Saturday, February 20, 2010

Iraqi elections and the men who misunderstand them

If only they were as smart as they thought they were -- Chris Hill or Anthony Shadid. Hill is an unqualified (to put it mildly) US ambassador that the press refuses to call out (publicly) and Anthony Shadid is a reporter who's been tongue bathed once too often by former journalist Thomas E. Ricks because Shadid 'gets it' -- it being 'battle.' Or at least he 'gets it' enough to get Ricks off. What Tommy never got was that the Iraq War was never just a 'combat battle' and, more and more, Tony Shadid appears as ignorant as his one-time cock knocking best buddy. So much stupidity, so little time.

Let's start with Shadid who now writes for the New York Times. Online today (and in print tomorrow), Shadid offers "The Long, Long Shadow of Early Missteps in Iraq" and if you think the "long, long" seems redundant grasp that it also applies to Shadid's article -- "long, long."

It's a rare thing for so many words to say so damn little: "de-Ba'athification bad. Paul Bemer to blame. Paul Bremer bad."

Search in vain for anything that the paper hasn't printed and reprinted many times before. Strangely enough, they appear to have forgotten Bremer's letter to the editor from the last go round of this: That he wasn't acting on his own, he was acting on orders (see March 28, 2008 snapshot).

Now you can believe that or not (I think it's more plausible, personally -- in part because I loathe Colin Powell and I loathe his cowardly attempts to do whisper campaigns against people that his press friends are more than happy to carry out, Collie's nothing but a Gossip Girl). But Bremer's position always been the same. And it's always been a little unbelievable that if Bush, Powell, et al didn't want de-Ba'athification, they wouldn't have stopped it. (Words I hope I never use again: In fairness to Bush, he's never publicly commented on whether or not Bremer was acting alone nor has he fed the press on the topic the way Gossip Girl Collie has.)

Not only has Bremer's public statements remained consistent and not only did it never make sense that if the administration objected to something Bremer was doing that they wouldn't stop it (didn't they fire Jay Garner for exactly that reason?), but there are other events that have taken place.

So if Shadid wanted to revist this topic, he'd have to do more than stick his hand down the front of his pants and try to tug-start his brain.

Paul Bremer has been a huge topic lately. Not in the US. Not even in Iraq.

But if you're a journalist, you should know. The fact that the US press has ignored it is no excuse if you're a journalist, especially one covering Iraq.

The most cited US official in the Iraq Inquiry's public hearings (from November to this month and to resume shortly) has thus far been: Paul Bremer.

Not George W. Bush. Not Condi Rice. Not Dick Cheney. Not Tommy Franks. All have gotten plenty of shout outs and mentions. But the repeated citation is Paul Bremer. And it usually has to do with de-Ba'athification.

Before we go further, for the two or three people who don't know the term, de-Ba'athification was a policy supposedly targeting only the top layer of Saddam Hussein's party members. Now in 2006, the world was supposed to see de-de-Ba'athification. And, in fact, that would become one of the White House's infamous benchmarks for Iraq -- benchmarks that Nouri would sign off on in 2007. de-de-Ba'athification never took place. Strangely, Anthony Shadid can't tell you that or even mention it.

Apparently, despite the mountains and mountains of press the benchmarks received, it never made it to the 'combat battles' that Tony covered.

He offers this insane statement from Chris Hill that will save for when we address the idiot Hill but right after that statement was the perfect time to bring up the benchmarks that the White House proposed, the US Congress signed off on and that Nouri agreed to. These were supposed to measure progress and they were supposed to be enforced or funding would be cut off -- so said big talkers like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. But those benchmarks that were forgotten the moment Bush left office in January 2009? They never resulted in cutting off funds.

Back to Bremer.

If you followed the Iraq Inquiry -- and you damn well should have -- you're aware that for British civilian and military officials, the de-Ba'athification was a huge, huge mistake. And you should be aware that there was an attempt at British push back on this because they saw it as a mistake. Where did they say the orders came from? Above Bremer.

So it's a little pathetic and a little embarrassing that after reaching in his pants to tug on his brain all Shadid can offer us at this late date is a smelly hand and an article about as 'fresh' as something the paper published in 2005.

Now let's move over to Chris Priss Instant Mocha. Of the de-Ba'athifcation order, Hill is quoted by Shadid as saying, "It's a bitter irony. Iraqis sometimes play back to us with a certain amount of relish, that you made mistakes before, why don't you think you are going to make them again." Can a US ambassador really be that stupid? Were it any other ambassador, I might toss out the possibility that the ambassador was misquoted but having attended Hill's laughable confirmation hearing, I know that sort of stupidity is just up his alley.

He never understood de-Ba'athification, he never understood the region, he didn't get how explosive Kirkuk was as an issue. This was his confirmation hearing -- after, as he bragged, he'd been tutored for weeks. He didn't know a damn thing. He still doesn't.

de-Ba'athification stopped being a "US mistake" around the time it was implemented. And those who paid attention to the Iraq Inquiry know that. They know that Ahmed Chalabi could meet with Tony Blair and George W. Bush when no one else could. Millions and millions around the world took to the streets in February 2003 to protest the impending, illegal war and Tony Blair's flunky was concerned . . . that Iraqi exiles 'voices' might be overwhelmed by the demonstrations so he arranged for Tony to meet in a hotel room yet again with the exiles.

Who wanted the de-Ba'athification? Who pushed for it? If you paid attention to the Iraq Inquiry, you weren't surprised to discover that it, like the war, was an act coveted and desired by the Iraq exiles.

I would love to know which Iraqi politicians toss the de-Ba'athification policy into Hill's face since so very many office holders in Iraq are exiles. The proper response for a US diplomat would be to smile and reply, "Yes, it was a very big mistake to listen to Iraqi exiles who obviously didn't know the mood or tenor of their former country."

But Chris Hill doesn't know a damn thing.

In fact, you have to wake up no later than 11:59 a.m. to pull one over on Chris Hill in the morning.

The February 18th snapshot noted Chris Hill's statements to the press which included:

We're here really to report on where things stand with three weeks to go. I think anyone who follows Iraq knows that there are twists and turns to any destination in Iraq. Certainly, de-Ba'athification was a major issue and a very tough issue, a very emotional issue, but I think we've gotten through that issue.

He also felt the need to declare:

I would be cautious about comparing these elections to those in 2005. You'll recall in 2005 we had a Sunni boycott. There are no signs whatsoever of a boycott by any of the communities at this time. In fact, all of the communities have been urging their voters to -- their members to get out and vote. But I don't think it's really productive at this point to speculate how long it will take, whether it's a few weeks or whether it becomes more than a month. I just don't know at this point, except to say that I think the Iraqis understand the challenge and understand the need to try to put together a government as quickly as they can, but a government that nonetheless is as durable as possible.

Chris Hill always feels the need to start his pressers with a joke (last week's included that there wouldn't be any questions about Korea) but never seems to grasp that the joke actually begins the minute he strides to the podium.

Waleed Ibrahim and Jack Kimball (Reuters) report today that the National Dialogue Front is boycotting the election and, in the words of Haider al-Mulla (party spokesperson), calling "for other poltiical parties to take the same stand as our front. The whole issue is not related to (the candidate ban), rather the unsuitable atmosphere of this election." Fang Yang (Xinhua) adds:

"After the press releases by Ray Odierno (top command of U.S. troops in Iraq) and U.S. ambassador Christopher Hill that the Accountability and Justice Commission is influenced by the Iranian Quds Corps, we can't continue in a political process running by foreign agenda," the statement said.
It referred to last week remarks by the U.S. top official in Iraq about Ahmed Chalabi and Ali al-Lami, the two heads of the Iraqi commission in charge with vetting Saddam Hussein's Baath party members from the political life in Iraq.

You may be thinking, "Well anyone can be wrong." True. But a US ambassador's job is not to make predictions to the press. Chris Hill remains an idiot and if the administration gave a damn about Iraq, they'd have to pull Hill and appoint a new ambassador. And you don't pull the US ambassador to Iraq out of Iraq two weeks before elections. Now I understand what happened, I do. I understand that the White House has grasped how inept Chris is and I grasp that even Barack felt the need for a face-to-face to convey to Chris how serious matters are. But it was the wrong time and it was too late. The Republican response to Hill will be deadly for the US and they will likely attempt to use that response in the 2012 elections. I'll carry that over to Third because this entry's already gone on long enough.

Just yesterday, Hill was again shooting down any possible boycotts at the Foreign Press Center.

Nadia Bilbassy: Thank you. Thank you, Ambassador. I'm sure you are tired by any questions about -- so many press availability you've done so far. It's Nadia Bilbassy with MBC Television. Very often, the Americans complain about interference from neighboring countries, mainly Iran and Syria, in Iraqi affairs. To what extent do you see an influence from both countries on this current election? And as you know, two prominent Sunni politicians have been disqualified from this election. Do you worry that ultimately, that will affect the Sunni votes in the representations in the Iraqi Government in the future?

Chris Hill: Well, first of all, we have expressed our concerns about interference in some of the processes, especially the issue, as I think General Odierno laid out and I have also mentioned -- the issue of Iran. That said, we believe we have a election mechanism that will indeed be free and fair. This has been -- involved a considerable amount of planning in addition to the Iraqi high commissioner -- high commission for the elections, we've had a very active and engaged UN operation in Baghdad. So we are confident that we will have an Iraqi election that will be for and about the Iraqi people. So we're pretty confident we've got a good mechanism and a proper election which will be all about Iraq and not about any foreign country. On the second issue, obviously, de-Ba'athification has been a tough issue to go through. We had, obviously, some concerns about the transparency and the way that this whole process would appear to the Iraqi people. The Iraqi authorities have dealt with this. Their courts have dealt with this. The Iraqi senior politicians have dealt with it. And we really look forward to a good election. I know there continues to be some discussion about this. I know it was a very emotional issue for many people. But we believe the de-Ba'athification problems are, for the most part, behind. And we look forward to them getting on with the election and having the voters make their decisions.

The Ahrar Party issued the following news release today:

Ahrar launches new security plan

Ahrar is the only party to have developed a comprehensive plan to bring peace and security to Iraq, which launches today in Baghdad. The plan was drawn up in consultation with former Generals and security experts, as well as the Iraqi public.

The scheme will end sectarian violence and intimidation by immediately disbanding sectarian militias, and securing Iraq's borders from outside interference. The police and army will be enlarged and improved, and anybody who commits a crime will face the full force of the law.

Ahrar Party leader Ayad Jamal Aldin said: "Security is the number one, number two and number three issue for almost all of us. The government has lost control, but today Ahrar puts forward a real plan to bring an end to the violence and intimidation that blights the lives of all Iraqis."

"With Ahrar, it is the people who hold the power. That is what scares the corrupt and foreign-controlled. Nobody should be above the law. The police and army will be the servants of the Iraqi people - and NEVER the other way around. No more bribes. No more interference from outside. These are the principles of the Ahrar Plan."

To read Ahrar's Security Plan in full, click here.

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.

Diablo Valley College professor Amer Araim offers his thoughts on the election at the Contra Costa Times:

The Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament expressed serious concern regarding the decision of the Iraqi Election Commission to exclude 511 candidates and the inability of the Judicial Committee to resolve the crisis.
The crux of the matter is that the prime minister of Iraq and his allies represented by the Shiite political parties are insisting on banning active Sunni Arab and secular candidates on the pretext that they were sympathizing with the Arab Baath Party, which had ruled Iraq before the change of the regime in 2003.
Banning these candidates would be a major blow to the transformation of Iraq into a peaceful and democratic state. The preposterous accusation of linkage to the Arab Baath Party could not stand in any real court of law. Some of these candidates are present members of Parliament and have been deeply involved in the political process in the last five years, including writing the present constitution.
The list included the present defense minister who is supposed to be responsible for ending violence. Furthermore, as stated by these candidates their relations were severed with the Baath Party even before 2003.

We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "SEC Repeatedly Turned a Blind Eye to Valid Complaints of Madoff Fraud" (Global Research):

The SEC’s own Inspector General( OIG) has found that between 1992 and 2008 the SEC received six substantive complaints about fraudster Bernie Madoff’s hedge fund operations yet never conducted a thorough and competent examination of them. The SEC conducted two investigations and three examinations based on credible complaints about Madoff’s operations but never verified Madoff’s trading or conducted a Ponzi scheme probe.
One complaint submitted in 2005 was titled, “The World’s Largest Hedge Fund is a Fraud” and, according to Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, “detailed approximately 30 red flags indicating that Madoff was operating a Ponzi scheme, a scenario the complaint described as ‘highly likely.’” Velvel is one of Madoff’s defrauded investors and has made an extensive study of the gigantic swindle.
Another complaint charged Madoff had comingled $10 billion owned by his deceased investor client Norman F. Levy with funds controlled by his firm, and that Madoff kept two sets of records, the more interesting of which “is on his computer which is always on his person.” This apparent insider information also was ultimately disregarded.
“In investigating this complaint,” Velvel says, “the Enforcement staff simply asked Madoff’s counsel about it, and accepted the response that Madoff had never managed money for this investor. This turned out to be false.” When news of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme broke, it became evident that Levy was one of Madoff’s largest individual investors.
Yet another complaint in May, 2003, this one from a respected Hedge Fund Manager, questioned whether Madoff was actually trading options in the volume he claimed and noted that Madoff’s strategy and purported returns were not duplicable by anyone else. The complaint further stated Madoff’s strategy had no correlation to the overall equity markets in over 10 years and that in aggregate his actions were “indicia of a Ponzi scheme.”

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