Oh, Alissa. Oh, Alissa.
I avoid you and your rag for a day thinking we can have a fresh start on Monday but Monday and the paper both arrive and there you are, playing the fool again.
"More Iraqi Dead Last Month, but Fewer Than Last Year" is the title and, yes, it's an awakward headline. Rubin can take comfort in the fact that she didn't write it (though the headline writer appears to have used the final sentence of her third paragraph -- so maybe not too much comfort).
This morning finds Rubin in an area that is not her strong suit (math) -- as we've noted many times before. And maybe that sent her mind reeling?
Who knows, who cares? She heads the Baghdad division for the paper and needs to be able to do her job. Doing her job requires that when numbers are tossed at her, she first address the numbers in question with the readers. That doesn't mean start crunching, that means discussing the numbers.
For example? Saying they come from the Ministry of the Interior is not enough. The reader needs to some gauge and, without it being given, the impression is the paper supports and backs up the numbers. The numbers are questionable and they come if and when the puppet government wants them released. November 10th, the UN Secretary General's spokesperson Michele Montas was asked about the death count and why the United Nations no longer released that information and the reply was "that the United Nations used to receive information from the relevant Iraqi ministries about fatalities, but that it had stopped receiving that information and has consequently stopped providing casualty figures."
The puppet government inflates and decreases the figures based on how it makes them look. Lying about the body counts is not new to this illegal war.
A recent sub-story last month was about how the death toll given by the US military differed from that given by the hospitals that received the dead -- time and again, the death toll differed. It was all so confusing, wrote the reporters who covered it, how that could be. Were they really confused? No, but they apparently were unable to say "LIAR!" in print. So they pretended it was confusing that the number of corpses -- verifiable -- given by local sources was always higher than the number provided by the US military.
Though the Times of New York has always been skittish about the Ministry of Interior (for various reasons including security), the Times of Los Angeles has filed many reports on the thugs there and how, installed by Nouri al-Maliki, they've done pretty much what thugs do -- day after day. All this time later and Alissa J. Rubin's utilizing their questionable figures and not even telling her readers that the figures are in doubt? You know Pol Pot issued figures as well. One wonders how Alissa would have typed up those numbers?
On the plus, there seems to have been some effort on the part of the paper (judging by her article) to actually read the treaty since it's the most grounded Rubin's been when reporting on what it actually states. Even without that improvement, Alissa's not fool for the day because the BBC gets that 'honor.' (See next entry.) On the treaty, we'll note this from Sami Moubayed's analysis entitled "SOFA not sitting well in Iraq" (Asia Times):
If anything, the persistence of Muqtada in obstructing the pact -- and the weight he enjoys in the Shi'ite street -- have all added to his image as the only Iraqi leader who really matters anymore, at a grassroots level. Millions of Sunnis in Iraq are not happy with SOFA and find that the only leader who worked seriously on bringing it down was Muqtada.
Observers have been puzzled by the phenomenon of Muqtada, a rebel turned politician then kingmaker in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. He is now starting to appeal to Sunnis as well as Shi'ites. Some have accused him of being an agent of the Iranians while others claim he is the only Iraqi Shi'ite leader who enjoys certain independence from the mullahs of Tehran and wants Iraq independent and free of any foreign influence, be it American or Persian.
The young Muqtada (35) commands strong loyalty among ordinary Shi'ites in the slums of Baghdad, known as Sadr City, because of the vast charity network that he operates, modeled after that of Hezbollah in Lebanon. In addition to protection and a decent stipend for his followers, he also provides them with protection from other rival groups, like the Badr Brigade of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, the Awakening Councils of Sunni tribesmen and al-Qaeda. Muqtada is currently making use of his relative independence from Tehran and promoting Iranian objection to SOFA. The Iranians are using both him and Maliki, for different purposes, to advance their interests in Iraq. Maliki unwillingly nods to SOFA thereby pleasing the Americans (and securing an extension of his mandate in office) while Muqtada says 'no' to it and drums up anti-American sentiment in the streets of Baghdad. Rather than clamp down on the Sadrists, Maliki turns a blind eye to the anti-SOFA activities, letting anti-Americanism boil while distancing himself from the rejectionist front.
Contrary to what many people believe, SOFA has united the Shi'ite community and created common denominators between Sunnis and Shi'ites as well. It has also created divisions within the Sunni community, between those who supported and those who continue to refuse it, mainly former Ba'athists and hardline Islamists. Maliki remains lukewarm about it and does not fully trust the Americans when they say that they will withdraw from Iraq in 2011.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued the following press release yesterday:
The Chairman of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) Mr. Faraj Al-Haydari, the Chief Electoral Officer Judge Qasim Sachit and the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), Mr. Staffan de Mistura today held a joint press briefing on the preparations for the governorate council elections. All stressed the importance of these elections scheduled to take place on 31 January.
"The IHEC is ready for elections on 31 January next year", said Chairman Faraj Al-Haydari who continued "we need civil society, Iraqi citizens and political parties to come together and help the elections succeed".
"Sixty-two days separate us from one of the most important elections in the history of Iraq. These are your elections, the elections you wanted to have, the first organized by yourselves with close association with the UN", said the SRSG in his opening remarks, adding that the governorate council elections will make a difference in the everyday lives of Iraqis, as the new elected councils will be expected to provide greater services and better support for Iraq’s local communities. "Let's all make sure that the Iraqis will go to vote, because it is their right, their duty and their opportunity to choose those they trust", he continued.
Central to these preparations has been a National Security Plan that will help provide a safe environment for voters to come out and cast their ballots. "We are concerned that some entities may be tempted to disrupt the elections, but we are also aware of unprecedented measures being jointly implemented by all Iraqi ministries who have been working together like never before", the SRSG told the media.
Of critical importance, are the anti-fraud measures put in place to combat attempts to manipulate the election results. "The 2009 elections will see for the first time the use of a voter list printed at the polling station level, one of the most significant anti-fraud measures to prevent multiple voting", said the Chief Electoral Officer. The SRSG continued by stressing that "high level technology measures will be implemented to ensure the ballots cannot be copied or tampered with".
Chairman Faraj Al-Haydari also encouraged all media outlets, political parties and civil society to apply to the IHEC to observe the entire process. "Observation is key and will provide the people of Iraq the confidence to come out and vote". The SRSG thanked the Ministry of Education for moving final exams to accommodate the elections adding that staff for the polling stations will be drawn from teachers, with full cooperation of the Ministry, to counter allegations of voter intimidation and election bias.
"Building a strong democracy in Iraq will only be possible if the Iraqi political leaders strongly mobilize to ensure a safe, peaceful and successful election", the SRSG concluded.
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alissa j. rubin