Thursday, September 16, 2004

Part Two of Interview with Simona Torretta

Heads-up. 'Democracy Now!' carries part two of the interview held with Simona Torretta in February.

If you read Italian, please visit Enzo Baldoni's blog in memorium.

Remember to pay a visit to Free Our Friends, the blog created to bring attention and information to the world about the kidnapping situation of the two Simonas, Mahnoaz, and Ra'ad. This is especially cogent because the supposed 'deadline' passed. And this is an especially important situation because these are people who worked for the longest serving Non-Governmental Organization that had nothing but the best intentions of Iraq in mind, so they should not be harmed by any means. You are not Iraqi if you harm such honorable people.

As far as the Italian connection goes: I'd like to just point out how far apart a fascist like Berlusconi is from the caliber and class of individuals who gave a part of the prime of their lives for Iraq and Iraqis. They are selfless, Berlusconi is a narcissist. Simona Torretta and Simona Pari are both exceptional people who clearly love Iraq, and they are against the occupation that the Italian president is for...while Berlusconi amounts to nothing more than a slimey meglomaniacal thug.

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think-tanks or think-blanks?
------------------------
CSIS released the Report Progress or Peril?" If you don't want to read 108 pages, here is a summary.

I think it is particularly interesting to compare the CSIS reports. This one is a fairly sober estimate, while earlier ones sometimes smacked of idealism and addressed things in such a complex and multi-layered manner befitting a more useless think-tank. I've read about half of it and it's worth gleaning over. Go to CSIS's website to see the other reports or to page 17-18 on the latest report where you'll find an array of links.

Another paper to check out it Chatham House's Iraq in Transition: Vortex or Catalyst?

Are these useful or not?

I have mixed feelings about such reports, especially when they are obviously not grounded in reality. I found it all-pervasive that finally in the latest report they realized that they had not figured in the "Iraqi voice" into matters as carefully as they should have. Well, good job...but a little too late. I would like to say 'better late than never', but in this situation it's very hard to do so. Seeing as how so many people (291 Iraqis according to one estimate ..see juan cole's latest post for that link) have lost their lives in just the first two weeks of September, things are not going well these days to say the very least.

So, there is no reason to lose four gems who worked for Un Ponte Per Baghdad. They represent what is good about humanity and that cannot be sacrificed for anything when Iraq is in such dire need of such people.

6 Comments

#9/16/2004 03:10:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Anonymous Anonymous

This Iraqi kidnapping has the mark of an undercover police operation

Who seized Simona Torretta?

Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill
Thursday September 16, 2004
published in The Guardian

When Simona Torretta returned to Baghdad in March 2003, in the midst of the "shock and awe" aerial bombardment, her Iraqi friends greeted her by telling her she was nuts. "They were just so surprised to see me. They said, 'Why are you coming here? Go back to Italy. Are you crazy?'"

But Torretta didn't go back. She stayed throughout the invasion, continuing the humanitarian work she began in 1996, when she first visited Iraq with her anti-sanctions NGO, A Bridge to Baghdad. When Baghdad fell, Torretta again opted to stay, this time to bring medicine and water to Iraqis suffering under occupation. Even after resistance fighters began targeting foreigners, and most foreign journalists and aid workers fled, Torretta again returned. "I cannot stay in Italy," the 29-year-old told a documentary film-maker.

Today, Torretta's life is in danger, along with the lives of her fellow Italian aid worker Simona Pari, and their Iraqi colleagues Raad Ali Abdul Azziz and Mahnouz Bassam. Eight days ago, the four were snatched at gunpoint from their home/office in Baghdad and have not been heard from since. In the absence of direct communication from their abductors, political controversy swirls round the incident. Proponents of the war are using it to paint peaceniks as naive, blithely supporting a resistance that answers international solidarity with kidnappings and beheadings. Meanwhile, a growing number of Islamic leaders are hinting that the raid on A Bridge to Baghdad was not the work of mujahideen, but of foreign intelligence agencies out to discredit the resistance.

Nothing about this kidnapping fits the pattern of other abductions. Most are opportunistic attacks on treacherous stretches of road. Torretta and her colleagues were coldly hunted down in their home. And while mujahideen in Iraq scrupulously hide their identities, making sure to wrap their faces in scarves, these kidnappers were bare-faced and clean-shaven, some in business suits. One assailant was addressed by the others as "sir".

Kidnap victims have overwhelmingly been men, yet three of these four are women. Witnesses say the gunmen questioned staff in the building until the Simonas were identified by name, and that Mahnouz Bassam, an Iraqi woman, was dragged screaming by her headscarf, a shocking religious transgression for an attack supposedly carried out in the name of Islam.

Most extraordinary was the size of the operation: rather than the usual three or four fighters, 20 armed men pulled up to the house in broad daylight, seemingly unconcerned about being caught. Only blocks from the heavily patrolled Green Zone, the whole operation went off with no interference from Iraqi police or US military - although Newsweek reported that "about 15 minutes afterwards, an American Humvee convoy passed hardly a block away".

And then there were the weapons. The attackers were armed with AK-47s, shotguns, pistols with silencers and stun guns - hardly the mujahideen's standard-issue rusty Kalashnikovs. Strangest of all is this detail: witnesses said that several attackers wore Iraqi National Guard uniforms and identified themselves as working for Ayad Allawi, the interim prime minister.

An Iraqi government spokesperson denied that Allawi's office was involved. But Sabah Kadhim, a spokesperson for the interior ministry, conceded that the kidnappers "were wearing military uniforms and flak jackets". So was this a kidnapping by the resistance or a covert police operation? Or was it something worse: a revival of Saddam's mukhabarat disappearances, when agents would arrest enemies of the regime, never to be heard from again? Who could have pulled off such a coordinated operation - and who stands to benefit from an attack on this anti-war NGO?

On Monday, the Italian press began reporting on one possible answer. Sheikh Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi, from Iraq's leading Sunni cleric organisation, told reporters in Baghdad that he received a visit from Torretta and Pari the day before the kidnap. "They were scared," the cleric said. "They told me that someone threatened them." Asked who was behind the threats, al-Kubaisi replied: "We suspect some foreign intelligence."

Blaming unpopular resistance attacks on CIA or Mossad conspiracies is idle chatter in Baghdad, but coming from Kubaisi, the claim carries unusual weight; he has ties with a range of resistance groups and has brokered the release of several hostages. Kubaisi's allegations have been widely reported in Arab media, as well as in Italy, but have been absent from the English-language press.

Western journalists are loath to talk about spies for fear of being labelled conspiracy theorists. But spies and covert operations are not a conspiracy in Iraq; they are a daily reality. According to CIA deputy director James L Pavitt, "Baghdad is home to the largest CIA station since the Vietnam war", with 500 to 600 agents on the ground. Allawi himself is a lifelong spook who has worked with MI6, the CIA and the mukhabarat, specialising in removing enemies of the regime.

A Bridge to Baghdad has been unapologetic in its opposition to the occupation regime. During the siege of Falluja in April, it coordinated risky humanitarian missions. US forces had sealed the road to Falluja and banished the press as they prepared to punish the entire city for the gruesome killings of four Blackwater mercenaries. In August, when US marines laid siege to Najaf, A Bridge to Baghdad again went where the occupation forces wanted no witnesses. And the day before their kidnapping, Torretta and Pari told Kubaisi that they were planning yet another high-risk mission to Falluja.

In the eight days since their abduction, pleas for their release have crossed all geographical, religious and cultural lines. The Palestinian group Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, the International Association of Islamic Scholars and several Iraqi resistance groups have all voiced outrage. A resistance group in Falluja said the kidnap suggests collaboration with foreign forces. Yet some voices are conspicuous by their absence: the White House and the office of Allawi. Neither has said a word.

What we do know is this: if this hostage-taking ends in bloodshed, Washington, Rome and their Iraqi surrogates will be quick to use the tragedy to justify the brutal occupation - an occupation that Simona Torretta, Simona Pari, Raad Ali Abdul Azziz and Mahnouz Bassam risked their lives to oppose. And we will be left wondering whether that was the plan all along.

Jeremy Scahill is a reporter for the independent US radio/TV show Democracy Now; Naomi Klein is the author of No Logo and Fences and Windows

jeremy@democracynow.org

http://www.nologo.com

cecile,
www.streamtime.org

 
#9/16/2004 07:58:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Alvaro Frota

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
#9/16/2004 07:59:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger Alvaro Frota

Mark-In-Chi-Town said:

Alvaro:

Your wild speculation as to the government involvement in the kidnapping of Khalid's friends appear to be misplaced.

The New York times is reporting:

"A previously unknown Islamic group claiming loyalty to a leader of Al Qaeda took responsibility on Wednesday for the kidnapping Tuesday of two Italian aid workers.

A group calling itself Al Zawahiri Loyalists said it had kidnapped the two Italians, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, declared the women to be "spies" and promised to use them to "burn the hearts" of Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, and of the Italian people.

The group appears to be named for Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian doctor who is believed to be the second in command of Al Qaeda. There was no way to authenticate the message, which was posted on a Web site used by Islamist organizations."

The evidence doesn't seem to support your theories. Are you prepared to admit you were wrong?

Mark-In-Chi-Town


But now we know, quoted by the above comment:

On Monday, the Italian press began reporting on one possible answer. Sheikh Abdul Salam al-Kubaisi, from Iraq's leading Sunni cleric organisation, told reporters in Baghdad that he received a visit from Torretta and Pari the day before the kidnap. "They were scared," the cleric said. "They told me that someone threatened them." Asked who was behind the threats, al-Kubaisi replied: "We suspect some foreign intelligence."

Blaming unpopular resistance attacks on CIA or Mossad conspiracies is idle chatter in Baghdad, but coming from Kubaisi, the claim carries unusual weight; he has ties with a range of resistance groups and has brokered the release of several hostages. Kubaisi's allegations have been widely reported in Arab media, as well as in Italy, but have been absent from the English-language press.

Western journalists are loath to talk about spies for fear of being labelled conspiracy theorists. But spies and covert operations are not a conspiracy in Iraq; they are a daily reality. According to CIA deputy director James L Pavitt, "Baghdad is home to the largest CIA station since the Vietnam war", with 500 to 600 agents on the ground. Allawi himself is a lifelong spook who has worked with MI6, the CIA and the mukhabarat, specialising in removing enemies of the regime.


And you, Mark-In-Chi-Town, are you prepared to admit you were wrong?

Aquele abraço!

Alvaro Frota

 
#9/17/2004 02:49:00 am Assalam Aleikom Blogger liminal

and now there's a "secret intelligence report" too...

"The new report was initiated under former CIA director George Tenet, who left his post after attracting heavy criticism for failures of intelligence in the run-up to the 11 September attacks and before the Iraq war.

One unnamed government official who read it told the New York Times newspaper that it contained "a significant amount of pessimism" about Iraq's future.

But National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack told the newspaper the Iraqi people often defied predictions.

"In the past, including before the war to liberate Iraq, there were many different scenarios that were possible, including the outbreak of civil war," he said. "It hasn't happened." "

let's hope that we defy all predictions. we must network, work together, and speak up to do this, though. a famous italian once said, "pessimism of the intellect and optimism of the will"

limmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHnalllll

 
#9/17/2004 05:54:00 pm Assalam Aleikom Blogger emigre

Limmm

I added Justins appeal to the blogroll. Btw, just noticed blogrolling is busted. Hopefully it'll be working again soon.

;)

 
#9/18/2004 12:11:00 am Assalam Aleikom Blogger liminal

Emigre, awesome! :) you rock.

 

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