Thursday, August 04, 2005

Kurdistan, Iraq, Fr. Jean-Juste

1) A Republican-affiliated PR firm is now going to convince the US public that Kirkuk is indeed Kurdish (actually, it's historically mixed between Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs, and other smaller groups and never had a majority population) and that the Kurds are the best friends the US could ever have in the region. This is just like that DC PR firm in 1990 who orchestrated the Congressional testimonies by the Kuwaiti ambassador's daughter claiming that Iraqi troops pulled the plugs on infants on incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital -- a story that later (ie after the war was over and the story was no longer needed for propaganda purposes) turned out to be completely fabricated:

The Selling of Brand Kurdistan
Bill Berkowitz

OAKLAND, California, Aug 1 (IPS) - As chaos continues across much of Iraq, the governing authority is coming to yet another crossroads.

Inside the Green Zone -- the location of the U.S. Embassy and major Iraqi government offices -- officials are struggling to forge an acceptable constitution by the August deadline. Outside the relative safety of that enclave, the insurgency continues apace as demonstrated by daily suicide bombings and civilian casualties.
While the Shiite leaders of the government are negotiating deals and solidifying ties with Iran, and the Sunnis remain mostly disaffected from the political process, the Kurds appear to have mastered a dual strategy of participating in government decisions while at the same time, taking matters regarding their future into their own hands.

The generally efficient, if questionable, electoral process not only turned out large numbers of voters, but it also allowed Kurdish leader, Jalal Talabani, to be selected as the country's president, insuring close participation by the Kurds in all important government deliberations.

In a parallel strategic track, however, the Kurdish Regional Government appears to be keeping its options open, recently hiring Russo Marsh & Rogers (RM&R) -- a Sacramento, California-based public relations firm with close ties to the Republican Party -- to promote its interests.

Many political observers believe that the future of Iraq may see a full-blown civil war or possible partition. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh recently wrote in The New Yorker magazine that a United Nations official involved in the elections told him: ”The election was not an election but a referendum on ethnic and religious identity. For the Kurds, voting was about self-determination.”

”Our job” with the Kurds, RM&R's Joe Wierzbicki told IPS, ”is to carry out a public relations campaign that will thank the American people for supporting the war in Iraq, and encourage Americans to visit and invest in the Kurdish region.”

The project has not yet gotten underway and it is unclear how long the contract will actually run. ”It's a short-term thing because they don't know how long the public relations campaign might go,” Wierzbicki said.
RM&R took on this work, he said, because ”of all the different groups in Iraq that have a vision for the future, the vision of the Kurds is closest to ours. It's important to recognise that the Kurds are not hostile to the West.”

In addition, ”their vision, belief system and values -- they've had a democratic system in place for a while -- parallel ours.”

No doubt, it's ”a very messy situation over there and the country is trying to figure out its future. The Kurds would like the rest of country to look at the Kurdish region and see it as a model for the rest of the country.”
Wierzbicki quickly added that they are definitely ”not advocating an independent Kurdistan.”
The ”war on terror” has been good to Russo Marsh & Rogers. Shortly after 9/11, it supported a brief, but nasty, campaign to unseat California Representative Barbara Lee, after she had cast the lone Congressional vote against giving Pres. George W. Bush a blank cheque to pursue his war on international terrorism.
Lee, who received numerous death threats and received special condemnatory attention from David Horowitz's Centre for the Study of Popular Culture, was challenged by former Green Party State Assemblywoman Audie Bock.

With the support of RM&R, Bock came out of the box with the campaign slogan, ”It's OK to Love America.” Completely misjudging the electorate in the Ninth District, a district that was represented by Ron Dellums, the longtime voice for anti-militarism and social justice, Bock's campaign came to a crashing halt in short order.

Before Russo Marsh & Rogers finalised the deal with the Kurds, it had other business in Iraq to attend to: handling the publicity for the ”Truth Tour,” a seven-day carefully calibrated trip to Iraq by a group of conservative radio talk-show hosts that was intended to spread the ”good news” about what is happening on the ground.

The tour was organised by Move America Forward (MAF), an organisation that, according to the Washington Post, owes much of its existence to the good offices of Russo Marsh & Rogers. The Office of Media Outreach, a taxpayer-funded publicity arm of the Department of Defence, also sponsored the tour.

Move America Forward describes itself as ”a non-profit, non-partisan organisation dedicated to preserving our American heritage of freedom and liberty.”

Its website pointed out that the purpose of the ”Truth Tour” was ”to report the good news on Operation Iraqi Freedom you're not hearing from the old line news get the news straight from our troops serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, including the positive developments and successes they are achieving.”

Wierzbicki said that from ”the very beginning,” MAF was the project of Howard Kaloogian, a former California State Assemblyman, and Melanie Morgan, the co-host of a morning show on KSFO-AM in San Francisco, and that Sal Russo, the founder of Russo Marsh & Rogers, ”helped set it in motion.”

Wierzbicki allowed that RM&R has done ”all of the [group's] public relations stuff, press releases, and radio and television ads that have been aired to date.”

Move America Forward is currently soliciting contributions to run an advertising campaign called ”Tortured Words,” a commercial aimed at countering Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin's recent criticism of the conditions at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. MAF intends to run the ads on ”major broadcast affiliates (NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox) throughout Senator Durbin's home state of Illinois.”

In June 2004, eager to discredit Michael Moore's award-winning documentary ”Fahrenheit 9/11” before it hit the movie theaters, Russo Marsh & Rogers collaborated with MAF to lead a campaign that urged its supporters to ”Stop Michael Moore” by taking ”action against the release of his anti-American movie Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Russo Marsh & Rogers' web site claims that, ”When it comes to winning elections, few firms can match à (its) success.”

By its own accounts, its record is impressive. It maintains that it devised the campaign strategy that allowed George Pataki, ”a little known State Senator” from Peekskill, New York to defeat New York's Governor Mario Cuomo.

RM&R also ”was hired by the California Republican Party to help salvage a sagging campaign to pass Proposition 209, the California Civil Rights Initiative (also known as the anti-affirmative action initiative) à. (and) in the weeks leading up to Election Dayà. (it) produced an advertising campaign which saved the initiative.”

RM&R's Wierzbicki was circumspect about exactly which issues his firm would be handling. But according to O'Dwyer's PR Daily, one of the chief goals of Kurdish leaders is ”the return of Kirkuk,” an oil-rich northern Iraqi city populated by Kurdish and Turkmen people.

The struggle over Kirkuk could precipitate a major conflict within Iraq. The public relations campaign's launch date could come as soon as later this summer or could be put off until the fall, Wierzbicki said, and the campaign will would likely feature television and print advertisements.

*Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His WorkingForChange column ”Conservative Watch” documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the U.S. Right. (END/2005)

2) These three postings come courtesy of Voices in the Wilderness, an anti-war group that originated in the fight against Iraqi sanctions in the 90's (which should have been lifted by 1995 at the latest, and which is yet another grounds for an Iraqi government compensation suit against the US government):

Iraq Health and Infrastructure Digest #11A compilation of 9 articles covering a wide range of issues facing people in Iraq. Summaries are given as well as the full, or relevant portion of the articles. Digest by David Smith-Ferri, Voices in the Wilderness

A Letter from Monica BendermanThe Army has found Sgt. Kevin Benderman not guilty of Desertion, but guilty of Missing Movement, and has sentenced him to 15 months confinement, reduction in rank, loss of pay and dishonorable discharge.

7/7: WHY? IRAQJustice Not Vengeance (JNV) Anti-War Briefing 84A summary of the evidence linking the London bombings with the ongoing war in Iraq (and British foreign policy in general). Evidence from British intelligence, the British public, the bombers themselves.

3) This is a testimonial by an Iraq veteran about his experiences in Iraq:

4) This is a policy release by Khalilzad, the US Ambassador to Baghdad. Nothing new here:

Success for Iraq

By Zalmay Khalilzad1,118 words
3 August 2005
The Asian Wall Street Journal
A7English(c) 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
To see the edition in which this article appeared, click here

While Iraq has elected a transitional government and is making progress in drafting a constitution, it faces a clever and brutal terrorist threat, and the profound challenge of overcoming the political, social and economic legacy of Saddam Hussein's rule. In the past 10 days, I have discussed with Iraqi leaders a set of ideas about what is needed to set Iraq on the right trajectory. We have agreed on seven points.

-- First, Iraq needs a "national compact" enshrined in its constitution. One of the biggest challenges facing Iraqis is overcoming the loss of trust among its communities. This underlies current political and sectarian tensions. In part, it underlies the insurgency. Fostering hatred was central to Saddam's rule. His was a personal tyranny, rooted in a narrow clique, not in a wider community. To overcome this dark legacy, Iraqis need to build bridges, not burn them. Individuals who committed crimes should be punished, but no community should be marginalized because of the deeds of Saddam.

This process of forging a national compact begins with an agreement on a new constitution; but it does not end there. If Iraq is to succeed, it needs to build truly national institutions. Iraq's institutions were corrupted by Saddam and destroyed at the end of the war. Building them anew is not easy. It is vital that Iraqis build institutions that all communities can have confidence in -- that are not instruments of revenge or fiefdoms of patronage of one group or another.

-- Second, the Iraqi government and the Coalition will work together to isolate and defeat the terrorists and Baathists who want the restoration of the old regime. The enemies of Iraq are the terrorists led by Zarqawi and hardcore Baathists, who seek to pull more Iraqis into their networks. Choosing this path would be fatal decision for Iraqis in central and western Iraq. Protracted violence would lead their most talented people to go abroad, destroy educational opportunities for their children, make reconstruction difficult, and create fertile ground for an extremism that would impoverish the region.

There is a legitimate alternative: joining in a national compact enshrined in a constitution that protects the rights of all communities. The U.S. is committed to supporting Iraqis who seek to realize this vision. Many in central and western Iraq want to have a place in the new Iraq, and are seeking a political role at great risk to themselves. Some have lost their lives in this cause. America should pay homage to the Iraqis who were recently killed because they were working on the constitution.

Our strategy is to work through political means to mobilize the people of central and western Iraq to support the new democratic order. We will embrace those in this region who choose to join in the national compact, and will work to provide security for them. At the same time, the U.S. is working with the Iraqi government to build up Iraqi security forces. These are growing in numbers and becoming more capable. With the cooperation of the people and with more robust Iraqi forces, the Iraqi government and the U.S. will use highly targeted military force to capture or eliminate the terrorists who irreconcilably oppose the new order.
This is a strategy first to win over the people, and then isolate and destroy the enemy. As we implement this, the Coalition will hand over control of specific areas to Iraqi forces and withdraw its units from these areas. After this transfer occurs in more and more areas, there will be a smaller need for Coalition forces and elements of the Multi-National Force will leave Iraq.

-- Third, the U.S. and the Iraqi government are seeking to encourage the region's leaders to address problems in a new cooperative spirit and to pressure those who continue to foment instability. Some neighbors are engaged in unhelpful activities. Terrorists are moving into Iraq through Syria. Leaders of Baathist insurgents reside there. Terrorists and insurgents are trained in, and funded through, Syria. Syrian government media broadcasts anti-Iraq propaganda. The Syrian government must take action to halt these activities or risk new pressure.

Iran is working along two contradictory tracks. On the one hand, Tehran works with the new Iraq. On the other, there is movement across its borders of people and materiel used in violent acts. The U.S. welcomes good relations between Iraq and all its neighbors, but activities inconsistent with such relations must stop.
-- Fourth, the U.S. will work with the Iraqi government to improve the capacity of Iraqi ministries. The U.S. is supporting projects to rebuild an infrastructure that was collapsing under Saddam. It will also work with Iraqi ministries to ensure that they have the capacity to operate and manage these projects as they come on line. In cooperation with the government, the U.S. is also decentralizing part of the reconstruction effort by working with provincial governments to fund projects that meet local priorities.

-- Fifth, we will seek to increase economic opportunity. Not enough emphasis has been placed on developing the private sector. The U.S. will work with Iraqi political and business leaders to do more, including expansion of credit, increasing the use of Iraqi contractors in reconstruction, and opposing corruption.

-- Sixth, the U.S. will work with the Iraqi government to set the conditions for a successful election -- with full participation of all communities. We are seeing positive signs, as groups that did not participate in the elections in January gear up for the next round. The U.S. and the Iraqi government will develop an integrated plan for election security. We will cooperate on a multilateral basis with the U.N. and other friends of Iraq to facilitate election planning and logistics.

-- Seventh, I will be engaging across the board to assist the Iraqi government to achieve our common objectives and mobilize more support by other countries. The leaders of Iraq and I have agreed on a new way of working, in which all our efforts are integrated. We have launched five joint task forces to move forward on key issues, including efforts to implement joint plans on overall security, coordinating reconstruction, managing fiscal demands, infrastructure security, and resolving detainee issues. Iraqis need help during this period of transition. The U.S. has taken up this challenge. At the same time, we will work with other countries in order to expand the numbers that are major stakeholders in building the new Iraq. Success for Iraq is
success for the U.S. -- and, indeed, for the world.


Mr. Khalilzad is the U.S. ambassador to Iraq

6) This is an appeal on behalf of Fr. Jean-Juste, the "MLK of Haiti":

Take 5 Minutes to Save a Life: Campaign to DeliverLetters to US Ambassador in Haiti to Free Fr.Jean-Juste [please take action and forward]

We are asking people and groups to send a letter (andto ask your friends to send a letter too) asking thatthe United States Embassy do everything in its powerto persuade the unelected Haitian government releaseFr. Gerard Jean-Juste from prison in Haiti. BillQuigley, a law professor in the US and a volunteerlawyer for Fr. Jean-Juste with the Institute forJustice and Democracy in Haiti, will hand-deliver allletters to the US Embassy in Port au Prince. Pleasetake 5 minutes to do this, and ask others to do it aswell - it could save his life.

It can be a simple letter or a long letter, butplease write it, on your letterhead if possible, andmail it to:
U. S. Ambassador to Haiti, James B. Foley c/o and Professor Bill Quigley Loyola University Law School 7214 St. Charles Avenue, Box 902 New Orleans, LA 70118
or send a fax with your name and address or on yourletterhead c/o Bill Quigley 504.861.5440
sample letter:

Dear Ambassador Foley: Please have the US do everything in its powerfor the immediate release of Fr. Gerard Jean-Juste. Fr. Jean-Juste has been identified as a politicalprisoner by Amnesty International and other HumanRights groups. I know the US has power to influencethe unelected Haitian government - please use thatpower to free Fr. Jean-Juste and to cease allpolitical persecution of him. Thank you, name and address

Bill Quigley will hand-deliver these letters to theEmbassy in Port au Prince. If you include your email,we will notify you when your letters are delivered andsend you other information about human rights in Haitiif you would like.

Additional information about the assault on Fr.Jean-Juste in church in Haiti and his arrest and hisstatus as a prisoner of conscience by AmnestyInternational can be found at andAmnesty report designating him as POC: Human Rights First Campaign to free JJ: Common Dreams article about assault at church andarrest:
Peace, Bill Quigley

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