When President Bush meets Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Amman, Jordan, on Thursday, it will be clear that the real power in Iraq rests with radical cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr.
In one swift maneuver Wednesday, Sadr cast a shadow over the diplomacy in Amman and issued a reminder of his growing influence in Iraq when a bloc of his party's lawmakers and cabinet members suspended their participation in the government to protest Maliki's decision to meet with Bush in Jordan.
The move raises concerns about the ability of Maliki and Iraq's fragile unity government -- beset by political paralysis, feuding rivalries and corruption -- to survive. If Sadr decides to prolong his departure from government, it could lead to deeper crisis in a nation already divided by sectarian strife.
Martha notes the above, Sudarsan Raghavan's "Sadr Casts a Shadow Over Bush-Maliki Meeting" (Washington Post). Zach e-mailed about a report on KPFA yesterday but didn't name the program and only notes "new groupings of parliament" in his e-mail. I'm on the road and didn't hear KPFA yesterday. (Zach, e-mail what the program was and we'll note it in today's snapshot.) I'm assuming the report was about the rumblings of regroupings and new alliances being formed in the parliament while the puppet is out of the country. When Nouri al-Maliki returns he may be facing a new landscape in parliament. This goes beyond al-Sadr.
There's a lot of rumblings about and from the parliament. al-Maliki is seen as weak and that's a story the Times can't bother reporting. They can't bother to tell readers of anything that happened in Iraq yesterday either. They're panting over the faux group but, hey, think about how many members of it gave them quotes over the years -- nothing that amounted to much, but did give the impression that the insider status was still protected.
In the Times of London, Tom Baldwin writes about Malachi Ritscher:
The death of Malachi Ritscher was reported by a local television station as just another frustration for commuters driving into Chicago one morning when police were told that a statue was burning and slowing-up traffic along the Kennedy expressway.
This was not how the anti-war activist had envisaged media coverage when on November 3, he set up a video-camera and a small sign reading "thou shalt not kill" next to Chicago’s Flame of the Millennium sculpture. He then doused his body in petrol and set himself on fire.
Mr Ritscher, 52, had even written a lengthy "mission-statement" on one of his many websites, saying: "If I am required to pay for your barbaric war, I choose not to live in your world. I refuse to finance the mass murder of innocent civilians, who did nothing to threaten our country."
There was a passage on the midterm Congressional elections taking place on November 7, which he perhaps hoped to influence, as well as some speculation about how others would judge him: "Maybe some will be scared enough to wake from their walking dream state -- am I therefore a martyr or a terrorist? I would prefer to be thought of as a spiritual warrior."
Like the Czech student Jan Palach in 1969, or Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc in South Vietnam in 1963, he had chosen the most dramatic and agonising form of suicide to draw attention to his protest against the Iraq war. "What has happened to my country," he wrote, that it is "more concerned with sports on television and ring-tones on cell-phones than the future of the world?" What Mr Ritscher had not reckoned with was that people would continue to be more concerned with TV sport -- and getting to work on time -- as they drove past his flaming body. It was not until the day after the election that the Cook County medical examiner got round to identifying the corpse, charred beyond recognition. But it was at this time that a small article appeared in the alternative newspaper, the Chicago Reader, about his "apparent suicide". Soon, its website was being inundated with hundreds of messages from people who knew him from the city's jazz scene, fellow anti-war activists and family members.
Danny Schechter, the News Dissector, noted the death last week.
Lastly from Eric Lichtblau's "U.S. Will Pay $2 Million to Lawyer Wrongly Jailed" (New York Times):
The federal government agreed to pay $2 million Wednesday to an Oregon lawyer wrongly jailed in connection with the 2004 terrorist bombings in Madrid, and it issued a formal apology to him and his family.
The unusual settlement caps a two-and-a-half-year ordeal that saw the lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, go from being a suspected terrorist operative to a symbol, in the eyes of his supporters, of government overzealousness in the war on terrorism.
Iraq related? The illegal war is built upon the fear being pushed by the so-called "war on terror." And as a result of "The Fear"? Over 655,000 Iraqis dead, 2885 US troops dead (15 away from the 2900 marker, if anyone's paying attention), 126 British, 121 other.
For humor, check out Wally's "THIS JUST IN! BULLY BOY GETS STOOD UP BY A 'DUD'!" and Cedric's "Bully Boy's mystery date goes bust." For a look at the state of independent media, see Elaine's "Well look who's showing up late to the party and without a gift," Mike addresses the topic of impeachment (and a kitchen fire -- seriously) in "Impeachment, Iraq," Kat takes on the wheezers in "Don't gas bag on Tower, spare us all" and Rebecca tackles pretty much everything in "bully boy gets stood up, ray mcgovern & more."
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