Saturday, August 15, 2009

The forgotten benchmarks

Dark humor flips on when the lights go out in a city that still suffers from crippling power outages despite the billions of dollars that have been invested in its grid.
"Electricity is dead. Pray for its soul," reads graffiti scrawled along a wall in central Baghdad's Karrada neighborhood.
"I miss electricity so much I want to feel an electric shock, just so I know we have it," said Falah Hasan Ali, 23, a resident of Baghdad's Sadr City district who sleeps on his roof to escape the nighttime heat.
Electricity long has been a benchmark for reconstruction success in Iraq. Even as American troops have withdrawn from Iraqi cities and there's talk of a faster U.S. pullout from the country, however, electricity remains elusive for millions of Baghdad residents.

That's the opening to Laith Hammoudi's "6 years after invasion, electricity still scarce in Baghdad" (McClatchy Newspapers). The benchmarks. No one seems to remember them. The White House proposed them. They were supposed to be the way 'success' could be measured. Congress was all for them. Nouri al-Maliki signed off on them. That was 2007. By 2008, movement on any benchmark would be hailed as 'success!' That's all you needed, movement. Wasn't movement 'achievement'? Weren't they the same thing.

As the 'results' demonstrate in 2009, no. They weren't the same thing. And by 2009, they're all but forgotten even though, generally, when two parties sign off on something, what you have is a binding contract.

But for it to be binding, it would have to be enforced.

The White House's benchmarks were supposed to measure 'success' and the measurement was to justify the continued funding of the illegal war by Congress. Back then, Pelosi and company refused to stop funding the Iraq War but they hinted they would. At some point. Maybe. If these benchmarks weren't met.

The benchmarks were never met.

And yet they continue to fund the illegal war.

The war that continues to kill.


Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports two Baghdad bombings which left six people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured two people and a Mosul grenade attack that left nine people injured. Reuters notes the sticky bombing claimed 2 lives.


Reuters notes 3 Iraqis were left dead ("another wounded") by US and Iraqi troops staging a "firing exercise". Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 person was shot dad in Mosul.

Meanwhile, what's more embarrassing: To report wrongly or just to ignore? Sam Dagher's piece in today's New York Times begs that question. They're finally noting the draft law that would destroy any free press in Iraq. But they can't even get the basics right. Here's Dagher's opening paragraph:

Nearly 100 Iraqi journalists, news media workers and their supporters protested in Baghdad on Friday against what they said was a growing push by the country’s governing Shiite political parties to muzzle them.

Drop back to yesterday's snapshot and check the video link provided in it, you will count man, many "hundreds" not a hundred marching past the cameras. Sam Dagher can't even cover it correctly when 'reporting' didn't require leaving the villa NYT occupies. (And there's nothing in the article which suggests he left the villa.)

While the New York Times repeatedly portrays the illegal war as winding down (despite the 130,000 US troops still on the ground there), Eric Stoner addresses some realities in "Mercenaries and murder in Iraq" (Guardian):

The killing last Sunday in Baghdad's Green Zone of two armed contractors working for the London-based mercenary firm ArmorGroup by another British contractor from the company, serves as a grim reminder that Brits are still deeply involved in the prosecution of the war.In fact, with no countries officially left in the so-called "coalition of the willing", contractors are now playing a more important role than ever, as the Obama administration begins to slowly scale back the war in Iraq.
In June, a Pentagon report revealed that there are still 132,610 contractors in Iraq -- effectively doubling the size of the occupation -- and that the use of armed "private security contractors" in the country actually increased by 23% during the second quarter of 2009. The US defence department doesn't break down its data by nationality, but the report does specify that there are 60,244 "third country nationals", or contractors that are neither American nor Iraqi, on the payroll in Iraq. Therefore, the number of British citizens that are part of this shadow army is likely in the thousands.

The British contractor Stoner refers to is Danny Fitzsimons who is facing a trial in Iraq and could be sentenced to death. He served in the British military for eight years and was stationed in Afghanistan and Kosovo. He is accused of being the shooter in a Sunday Green Zone incident in which 1 British contractor, Paul McGuigan, and 1 Australian contractor, Darren Hoare, died and one Iraqi, Arkhan Madhi, was injured. Eric and Liz Fitzsimons spoke to the BBC (link has video) and noted that they are not asking for Danny to 'walk.' They stated that he has to take responsibility. But they want a fair trial and do not believe that is possible in Iraq. His legal defense team doesn't believe he can get a fair trial either stating today that the British military's presence in Iraq during the war means that Fitzsimons will be used as scapegoat. Jonathan Owen (Independent of London) reports that his legal time is flying to Iraq on Sunday and quotes attorney John Tipple stating, "Our intentions are to bring him back home to face trial in the UK. Mr Fitzsimons is a British national and needs just two things -- specialist medical help for his psychological problems and a fair trial -- neither of which he is likely to get in Iraq."

And Charles Levinson explores Iraqi politicians efforts to woo the electorate in the upcoming (January 2010) elections in "Iraqi Candidates Peer Over Sectarian Gap" (Wall St. Journal). From the article:

A key question is whether Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party will join the new Shiite alliance or run independently, under the steam of his newfound popular appeal.
If he joins the alliance, he runs the risk of losing the nonsectarian credentials that have won him a broadened base of support in the Iraqi street. If he runs independently, he risks alienating the Shiite backers who made him prime minister in the first place.
He also risks jeopardizing his relationship with Iran, which Shiite lawmakers say is heavily pushing for Shiite unity ahead of January's vote.
"Maliki has a big problem if he goes back to the Shiite coalition because he's sold himself over the past year as a leader of all Iraqis," says Omar Mashhadani, an Iraqi political analyst with close ties to Iraqi lawmakers. "But he is also under pressure from other Shiites and from Iran to join the alliance."
Mr. Maliki could adopt a strategy that would allow him to placate both camps.

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sam dagher