Sunday, June 14, 2009

And the war drags on . . .

Rasheed al-Aazawy, a member of parliament with Obeidi's Iraqi Islamic Party, the major player in the Tawafaq bloc, says he was heartened by the show of unity condemning his colleague's killing. But appearing to lay the groundwork for accusations casting wider blame, Mr. al-Aazawy says they do not want to jump to conclusions that insurgent groups were behind the killing.
"We don't want to accuse anyone before we have the results of the investigation," he says.
A member of parliament unconnected with the Sunni bloc, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitive nature of the investigation, says he expects the attack to set back recent talks between Prime Minister Malaki's Dawa Party and Tuwafaq aimed at improving relations.
Dawa and Tuwafaq are part of the government's Shiite-led coalition. Tawafaq, which had demanded a greater role for Sunnis, had pulled out of the coalition before agreeing to come back in.
The lawmaker says Tuwafaq had asked members of parliament not to publicly comment on the process until the investigation was completed within the next two days.
He says there is skepticism, though, on the credibility of the investigation and any prospect that it would link Iraqi security forces in any way to the killing.
"For the past four years they have been making investigations and we haven't seen any results," he says.

That's from a major piece filed from Iraq, probably the only major piece filed in the last few days, Jane Arraf's "Could the murder of an Iraqi lawmaker kick off a new insurgency?" (Christian Science Monitor). Haraith al-Obaidi (also spelled Obeidi) was assassinated on Friday. Initial reports from police and eye witnesses said the assassin was a 15-year-old male. Most recent reports place the assassin's age at 27. al-Obeidi was shot and immediately the press went with "Sunni insurgents!" Reuters granted it might be possible that a Shi'ite 'insurgent' might have shot the Sunni lawmaker, maybe. But they were sure it was an insurgent because . . . there's no cause-and-effect in Iraq? In the US, someone gets shot, you're interested in whether they had any enemies and what they were doing immediately before being shot. Less than 24 hours before he was killed, al-Obeidi was addressing the torture and abuse going on in Iraqi prisons and demanding an independent inquiry. But let's stick with that must be a Sunni insurgent -- aged 15 to 27 -- with no real motive just a sense that Sunnis are playing footsie with Shi'ites. Let's pimp that out a while longer.

Nobody knows why al-Obeidi was killed at this point and some may argue there's no need to speculate. Those who would argue that showed up late for the party because all Friday afternoon offered was the press speculating that the assassin was a Sunni insurgent who felt the Sunni MPs were too close to the Shi'ites. Speculation. Where were they getting that? The same place they were getting the age of the assassin. And 15 doesn't appear to be 27.

I have no idea why al-Obeidi was assassinated. But when someone calls for an indpendent inquiry into torture and abuse -- torture and abuse that would be overseen by one governmental ministry -- and less than 24 hours later the person's dead, I think it's worth considering whether that had anything to do with the assassination?

Does anyone pay attention?

Who runs the prisons in Iraq? The Ministry of Justice . . . and the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Defense. (The Kurdish Regional Government runs their own prisons.) What names stands out on that list? The Ministry of the Interior. A thug-heavy ministry that's stolen land and homes in Baghdad, that's terrorized and ethnically cleansed sections of Baghdad, a group of Shi'ite thugs who are thought to have been implicated in the deaths of many US service members.

Does it all just vanish down the memory hole?

July of last year, Matthew D. LaPlante's "'Worse than the adult prisons' U.S.: Torture, murder at Iraqi juvenile prison" (Salt Lake Tribune):

U.S. forces staged several high-profile raids on adult detention centers run by Iraq's Ministry of the Interior in 2005 and 2006, uncovering several "torture dungeons" where, in some cases, prisoners -- most often Sunni men accused of insurgent activity -- had been mutilated with chains, knives and power drills. There have been fewer public disclosures of such "liberations" of abused detainees in the wake of the Sunni-Shiite civil war, which reached a violent apex in 2007.
But Kevin Lanigan, a former Army officer who served as an adviser to the Ministry of the Interior in 2006 and 2007 and now directs the U.S. Law and Security Program at the New York City nonprofit Human Rights First, said he cannot say whether that is the result of improvements in the way those working for the ministry - which by law isn't allowed to detain anyone for more than 72 hours - treat their prisoners.
"Nobody has good oversight or supervision," Lanigan said, noting that in many cases local militias have taken control of government operations.
"There's just not a lot that's transparent about it."Lanigan said Iraq's criminal detainees are supposed to be held in facilities run by Iraq's Ministry of Justice, though in practice the responsibility for prisoners is spread out over several other ministries, including the Shiite-dominated Interior Ministry, which does not get funding, training or oversight for that task.

This is Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) providing a rundown of the ministry in July 2007:

The very language that Americans use to describe government -- ministries, departments, agencies -- belies the reality here of militias that kill under cover of police uniform and remain above the law. Until recently, one or two Interior Ministry police officers were assassinated each week while arriving or leaving the building, probably by fellow officers, senior police officials say.
That killing has been reduced, but Western diplomats still describe the Interior Ministry building as a "federation of oligarchs." Those who work in the building, like the colonel, liken departments to hostile countries. Survival depends on keeping abreast of shifting factional alliances and turf.
On the second floor is Gen. Mahdi Gharrawi, a former national police commander. Last year, U.S. and Iraqi troops found 1,400 prisoners, mostly Sunnis, at a base he controlled in east Baghdad. Many showed signs of torture. The interior minister blocked an arrest warrant against the general this year, senior Iraqi officials confirmed.
The third- and fifth-floor administrative departments are the domain of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party, a Shiite group.
The sixth, home to border enforcement and the major crimes unit, belongs to the Badr Organization militia. Its leader, Deputy Minister Ahmed Khafaji, is lauded by some Western officials as an efficient administrator and suspected by others of running secret prisons.
The seventh floor is intelligence, where the Badr Organization and armed Kurdish groups struggle for control.
The ninth floor is shared by the department's inspector general and general counsel, religious Shiites. Their offices have been at the center of efforts to purge the department's remaining Sunni employees. The counsel's predecessor, a Sunni, was killed a year ago.

No one was treated fairly in those Iraqi prisons but who was most often targeted? In June of 2006, Jonathan Finer and Ellen Knickmeyer (Washington Post) reported, "But while a U.N. human rights report issued last month stressed that the Defense and Interior ministries have legal authority to hold inmates only a brief time, Sunni Arabs charge that Sunnis are regularly imprisoned in the centers for months or even more than a year."

Sunnis felt they were treated more harshly. A Sunni lawmaker calls for an independent investigation. Hmm. In November of 2005, Catherine Philp (Times of London) reported:

Up to 200 malnourished Iraqi detainees bearing signs of torture have been found in a secret prison in the basement of a Government building in Baghdad.
The discovery of the prisoners came after American troops surrounded and took control of an Interior Ministry building in the Jadriya neighbourhood of the capital on Sunday night.
When American forces arrived at the facility, officials there told them there were 40 detainees being held. As they moved through the building they discovered at least 200 prisoners, mostly Sunni Arabs and many in very poor health. The Americans had apparently been tipped off to the prison’s existence by relatives of those being detained.

A secret prison run by whom? The Interior Ministry. And the prisoners were mostly what? Sunnis. And a Sunni MP called for an independent investigation into torture and abuse in Iraq prisons on a Thursday and the following morning he was assassinated?

Hey, Aswat al-Iraq reported at the start of the month that an investigation into the torture and abuse in Iraqi prisons was being started. Guess who was carrying it out? "The Iraqi Interior Ministry formed a committee to investigate petitions filed against some security services in Diwaniya alleging that they committed human rights violations in the province’s prisons, the director of the Ministry's operations room said on Saturday." So there was already ongoing investigations. What was al-Obeidi problem? Oh, yeah, they were independent investigations, they were more of the same whitewash that had gone on over and over where no one's ever really responsible or guilty of anything.

He calls for an independent investigation on Thursday and he's dead on Friday. That doesn't mean that's why he was assassinated. It does mean it's an angle that reporters should have been pursuing instead of repeating the now apparent lie of "15-year-old teenager" over and over just because that was fed to them.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4311 and tonight? 4312. And in some of today's reported violence?


Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad sticking bombing targeting Sahwa which left a Sahwa member wounded as well as two passer-bys (Sahwa is the Sunni group sponosred by the US which is also known as "Awakening" and "Sons of Iraq"), a Falluja sticky bombing targeting Sahwa leader Sheikh Jashaam Delef that was discovered before it exploded, a Mosul roadside bombing which left three people injured, another Mosul roadside bombing which left three people injured and a Mosul bombing which left three people injured.


Mazin Yahya (AP) reports 6 Sahwa members were killed enroute to Balad Ruz when their vehicle was "ambushed" and 1 Sahwa member was shot dead with three more wounded at a Tarmiyah checkpoint.

Obaidi was buried yesterday. This is from Nada Bakri's "Iraqi Lawmaker Is Buried in State Funeral" (Washington Post):

Mustafa al-Bayati, a Sunni preacher at the mosque where prayers for Obaidi were held, said: "They did not kill him because he is a lawmaker. They killed him because he is Sunni."
Obaidi is the third lawmaker to be assassinated since parliament was elected in 2005, when many Sunnis boycotted the vote. He became head of the biggest Sunni bloc in parliament, the Iraqi Accordance Front, in May after his predecessor was chosen as speaker.

Marc Santora (New York Times) adds:

The gunman who killed the men Friday managed to get past three layers of security at the mosque where Mr. Obaidi, who was also a cleric, was leading Friday Prayer. The investigation is focusing on the security guards assigned to protect Mr. Obaidi and the mosque, who were from Mr. Obaidi’s own Islamic Party of Iraq, or I.I.P., according to an Iraqi security official with direct knowledge of the case.
There was little consensus among politicians about who they thought might have been behind the attack, with accusations being hurled in every direction, from Sunni extremists, to government officials, to Iranian militants. The gunman was either killed or killed himself after a wild pursuit by guards through the streets.

Also in Iraq this weekend, Kim Gamel (AP) reports that the two remaining US contractors (five were arrested over a week ago, three were released) have been turned over to US authorities.

While the Iraq War seems forever forgotten in the US, in England, it's still in the news. James Chapman (Daily Mail) reports:

Gordon Brown was facing an angry backlash last night over the Government's long-awaited inquiry into the Iraq War.
Families of soldiers who died in the conflict and MPs from all main parties warned the Prime Minister it would be 'completely unacceptable' to hold the probe largely in private.
There was also widespread concern that the findings appear unlikely to be published until after the General Election, which is expected to next May.

Michael Savage (Independent of London) adds:

The Prime Minister is expected to announce the details of the inquiry, promised by Tony Blair, to Parliament this week. Whitehall sources suggest that the inquiry will be similar to that of the Franks Inquiry after the Falklands war, which was held in private by a group of senior parliamentarians.
But Labour backbenchers plan to publish a parliamentary motion within days calling for the inquiry to be "full and public". It is expected to gain support from dozens of Labour MPs.

New content at Third:

Truest statement of the week
A note to our readers
Editorial: The deafening silence
TV: He never looked so old
Barry O, 21st Century Anita Bryant
The Political Closet
Politically driven assassinations
Congressional snapshot (Ava, C.I., Kat and Wally)
Jeremiah was a bull. . .
Kimberly Wilder on Redistricting

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. And Pru gets the last word, steering us to "Eyewitness to the wreckage of Iraq" (Great Britian's Socialist Worker):

Iraqi anti-war activist Sabah Jawad has just returned from a visit to Iraq. He told Socialist Worker about the country’s dire situation
When you step out on the streets of Baghdad you notice immediately that all is not right in Iraq.
Thousands of concrete barricades divide city neighbourhoods into small cantons.
Everywhere are reminders that this is a country under occupation. It is a bleak vision of this ancient city.
This pattern repeats itself at a smaller scale too. Even in local areas roads are blocked by concrete barriers.
Everywhere there are checkpoints manned by the Iraqi security forces.
They are set up at will and prevent people from moving around freely. There are constant traffic jams and no traffic lights.
After six years of occupation there is still a huge shortage of drinking water.
Electricity is often off for more than 12 hours a day—which is unbearable in the heat of the summer.
Baghdad is in a worse state than during my last visit in October 2003.
The dust that covers the city is an indication of a huge environmental disaster taking place.
Contamination and falling levels of water in Iraq’s two major rivers are turning huge swathes of agricultural land into a desert.
The country was once capable of feeding its people. But now Iraqi fruit and vegetables have disappeared from the markets.
The situation is even worse in southern cities like Basra, which was once a beautiful place.
Its famous network of streams and small rivers are now open sewers. The stench hits you as soon as you enter this great city.
This not the image that the US paints of Iraq.
The occupiers claim that reconstruction is taking place, and that they have created a democratic state with a system based on consensus and power-sharing.
But the US has created a weak and fragmented state, and they want it to stay that way so it is easy to control.
The political process is based on religious sectarianism and division. The constitution is a minefield that is turning region against region.
Ministries are divided on sectarian lines and there is massive nepotism and embezzlement of public funds.
The occupiers have squandered huge amounts of public funds.
The only “achievement” of the occupation is the widespread corruption that is eating away at the Iraqi state.
The former electricity minister Ayham al-Samarrai was accused of embezzling $100 million in a scam involving the import of electricity generators.
He was sentenced by an Iraqi court, but was spirited away from the security of the occupiers’ Green Zone in Baghdad to a new life in the US.
Another notable scandal involved Hazim Shalan, a former defence minister. He was accused of importing non-existent or faulty weapons.
The most recent case involves trade minister Falah al‑Sudani, who resigned last week after being accused of corruption involving hundreds of millions of dollars.
His two brothers are also implicated. They stand accused of fiddling import licences for the rationing system which millions of Iraqis depend on for food.
Occupation forces and Iraqi political parties took control of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces. They divided up the spoils like thieves, and took buildings that belong to the people.
The Al-Fadhila Party took over the huge unfinished Al‑Rahman mosque in Baghdad. It sold off materials bought for the Mosque’s construction to fill its own pockets.
Many people believe that these corrupt and sectarian institutions were created by the US with the aim of keeping Iraq fragmented and weak.
Sabah Jawad is an officer of the Stop the War Coalition and Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation
© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.
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