Friday, January 02, 2009

The never-ending transition

On the first day of the new era, the Iraqi soldiers were still following U.S. soldiers' instructions on what route to take and whom to talk to. The Americans motioned when to ask residents for information about recent Sunni militant attacks or to tell residents that Iraqi forces, not the Americans, were now in charge here.
The early-morning patrol underscored the delicate nature of what everyone calls a transition, where the American officers refer to their job as partnering with Iraqi combat units, now that a U.S.-Iraq security pact has gone into effect. Under the agreement, which replaced the U.N. mandate that made U.S. forces responsible for Iraq's security, the Americans must now ask the Iraqis permission for any operation. The pact calls for U.S. forces to leave cities by the end of June and to withdraw from the country by the end of 2011.
Both Iraqi and American soldiers on patrol said that the leadership of raids now varies from mission to mission. Sometimes the Americans lead, other times the Iraqis.

The above is from Ned Parker and Ali Hameed's "Iraq-U.S. 'partnership' is in 'transition'" (Los Angles Times) and, as a friend with the paper laughed on the phone this morning, "Oh my [goodness]*, they sound like the trainees from hell." ____'s referrng to the Iraqis still looking for US direction -- not Parker and Hameed. January 1st didn't just pop up on Nouri al-Maliki.

This day was coming and, in fact, marked on the calendar. It's a lot like that big day in November when the "Awakening" Councils were turned over to Baghdad control. Only they weren't. They still aren't. Easily a third are still under US control and it will be "months" until that changes. Nouri's PalmPilot must be on the blink.

So Parker and Hammed report on the period of transition currently taking place -- and are too kind to note the obvious, the transition should have taken place weeks prior. You don't transition after the turn-over. You transition leading up to the turn-over.

al-Maliki's hardly the only one who's lied about how 'ready' the Iraqi military was but he's lied about it for two years now. This 'transition' may still be ongoing in February.

The paper's Tony Perry offers "Marines buy cows for Iraqi widows"

At the suggestion of an Iraqi women's group, the Marine Corps recently bought 50 cows for 50 Iraqi widows in the farm belt around Fallouja, once the insurgent capital of war-torn Anbar province.
The cow purchase is seen as a small step toward reestablishing Iraq's once-thriving dairy industry, as well as a way to help women and children hurt by the frequent failure of the Iraqi government to provide the pensions that Iraqi law promises to widows.

Helping women and children hurt by what? The pensions are an issue but the greater threat remains the rations. The White House is the one who repeatedly attacked the rations and tried to end them immediately. Too much objection to that so, instead, each puppet in Baghdad has whittled them down and whittled them down. And we're never supposed to notice the connection to this and the soaring malnutrition rates among Iraqi children. The fact that, during Saddam Hussein's reign, Iraqis got more staples each month isn't supposed to have a thing to do with the soaring malnutrition rates? This is the first year, in fact, that didn't draw to a close with news that the rations program was again being cut. Doesn't mean it wasn't, just means they haven't announced it yet if is being cut.

Yesterday IRIN published "Warning over plight of Iraqi widows:"

"Iraqi widows, especially internally displaced widows in camps, are having a tough time. Most have more than one child and are finding it very hard to feed them," said Mazin al-Shihan, head of Baghdad's Displacement Committee.
"We have reports that some… are being harassed and blackmailed by government officials… More attention must be focused on this segment of the Iraqi people before it is too late," al-Shihan told IRIN.
Citing figures and estimates from government bodies and NGOs, al-Shihan said Iraq had about one million widows, including those whose husbands had died of natural causes, but a further breakdown was not available.

Again the issue of the severe cuts to the rations program isn't raised. Instead, the 'answer' is to marry off the widows! That's what the man is proposing. IRIN quotes Hanaa Adwar (al-Amal) rightly noting that's "cruelty as the widow must get married to another man to get the government help".

Why is it that the government in Baghdad always 'helps' women by attempting to destroy their rights? This isn't unlike the push to 'detain' (imprison) any woman whose husband, father or brother is killed by Iraqi or US forces because she might become a 'suicide bomber.' Put her in a hole and call it a 'women's center'!

This is directly because the White House decided to get in bed with thugs. They have destroyed human rights throughout Iraq. And al-Maliki and any puppet in the immediate future will ensure that remains the case.

Am I going to note the year-in-review pieces in the community today? Yes, why? ____ asked if I'd note "2008 year in review" (Los Angeles Times). I'm noting that at a friend's request and do not think I agree with it. I haven't read the whole thing. I asked to hear the conclusion and died of laughter. Yeah, that's the problem, the US has been too pessimistic! Yeah, all that pessimism about 'cakewalk' in Iraq back in 2003 kept the US out of Iraq . . . oh, wait, that didn't happen. What 'delightful' nonsense and wonder if the editorial board will soon be busted for dealing hopium? Especially after the laughable 'election' processes of 2008, the idea that the US is just too damn pessimistic is hilarious. What The World . . . Needs Now . . . Is . . . more delusions? I haven't heard the rest of it (and don't plan to read it). I'm tossing it in because a friend asked for it. And year-in-review. Betty's "Thinning out the herd (2008)" went up Thursday as did Kat's "2008 in music" and the "2008: The Year of Living Hormonally (Year in Review)." "2008 in books (Martha & Shirley)" -- Martha and Shirley's book commentary which went up Tuesday and Ruth's "Ruth's 2008 Public Radio Report" went up Wednesday.

In today's New York Times, Timothy Williams offers "3 Policemen, 2 Others Killed as Iraq Takes Control of Green Zone and Basra Airport" which addresses the transfer. We'll note this on Mosul (where 3 police officers died) because it is an area to watch (and one that rarely gets covered by comparison):

Mosul, located about 250 miles north of Baghdad, is in a region contested by Sunni arabs and Kurds, and where Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a homegrown Sunni extremist group that American intelligence agencies say is led by foreigners, has been active.
The city's Christian minority was the focus of repeated attacks last year, forcing thousands to flee, although many have returned.
Nineveh Province is also the buffer zone between the central government in Baghdad and the semiautonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq's far north. About 5,000 American soldiers are stationed there.

Williams also informs that while the Green Zone has been turned over to Iraqis, Jalal Talabani has already called dibs on Saddam's palace for his staff.

Meanwhile Lizette Alvarez teams with Dan Frosch for the beat she's long covered. The latest installment is "A Focus on Violence by G.I.'s Back From War." From the article, and focusing on Colorado:

Nine current or former members of Fort Carson's Fourth Brigade Combat Team have killed someone or were charged with killings in the last three years after returning from Iraq. Five of the slayings took place last year alone. In addition, charges of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault have risen sharply.
Prodded by Senator Ken Salazar, Democrat of Colorado, the base commander began an investigation of the soldiers accused of homicide. An Army task force is reviewing their recruitment, medical and service records, as well as their personal histories, to determine if the military could have done something to prevent the violence. The inquiry was recently expanded to include other serious violent crimes.
Now the secretary of the Army, Pete Geren, says he is considering conducting an Army-wide review of all soldiers "involved in violent crimes since returning" from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a letter sent to Mr. Salazar in December. Mr. Geren wrote that the Fort Carson task force had yet to find a specific factor underlying the killings, but that the inquiry was continuing.
Focusing attention on soldiers charged with killings is a shift for the military, which since the start of the war in Iraq has largely deflected any suggestion that combat could be a factor in violent behavior among some returning service members.

Past work by Alvarez on this issue includes the February piece she and Deborah Sontag did entitled "When Strains on Military Families Turn Deadly," her July piece "After the Battle, Fighting the Bottle at Home," her January article with Sontag "Combat Trauma Takes the Witness Stand" and her August "War Veterans’ Concussions Are Often Overlooked." "Includes" that's not a complete listing.

Meanwhile Iraq's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued this statement Wednesday:

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari "We Support any Effort Agreed by Arab States Concerning the Israeli Bombing"
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari stated that Iraq supports any effort by Arab states on the Israeli shelling of areas in the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas in a statement to Al-Jazeera on Saturday and that the Iraqi stance is with Arab solidarity and what the Arab countries agreed upon. Minister Zebari added that Iraq would be in favor of any decision in this regard. Israel launched air raids on positions in the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas and killed two hundred people.

And while Iraq's Ministry can issue statements (that is not the Ministry's first statement on the slaughter), the US' president-elect remains silent. But he is ending his vacation today! So maybe someday, maybe someday.

[ADDED: *C.I. note: I have removed a word and changed it to "[goodness]" -- no, as a visitor asked in an e-mail, we do not make a point to take the name of anyone's higher power in vain. I was quoting a friend and quoted them directly without thinking. My apologies. And, yes, the friend quoted is the same one asking for the link to LAT's editorial. I thought that was clear but the same visitor feels I'm attempting to "hide" that. No, I was attempting to post the second morning entry as quickly as possible which is why the tags originally included Wally and Cedric but have now been removed. ]

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