Friday, November 14, 2008

The treaty and two countries prepare to leave Iraq

Mr Bulani was a member of Iraq's interim Governing Council in 2004. He became a member of the Iraqi parliament in 2005.
During the rule of Saddam Hussein he was an air force engineer, but left the armed forces in 1999.
"I promise [the Iraqi people] that the interior ministry will be neutral, independent and will not be under the influence of anyone," he said after he won parliament's endorsement.
"The interior ministry will preserve Iraqi blood."

The above is from the BBC's "Key Iraq ministers get approval" reporting on Jawad al-Bolani being installed as the head of Thug City (aka Interior Ministry) in June of 2006. al-Bolani is back in the news today via Ernesto Londono's "Iraqi Urges Passage of U.S. Deal" (Washington Post) and, yes, the Iraqi in the headline is al-Bolani who told the paper, "The security agreement is important for Iraq to ban and stop foreign influence and interference. The Iraqi people need this security agreement." al-Bolani (not in the article) is one of the Iraqi officials targeted by the US State Dept and it appears to have paid off. (Rumors are he sees himself as the next al-Maliki.) Supposedly, there is one more Iraqi official among those currently pressured that the State Dept thinks they can publicly flip before the Sunday meeting (that's not in the article). al-Bolani by himself has very little impact (Kurds have never taken to him and Sunnis don't believe he's done much of anything to tackle the Ministry's assaults on Sunnis while most Shi'ites in the government see him as too sectarian) so the hope is that one or more flipping publicly ahead of Sunday's meeting could create a wave leading into the meeting that would put pressure on others to support the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement.

Yesterday the Post's Dana Priest was online for the paper's live discussion and we'll note this exchange:

Seattle, Wash.: What is the update on the Status of Forces Agreement? I read that the Iraqi government reacted positively to the election of Obama, but couldn't tell if they were dropping objections to the whole SoFA or just the withdrawal time line.

Dana Priest: Nope, not so far. Still a stand-off with the clock ticking.

At the State Dept yesterday, AP's Matthew Lee raised the issue to Deputy Spokesperson Robert Wood:

QUESTION: So you haven't gotten a formal announcement from the White House about the transition team, you haven't gotten a formal response from the Russians about the missile defense. Have you gotten a formal response from the Iraqis on the SOFA, or is this building just sitting around waiting for formal responses to things before it actually does or says anything?

MR. WOOD: You're so cynical, Matt. (Laughter.) We are waiting for the Iraqis to get back to us on this. As I mentioned yesterday, I don't have any update on that. And again, just want to reiterate, we think we've got a good agreement that addresses all of the concerns of both sides, and we look forward to the Iraqi response.

You can click here for the transcript and the State Dept also offers video. This morning they'll be added to the links on the left. When the snapshot's dictated they usually are not up but the time the snapshot hits this site (or shortly after -- never more than the next morning) they are up.

While the White House attempts to extend the US engagement in the illegal war, AP reports that Bulgaria is leaving (155 soldiers) and quotes their prime minister, Sergei Stanishev, declaring yesterday the departure was necessary because "the presence of the Bulgarian military contingent on a humanitarian mission in Iraq ends on Dec. 31." And they aren't the only ones leaving. Russia's Novosti reports Azerbaijan's parliament voted today to pull their "150 peacekeepers" out of Iraq:

The resolution was passed with 86-1 vote following a request from President Ilkham Aliyev.
"The request from the president came with the expiration of a five-year mandate on the presence of the Azerbaijani peacekeeping contingent in Iraq," said Aydyn Mirzazade, deputy head of the parliamentary commission on defense and security.
[. . .]
The troops are currently protecting a hydroelectric power station in the town of Al-Hadida, which supplies Baghdad with half of its electricity.

From departing soldiers to mercenaries in trouble, there wasn't time to notice Warren P. Strobel's "Blackwater likely to be fined millions in Iraq weapons case" (McClatchy Newspapers) yesterday, so we'll note it here:

The State Department is preparing to slap a multi-million dollar fine on private military contractor Blackwater USA for shipping hundreds of automatic weapons to Iraq without the necessary permits.
Some of the weapons are believed to have ended up on the country's black market, department officials told McClatchy, but no criminal charges have been filed in the case.
The expected fine is the result of a long-running federal investigation into whether employees of the firm shipped weapons hidden in shrink-wrapped pallets from its Moyock, N.C. headquarters to Iraq, where Blackwater is the State Department's largest personal security contractor.

KeShawn notes Media Lens' "Obama: Wiping the Slate Clean -- Appearance And Reality In The Relaunch Of Brand America" (Dissident Voice):

It was a dawn of the dead - Blair left behind him the almost unimaginable horror of Iraq and Afghanistan.

A rare poll conducted by Ipsos last January of 754 Iraqi refugees in Syria found that "every single person interviewed by Ipsos reported experiencing at least one traumatic event in Iraq prior to their arrival in Syria."

UNHCR estimated that one in five of those registered with the agency in Syria over the previous year were classified as "victims of torture and/or violence." The survey showed that fully 89 per cent of those interviewed suffered depression and 82 per cent anxiety. This was linked to terrors endured before they fled Iraq – 77 per cent of those interviewed reported being affected by air bombardments, shelling or rocket attacks. Eighty per cent had witnessed a shooting... and so on.

John Pilger was a lonely voice in 1997 warning that Blair was a dangerous fraud, a neocon in sheep's clothing. As Pilger later pointed out, the media could hardly plead ignorance:

Blair’s Vichy-like devotion to Washington was known: read his speeches about a new order led by America. His devotion to Rupert Murdoch, who flew him and Cherie Booth around the world first class, was known. His devotion to an extreme neoliberal Thatcherite economics was known…3

Over the past two weeks -- one decade and three wars later -- the same media have been insisting, as one, that US president-elect Barrack Obama is another "new dawn". A Guardian leader observed:

They did it. They really did it. So often crudely caricatured by others, the American people yesterday stood in the eye of history and made an emphatic choice for change for themselves and the world…

Today is for celebration, for happiness and for reflected human glory. Savour those words: President Barack Obama, America’s hope and, in no small way, ours too.

In the Guardian's news section, Oliver Burkeman described the victory as "historic, epochal, path breaking". But there was more:

"Just being alive at a time when it’s so evident that history is being made was elating and exhausting."

In 2003, the Guardian's foreign editor, Ed Pilkington, told us:

"We are not in the business of editorialising our news reports."4

Someone forgot to tell Burkeman, indeed the entire Guardian news team. At times like these, the media's claims to balanced coverage seem to belong to a different universe. Over the last two weeks, the public has been subjected to a one-way delusional deluge by the media. The propaganda is such that comments made by independent US presidential candidate, Ralph Nader, appear simply shocking:

What we're seeing is the highest level of resignation and apathy and powerlessness I've ever seen. We're not talking about hoopla. We're not talking about 'hope'. We’re not talking about rhetoric. We're not talking about 'rock star Obama'. We’re talking about the question that is asked everywhere I go: 'What is left for the American people to decide other than their own personal lives under more restrictive circumstances year after year?' And the answer is: almost nothing.5

Nader says of Obama: "This is show business what you’re seeing." The crucial point: "Obama doesn't like to take on power."5

And you can find John Pilger's most recent essay "Beware the Obama Hype" in multiple places including Dissident Voice (which is where the link takes you).

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 ernesto londono

mcclatchy newspapers

 john pilger