Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"In Baghdad, Survival Depends on Simpler Ways" (J. Partlow)

From the boys selling black-market gasoline from donkey carts, to the abandoned movie theaters, restaurants and liquor stores, from the overflowing sewage to the dwindling food rations, Baghdad has lost its place as a pinnacle of Middle East modernity. Existence has become more rudimentary.
"The people of Baghdad were living on electricity and technology, and now we are stagnated," said Um Mohammed, a mother of three who was shopping in the Kadhimiyah neighborhood for a traditional oven called a tanoor. "Instead of improving ourselves, we are returning back to the Stone Age."
Um Mohammed, who asked that only her nickname be published, had never used a tanoor, a waist-high clay gourd for baking bread over smoldering palm-tree coals. Her bread came from a bakery. But after spending $70 a month on bread for her family, a financial burden made worse by the rising price of cooking gas, she decided to learn.
"I'll probably burn my hand," she said. "We are living in Baghdad, the capital of Iraq, of prosperity. Where is the prosperity?"

The above is from Joshua Partlow's "In Baghdad, Survival Depends on Simpler Ways" (Washington Post) and Martha noted it and wondered when "the globalization cheerleader" (Thomas Friedman) would get around to writing about that? Turning to the New York Times, Damien Cave's "U.S. Jailer in Iraq Admits Mistakes, Investigator Says" addresses the ongoing Article 32 hearing whose purpose is to determine whether or not there is enough evidence to warrant further action:

Lt. Col. William H. Steele, 51, a reservist from Prince George, Va., faces nine charges relating to his command at the detention center, Camp Cropper, from October 2005 to October 2006. The suspected cellphone misuse led to an accusation of "aiding the enemy" -- potentially a capital offense. But testimony by military investigators at the second and last day of the hearing suggested that the cellphone issue was a sign of Colonel Steele’s lenient approach to detention.
Colonel Steele, the testimony showed, took pride in trying to make Camp Cropper the antithesis of Abu Ghraib, where prisoners were tortured and abused. One military investigator said Colonel Steele told him he was willing to "do things under the table" to complete his mission.
Prosecutors at the hearing on Tuesday seemed intent on showing that he had gone too far, and had lost sight of how to manage the dangerous men he was guarding.
"Did he express empathy toward high-value detainees and say he understood the personal anguish they were under and wanted to make their lives better?" one of the government’s lawyers asked Special Agent John Nocella, a counterintelligence investigator who interrogated Colonel Steele in February.
"Yes," Mr. Nocella said.
Did Colonel Steele say that some detainees were innocent "and should be allowed as many privileges as possible?” asked one of the prosecutors.
"Yes, he did," Mr. Nocella said.
He added that Colonel Steele was aware that phone calls by detainees were to be made only on authorized phones with an interpreter and an American soldier present, but that he skirted those rules when there were no appropriate phones available.

In Iraq, heavy vehicles have been banned from "crossing most Baghdad bridges" due to concerns over the bombings of bridges and the law that will privatize Iraq's oil and turn the majority of profits over to big business has headed to the parliament -- the apparently crumbling parliament which may explain the sudden push. We'll note Chris Kraul's "Iraq's civilian toll grows" (Los Angeles Times) -- and remember this for the next entry:

The recent upsurge in violence continued to exact a heavy toll on Iraqi civilians Tuesday, while members of the national parliament said they moved a step closer to voting on a controversial bill to equitably distribute oil revenue. Police on Tuesday reported the deaths of dozens of people in sectarian violence across Iraq, including the massacre of 16 people attending a funeral in Khalis, north of Baghdad. Late Monday, gunmen attacked a minibus south of the capital, killing 11 passengers, including women and children.
Usama Abdulaziz Najafi, a legislator with the Iraqi National List coalition, said lawmakers had drafted a hydrocarbons bill that the parliament would consider in a few weeks.The measure would define how oil revenue would be distributed among Iraq's provinces, a source of contention among factions. The Bush administration, which is urging passage as a gesture of national reconciliation, is pushing legislators to act quickly before parliament adjourns for a two-month vacation.

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damien cave

joshua partlow