Friday, November 13, 2009

Zebari's never ending drama

The devastating bombings that struck at the heart of Iraqi government institutions twice in the past three months were conducted by the same organization and for the same reasons, Foreign Minister Hoshyar al-Zebari said Thursday, blaming the second attack partly on security breaches.
"It was the same brains, the same strategic thinking, the same organization that carried out the Aug. 19 attacks and the Oct. 25 attacks," Mr. Zebari told reporters at a foreign ministry still being repaired after a suicide truck bomb in August killed more than 40 ministry employees and wounded 500. "They wanted to achieve the same goal, to paralyze the government to undermine confidence in the government that it is unable to protect its own institutions or buildings."

The above is from Jane Arraf's "Iraq government: Looking 'very seriously' at security branches that led to Oct. 25 bombing" (Christian Science Monitor) and you have to wonder if the bombers point was to show pathetic and self-serving the Iraqi government or 'government' is? Listen to the non-stop whining, the never ending boo-hoo. Contrast that against all the time Iraqi citizens are attacked, killed, run out of the country. No demands for an international investigation. No weeks and weeks of grand standing.

Attack the government buildings and, as judged by the statements of the officials, suddenly it's an outrage and suddenly you have their attention. Possibly that is why those buildings were targeted in August and in October?

How do you think that plays to the internally displaced in Iraq? Do you think they hear Zebari or Nouri al-Maliki or any of their flunkies whining and think, "Oh those poor victims?" Or do you think they hear the whining and think, "Uh, when the Ministry of the Interior's goons were kicking me out of my Baghdad home, where was all the public concern and sympathy for me?"

You have to wonder.

Yesterday's snapshot, "In other news, Reuters reports a prison break in Basra with three escaping last night." AP reports that, as is the now common practice, following the breakout, arrests were made 1 "prison director and 40 staff members".

Meanwhile in England, Tony Blair is supposed to offer some sort of testimony during the government's inquiry into the Iraq War. Iran's Press TV reports:

The panel will look into allegations of the premier's fabrication of intelligence intended to magnify Saddam's 'menace' in the region in order to dispatch 45,000 British soldiers to Iraq.
Sir John Chilcot, the probe director, announced on Friday that the five week public questioning of a number of Blair's senior officials and military advisers would start on November 24. Yet the ex-PM's interrogation has been scheduled to take place in early 2010.
"Early in the New Year, we shall begin taking evidence from ministers (including the former prime minister) on their roles and decisions," Chilcot said.

BBC has more on the story here. Iran's Press TV notes that the violence continues in Iraq with "a man working for a weaving factory in Mosul" shot dead yesterday." Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered in Mosul.

As noted repeatedly this week, an Iraqi court or 'court' has attacked freedom of the press. If you're late to the story, only one body (other than the Guardian) has called out the attack, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued this statement:

The Committee to Protect Journalists denounces a Baghdad court's ruling that the London-based Guardian newspaper defamed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, left, in an April 2009 article depicting increasing authoritarianism in his government. CPJ calls on an appeals court to overturn the decision.
On Tuesday, the court fined the Guardian 100 million Iraqi dinars (US$86,000) in connection with the article, which quoted unnamed members of the intelligence service as saying that al-Maliki was conducting affairs of state in a more autocratic fashion.
Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger described the verdict as "a dismaying development," Agence France-Presse reported. "Prime Minister Maliki is trying to construct a new, free Iraq . Freedom means little without free speech -- and means even less if a head of state tries to use the law of libel to punish criticism or dissent," he said. The newspaper said that it will appeal the verdict.

"We are very disappointed to see the politicization of the Iraqi judiciary in this way," said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem . "That the courts would devote their time to this type of irresponsible suit is outrageous considering that scores of journalist murders remain unpunished. It is vital that this decision be reversed in the appeals process."
Of the 140 journalists killed in Iraq since 2003, at least 89 were targeted for murder, CPJ research shows. Iraqi authorities have not brought a single perpetrator to justice in any of those killings.

"This heavy-handed decision sends a chilling message to all journalists who have risked their lives to report from Iraq , and it resonates particularly now in the run-up to the general election scheduled for January," said Abdel Dayem. "The article accused the prime minister's government of being increasingly autocratic. This court case proved the point."
As the security situation has improved, many journalists have told CPJ that government harassment, physical assaults, and frivolous legal proceedings have replaced insurgent attacks as the greatest professional risk they face. Al-Maliki has appeared to lead the legal assault against Iraqi journalists: At least two other defamation complaints have been filed by his representatives in connection with articles critical of the prime minister, CPJ research shows. Those complaints were dropped after they came under heavy criticism.

In June, CPJ and the Iraq-based press freedom group Journalistic Freedoms Observatory sent a letter to al-Maliki expressing concerns about increasing official harassment. In the first six months of the year, the two organizations documented more than 70 cases of harassment and assault against journalists in Iraq .

(Chris Floyd has also called the assault out.) Ghaith Abdul-Ahad wrote the article in question, "Six years after Saddam Hussein, Nouri al-Maliki tightens his grip on Iraq" (April 30, 2009). Mark Tran and Julian Borger (Guardian) report on Ghaith today:

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, a staff correspondent for the Guardian and a contributor photographer for Getty images, is one of the most widely respected correspondents writing on Iraq and Afghanistan, and has collected a string of prestigious awards in a short career.

The 34-year-old, who mastered English from listening to the BBC World Service, started writing for the Guardian in 2004 after a chance encounter with James Meek, who was covering the US-led invasion for the paper.

"I bumped into him … going through the grounds of Saddam's palaces," Meek said. "Out of carnage, smoke and bodies I saw this bearded figure who asked us for help getting through a checkpoint. He said the Guardian was his favourite paper and I said 'would you like to come with us'."

TV notes. NOW on PBS begins broadcasting on many PBS stations tonight (check local listings) and this week's show

What exactly is going on with the economy? Stocks are up and big bonuses are back, but while they're throwing parties on Wall Street, there's pain on Main Street. One out of every six workers is unemployed or underemployed, according to government statistics - the highest figure since the Great Depression.
This week NOW gets answers and insight from Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, who's been heading up the congressional panel overseeing how the bailout money is being spent. NOW Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa talks with Warren about how we got to this point, and where we go from here.
What will it take to put both bankers and American businesses on the same road to recovery?

Washington Week also begins airing tonight (and throughout the weekend) on many PBS stations. Joining Gwen around the table this week are Peter Baker (New York Times), Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), John Dickerson (CBS News and Slate) and Ton Gjelten (NPR). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Bernadine Healy, Melinda Henneberger, Star Parker and Patricia Sosa to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

The Deadliest Weapon
Byron Pitts and 60 Minutes cameras spend two days on the road with a bomb-hunting unit in Afghanistan as they encounter one deadly bomb after another. | Watch Video

B. Rex
Lesley Stahl meets the inspiration for the lead character in the classic film "Jurassic Park" and reports on how famed dinosaur hunter Jack Horner is shaking up the paleontology world. | Watch Video

Resurrecting Eden
In Southern Iraq, where many biblical scholars place the Garden of Eden, Scott Pelley finds a water world where the "Marsh Arabs" are making a comeback after Saddam nearly destroyed the "cradle of civilization." | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio notes. Today on NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, Susan Page is the guest host. For the domestic news round up during the first hour, the panel is Ross Douthat (New York Times), Ruth Marcus (Washington Post) and Karen Tumulty (Time). For the international news round up (second hour), she's joined by Karen DeYoung (Washington Post), Roy Gutman (McClatchy) and David Sanger (New York Times). The Diane Rehm Show begins broadcasting live on most NPR stations at 10:00 am EST and it also begins streaming live online at that time.

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