Reports this week that Mosul’s central library has been ransacked by Isis and 100,000 books and manuscripts burned has cast an international spotlight on a new wave of destruction that has been raging through the northern Iraqi city since last summer.
Earlier this month the head of the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) voiced alarm over “one of the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history.” Director general Irina Bokova said the destruction involved museums, libraries and universities across Mosul.
She added: “This destruction marks a new phase in the cultural cleansing perpetrated in regions controlled by armed extremists in Iraq. It adds to the systematic destruction of heritage and the persecution of minorities that seeks to wipe out the cultural diversity that is the soul of the Iraqi people.”
On Monday, Ninwa Al Ghad, a satellite channel broadcasting out of Mosul, reported that the central library had been burned with the reported loss of Iraqi newspapers from the beginning of the 20th century, as well as maps, books and collections from the Ottoman period. But confusion remains about the extent of the damage, with two local Facebook groups insisting on Thursday that, though some books were burned, the library itself was still standing.
The escalating devastation culminated on Thursday with the release of a five-minute video purportedly showing militants using sledgehammers to smash ancient artifacts in the city. The video, posted on Twitter and bearing the logo of Isis’s media arm, shows a group of bearded men in a museum using hammers and drills to destroy several large statues, including one depicting a winged-bull Assyrian protective deity that dates back to the 9th century BC.
The news saddens but does not surprise Shahla Kamal, who until last summer was a lecturer at Mosul University’s College of Political Science. In June she was overseeing students sitting an end-of-year exam when the dean told everyone to go home because of an immediate curfew.
Overnight, the Islamic State had taken over the city and imposed sharia laws. Shahla lost her job when Isis deemed the college “un-Islamic” and closed it along with the colleges of law, fine arts, physical education, languages, social sciences and archaeology.
Isis looted and vandalised the new multimillion-dollar physics and chemistry laboratories. Each college had its own library and these were looted, too. Some, like the library of Islamic studies, housed priceless ancient manuscripts. Not any more. The classrooms of the closed colleges and departments are now the sleeping quarters for Isis fighters, and are used as storage for their weapons cache.
In addition to the college libraries, each of Mosul University’s two campuses has a central library. Teba used to work in one of them, and visits whenever she can. The library is still intact, but Teba makes sure that squatters – who have now moved on to the campus with their farm animals – don’t use the books and furniture for firewood. She says she’s heartbroken and enraged at the fate of Mosul’s central library, and fears a similar fate for the remaining university libraries.
Mustafa was unable to salvage anything from the College of Physical Education, where he worked. The last time he went there to check on the college he was stunned to find the college’s Olympic-sized pool looking like a green swamp, and Isis fighters lounging on the furniture, their sleeping mattresses stacked up outside the dean’s office. “The Amir [Al Baghdadi] takes what the Amir wants,” the fighters said, and demanded that he hand over his keys to the department.
The college of economics and business where Soraya studied was not closed. Isis did make a number of changes, such as segregating students by gender and driving away almost all the female staff. In November 2014, Soraya quit her studies after a female Isis police officer threatened to bite her hand for taking off her regulation gloves during an exam – with the gloves on, Soraya’s pen kept slipping while she tried to write. Biting is common – one of Soraya’s friends needed three stitches on her right hand when she was bitten – and students say Isis’s female police wear a steel fitting in their mouths with jagged fangs to make their bite particularly sharp. Soraya decided at that moment to leave college and stay inside her house where she can wear anything she wants.
My family swap these stories of relatives and friends and shake our heads in disbelief. This is not the Mosul University they helped create half a century ago. In 1964, my great grandfather Abdul Fattah Al Malah, a graduate of the American University in Beirut and Oxford University, established the College of Pharmacy at Mosul University. He, and the other founders of Mosul University, all western-educated, brought a cadre of academics from Europe, the United States, India, Pakistan and several Arab countries to teach alongside Iraqi academics. That same multinational cadre went on to teach my parents who both went to study there in the 1970s.
As a child, my favourite pastime was to listen to my great grandfather reading stories to me and my cousins. Each was about the life of a groundbreaking scholar or scientist. “Education, education, education,” he would say to me, shaking his index finger like he was delivering a threat. He passed away in 1996. As much as I miss him, I am glad he is not alive to see Mosul today.
WASHINGTON D.C. – (CT&P) – The Air Force announced yesterday that it is placing 18 A-10 Warthogs, the most feared and effective ground attack aircraft ever built, into back-up flying status in order to move the maintenance staff to work on F-35s, a high tech piece of shit that can rarely get off the ground let alone fire its weapons.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh have decided to move the Warthogs to back-up status “as soon as practical,” according to a notice obtained by POLITICO. That includes nine A-10s from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona, six from Moody in Georgia and three from Nellis in Nevada.
Secretary James told POLITICO that “We need these maintenance personnel to wash the F-35’s and wax their exteriors so they will look good in photographs taken on the flight line. They rarely fly, but dirt and dust accumulates on the planes and it makes them look filthy, and we can’t have that.”
The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act blocks the Air Force from retiring the fleet, but gives it the option to put 36 planes into back-up flying status, if the defense secretary certified the move was necessary. Chuck Hagel did so earlier this month as one his final idiotic acts before he left office.
The venerable A-10 has been a workhorse for decades, and has proved to be a reliable and low cost ground attack aircraft that can blow the shit out of just about anything. It proved invaluable in both Gulf Wars, immolating and scattering to atoms innumerable enemy troops and jihadis alike.
The A-10 was designed around the 30 mm GAU-8 Avenger rotary cannon that is its primary armament and the heaviest-ever automatic cannon mounted on an aircraft. It also is able to carry a variety of other ordinance such as the Maverick air-to-suface missile, cluster munitions, Hydra rocket pods, and even laser guided bombs, making it “one bad motherfucker” on the battlefield.
By comparison, the trillion dollar F-35 has trouble turning left, right, and flying in a straight line. Its computer systems are full of glitches that can cause the plane to fly upside down or fire its weapons without warning. It’s just as likely to target an elementary school as it is a tank or enemy aircraft. Furthermore, the flying washing machine will not be able to fire its cannon for at least five years because the Air Force it waiting on a software upgrade.
Air Force General Buck Turgidson explained that while the A-10 was a “great plane,” the F-35 costs “one hell of lot more to produce and maintain,” thus guaranteeing a ton of money flowing into Pentagon coffers for years to come.
“The F-35 Lightning may not be able to fly that well, or shoot down enemy aircraft, or support our ground troops attacking ISIS positions, but it looks cool as shit and costs a lot, and that’s enough for the numb nuts in charge of protecting this great country,” said Turgidson.
NEW YORK – (CT&P) – Insecure horse’s ass Bill O’Reilly went berserk again last night on his Fox News show The O’Reilly Factor after more evidence surfaced that he exaggerated his personal exploits during the Falklands War. Mr. O’Reilly reportedly got so agitated that he was treated for dangerously high blood pressure shortly after the show aired.
O’Reilly has been playing defense since an article in the left-leaning magazine Mother Jones last Thursday claimed that, not unlike NBC News anchor Brian Williams, the Fox News host embellished accounts of his wartime experiences. In response to the story about O’Reilly’s reporting on the Falklands war between the U.K. and Argentina in the early 1980s, penned by Mother Jones editor David Corn, O’Reilly blasted Corn as a “liar,” a “left-wing assassin” and an “irresponsible guttersnipe.”
O’Reilly has maintained that he never said he reported from the actual war zone, in the Atlantic Ocean off Argentina’s coast, but did cover violent protests in Buenos Aires at the close of that conflict. CBS broadcast those clips at the request of O’Reilly, who featured them on his show Monday evening.
However, that didn’t satisfy Mother Jones, which said the protest footage does not really support his claims. Nor did it convince the New York Times, which quoted former CBS News staff members who had taken issue with O’Reilly’s accounts of those protests.
What O’Reilly referred to as a “very intense situation where people got hurt,” was played down by CBS veteran Eric Engberg in the New York Times story. O’Reilly maintained the veracity of his account on Monday night’s show, pulling out additional reports that described the disputed the protest scenario that he confronted in Buenos Aires.
O’Reilly claims that the whole situation is the result of a left-wing conspiracy against him by Keyser Söze, a Turkish criminal mastermind personally responsible for the demise of hundreds of people. O’Reilly dedicated his last segment to a desperate plea for help from his viewers.
“I know it’s Söze that’s after me,” whined O’Reilly. “No one else would dare question me. He’s enlisted the help of almost all the members of the liberal media to tarnish my good name and say that I’m lying about being a war hero.”
“Söze’s henchmen are all over the place. Liars, left wing assassins, and ‘scruffy and badly behaved children who spend most of their time in the street’ are following me everywhere,” said a sweating O’Reilly.
“You, my loyal viewers, know damn good and well I’ve never lied and have never been wrong about anything in my entire life. I’m begging you to come to my defense in my time of need.”
“I want to stop this now. I hope we can stop this. I really do,” said a tearful O’Reilly as he closed the show.
Members of the media were not impressed with O’Reilly’s pleas. David Corn of Mother Jones told the New York Times that “As a despicable guttersnipe who seeks the truth, I must and will continue to uncover the lies told by this giant bipedal penis.”
VATICAN CITY – (CT&P) – This morning on his daily talk show Jehovah and Friends on Vatican TV, God categorically denied having had any communications with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for at least two decades.
“The last time I remember hearing from Scott was during exam week just before he dropped out of Marquette,” said God. “I really can’t remember what he was begging for at the time, as I was busy fielding thousands of requests concerning the basketball team, but I think it had something to do with a political science class.”
God’s remarks came after articles surfaced last week about Walker’s “close relationship with the Lord” and his propensity for letting right-wing audiences know that he carries on conversations with the Almighty on a regular basis.
Governor Walker has never been shy about flashing his religious credentials, regularly telling audiences about the nondenominational evangelical church he attends, the Baptist preacher who raised him, and his belief that he only runs for office when “called” upon by God to do so.
His reliance on the role of the Lord in his political decision-making process goes back to his aborted college years, when in an interview published in the Marquette University yearbook, he said that “I really think there’s a reason why God put all these political thoughts in my head.”
After the governor made another reference to God “speaking to him” in a speech before bankers in January, Freedom From Religion Foundation member Edward Susterich made an open records request of his office for evidence of his communications with the Master of the Universe.
Susterich requested any transcripts or a copy of any communication Walker may have had with “God, the Lord, Christ, Jesus, or any other form of deity” while in office as governor of Wisconsin.
The Governor’s Office replied, officially, that it could find none, saying “pursuant to the Public Records Law, we are responding to let you know that this office does not have records responsive to your request.”
“There’s a damn good reason for that,” commented God. “It’s because I haven’t talked to the son of a bitch. He’s full of shit. Do you really think I’m gonna waste my time with an idiot who doesn’t even believe in evolution?”
“I’ve got a few more important things to do than help some numb nuts who talks to himself bust unions and attack higher education,” said God. “And I’ll tell you something else, I don’t put thoughts in people’s heads. That’s what I gave you that huge brain for, you twits.”
“If the moron wants to run for president then let him,” said the exasperated deity. “I just wish he would keep me out of it. Besides, I’ve always thought the dude was an asshole.”
More than just spies, cops and terrorist threats, it would be a mistake to ignore the deeper philosophical debate that infuses Tony Abbott’s pronouncements on national security.
Abbott has done more than set out a contest between good and evil in the fight against Islamist violent extremism, he has also opened a debate over the Australian character – a question of multiculturalism versus citizenship.
Immigrants transformed into “them” in his Monday statement, that “we”, Australians, would help and support.
“But this is not a one-way street,” Abbott declared.
“Those who come here must be as open and accepting of their adopted country as we are of them.
“Those who live here must be as tolerant of others, as we are of them.”
Or join Team Australia, to borrow a phrase.
That tolerance was once captured by the boast about Australia’s multicultural character, the ethnic and cultural diversity to be found in a country where population growth depends on welcoming those brave enough to uproot and begin a new life overseas.
But some conservative thinkers are hostile towards the notion of multiculturalism.
John Howard stripped the word from the title of the immigration department, believing “citizenship” better reflected a commitment to Australia’s values.
Abbott went to the trouble on Monday of reciting a pledge made at citizenship ceremonies.
“This has to mean something,” Abbott said.
Yes, but what? How much cultural difference can “we” allow of “them”, and who decides?
Violence, whether at home in the community, can never be accepted. Democracy is fundamental. But what liberty is found under a burka? Where to draw the line?
The far bigger problem in emphasising citizenship is the lingering suspicion Abbott has cast on “them” and loyalty to Australia.
The Prime Minister called for more Muslim leaders to describe Islam as a religion of peace, “and mean it”.
The implication is clear – except for the path to finally accept “them” as “we”