Thursday, January 22, 2009

9 days until provincial elections

Facing a skeptical and sometimes hostile crowd, 13 candidates vying for seats on Baghdad's provincial council passed around a microphone for three hours during a town hall debate this month as voters threw out questions and challenged their answers.
"Should the militarizing of Iraq continue?" one woman sitting in the front row wanted to know.
"How are you going to deal with run-down buildings?" a man asked. "And the housing crisis?"
"How much have you spent on your campaigns?" an Iraqi journalist demanded. "Especially the big religious parties?"

The above is from Ernesto Londono's "Iraqi Voters Getting a Taste of Retail Politics" (Washington Post) and among the candidates his article mentions is a school principle, Suha Jassim Mohammed, who is running in Anbar and states, "Women are obliged to go out to work. Women want to participate in the election." Provincial elections are scheduled -- in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces -- for January 31st. Sam Dagher's "A Top Sunni Survives an Attack in Iraq" (New York Times) notes the latest official targeted:

A senior leader in one of the main Sunni Arab parties participating in the coming provincial elections survived an assassination attempt on Wednesday in Baghdad that left four people dead and 10 others wounded, according to his party and a security official.
The Sunni leader, Ziad al-Ani, dean of the Islamic University and assistant secretary general of the Iraqi Islamic Party, was leaving his campus in Baghdad's northern Adhamiya district in a well-guarded six-car convoy when a sport utility vehicle loaded with explosives and parked on the street near the gate was detonated, said witnesses and an Interior Ministry official.

Here's Ned Parker:

This provincial capital is a shambles, a sea of gray concrete buildings, with police and army checkpoints everywhere, thunderous explosions almost every day. Services are nonexistent. The Sunni Arabs and the Kurds who share the province are caught up in a fierce competition for control of its land.

What's he talking about? He could be talking about many capitals in Iraq; however, he's talking about the one that fell apart while few were watching: Mosul. From Parker's "Iraq governor looks back on troubled tenure" (Los Angeles Times and those who use the link can see a photo of the governor taken by Parker):

Fair or not, Gov. Duraid Kashmoula is a symbol of all that has gone wrong here in Mosul.
Some call the Arab governor a puppet of the Kurdish parties that came to dominate the province's political life; others charitably call him a brave but unqualified man who stumbled into his job and whose time has passed.
During his 4 1/2 years as governor, Sunni militant groups branded him a turncoat and launched a campaign against him and those closest to him. He survived countless assassination attempts; others weren't so lucky. His 17-year-old son was assassinated in September 2004. His nephew at the end of 2005. His brother in late 2006. Nine cousins slain. Seventeen police bodyguards killed.

Hillary Clinton Sworn In

As Marcia notes ("Hillary sworn in as Secretary of State") Hillary was sworn in yesterday as Sec of State. For those confused, and a number of sexists like Matthew Rothschild seem very confused, here are the "Duties of the Secretary of State:"

Under the Constitution, the President of the United States determines U.S. foreign policy. The Secretary of State, appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, is the President’s chief foreign affairs adviser. The Secretary carries out the President’s foreign policies through the State Department and the Foreign Service of the United States.

Created in 1789 by the Congress as the successor to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of State is the senior executive Department of the U.S. Government. The Secretary of State’s duties relating to foreign affairs have not changed significantly since then, but they have become far more complex as international commitments multiplied. These duties -- the activities and responsibilities of the State Department -- include the following:

  • Serves as the President's principal adviser on U.S. foreign policy;
  • Conducts negotiations relating to U.S. foreign affairs;
  • Grants and issues passports to American citizens and exequaturs to foreign consuls in the United States;
  • Advises the President on the appointment of U.S. ambassadors, ministers, consuls, and other diplomatic representatives;
  • Advises the President regarding the acceptance, recall, and dismissal of the representatives of foreign governments;
  • Personally participates in or directs U.S. representatives to international conferences, organizations, and agencies;
  • Negotiates, interprets, and terminates treaties and agreements;
  • Ensures the protection of the U.S. Government to American citizens, property, and interests in foreign countries;
  • Supervises the administration of U.S. immigration laws abroad;
  • Provides information to American citizens regarding the political, economic, social, cultural, and humanitarian conditions in foreign countries;
  • Informs the Congress and American citizens on the conduct of U.S. foreign relations;
  • Promotes beneficial economic intercourse between the United States and other countries;
  • Administers the Department of State;
  • Supervises the Foreign Service of the United States.

In addition, the Secretary of State retains domestic responsibilities that Congress entrusted to the State Department in 1789. These include the custody of the Great Seal of the United States, the preparation of certain presidential proclamations, the publication of treaties and international acts as well as the official record of the foreign relations of the United States, and the custody of certain original treaties and international agreements. The Secretary also serves as the channel of communication between the Federal Government and the States on the extradition of fugitives to or from foreign countries.

Nowhere above does it state, "Be the pinata for sexists scared to call out the president."

An e-mailer at the public account points out he knows we "hate" Peter Bergen (I don't hate Bergen, he's not worth that or any other emotion) but Bergen's "Commentary: How to get out of Iraq carefully" is "wonderful" and "you should discuss it." Bergen's the pig who felt the need to attack Ann Jones and Sarah Chayes in his bad 'essay' on Afghanistan (it was supposed to be a book review) that opened with him at a bordello and that found him ripping apart the two women in the most sexist ways possible while reaching back several years to praise a book by a man. But if he had something worth saying about Iraq, we'd note it. We can't afford to be too picky as Iraq falls off the radar (those bad 'books' on Barack won't cut-and-paste themselves!). But his writing isn't worth highlighting. First clue, title of the piece says "how to" and article never seems concerned with getting out. In fact, the piece can easily be read as "Why the US can't leave Iraq." Link included only for the laughs provided by the photo of Bergen. I'm not sure what's sadder, trying to be Indiana Jones in 2009 or trying to at Bergen's age? With that upturned collar, you can be sure his yearbook photos provide hours of guffaws. Ann Jones and Sarah Chayes are journalists of tremendous accomplishments so possibly Bergen suffered from a little pen-and-pad envy?

For those who missed Bergen's little stunt, you can start with Third's "The Nation's Slap In The Face to women," Ruth's "Ruth's Report" and:

"Are You A Writer For The Nation? If so, chances are you must have a penis"
"Are You A Writer For The Nation? If so, chances are you have a penis"
"Are You A Writer For The Nation? If so, chances are you have a penis"
"Are You A Writer For The Nation? If so, chances are you have a penis"
"Are You A Writer For The Nation? If so, chances are you have a penis"
"Are You A Writer For The Nation? If so, chances are you have a penis"
"Are You A Writer For The Nation? If so, chances are you have a penis"
"Are You A Writer For The Nation? If so, chances are you have a penis"
"Are You A Writer For The Nation? If so, chances are you have a penis"
"Are You A Writer For The Nation? If so, chances are you have a penis"

As bad as Bergen's article is, at least it resembles reality in some of his descriptions. The same can be said of I-Need-Attention and we'll skip her nonsense unless we really need a good laugh in the snapshot today. For more underwhelming, see Barack's something will be done, something, maybe. Meanwhile, file it under continued shrinkage, the Baltic Times reports the so-called coalition gets even smaller:

The Estonian Defense Ministry has announced that it will not send another infantry unit to Iraq. Estonia will maintain three staff officers in the country as part of the NATO training mission.
Defense Minister Jaak Aaviksoo told a government meeting on Thursday that one of the reasons for the discontinuation of the mission is that Estonia failed to reach agreement with the Iraqi government on the accord concerning the status of the troops. The next Estonian infantry unit, ESTPLA-18, will therefore not be deployed in Iraq.

We linked to this article by David Wood (Baltimore Sun) in yesterday's snapshot and in this morning's entry. There's another version of it this morning, "Combat injuries hobbling ability to deploy U.S. soldiers:"

There are now 21,900 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and 212,400 in Iraq, out of a total force of about 545,000, the Army reported last month. About 290,000 soldiers are either returning from deployments or are engaged in intense predeployment training.
The pace of deployments means that some units are being ordered back into combat barely a year after returning from 15-month combat tours, Chiarelli said.
"We are hoping to get some relief from [reducing troop numbers in] Iraq before putting additional forces into Afghanistan," Chiarelli said.
Combat loads for infantrymen have been slowly increasing for years, with the addition of body armor that can weigh more than 30 pounds and gear such as the M-4 carbine, which is lighter than the once-standard M-16 rifle but with five ammunition magazines weighs about 12 pounds.
Other commonly carried gear includes a helmet with attached night vision device (4.3pounds), a 1-liter water bladder (8 pounds), as well as radios and extra ammunition. Marines often carry at least one day's supply of water.

And Wood notes that Gen Ray Odierno, top commander in Iraq, participated in the breakfast by video-link. Again, someone gushing over Ray-Ray this morning should have known that and known what topics were discussed.

For those needing a big smile, click here and remember, nothing is ever a done deal when pressure is applied.

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