Thursday, March 12, 2009

Those wacky "Awakening"s, still not handed over

Tuesday's bombing on the outskirts of Baghdad, in Abu Ghraib, resulted in 33 deaths. Anthony Shadid (Washington Post) explores that and offers the meaning of the term "atlal:"

The word in Arabic means the remains or ruins, the traces of something left behind. The atlal of Tuesday's attack, one of two in the past week that killed scores in the capital and its environs, were spent bullet cartridges, catching the glint of a morning sun, that survivors accused soldiers of firing at them in the chaos and confusion that followed the blast.
The atlal were the orphaned boy who had been selling plastic bags for a few cents. They were the vegetable seller whose 18-month-old daughter was ripped from his grasp as he was hurled to the asphalt. They were the relatives standing at a morgue that housed the remains of their families together with the remnants of the bomber who killed them.
"Neither the American nor Iraqis will try him," said Rahim Abdullah, whose aunt and cousin were among those refrigerated inside. "He'll be judged in heaven."
In 2003, when America began its occupation, bombings with half the casualties of Tuesday's suggested the United States might not prevail. Today, when America and its Iraqi allies seem to be winning, the attack failed to make the front page of the government newspaper.
"No one values the victims anymore," said Mohammed Awad, another relative standing near the morgue, under a sun that washed Abu Ghraib of color.

Meanwhile to the Sunni thugs put on the US payroll. October 1st, Lelia Fadel (McClatchy Newspapers) was writing of the handover of the "Awakeing" Councils to al-Maliki's puppet regime. The following day, Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post) observed:

The handover of the armed groups was a low-key affair in Baghdad, where government offices are closed for a six-day holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The transition was largely symbolic, since the U.S. military plans to stay involved with the groups for several months as the Iraqi government begins paying their salaries and decides how to employ them.

That was October. From the November 10th snapshot:

Moving from the always just-around-the-corner treaty to flashback time, October 1st the US conducted the 'handover' to the puppet government in Baghdad. So the fact that the Awakening Councils are back in the news -- because the puppet government began paying some of them a portion of what the US did -- may strike some as strange. Gina Chon (Baghdad Life, Wall St. Journal) explains, "Today marked the first day that the Iraqi government paid salaries to thousands of informal security group members known as the Sons of Iraq, who have been credited with helping to reduct violence in the country. Between now and Nov. 17, about 40,000 Sons of Iraq members in Baghdad will receive their $300 a month salary from the Iraqi government." Al Jazeera notes, "The new salaries represent a slight pay cut from $300 a month under the US, down to $275 a month on the Iarqi security forces payroll. The move to bring the Awakening groups into the security forces could test Baghdad's fragile calm" and quotes the Royal Institute for Defence and Security Studies Alastair Campbell stating, "Not only is the Iraqi government paying them slightly less . . . but also they're not paying the same amount [of people]. It's thought that about 80,000 were on the books of the Americans and Iraqs -- although they initially agreed to pay 58,000 -- will only pay 54,000. Only 20,000 [of the 54,000] are being reintegrated into the Iraqi security forces at the moment so what will these others do? Will they just hang around being paid not quite as much?" "Awaking" (also known as Sawha and 'Sons of Iraq') numbered approximately 100,000 October 1st [September 22nd Bill McMichael of Military Times used the figure 99,000 during Lt Gen Lloyd Austin's press briefing and Austin did not correct the number]. So October 1st, the puppet government got a little bit of applause and today they are actually supposed to begin doing what they took applause for all that time ago.

We could go through all the other 'finally's but will instead jump to today as AFP reports:

A key milestone in the US handover of security in Iraq will be reached on April 1 when the Shiite-led government assumes full control of 90,000 US-backed Sunni militiamen.
A US military spokesman said on Thursday that 81,773 men have already transferred from American to Iraqi control in eight provinces across the country since the process began last October.
The remaining 10,000 Sahwa militia fighters based in Salahadin province, north of Baghdad, would come under the government by April 1, the spokesman said in a statement, adding that they had already begun registering.

Are we supposed to applaud again? Is this like toilet training a child? al-Maliki's pretend government has had how many months and they're still not in control of the "Awakening" Councils and the press is still lying for them? That's what AFP is doing with their "81,773" transferred. The bulk are not working for al-Maliki's government, he's refused to find jobs for them and 'transitioned' them out. The US continues to pick up the check for these men. (These are the "Sons of Iraq." The "Daughters of Iraq"? No one wants to talk about who pays them. Or the fact that they're paid considerable less -- for doing the same job -- than the men are.)

al-Maliki and Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia, met today in Australia. Rudd's office noted the meeting with a press release:

Mr Al-Maliki is the first Prime Minister of Iraq to visit Australia and his visit is of historic importance.

The Prime Minister congratulated Mr Al-Maliki on the significant improvement in Iraq’s security situation over the past year and on Iraq’s continued economic and political progress, reflected in successful provincial elections in January.

Prime Minister Al-Maliki conveyed his and the people of Iraq’s deep appreciation for Australia’s continued strong commitment to a secure, prosperous and democratic Iraq.

The leaders agreed that as the security situation in Iraq continues to improve, there is increasing scope to strengthen and broaden the bilateral relationship.

A major focus of discussion was strengthening trade and investment links. Over the past four years Australian contracts in Iraq have totalled some A$3 billion.

The leaders committed to build on this strong performance, particularly using Australia’s world leading agricultural and resource sector expertise.

Australia will appoint a Senior Trade Commissioner to contribute to stronger commercial links.

The leaders agreed that there should be more engagement by Australian firms in the oil and gas sector in Iraq and encouraged training opportunities in resource fields in Australia.

The leaders also discussed Iraq’s interest in increasing Australian wheat imports, and Australian business interest in the construction of hospitals and other scientific facilities in Iraq, and border monitoring technologies.

The Prime Minister reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to assisting Iraq with its development needs, with a strong focus on agriculture, public sector governance, improving basic service delivery and supporting vulnerable populations.

Australia will also have an AusAID presence in Baghdad to support the Government’s A$165 million three-year development assistance commitment.

The leaders agreed to an Australia-Iraq Agricultural Partnership focused on bolstering Iraq’s agricultural productivity and food security as a central element of Iraq’s reconstruction and development.

As a first step in this Partnership, we agreed that the Australian Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Tony Burke MP, would lead an Australian delegation to Iraq this year to discuss further agricultural cooperation, including in the commercial sphere.

Prime Minister Al-Maliki welcomed the commencement this year of more than 100 Australian agricultural scholarships to train Iraqis in livestock, plant, water and environmental management.

Prime Minister Rudd announced that Australia will begin a new range of agricultural initiatives, including:

• a $4 million initiative to address soil salinity around Baghdad and Southern Iraq
• a $9 million initiative on quarantine and border control training, and
• a $4 million initiative to create rural businesses through rural finance.

As a start to building international mechanisms to underpin this growing relationship, the leaders agreed to a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on Education and Training to facilitate people-to-people links between the two countries.

Xinhau reports the two toured the Australian War Memorial an al-Maliki declared, "I extend my sympathies to the families of loved ones who lost their lives while helping Iraq." Three Australian service members died in Iraq. We covered Jake Kovco throughout 2006 (throughout the joke of an inquest into his death) who died while only 25-years-old, April 21, 2006. Paul Pardoel died January 30, 2005 at the age of 35 and David Nary died at the age of 42 on November 5, 2005.

I'm asked to note Ty Moore's "The Iraq War is Not Over - Behind Obama's Troop Withdrawal Plan" (Socialist Alternative). In many ways, it's a good article or could be. It's destroyed by the fact that he thinks Patrick Crazy Ass Cockburn knows one damn thing he's talking about. Since 2007, when he couldn't get it straight about a woman being stoned (he had her hanged) in Iraq, facts have not mattered to Cockburn who has allowed his politics to replace anything resembling reporting. Moore writes ". . . Cockburn correctly explains SOFA's significance: 'America's bid to act as the world's only super-power and to establish quasi-colonial control of Iraq, an attempt which began with the invasion of 2003, has ended in failure'." That was feel-good propaganda from Cockburn. It has no bearing on reality.

Cockburn's not an Iraq-based reporter and hasn't been in some time. His 'observations' are crackpot and repeatedly revealed to be flat-out wrong. It's really easy to go to CounterPunch and find a few of Crazy Ass' bad 'reports' -- columns masquerading as reporting. In real time, November 10th, Liz Sly (Chicago Tribune) explained: "The Iraqi government is coming around to the view that it would be better to sign a security deal with the Bush administration than to wait to strike a deal with President-elect Barack Obama, spurred in part by fresh U.S. concessions as well as threats by the U.S. to suspend all operations in Iraq if there is no deal by the end of the year, according to Iraqi officials." That is reality. The US held all the cards and knew it. Crazy Ass would love for the US to have been bested in a treaty. That's never happened thus far. But facts like that are things Crazy Ass forgets. Had he been around in earlier times, he would have written that the Native Americans forced the Pilgrims to hand over beads and that it was fair trade. Yes, Patrick Cockburn is nuts.

Don't ask me to note things if you don't expect me to comment. Ty Moore could have had an incredible article. That would mean using reporting as the base for his commentary. He mistakenly believed Cockburn was providing that. No Cockburn's serving up propaganda in his columns passed off as reporting. The Cat's Blog and Media Lens have also caught on to Cockburn's nonsense. If it's any comfort to the person who e-mailed Moore's article, Moore got a link. There's garbage from People's Weekly World that's not getting anything. You need to check yourself, PWW, it's the 21st century and if you're going to carry the Party's historical hostility towards women's rights into this one, you'll do it without being noted here. Equally true, al-Maliki got NO votes in the provincial elections -- he wasn't a candidate. Know your facts.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry noted yesterday:

A ceremony of delivering the radio and television archives took place on Monday, 2/3/2009, at the headquarters of the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry in the presence of Ambassador Gennady Tarassov high-level international coordinator for the Kuwaiti missing prisoners and property and Ambassador Mansour Ayyad Al-Otaibi, director of International Organizations, at the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry ,and from the Iraqi side by Mr. Hamad Fadhel Khudair ,Iraq's Charge D'affaires and representatives from Iraq's Foreign Ministry.

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