Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gates retracts, NYT spins and LAT tells you what's what

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday that he'd made a mistake when he said that the rising tide of violence in Iraq is the "last gasp" of al Qaida there.
"What I should have said is that I hope it's al Qaida's last gasp. I don't know if it is," Gates told reporters traveling with him on a trip to Fort Rucker, where he went to meet troops and discuss his proposed budget.
Gates made the comment last Tuesday on "The News Hour" on PBS. In the days that followed, Iraq saw some of the worst violence of the year, including the deaths of five American soldiers in a suicide attack the northern Iraqi city Mosul. At least 60 Iraqis were killed and another 200 injured in that and other attacks.

The above is the opening to Nancy A. Youssef's "Gates says 'last gasp' remark on al Qaida in Iraq was mistake" (McClatchy Newspapers) and this is a follow up to her "Is Gates channeling Cheney on Iraq with 'last gasp' remark?" from last week. Gates made the original remarks last Tuesday during an interview with Judy Woodruff on The NewsHour.

In today's New York Times, Alissa J. Rubin offers "Iraq Tries to Prove Autonomy, and Makes Inroads" which is a problematic article. On the plus, she notes:

Forty countries now have ambassadors or charges d'affaires in Baghdad, along with 12 international agencies, including the United Nations and the Red Cross. In February, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France made the first visit of a French leader to the country since the 2003 invasion, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier became the first German foreign minister to visit Baghdad in 22 years.

That's the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the equivalent of the US State Dept, and it's not about Nouri or his vision. Hoshyar Zebari heads that ministry and he deserves praise for a lot of the work he's done. And it didn't happen yesterday or last month or even just last year. Zebari and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have worked very, very hard. But don't take one ministry and try to give Nouri credit or try to infer something about the puppet government. As much as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs functions, the Ministry of the Interior fails. That's reality. We could go through the article at length but that is its problem: It takes one ministry's work and tries to paint the puppet government a success. Meanwhile who is heading Iraq's Parliament? Answer: No one. They still have no speaker. So this is really an insult to the readers, this attempt to play, "Look at this functioning government!" As noted in the January 12th snapshot:

Willam Brockman Bankhead was the Speaker of the US House of Representatives for over four years. He died unexpectably of a heart attack on September 15, 1940. (For those unfamiliar with Bankhead, he was the father of Tallulah Bankhead.) The following day, Sam Rayburn became Speaker of the House. The following day. December 23rd, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was forced out of the Speakership of the Iraqi Parliament. The week prior he had stated he was resigning. He attempted to take that back but a large number wanted him gone as Speaker and had wanted him gone for some time with repeated public efforts to oust him. It is now January 12th and they have still not appointed a new Speaker.

And they still have no speaker. It's April 15th. William Bankhead dies in office and he's replaced the next day. Iraq's Parliament runs off Mahmoud al-Mashhadani December 23rd and they still have no replacement, all this time later.

The 'success' report is also undermined by Liz Sly and Caesar Ahmed's "Establishment of Iraq provincial councils drags" (Los Angeles Times) which captures the disarray and the dysfunction. From the article's opening:

Disarray and dissent are clouding the formation of Iraq's new provincial councils, which only now are taking shape more than two months after regional elections.
Political bickering, as well as Iraq's laborious electoral procedures, has delayed the seating of new councils and their subsequent selection of governors. Many Iraqis had hoped the process would herald a new era of representative government and kick-start the delivery of urgently needed services and economic development.
Instead, the steps have been marked so far by walkouts, boycotts and street protests, highlighting continued sectarian divisions and the frictions that prevail even between those factions that are reconciled to the political process.
On Tuesday, all factions in Shiite Muslim-majority Wasit province boycotted the latest meeting called to choose a governor after street protests were held the previous day against the leading contender.

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oh boy it never ends