Monday, August 16, 2010

Iraq snapshot

Monday, August 16, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, withdrawal isn't coming (though an agent for a foreign country can be found all over the web insisting otherwise), talks between Iraqiya and State Of Law break down as the stalemate continues, calls continue for an inquest into the death of Dr. David Kelly and more.
Today the US military announced: "CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq -- One United States Forces -- Iraq Soldier was killed when a patrol was attacked in Baqubah, Diyala province yesterday. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website at The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin.  The incident is under investigation." The announcement comes 14 days after Barack Obama gave his "mission accomplished" speech in Atlanta and it brings the ICCC number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the war to 4415USF-I also 'mourns' the 'passing' of a drone: "BAGHDAD -- A U.S. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) crashed yesterday evening in Iraq's Diyala province, approximately 2 kilometers northeast of Muqdadiyah. The small UAV impacted an open area outside of a residential suburb after experiencing engine problems. No one was injured during the accident, which remains under investigation."
Meanwhile Michael Christie and Nina Chestney (Reuters) report a Muqdadiya car bombing claimed the lives of 4 Iranian pilgrims, 1 Iraqi and left nine people injured.  Reuters notes 1 person shot dead in Falluja, 1 police officer shot dead in Mosul and 1 civilian shot dead ("and his son wounded) in Mosul. Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad bombing wounded one person.  South Korea's Ariang TV notes violence raged over the weekend as well.  Sunday there were 18 reported deaths and 49 reported injured and 5 dead and 5 wounded reported Saturday for a two-day total of 23 dead and 54 injured. Anthony Shadid (New York Times) observes, "While insurgents have sought to make dramatic gestures lately -- raising their flag in prominent Baghdad neighborhoods and burning the bodies of policemen they have killed -- more remarkable is the drumbeat of assaults day after day on Iraq's security forces."
In addition, Josh Pringle (580 CFRA News) reports that unknown assailants robber four commerica ships which were docked near Basra. When?  Sunday.  No, not yesterday.  Sunday the 8th.  Reuters explains the authorities are only now talking and notes, "The attackers targeted the Antigua-flagged Arminia, North Korea's Crystal Wave, Syria's Sana Star and the American ship Sagamore last Sunday and took personal belongings from the crews, Lieutenant John Fage of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet said."
And the political stalemate continues.  Yesterday Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reported, "Senior Iraqi politicians involved in forming a new government said they are weighing the creation of a new federal position that could break the nearly six-month logjam over which faction gets the coveted premiership."  Dagher reveals that the idea gained traction during Joe Biden's visit and that if it is put forward, some believe it will be Parliament's first order of business.
No one appears bothered by the larger reality. A political stalemate exists and the answer being pushed is not to obey the laws, not to follow the Constitution but to create a new post (with the apparent hope that Nouri willw ant the new post). That's the lesson the US government has imparted to Iraq.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board notes, "These elections were hailed prematurely by Mr Obama as a success, but everything that has happened since has surely doused that optimism in a cold shower of reality." 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 9 days.

And in an attempt to end the stalemate by September (not this week, by sometime in September), the US is 'suggesting' that the whole process be chucked aside and a new position created out of whole cloth.  This fits in with another weekend report by Dagher about the disastification Iraqis are feeling over the stalemate: "One show, a 'Chair for Ownerhip,' on the popular Sharqiya television station, pokes fun at a prime minister called 'Abu so and so,' who refuses to leave power, a thinly veiled jab at Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki."  Ned Parker, Raheem Salman and Saad Fakrildeen (Los Angeles Times) report that the White House isn't the only one hoping Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani will step in, some Iraqis are as well and former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is quoted stating, "If the civilians continue to flail over the next three-four years, the chances of a military coup are likely to go up. That could bring with it something like the 1958 revolution."  Today BBC News reports that al-Iraiqya "has suspended talks on forming a coalition, five months after the inconclusive vote."  Why? They're demanding Nouri apologize for calling them "the party of the Sunnis.''  Ammar Karim (AFP) speaks with Allawi's spokesperson Maysoon al-Damaluji who states, "We ceased negotiations with (Maliki's) State of Law. We are not a Sunni bloc, we are a nationalist project. [. . .] We have asked him to apologise. Without an apology, we are negotiate with him anymore." Citing an unnamed source, UPI declares "that Maliki's primary political party, Dawa, has decided to move forward with another as-yet named candidate for prime minister."

Nouri al-Maliki met last Sunday with KRG President Massoud Barzani. As noted then, rumors would run rampant as to what sort of deal Nouri was attempting to make with most assuming it was Kirkuk that was being bargained away.  Salah Bayaziddi (Kurdish Globe) reports:                   

When Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki--at a joint press conference last week with Massoud Barzani, President of Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil--called for the implementation of Article 140 of the Constitution on the status of the city of Kirkuk and other disputed territories, it created a mixed feeling among the Kurds. While forming an alliance between Kurds and Maliki is still uncertain, this sudden visit has produced different reactions and interpretations among Iraqi politicians and policymakers in the region. Nevertheless, it seems one thing is for certain: When most political observers have argued that Maliki has agreed to most of the Kurdish demands--especially the implementation of Article 140--in return for Kurds' support for his premiership, after seven years scrambling over these contentious issues, one short sentence should be enough: It is little too late for him.

Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution demands a referendum on the issue of Kirkuk. Kirkuk is oil rich and it is disputed territory. Kurds state that it is historically Kurdish territory and want it to be part of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The census and the referendum were supposed to take place long ago. Nouri has delayed the census (that's a national census, by the way, not just a Kirkuk census) offering one excuse after another. In 2007, the Kirkuk referendum was supposed to have taken place; however, Nouri began using the lack of a national census as an excuse for stalling on the referendum.   On the issue of the meetings between Nouri and the KRG President, Iran's Press TV feels differently: "The latest intense round of talks between former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who heads the Rule of Law coalition, and Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdish region, took place within the same framework of political consultation. The meeting is deemed a great step forward in resolving Iraq's current political impasse, provided that other leaders also accelerate talks aimed at forming a national unity government."   Kurdistan is the topic of the latest Inside Iraq (Al Jazeera) and we'll note that tomorrow.  In the meantime, the big targets in the last two weeks have been police officers (of all stripes -- including traffic police) and Sahwa.  The latter is also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq."  They are fighters the US military put on the payroll so they would stop attacking US military equipment and US military forces.  Federico Manfredi (Huffington Post) interviews Sahwa leader Sheik Ali Hatem.
FM: Since the March 7 elections, violence in Iraq appears to be rising again. Do you believe that the security gains of the past few years are now slipping away?               
AH: Yes, and this is the fault of the irresponsible and self-interested Iraqi politicians. It was the Awakening that crushed Al Qaeda in Al-Anbar, in Baghdad, in Diyala. We did it. After that the Iraqi government told me that my men would be able to join the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police. Fine, I said, I want what is best for my country. But now it has become clear that the Iraqi government does not want to keep its word. The politicians just wanted to take credit for our military successes.
Thousands of former Awakening fighters are still jobless. And many of those who did join the Iraqi security forces have been kicked out. They accused them of being Ba'athists and terrorists, but these are just lies. It is the people who run the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense who are using sectarianism to advance their interests. They are thinking that if they exclude the Sunnis from the police and the army they will be able to give more jobs to the constituencies of their parties. No, I have no respect for these politicians. They are scum. And we are paying for their mistakes in blood.
FM: Do you think the marginalization of the Awakening Councils may lead some of its former members to return to the insurgency?          
AH: We are already seeing this. And mark my word: Security will deteriorate further. You will see it in the coming weeks and it's not going to stop.
There is no withdrawal, it's one of the great myths of the Obama administration. Linda J. Bilmes (San Francisco Chronicle) explains the basics (again explains the basics) everyone tries to ignore: 

Second, even after the last U.S. troops leave Iraq, we still will have thousands of troops stationed in Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar and on Navy ships in the region who are not being withdrawn. And while combat troops may go home, an army of contractors will be staying on. The American Embassy in Baghdad - already the biggest in the world - will be supplemented with five additional regional consulates. The State Department will increase its 2,500 private security contractors to 6,000 or 7,000 once the military pullout is complete. Other contractors will be hired to do medical evacuations, fly aircraft, drive armored vehicles, issue ID cards and do all the other functions that the departing military is transferring to the State Department.                   

In addition, Andrei Fedyashin (Eurasia Review) offers the following:  

The withdrawal of troops from Iraq and the reconfiguration of the combat mission into a stabilization campaign may sound impressive, but behind that rhetoric, there seems to be no intention to truly end this war. Major General Stephen Lanza, the top American military spokesman in Iraq, has admitted that not much will change there in practical terms following the pullout. Military operations will continue, albeit with intensive outsourcing and privatization. The number of private contractors working for the U.S. in Iraq in sectors such as security, communications, utilities, and commerce has already reached 100,000. Of these, 10,000 work for private security firms. This number is likely to double once the "combat forces" are gone. This is a good deal for the Obama Administration, obviously. With most security positions filled by non-American contractors rather than American service members, possible terror attacks against the U.S. embassy will not cause as much resonance back home, and, consequently, there is less chance for a dramatic shift in public opinion against Americans' continued presence in Iraq.           
How will the withdrawal play out for Iraq itself? The most knowledgeable experts maintain that the term "withdrawal" is a misnomer, as no meaningful withdrawal is actually taking place. They also say that if a new cabinet is formed in Iraq after the holy month of Ramadan, the ministers will rush to petition the U.S. to postpone the withdrawal.                          

As the Iraq War continues, greater opposition is needed. World Can't Wait is getting the word out on an upcoming action:
We received this notice from people planning protests with the 3rd Battalion is sent to Iraq next week. Some of you may have heard about this upcoming action during the webcast we did a couple weeks ago.          
This is a nation-wide call to action! Come to Fort Hood, Texas, Aug. 22 to participate in peaceful actions with veterans and anti-war leaders opposing the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's 5,000 Soldiers to Iraq. This is your invite. Can you attend?                
Despite President Obama's fallacious claims that the war in Iraq is winding down, the 3rd ACR is gearing up for yet another deployment! Furthermore, many Soldiers facing deployment are known to be unfit for combat due to injuries sustained in prior tours. The Peace Movement must not let this stand!       
The Soldiers of the 3rd ACR and the people of Iraq need you to be here Aug. 22. This will be a RADICAL demonstration, with optional direct action elements and possible legal implications. While all are welcome to participate at whatever level they are comfortable, we value greatly those willing to put their bodies on the line.           
The Iraq War continues.  Except at one site where someone's spinng for Obama.  Question for the day: What aging socialite is running the spin of a foreign agent?  Did you guess Arianna?  You guessed correctly.  We're not linking to the crap but when you see his byline, remember he is an agent for a foreign power and remember that the Blueprint Negev Project -- which he takes money for -- is not a two-state solution. Make that: "It's not a three-state solution" because the project requires ripping off the land rights of the Bedouin tribes.  You might ask again why Arianna's allowing herself to be a stooge and a puppet?  And you might ask why, after the uprooting of the Palestinians is damn well know -- widely known and discussed, she's allowing a supporter of similar treatment to the Bedouins -- specifically the Negev Bedouins -- to publish at her site?
Staying in the US, Mark Walker (North County Times) reports the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't being mentioned by candidates in Congressional campaigns in the San Diego and Riverside County areas.  Not all candidates across the country are so silent. Jennifer Jacobs (Des Moines Register) notes Rebecca Williamson who is running against two men -- Democrat Leonard Boswell (current member of the House) and Republican Brad Zaun.  Rebecca is with the Socialist Workers Party.  She's quoted asking a crowd, "Iowa has sent many, many soldiers to fight and die in the war. But for what? The war is being organized to defend the capitalist government and protect the interests of the rich." Jacobs summarizes Williamson on the issues as follows:
Every unemployed worker should receive unemployment benefits until they find a job. Half the state is rural and rural Iowans don't have enough access to good health care, including abortion services. Home and farm foreclosures should stop. Unemployment continues to deepen, especially for African Americans. Flood damage to homes and crop land "could be dealt with if the wealth that's produced by working class people is allocated toward a public works program that would rebuild and improve the infrastructure and levees. … This would also put millions of people to work."
The Militant notes that the Socialist Workers Party in Iowa "collected more than 2,100 signatures to place" Williamson and others on the November ballot. Chuck Geurra (Militant) notes that Rebecca is a twenty-eight-year-old "assembly worker" running in Iowa's District 3.  A SWP press release notes, "Rebecca Williamson for U.S. Representative, 3rd Congressional District. Williamson, 28, is an assembly worker in Ankeny. She has been part of union organizing efforts in Chicago, IL and St. Paul, MN. A women's rights activist, she helped defend Dr. Leroy Carhart's Bellevue, Nebraska abortion clinic from rightist harassment last year. Williamson is fluent in Spanish."

In London, Andrew Gilligan (Telegraph of London) rushes in to insist David Kelly was not murdered but still advocates for an inquest. As a general rule, Gilligan should find another topic to write about. He's done more than enough damage when it comes to David Kelly. The late doctor disputed Tony Blair's lie -- proven a lie in the Iraq Inquiry -- that Iraq could attack England with WMD in 45 minutes. Andrew Gilligan reported on the 'sexed up' documents and eventually revealed Kelly as his source. Kelly was found dead under questionable circumstances and the official story is he took his own life. If you're late to the story, CNN has a timeline of major events here. The editorial board of Gilligan's own paper argues for an inquest:

Almost from the moment his body was discovered in woods near his home in July 2003, conspiracy theories have surrounded the death of Dr David Kelly. The government weapons inspector had been disgracefully exposed by ministers as the source of critical comments about the so-called "dodgy dossier" on the Iraq War. His death seemed, to all intents and purposes, a suicide prompted by the inordinate pressure to which this very private man had been subjected as a consequence.                
This was, indeed, the conclusion reached by Lord Hutton in his inquiry into the circumstances of Dr Kelly's death, which superseded the normal requirements for an inquest. In retrospect, it was a mistake to have combined the findings as to the cause of death with a wider investigation into the political shenanigans that led to his being drawn into such fierce political controversy. They should have been held separately to establish clearly how Dr Kelly died.

The Guardian polls its readers on where it's "now time for an inquest into David Kelly's death?" and it currently stands at 86.7% say: "Yes, a formal inquest is the best way to resolve unanswered questions" while 13.3% say: "No, Hutton's findings were sufficient." James Slack and Miles Goslett (Daily Mail) report on another poll, "According to an exclusive Mail opinion poll, only one in five people accepts the Hutton Inquiry's finding that the government weapons inspector took his own life. The survey also reveals that eight out of ten people want a full inquest. With senior MPs making the same demand, the Coalition is under strong pressure to act. It comes as a medical report says it was 'impossible' that Dr Kelly bled to death in the way described by the inquiry." Simon Walters and Glen Owen (Daily Mail) report that MP Michael Howard is attempting "to force a full inquest into the death of Ministry of Defence weapons expert Dr David Kelly."        

As Simon Alford (Times of London) reminded last December, "Dr Kelly was identified as the source for a report by Andrew Gilligan on the Today programme in May 2003, in which it was claimed the Government wanted the weapons dossier "sexed up". Dr Kelly denied the claims and on July 15 2003, three days before he was found dead, he appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee." And in September of 2003, Warren Hoge (New York Times) reported on Gilligan's testimony to the Hutton Inquiry:

Mr. Gilligan's apology came in response to an earlier disclosure that after he had testified to the foreign affairs panel himself, he sent an e-mail message to three of the committee members suggesting a tough line of questioning to entrap Dr. Kelly.
"It was quite wrong to send it, and I can only apologize," Mr. Gilligan said today. "I was under an enormous amount of pressure at the time. I simply was not thinking straight, so I really want to apologize for that."
Agustin Martinez, Juan Rayas and Martin Martinez are all migrant blueberry pickers who come to Maine every year from Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato. Agustin workerd for three years during the bracero contract labor program, which ended in 1964. He came across the border each year at Calexico, where he remembers being given X-rays, and dusted with DDT, supposedly because workers from Mexico were "flea-ridden." He worked picking tomatoes in Sacramento and Oxnard, in California. A thousand people slept in a huge barracks, he remembers. On loudspeakers they'd be called by numbers to the bathroom to wash, to the dining hall to eat, and to go to work. Juan Rayas also remembers working in that program, although he went to Georgia and Arkansas to pick cotton.                    
The three men live most of the year in a huge labor camp operated by Jasper Wyman, the world's largest blueberry producer, in Deblois. The labor camp in Maine is not so different from the old bracero barracks, Agustin thnks. His hand is injured, and he fears he won't be able to continue working. Workers get paid $2.25 per 23 point box, the same rate growers were paying in 1975, when it had the purchasing power of $8.50 today.                        
David Bacon's latest book is Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press) which won the CLR James Award. Bacon can be heard on KPFA's The Morning Show (over the airwaves in the Bay Area, streaming online) each Wednesday morning (begins airing at 7:00 am PST).
david bacon
the telegraph of london
andrew gilligan
the guardian
the daily mail
simon walters
glen owen
james slack
miles goslett
the times of london
simon alford
the new york times
warren hoge