Monday, August 09, 2010

77 killed and 303 wounded over the weekend in Iraq

Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports, "Though weakened by the deaths of top leaders and a drop-off in foreign funding, al-Qaeda in Iraq's 'cellular structure' remains 'pretty much intact,' Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Higgins said in his first interview since taking command in Baghdad last fall." Saturday and Sunday saw at least 77 Iraqis killed and at least 303 injured. So it's time to trot out al Qaeda in Iraq again. The homegrown, illegal war created group that the US military was swearing was waning and that the 'capture' and killing of various alleged high-ranking leaders had thrown into disarray. The US government has repeatedly fought forces they've dubbed terrorists like idiots who didn't even understand terrorism -- not its goals, not how it spreads. They've done such a poor job that did the government not have a pre-existing repuation for ineptitude, you might think the true goal was to breed terrorism. (Though not the the objective, that appears to be the result of US efforts.)

Already today, violence continues. Salam Faraj (AFP) reports a Baghdad bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi traffic police officer and 1 civilian while injuring ten other people and Faraj notes, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, fighting to keep his job after narrowly losing the election, insisted the security situation was not getting worse, 'but some gaps have opened up, here and there, from time to time'." Nouri the comic. Reuters notes an Abu Ghraib medical complex bombing which claimed 2 lives and left seven people injured and, dropping back to Sunday for other violence, notes Sinan al-Shibibi's bodyguard was injured in a Baghdad shooting and 1 "official" was shot dead in Kirkuk and two of his bodyguards were injured.

The security situation isn't getting worse, Nouri claims. March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. 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 -- this coalition still does not give them 163 seats. They are claiming they have the right to form the government. In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister. It's now 5 months and 2 days.

Pakistan's The News International speculates on the sort of deals Nouri could make to continue as prime minister:

Maliki becomes prime minister, a Sunni member of Iraqiya gets the speaker’s post, and Allawi becomes head of the National Security Council with broad authority.
Maliki becomes prime minister, and Allawi president. This is hard to imagine. Sunnis say they would regard Allawi as an honorary Sunni as prime minister, but not if he is president. Kurds would likely object to this scenario as well.
Maliki becomes prime minister, and Iraqiya picks half the government. This scenario is possible, but it hinges on Sunni leaders within Iraqiya sacrificing Allawi or on Allawi sacrificing himself for the benefit of Iraqiya.
Iraqiya combined with Maliki’s State of Law would have 180seats in the 325-seat parliament.
An Iraqiya deal with INA, including ISCI and the Sadrists, would give the combined bloc 161.

Press TV reports that KRG President Massoud Barzani -- strangely they give him no title (not so strange, they don't recognize the KRG) -- stated, "Maliki's visit to Kurdistan is not aimed at the formation of a new alliance, but is to reinforce an old alliance and a start to put an end to all the problems Iraq is suffering from." Again, the meeting will lead to rumors that Nouri's willing to give away Kirkuk. Friday he met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, also a Kurd. Meanwhile Alsumaria TV reports Iraq's Shi'ite Vice President and member of the Iraqi National Alliance Adel Abdul Mehdi is calling out Nouri for Nouri's statements blaming everyone "but himself" which Mehdi finds contradictory and beneath the position of prime minister.

Like Iran, Turkey's not keen on the KRG. Today's Zaman notes, "Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met with Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi government spokesman, on Saturday, and the two had extensive discussions on Iraqi political groups' efforts regarding the formation of a government in Iraq, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday. Al-Dabbagh came to Ankara as special envoy of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and he conveyed a message from al-Maliki, the statement also said."

Back in the US, Erik Hayden wins Dope of the Day. Not, mind you, for having the gall to recommend anything written by Judith Miller. But that is bad enough, especially when Judy's writing about Iraq (hasn't that country suffered enough?). What seals his win is the first eight words of his first sentence, "The news from Iraq has been good of late . . ." What world does he live in? Apparently one where hard drugs are legal and it's 'shoot it up if you've got it.'

By contrast, good for Medea Benjamin. And it's been a long time since we could say that. At the rally for Bradley Manning yesterday, she stated, "We are here to say that if he, indeed, was the whistle blower, then we are proud of him. In the United States that I know and love, transparency is a positive thing." That's exactly the way to word it. We weren't stupid enough when Angela Davis was charged to go around defending her by saying, "Yeah, she did it!" If we had, would she have been able to convince a jury she hadn't? No.

Bradley Manning is innocent until proven guilty unless he enters a plea of guilty. A lot of people want to make him the WikiLeaker. Those not trying to put him in prison (or execute him) would do well to remember that (a) they don't know he is the leaker, (b) Bradley's never spoken publicly on the matter, (c) all the assertions are via a convicted felon (who has an arrangement with the US government that included monetary payments -- a fact that may come up in a court hearing)and (d) you don't 'defend' or 'support' anyone facing charges by declaring them guilty when they've not done so themselves.

Good for Medea. I wish we could link to an article; however, the articles tend to also include statements by others about how Bradley is the leaker. And you wonder why I get nervous when the CIA gets close to the peace movement? Since we can't link to the article, we'll link to CODEPINK which is Medea's organization. And Global Exchange.

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Non-Combat Troops" went up last night. We'll close with this from Sherwood Ross' "Bernie Madoff and the SEC Financial Watchdog That Didn't Bark or Bite" (Global Research):

Perhaps the most incredible aspect of the greatest Wall Street swindle ever was that despite repeated warnings from many different sources the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC) over a period of 16 years refused to conduct a diligent probe into the operations of fraudster securities broker Bernard Madoff. The “watchdog” Federal agency, which didn’t bark or bite, not only disregarded the repeated warnings of knowledgeable whistle-blower Harry Markopolos, a fund manager, as well as the two examiners in its own Boston office who said that Markopolos likely had it right; the SEC also disregarded reports in Barron’s and other financial publications that questioned Madoff’s legitimacy; and, perhaps most damning of all, the SEC disregarded letters from an obvious insider who revealed that Madoff was keeping two sets of books and told the SEC to find the evidence on a computer Madoff always carried on his person. Even when, toward the end of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme charade, the SEC discovered Madoff was lying to them, SEC officials didn’t care to ask the elementary questions that would have revealed he was not trading stocks at all. Incredibly, Madoff had also been lying to his investors for years, saying that he was turning a profit on the funds they gave him when he was actually paying them “profits” with monies from new depositors. On one occasion, the Assistant Director of SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examination(OCIE) asked a financial institution that Madoff claimed he used to clear his trades whether they knew of any trading done by or in behalf of Madoff during a specific time period. Despite a negative reply, the SEC official decided it did not merit any follow-up. Madoff’s career of fraud, which Federal investigators believe may have started in the 1980s, did not collapse until 2008.
Besides Markopolos, there were “plenty of others on Wall Street who went to the SEC, some anonymously or who used their names, so they had more than one warning,” says Erin Arvedlund, the reporter who broke the first Barron’s story in 2000. One inescapable conclusion of the Madoff disaster was that the SEC didn’t know and likely didn’t want to know he was running a Ponzi scheme. In 2006, for example, Madoff actually gave the SEC the number of his Depository Trust Account(DTC 646), yet its probers declined to make the phone call to this record-keeping entity that would have revealed Madoff’s claims of stock trading were a tissue of lies. The call would have revealed Madoff had only $18 million in his DTC account although Fairfield Greenwich feeder fund said he was handling $2.5 billion worth of their business. The SEC might also have checked with the National Association of Securities Dealers(NASD) to see if the stocks Madoff claimed to be trading were, in fact, actually being traded by him on the NASDAQ stock market. But Arvedlund said the SEC decided “this would have been too time-consuming for us to go through these records” so the records were never requested. Its reluctance may have had something to do with the fact that Madoff played a key role in NASDAQ’s formation. When Madoff founded his firm in 1960, he made trades using the National Quotation Bureau’s Pink Sheets. In order to compete with firms that were New York Stock Exchange members trading directly on the floor, according to Wikipedia, Madoff began using innovative computer information technology to disseminate its quotes---a development that led to the creation of NASDAQ, which swindler Madoff served as Chairman during 1990-91 and in 1993.
The SEC compounded its own malfeasance by issuing a report in 1992 saying that it found Madoff’s operations to be on the up-and-up, a finding it publicized only for this favored entity---in short, a veritable endorsement that brought investors flocking to “the lipstick building” (nicknamed for the skyscraper’s shape and color) at 885 Third Avenue in New York that was the headquarters of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, only to be systematically parted from their money. Arvedlund said, “He used the SEC’s Good Housekeeping seal to market the fund. And I’ve talked to a lot of investors who said, ‘I knew he’d been investigated and received a clean bill of health from the SEC, and that’s why I gave them my money.’” These included Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who invested on behalf of a charity and Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, who invested for the Wunderkinder Foundation. Other notables taken in were real estate mogul Mortimer Zuckerman; Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, and legendary Brooklyn Dodgers pitching great Sandy Koufax. In its 1992 investigation, the SEC learned that New York accounting firm Avellino & Bienes had been raising money from clients and turning it over to Madoff to invest. The SEC ordered the funds returned to the clients and never inquired where Avellino & Bienes got the funds to do so. The SEC may have overlooked Madoff’s role as it regarded him as something of a hero for his role in developing NASDAQ in competition with the New York Stock Exchange. It even used him in an advisory capacity.

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