Malaki Steps Down

A step back from the edge but the cliff is still crumbling and the wind blowing hard.  What next?

Nouri al-Maliki has stepped down as Iraq’s prime minister and given his backing to Haider al-Abadi as his successor, Iraqi state TV reported.  Al Jazeera

From Iraq: Backing Away from A Civil War Within A Civil War

Iran endorsed Iraq’s new prime minister-designate on Tuesday, dealing a devastating blow to Nouri al-Maliki as even the incumbent’s most loyal militia turned its back on him.

After eight years in office, Maliki has refused to step aside as Iraq’s prime minister, vowing to fight the nomination Monday of Haider al-Abadi to form a new government. But he was left with nowhere to turn for support Tuesday as he lost the backing of Tehran, which wields significant influence over Iraqi politics. Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a militia that has supported Maliki in the past, also said it supported the decision of Iraq’s Shiite politicians to nominate Abadi.

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s National Security Council, congratulated Abadi, Iraq’s religious leaders and political parties on the appointment, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency.



Iraq War Dead Rising

Iraq multigraph.php

Iraq Body count reports that in DECEMBER TOTAL: 983 civilians were killed.


the highest since 2008, according to IBC

To underline the rising swirl, “Radical Sunni militants aligned with Al Qaeda threatened on Thursday to seize control of Falluja and Ramadi, two of the most important cities in Iraq, setting fire to police stations, freeing prisoners from jail and occupying mosques, as the government rushed troop reinforcements to the areas.

The violence in Ramadi and Falluja had implications beyond Anbar’s borders, as the Sunni militants fought beneath the same banner as the most hard-line jihadists in Syria — the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

That fighting, and a deadly bombing in Beirut on Thursday, provided the latest evidence that the Syrian civil war was breeding bloodshed and sectarian violence around the region, destabilizing Lebanon and Iraq while fueling a resurgence of radical Islamist fighters.”

NY Times

Iraq Ten Years Later: Forgotten Past and Brutal Present

Citizens Reach Out, Dominican University’s Muslim Non-Muslim Dialogue and the UC Berkeley School of Journalism present an evening with:

Iraqi journalist Haider Hamza and American journalist and author David Harris Read more of this post

Juggle a Bit and Help an Iraqi Clown

Not all news is bad news.  Here’s a letter and a link from a friend that may cheer you and let you cheer others as well.

Dear Friends,

This is the most fun announcement I have ever sent you. This is an opportunity to help a talented, hardworking Iraqi refugee who has gone through desperate times and now has an opportunity to make others happy.

Rahman Al Kaabi  had to flee Iraq and finally landed in Damascus. He volunteered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) performing in refugee camps for children until he was discovered by an American couple who sponsored him to come to the US with the Iraqi Student Project. He landed in Monterey County where he has been in school since 2009.

Rahman Al Kaabi working the crowd

He has now has been accepted to the Clown Conservatory at Circus Center of San Francisco!

This is his opportunity to become a professional clown and be able to work with organizations like Big Apple Circus, Clown Care, Cirque du Soleil, and ClownZero Therapeutic Clowning Unit. He is totally self-taught so getting professional training is essential to his future as a working clown.

Check out the full letter below the fold and see if you can help a clown….

Read more of this post

Alhaam: A Film from Iraq — 2005

Alhaam, a movie shot in Iraq in 2004 — during the full catastrophe of the US invasion and related Iraqi insurgencies– is the rawest, hardest to watch movie of war I have ever seen — and I’ve seen many.    Not as tightly plotted or scripted as such American movies as The Hurt LockerFull Metal Jacket or The Thin Red Line  –which are in any case, about Americans in these wars–  the ragged effects of hand-held camera work, the not quite seamless narrative, the sometime loss of control in acting, adds to the chaos of what we are seeing – what they are experiencing.  In American war movies, even if hard-hitting and raw, it is still possible to think — this is not happening; this is a movie.  That’s Sean Penn, or Brad Pitt.  They were on the cover of People this month.  In Ahlaam it is very hard to think any of those things.  Whatever knowledge we retain that the movie has a director and actors it is hard not to believe that this is not a pure documentary of citizens caught in hell.

The film begins on the second day of the infamous  “Shock and Awe,” air campaign as American explosives light up the sky over Baghdad, scenes most of us are familiar with from the actual days of the bombing, scenes we saw on CNN.  One of the buildings blown to smithereens is an insane asylum.  Through the broken walls and over smoking rubble the terrified inmates escape. The film follows several of them through the streets and back into their lives to show how they came to be there, beneath the bombs.

Alhaam, the lead character – whose name means Hope–  is bubbling and pretty on the days of her engagement.  She and her fiancee meet by the Euphrates and laugh about having their mothers take care of all the children they plan to have.  Her wedding day, with the dancing, ululating family,  is just a day before the bombing.  As she is about to come downstairs for the ceremony, masked Iraqis burst into the house and kidnap her fiancee.  Through most of the film she staggers across the still-being-bombed cityscape trying to find him.

Ali’s story and institutionalization began in 1998, during the earlier bombing of Iraq by US and British forces during Operation Desert Fox.  An easy going soldier, he tries to cheer his best friend, in the army with him, who constantly talks about fleeing Iraq, the army, and the butchery of Saddam Hussein and beginning again in Europe.  During a bombardment the friend is badly wounded and Ali makes a heroic effort to carry him across the desert to get help.  He is eventually arrested by Iraqis, having gone mad and still carrying the corpse of his friend.  He is charged with desertion, and incarcerated.  In the asylum he calls the name of the friend over and over, obsessed with his inability to have saved him.

The third of the major characters is Mehdi, a hard working, diligent medical student who, after passing his board, is rounded up by that Baathists and impressed into the army — because of his father’s communist ties.  It is Mehdi who is in charge of the ruined hospital and leads a desperate search — with Ali in the lead– for those who have escaped and are roaming madly in the madness.

There are some over-the-top moments which might have been more powerful if more understated; even in a movie about chaos and human emotion we seem to have a sense of “over acting.”  The trope of inmates running, or escaping, an asylum as an allegory for the rest of us may be a bit cliched to educated readers, but as the crazed Ahlaam searches for, and occasionally “sees” her fiancee, when she is raped  by Iraqis who should be the first to help her, when a masked sniper deliberately picks off citizens, including some the inmates struggling back to the hospital any idea of cliche is blown away.  Some of the shots, the image of Ali carrying his friend through the mirage emitting desert comes to mind, are as powerful as any you are likely to have seen in any movie, anytime.

There isn’t much to be cheerful about during the course of the movie; nor in the war, of course.  Mehdi, the doctor is a wonderful portrait of patience and desperation, trying to befriend the terrified inmates, offering them cigarettes to show he means no harm,  carrying one through the swampy mud at the edge of the Euphrates…  Ali, racing around Baghdad often in nothing more than boxer shorts,  becomes the idiot-every man rising out of his personal maddness to help those around him.

Next to the hell of  Alhaam Hieronymus Bosch’s Hell seems almost a cartoon of fanciful symbols, a misleading distraction from the actual hells that humans create.

Mohammed Al-Daradji, the director, is a young Dutch-Iraqi film maker, living  in Europe to avoid persecution from the Baathist regime.  When the war broke out in 2003 he went back wanting to make a film about ordinary Iraqi people. Ahlaam was shot in Baghdad in extremely difficult conditions – not only did he have to work around curfews and electricity cuts but members of his crew were arrested both by insurgents and by the Americans, neither side believing that they were simply making a film.

An interesting interview at Electric Sheep, can be found here.


AD: The character of Ahlaam is the one that brought me to the story. In 2003 I was watching the news about the war in Iraq while I was studying for a Master at Leeds University and I saw a reportage about a mental institution in Baghdad and how they were affected by the war. And then I saw Ahlaam – she was talking in a nonsensical way and it really shocked me. I couldn’t sleep that night. I dreamt about Ahlaam, on the street in Baghdad as you saw in the film.

VS: So Ahlaam was a real character?

AD: She was a real character, but I couldn’t meet her when I went to the mental institution in Baghdad two months after I saw the reportage. But I met another character, Ali. She wasn’t called Ahlaam. Ahlaam in Arabic means ‘dreams’. It’s not just about Ahlaam’s dreams but it’s also the dreams of the other characters, Ali’s dreams, Doctor Mehdi’s dreams, the dreams of any Iraqi who’s lived under Saddam’s regime and under the invasion. So for me it was about giving two meanings to the title: it’s the girl, and it’s also the meaning of the word.

 Alhaam was his first full length work, which he followed up with Son of  Babylon, not yet available at Netflix, but in the queue.  It was made under the auspices of Human Film  which also has other note-worth films to its credit, a new style production company like Participant Media, which ties it’s movies into vehicles not for product placement but for social change.


Twinned, Human Film & Iraq Al-Rafidain established in 2005, with a goal to seek and explore individual creativity, producing films with a social conscience and impact.
With roots in the east through our bases in Leeds (UK), Rotterdam (NL) and Baghdad (IQ), we are collectively committed to producing innovative, compelling films that entertain, inspire and challenge perceptions, furthering understanding on critical human issues to worldwide audiences through film.

Through our existence, we have the opportunity to share stories that we have a strong personal belief in, and through not applying any language, cultural, political, religious, or any other barriers to our filmmaking practice our work has the potential to affect and inspire.

Over the past 5 years we have successfully completed 3 feature films in Iraq; Ahlaam (2006), Iraq’s official entry for the 2011 Oscars and Golden Globes, Son of Babylon (2010) the recipient of the Berlinale IFF Peace Prize, Amnesty Film Award 2010 and Karlovy Vary’s NETPAC Award and most recently: Iraq, War, Love, God and Madness (2010).


You won’t find a more honest, direct and even heroic account of the toll war takes on non-combatants than in this movie.  Ahlaam is a must see, even if you can’t watch some of it.


Blackwater Cruelties

There is a special place in hell reserved for Erik Prince, Blackwater’s directors and their family valued republican lawyers, Fred F. Fielding, currently counsel to the President of the United States, Joseph E. Schmitz, formerly the Inspector General at the Pentagon, Kenneth Starr, famed prosecutor in the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Raleigh, NC – The families of four American security contractors who were burned, beaten, dragged through the streets of Fallujah and their decapitated bodies hung from a bridge over the Euphrates River on March 31, 2004, are reaching out to the American public to help protect themselves against the very company their loved ones were serving when killed, Blackwater Security Consulting. After Blackwater lost a series of appeals all the away to the U.S. Supreme Court, Blackwater has now changed its tactics and is suing the dead men’s estates for $10 million to silence the families and keep them out of court.

Blackwater Suing Families of Dead

The familes could use financial help here.

Perhaps any acquaintances of yours who think war is a great, first choice solution to conflict, or who think they know all about patriotism, would be interested to know about Blackwater and its treatment of the families of the gruesomely slain….

Scooter Libby: No Soldier

I don’t know how many of you caught the Fouad Ajami op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal proclaiming Scooter Libby a “fallen soldier” in the war in Iraq, and pleading military tradition not to “leave him behind.” It was pretty pitiful.

Some real soldiers are beyond pity though. They are beyond pissed as well and have provided Mr. Ajami with links to photos of real fallen soldiers to help him understand what fallen means.

Dr. Ajami,

As an American soldier, I am sickened by you. Your comparison of Scooter Libby to a “fallen soldier” is odious. Libby played an obvious and essential role in leading this nation’s military into a war in which over 3,500 real soldiers have fallen—and one in which over 25,000 others have been maimed.

Via NoQuarter

In related news, the “real soldiers” who wrote letter to Judge Walton in praise of soldier Libby don’t want us to know what they said. Libby’s lawyer argued against release of these letters because of “the real possibility that these letters, once released, would be published on the Internet and their authors discussed, even mocked, by bloggers.”

Pass the Smelling Salts…

Praise of Libby Released

Maybe next time the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs will be more careful in his public admiration of a convicted liar….

You can read the man-crush letters at

You may particularly enjoy Mary Matalin’s assertion that her husband, James Carville, joins her in expressing admiration for soldier libby…

Then, if you can stomach it, Joe Klein, infamous “Anonymous” of Primary Colors, and leading “liberal” for Time Magazine, lets us know why Paris Hilton deserves jail and Scooter Libby does not. Fortunately, Glen Greenwald dissects the scat for us.

Turks Enter Iraq

Not in the headlines…yet.

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Several thousand Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq early Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas who operate from bases there, Turkish security officials told The Associated Press.

Turkish Troops in Iraq

Iraq for Sale

I took advantage of a new Tivo feature in which you can download films from the film catalog directly to your own Tivo. If it’s a rental you can keep it until you watch it; once you start watching you have 24 hours to finish –or watch it continuously if you want– then it self destructs.

I downloaded Roger Greenwald’s Iraq for Sale. Great film? Nope. Enough to make your blood boil? Absolutely.

Talking head after talking head talking about the malfeasance of Halliburton, KBR, CACI, Titan.

CACI, one the providers of interrorgators at Abu Ghraib, of course had no representatives. Greenwald had plenty to remind us of the sickening events and that junior soldiers have been courts martialed and are serving time. The civilian guards, if accused, were fired and sent home, where they could get a job with another contractor.

From Halliburton and KBR there were plenty — not from the companies but from the workers who went to drive trucks, build showers, serve meals. Many of them talk about their dual motivation: to make money for their families, and to help rebuild Iraq. And then they began to see: empty trucks run up and down the road in order to bill the DOD; multi-million dollar trucks blown up because extra tires weren’t available; shower water not chlorinated and contaminated with typhus, giardia, all the bad stuff. All these good-old-boys speak in the film about the greed of the corporations, the short cuts taken, the lack of training.

As one said: How are you going to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people if what they see us doing is cheating each other? What kind of recommendation is that?

The US Congress, despite Patrick Leahy’s and others efforts, has not done a damn thing about the contracting. Greenwald kindly posts the votes, and other research backing up the claims of the movie.

If you want something to do, with the new Democratic majorities, here are some place to help you out.