Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The "Awakenings" (Boxer and Biden warned you)

Since October of last year, we're all supposed to gather around the potty and cheer on Nouri al-Maliki every few weeks. "You can do it, Nouri! You're a big boy!" Despite the nonstop praise for his taking over the "Awakening" Councils -- nearly 100,000 males (Daughters of Iraq are not included in the count) which cost the US tax payer $300 a month -- he's still not done so. Rod Nordland and Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times) pulled toilet training duty and tried to be encouraging to Nouri by declaring it "another milestone" because only 10,000 of the "Awakenings" have not yet been turned over. Hey, wasn't the treaty masquerading as a Status Of Forces Agreement supposed to make Iraq 'independent' and 'sovereign'? Funny how everything that indicates otherwise is swept aside or minimized.

But while Nouri sits on the big boy potty and basks in the applause, turns out everyone's not so happy -- or as Nordland and Rubin put it, "the militiamen themselves were not celebrating." Party poopers!

So what has them upset? That Nouri's doing what he always said he would. He's not bringing them in. This isn't news. US Senator Barbara Boxer was referring to Nouri's attitude and position re: Awakenings in an opening Senate hearing last April. Was anyone paying attention?

Nordland and Rubin report:

These are among the signs that the fighters' patience is fraying badly at a difficult moment. After months of promises, only 5,000 Awakening members -- just over 5 percent -- have been given permanent jobs in the Iraqi security forces. Those promises were made last year when Iraq was flush with oil money.

To no one's surprise, the issue of Iraq's shortfall -- which isn't that large compared to the problems countries around the world are having with their budgets -- is given as a reason. Nonsense. Nouri didn't want them. Boxer was quoting from the European press back in April, from interviews Nouri was giving, where he was making it very clear that about, yes, 5% would be allowed to work for the government and no more.

For those who are late to the party, the "Awakening" Council are Sunni thugs. The US put them on the payroll and armed and trained them. As US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and Gen David Petraeus told Congress repeatedly in April, the thugs were put on the payroll because, if the US paid them, then they wouldn't attack the US or kill US service members. Yes, that would be known as extortion in the rational world but we don't live in a rational world and, over and over, for several days, Crocker and Petraeus bragged about this we-forked-over-our-lunch-money-on-the-playground 'strategy' and were never questioned on it.

And, yes, this is what some are pushing for the US to do in Afghanistan. Once upon a time, the US declared wars and fought another side. Now, like spoiled playboys?, they instead declare a war and then try to bribe the other side.

For those wondering, Nouri's objections were not ethically-based. He had no problem with thugs -- he's staffed his ministries (especially the Ministry of the Interior) with nothing but thugs. But Nouri likes his thugs to be Shi'ites and not Sunnis.

This is what then-Senator Joe Biden was getting it when he explained last year that the US had armed and paid both sides of a civil conflict and you couldn't pretend that there was a functioning government in Iraq. There's still no functioning government.

And now the "Awakenings" clearly aren't being absorbed into his al-Maliki's government -- as al-Maliki always said they wouldn't be.

At the end of their article Nordland and Rubin talk about some "Awakenings" ("in Diyala and Baghdad") that are supposed to be paid by Nouri not getting paid. They fail to make clear who is paying them or others and it is an issue.

Until Barbara Boxer raised the issue last April, Crocker and Petraeus apparently never considered asking al-Maliki's government to pay for the "Awakenings" (that's by Crocker and Peteraus' own words to Congress). After Boxer raised the issue and others in Congress expressed their outrage, the issue was supposed to have been dealt with; however, the US continues to pay them. The US just made payment to many at the start of this month. The hope is that the start of next month (mere days away) will find al-Maliki picking up the slack.

But that may not happen. Rubin and Nordland have written a very strong article; however, it sidesteps the issue of payment and that's a glaring omission from the paper whose chief Baghdad correspondent in the early days of the Iraq War bragged publicly that he tailored his coverage for US tax payers.

Richard Simon and Mark Z. Barabak (Los Angeles Times) continue the paper's long war on San Francisco. For the record, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, is stronger right now than she's ever been. Unlike Harry Reid, she can get her house of Congress to come together on a vote. And proof of that can be found in Barack having to back off his plan to tax veterans' health care. Yes, idiots like Tony Tarantino try to claim that Barack just magically decided he loved 'em, really, really loved 'em. Nancy Pelosi killed that nonsense. Barack was on board with it, he was not surprised by it, he thought it was a wonderful plan. Pelosi is the one who killed it. I have no idea why the Los Angeles Times continues their long war on San Francisco, I have no idea why Simon and Barabak feel the need to pretend, but their little scribbles are crap. Harry Reid remains ineffective and remains powerless. Pelosi's actually in the strongest place she's ever been and, if some conventional wisdom is correct, and Congress is about to be seen as the only ones who can fix the economy (after Barack's public and non-stop meltdowns), Pelosi's stock will rise even higher.

In Iraq, the country continues to suffer a medical crisis. Hannah Fletcher's "On the front line In Iraq, where tents housed hospital and church" (Times of London) examines two foreigners attempts at helping with relief:

It was only after Sam Rawlinson returned from Iraq in 2003 that he found out he had spent five months in what the Army says is the first field hospital to be deployed in enemy territory since the Battle of the Somme.
Working from a canvas tent amid constant gunfire, life quickly boiled down to the basics. "You have just three jobs to do," he said. "Look after casualties, look after yourself, look after your mates."
Since then Dr Rawlinson, 51, the clinical director of the East of Scotland Blood Transfusion Service, has regularly put his life on hold to return to Iraq.

Meanwhile Iraq's Foreign Ministry notes:

23 March, 2009

Foreign Minister Meets Algerian Ambassador in Iraq

Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, met on 23\3\2009, the Algerian ambassador in Iraq, Mr. Mustafa Butora and discussed a range of common issues between Iraq and Algeria.

Minister Zebari explained the positive events in Iraq, including the development in the political process, security, after provincial elections.

Minister Zebari discussed bilateral relations between Algeria and Iraq, and request the Algerian ambassador and to deliver a letter to the Algerian Foreign Minister. Mr. Butora also discussed matters related to the investigation of the killing of two Algerian diplomats, Minister Zebari promised to provide them with information about the results of the investigation.

The meeting was attended from the Iraqi side by head of Arab Department, Director of the Minister's Office, and head of Protocol Dept.

Finally, independent journalist David Bacon is one of the few labor reporters left in the US. Bacon covers the a homeless camp that has sprung up in Sacramento and here's an excerpt (click here to read it in full at Immigration Prof Blog):

On one side of the American River in downtown Sacramento, foundations and media organizations have comfortable offices with views of the water. On the other side, a homeless camp sits beside the railroad tracks next to the huge Blue Diamond almond processing plant. A biking and jogging trail winds past the camp, and over the bridge crossing the river. Runners and bicyclists in spandex and shorts pass by, hardly noticing the hundreds of people living in tents, under makeshift tarps, or simply sleeping on the ground. This community has mushroomed in the last few months as the economic crisis puts people out of homes and jobs, onto the streets, or in this case, into a field.

David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press).

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