Saturday, September 11, 2010

The continued damage of Abu Ghraib and the political stalemate

Yet nothing comes closer to Titus Andronicus than the insistent, terrible stories of gang rape by United States personnel in Abu Ghraib. You hear this repeatedly in Amman, and a very accurate source of mine in Washington – a man who deals with military personnel – tells me they are true. This, he says, is why Barack Obama changed his mind about releasing the photographs which George W Bush refused to make public. The pictures we saw – of the humiliation of men – were outrageous enough. But the ones we haven't seen show Americans raping Iraqi women.
Lima Nabil, a journalist who now runs a home for on-the-run girls, sips coffee as the boiling Jordanian sun frowns through the window at us. "In Abu Ghraib," she says, "women were tortured by the Americans much more than the men. One woman said she witnessed five girls being raped. Most of the women in the prison were raped -- some of them left prison pregnant. Families killed some of these women -- because of the shame."
Lima has written many articles about Jordan's "honour" crimes. At least one was censored. She has -- like other journalists -- been threatened. "Out here, we have closed communities, where everyone knows everyone else. In tribal law, in the old days, the sheikh would protect you. Now the government is trying to take over."

The above is from Robert Fisk's "The truth about 'honour' killings" (Independent of London) and when lying about 'progress' in Iraq in his August 31st speech, Barack forgot to mention Abu Ghraib (as Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive noted -- text and audio). He forgot a lot (such as Abeer). It was more pretty lies from the man known for telling them. It also overlooked the fact that there was no government in Iraq. Six months after the election, there's no government. Allowing a government -- represented by a man -- whose party and slate did not receive the most votes to remain in charge of everything even though his term has expired? That's a joke, that's not progress.

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 six months and four days with no government formed.

Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki conferred over the phone with his Syrian counterpart Mohammed Naji Al Otari and discussed bilateral relations, Al Maliki’s media adviser Ali Al Moussawi said. Syria or other countries are not involved in the government formation believed to be an internal issue, Al Moussawi noted." Meanwhile Iraqi 'president' (his term has expired as well) Jalal Talabani is stating that "external interferences" are why the stalemate exists.

Now imagine being in a war torn country and getting some good news . . . then imagine it being 'complicated,' if not outright destroyed. On this week's War News Radio (Swarthmore College), Jessie Arian reports on the passport issue in Iraq. Excerpt:

Jessie Arian: Mohammed Ali is an Iraq from Mosul studying for a masters degree in French. He and several others from Mosul University have recently been given the opportunity to travel to France as part of a government sponsored program. Though he should be excited, it's actually causing him a great deal of anxiety. He still needs to get a passport.

Mohammed Ali: The university can't get passports for their students. So if I don't get a passport to get a visa from France, I can't travel to that country.

Jessie Arian: Ali, as he asked us to call him, has to be there by November. But he's worried that he's running out of time. He explains what people in his situation have to do.

Mohammed Ali: When you want to travel to any country, you have an appointment and a date to catch it. So if you have to get a passport in two or three weeks, you have to pay someone to get the passport.

Jessie Arian: In Iraq, most people expect to pay bribes for processing government paperwork -- especially passports. Ali told us he will have to pay about $350 US dollars or risk a long wait that could cost him his trip. Unfortunately, one of his professors has already missed her chance.

Mohammed Ali: One of my professors had to cancel her travel because she didn't have a passport.

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thomas friedman is a great man

oh boy it never ends