Monday, October 06, 2008

Iraq snapshot

Monday, October 6, 2008.  Chaos and violence continue, cholera continues in Iraq, elections illustrate new problems and CBS News' Laura Strickler makes a fool out of herself and reveals that she struggles with basic math (adding and subtracting) today.
Starting with diplomatic news, Corinne Reilly and Yassem Taha (McClatchy) reported Sunday that a visit to Bagdady ("one-day stop") today by Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Foreign Minister of Egypt "was the first visit to Iraq in nearly 20 years by a high-ranking Egyptian delegation." Mohammed Abbas(Reuters) noted that the minister "promised to reopen an embassy in Baghdad soon". However, it wasn't apparently just a 'friengly' visit.  AFP reports, "Egyptian Oil Minister Sameh Fahmi was in Baghdad on Sunday during a surpise visit with Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit" and "Iraq said is has called on Egypt to collaborate in rebuilding the country's oil industry after Cairo announced it was ready to re-establish a diplmatic mission in Baghdad." AFP also quotes Nouri al-Maliki, puppet of the occupation, asking Egyptian companies/corporations "to participate in construction projects and help . . . with their expertise and experience." CNN notes, "In July 2005, militants kidnapped Egypt's ambassador, Ihab al-Sherif, from a Baghdad street and killed him."  Today Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) reports Hani Khilaf, ambassadot for the Arab League, visited Baghdad and Sheridan notes, "His arrival ended an embarrassing gap in representation by the Arab League, which groups 21 predominantly Arabic-speaking nations and the Palestinian Authority. The previous ambassador, Mokhtar Lamani, wrote a scathing article after he quit about 'the contrast between the enormous suffering I saw daily in Baghdad and the persistent indifference evident in the Arab League meetings in Cairo'."  China's Xinhua quotes Hani Khallaf stating "We need a more active Arab role in Iraq" and notes, "There are three Arab embassies in Baghdad, namely those of Lebanon, Yemen and the Palestinians, and six more Arab countries have the intention to resume diplomatic mission in Iraq, said the AL envoy."  Deborah Haynes (Times of London -- in a piece labeled "Analysis") offers, "After almost three decades of war and international isolation, Iraq is crying out for foreign investment and knowledge. A range of state-owned industries, from oil and gas to agriculture and steel, are opening up like never before."  Yeah, it's a tag sale in Iraq as the puppet is eager to privatize the people's industries and sell them off to foreign corporations.  It's very rare for new markets to emerge in this age of globalization so how very fortunate (sarcasm) that the Iraq War just happened and just happened to result in a puppet leader so willing to oversee the tag sale on Iraqi assets.  Meanwhile not all neighbors are as friendly.  Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) reports Iraq's Parliamentary Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was flying to Tehran "but the plane was turned away after airport officials were informed dignitaries were on board" and that "Iraqi media earlier had reported that al-Mashhadani was leading a parliamentary delegation on an official visit to mainly Shiite Iran."  Also  Poland is now officially out of Iraq having ended it's military mission on Saturday.
From diplomacy to elections, Alissa J. Rubin and Sam Dagher (New York Times) note that signs are going up in Salahuddin Province and that a Tikrit meet up with Amar al-Hakim (Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) and the province's Dept Governor Abdullah Jabarah was televised.  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) points out, "Even if provincial elections, considered key to balancing power among Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and others, take place by early next year, the parties now in power probably will come out on top again.  That's because of name recognition and their appeal to religious voters."  Upbeat estimates of provincial elections insist they will take place in late January at the earliest. That's a big if. The census that was supposed to have taken place never did. The Parliament used the lack of the census to do away with Article 50 which provided seats and representation for minority groups. Nouri al-Maliki waited until after Parliament passed their bill to object to that omission (indicating he was grandstanding and not concerned). The bill went to the three-member presidency council which passed it with the head of the council, Iraq President Jalal Talabani, signing it into law last week. That's where the process stands currently and, though there are estimates, there has been no date set for provincial elections.  Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP) notes Faraj al-Haidari ("independent electoral commission") is hopeful that the elections can take place by January 31st which is the "legal deadline".  Elections will not take place in oil-rich Kirkuk but that city is not the only one that will not be voting in provincial elections.  Three provinces in the Kurdistan region will not be participating. The three provinces not included are Arbil Province, Dohuk Province and Sulaimaniyah Province.  The UN's Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, Staffan de Mistura has stated, "Article 50 is a strong indication Iraq is a nation ready to protect the political rights of minorities as founded in the Constitution.  I was surprised and disappointed that Article 50 was not included in the provincial election law. . . . Article 50 has the backing of minority groups, political blocs and UNAMI [UN Assistance Mission for Iraq] and should now be reinstated into the legislation as soon as possible so minorities can participate in upcoming elections to be held sometime before January 31 2009." de Mistura is calling for Article 50 to be reinstated by October 16th.  [Audio here at UN News Centre page and a shorter UN Radio report by Donn Bobb here.]
ABAZA: So what is UNAMI urging or what is UNAMI asking right now?

ARIKAT: We are urging that upon the return of the legislators, the Iraqi Council of Representatives from their Eid al-Fitr holiday that they immediately reintroduce Article 50 into the new election law. So that is what we are urging. The SRSG said that UNAMI in fact shows the concern of all those that expressed the concern such as the Iraqi Prime Minister and so on and calls on all the political blocs in Iraq to reintroduce Article 50 to the law. We are urging that and we are urging that this be done immediately before October 15 so when the independent Electoral High Election Commission convenes and begins accepting nominations. So we are urging then to do so before 15 October.

ABAZA: Have you received any reaction from the government or the parliament regarding your position and the possibility of maybe amending or reinserting this article back?

ARIKAT: Well, certainly UNAMI has been quite active and quite active and quite busy meeting all different political blocs. I think there is consensus in Iraq that minority rights have to be protected. So I think everybody has a stake in seeing this article reintegrated. We hope that it will find resonance among all the different political blocs and they act immediately upon their return.

Iraqi women are not covered in Article 50.  They are, however, running for office.  Or were planning to.  Kim Game (AP) reports on a teacher who was running until she found out "her name, not just her party" would be listed on the ballot and explains "The change to a so-called open list has scared some qualified Iraqis from running, particularly women. Activists are worried there won't be enough women to meet the 25 percent threshold, or that the parties will just find women to act as figureheads to fill the quota. Said Arikat, a spokesman for the U.N. mission in Iraq, noted that 'some statistics show that when countries move from closed to open lists, women don't fare as well'."  The election also raises issues for the refuees -- internal and external.  The Brookings Institute's Elizabeth Ferris explores that issue:

Despite the plethora of media covering triumphant Iraqi voters raising ink-stained fingers in the 2005 elections, not all Iraqis bought into the process. Key political groups boycotted the vote and IDPs were not able to make their voices heard. Interestingly though, arrangements were made so that Iraqis living outside the country could register and vote -- and apparently they did so in large numbers. This year the situation has been reversed: those living outside the country are not allowed to vote while provisions have been made for internally displaced Iraqis (those displaced by the violence after April 2003) to participate. Iraqis overseas -- particularly those displaced since the start of the war -- should be able to vote in the upcoming elections. And IDPs should be encouraged to register and to turn out to vote. While mechanisms are in place this time around to ensure IDP voting rights, the Wall Street Journal reports that only 100,000 IDPs have registered to vote in the provincial elections while other sources put the figure even lower.  
Participation of Iraq's refugees and IDPs in the provincial elections is critical to a legitimate electoral process, national reconciliation, and regional stability. Many of the Iraqi refugees currently living in harsh conditions in Jordan, Syria,   Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, and the Gulf were displaced because of their religious or political beliefs or because they favored a secular Iraq. To exclude these Iraqis from the process is to let the militias' efforts to rid the country of secularists, intellectuals, Catholics, Yezidis, and many other minority groups win.  
How IDPs' votes are counted -- or actually where they are counted -- is another key issue in the upcoming elections.
4.7 million is the estimate by the UNHCR for the number of Iraqi refugees.  The refugee crisis is very real and it is the largest in the world.  al-Maliki could address it but that would be like expecting him to address the lack of potable water in Iraq, right?  Instead of addressing it, do like he does with the decaying hospitals -- don't spend any money on new equipments (or repairing elevators so that they actual work), just splash a new coat of paint on the outside and say, "Renovations completed!"  The puppet government doesn't care about reality, just how they can manipulate public perception.  The Myth of the Great Return gave them four to six weeks of good press -- based on complete and utter lies, but it was good press while it lasted.  So now it's apparently time to roll out that wave of Operation Happy Talk again.  It's behind the supplying of Iraqi oil to Jordan which has been used as a leverage to cajole Jordan into sending some Iraqi refugees home. The United Nations and the International Red Cross continue to warn against Iraqis returning due to the continued violence. But it's such good p.r. for the puppet government, how can they resist?  Sunday, Leila Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) examined a camp for internal refugees in Najaf which was being shut down on orders of the Ministry of Displacement and Migration.  Now when the ministry tasked with helping the refugees orders a camp shut down, one would assume it is because housing has been found; however, no housing is being provided.  The refugees are being told to return to the areas they left -- left due to violence, death threats, the murder of family members.  But the Ministry has decied that these are "fake camps" and that they must be shut down.  Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) reports on Baghdad's Johara Hotel which was, at the start of the illegal war, a place "for freelance reporters, aid workers and activists" but now houses Iraqis "who for one reason or another have been driven from their homes and are still unable to return".  Peter explains, "The refugees, predominately from different neighborhoods within Baghdad that are less stable than Karada, represent Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd. Johara says he's never had a problem with ethnic tensions among his guests.  His major concern about the refugees is whether they'll continue to make rent every month. While he usually manages to collect, he occasionally has to reduce rates by the equivalent of a few dollars per night."  Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) examines the Shakir family who are planning to leave as omany others of have and the Shakirs will also contribute to what is known as the "brain drain" when they leave -- educated technocrats, doctors, etc.  The violence is too much for the family and the father explains, "There is nobody upholding justice here.  You live your life according to chance.  Anyone can do anything."  
Nothing's been done by the puppet government to fix the water or the electricity so it's not surprising people continue to leave (Susman notes over 7,000 more people left Iraq than returned over the summer).  al-Maliki sits on billions and refuses to spend it.  He stockpiles it and when the puppet is ejected from office, there's a good chance he'll be fleeing with a great deal of the money -- possibly to England where so many who have stolen from Iraq's wealth move?  While he sits on the money, cholera outbreaks become a yearly event.  WHO did an update at the end of last month (Sept. 29th) and noted that 314 cases had been confirmed, five deaths that were verified and nine provinces were effected.  The outbreak isn't over and WHO notes: "Although the outbreak this year appears to be less intense then that of 2007, further waves are still possible.  It is therefore too early to consdier the epdemic to be under control.  In addition, long-term inadequacies in the area of water and sanitation remain of immediate concern and cholera outbreaks will recur in Iraq until access to safe water and proper sanitation is ensured for all people."  Those statements may shock some considering a press conference last month; however, that is the postion WHO is supposed to take.  IRIN updates the figures today noting that 418 cases have been confirmed and that six deaths have been verified with 10 provinces effected by the outbreak.  Irin quotes Sheik Jawad Kadhim Diwan of Qadissiyah Province explaining that the people in his areas have to utilize the river water because that is all they have, "We call upon the government and the presidential council to save the lives of these people by supplying us with safe drinking water, and to start infrastructure projects as a matter of urgency."
Turning to the US presidential race, Saturday Scott Shane (New York Times) reported some on Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's relationship to Weather Underground member Bill Ayers.  Governor Sarah Palin, Republican vice presidential candidate, began noting the relationship following the publication of the story (as did CNN all day Saturday).  Laura Strickler of CBS News makes an ASS of herself -- and unlike past media liars on this topic, Strickler isn't hiding a relationship with Weather herself.  She is just grossly uninformed as she repeats the lie: "The senator has repeatedly noted that when Ayers committed his domestic acts of terrorism forty years ago, Obama was eight years old."  She never questions it.  As noted here (and at Third), I know Bill and Bernardine.  I'm not in the mood for a press that still can't get their facts right.  I think we last dealt with the topic in April and we're just going to cut and paste the points made then: 
I'm not sure why people keep repeating that lie. Weather Underground was not a one-year organization. Obama was born in 1961. Weather was active throughout Nixon's presidency (and after) and Bernardine and Bill turned themselves in when Obama was in college. When they turned themselves in, it was front page news, the lead on the evening news broadcasts. It's a nice little lie on Obama's part that what happened happened when he was eight-years-old. But it's a lie none the less and people need to stop repeating it.  

Myself, I don't include the 1981 Brinks robbery as a Weather action but that's me. Many others do include it as such. (It was actually an action by the Black Liberation Army.) By that time, and news coverage of it certainly saw it as a Weather action since it involved members of the Weather Underground, Obama was in college. What is this nonsense that he was eight-years-old. If you include it (and, again I don't), then Weather was responsible for the deaths of three people (a security guard and two police officers). In June of 1970, they bombed an NYC police station. The Pentagon's women's bathroom was bombed in the spring of 1972. They smuggle Timothy Leary (after the prison break) out of the country in September 1970. In 1974 alone, they've got at least five bombings including the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in San Francisco (other targes included the AG's office in California and Gulf Oil). Obama wasn't eight-years-old in 1974. 1975 is when they bomb the US State Department, a bank in NYC, and another corporation (Kennecott?). He wasn't eight-years-old in 1975. He wasn't eight-years-old during the bank robbery (when Weather was back in the news even though it wasn't a Weather action), he was in college, just like he was when Bernardine and Bill turned themselves in.  

Barack declares "I was eight-years-old" and no one must question the Christ-child? I don't think so. I don't play stupid. Now Diane Rehm did last Friday, embarrassing herself repeating the lie, "He was eight years old!" Diane Rehm damn well knows that Weather Underground was not active for only one year. Considering that the bombing wave doesn't even start when Barack's eight-years-old, this lie needs to stop. Barack latches onto it because it's the easy out for him. It's not reality. And if Diane Rehm, for example, really can't remember those days, then it's time to retire. Seriously, the mind is gone if Diane Rehm honestly believes that Barack Obama was just eight-years-old throughout Weather Underground's long history. 

It's just like the issue of pardons and commuted sentences. He says something and the press runs with it. They don't bother to check out. They just start repeating it. That's embarrassing and more indicative of the failures of our modern press than anything else. An argument can be made with their known activities that they were more active from 1973-1975 than at any time in their history and Barack Obama was not eight-years-old then. Considering that the grandmother who raised him was a vice-president in a bank, it's highly unlikely that the bank bombings wouldn't have been the topic of conversation in his grandparents' home while Barack was growing up. If you're the child of a police officer and a police officer is shot anywhere in the US, it gets discussed. Also true of a fire fighter. This is nonsense and he gets away with it because we don't have a working press. We have a group of cheerleaders for Obama (and include Diane Rehm in that, she's far from fair as anyone listening can quickly determine -- she has chosen sides in the Democratic primary) trying to pass themselves off as the press. That's why, despite the fact that Bill Clinton did not pardon Susan Rosenberg and Linda Evans, the press went with that lie over and over and still continues to go with it. It's shameful. 

The actions did not occur when he was eight-years-old and anyone writing that or stating that is lying. It's that simple. Your historical ignorance is no excuse for your failure to check out the facts. Yeah, if you have the memory of pin cushion, doing your job may entail some work. Too damn bad, that's your job. Try actually doing it for a change.
The facts are the facts and, no Barack, wasn't 8-years-old.  Barack lied again today and Laura, you should have called him on it:
"He's a professor at the University of Chicago - ah, Illinois, teaches education, and he engaged in these despicable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old. I served on a board with him. And so now they're trying to use this as guilt by association, and as you said, they've explicitly stated that what they want to do is to change the topic because they don't want to talk about the economy and the failed policies of the last eight years."
"Despicable acts 40 years ago"? He was 8-years-old in 1975?  I mean, pick your damn year and figure out when he was 8-years-old.  Equally true is when the British press were first asking early in the primaries, the Obama campaign claimed that Barack and Michelle's daughters went to school with Dohrn and Ayers' children -- a BOLD FACED LIE.  The domestic press doesn't care to note the ever changing story.  Just like they didn't bat an eye when Barack LIED during the debate with Hillary and claimed that Bill pardoned two members of Weather.  
Now if he was really so uninvolved with Bill Ayers, pay attention, how did he happen to tell that lie in the debate?  You only prep -- with factoids -- on the subjects you are vulnerable on.  The uproar from the lunatics at FAIR indicates that the question of his relationship with Bill Ayers was so off-the-wall that no one would have asked it.  So if that's the case, why was Barack prepped with a LIE to use for distraction?  

Ralph Nader is the independent presidential candidate.  Team Nader notes:
For the first time since 2004, the Dow Jones Industrials this morning dropped below 10,000. 
The Dow is going down. 
While Nader/Gonzalez is movin' on up.   
Everything is in place for an October surprise.  
Ralph is barnstorming the country -- this week in his home state of Connecticut and throughout New England.    
(Fox News reports that a crowd of 2,000 showed up to hear Ralph at the University of Vermont yesterday.)   
The MOB (McCain/Obama/Bush) were exposed last week like never before for the whole country to see.     
As they all jumped aboard the Wall Street Bailout Express. 
While Nader/Gonzalez stood opposed.     
And stand opposed.         
(Nader/Gonzalez would have prohibited Wall Street's "sustained orgy of excess and reckless behavior" -- as Richard Fisher, the president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank put it.)       
The Nader/Gonzalez vast Get Out of the Vote Network is on the ground and cranking (Stay tuned for the details tomorrow.)      
So, the choice on November 4 is clear. 
The Corporate Elite.
Versus Main Street.   
All we need is an October surprise.
An American awakening. 
With the American people standing with the one candidate who has stood with them throughout his 40 year career. 
Ralph Nader. 
So, donate $10 now to the Nader/Gonzalez October Surprise Fund.  
We're ready for an October surprise. 
Are you?      
Onward to November