Friday, June 18, 2010

Funding Iraq? Why?

Today the Washington Post offers an editorial entitled "The Senate picks a bad time to slash funds for Iraq" and it's a notion that we disagree with. But we'll pan for gold and ignore the alleged calamity that may result/is resulting from the Senate halfing Barack's request for $2 billion for the Iraq War to $1 billion. The board thinks it's a good thing that Iraq's spending so much on their security forces that that they have "needed bailouts from both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to fund its budget" and even more so that US Ambassador to Iraq Chris Hill and Gen Ray Odierno have written a letter about how Iraq (quoting letter) "will have to issue new debt to cover its budget deficit in 2010." These are good things?

The people don't have potable water. Forget electricity for a moment, they still don't have potable water. That's why, in a few short months, Iraq will gear up for their annual cholera outbreak.

Potable water is not some recent or novel concept. Potable water has been issues for all civilizations -- it's noted in the Bible and it predates those references (in the Bible, I believe it first comes up with Moses and then the issue arises again with Jericho). By the 17th century, people are attempting complex filtration devices.

So the Iraqi government's refusal, in the 21st century, to offer potable water (despite setting aside money -- which has now disappeared -- to provide it) is not a minor thing. And when they can't provide potable water, they're not meeting the basic needs of their people. The editorial board is also obviously unaware or ignoring the Inspector General reports on the Iraqi forces (as well as the reporting done by Ned Parker at the Los Angeles Times for many years on this topic).

It is not a good thing for Iraq to go into debt paying their 'security' forces (who really haven't secured anything, now have they?). (The mass bombings have not gone away. They've been delayed by Nouri ordering the blast walls back up and the efforts to make Baghdad a walled-in city.)

On the issue of the US tax payer dollas, CNN's Mike Mount noted Wednesday, "Military operations will need to be reduced for the rest of the year unless Congress approves additional funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned senators Wednesday." Good. And is anyone else bothered -- forget your position on the Iraq War -- that Gates is still giving testimony to Congress? Shouldn't accountability efforts have long ago demanded a new Secretary of Defense? As the leader of the military effort in Iraq (as well as in Afghanistan), what has Gates demonstrated that advocates for keeping him on? And speaking of accountability, what happened to those benchmarks Iraq was supposed to achieve in order for US support (money and military) to continue to flow?

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. Three months and two days later, still no government. 163 seats are needed to form the executive government (prime minister and council of ministers). When no single slate wins 163 seats (or possibly higher -- 163 is the number today but the Parliament added seats this election and, in four more years, they may add more which could increase the number of seats needed to form the executive government), power-sharing coalitions must be formed with other slates, parties and/or individual candidates. (Eight Parliament seats were awarded, for example, to minority candidates who represent various religious minorities in Iraq.) Ayad Allawi is the head of Iraqiya which won 91 seats in the Parliament making it the biggest seat holder. Second place went to State Of Law which Nouri al-Maliki, the current prime minister, heads. They won 89 seats. Nouri made a big show of lodging complaints and issuing allegations to distract and delay the certification of the initial results while he formed a power-sharing coalition with third place winner Iraqi National Alliance. Together, the two still lack four seats necessary (or so it is thought) to form the government.

CNN interviewed Ayad Allawi and they report:

Allawi said that Iraq "needs a lot of support to get out of this bottleneck and to secure its borders, to secure its stability, and to form a government."
Allawi led the interim Iraqi government set up in 2004, after the U.S. invasion that forced longtime strongman Saddam Hussein from power. Allawi is a member of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, but leads a secular bloc that includes Sunni Arab politicians.
Iraq's new parliament was officially sworn in this week, meeting for just 20 minutes before suspending their session to continue haggling over who should form the government. Al-Maliki's State of Law coalition recently merged with another bloc of Shiite Muslim parties to form a 159-seat coalition, but that's still less than a majority of the 325-seat parliament. That means a 43-seat alliance of Kurdish parties could play a role as kingmaker.

Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) also notes the poltical stalemate:

The indefinite recess until a broader agreement on a coalition is reached means that the country's three-month deadlock could now aggravate further as it enters a period that many view as critical only two months before US combat troops are slated to leave.
What lies behind the stalemate seems to be the struggle between Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki and former prime minister Iyad Allawi for the post of prime minister in the new government. Allawi's slim election victory of 91 seats to Al-Maliki's 89 scrambled Iraq's political landscape and further exposed the country's deep-rooted sectarian divide.
Neither man has budged since in insisting that he should be the next leader, polarising a nation that many hoped would finally find its way to ending sectarian tensions and forging a democratic and cross-sectarian government.

Actually, if the focus is who will be prime minister, there's the battle between Nouri and Allawi and also the battle between State Of Law and the Iraqi National Alliance -- the latter of which does not want Nouri to continue as prime minister. Meanwhile Jeffrey Feltman, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, is in Iraq in an attempt to minimize the damage Chris Hill's doing. Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) interviews him:

Q: Do you feel there's a risk of another sectarian war, or has that danger passed?

I don't think anyone should be complacent. There is a history here. But in general Iraqis have turned to politics rather than violence as reflected in the political spectrum, as reflected in the elections and these are encouraging signs.

Q: What is the worst-case scenario for the road ahead, and what is the best?

I think that right now a worst-case scenario is that the government formation process be deadlocked to the point where institutions stop functioning. I don't see that happening, but one has to keep that in mind that that could happen. There are just a number of scenarios that are positive scenarios.… I would say an Iraq that is sovereign and self-reliant, that integrates into the region, where Iraq's communities feel their interests are represented.

Tuesday, Spc Christopher W. Opat died while serving in Iraq. His death is under investigation and classified as "non-combat related." In Iowa, the governor's office issued the following on Tuesday:

DES MOINES -- Governor Chet Culver issued the following statement upon learning of the loss of U.S. Army Specialist Christopher W. Opat, 29. Spc. Opat, of Lime Springs, Iowa, died June 15 in Baquah, Iraq of injuries suffered in a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 1st Squadron, 14th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, out of Joint Base Lewis, McChord, Wash.
"I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of another brave young person serving our country overseas," Governor Culver said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Christopher's family and loved ones. Spc. Opat was courageous in his service, and I join all Iowans in mourning his loss."
Per Governor Culver's Executive Order Number One, the Governor will order flags lowered to half staff on the date of Spc. Opat's funeral. Funeral arrangements are currently pending.

William Petroski (Des Moines Register) reports:

Opat, who was single, was the son of Leslie Opat Sr. of Lime Springs and Mary Katherine Opat of Cresco. He is survived by three brothers and two sisters.
Opat grew up on a farm in rural Howard County near the Minnesota border and graduated from Crestwood High School in Cresco in 1999.
"He was always a really, really hard worker. He would pick rock and bale hay when he was a kid," recalled his brother, Jason Opat, 22.

Meanwhile Jaime Tarabay reported yesterday on army suicides for Morning Edition (NPR -- link has text and audio):

Mr. EDWARD COLLEY: I'm Ed Colley. I'm the father of Stephen Colley, Private First Class, United States Army. Stephen committed suicide three years ago in May of 2007.

TARABAY: The last time Colley saw his son was at a family gathering in April 2007. Stephen, a helicopter mechanic, had been back in the country for about five months since a tour in Iraq. Colley says Stephen was detached. He spent the days watching cartoons. He fought with his wife.

Mr. COLLEY: When they went back to Texas, she never went home with him. She went to her parent's house and he went back to work.

TARABAY: From there it was a downhill stumble, struggling in a work environment an Army investigation later called hostile. On May 16, 2007, home alone, Stephen Colley argued with his wife through text messages. Edward Colley says at one point his son asked her if there was rope in the storage shed.

Mr. COLLEY: He had texted his wife that suicide was an option. She immediately called the appropriate folks at the base, but Stephen - unfortunately in this case, Stephen was a very, very smart boy. And he had figured out how to make sure that nobody else would interfere with his plan.

TARABAY: The plan was to overdose on medication and then hang himself from a tree. He was 22 years old. The military ruled his death a suicide. But for Edward Colley the hardest thing about his son's death is he believes it could've been prevented. The day before he killed himself, Stephen Colley took an Army mental health assessment - multiple choice questions, including some about intent to harm yourself. There were four possible answers.

Mr. COLLEY: And he picked the most severe, that he was thinking about committing suicide more than half the time.

TARABAY: And instead of acting on that information, the social worker who did Stephen Colley's assessment put him down for a sleep study in three weeks' time. The Army's own investigation said the established procedures failed to address his mental condition.

The following community sites -- and we'll include wowOwow, On The Wilder Side and in the copy and paste as well -- updated last night:

The Senate Democratic Policy Committee continues addressing a number of issues, check out the DPC's video page, and this is Senator Sherrod Brown addressing unemployment insurance.

We'll close with this from "World Can't Wait at The US Social Forum in Detroit next week" (World Can't Wait):

June 22-26 World Can't Wait will be at the United States Social Forum where thousands of activists from all over the country will be converging to discuss how to make a better world. Help at the World Can't Wait table, tent, one of the workshops below, or at the People's Movement Assembly against the war, where Elaine Brower will be joining the panel discussion. We're building a movement to STOP the crimes of our government and the fascist direction of US society, and we want to reach thousands. Call or email right away if you can help.

The e-mail address for this site is

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oh boy it never ends