Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Are elections in Iraq about to be delayed again?

Today's front page of the New York Times features a photo by Chang W. Lee (New York Times): "Refugees cooked dinner in Maha temple in Battapola, Sri Lanka, yesterday. Five hundred tsunami survivors are living in the Buddhist temple."

This strong photo illustrates an equally strong article: In Sri Lanka's Time of Agony, a Moment of Peace by David Rohde:

The Tidal Wave Task Force headquarters here is not much to look at, but what is happening inside is extraordinary.
Inside a crumbling, bullet-riddled building in rebel territory in northern Sri Lanka, low-level representatives of the country's government and Tamil Tigers rebels - mortal enemies in a brutal civil war - are sitting together and planning the distribution of relief aid to tsunami victims.
In other parts of the country, ordinary government and Tamil Tiger soldiers have worked together to repair tsunami-damaged roads, according to international monitors. Checkpoint commanders on both sides have loosened rules to ease the flow of aid. And a government hospital has even accepted an injured rebel official for treatment.
Even though the rebels still tightly control aid in their territory, any open signs of cooperation are extraordinary here, where the rebels have maintained what is effectively a separate country for two decades.
Arne Folleras, a Norwegian aid worker and member of the new task force, said this was the
closest cooperation between the two sides since they signed a shaky cease-fire in 2002.

[Please note, this photo is available in the online edition of this story.]

Eric Schmitt has an article on the front page, U.S. May Add Advisers to Aid Iraq's Military:

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top commander in Iraq, is reviewing a proposal to add hundreds of American military advisers to work directly with Iraqi units, whose disappointing performance could jeopardize the long-term American exit strategy from Iraq, senior military officials said Monday.
Americans are training Iraqi police officers and national guard troops to replace them in securing the country, but the results over all have been troubling, with growing desertion rates in the most violent provinces, gaps in leadership, and poor battlefield performance, American military officers and troops say.
The advisers would bolster the Iraqi will to fight, help train officers who would lead the troops, curb desertion and provide Iraqi forces with the confidence that American units would back them up - in some cases fighting alongside them if needed, military and Pentagon officials said.

Schmitt's article accepts the premise that the answer is to increase our presence and that there is indeed an exit strategy. I don't accept either premise and with regard to the answer being with us, I'll again note Naomi Klein's most recent article:

Let's start with the idea that the United States is helping to provide security. On the contrary, the presence of US troops is provoking violence on a daily basis. The truth is that as long as the troops remain, the country's entire security apparatus--occupation forces as well as Iraqi soldiers and police officers--will be exclusively dedicated to fending off resistance attacks, leaving a security vacuum when it comes to protecting regular Iraqis. If the troops pulled out, Iraqis would still face insecurity, but they would be able to devote their local security resources to regaining control over their cities and neighborhoods.As for preventing "anarchy," the US plan to bring elections to Iraq seems designed to spark a civil war--the civil war needed to justify an ongoing presence for US troops no matter who wins the elections. It was always clear that the Shiite majority, which has been calling for immediate elections for more than a year, was never going to accept any delay in the election timetable. And it was equally clear that by destroying Falluja in the name of preparing the city for elections, much of the Sunni leadership would be forced to call for an election boycott.

What do you think of the premise Schmitt builds upon? Weigh in at common_ills@yahoo.com.

House G.O.P. Voids Rule It Adopted Shielding Leader by Carl Hulse addresses the sudden decision, on the part of Republican House leadership, not to alter the ethics rule:

Stung by criticism that they were lowering ethical standards, House Republicans on Monday night reversed a rule change that would have allowed a party leader to retain his position even if indicted.

Interesting Times has already addressed this change of "heart":

More likely they got word of the Democrats plans to put the Republicans on the hotseat by forcing a floor vote on the DeLay rule. Apparently Joe Hefley, the Republican outgoing chair of the ethics committee signed on to the plan, probably as a last "fuck you" to the leadership that removed him from his position. I bet you there were at least a few other Republicans who were also going to support the vote, enough for it to pass. If that had happened the Republican leadership would have really been embarrassed.

People, people, people. The Democrat's won on this issue. We should be crowing about this. Be happy dammit! We stared DeLay in the eye and he blinked! Who cares if there were other outcomes that might have been even more damaging to the Republicans. Democrats and blogger activists were on the side of the angels in this fight and they won! We should take this as a positive sign for the future! We can use this as an example to future quavering Dems that actually acting like an opposition party can bring about positive results!

This story [in the Times] gives more credit for the reversal to the Republican dissenters than to the Democrats. But would those dissenters have been able to dissent were it not for the Democrats making a lot of noise about it? I doubt it.

Kara's already e-mailed regarding Scott Shane's Powell Touring Stricken Region to Show Support.

Kara: "Obviously, regardless of what he stated, Jeb Bush is preparing for a 2008 run for president. Who's paying for this publicity? I don't live in Florida but if the tax payers there want to pay for this publicity trip, that's up to them. If federal tax payers are paying for Jeb's make over, it's a problem. Being not a doctor, construction worker or other relief worker, Jeb's of little value on this trip. If we're paying for him to tag along with Powell, he needs to reimburse the US tax payers and pay for his own travel."

Ruling Is Awaited on Death Penalty for Young Killers by Adam Liptak is a story Jim found interesting and was wondering what others thought. If you have comments on it, please e-mail the site (common_ills@yahoo.com) and we'll build around that tonight for an entry this evening.

Richard A. Oppel, Jr. and David E. Sanger's Iraqi Premier Calls Bush to Discuss Obstacles to Election informs us that with elections thirty days away, now there is some concern that they may not be able to take place:

The officials insisted that Dr. Allawi, Iraq's interim leader, did not tell Mr. Bush that the elections should be delayed, though his defense minister said in Cairo on Monday that the voting could be postponed to ensure greater participation by Sunnis. "There was no substantive conversation about delay," a senior administration official said. Dr. Allawi, the official said, "wasn't even a bit wobbly" on that point.
But some officials in Washington and in Iraq interpreted the telephone call as a sign that Dr. Allawi, who is clearly concerned his own party could be headed to defeat if the election is held on schedule, may be preparing the ground to make the case for delay to Mr. Bush.

Delaying elections yet again will only result in more frustration and hostitlity from Iraqis (my opinion). Every few months, someone suggests another reason to delay elections. Naomi Klein (again) has addressed this issue when people (well meaning or not) seized upon the issue of women rights to argue that a delay might be necessary:

All this manly defense of women's rights is certainly enough to make a girl swoon. Yet before [Christopher]Hitchens rides to the rescue, it's worth remembering how he rationalized his reputation-destroying support for the war: Even if US forces were really after the oil and military bases, he reasoned, the liberation of the Iraqi people would be such a joyous side-effect that progressives everywhere should cheer the cruise missiles. With the prospect of liberation still a cruel joke in Iraq, Hitchens is now claiming that this same anti-woman, anti-gay White House is the Iraqi people's best hope against Sadr's brand of anti-woman, anti-gay religious fundamentalism. Once again we are supposed to hold our noses and cheer the Bradleys--for the greater good, or the lesser evil.
There is no question that Iraqis face a mounting threat from religious fanaticism, but US forces won't protect Iraqi women and minorities from it any more than they have protected Iraqis from being tortured in Abu Ghraib or bombed in Falluja and Sadr City. Liberation will never be a trickle-down effect of this invasion because domination, not liberation, was always its goal. Even under the best scenario, the current choice in Iraq is not between Sadr's dangerous fundamentalism and a secular democratic government made up of trade unionists and feminists. It's between open elections--which risk handing power to fundamentalists but would also allow secular and moderate religious forces to organize--and rigged elections designed to leave the country in the hands of Iyad Allawi and the rest of his CIA/Mukhabarat-trained thugs, fully dependent on Washington for both money and might.