Thursday, December 03, 2009

Those forever delayed elections

On yesterday's NewsHour (PBS -- link has text, audio and video options), Judy Woodruff observed, "In other news today: A top U.N. official in Iraq said elections will have to be delayed by more than a month. The voting had been set for January, but Iraqi lawmakers have not agreed on reforming the election process." Alsumaria reports that Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq, and Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister and thug of the occupation, met late last night to address the issue of elections: "After the meeting Talabani stresses that it is necessary to pass the law fast adding that delaying elections is unacceptable since it is necessary to hold the same according to Iraq constitution. The President, Prime Minister and Speaker have the right to extend the parliament's term for one month only, Talabani added." January 31st, Parliament's term expires (as does Nouri's -- Nouri was elected by Parliament). If Tariq al-Hashimi wants to veto the latest election law alterations, he allegedly has until the end of today to do so. Jamal Hashim (Xinhua) reports that Ayad Allawi (the prime minister immediately before Nouri) was also visited last night by various "leaders of several political factions" to explore the elections issues and quotes an unnamed "parliamentary source" stating, "The meeting discussed how to reach a consensus over the election law, and some proposals were made during the meeting." Hadi al-Ameri is one of the leaders identified in the article and is quoted stating, "There was an agreement among the politicians in the meeting that seats for the provinces would remain as it is before the veto to the election law by Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, but the Kurds would be granted two more seats and then number of parliament seats will increase to 325 instead of 323."

In London, the Iraq Inquiry continues taking witness testimony today. Peter Walker and Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) report of the proceedings this morning so far:

During the first evidence so far from senior military and defence ministry figures, Admiral Lord Boyce, the chief of the defence staff from 2001 to 2003, told the inquiry panel that US generals and the country's then-defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, seemingly refused to countenance the possibility that Britain would not commit troops.
"No matter how many times you said to senior American officers, and indeed Mr Rumsfeld, that we were not committing our forces until we had been through the proper UN process, and had been through parliament as well, there was a complete reluctance to believe that," Boyce told the panel, chaired by former senior civil servant Sir John Chilcot.
"It was a case of, 'Yeah, I know you've got to say that, but come the day you'll be there.' [That] was the attitude."

Ruth Barnett (Sky News) adds:

Admiral Lord Michael Boyce, who was head of the armed forces at the time, said he only began to believe war was inevitable on March 17 2003, three days before it began.
"We're a democracy," he said during a public hearing. "If Parliament was to say not to engage, we would not engage."
Sir Kevin Tebbit, who was Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence in 2003 and a former GCHQ director, agreed but admitted a last minute U-turn could have risked "serious damage to the bilateral relationship" with the United States.

The Daily Mail summarizes Boyce's testimony thus far:

* The U.S. assumed Britain would take a full part in the invasion and dismissed insistence it would only do so with UN backing;
* His attempts to tell U.S. defence officials that coalition forces would not be seen as liberators fell on deaf ears because they thought it would 'all be lovely';
* He wanted a second UN resolution to 'nail' the legal basis for military action and told Tony Blair he at least needed a certificate from the Attorney General;
* The U.S. only focused on 'warfighting not peacekeeping' and he was very worried about their 'anorexic' contribution, particularly after the invasion.

BBC News' Peter Biles offers this analysis: "The inquiry's committee missed an opportunity to pursue this in greater detail. As earlier witnesses have pointed out, the situation was further complicated by the different groups, and divergent views, within the US administration." Chibli Mallat (Daily Star) reflects on the Inquiry and the Iraq War:

The 2003 war started under a wrong premise: the removal of weapons of mass destruction, which the expulsion of UN inspectors back in 1998 had triggered in the first place. By the time they were accepted again into the country, the real objective of the war was the removal of Saddam. The contradiction has already stirred "bombshell" questions, when it transpired that the British ambassador to Washington at the time, Christopher Meyer, attended a meeting between Bush and Blair that agreed on regime change as early as April 2002.
Another "scandal" in the offing will easily come under the radar of the Chilcot enquiry. The UK Cabinet solicited and received the legal advice of Peter Goldsmith, the Attorney General -- which, reduced to its simplest, was that Saddam had breached the ceasefire of 1991.
Goldsmith's short version of his opinion is on record, and develops the argument of "material breach," which I had myself presented in an op-ed in Al-Hayat several years earlier, and which was also argued in the brief of the US State Department legal advisor, John Bellinger, in a longish study, also a matter of record.

In today's New York Times, Timothy Williams offers "In Iraq's African Enclave, Color Is Plainly Seen:"

Historians say that most African-Iraqis arrived as slaves from East Africa as part of the Arab slave trade starting about 1,400 years ago. They worked in southern Iraq's salt marshes and sugar cane fields.
Though slavery -- which in Iraq included Arabs as well as Africans -- was banned in the 1920s, it continued until the 1950s, African-Iraqis say.
Recently, they have begun to campaign for recognition as a minority population, which would grant them the same benefits as Christians, including reserved seats in Parliament.
"Black people here are living in fear," said Jalal Dhiyab Thijeel, an advocate for the country’s estimated 1.2 million African-Iraqis. "We want to end that."

Today the New York Times' Marc Santora offers "Iraq directors defy militants, screen films at bomb sites" which runs in the Times of India but not in the Times of New York.

In other strangeness, remember all the liars bragging about women's advances last month? Usually because a few women were police officers. And that required their ignoring the sexism the women now face and the fact that, prior to the US invasion, women served on the police forces. Prior to the US using radical fundamentalists to provide 'stability' (not peace) and destroying women's rights, women had many rights in Iraq. Miaad A. Hassan (WIP) writes about the realities for Iraqi women today:

For a long time she resisted, but four years ago Amal started to wear the hijab - her bright and shining youth draped in black. She is a 25-year-old Iraqi woman, and she is sad. Amal remembers when her life was freer, happier, and easier, when she didn’t need to cover her hair whenever she sought to step outdoors.
Amal was once my neighbor in Iraq. My childhood friend is depressed, but she is not the only one since most of her sisters - the women of Iraq - have been forced to wear the hijab and more. Cajoled, shamed and threatened, the women of Iraq have been draped in black. Iraqi men have seen to that.
"Where do you want me to begin?" asks Intisar. Over the phone and from half a world away, the voice of my former classmate sounds like that of a woman recovering from a long illness or the loss of a loved one. After an exchange of courtesies, I asked her to tell me about the suffering she had recently endured.

We were just noting the Bay Area joke Monty McFate November 23rd. David Price has another amazing essay on counter-insurgency, "Human Terrain Systems, Anthropologists and the War in Afghanistan" (CounterPunch):

A core feature of the Obama administration's plans for victories in Iraq and Afghanistan has been an increased reliance on counterinsurgency, as Americans try to win the hearts and minds of peoples whose countries they've invaded. Some critics highlight similarities between Kennedy’s and Obama's interest in counterinsurgency as a tool to conquer peoples who have historically been difficult, if not impossible, for outside colonial powers to dominate. President Obama's reliance on old Harvard hands to socially engineer conquest justifies many of these comparisons.
Even counterinsurgency's lustiest cheerleaders, such as the political scientist David Kilcullen, admit that historical instances of successfully using counterinsurgency for military victories have been extremely rare in the past half-century. But Washington’s counterinsurgency believers share a certain hubris, or vanity, that they are clever enough to overcome this daunting record of historical failure.
While political science was the academic discipline which the wars of the twentieth century drew upon, the asymmetrical wars of the twenty-first century now look toward anthropology with hopes of finding models of culture, or data on specific cultures to be conquered or to be used in counterinsurgency operations. But anthropology is not political science, and anthropologists have different commitments to those who share their lives and vulnerabilities with them.
The counterinsurgency program generating the greatest friction among anthropologists today is Human Terrain Systems (HTS) -- a program with over 400 employees, originally operating through private contractors and now in the process of being taken over by the U.S. Army. Human Terrain embeds anthropologists with military units to ease the occupation and conquest of Iraqis and Afghanis -- with plans to extend these operations in Africa through expanding units with AFRICOM. Some HTS social scientists are armed, others choose not to. In the last two years, three HTS social scientists have been killed in the course of their work, and HTS member Don Ayala recently pled guilty in U.S. District Court to killing an Afghan (whom Ayala shot in the head-execution style while the victim was detained with his hands cuffed behind him) who had attacked HTS social scientist Paula Loyd.
The anthropologist Montgomery McFate has become the public spokesperson for Human Terrain, and while she has increasingly pulled back from public discussions of the workings and implications of Human Terrain, in reading her early writings on British counterinsurgency operations against the IRA, we find a model of how she (and, it appears, her military sponsors) view anthropology working as a tool for military conquest. Supporters of HTS claim the program uses embedded social scientists to help reduce "kinetic engagements," or unnecessary violent contacts with the populations they encounter. The idea is to use these social scientists to interact with members of the community, creating relationships to reduce misunderstandings that can lead to unnecessarily violent interactions.
HTS sells itself to the public through remarkably well-organized domestic propaganda campaigns that have seen dozens of uncritical articles on HTS, with personality profiles, as a "peaceful" means of achieving victory.
Today, in Iraq and Afghanistan, anthropologists are being told that they’re needed to make bad situations better. But no matter how anthropological contributions ease and make gentle this conquest and occupation, it will not change the larger neocolonial nature of the larger mission; and most anthropologists are troubled to see their discipline embrace such a politically corrupt cause.
Human Terrain Systems is not some neutral humanitarian project, it is an arm of the U.S. military and is part of the military’s mission to occupy and destroy opposition to U.S. goals and objectives. HTS cannot claim the sort of neutrality claimed by groups like Doctors Without Borders, or the International Committee of the Red Cross. HTS’s goal is a gentler form of domination. Pretending that the military is a humanitarian organization does not make it so, and pretending that HTS is anything other than an arm of the military engaging in a specific form of conquest is sheer dishonesty.

David Price is a member of Network of Concerned Anthropologists. Trina was weighing in on counter-insurgency Monday: "Counter-insurgency is a War Crime. It is an abuse of the social science. It breaks all the ethics. And Tom Ricks doesn't know that because he's not a social scientist. He's nothing but a keyboard jockey who sniffed the skivies of a few grunts and generals and decided he was an expert on war. He's not an expert on anything. He's not even an expert on how to be a successful reporter because those days ended some time ago for Ricks. He is an ass and he is a War Criminal." On top of all of his other problems, Thomas E. Ricks suffers the increasing delusion that he is the military. His writing is becoming a self-parody as he crosses every last line into propagandist. But it is most hilarious to watch Ricks maintain that people who haven't been in Iraq or Afghanistan can't talk about counter-insurgency. I don't remember the troll under the bridge in the children's stories having man boobs. Strange. But while Tommy Ricks wants to argue that, he forgets the argument from some military types -- an argument that, in the US, goes back to the Civil War -- if you're not in the military you really don't know what you're writing about. Thomas E. Ricks forgets that idiotic assertion because he's convinced himself (deluded himself) that he is 'just like a soldier.' And he plays gate keeper now to minimize what he realizes are crimes against humanity. He is no reporter, he is a War Criminal for promoting counter-insurgency and refusing to question it. He should seek professional help immediately -- and see a doctor about a breast reduction.

I'd hoped to include Price in yesterday's snapshot but there wasn't time. I'd also hope to note Danny Schechter's Congo reporting [as Marcia has in "Recommended reading" and "Not one word from me on the War Hawk (promise)"]. If you haven't checked that out yet, please do.

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