Sunday, August 21, 2005

Reporting from outside the US mainstream media focused on Iraq

Has the U.S. public lost so much confidence in the George W. Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war that its current strategy -- to the extent one actually exists -- is unsustainable? With Pres. Bush himself besieged by anti-war protesters on his seemingly endless and ill-timed vacation at his Texas ranch, that appears to be The Big Question, just two weeks before the resumption of official business back in Washington.
Both Republican lawmakers, who face mid-term elections in 15 months from now, and the military itself, which, as a result of the Vietnam debacle, has taken as an article of faith that the loss of civilian support must be avoided at all costs, appear increasingly restive and unhappy with the course of events.
"There are more and more voices within the party and military who are beginning to acknowledge that the situation in Iraq is not only not improving, but is actually getting worse," said Jim Cason of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), a lobby group that opposed the war. "The administration is under more and more pressure from within -- especially from the Pentagon and influential Republicans on Capitol Hill -- and it clearly hasn't figured out what to do about it."
Media coverage of the war has turned particularly gloomy over the past several weeks, and particularly since the Aug. 3 killing of 14 U.S. servicemen in one deadly bombing incident. The front-page headlines tell the story. "In Iraq, No Clear Finish Line," which ran in the Washington Post a week ago, was soon succeeded by "U.S. Lowers Sights on What Can be Achieved in Iraq," which was then eclipsed by a more general analysis Thursday entitled "U.S. Policy on 'Axis of Evil' Suffers Spate of Setbacks." Among other points, that article noted that the administration's blunders in Iraq had clearly strengthened the strategic position of North Korea and especially Iran, whose influence with the new government in Baghdad has been growing steadily, much to Washington's discomfort.

The above is from Jim Lobe's "Has the 'Tipping Point' on Iraq Been Reached?" (IPS) and was e-mailed by Brenda. We're doing our entries on what's being reported outside the mainstream media in the United States and we're focusing on Iraq for this entry.

Lloyd e-mails to note Omer Mahdi and Rory Carroll's "Under US noses, brutal insurgents rule Sunni citadel" (England's The Guardian):

The executions are carried out at dawn on Haqlania bridge, the entrance to Haditha. A small crowd usually turns up to watch even though the killings are filmed and made available on DVD in the market the same afternoon.
One of last week's victims was a young man in a black tracksuit. Like the others he was left on his belly by the blue iron railings at the bridge's southern end. His severed head rested on his back, facing Baghdad. Children cheered when they heard that the next day's spectacle would be a double bill: two decapitations. A man named Watban and his brother had been found guilty of spying.
With so many alleged American agents dying here Haqlania bridge was renamed Agents' bridge. Then a local wag dubbed it Agents' fridge, evoking a mortuary, and that name has stuck.
A three-day visit by a reporter working for the Guardian last week established what neither the Iraqi government nor the US military has admitted: Haditha, a farming town of 90,000 people by the Euphrates river, is an insurgent citadel.

Lloyd also notes Rory Carroll and Julian Borger's "US relents on Islamic law to reach Iraq deal" (The Guardian):

The United States has eased its opposition to an Islamic Iraqi state to help clinch a deal on a draft constitution before tonight's deadline.
American diplomats backed religious conservatives who threatened to torpedo talks over the shape of the new Iraq unless Islam was a primary source of law. Secular and liberal groups were dismayed at the move, branding it a betrayal of Washington's promise to advocate equal rights in a free and tolerant society.
Stalemate over the role of Islam, among other issues, meant last week's deadline was extended for a week. Outstanding disputes could produce another cliffhanger tonight, triggering a further extension.

Also on the issue of the constitution, Dawn e-mails to note "Iraq deadline looms without deal" (BBC):

Iraq's deadlocked communities appear no closer to agreeing a new constitution with just hours remaining until the deadline for its completion.
Officials are being forced to discuss a further delay, or even the dramatic option of dissolving parliament.
Shia, Sunni and Kurdish teams have been unable to agree on key issues including federalism, oil and the role of Islam.
An original deadline last week was shifted to midnight this Monday (2000 GMT) when no agreement was reached.

Charlie e-mails to note Zaid Al-Ali's "Iraq: a constitution or an epitaph?" (openDemocracy):

The Iraqi constitutional committee could not come to an agreement on the issues that separated it by the designated date of 15 August 2005: the role Islam should play in the constitution, federalism as a model of government, the rights of women, even the official name of the new Iraqi state. The result is that the national assembly has given the negotiators a week’s extension, until 22 August – a period both long enough (in principle) to resolve differences, and short enough to sustain the pressure to do so.
The fact that none of the major issues have been settled is a worry, both for the Iraqi political process and for a George W Bush administration determined to see the negotiations end quickly. But the manner in which the process was extended is also significant.
The Transitional Administrative Law (Tal) of 2004, passed by Paul Bremer – head of the United States-appointed
Coalition Provisional Authority set up following the end of the Saddam Hussein regime in April 2003 – has operated in Iraq as a sort of interim constitution. It sets out the political timetable that the Iraqis are supposed to follow until a new constitution is passed and a permanent government is formed. The terms of the Tal specify that the drafting process should have been completed on 15 August 2005, but also indicate that the national assembly could request a six-month extension if a draft could not be completed by that date. However, the Tal makes no provision for a one-week extension. The national assembly’s last-minute intervention is therefore its own invention.
The one-week extension has been presented as an amendment of the Transitional Administrative Law itself. This explanation is problematic. For example, Article 32(c) of the Tal provides that the national assembly cannot vote on a bill in the first four days after a bill is presented to it. An amendment passed in the final moments before the 15 August deadline expired clearly does not meet this four-day requirement. The national assembly, in other words, violated the Tal in order to amend it.

Lynda e-mails to note "Iraq violence claims over a dozen lives" (Aljazeera):

Fighters have killed 14 Iraqis, including seven policemen, injured many, among them a prominent Baghdad city councilman and captured five, including a Turkish engineer, security sources say.
Two police commandos were shot dead by attackers in the western Baghdad neighbourhood of al-Ameriyah on Sunday, an Interior Ministry source said.
Another policeman was killed as he came under fire from assailants in al-Shuhada neighbourhood, east of Samarra, 125km north of Baghdad, local police said.
Later in the evening, four police commandos were killed and five others badly wounded in the town of Madain south of Baghdad when their guard post was blown up by, security sources said.

Cindy e-mails to note Faiz Jawad "In First Since Invasion, Iraqi Minister 'Publicly Condemns' U.S." (Azzaman, via Watching America):

A government minister has openly lambasted U.S. occupation of the country, blaming it for the upsurge in violence and rampant corruption.
Transport Minister Salam al-Maliki said that the presence of U.S.-led forces was as detrimental to the country's well-being as the devastation of terrorist attacks.
"Corruption, terror ... and occupation are taking their daily toll on the lives of Iraqi citizens," Maliki said in an interview.
He said that the worsening conditions in Iraq along with the upsurge in terror, insurgent attacks and violence, "are a product of the occupation."
Maliki is the first government minister to publicly condemn U.S. forces, saying that they shoulder responsibility of the chaos in the country.

Vic e-mails to note Angela K. Brown "Folk singer Joan Baez performing at war protest near Bush's Texas ranch" (Canada's CBC):

Iraq war protesters camping out near President George W. Bush's ranch are getting support from a prominent figure in the anti-Vietnam war movement: folk singer Joan Baez.
Baez planned a free concert in Bush's adopted hometown Sunday that was expected to draw more than 1,000 people on a half-hectare lot offered by a landowner who opposes the war. Not far away, protesters continued a camp-out started by grieving mother Cindy Sheehan.

Pru e-mails to note Sabah Jawad's "US control lurks behind the Iraq constitution row" (UK's The Socialist Worker):

The whole saga of the Iraqi constitution, where any agreement on a draft was delayed until Monday of next week, is indicative of the situation in Iraq under the US occupation.
There have been calls from some of the religious parties in the government for Iraq to be divided along sectarian and ethnic lines.
The US-led occupation is fuelling these calls, which are also made by people in the Kurdish north.
Political groups in the south are talking about the redistribution of the country’s oil wealth along sectarian lines.
But the Iraqi people reject these calls. They are fed up with the US occupation. Resistance — both military and political -- is on the increase.
There is a lack of security, there are killings every day and crime rates are very high. The Iraqi people see no future and everything is in a mess.
The US is launching military campaigns in major cities such as Haditha. An uprising is taking place in southern Iraq where people are complaining about their living conditions.
In Samawah there have been massive demonstrations opposing the occupation, and the lack of security and amenities such as water. The group supporting the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has played a crucial part in these protests.
The US is unpopular and people want occupation troops to leave. If they don't, Iraq will be up in arms.
Iraqi people don't feel that the initiatives of the US -- the new government, the elections and now the constitution--are reflective of their desire for genuine independence.
They don't buy Tony Blair or George Bush's propaganda that these are huge achievements for democracy. Iraqis see the situation gets worse every day.
The constitution is based on the guidelines that former US proconsul Paul Bremer laid down. It is clear that the US authorities still have control.
The people who were elected to the Iraqi assembly in January have spent 40 days discussing their allowances, and over three months discussing the formation of a government. They have not spent a single hour discussing the plight of the Iraqi people.
Lots of Iraqi people participated in the January elections because they were hungry for freedom and democracy. But they realise the US won't liberate them and they want the US to withdraw.
The government they elected is not able to do anything. It is handicapped because full control is still in the hands of the US.
Some US decision-makers are using the threat of partition as a stick to beat the Iraqis with-- "If you don't stop resisting, we will partition your country."
The Iraqi people do not want this. An excellent demonstration of this occurred in Ramadi on Sunday of last week.
A fundamentalist group said that Shia Muslims should leave the town. But then Sunni Muslims came and fought the fundamentalist group so that the Shia could stay.
Attempts to divide people are being rejected by Iraqis. Divisions will make it difficult for Iraqis to achieve freedom. Unity is paramount.
No matter how they stitch it up, the constitution is the result of a US diktat. The way things are going people could reject it at a planned referendum in October.
People realise you cannot write a proper constitution when your land is controlled by imperialism.
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