Saturday, December 13, 2008

Here Comes The Denial

"What Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh said about Iraqi forces will need ten years to be ready was only his personal view and does not represent the Iraqi government," Xinhua quotes puppet of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki saying.

First off, al-Dabbagh spoke the truth. Secondly, here's your first tip-off: The denial is being reported more than the statement.

Reuters was the only non-Mid East outlet to report al-Dabbagh's statements Thursday at the Pentagon. At the Pentagon press conference. All the reporters and only Reuters covered it.

AP, present at that briefing but playing dumb for days, but now rushes to 'report' on al-Maliki's statement. Rush? They're in such a hurry that they assert, "Al-Dabbagh told reporters Friday in Washington that U.S. troops may need to stay in Iraq for another 10 years because Iraqi security forces would not be ready to face security challenges on their own." Friday?

From Thursday's snapshot:

And if you doubt it, check this from Reuters: "Ali al-Dabbagh, spokesman for the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, said some U.S. forces could be needed for 10 years but told reporters that the terms of any extended presence would be negotiated between the next Iraqi and U.S. governments."

And that was David Morgan and Anthony Boadle's Reuters report. AP must have been in some hurry to launch their spin campaign.

Again, the denial gets more press coverage than the actual statements and outlets like AP -- late to the party -- really don't inform what the statements were.

Here's Reuters' Missy Reid and Michael Christie providing the back story today what many of their peers won't:

Dabbagh, on a visit to Washington this week, raised the possibility of some of the 149,000 U.S. troops in Iraq remaining for longer than the date defined by the security pact.
"We do understand that the Iraqi military is not going to get built out in the three years. We do need many more years. It might be 10 years," Dabbagh said at a Pentagon press briefing.
He said that future Iraqi leaders would decide what kind of U.S. presence might be required after 2011.
Iraq's parliament approved the bilateral security agreement setting the end-2011 deadline after fierce and protracted debate. It is scheduled to be put to a referendum next year.
Opponents of the pact, including supporters of anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, have argued the pact gives legitimacy to a destructive foreign occupation and say they do not believe the United States will honour the withdrawal date.
Maliki, a Shi'ite who heads a coalition government, was seen as benefiting the most from the pact.

And with provincial electiions scheduled to take place January 31st, al-Maliki would prefer this news not get out and risk the chance of his installing friendlies. He's having a real problem with the provinces that the press has largely ignored except in the Kudristan region. The Kurds are economically well off and, therefore, can garner Western attention easily. But the conflicts going on there -- which do involve attempted land and power grabs -- are echoed throughout the rest of Iraq. Anbar Province -- in these Post-"Awakening"- Days -- is a region that is becoming increasingly hostile to al-Maliki.

The puppet was installed and he was no one's first choice -- not even the first choice of the US. In DC, al-Maliki is a joke (despite State Dept attempts to spin him as a success) and many who have lost their initial enthusiasm for the illegal war cite al-Maliki as among the White House's worst mistakes. The press (doing their stenography so well) has been on yet another push for al-Maliki. But the reality is there is still no oil law (allowing for the theft of Iraqi-oil), provincial elections have still not taken place, and there's no benchmark that can be pointed to with pride and called an "accomplishment." (In fact, they are such failures that no one makes a point to address the for-show de-de-Baathification anymore.) al-Maliki was installed in the spring of 2006 and only after he gave repeated assurances he could pull off what the White House wanted. He failed repeatedly and has, in fact, never succeeded in any way other than the Parliament vote Thanksgiving Day (and that was largely a success due to the US paying off MPs).

In the time after that vote, two narratives took hold. Remember -- as with Barack and Hillary -- narratives requires the hero and the nemesis. They require the up and the down. Without both, they are revealed for the unnatural spin they are. With both, they seem to be less fairy tales and more life lessons.

So after the vote, the White House wanted al-Maliki to get favorable press and you can't 'create' a hero without inventing the villain. So al-Maliki's 'rise' was charted widely by outlets (even though it had not taken place) and Moqtada al-Sadr's 'fall' was charted widely by outlets (even though it had not taken place). Nearly half the MPs in Parliament elected to skip the vote on the treaty. But this was a 'victory' for al-Maliki?

No, not by any reasonable standards of evaluation. It was a huge failure for him since it was set to go down in flames until two weeks prior to the vote when the US really started opening the wallets. The State Dept bought that vote. Before it went down -- when it was still iffy according to press reports -- we talked about how the vote would go with me citing friends in the State Dept. We talked about how they said it was going to go (passing the treaty) and why (buying off MPs). That's not an unknown event to any US reporters stationed in Iraq -- and, in fact, the Arabic press has been carrying multiple quotes from MPs since the election on how the vote was purchased -- so you really have to wonder how those Up-with-Maliki pieces came to run?

al-Maliki's a non-star making the cover of Van Fair in the 90s with everyone working overtime to make him come off interesting in the copy and air brushing the photos so no one notes that he's cross-eyed and has a bad tooth that sticks out. Like all those covers did, the press can insist al-Maliki's 'powerful' and on the way 'up' but it's not reality.

Reality is that he's the puppet who has consistently promised the White House he could deliver and has consistently failed. It was that way from the start when he was repeatedly missing deadlines to staff his cabinet.

al-Maliki's 'statements' are being carried today.

But al-Maliki didn't declare them. No one heard him say them. It's a written statement sent out by his office. For those not fail to pay attention to the illegal war, al-Maliki now has a long pattern of later denying statements in his name issued by his office. He gets to have it both ways and has many times.

Related note, a vistor e-mails to say ____ has spoken about the UK withdrawl from Iraq. ____ is not Gordon Brown. We pay attention and are fully aware of the woman (we'll be kind and not name) with the British government who made all these statements from Iraq. And the UK government never followed up on any of them. When Brown, the Prime Minister, speaks on it, we'll follow it. Until then, it may or may not be true. It may be a trial ballon being floated to guage reactions. But a plan has not been presented publicly. Brown would have to do that.

The New York Times takes the day off from Iraq. Not surprising. It strives so hard to be the official record of offical-dom and no one's sure yet where al-Maliki's statments and the earlier ones -- declared at the Pentagon -- fall.

Adam Ashton reported on the statements yesterday and their reaction in Iraq in "Iraqi Official Says U.S. Troops May Be Needed For A Decade" (McClatchy Newspapers):

That assertion makes sense to many Iraqi leaders, though they rarely say it in public. Iraq doesn't have a navy or an air force to protect itself. Many view it as America's obligation to improve the country's defense.
"It is the responsibility of the United States that we should not be left to be attacked," Maki said.
However, Dabbagh's statement reopened the primary attack on the security agreement, that it would justify the U.S. presence in Iraq and lead to an extended occupation.
"This statement comes to appease the Americans," charged Sheikh Ali Hatem, a tribal leader from Anbar province, west of Baghdad. "It is true the Americans have a moral obligation to straighten out Bush's mess, but 10 years of American troops is too much.
"We already have an agreement, and if the government thought that the three years mentioned in it were not adequate, why didn't it fix 10 years instead? Was it simply to get the agreement approved and then to go ahead with other plans?"
Some viewed Dabbagh's statement as inopportune at best, even if it could be justified as a realistic assessment of Iraq's defense needs.
"We haven't even begun implementing the agreement," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of parliament who voted for the pact. "We just approved it. For us to think about extending the U.S. presence by planning another (security agreement) is premature."

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david morgan
anthony boadle
mcclatchy newspapers
adam ashton