Friday, April 30, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, GAO did a study (another study), post-election madness continues, Nouri holds a press conference to attack and instill fear, and more.
Today on hour two of The Diane Rehm Show, Diane and her guests (including caller Ralph) Daniel Dombey (Financial Times of London), Moises Naim (Foreign Policy) and Nancy A. Youssef (McClatchy Newspapers) addressed Iraq.
Ralph: . . . It's a no-win situation in all of these because it's fighting and enemy that's a civilian and I don't care what their political reasoning or whatever you cannot win any kind of insurgency or insurrection.
Diane Rehm: Interesting, we've got a number of comments on Facebook regarding Iraq which is likely one of the areas Ralph is talking about. Pam says, "Honestly, Iraq will destabilize before we get the last man out regardless of what's put in place. At some point, we just have to leave. It's just sad. We've let their infrastructure in an almost complete shambles." Nancy?
Nancy A. Youssef: Pam, in a lot of ways, sounds a lot like the Obama administration. The United States has said it is leaving even though it looks like it could be weeks or months before government is formed in Iraq, even though the election appears to have been divisive and that there's real question that Nouri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi -- the-the, right now the winner -- and their coalitions will be able to work together. And I think the question becomes what could the United States do if it stayed? Remember, the United States is there at the invitation of the Iraqi government and-and the movement that -- the train has sort of left the station. The United States is moving towards training Iraqi forces, putting them in the lead and I'm not sure that there's anything more that the United States could do --
Diane Rehm: What about the election discord? Could that effect the US timetable, Moises?
Moises Naim: We're talking about three worlds of difference. These were elections where 325 seats, Parliament, and Maliki's State of Law won 89 and the Iraqiya won 91, so they're the winners. But they're contesting votes and everything else. So you can take two-two views about this. You can say, "Well that's what happens in imperfect democracies. We have seen around the world, contested democracies awhere people are clashing including in Florida." So that would be a flippant way of saying: Elections, that's the nature of democracy. The other more troublesome view, and I think more realistic view, is this is just more of the same -- a manifestation of a deadly, lethal clash, between Sunnis and Shi'ites there and is just a struggle for power and is now taking that manifestation. When that is over, they will continue to battle each other. The good news is that so far, this has not been as violent and deadly as it used to be two or three years ago.
Daniel Dombey: Yes, I would agree with a large part of that. I mean I think the interesting thing is that this exist shows the fall of US influence. The Obama administration has been very concerned about what Mr. Malliki's done to try and get the lead in the and the prospect of the next government back from Allawi. It's been very concerned about these effors to strike candidates that have already been elected from Parliament. But those are pleas that aren't backed up by anything very much. And in a certain sense that's perhaps good because these are decisions that Iraq has to make. It's not clear how keeping US combat troops would help. In fact, one of the big champions of the surge Fred Kagan, of the AEI, wrote a piece in today's Washington Post where he says 'it is really only in the most extraordianary circumstances should the US delay its plans to get its combat troops out' --
Diane Rehm: Nancy?
Daniel Dombey: -- by the end of this summer. I think that shows it is actually Iraq's problem and not a bad problem for a Middle East country to have: How to work out the results of an election?
Diane Rehm: Nancy.
Nancy A. Youssef: You know I thought it was interesting this week that we learned that there was a secret prison in Iraq that largely held Sunnis prisoners, where people were tortured and there are charges that Maliki knew about it. We're starting to see the kind of state that is emerging. It is a quasi-democracy that still sort of employs tactics that are reminescent of Saddam's regime. Who makes a good torturer? But someone who has been tortured. And we're starting to see that. What can the US do to stop that? The only thing I want to say is that there is a real practical reson why the United States can't leave and that's becauseit's committed troops to Afghanistan. That 30,000 that's being sent into Afghanistan -- is conditioned on US troops leaving Iraq And in addition, you have a US military that's really already starting to think poster in terms of how it's going to reset itself, train itself for the next kind of warfare. The military's left Iraq already and I think the Obama administration has to.
Diane Rehm: I met a young woman just last night, having served three terms of duty in Iraq headed off to Afghanistan Sunday.
Okay, the above. First off, Frederick W. Kagan didn't write a column -- he co-wrote one. If you'r colleague already publicly 'joked' on Diane's show about a "cat fight" between Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni, you probably should work a little harder to ensure that you credit women. The column was written by Frederick Kagan and Kimberly Kagan. (Column ran in this morning's Washington Post.) Second, the Kagans gave three examples of what would slow the drawdown or stop it. Or what should in their opinion. David Dombey needs to learn to read because he has completely misrepresented the Kagans column which was not 'To Drawdown Or Not To Drawdown.' It was a call for US involvement in the post-election proceedings. Third, Nancy A. Youssef left the world of facts for opinions. And that's fine but that doesn't make her right. Example: The choice is not between staying or a drawdown -- and a drawdown is NOT a withdrawal, something Diane's guests need to learn REAL DAMN QUICK. That's nonsense. That's such nonsense that the string of words I would use to describe it could not appear here.
Reality, Nouri exists -- to this day -- only because US forces have propped him up. That's not 'opinion' or at least it's not uninformed 'opinion.' That is the opinion of the bulk of Democratic Senators and they have expressed it repeatedly and publicly -- that includes former senators Joe Biden and Barack Obama who are now vice president and President of the United States.
Reality, despite the oil profits (which are not going to the people), Iraq's 'government' still depends on a lot of US tax payer monies. And they can be denied that money. There's no reason to provide money (or credits for weapons) just to help Little Nouri become the New Hussein. No reason at all. In addition, there are many other diplomatic routes and there is also world opinion which can be courted.
Nancy's spending too much time at the Pentagon and appears to believe that the only answer is kill or don't kill but every problem doesn't require a show of violence to reach a solution. In her last exchange (last quoted above), I know what she meant but I'm not in the mood to interpret her. (She mispoke.) She's also wrong. "WE" did not learn about the secret prisons "this week." If "WE" had, then it wouldn't have been mentioned on Diane's show last week. Ned Parker broke that story online two Sundays ago. Ned Parker broke the secret prison story for the Los Angeles Times ("Secret prison for Sunnis revealed in Baghdad") and Human Rights Watch issued a report this week on the secret prison ("Iraq: Detainees Describe Torture in Secret Jail "). Nouri's been laughably insisting it's all lies, made up by his enemies, and, so what, look what the Americans did at Abu Ghraib! If someone really thinks the story was breaking news this week, it goes to how little informed they are on the subject. I am aware it can be hard to think on your feet especially when the topic isn't scheduled but comes up because listeners took to the program's Facebook page. But, as with what she meant in her last exchange, I'm not in the mood to interpret her, I'm not in the mood to be generous.
A drawdown is not a withdrawal. Were I Nouri al-Maliki -- or apparently Barack Obama -- I would declare that all reporters repeating that LIE should be imprisoned. But they need to start getting their facts right. A drawdown is what may take place. A drawdown would take the number of US service members in Iraq down to approximately 50,000. Such a drawdown has not yet taken place. If and when it does, it will be a fact that reporters can toss around. At present, they disgrace themselves when they make like Miss Cleo telling us what's happening months from now. How about you stop the predicting and get your facts right? It's not that difficult and it might let you know when a story broke or who wrote a column or any number of things. But when you're in such a rush to gas bag that you can't do the facts, you're not helping anyone.
Will the drawdown take place. "I'm no prophet, and I don't know nature's ways," Carly Simon sang (and wrote) in "The Right Thing To Do" (first appears on her No Secrets album). We do know the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno, is due to issue a report. Community member Joan caught a problem with yesterday's snapshot -- the bulk of a sentence is missing and it's my fault because of a link I put in that I didn't close and when it was dictated around later it ended up knocking out half a line. So this is what should have appeared in yesterday's snapshot ("*" indicates it's added today):
Speaking Tuesday to John Hockenberry on The Takeaway, BBC News' Gabriel Gatehouse also felt that the counting would take longer than some estimates, "That could take several weeks. Then the votes have to be certified." In addition to noting that lengthy process, Gatehouse is apparently the only reporter aware of wh*at is supposed to be coming, a report by the top US commander in Iraq, Gen Ray Odierno. Gatehouse explained, "*General Odierno is the overall in charge of US forces here, has promised to make an assessment -- another assessment of that withdrawal time table two months after the election so we're looking at about a week from now. So I think we'll wait to see what he says in about a week's time."
An evaluation is due from Odierno? And it will determine and assess. Now Barack can (and may) choose not to listen to it or at least not let effect the current stated plan or 'plan'; however, until that's decided, there is no, "In August, ____ happens." And reporters need to stop claiming that there is. You are not predictors. You deal in the known. When you fail to do that, you better not whine when someone objects to your bias. In fact, when you leave the factual world repeatedly, you are begging readers, listeners, viewers to check you for your bias.
Odierno will issue a report. It's probably not going to be the only report issued between now and August. President Barack Obama's stated plan is that the number of US troops in Iraq will drop down to approximately 50,000 as summer draws to a close. That's his plan. It's spring right now. What will or will not happen will not be known until then. That's reality.
Reality is that from November 2008 through January 2009, had George W. Bush attempted to sign million and billion dollars deals, people would be outraged. He was outgoing. He shouldn't be tying the country into any deals, agreements or debt. But Nouri, whose party did not win the most seats in the March 7th elections, is doing just that. Sylvia Pfeifer (Financial Times of London) reports that Nouri's prepping a potential one billion dollar deal in which Iraq will purchase "Hawk trainer jets from the UK". What does the Iraqi Parliament say about that deal? Nothing. Their terms expired. Until the newly elected members are sworn in, there is no Parliament. Nouri's term should have expired as well. But he's pushing deals that will tie Iraq down for sometime including the five-year plan that he could never get through Parliament so he's now rammed it through his council.
UPI reports that Moqtada al-Sadr "has demanded that 'illegal' contracts signed with foreign oil companies in 2009 be negotiated." Nizar Latif (The National Newspaper) adds, "The Sadrists, fervent nationalists although they have been heavily linked with Iran, where their leader is currently based, say the deals break Iraqi laws. The Iraqi oil ministry says the contracts will result in 'more than US $100 billion' (Dh367bn) worth of investment."
Nouri rejected any notion of an interim government. Ayad Allawi is calling for one. But if Nouri doesn't control the government, then he can't get his recounts and he can't get the judges to go along with him and he can't steal the election. He also can't make any of the deals he wants to. Caesar Ahmed and Borzou Daragahi (Los Angeles Times) report Nouri al-Maliki appeared on Iraqi state TV today to declare, "We will not allow any foreign interference in our internal affairs that will breach our sovereignty." Which brings us back to Nancy A. Youssef. First, Nouri, Iraq was breached in March 2003. You weren't concerned about "foreign interference" then. No, you were cheering on an invasion. Nancy A. Youssef wants to claim that the US is present at Iraq's invation. What a load of s**t. First off, an uninvited guest who never leaves is not there on any invitation. Second, who 'invited'? Not the people of Iraq who want the foreign forces off their land. Not the Parliament as evidenced by the huge number of MPs who elected to skip the November 2008 vote. Ahmed and Daragahi report Nouri attacked Allawi in his televised statements and also of Allawi and others, "I don't know why there are parties criticizing the Iraqi judiciary. This demonstrates that there is a regional, international project against Iraq that seeks to overthrow [the government] via the ballot box." Does the idiot understand that using the ballot box to reject someone is more than allowed?
In DC today, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Kuwait's Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad al-Sabah. The two spoke to reporters in the Treaty Room (link has text and video) and took questions. In one of her replies, Hillary noted the following:
The deputy prime minister and I discussed recent political developments in Iraq and the ongoing process of forming a new government. The security and stability of Iraq is critical to the security and stability of Kuwait, but of indeed the entire region. The United States recognizes that there is still work to be done to address some of the outstanding issues related to the Iraq-Kuwait relationship, and we are committed to working with Kuwait and the new Government of Iraq and the United Nations in the months ahead.
On the post-election madness, Heather Robinson (Huffington Post) notes:
Iraqi liberal Mithal al-Alusi, who raised concerns about fraud against himself and fellow liberals after he lost his seat in Parliament in the March 7 elections, is now raising concerns about a potential lack of oversight of the Baghdad recount that he says could lead to a repeat of the fraud that prompted the recount in the first place.
"It will be a disaster if the same people who did the first counting will do the second counting," Alusi told me in a phone interview from Baghdad.
Alusi is no stranger to controversy. Iraqi-born and bred, in the 1970's he protested Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses, and was forced to flee the middle east for his life. He returned to Iraq with his two grown sons following the U.S. invasion and took a position as culture director of the de-Baathification commission in the Iraqi interim government.
We dealt with the Kagans already. (Disclosure, as noted before I know Robert Kagan, that's Fred's bother, Kimberly's brother-in-law.) But, again, their column was completely distorted. From the right (the neocon right), the Frederick and Kimberly Kagan argue in today's Post:
Washington should strongly support Iraqi leaders such as Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi and Allawi, who have strongly opposed the AJC's illegal effort to manipulate the results. The United States must encourage Iraq's Presidency Council to adhere to the electoral laws and reject the AJC's manipulation. The United States must also ensure that legal processes and court decisions about the elections are not unduly influenced by political or violent intimidation. Above all, the United States must oppose any effort to exclude votes properly cast and counted.
U.S. officials must state clearly that Iraq's government should be formed by Iraqis in Iraq and encourage Iraqis to form a government that ensures real power-sharing and continued political accommodation -- rather than cobbling together a government without any genuine political settlement.
Staying silent is not the same as remaining neutral. This does not mean that Washington should choose a party or prime minister, but the United States must protect the electoral process from politicians (and external actors) seeking to manipulate its outcome.
Again, the Kagans are right-wingers. Let's get some other opinions. For example, the Toledo Blade's editorial board argues what listeners of Diane Rehm's program were wrongly told the Kagans (or at least Fred) argued:
Hints by U.S. military leaders suggest the withdrawal might be delayed if Iraqis don't assemble a credible government soon. But that plays right into the hands of Iraqi political and business interests that want U.S. funds - about $2 billion a month - to continue to flow there. Mr. Maliki and others also want to maintain the protective American shield around themselves and their government.
That is consistent with the Toledo Blade's February editorial "Don't yield to Iraqi stunts." Turning to the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace. When noting that 'NGO,' we will always note that they're not as 'independent' as they'd love to pretend, they are an arm of the US government. So what are they saying? Marina Ottaway and Danial Kaysi feel the rule of law is being ignored and that the Justice and Accountability Commission is among the worst offenders:
This decision to ban elected officials has truly taken Iraq into uncharted waters, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate ad hoc political decisions from those based on the legal criteria. The January 2008 law that established the JAC and defined its mandate did not foresee the possibility of banning candidates after the election and no precedent exists on which to base a decision as these are the first elections under the law. Making the decision even more political -- the post-election bans will affect Iraqiya particularly hard, as did the pre-election exclusions. With twenty-two of the candidates banned after the vote belonging to Iraqiya, it could lose its slim two-seat advantage over State of Law.
There are also questions concerning the current legal status of the JAC, whose members were nominated by the council of ministers, approved by parliament, and ratified by the presidency council -- institutions whose mandate was terminated at the end of the last parliament and are operating in a legal limbo in the transitional period until a government is formed. The situation will worsen as the transitional period stretches from the few weeks foreseen by the constitution to the many months that now appear possible.
Today Alsumaria TV reports on seven candidates banned by JAC: "Al Iraqiya List spokesman Haidar Al Mulla revealed to Alsumaria News the names of seven candidates subject to the Justice and Accountability Law. Candidates include Fallah Hassan Zaydan, Iskandar Watout, Itab Jassem Nassif, Jamal Al Batikh, Adnan Al Jinabi, Mohammed Al Karbouli and Qays Shathar Hussein while an eighth winning candidate was not named."
Another view is offered by Jim Waldo in a letter to the Duluth News Tribune where he observes, "Every day it seems we read about bombs going off in civilian settings and the marketplaces in Iraq. How long will it take before exasperated citizens put a strongman in power through voting or a coup? He might stop the carnage by temporarily suspending democracy, installing a secret police, forming a republican guard and adopting repressive measures. And he might indeed success in stopping the bombings." But, Jim Waldo feels, this is how the New Saddam Hussein is created. Alsumaria TV reports that Nouri insisted today that Iraq was at risk of "a coup" from within the region and internationally and that threats are being made of a rocket attack on the Green Zone. Save us, Nouri, save us!!!! (Yes, he does trade on the fear. It's always been his only currency.)
Turning to some of the violence reported today . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Garma roadside bombing injured two people and, dropping back to yesterday, reports a Heet roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier and left a second one wounded, a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded six people, a Baghdad car bombing claimed 8 lives and left twenty people wounded, a Baghdad sticky bombing which wounded CTO Sadoun Seyid Qassim. Xinhua notes a Baghdad roadside bombing which claimed 2 lives and left nine people injured. Reuters notes that 1 US service member was injured by a Baghdad roadside bombing last night.
Yesterday, a subcommittee of the US House Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on the "Status of Veterans Small Business." Calling the Economic Opportunity Subcommittee to order, Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin noted, "Today's hearing will provide the US Government Accountability Office an opportunity to update us on the ongoing work on veteran-owned small businesses, and brought the hearing to order and noted " This Subcommittee last held a hearing on veterans and small business on March 11, 2010. The focus was on the Center for Veterans Enterprise and the Subcommittee were informed about problems to do with verification -- how some businesses that were not VA-owned were making it onto the list while others which were veteran-owned but could not make the list. What's changed? They did a study, the Government Accountability Office did a study. We'll note this exchange between the Chair, GAO's William B. Shear and Ranking Member John Boozman.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: [. . .] Because we have, as it relates to contracting requirements, a goal of making sure that it's veteran-owned businesses that are getting this opportunity just as it is in terms of the restriction Ms. [Diane] Farrell described, they're jobs created here as the objective so I -- You know, in your written testimony, you stated that the VA had hired a contractor to assess the verification programs process and the contractor's report included recommendations. Again, we're a little concerned with the progress the VA's making on the verifications as it relates to those on the database who have been verified to be veteran-owned businesses to deal with the issue of sort of veteran shopping that we have had concerns about with the Subcommittee previously. Can you elaborate on what recommendations were given to the VA?
William B. Shear: Uhm, I will paraphrase in a way that, uhm, as you know we have a draft report and as I stated we have a draft report. And among those, the needs to really implement information technology in a way that allows for more efficient processing of these applications. You also need -- really it's development of people in terms of their ability of the guidance that they have to have in terms of how they verify businesses. So I'm -- I'm segueing a little bit into what's-what's-what we're reporting on. But-but basically that it's been very slow in this process. And the reason we think it's very important is because the preferences are meant to serve veterans and veteran owned small business and there's not an assurance that that is happening. And it's been delayed for some period of time, so just the fact that the consultant study, that it took so long until they kind of like moved in that direction is of concern to us.
Chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin: Mr. Boozeman?
Ranking Member John Boozemmn: Thank you, Madame Chair. Mr. Shear, Public Law 109-461 requires VA to review contracts for compliance with subcontracting proposals. Would you share GIO's view of VA's performance in implementing the provisions
William B. Shear: Subcontracting was the one part that is contained -- will be contained in our final report. And what we observed with subcontracting requirements, there's -- there's certain issues as far as the date when that becomes effective. But what we have observed to date is that the -- with respect to subcontracting VA falls very short of its goals.
If we wanted to go deeper into the hearing, we could note that you do not appear before Congress chewing (smacking) gum. It's not a possible rule, it's a rule. Smacking your gum between and during your testimony not only distracts from your testimony, it makes it appear you really aren't ready to appear before Congress and that they might need to instead seat you at the kiddie table.
Hike for our Heroes is a non-profit started by Iraq War veteran Troy Yocum who is hiking across the country to raise awareness and money for veterans issues. He explains at the website:
I am an Iraq-war veteran who is hiking 7000 miles across America to raise money for struggling veterans, and help get a national "Day of the Deployed" by getting signatures from mayors and governors across America on a custom Louisville Slugger bat
And with over 200 of the 7000 miles completed already, he has another milestone scheduled for the week: He's getting married Sunday. More information and videos can be found at Drum Hike.
William J. Booher (Indy Star) reports that May is when Troy is set to be walking in Indiana and provides a list of some of the events including "a public barbecue May 7 at American Legion Post 252, 334 U.S. 31 S., between Main Street and Smith Valley Road." That is open to the public and begins at 12:30 in Greenwood, Indiana.
TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Naftali Bendavid (Wall St. Journal), Eamon Javers (Politico), Margaret Kriz Hobson (National Journal) and Karen Tumulty (Washington Post). And Gwen's column this week is "Washington Rhetoric: The Decoder." Remember that the show podcasts in video and audio format -- and a number of people sign up for each (audio is thought to be so popular due to the fact that it downloads so much quicker). If you podcast the show, remember there is the Web Extra where Gwen and the guests weigh in on topics viewers e-mail about. And also remember that usually by Monday afternoon you can go to the show's website and stream it there (including Web Extra) as well as read the transcripts and more. Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes Norton and Genevieve Wood. on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, there's an extra just for the web from the previous week's show and this week's it's immigration reform. For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:
The All American Canal
Chef Jose Andres
60 Minutes, Sunday, May 2, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.