Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New rules in Iraq . . . no one follows?

Iraq has signed troop withdrawal agreements that will have British and Australian troops out of the country by the end of July, Iraqi Defense Ministry said.
Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul Qadir Mohammed Jasim signed the agreements on Tuesday with UK Ambassador Christopher Prentice and Australian ambassador Robert Tyson.

That's from CNN's "British, Australian troops to stay in Iraq until July." And remember, the UK plans to keep 300 to 400 soldiers in Iraq after July. In today's New York Times, Campbell Robertson offers "New Rules in Iraq Add Police Work to Troops' Jobs." Robertson's only glaring error is this sentence: "Still, insurgents are taking cover in the vast slums of Sadr City and the holdouts are being tracked down, one by one, though it is not entirely certain how all of this will work in the new year." The problem with that? This is a report, not a column, not a "NEWS ANALYSIS." Meaning Robertson better be able to back up everything he presents as fact. That statement is not, "US military officials say that insurgents are taking cover in . . ." That statement is presented as fact. If Robertson has a factual basis for making the claim, one wonders why a reporter whose mobility is limited (due to the security conditions) knows more than the US military?

Knows more? On January 1st, warrants will be needed. Arrest warrants and detention warrants. The former must be received before arrests, the latter can be granted as late as 24 hours after a detention. So, Robertson explains, the US military is doing the house-to-house searches and other activities they can still do before the January 1st date when they will (may)be required to consult the Iraqi judiciary.

Robertson notes that Company C of the "First Battalion [,35th Armor Regiment] has been trying to complete missions, like general house-to-house searches, that will soon become far more complicated, if not impossible" but, this month, as they were attempting to gather the backing that they hoped would result in a warrant being issued in January on one suspect, they came across him and "did what they had been doing freely for nearly six years: they detained him on the spot." So if they knew, as fact, what Robertson's sentence indicates is factually known by the reporter, they'd be arresting all the 'insurgents' before the January 1st flip-over, right?

"(may)be"? As Capt Lloyd B. Osafo points out in the article, "Who knows if the Iraqis are going to follow all of this to a T? That's my personal opinion about all of this: who knows?" And the doubt is only increased by Iraqi Maj Hasson S. Hussein al-Zoubadi whining about how the Iraqi military will now have to follow these new rules. Robertson points out, "Actually, the agreement changes almost nothing for the Iraqi security forces: they are supposed to have been operating under the warrant-based system since 2007." When they haven't been it backs up Osafo's opinion. [Except for the statement pointed out, Robertson's article is a strong one.]

Meanwhile in this allegedly 90% democracy Iraq, Sam Dagher reports that Baghdad residents will not be allowed to celebrate the New Year tonight. It's been outlawed. "Iraq to Greet New Year In a Hush, Officials Say" is the title of Dagher's article and it explains that hotels and clubs have been ordered to close down (and cancel reservations). Why? Shi'ites have a holiday. Remember the back-patting al-Maliki just received last week? "Christmas is a legal holiday in Iraq for the first time ever!" was what the headlines screamed at many outlets. Murharram is going on! All must be placed on hold for this Shi'ite religious period (Shi'ite but not Sunni):

Shiites in Iraq mark this occasion with the erection of symbolic black funeral tents in their neighborhoods. The death of Imam Hussein is lamented with prayers, rituals of chest beating and self-flagellation with chains.

People can practice or not practice any religion they want and it's their business as far as I'm concerned; however, when they're beating themselves with chains as part of the religious practice, I'll reserve the right to roll my eyes and snicker at anyone who practices by inflicting physical harm on themselves.

"2008 in books (Martha & Shirley)" -- Martha and Shirley's book commentary -- went up yesterday and Ruth's radio commentary goes up shortly. [Added: Up now, click here.] However . . .

There's an issue in the news -- non-Iraq -- that I'm weighing in on in the next entry. I'd already stated that when year-in-review pieces went up here, I would only do two entries that day myself. So consider this a bonus entry.

Last night Stan's "Charter schools" went up as did the following community posts:

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oh boy it never ends