Thursday, February 28, 2008

'Progress' in Iraq

Kim Gamel (AP) reports on the latest Iraqi civilian killed by US forces noting that he was killed yesterday for walking up to US forces in "a bulky jacket" with "his hands in his pockects . . . in the area around Muqdadiyah":

U.S. troops issued warnings for the man to stop, then killed him when he failed to heed them, the military said, adding no weapon was found when the man was searched. No U.S. troops were wounded in the incident, which was under investigation.
Iraqi police in Diyala province, where Muqdadiyah is located, said the slain man was elderly and suffered from mental disabilities and hearing problems. The police, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information, said the killing occurred in a market.

No doubt the White House will hail the death as another sign of "progress" in Iraq, like the "progress" in the escalating financial costs. From Kevin G. Hall's "Nobel laureate estimates wars' cost at more than $3 trillion" (McClatchy Newspapers):

When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in March 2003, the Bush administration predicted that the war would be self-financing and that rebuilding the nation would cost less than $2 billion.
Coming up on the fifth anniversary of the invasion, a Nobel laureate now estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are costing America more than $3 trillion.
That estimate from Noble Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz also serves as the title of his new book, "The Three Trillion Dollar War," which hits store shelves Friday.
The book, co-authored with Harvard University professor Linda Bilmes, builds on previous research that was published in January 2006. The two argued then and now that the cost to America of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is wildly underestimated.

And the "progress" includes the White House backtracking and the ignoring of a military study. From yesterday's snapshot:

In the US, how sad it must be to be Dana Perino today (let's be kind and leave it at today). The White House Flack declared earlier this week (Feb. 25th), "The President has been working towards reconciliation between the Sunnis and the Shia, and it's actually working on a political level in some ways. Especially we saw that last month, when they passed three laws in one day, which was quite a significant achievement for the Iraqis." It's no longer "three," it's now "two." CBS and AP report, "Iraq's presidential council rejected a measure Wednesday setting up provincial elections, sending it back to parliament in the latest setback to U.S.-backed national reconciliation efforts. The three-member panel, however, approved the 2008 budget and another law that provides limited amnesty to detainees in Iraqi custody. Those laws will take effect once they are published in the Justice Ministry gazette." Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) explains, "The Bush adminstration downplayed the setback. 'This is democracy at work,' said White House press secretary Dana Perino." Perino also declared today "I don't know if he has." That was in reply to the question (at today's press briefing), "The US military conducted 19 focus groups throughout Iraq last November, and its report on those focus groups stated that Iraqis from every ethnic and sectarian group are united in the belief that the US invasion is the root cause of the sectarian violence in Iraq and that the departure of the US military is the key to national reconciliation. And I wondered, has the President seen the military's report on those focus groups?"

Here's Richard A. Oppel Jr. on the "progress" of falling backwards on the benchmarks, from "Heralded New Law Is Vetoed by Iraq's Presidency Council" (New York Times):

Political momentum in Iraq hit a sudden roadblock on Wednesday when a feud between the largest Shiite factions led to the veto of a law that had been passed with great fanfare two weeks ago. The law had been heralded by the Bush administration as a breakthrough for national reconciliation.
The law called for provincial elections by October, and it was hoped that it would eliminate severe electoral distortions that have left Kurds and Shiites with vastly disproportionate power over Sunni Arabs in some areas, a factor in fueling the Sunni insurgency. It would also have given Iraqis who have long complained of corrupt and feckless local leaders a chance to clean house and elect officials they believe are more accountable.
But the law was vetoed at the last minute by the three-member Iraqi presidency council, which includes President Jalal Talabani and two vice presidents. The veto came after officials in a powerful Shiite party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, objected to provisions that they contend unlawfully strip power from Iraq's provinces.

From Borzou Daragahi's "Iraq provincial law rejected" (Los Angeles Times):

The presidential council consists of President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, Shiite Muslim Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi and Sunni Arab Vice President Tariq Hashimi. They gave lawmakers vague reasons for rejecting the law, which includes dozens of articles, assuring them that they would provide notes later. Nasir Ani, spokesman for the council, said certain parts of the law violated the constitution, but he did not detail the council's complaints."The presidency has the right to object to laws presented by the parliament," he said in an interview. "This is a constitutional right."Rubaie and others said the rejection of the law revealed stark differences between various factions over the shape and nature of the future Iraqi state. They suspect Talabani and Mahdi want the law changed to strip any future prime minister of the power to remove governors.

From Steve Lannen's "Iraqi leaders veto law Bush administration hailed as political breakthrough" (McClatchy Newspapers):

The rejected bill, which sets out the political structure for Iraq's provincial governments and establishes a basis for elections in October, was only the second of 18 U.S.-set political benchmarks that the war-tore nation needs to reach.
Parliament considered it in a bundle with two other bills, a general amnesty and a budget, and approved it on Feb. 12 in what was welcomed in Washington as an example of good government, compromise and progress toward national unity.
Now the question is whether parliament is willing to revise the measure.
"It was a package deal. Now that package is broken," said Joost Hiltermann, an Iraq expert at the International Crisis Group in Amman, Jordan.
At the heart of the rejection of the provincial law is the question of whether Iraq will have strong provincial governors who answer only to their elected executive councils or if the federal prime minister will have a voice in their appointment and removal.

And in other news of "progress," call them "Awakening" Council members or Sons of Iraq or just Turncoats For Hire, but despite all the coins tossed out at them, they're miffed, they're mad and apparently the $300 a month the US government pays them isn't enough. Martha notes Sudarsan Raghavan and Amit R. Paley's "Sunni Forces Losing Patience With U.S." (Washington Post):

U.S.-backed Sunni volunteer forces, which have played a vital role in reducing violence in Iraq, are increasingly frustrated with the American military and the Iraqi government over what they see as a lack of recognition of their growing political clout and insufficient U.S. support.
Since Feb. 8, thousands of fighters in restive Diyala province have left their posts in order to pressure the government and its American backers to replace the province's Shiite police chief. On Wednesday, their leaders warned that they would disband completely if their demands were not met. In Babil province, south of Baghdad, fighters have refused to man their checkpoints after U.S. soldiers killed several comrades in mid-February in circumstances that remain in dispute.
Some force leaders and ground commanders also reject a U.S.-initiated plan that they say offers too few Sunni fighters the opportunity to join Iraq's army and police, and warn that low salaries and late payments are pushing experienced members to quit.

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