I came to Iraq to find my driver Salam, who has been unjustly imprisoned for the last 16 months.
I found him in a grimy police station jail, a shadow of the ebullient man I knew, with marks of torture on his legs. His suffering reflects the trauma so many Iraqis still endure in a country trying to recover from decades of dictatorship and botched U.S. occupation.
But what makes Salam's case so scary is that he's being punished for opposing the sectarian slaughter that nearly drove Iraq over the edge.
Salam is a Shiite whose uncle was hung by Saddam Hussein, but he couldn't stand watching innocent Sunnis slaughtered. He tipped U.S. and Iraqi forces about a family of Shiite Mahdi Army militia who were killing his Sunni neighbors in 2007. Two members of the militia family were jailed and one went into hiding.
Once U.S. troops left Salam's neighborhood, the Mahdi Army family took its revenge.
Members of this family used personal connections with senior army and intelligence officers to get Salam arrested. How can it be that relatives of militia killers are free to bring bogus charges and get the innocent jailed?
The above is from Trudy Rubin's "Malicious charges on the innocent rage in Iraq" (Philadelphia Inquirer) and we're putting it at the top to be sure it gets the attention it warrants. We'll now move on to the post-election Iraq. March 7th, Iraq concluded elections. The results were released in March: Ayad Allawi's slate came out with the most seats in the Parliament (91), Nouri al-Maliki's slate with the second most (89). Since that time, efforts to build a power-sharing coaltion have gone on. 163 seats are needed for a government to be formed and a prime minister selected.
Nouri talks a good game when he needs to. Iraq's current and possibly outgoing prime minister garnered headlines a few days ago for repeating what the Iranian government had said a week before, that any new coalition government must include Sunnis. It was supposed to be a whole new Nouri. Then came the news that he'd ordered the imprisoning and torture of Sunnis in an off-the-books prison and that at least one Sunni may have been tortured to death. Now it turns out that (no surprise) the claims of Nouri and the other Shi'ite coalition (Iraqi National Alliance) set to announce a coalition being a done deal was apparently only a done deal in Nouri's mind. Alsumaria TV reports that the two groups met Sunday night and had "rows" over the issue of who would be prime minister. In a non-surprising move, a week ago State Of Law announced they were endorsing their own party's Nouri al-Maliki for prime minister. Which means the argument was about Nouri. Moqtada al-Sadr does not like Nouri for a variety of reasons and he put the issue of who his 40 seats (in the Parliament -- and they are part of the Iraqi National Alliance) should endorse to the people and Nouri was not the winner of that poll. Alsumaria notes, "Previous talks had reached an agreement to form a six member committee representing both coalitions charged of choosing the next Prime Minister. State of Law officials however opposed the joint committee arguing that choosing the next PM by consensus means ruling out incumbent Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki."
What to do when you're not getting your way? Stomp your feet! Remember when the world found out, after the fact and after the election, that Nouri had gone to his rubber stamp court to get them to change the way that the prime minister is chosen? Well today's the day the country's Federal Court certifies the election results . . . and if you weren't expecting a hiccup, you consume too much American media.
Al Jazeera reports that Iraq's electoral commission has agreed to Nouri's demands, the whiny tyrant will get his way, there will be a recount of ballots cast in Baghdad and "Baghdad accounts for 68 seats in the 325-seat parliament, making it a key prize." Ahmed Rasheed, Suadad al-Salhy, Waleed Ibrahim, Michael Christie and Noah Barkin (Reuters) point out, "Any revision could inflame sectarian tensions at a time when Iraq is emerging from the worst of the fighting between Sunnis and majority Shi'ites that was unleashed after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion."
For those who have forgotten, Nouri ordered members of his political party to the streets to protest after the results were known, he spoke threateningly of violence but even that did not result in a recount. He finally got his way. He finally stamped his feet enough. Little Nouri.
In other Iraq news, we'll note this from Joe Gould's "Millions stolen from Iraq rebuilding" (MarineCorps Times):
A special task force is analyzing every transaction and person connected to Iraq reconstruction funding in order to hold people accountable for "hundreds of millions of dollars" lost to fraud, bribery and theft.
Stuart Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, is part of a multiagency task force using automated data mining to sift through the $50 billion spent on reconstruction by military and civilian agencies. SIGIR is working with federal law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN.
"It's a coordinated, concerted interagency forensic review that has been ongoing for over a year and is now yielding significant fruit," Bowen said. "We will continue to implement the program until we have reviewed all of the money used for Iraq reconstruction and all of the personnel that had access to it."
What about England!!! A number of visitors are e-mailing asking about the elections. My apologies because I covered this in two community newsletters over a week ago (Polly's Brew and the gina & krista round-robin). With Rebecca helping friends working for the Labour Party, I really don't intend to comment on the campaigning. I could. I'm not helping. But I do know Rebecca and I will know when it's something she's come up with just by the tactic so I'm excusing (or recusing) myself from commenting. It's also been addressed in community newsletters but I'm not sure it's up anywhere at any community sites, but Rebecca may have to go back to London due to the elections. If she does, Wally will fill in for her at her site as he did when she had to go to London earlier this year. And if Rebecca hasn't noted it at her site (she's noted it in community newsletters), she's not commenting on the elections until the day after if then. To the visitor who states he has e-mailed repeatedly about the UK elections, I wasn't aware of it. My apologies. Most likely, the person or persons who saw your e-mail thought it had been covered here because I have covered it in columns for community newsletters. It should have been noted here and I didn't do that so thank you to everyone who did e-mail on it.
Susan notes that Kat's "Kat's Korner: The return of Natalie Merchant " went up yesterday as did her "Kat's Korner: Jakob Dylan announcing."
We'll note this from the Senate Democratic Policy Committee:
SENATE DPC LAUNCHES NEW OUTREACH EFFORT THROUGH FACEBOOK AND TWITTER
( WASHINGTON , D.C. )---The U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee (DPC) launched its official presence on the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter, Friday, Chairman Byron Dorgan (D-ND) announced. The DPC’s Facebook and Twitter sites will provide Americans with new opportunities to stay up-to-date on current legislation being considered by the Senate, floor debate, committee hearings, and information about legislation and issues.
The DPC Twitter site is USSenDPC. The Facebook page is listed as United States Senate Democratic Policy Committee. Citizens can sign up to follow the DPC on Twitter or become a fan of the DPC Facebook page by visiting these sites.
Through the DPC’s Facebook and Twitter sites, Americans will have the opportunity to engage in a two-way dialogue with Senate Democrats in a new and different way. The public forums will provide individuals with a new way to obtain information from, and share their thoughts with, Senate Democrats on key legislation and Senate actions.
The social media sites will also provide regular postings of video and photo content as well as policy documents that provide details regarding issues and legislation before the Senate.
The Senate Democratic Policy Committee is the policy research and development arm of the U.S. Senate Democratic Caucus.
I think the DPC does more than any other DC committee and you can consider that an endorsement but, for the record, I do not endorse Facebook. I've stated that repeatedly. So to the 15 invitations to join people on Facebook that I've seen as go through the public e-mail account, I will again state I am not on Facebook, I would not be on Facebook.
Read this and be glad that pioneer and artist Dede Allen lived and sad that she has died. The New York Times has just posted their obit online -- credited to Felicia R. Lee -- and it may change between now and tomorrow when it makes it into print. The e-mail address for this site is email@example.com.
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