Sunday, February 28, 2010

And the war drags on . . .

If you never got why the United Nations refused to investigate the very serious and credible charges of fraud in Iraq's 2005 elections, Ad Melkert inadvertently provides the answer in today's Washington Post. The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative in Iraq wrote a column where he cautions "foreigner observers should be cautious about trying to understand the new balance of forces" while writing as anything but an independent observer. An independent observer is not vested in any outcome. Ad Melkert exposes himself as anything but independent. He never should have written the column. Should the Post have published it? Absolutely. Public officials disgracing themselves has always been news and when they disgrace themselves it certainly saves money that might have instead been spent on investigative reporting. As you read the column, you quickly grasp that the UN will not investigate any charges of fraud after the election because their position is that the elections must take place and must be seen as valid regardless of whether or not they are. The Iraqi people and their desires are put on hold because the UN's going in with their own determination of what is appropriate and needed. The UN has done a lot of good work during its existence and it's also done some awful things. Ad Melkert's column explains how that happens -- the UN puts the needs of a people second to what they hope might bring 'stability' -- stability to the people? No, less grief to on the international scene. And it's that attitude that's allowed the UN to repeatedly look the other way with regards to so many despots. (Look the other way does not mean that the only alternative is combat. War is not the only answer -- no matter what Bush or Barack might have you believe.) So the needs and desires of the people take backseat to the UN's hope that they've guessed correctly about what might stabilize the international system. We're talking people's lives and they're acting like they're betting $20 in a football pool. The unknowns of it all are driven home in a piece by Suadad al-Salhy and Jack Kimball (Reuters) where they run through a few possible outcomes.

Iraqis begin early voting March 5th with election day proper scheduled on March 7th. Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) recounts a phone conversation she had with a relative in Baghdad today as he worried about the results of a medical test and she advised him to get a second opinion:

- What do you mean you can't...Is it money ?

- Not just's election time...

- What ?! What have the elections got to do with your seeing a specialist immediately ?

- Laylaaaaaa can't you understand we can't leave the house at all ?!

- Listen I know all about the "Katem", the silencer gun, but to that extent ?

- What's the matter with you, don't you hear the news ?! We can't leave the house, it's too dangerous, we can get killed any minute with the silencer for no reason at all...

But those are the problems of people and, as Ad Melkert makes clear, the UN isn't concerned with people at present, it's attempting to bet on what they hope is or will be most pleasing to whatever it is or will be the current balance of powers in the international system.

Many political parties vie for the voters' support and one is the Ahrar Party which issued the following today:

In one week the Iraqi people will vote on the future of their country

The people of Iraq have a straight forward but important choice to make. They can vote for more of the same - continued insecurity, continued unemployment, continued deterioration in services. Or they can change that future and vote Ahrar; for one, united Iraq.

The Ahrar Plan would create over a million jobs, improve standards in public services and eradicate the violence which blights our lives.

Ahrar has the plans to bring about this change, but only the voters have the power to make it happen. They alone can force the change that Iraq so urgently needs, as they alone will be in the voting booth on March 7. Be brave and vote for change. Vote for Ahrar 374.

For further information, contact:

Ahrar Media Bureau
Tel: +964 (0)790 157 4478 / +964 (0)790 157 4479 / +964 (0)771 275 2942

About Ayad Jamal Aldin:

Ayad Jamal Aldin is a cleric, best known for his consistent campaigning for a new, secular Iraq. He first rose to prominence at the Nasiriyah conference in March 2003, shortly before the fall of Saddam, where he called for a state free of religion, the turban and other theological symbols. In 2005, he was elected as one of the 25 MPs on the Iraqi National List, but withdrew in 2009 after becoming disenchanted with Iyad Allawi's overtures to Iran. He wants complete independence from Iranian interference in Iraq. He now leads the Ahrar party for the 2010 election to the Council of Representatives, to clean up corruption and create a strong, secure and liberated Iraq for the future.

Meanwhile Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) focuses on the current prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, and notes his many problems including that he "appears isolated, imperious and impetuous" [Note: previous sentence corrected -- I wrongly credited the article to Marc Santora. My mistake and my apologies.] He notes that Nouri "is neither a charismatic leader nor a polished campaigner" but he may be short changing Nouri on the latter. Martin Chulov (Guardian) reports that Saad al-Alusi, formerly of Iraq's National Intelligence Service, has accused Nouri of giving southern tribal leaders huge numbers of guns (apparently 10,000) in order to buy their votes. Chulov reports it as an accusation but it's reality and that's confirmed in his own story. Nouri's mouthpiece Ali al-Dabbagh insists that, yes, the guns were given, but it was long planned for them to be given so this wasn't a bribe and had nothing to do with the elections. He's handing out the guns days before the election (and again, his own spokesperson confirms he is)? It's a bribe.

Bribes and those things that just won't flush down -- did someone say Chalabi? Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports on Ahmed Rising:

As chief architect of the move to disqualify hundreds of candidates accused of ties to the outlawed Baath Party, Chalabi has defined the agenda for the upcoming Iraqi national elections. In doing so, he has thwarted five years of U.S. policy in Iraq aimed at reconciling the Sunni and Shiite Muslim sects and gotten his revenge against America for dumping him as its favorite back in 2004.
Now, with events all going his way, the former exile has a good chance of reentering parliament as a leading candidate for the main Shiite coalition, and perhaps to secure a top job in the next Iraqi government.
Chalabi, a secular Shiite, doesn't downplay the significance of his estranged American allies' failure to get the disbarments, mainly of Sunni Arab and secular candidates, overturned.
"It's a watershed," he says, citing the intense U.S. diplomatic efforts aimed at persuading Iraqis to allow the barred candidates to run, including an intervention by Vice President Joe Biden. "It became evident to the people that on a critical issue the will of the Iraqis prevailed over the desire of the Americans."

Charles Levinson (Wall St. Journal) reports on the adjustments as the US influence wanes and explains how US forces were used with Iraqi forces to arrest a tribal chief on a terrorist warrant (issued by Iraqis) and they carried out the three in the morning, February 19th operation only to have Nouri order his release the next day. Michael Jansen (Irish Times) reports from the KRG:

Muhammad, a clerk, says, "We have been governed by the PUK/KDP alliance since 1991" when the US and UK established a "safe haven" in the north to protect the Kurds from then president Saddam Hussein. "Nineteen years is enough. We have only six hours of government electricity a day. We have to buy electricity from a private company with generators. Salaries are low. Mine is only $300 a month. Schools and hospitals are bad. There are no jobs. Although security is better here, we have the same problems as Arab Iraqis."
But the Shia sectarian parties, notably Dawa and SIIC that dominate the 15 Arab provinces, are determined to hang on to power. The government is reinstating 20,000 army officers who served during the period of Baathist rule but were dismissed by the US occupation administrator after the 2003 war when he dismantled the country’s military and civil service.

We're ignoring an Arab media report that a number of people have e-mailed. It is incorrect about what the SOFA says. What becomes increasingly obvious is that not only do most not understand the SOFA, most have never bothered to read it. But they hear this or that in the media and think, "Oh, it says that!" I don't have time to do a link. On Thanksgiving Day 2008, we dealt with the SOFA when all the alleged 'peace' types couldn't be bothered. They'll air their "Columbus slaughtered the New World and enslaved the Native Americans" specials but you'll notice they'll take that holiday off. (I believe the Native Americans were enslaved. I'm not questioning that. But I don't grand stand in front of a microphone the day before every Thanksgiving and then take the Thursday and Friday off.) So pull up that week's archives and, when you do, you'll also found the SOFA because we posted it on Thanksgiving Day as well. And to be clear, we're not talking about a misreading of what the SOFA does or does not do, we're talking about a claim that X is covered in the SOFA when X is never mentioned in the SOFA.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4378. Tonight? 4380. Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 liquor store owner and left three people injured, a Tarmiya motorcycle bombing which injured nine people, a Baghdad roadside bombing by another alcohol store in which one person was injured (and the store set on fire), a Yusufiya roadside bombing which injured three people, a Khaldiya car bombing which claimed the life of 1 person and left six more injured and, dropping back to yesterday, one Baghdad sticky bombing which left four people injured.


Reuters notes 1 corpse was discovered in Kirkuk.

In Mosul, Christians are again being targeted and, as a result, some have begun to flee for their lives. BBC notes, "The UN says more than 680 Christian families have fled Mosul since the recent attacks." Catholic News Agency reports:

After the Angelus on Sunday, the Holy Father exhorted the international community to do "everything possible" to give Iraqis a future of "reconciliation and justice." His words against anti-Christian violence in Iraq were well received by Iraqi demonstrators in St. Peter's Square.
Pope Benedict XVI related the "profound sadness" he felt upon learning of the killings of Christians in Mosul last week. He added that he has followed the violent events perpetrated against unarmed victims with "great preoccupation."
The pontiff said that during the "intense meditation" of the spiritual exercises of the last week he prayed often for the victims.
"Today, I wish to unite myself spiritually to the prayer for peace and for the restoration of security, promoted by the Council of Bishops of Nineveh," he added

While some have chosen to flee for their families and their own safety, others joined supporters in marching today in Mosul and Baghdad. Al Jazeera reports:

Holding olive branches and the national flag, demonstrators vented their anger on Sunday over the poor security afforded them in the wake of a series of killings.
Shouting slogans such as "stop the killing of Christians", hundreds of demonstrators called on authorities to guarantee their protection as they marched round al-Ferdus Square in central Baghdad.
Bishop Shlemon Warduni, the second most senior Chaldean bishop, also took part in the protest and called for more to be done to protect his community.
"The government has done nothing so far," he said, demanding that the United Nations, United States and European Union "defend the rights of Christians in Mosul".

Layla Anwar (An Arab Woman Blues) notes:

FACT is Iraq's Christians have never experienced this violence before Christian America occupied us. I have already written about that extensively, just google my blog and you will see for yourself...
FACT is that the targeting of Christians is a DELIBERATE policy by the sectarian Shiite puppet government installed by the USA in complicit agreement with the KURDS. And this is a continuation of the policy of ethnic cleansing leading to radical demographic changes. And that policy started with the ethnic and sectarian cleansing of Sunni ARABS.
Every God fearing Muslim must , should condemn the targeting and killing of Iraq's Christian community. I know that the Association of Muslim Scholars AMSI has already issued a statement of condemnation to that effect.
And just as true God fearing Christians stood by Iraq and her people, regardless of their religion and sect, it is incumbent upon every true God fearing Muslim to condemn LOUDLY the killing of Iraqi Christians.
But not only them, every other minority whether they are Yazidis, Sabaeans- Mandaeans, Turkmen or any other,.. their killing should be condemned and STOPPED by any means necessary.
All these communities are part of Iraq and Iraq is part of them since centuries...and by condemning this act, denouncing it and striving to STOP it, you are re-affirming the Mosaic of Iraq and its UNITY that no barbaric, godless occupation, be it American, Iranian or Israeli will manage to destroy.

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Kat's "Kat's Korner: The ultimate torch singer Sade" went up Saturday and her "Kat's Korner: Joanna Newsom's triumph" went up Sunday. Pru notes Mark L. Thomas' "Anger over Afghan war topples Dutch government" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

The Dutch government collapsed last weekend as the Afghan war claimed yet another victim.

The Dutch are the eighth biggest provider of troops for the Western occupation of Afghanistan.

The troops are now set to withdraw from the country in a blow to Barack Obama’s plans to escalate the war.

Dutch prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende wanted to extend the country’s military presence in Afghanistan, even though the parliament voted to withdraw all troops by the end of 2010.

The US and Nato had put pressure on the government to reverse this decision.

The Dutch Labour Party, Balkenende’s coalition partner, supported sending troops to Afghanistan in 2006.

But it has now decided that it can no longer support the war, and has pulled out of the ruling coalition, triggering its collapse.

Opinion polls show that the majority of Dutch people want the troops to leave Afghanistan.

Popular anger has been increased by a recent government inquiry that ruled that the 2003 war in Iraq was illegal.

Balkenende was the prime minister at the time. He backed the invasion.

The Labour Party has seen its support fall—because of its support for the war in Afghanistan and neoliberal policies.

It hopes leaving the government will boost its standing ahead of important local elections next month.

Dutch troops are mainly based in Uruzgan. This is next to Helmand province where 15,000 US and British troops are involved in the biggest offensive since the 2001 invasion around the town of Marjah.

The US government has been desperately trying to get other Nato members to increase the numbers of troops in Afghanistan.

The US is sending 30,000 more troops and wanted 10,000 additional troops from its Nato allies. It is now set to get 1,000—half of them from Britain.

The terrible cost of the war was seen again last weekend when a Nato air strike killed at least 33 civilians in Uruzgan.

A Nato “aerial weapons team” hit three minibuses in a convoy.

The governor of the province said that all the dead were civilians. Nato last week admitted that it had killed 12 civilians when it sent rockets into a home in Marjah.

Civilian deaths are deepening opposition to the occupation.

Even the US-backed president Hamid Karzai has had to give some expression to the anger.

He held up a picture in parliament last week of an eight year old girl whose relatives were killed during the assault on Marjah.

© Socialist Worker (unless otherwise stated). You may republish if you include an active link to the original.

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