Yoshino and Raheem Salman's "Iraq's novice political candidates embrace campaigning" (Los Angeles Times) explores the provincial elections set to take place in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces January 31st:
Provincial council candidate Fareeq Khazaali moves through the crowds of shoppers on Mutanabi Street with the confidence and ease of a veteran politician, shaking hands and smiling, as his children, wearing homemade campaign T-shirts, distribute leaflets.
When he's not pressing the flesh, he's sending frequent text messages ("Greetings. Please elect your candidate Fareeq Khazaali.") and making friends on Facebook -- surprising political sophistication for a novice candidate in a country taking baby steps toward democracy.
As Iraq nears its provincial elections day, Jan. 31, residents are faced with ballots that could make even a seasoned voter's head spin. In total across the country, 14,400 candidates representing 407 political entities are vying for 440 seats.
[. . .]
As the candidates mingle with the public, they are easy targets for assassins. On Dec. 31, gunmen in the northern city of Mosul shot and killed a candidate in broad daylight while he was walking down the street. U.S. and Iraqi authorities have warned of a potential increase in violence as the elections near.
The reporters quote Erin Matthews . . . with the National Democratic Institute. Yes, NDI is in Iraq. Yes, once upon a time America's left would be yelling.
But they're busy drooling over Barack and, besides, Mad Maddie Albright's Barack's gal now, right? She was only a problem when she was standing next to Hillary. (Mad Maddie chairs NDI.) And War Monger Susan Rice is Barack's buddy that he's appointed to the UN. (Rice serves on the NDI board.)
Back in 2005, January 26th, the NDI was still hiding. From Karl Vick and Robin Wright's "Coaching Iraq's New Candidates, Discreetly, U.S.-Funded Programs Nurture Voting Process" (Washington Post):
Funded by U.S. taxpayers, the Baghdad office of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs stands at the ambitious heart of the American effort to make Iraq a model democracy in the Arab world. In the 13 months it has operated in the country, the institute has tutored political aspirants from all of Iraq's major parties, trained about 10,000 domestic election observers and nurtured thousands of ordinary citizens seeking to build the institutions that form the backbone of free societies.
The work is in many ways entirely routine for the institute -- as it is for the two other Washington-based organizations that are here advising on the architecture of democracy: the International Republican Institute (IRI), which declined requests for an interview, and the International Foundation for Election Systems (IFES), which along with the United Nations is providing crucial technical assistance to Iraq's electoral commission. The groups work in scores of countries, from those in Eastern Europe to Yemen and Indonesia, and arrived in Baghdad with solid reputations for encouraging democratic norms. Together, the three have been allotted as much as $90 million for their work in Iraq.
But such is the state of Iraq less than a week before elections for the National Assembly that the Democratic Institute's instructors dare not see their names in print. "You can say, 'an official with an international organization that operates in Iraq,' " said the institute's country director, a former political operative and public relations executive who, like his boss, happens to be Canadian. He later agreed to allow the use of the organization's name.
Now Dave Lindorff can't call out today. Remember, he just knew America would change would come from "a black candidate who has risked jail by doing drugs, and who has relatives TODAY living in the Third World (Kenya)." The only change thus far has been Lindorff's sheets which suffer from nocturnal emissions (more commonly known as "wet dreams"). But in 2004, when Lindorff wasn't completely insane, he could object. From his "DNC Meddling in the Ukraine Elections" (CounterPunch):
What, I'd like to know, was the Democratic Party, which has demonstrated an uncanny ability to lose elections it should be able to win handily here in America, doing spending $40 million in U.S. taxpayers' dollars "helping" people and organizations in other countries to compete in elections to overturn incumbent governments overseas?
It turns out that even as it was blowing the presidential election in the U.S., an arm of the Democratic Party, the so called National Democratic Institute, was busy over the last year spending tens of millions of dollars provided by the State Department to help the opposition in the Ukraine to challenge the government party in that former Soviet state. (A similar Republican Party organization, the Republican International Institute, was doing the same thing with more State Department money. ) Some of that help was itself of questionable legality, which is why it was all done covertly.
Does anyone else see the huge irony and hypocrisy here?
The opposition party in the U.S. was actually working hand in glove with the government (and with the Republican Party!) in a subversive foreign policy effort of the Bush administration even as its chosen presidential candidate and nominal party leader, John Kerry, was campaigning against the foreign policy and foreign policy establishment of the Bush administration as inept and untrustworthy.
It takes nothing away from the students and workers of the Ukraine who took to the streets and overturned the results of a corrupt election to say that citizens in America, and especially people who call themselves members of the Democratic Party, should be outraged that they and their party, the victims of fraud and voter abuse at home, were engaged in some of the same kinds of subterfuges overseas that GOP operatives and Republican-led election bureaucracies were using against them here at home.
And, of course, they've been all in Venezuela's business. From Australia's Venezuela Solidarity Network's "Human Rights Watch report on Venezuela: An echo of US propaganda:"
Despite its failure so far to even put a dent in the massive popular support for Chavez and the revolution in Venezuela, the US establishment continues to funnel millions of dollars to Venezuelan opposition groups to try to destabilise the government. The publicly acknowledged component of this funding is channelled through so-called "non-government organisations" in Venezuela (such as SUMATE, whose leader, Corina Machado, endorsed the unsuccessful 2002 coup against Chavez) from bastions of the US Right including USAID, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the American Centre for International Labour Solidarity, the Centre for International Private Enterprise and, of course, the National Endowment for Democracy.
Or you can see Michael Barker's "Hijacking Human Rights" (ZNet):
For activists and researchers familiar with the Ford Foundation's elitist and anti-democratic history, this in itself should start alarm bells ringing as to the political motivations guiding the financial support which helped bring about HRW's existence. This is because the Ford Foundation's backing of HRW is consistent with 'democratic' changes occurring within the US foreign policy elites thinking in the 1970s, which was beginning to recognise the importance of soft-power in promoting American hegemony. These changes were no doubt informed by the political experiences gained by the political elites running liberal philanthropic foundations (like the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations'), which in 1984 eventually led to the creation of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the United States Institute for Peace (USIP). Ironically, these groups carry out the same disruptive work that the CIA and USAID are well known for, yet under the protective rhetoric of democracy and peace. However, the type of democracy promoted by these organisations is best referred to as low-intensity democracy, or polyarchy.
While only one study has exposed the anti-democratic orientation of the USIP, far more studies (especially more recently) have laid bare the 'democracy' promoting practices of the NED and its cohorts - it's four primary grantees being the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, the Center for International Private Enterprise, and the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center. The seminal study examining the NED is Professor Robinson's Promoting Polyarchy: he notes that:
"[T]he NED was created in the highest echelons of the US national security state, as part of the same project that led to the illegal operations of the Iran-Contra scandal. It is organically integrated into the overall execution of US national security and foreign policy. In structure, organization, and operation, it is closer to clandestine and national security organs such as the CIA than apolitical or humanitarian endowments as its name would suggest. The NED has operated in tandem with all major interventionist undertakings in the 1980s and 1990s."
As the latter part of this study will illustrate, some of HRW's Americas Advisory Board are directly promoting the agenda of the NED-linked 'democracy' establishment, while many others are closely linked to its most influential proponents. For reasons of concision, however, the author has chosen to focus predominantly on the 'democratic' affiliations of HRW's Americas Advisory Board members, and so does not concentrate on each individual's links to what appear to be genuinely democratic organizations. This decision has been taken because the primary purpose of this essay is to draw attention to the close interlocks that exist between the human rights and the 'democracy promoting' communities. That many of the people working with HRW are also invited to work with progressive groups' is a given (especially considering the lack of attention paid to their activities), but this should surely also indicate the depth of the problem facing progressive activists who endeavour to promote a democracy based on participatory principles, not imperialism. (In most cases progressive links are not highlighted, although many of them can be found at SourceWatch.)
And while NDI can be in Iraq, true democracy can't. al-Maliki's reign has seen repeated, high-levels of abuse aimed at the press. It's been spread out for nearly three years so many have looked the other way. But don't forget, following the crackdown (when the Green Zone was almost breached in 2006), he came up with 'his' multi-point plan (the plan was largely what local areas had already implemented) to which he added a direct attack on the press. The plan -- like every other promise he makes -- never got implemented. But his hostility and disdain for the press was there in writing. And his attitude has flourished and been embraced by so many others. So it's no surprise that the provincial elections are coming with press restrictions. From yesterday's snapshot: " Kim Gamel (AP) reports that other 'laws' are being pressed. Specifically the puppet government has issued a 14-page conduct code for reporters -- Iraqi and foreign -- that they will need to sign 'in exchange for permission to attend this month's provincial elections, riaisng concerns among media analysts that independent coverage could be undermined'." This morning, Khalid al-Ansary, Tim Cocks and Katie Nguyen (Reuters) report:
Media organisations who flout the Communications and Media Commission's mandatory code of conduct could be landed with a fine, have their equipment confiscated or be forced to make a public apology, said a document obtained by Reuters on Saturday.
"When covering activities of any political entity or any candidate, media outlets should not deliberately pervert the information ... or hide it or fabricate it," the document said.
"In dealing with ... political alliances and candidates, media should not be biased towards any."
Media organisations could have their licences revoked if they fail to pay any fines, according to the document.
Also covering the elections is Jessica Ramirez' "Stumping For Sunnis And Shiites and Kurds. Electioneering in Iraq is still a work in progress." (Newsweek):
Ibrahim al-Jaafari believes in old-style campaign tactics--like paying off tribal blood debts. That's one way the former interim prime minister has wooed votes for his National Reform Trend Party's candidates in Iraq's Jan. 31 provincial elections. Back in October 2006, at the height of Iraq's sectarian slaughter, 14 Shiite laborers were killed by Sunni extremists at a fake checkpoint north of Baghdad on land belonging to the Jabouri, a Sunni tribe. The ensuing religious vendetta left more than 100 members of both sects dead before the killings stopped.
The trouble wasn't over even then. Under Iraqi tradition, the tribe had failed to protect the laborers who were in its territory and thus owed a blood debt to their families. The Jabouri blamed Al Qaeda for the original killings and wouldn't pay. But Jaafari settled things by putting up 15 million Iraqi dinars in compensation for each victim, roughly $180,000 total. "All the people in the area now respect him," says Sheik Behjat Abdul Majid, who heads a local council that handles tribal issues. "If he needs any support, then we will all support him."
The upcoming election--the first of four planned for this year in Iraq--has more than 14,000 candidates campaigning as hard as they can, with one foot in the country's future and the other planted deep in the past. Most have no hope of winning, since only 440 provincial council seats are at stake. But the outcome is of far more than local importance. For one thing, it could begin to correct the underrepresentation of Sunni Arabs, many of whom boycotted the 2005 elections.
And Pamela E. Walck's "Soldier's body found at Fort Stewart" (Savanah Now) reports:
Officials with the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart confirmed that the body of a soldier assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit was found Friday morning in his barracks.
"That's all the information we can release because next of kin still needs to be notified," said 3rd ID spokesman Maj. Lee Peters late Friday afternoon.
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