Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"The government hushed up the results of the investigation" says Iraq VP

As their superiors inspected a car mangled by one of three blasts that rocked Baghdad's government center Tuesday, two Iraqi soldiers nearby scoffed at the military's shortcomings in protecting the capital.
For one thing, they said, checkpoints don't stop those who are -- or appear to be -- influential.
The soldiers, who declined to provide their names because they were not authorized to talk to journalists, watched as authorities huddled over the burned-out car in an exclusive parking lot for government employees, just around the corner from the Defense Ministry. The investigators were heard discussing how two people wearing officers uniforms had parked in the lot and walked away.

The above is from Ned Parker and Raheem Salman's "In Baghdad, more blasts near Iraq government center" (Los Angeles Times)about yesterday's violence with a focus on the violence targeting the Iranian Embassy, the Ministry of Immigration & Displaced and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Hoda al-Jasim (Asharq Alawsat) interviewed Iraq's Sunni vice president, Tariq al-Hashimi, this week and he had a number of comments regarding what's being called Iraq's "security crisis." From the interview:

[Asharq Al-Awsat] Your joy did not last long, as less than 36 hours later the Tuesday bombings took place. What is your explanation of the timing of these attacks? In your opinion, who is responsible for this security crisis?

[Tariq al-Hashimi] I have a theory with regards to these operations, as there is more than one party being targeted. I am very saddened by what happened and I feel embarrassed as although I am in a high ranking [governmental] position I am unable to reduce the internal casualties. The problem is that the security file is in the hands of one party, and the Presidency Council is marginalized and excluded from any consultation or participation [in this]. We have not received any information on the Bloody Wednesday attacks [19 August 2009], or the Bloody Sunday attack [25 October 2009] and the Tuesday attack [8 December 2009; all [the information] that we have is the same information that reaches any Iraqi citizen through the media. The Presidency Council does not know what is happening, and we do not have the capabilities that will allow us to find out what is happening or whether the official in charge of the security file had learnt from previous lessons and saved Iraqi lives. I hope that Iraqi Prime Minister and commander-in-chief (Nouri al-Maliki), who is exclusively responsible for this security file, is fair and courageous and shoulders the responsibility and gives justice to all the lives lost and blood shed by saying that the security challenges are greater than his ability, and that he admits default and failure, and hands the security file to professional security experts. When he does this, I will stand strongly beside the Iraqi Prime Minister and support him, when he admits failure in managing the security file, and makes the decision to hand responsibility of this over to someone else.

I have stood by the Iraqi Prime Minister during difficult times, and I will stand beside him [again] on the condition that he gives justice to the Iraqi people, and implements urgent mechanisms, opening the security file and setting up a structure for the security services to consult with specialists, [as well as] opening relations with neighbouring countries and implementing the national reconciliation file, and formalizing the professionalism of the [Iraqi] armed forces. It would be in the interests of Iraq and its Prime Minister for all of this to happen.

I am very concerned that the government has kept silent about the outcome of the Bloody Wednesday and Bloody Sunday investigations, as what happened happened because the dark forces had the freedom to pick the time and location [of the attacks], which not only targeted the institutions of the state, but also innocent people. Therefore the time has come to admit defeat and hand over this file to those who possess [security] expertise and skill. We must admit failure and hand over this investigation to specialist committees, the security services should not conduct this investigation as they themselves stand accused, rather this investigation should be handed over to high level committees to study what happened and hold those involved accountable.

[Asharq Al-Awsat] What are your expectations with regards to the outcome of the parliamentary session that the Prime Minister and the security chiefs will address?

[Tariq al-Hashimi] I am not optimistic about this; there must be an admission of failure with the security file being given to other impartial parties; we must seek the opinions of others, and open the [security] file from the ground up. This parliamentary address [by the Prime Minister] should be professional, and not an operation of political overthrowing. The whole of Iraq is under threat, from one end of the country to the other, and we must put our differences aside and – along with the administration – take up a different position in order to save Iraq from bloodshed; it is up to us to know the prerequisites of success and not divide our opinion, and not deal with this [security] file and other state files in an unprecedented and irrational manner. It is up to the Prime Minister to say that he is responsible for the failure because he is the one in charge of handling this responsibility [national security]. I am prepared to hand in my resignation on the condition of the resignation of other state officials after they have declared their innocence with regards to the security file, and if they find this awkward I am prepared to hand in my resignation on the condition that they do the same as I myself feel embarrassed in the face of the Iraqi people, even though I was not allowed to participate in managing this [security] file.

al-Hashimi responds to a question as to whether or not (as rumored) the Presidency Council is against the execution of 'suspects' by noting that Nouri has kept the Presidency Council completely out of the loop in the investigation and they've seen no evidence of anything: "the government hushed up the results of the investigation."

The government hushed up the results of the investigations. Presumably al-Hashimi would know somewhat of what's going on in Iraq. Former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker -- now commuting to Texas for a college post -- apparently has a fly-over route near Baghdad since he was on CNN yesterday telling Christiane Amanpour (link has video and Tom Evans' write up) that al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is behind the attacks. Crocker's comments go to the repeated problems with the 'investigations' -- arriving at a conclusion before beginning an investigation. It's a shame CNN can't explore that aspect when it was explored on the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera):

Jasim al-Azzawi: Saleh al-Mutlaq, we have grown very accustomed to the pretty package accusations by the prime minister [Nouri al-Maliki] whenver such bombings happen: 'It is a Ba'athist, it is al Qaeada and it is Iraq's foreign enemies.' Is he convincing? Are Iraqis buying these justifications for the lack of security?

Saleh al-Mutlaq: No. Not really. I don't think the Iraqis believe any of these accusations anymore. The problem is that we cannot reach the facts because there are already accusations for these groups and they are not looking for those who are really doing these crimes. And unless we will be fair and directing the blame and the accusation, we will not reach who is behind all of this damages that is happening to our society. So I would assume if the government was to stop these attacks and create stability in this country, I think they should be precise and direct in their accusations, not a ready accusation as you said. And every time, the package is there, they just direct it. In fact, they do it [launch the same accusations] immediately after it [bombings] happen, they make the accusation.

For those who can't stream or don't benefit from streaming, there's an excerpt in Monday's snapshot.

In London, the Iraq Inquiry continues hearing public testimony. BBC News reports Lt Gen Robert Fry has testified today that the US invasion into Iraq would have been a failure without the participation of British troops. Tom Coghlan (Times of London) reports of Jeremy Greenstock's testimony yesterday, "Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who was the most senior British diplomat in Iraq in the first six months after the invasion, when he served as the deputy head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, said that despite committing an entire British Army division to the Iraq war, Britain had negligible influence on the course of events after the fighting ended."

Lt Gen Robert Fry is one witness giving testimony today. Also appearing before the committee is Nigel Sheinwald, John Sawers and Desmond Bowen. Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) is live blogging today's testimony:

2.02pm: Sir John Sawers starts with a clarification of something he said in last week. The Department for Interntional Development was not substantially involved in policy making in the run up to the war. It was not involved on the ground. But they were involved in some meetings.
Sawers is tidying up something he said last week. Chris Ames at the Iraq Inquiry Digest has got more on this here.

Chris Ames writes:

During last Thursday's hearing at the Inquiry, committee member Sir Roderick Lyne came close to calling Sir John Sawers a liar – in the nicest possible way. Sawers, former foreign policy adviser to Tony Blair and currently head of MI6, is back before the Inquiry this afternoon with a strong hint that he needs to set the record straight. But will we ever find out the truth of the matter?
Lyne put it to Sawers, that Sir Suma Chakrabarti, previously the permanent secretary at the department for international development (DFID), had told the Inquiry that DFID were excluded from the Cabinet Office’s 2001 review of Iraq policy, probably for political reasons. Sawers, who was responsible for the review from No 10's point of view, said that he hadn’t excluded them. After a bit of waffle, Lyne said:
"Given that Sir Suma has introduced this point into evidence here, you might just want to look back at some of the papers and take some advice on this and if there is anything further you want to say about it when we see you next week, I'm sure we would be happy to hear it."
Chakrabarti hadn't actually said that No 10 was responsible – in fact he ducked the question. It's difficult to imagine Lyne giving Sawers such a stong hint if he didn't know there was something in the papers that could make him change his answer.

The Belfast Telegraph states that another witness, also with M16 at one point (Sawers is the current head of M16) has problems: John Scarlett. They note his claim
that the assertion of Iraq being able to attack England "within 45 minutes" was both "reliable and authoritative" is refuted by Brian Jones ("senior WMD analyst"):

Dr Jones, who was head of the nuclear, chemical and biological branch of the Defence Intelligence Staff in the run-up to the invasion, said that it was "absolutely clear" the intelligence the Government relied upon was coming from untried sources. The 45-minute claim was one of the key assertions that convinced MPs to take Britain to war.

Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogs today's hearing and also tweets them on Twitter. Excerpt:
  1. Sawers: Bremer was given a great deal of responsibility early on, but as the White House became increasingly concerned power was taken back

A visitor e-mails the public account asking that we note Nicola Nasser's "U.S. Creates Its Antithesis in Iraq" (The People's Voice):

In his accepting Nobel Peace Prize speech earlier this month, Obama proclaimed a justification for war that could label him more a modern Niccolo Maichiaville than "the candidate of change," which does not preclude the extension of his country's military presence in Iraq as a hidden agenda. "The instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace," Obama declared. The United States reserves the right to "act unilaterally if necessary" and to launch wars whose purpose "extends beyond self-defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor," he said.
Could this be the hidden agenda of the United States in Iraq: i.e. to create pretexts for a permanent military presence in Iraq? Within this context it has been noteworthy that the government of al- Maliki and its security officials, when they were questioned by the parliament in closed and public sessions last week, were divided over whom to blame for the bombings: Syria and other “Arab” countries or infiltrators of their security agencies by resistance elements whom they dub as "terrorists," but they never hinted to the U.S. occupying power as a possible culprit, which maintains the capability to really infiltrate the security shield around the "Green Zone" and could be the major beneficiary of portraying the government as still incapable of maintaining law and order; this possibility was given substance, for example, by the report of The New York Times on December 11 that Blackwater gunmen, ostensibly contracted as security guards in Iraq and Afghanistan, "participated in some of the CIA's most sensitive activities -- clandestine raids with agency officers," and by CIA Director Leon Panetta's briefing before Congressional intelligence committees last June about a covert "assassination program" involving Blackwater. Nor did they hint to Iran, the major beneficiary of the U.S. occupation or to voting by bombs by the political components of the U.S. -- engineered "political process" as they used to do since they were brought into the country by the invading armies.
The reason underlying the U.S. failure in Iraq should be sought in the fact that the United States has failed to establish a political system of its own image in Iraq and has instead created its antithesis, which deprived both its presence in the country as well as the political regime it has so far failed to install there of a legitimacy that would credibly stand on its own as an alternative to the legitimate national regime the U.S. invasion devastated in 2003, notwithstanding the fact it was labeled a dictatorship by western standards of liberal parliamentary democracy.
For the same reason, the U.S. – engineered Iraqi constitution of 2005 and the election law which regulated the Iraqi elections the next year as well as the latest amended election law, which will regulate the upcoming elections early next year, have so far failed to vindicate the missing legitimacy.
Although the U.S. managed to go to its war on Iraq on seemingly "legally sufficient grounds both nationally and internationally, the problem was legitimacy": U.S. invasion struck at the heart of the "just-war theory," which is codified in international law, retired General Wesley K. Clark, a senior fellow at the Burkle Center for International Relations, rightly noted on July 2, 2007, indicating that the U.S. biggest mistake was the failure to appreciate the importance of law and the concept of legitimacy in the conduct of American affairs abroad, and citing "recent polls", he said the U.S. is seen by some as “the greatest threat to peace and, in some instances, (former) President (George W.) Bush more dangerous than Osama Bin Laden!"
Indeed, given the "continuity" of Bush's policies in Iraq, Bush's successor is not less responsible for the current status quo in the country if he doesn’t reverse course, which incumbent President Obama did not so far. The invasion was illegitimate, the ensuing occupation is still illegitimate, the proxy regime the U.S. occupying power is still trying to install in Baghdad is illegitimate, and no artificially and hastily drafted and instituted constitution and election law could legitimize an illegitimate status quo in Iraq.

"Can a breakthrough health care innovation in Rwanda work in the U.S.?" as NOW on PBS this Friday (on most PBS stations -- check local listings):

In rural Rwanda, the simple and time-tested idea of medical house calls
is not only improving the health of the community, but stimulating its
economy as well. On Friday, December 18 at 8:30 pm (check local
listings), NOW travels to the village of Rwinkwavu to meet the Rwandan
doctors, nurses and villagers who are teaming up with Boston-based
Partners in Health and the Rwandan government to deliver medicine and
medical counseling door-to-door. Would such an innovation work in
In the capital of Kigali, NOW's David Brancaccio sits down with Rwandan
President Paul Kagame to talk about international aid and Kagame's
ultimate vision for a healthy, financially-independent Rwanda.

And, in closing, we'll make like Betty and Stan and note Riverdaughter's "Matt Yglesias tells the rest of us to 'Grow up'" (The Confluence):

Here’s the thing, Matt: you can’t tell people to spend their electoral and emotional capital on candidates who they like and then pull the rug out from under them without consequences. You can’t insist on an empty suit for President and promise Change! and transformation and then not deliver for the electorate after you’ve made them abandon who they really want without some of those people giving up on you. And you can’t tell a country that they have no choice and expect them to feel like they are still free.
The Democratic party has engaged in a process of teaching their constituents
learned helplessness. It has over and over again raised expectations and then dashed them. It has asked for our input as a formality and then ignored it. It has belittled and demeaned and made inconsequential the lives of average voters and their families. Now, those same voters, seeing no reason to expend any more energy on a pointless game they cannot participate in has decided to sit it out.
Your buddies are in deep trouble now by their own doing. Don’t blame the electorate for not caring whether you stay in power or not. They don’t exist for your wish fulfillment. They’ve got more important things to do with their time, like figuring out how to make a living without your help. Your party, which *used* to be my party, has a leadership vacuum. You quashed the one leader you had and now, who among your ranks has the moral authority to lead us through this mess of a recession? There is no one. The electorate is just responding to the grim reality of the situation you and your childish enthusiasm have created for them.
Grow up, Matt. You reap what you sow.

In the US, we do not have 100% voting rate. Because we're not the USSR or something similar. In the United States, one of the freedoms we still have left is to vote for who we want or not to vote at all if that is our choice. Don't let anyone bully you into voting for someone or into voting. Your vote, you own it. Use it as you see fit, that's your right, guaranteed in a democracy.

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