Monday, November 23, 2009. Chaos and violence continue, the 'intended' elections remain in disarray, the US military announces a death, Nouri parades forward more show confessions, and more.
On Sunday, the US military announced: "FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq -- A Multi-National Division South Soldier was killed in action, Nov. 22.
The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/. The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin.The incident is under investigation." The announcement brought the number of service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4365.
Turning to the issue of the 'intended' January elections. As Carole King sings ("Chalis Borealis," Speeding Time), "Didn't work out quite the way you wanted, how were you to know?" Last week, Tareq al-Hashemi vetoed the election law citing the law's refusal to recognize the large number of Iraqi refugees. Saturday the Parliament met to resolve the issue and . . . nothing. AFP reported, "The vote is postponed until tomorrow, parliament speaker Iyad al-Samarrai told reporters on Saturday, after a further day of meetings failed to resolve a dispute on a key provision in the law which will govern the national poll." Waleed Ibrahim, Ahmed Rasheed, Khalid al-Ansary, Michael Christie and Sonya Hepinstall (Reuters) explained, "Parliament must now either address Hashemi's complaints and amend the law, which may invite other interest groups to demand other changes, or send it back to him unchanged only for him to possibly veto it again." DPA added "According to [MP Ezzeddin] al-Dawla, MPs were divided during Saturday's discussions, with 'a majority calling for a rejection of al-Hashemi's demand.' A few, al-Dawla said, 'sought a compromise of reserving 10 per cent of the seats for expatriates'." Sunday saw a repeat of the stagnation with Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) reporting the Parliament is still at "an impasse" and plans to take up the matter (again) tomorrow. Some motion took place today with Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Jon Hemming (Reuters) reporting this morning that the Parliament has finally passed an election law but that it doesn't appear to address the issues that led to the presidency council's veto and may (yet again) be vetoed.
Sahar Issa and Warren P. Strobel (McClatchy Newspapers) observe that the elections could be "delayed by weeks, if not longer" following today's vote which "cut Sunni Muslim voting power even more in several major provinces. More than 50 parliament members walked out in protest, most of them Sunnis, but including a smattering of secular lawmakers and Shiites as well." Nada Bakri (Washington Post) quotes Sunni MP Oussan al-Nujaifi stating, "We're going to veto the law because it's unconstitutional. And that means a delay in the election." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) insists that the "effort to hold parliamentary elections on schedule in January collapsed on Monday" and explains, "The failure to agree on even the terms of the national election has inflamed ethnic and sectarian tensions that had waned somewhat in the last year or so." BBC News adds, "Our correspondent [Jim Muir] says most MPs seem to be determined to reject the veto this time, meaning the law should eventually go through."
Today at the US State Dept, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the Bulgarian Foreign Minister Rumiana Zheleva and after the two delivered remarks to the press, the issue of Iraq arose.
AFP's Lachlan Carmichael: Madame Secretary, since we have an opportunity to talk to you, perhaps on another subject, Iraq? There's a prospect of the electoral law being vetoed again. What kinds of concerns do you have about that? And do you have any -- can you use your influence to help get it passed, iron out the differences among the factions?
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Well, Lachlan, we support the Iraqi government's efforts to pass an election law so that they can proceed with planned elections. We know that there are some continuing concerns as expressed by the vice president that have to be addressed. We will continue working with all of the parties. Our ambassador, Chris Hill, on the ground has been deeply involved in doing so already. This morning, I met and heard a report about the way forward. There are a number of ideas that we will be presenting. There's an interim period because the Council of Representatives will not be meeting for a number of days that we think provide the opportunity for all the parties to come together, and with the help of not just the United States, but UNAMI and others to work out these continuing differences. We believe on balance that there will be elections. They might slip by some period of time until this is worked out, because at some point the law has to be in place for the planning to begin, and so there necessarily needs to be a period of time in which the planning can occur. But we have every reason to believe that elections will be held, which will be another milestone on the journey that Iraqis are taking toward full and comprehensive democracy.
And since Hillary raised the timeline, let's note it because it changed and no one seems to have noticed that (more likely, they've chosen not to raise the issue). Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Janet Lawrence (Reuters) reported Sunday, "There are only a couple of days left for parliament to address Vice-President Tareq al-Hashemi's veto of an election law, as the law must be passed 60 days before a vote and Jan. 23 is viewed by Iraq's majority Shi'ite Muslims as the last possible date in January for the ballot to take place."
How does it happen
I don't know
It's so hard to understand
Now you see it
Now you don't
Is this a case of sleight of hand
Sleight of hand
-- "Sleight of Hand," written by Carly Simon and Don Sebesky
B-b-but . . . What happened to 90 days? Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) reported a month ago, "The commission, responsible for organizing polls in Iraq, has said that it needs 90 days to print and distribute ballots. Iraqi and UN officials fear that the election could be delayed if lawmakers fail to pass a revised election law this week." October 29th, Renee Montagne talked about the timeline with Quil Lawrence (NPR's Morning Edition):
Renee Montagne: What, Quil, is at stake with the delay of this election law?
Quil Lawrence: Well, as you say, the Iraqi prime minister and his government's term run out on January 31st so the election commission here has said they need 90 days to organize a legitimate poll and Parliament is deadlocked on over a dozen or so complicated issues regarding the election. They may vote on it today. If the elections are delayed or if they are rushed, there's a risk that Iraq's government could be deemed illegitimate and then a whole Pandora's Box of problems can open up -- issues of legitimacy of the government, maybe even a crisis like we've seen in Afghanistan.
How does 90 days become 60? And why did the press never notice the missing thirty? "Sleight of Hand" indeed. Carly Simon's latest album is Never Been Gone (Kat sang its praises here) and this week only you can download the entire album at Amazon for $5.00. That's all 12 tracks. Never Been Gone finds Carly revisiting her songwriting canon to re-imagine some of her best loved hits including "You're So Vain," "Anticipation," "Let The River Run," "Coming Around Again," "The Right Thing To Do," "That's The Way I've Always Heard It Should Be" and "You Belong To Me." Tomorrow Carly Will be at J&R Music World in New York (23 Park Row) signing copies of Never Been Gone beginning at 6:00 pm. Carly will be on Greater Boston (WGBH) Wednesday and Thursday (Thanksgiving day) she'll be performing in the Macy's Parade on the Care Bear's Float as well as be on Extra for part-two of her interview.
You should notice that the reporter who raised the issue of Iraq with Hillary Clinton was from a foreign news agency (AFP). Domestic reporters just don't give a damn. Doubt it? At the White House today, a bunch of trained yammers (with few exceptions) stroked and fondled Robert Gibbs with questions of such easy nature as could he explain "diplomatic entertaining" and State dinners. They had plenty of time to make like In Style magazine but damn little time to make like actual reporters. It was the usual embarrassment everyone's come to expect and that can be blamed only partly on Robert Gibbs. Blame? Hillary mentioned Chris Hill, US Ambassador to Iraq, in her comments and this may have been the first time his name has come up in the last few days. For example, the New York Times' awful editorial last week didn't mention him when it called out Iraq for the delay. Shouldn't Hill have been on this issue from day one? Yes, he should have. And who picked Hill? Who picked Hill over qualified people -- many, many other qualified people? Barack Obama. So the candy ass White House press corps should have pressed on the issue of Iraq. Instead they wasted everyone's time and, with few exceptions, better hope their editors and producers don't study that transcript. And on Chris Hill, let's remember one more time that the Republicans in the Senate structured their objections to Hill very carefully and very precisely. They knew he could be the anchor that could hang around Barack's neck. But no one wanted to pay attention back then and now it appears it may be too late. If Iraq falls to pieces, Republicans running for office will not blame military generals. They will, however, go to town on a US civilian like Hill. And they laid the groundwork for that back in his confirmation hearing.
Meanwhile, thug of the occupation Nouri al-Maliki hasn't come out with a color-coded terror chart, but like the Bully Boy who installed him, he schedules 'media events' to increase his electoral prospects. Most recently? Sunday saw the broadcast of excerpts of more forced confessions. The for-show confessions act as a kind of political advertisement for Nouri and, to no surprise, the forced confessions said exactly what Nouri had said about the Baghdad bombings on 'Bloody Sunday'. AP rightly notes that this is Nouri's "latest anti-Ba'athist attack" and that "Al-Maliki's intensified rhetoric worsens one of Iraq's most dangerous sectarian fault lines -- one which the United States has long struggled to calm." Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) notes, "In recent months the Iraqi government has played a number of such videos for reporters. Many Iraqis have voiced skepticism about their authenticity. [. . .] In recent weeks, the government and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki have stepped up the anti-Baath rhetoric ahead of the country's upcoming national elections, an escalation that some fear is a political ploy to keep some Sunni Arab candidates from running in the elections."
Turning to some of the violence Nouri seems to breed like bunnies . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left two people wounded, another one that left two people wounded, a third one which left two people wounded, a Baghad sticky bombing which wounded four people, a fourth Baghdad roadside bombing which wounded person, a second Baghdad sticky bombing which injured two people, a Mosul roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi service member and left one person wounded, a Kikuk assassination attempt on Aras Mohammed ("deputy chief of criminal investigation) which he survived and a Kirkuk assassination attempt on Rajim Awa (police chief) which he survived but which "damaged a number of civilians cars and caused material damages to the nearby houses." Reuters drops back to Sunday to note a Baghdad car bombing which left 1 police officer injured.
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports an assassination attempt on Ayad Allawi that injured two of his body guards (Allawi is the former Iraqi Prime Minister and also a rival of Nouri al-Maliki's) and an assassination attempt on journalist Emad al-Abadi in which he was shot "in the head, neck and shoulder" and is now in critical condition. Reuters notes US forces and Iraqi forces killed 1 suspect in Mosul while arresting five others
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports 1 55-year-old Iraqi Christian was kidnapped in Kirkuk today.
Returning to the topic of elections, the most recent Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) began airing Friday night. Host Jasim al-Azzawi addressed the issue with guests MP Mustafa al-Hiti with the Iraqi National Movement and analyst Fereydun Hilmi.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Mustafa al-Hiti, let us get the Constitutional and the legal aspect out of it. al-Hashimi is within his Constitutional right to veto the bill -- either in its entirety or part of it. So I don't understand why al-Maliki is questioning his privileges as Vice President in power to do so.
Mustafa al-Hiti: Well really Tariq al-Hashimi is doing his job according to the Constitution and certainly he is one of the Iraqis who should feel, like others, the rights of the Iraqi refugees whether they are outside Iraq or anywhere. So you know all the refugees live under really hostile conditions abroad because they are not even, in the Arab countries, they are legal -- what you call it -- refugees. So he was doing the right thing and he is with the Constitution -- he is very really complying with the Constitution and he is not out of that.
Jasim al-Azzawi: The hue and cry caused by Hashimi's action, Fereydun Hilmi, there must be sort of a political calculus on some political machination behind it. It is not in the interest of most of the current blocs in Iraq for this four and a half million or maybe five million Iraqis to be included in the political process.
Fereydun Hilmi: Well that's right. Hashimi was presiding over the displacement of these millions of people that he's now worried about and crying over. He was in power when they were driven out of their homes. He didn't do anything to stop that. And now he's in a political jam because the group that he came with to power is no longer supporting him. He is -- I believe he is no longer with the Islamic Party that actually put him in his place and he needs support. And that's why he's now trying to drum up the support from the people who are outside Iraq -- the refugees -- and those people that he's trying to get the vote for but he's one of the people responsible for driving these people out of the country in the first place.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Mustafa al-Hiti, Fereydun Hilmi is alluding to something very important and very critical and that is, Tariq al-Hashimi, when he was with the Islamic Party, which he is no longer with, he has a new party called the Renewal, his vote at the time to approve the Constitution was absolutely critical. Had he said "no," that entire Constitution would have gone no where. Is it, in retrospect, he's trying to reclaim something?
Mustafa al-Hiti: Well really we are talking about two things. Upon his responsibility for accepting this Constitution and all the material -- and you know that four years ago, yes, we can say he's responsible about the Constitution. What we are talking now is whether he is complying with the Constitution according to this veto or not? This is a different story. Yes, he was responsible for that bad Constitution and should be reformed. I agree with Mr. Fereydun about that. But regarding this objection or veto, he is indeed right and it is not just his idea, by the way. We were talking about this Constitution -- about the election law a long time ago. I mean, for the last three months, we were talking. And he had heard, certainly, the opinion of most blocs -- political blocs -- in the Iraqi Parliament who were objecting to two main things regarding the Iraqi Kirkuk and the percentage for the refugees. Although Kirkuk was the main issue but, I mean, this issue regarding ten or five or fifteen percent of those seats for the refugees and the quota for other religious parties in Iraq. So, in fact, Constitutionally he's going right and today, as I have heard, that the Constitutional Court, they were really with al-Hashimi regarding his veto or objection because it is very clear in the Constitution saying that each seat for a parliamentary member should be represented by 100,000 Iraqis people. So --
Jasim al-Azzawi: If that is the case, Mustafa al-Hiti, let me ask Fereydun, we do understand why Hashimi is objecting to the law, explain to me why the Kurds are objecting to the law. One leading member of the Kurdistan Regional Government says that we are not going to participate in this election.
Fereydun Hilmi: The Kurds are taking advantage of this situation, obviously, because they have never been happy about the election law. They are not happy about the way the government is run. They are trying to get maximum -- maximum advantage out of this whole situation of chaos. It is actually chaos. I mean it doesn't matter that there's been a government or something called a government for the past seven years but to this day there is a lot of services that are missing. There are many, many important things that are not being catered for. There are many, many hundreds of very rich contracts being signed away by the so-called politicians today. The wealth of the country is now in the hands of the foreigners and the people who occupy the country --
Jasim al-Azzawi: But Fereydun --
Fereydun Hilmi: -- so there are some --
Jasim al-Azzawi: -- the Kurds, specifically what they are saying is that the annual growth for Suleimaniah, Erbil and Dohuk does not tally with the rest of the country. The rest of the country -- some of it is going to be three percent, five percent, ten percent. For instance, Suleimaniah is stagnant. Can you comment on that one, Fereydun?
Fereydun Hilmi: Yes. I mean, if -- I actually wrote a book about the elections and also, in that book, there are population growth figures that show that, after the fall of Saddam, Suleimaniah, Erbil and Dohuk had a very big rise in population. Far above the average rise in the other cities. And of course you understand that because a lot of Kurds were outside Kurdistan or they were in different, displaced places. But now, of course, the situation has reversed. They -- those areas are stagnant because they already had the population surge into the cities and the areas. Whereas the other parts had a migration of a lot of people, Sunnis and other people who were being driven out of their own homes and they had to go to the safer areas of Kurdistan and Mosul and that sort of areas. So that explains why you have this sort of different surges at different times.
Jasim al-Azzawi: Mustafa?
Mustafa al-Hiti: Mr. Jasim, if Mr. Fereydun excuse me for this point really, I want to emphasize two things regarding the Kurdish objection upon the law. First of all, they are, the Kurdish -- the immigrant Kurdish people outside of Iraq -- they are like the other Iraqis. They live really under very hostile conditions. So we have to treat all of the people of Iraq as the same. They have the same conditions, they escape the country because one reason or another, really. And this migration started a long time ago so you cannot say that the Iraqis, they were immigrant after 2003. They were really leaving the country in excessive waves starting from 1958 until now -- under different conditions. This is in one hand. So they are objecting upon that because they need their people as well to have the rightful voting. Second, as Mr. Fereydun said, the 2.6% rate of growth in Iraq which is -- this is the common WHO [World Health Organization] figures -- there -- I mean, we should have all the Iraqis to have an annual increment which is about 2.6 or sometimes they call it 3%. So, in any case, this should be applied on all Iraqis, to be in the right way. You shouldn't depend only upon this food ration coupon which is under the law we should follow that. If you want to be more precise or accurate we have to go for the census for Iraq which is really will tell you the truth, what's going on.
Winding down, we'll note this from David Bacon's "St. Francis Hotel Workers Strike" (Under The Name of Reason):
About 650 workers at the St. Francis Hotel, one of the city's oldest and most luxurious, walked out on strike on November 18. This was the third of what may be many strikes hit San Francisco's Class A hotels. The contract with the workers' union, UNITE HERE Local 2, expired on August 14. Since then, Local 2 has been trying to bargain a new agreement in the middle of an economic depression.
San Francisco's largest hotels are demanding cuts in health and retirement benefits, and increased workloads, saying that the economic crisis has reduced tourism in the city. The luxury hotel chains want workers begin paying for their healthcare premiums -- $35/month this year, $115/month next year, and $200/month the year after. A typical San Francisco hotel worker earns $30,000 per year, and many can't work a full 40-hour week.
Over the first nine months of 2009, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, which manages the Westin St. Francis, earned $180 million in profits. Starwood also manages three other San Francisco Class A hotels. The owner of the St. Francis, Strategic Hotels and Resorts, saw $11 million in earnings during the same period. The company bought the hotel for $439 million in 2006.
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which just won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST). Oops, I lied. Aimee Allison is co-host of The Morning Show. She and David Solnit paired up to write the amazing Army Of None. With his sister Rebecca Solnit, of Courage to Resist, David has
written the just-released book The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle. If you're having trouble finding a copy of it, you're not alone and let's assume that's a good sign and meaning there's a large audience out there for this important book. But in the meantime, there are several actions David Solnit is noting.
Today from seven to nine pm at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in San Francisco (1187 Franklin St) -- admission $10 to $25 but "no one turned away for lack of funds" organizing efforts for today and the "spirit of Seattle" will be addresed by David, Rebecca, Jia Ching Chen, Kevin Danaher, Anuradha Mittal (Oakland Institute) and Claire Greensfelder, Jerry Mander and Victor Menotti (IFG). Tomorrow in Oakland (Humanist Hall, 390 27th St) at 6:30 pm, there will be a teach-in and they're asking for $5 to $10 dollars but "no one turned away for lack of funds":
On December 7, 2009, world leaders and international NGOs will meet in Copenhagen to chart out a course for a new global climate deal, and in doing so, try to set up a new post-WTO framework for economic globalization. Outside the conference halls, a convergences of climate justice activists from the Global South will be waiting to say "Another World is Possible." Join environmental and climate justice activists for a lead up discussion to the November 30th day of action and on the road to Copenhagen .
Both of those events are wheelchair accessible. A third tomorrow at 5:30 is at a location yet to be determined but will be preparation for a national day of action for Climate Justice and you can click here for more information.