Friday, October 26, 2007

Other Items

Iraqi insurgents and sectarian militias are funding their deadly activities by muscling in on Mafia-style rackets involving everything from real estate and oil to cement and soft drinks, U.S. commanders say.
U.S. diplomats and senior Iraqi officials have repeatedly singled out corruption as one of the greatest obstacles to stability in Iraq. But until recently, commanders acknowledge, they knew little about the criminal dealings they say sustain militant groups across the country.
"If you think that the majority of money is coming from outside the country to fund the insurgency, you'd be wrong," said Army Lt. Col. Eric Welsh, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, in the northern city of Mosul.
[. . .]
An internal U.S. Embassy assessment leaked to the media in August said endemic corruption was crippling the government and providing a major source of funding to insurgent groups and sectarian militias.

The above is from Alexandra Zavis' "Iraq militants seen as taking kickbacks" (Los Angeles Times) which you can pair with this from John M. Broder's "Rice Says 'Hole' in U.S. Law Shields Contractors in Iraq" (New York Times) about Rice's show performance before Congress yesterday:

She said some of the money stolen from the Iraqi government was financing insurgent militias, particularly in the Shiite-dominated south. But she added that it would be unfair to confront senior Iraqi leaders with unproven accusations of wrongdoing.
"To assault the prime minister of Iraq or anyone else in Iraq with here-to-date unsubstantiated allegations or lack of corroboration in a setting that it would simply fuel those allegations, I think, would be deeply damaging, and frankly, I think it would be wrong," she said.
A number of Democratic members of the committee pressed the issue, saying they had heard from American Embassy staff and Iraqis that American anticorruption efforts were ineffective or nonexistent and that the problem threatened the mission in Iraq.

Broder also details a Blackwater e-mail but it appears the paper's been operating from it for some time, so it should be of little surprise. Instead, we'll move on. Lloyd notes this from Karen DeYoung's "On Hill, Rice Talks About Blackwater" (Washington Post):

During nearly three hours of contentious exchanges with Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rice parried and often ducked questions on contractors, Iraqi government corruption and problems in the construction of a $600 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. She repeatedly said she needed to review matters more closely or could not answer in an open congressional session.
Several lawmakers questioned whether Rice was even aware of some of the most serious allegations. "You're the secretary of state!" Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said incredulously after Rice responded to a specific charge against Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki by saying she is "not personally following every allegation of corruption in Iraq."
[. . .]

Democrats focused on an April 1 memo from Maliki's office forbidding investigation of anyone in the government or cabinet without the prime minister's approval. The memo was turned over to the committee by Judge Radhi Hamza al-Radhi, the former head of the Iraqi Commission on Public Integrity, who is seeking U.S. political asylum. Radhi testified to the committee early this month that his investigators had uncovered "rampant" corruption in Iraqi ministries and that nearly four dozen anti-corruption employees or members of their families had been murdered.

Turning to news of attacks on peace efforts, Vic notes Sue Bailey's "Canada turns back retired colonel" (London Free Press):

Canada is complicit in a campaign of political intimidation, says an American peace activist refused entry to the country for convictions linked to anti-war protest in the U.S.
Retired U.S. army Col. Ann Wright, a former diplomat who quit over her opposition to the war in Iraq, was sent back to the U.S. yesterday by Canadian immigration officials who detained her at Ottawa airport.
Her crime? A series of misdemeanour convictions for unlawful or disorderly conduct involving non-violent protests on Capitol Hill. She has never paid a fine higher than $200, she said.
"This is causing a great stir in the peace action community because of the probably 15,000 Americans that have been arrested since this war began. Many of them travel to Canada all the time," Wright said.

Today (on most PBS stations), NOW with David Brancaccio airs:

In August, NOW traveled with an unlikely alliance of Evangelical Christians and leading scientists to witness the breathtaking effects of global warming on Alaska's rapidly-changing environment. Though many in the Evangelical community feel recognition of global warming is in opposition to their mission, the week-long trip inspired new thinking on the relationship between science and religion, and on our moral responsibility to protect the planet.
On Friday, October 26 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), travel with NOW and the expeditionary group on a breathtaking and surprising journey to find common ground between Earthand sky."Despite having some differences on some well known issues, our two communities clearly shared a deep and fundamental reverence for life on Earth and a profound concern about what human activity was doing to it." write Dr. Eric Chivian and Reverend Richard Cizik for NOW.
At NOW Online, read an essay co-authored by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist and the Evangelical leader, both of whom were on the trip. Also see amazing photographs from their journey.

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