but that does not mean the guy does NOT know what he is talking about. This is not Donald Rumsfeld: at least McNamara grew wise in his later years, while Rumsfeld apparently got more power-hungry. He knows what apocalypse can look like, and it ain’t pretty:

The destructive power of nuclear weapons is well known, but given the United States’ continued reliance on them, it’s worth remembering the danger they present. A 2000 report by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War describes the likely effects of a single 1 megaton weapon—dozens of which are contained in the Russian and U.S. inventories. At ground zero, the explosion creates a crater 300 feet deep and 1,200 feet in diameter. Within one second, the atmosphere itself ignites into a fireball more than a half-mile in diameter. The surface of the fireball radiates nearly three times the light and heat of a comparable area of the surface of the sun, extinguishing in seconds all life below and radiating outward at the speed of light, causing instantaneous severe burns to people within one to three miles. A blast wave of compressed air reaches a distance of three miles in about 12 seconds, flattening factories and commercial buildings. Debris carried by winds of 250 mph inflicts lethal injuries throughout the area. At least 50 percent of people in the area die immediately, prior to any injuries from radiation or the developing firestorm.

Of course, our knowledge of these effects is not entirely hypothetical. Nuclear weapons, with roughly one seventieth of the power of the 1 megaton bomb just described, were twice used by the United States in August 1945. One atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Around 80,000 people died immediately; approximately 200,000 died eventually. Later, a similar size bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. On Nov. 7, 1995, the mayor of Nagasaki recalled his memory of the attack in testimony to the International Court of Justice:

Nagasaki became a city of death where not even the sound of insects could be heard. After a while, countless men, women and children began to gather for a drink of water at the banks of nearby Urakami River, their hair and clothing scorched and their burnt skin hanging off in sheets like rags. Begging for help they died one after another in the water or in heaps on the banks.… Four months after the atomic bombing, 74,000 people were dead, and 75,000 had suffered injuries, that is, two-thirds of the city population had fallen victim to this calamity that came upon Nagasaki like a preview of the Apocalypse.

Why did so many civilians have to die? Because the civilians, who made up nearly 100 percent of the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were unfortunately “co-located” with Japanese military and industrial targets. Their annihilation, though not the objective of those dropping the bombs, was an inevitable result of the choice of those targets. It is worth noting that during the Cold War, the United States reportedly had dozens of nuclear warheads targeted on Moscow alone, because it contained so many military targets and so much “industrial capacity.”

Of course, the president of the United States can’t just launch a nuclear war without Congressional authorization, can he?

The whole situation seems so bizarre as to be beyond belief. On any given day, as we go about our business, the president is prepared to make a decision within 20 minutes that could launch one of the most devastating weapons in the world. To declare war requires an act of congress, but to launch a nuclear holocaust requires 20 minutes’ deliberation by the president and his advisors. But that is what we have lived with for 40 years. With very few changes, this system remains largely intact[…]

Believe it or not, if someone is crazy enough to push “the button”, we could be in an all-out nuclear war in less than an hour. In other words, all of us can die and not even know why. Is it too much to ask, please keep Bush & Cheney under adult supervision at all times?

By the way, the picture above is for the movie The Fog of War, which won the 2004 Oscar for Best Documentary. The picture above is very symbolic: an old man standing alone, who doesn’t look like much, but once upon a time was practically the gatekeeper of a nuclear world. Again, I am against all McNamara stood for in the Vietnam War, but contrary to Rumsfeld, he grew up, so to speak, and needs to be listened to. As of now, he is in the same position as in that picture: standing alone, without being listened to.

The entire article is pasted below: Read the rest of this entry »


Cheney’s Got His Teeth Sunk Into Iran: Hierba Mala Nunca Muere

January 14, 2007

Cheney has his teeth sunk into Iran

You would think that Dick Cheney has been finally shoved aside – or at least not as listened too as in the past – given the results of the recent elections, not to mention the disastrous results in Iraq… but think again. There is a saying in Puerto Rico that goes, “hierba mala nunca muere“, roughly translated to “bad weeds never die”. It would be like saying “bad blood never runs dry“. Well anyway, that’s Dick Cheney for you.

Via Scoop (be sure to visit their site and read the whole article):

Just Like with Torture, Cheney’s Got His Teeth Sunk into Iran

By Russ Wellen

So much creative destruction, so little time.

First the Republicans lost their majority status in Congress. Then the Iraq Study Group sent the White House its report card and gave it a failing grade. It looked like Dick Cheney had finally been put in his rightful place –- the ceremonial office vice presidents have traditionally occupied.

But this is a man who’s alternately schmoozed and clawed his way to the executive heights in both government and business. Also, he’s suffered four heart attacks and the onset of congestive heart failure. Not to mention undergoing a bypass operation, as well as an angioplasty, the implantation of a defibrillator, and the repair of an aneurysm in an artery.

Any resemblance to one of those horror movie characters that can’t be killed is not coincidental.

I’m posting this article because if push comes to shove, if the U.S. really goes ahead and invades Iran without giving a damn about what the world says, then it would truly be not only a gross international and human rights violation, but the beginnings of a truly global conflict. And just like the torture that goes on in Abu Ghraib & Guantanamo, you can bet your last dollar that Dick Cheney will be behind it all.

According to Porter, the scenario was playing out as Cheney hoped. Like journalist Chris Floyd says, Bush & Co. “love to be thwarted diplomatically.” If the sanctions weren’t tough enough, they could claim they’d tried, but that Iran was too irrational an actor to respond to reason.

Cheney would then feel free to nudge Bush in the direction of bombing Iran’s nuclear plants. Or, more likely, provoking an incident and retaliating with its designated hit man, Israel. Its fighter-bombers have been sighted training over the Mediterranean for the 2,000-mile round trip to the alleged uranium enrichment facility in Natanz.

[…]Cheney, ever the contrarian, may be incapable of restraining himself. Just as likely, though, he was trying to make sure it appeared as if he’d left no stone unturned in his attempts to strong-arm Russia into agreeing to harsh sanctions.

As for Condoleeza Rice, she may have been trying to strike a blow for bilateralism. But, her quiver bereft of olive branches, she lacked the wherewithal to insist she be adequately outfitted. Following Rumsfeld’s advice about going to war with the army we had, she went to peace with what she had.

When she saw the writing on the wall, Rice reinvented herself once again, proclaiming, “I am also in favor of action.” In other words, bombing’s not just for boys. Her recent statements opposing negotiations with Syria and Iran demonstrate the extent to which, placing expedience before principles, she has reverted to form.

Attacking Shiite Iran seems now to be within the comfort zone of Rice, as well, of course, as Cheney and probably Bush. (No word yet of a sea change from Robert Gates, who, before becoming Secretary of Defense, came down firmly on the side of negotiation.) Meanwhile, in Iraq, the administration is pursuing the “80 percent solution” — siding with its Shiite majority.

[…]Does Cheney think that, despite his intention to attack Iran, propping up the Shiites in Iraq will win points with the Persian public? Perhaps he’s swallowed whole the Neocon tenet which holds that, post-bombing, Iran’s citizens seize the day (after). They overthrow President Ahmadinejad for double-daring the US to attack and cast out the mullahs for suffocating their culture. Sure, just like our path to Baghdad was strewn with rose petals.

The U.S. pretty much made sure that the “diplomatic” talks at the U.N. – with the subtletly of a falling sledgehammer and all the pizzaz of mashed potatoes on white bread – were programmed to self-destruct. According to the Scoop article, “The only way the Bush administration would negotiate with Iran is if it were slapped with punitive sanctions. Russia, Cheney knew, would never agree.” And neither would the Iranians of course. This is Bush & Cheney’s cover: “hey, we tried diplomacy, and it didn’t work.” Unless you call diplomacy, “please bend over backwards with your pants around your ankles please”, then yeah, diplomacy has truly been spent.

I’m telling you, the U.S. will cross the proverbial line if it attacks Iran. The whole world – China, India, Japan, Australia – gets it oil & natural gas from Iran. People in the U.S. think that because the U.S. doesn’t do business with Iran because of sanctions, then the world doesn’t do business with Iran. That is false.

The world may ‘tolerate’ what is going on in Iraq, but economically it cannot, and will not, tolerate war with Iran. The economic repercussions alone will be enormous, and you can expect that China will step up to the plate to slap the U.S. if it invades Iran.

But surely the newly elected Congress will stop Cheney, right? Not quite:

Cheney may be ready to begin the launch sequence with Iran, but first he needs to keep Congress from voting for a binding resolution to stay his hand. We got a sneak preview of how he intends to manage this when the administration ordered the deployment of an aircraft carrier, the Dwight D. Eisenhower, with its strike group, to the Middle East.

Though it’s been diverted to Somalia, two more aircraft carriers, the USS John C. Stennis and the USS Ronald Reagan, with their strike groups, have been since sent to the Persian Gulf. Thus do we see Cheney’s plan unfold. Ostensibly intended to warn off Iran’s own naval exercises, the deployment’s actual purpose is less likely to respond to a provocation than to provoke a response.

Not much imagination is required to envision a skittish Iran spooked into launching one of their state-of-the-art Shahib 4 missiles at one of our ships. Nor would anything more be required to make the obstacle of Congressional approval for a US attack magically disappear.

You think the idea that the Democratic Congress would roll over for another war strains credulity? House majority leader Steny Hoyer recently told The Jerusalem Post that he backed negotiations and sanctions. As for air strikes, “I have not ruled that out,” he said.

There is no need to push the button and go nuclear with Iran. But the neocons – crazed, deluded maniacs that they are – think they actually have to go ahead and do it. If it happens, God help us all, because while the American public won’t care much about Iran, the rest of the world does.