Monday, September 27, 2010

The violence, the money, the stalemate

Seth Meyers: But you know what else is crazy? Anyone who says we need to attack Iran because we're definitely in two wars already. Yes, two. Because saying combat operations are over in Iraq when they're are still 50,000 troops is like saying, 'Hey, I quit drinking . . . tequila shots!'

Amy Poehler: Really.

Seth Meyers: Really.

The above is from Weekend Update on this weekend's Saturday Night Live (click here to stream the episode at NBC, click here to stream it at Hulu and click here to stream the Weekend Update clip at Hulu). And as Seth notes, the Iraq War has not ended which is the topic on The Takeaway (PRI) today when they speak with BBC News' Gabriel Gatehouse about how, since Barack declared 'combat operations over,' "there hae been at least three occasions in which U.S. forces have engaged in combat."

Moving over to today's violence, Reuters reports a Baghdad sticky bombing injured Iraqi journalist Alaa Muhsin (Iraqiya TV), a Kirkuk car bombing injured police Chief Ahmed Shamirani and five other police officers, a Tikrit bombing injured the brother "of an Iraqi government intelligence officer" and, dropping back to Sunday for the last two, 1 surgeon was shot dead outside his Kirkuk home -- Alsumaria TV identifies him as Dr. Mohammed Anan Saleh -- and a Baiji roadside bombing targeting Sahwa injured three of them.

Sahwa, also known as "Awakenings" and "Sons Of Iraq," are predominately Sunnis who were put on the US payroll to stop attacking US military equipment and US service members -- according to the testimony of Gen David Petraeus to various Congressional committees in April of 2008. As US senators objected to the payment -- US tax payers footed the bill -- when Petraeus and then-US Ambassador Ryan Crocker appeared before Congress, it was decided that the issue of Iraq paying Sahwa themselves would be taken up. They were supposed to take over the payments and absorb Sahwa into jobs -- security and government jobs. That really did not happen. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) has reported that the Sahwa in Anbar Province who were added to the police force have now learned that they're being kicked off. Fadel quotes Maj Raheem Zain: "We sacrificed our blood and our families. I think they want to take the province back to square one. I'm afraid of what will happen if we leave. Even the citizens are afraid from this."

Friday, Xinhua reported, "Iraq's preliminary budget proposal for the next year is 86.4 billion U.S. dollars based on a world oil price, an official newspaper said on Saturday." Nouri sits on billions in Iraq and yet US tax payers are being again asked to foot the bill for various tasks. Joel Brinkley (San Francisco Times) weighs in on Iraq's budget surplus noting:

Apprised of the auditors' findings, Iraq immediately objected. No, no, no, the Finance Ministry said. Most of that money, just over $40 billion, is already spent on cash loans and advances to - who knows? The Finance Ministry couldn't say. It classifies almost half of the expenses as "other temporary advances."
Not even Iraqi authorities are buying that dubious claim. An amount equal to the state budgets of Illinois and Indiana combined is just out there in the ether somewhere? Iraq's Board of Supreme Audit issued the opinion that continuing to authorize these so-called advances could result in "the misappropriation of government funds," otherwise known as corruption - or theft.
The International Monetary Fund demanded that Iraq identify where that $40 billion had gone and to begin recovering it by Sept. 30. That's just a few days away. Don't hold your breath.

Of course a question not being asked is: Why is any budget being passed at all?

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted last month, "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 twenty days with no government formed.

Alsumaria TV reports
that Iraqiya met last night to discuss their options while "
The National Alliance is pursuing talks after it failed in Sunday’s meeting to name the Prime Minister candidate. Iraqi Vice President and Islamic Supreme Council senior official Adel Abdul Mehdi announced that the alliance did not make any progress in five days."

Bonnie notes that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Priorities" went up last night. Sherwood Ross' "DARK CURTAIN OF TOTALITARIANISM DESCENDING ON THE UNITED STATES" (Before Its News):

You might give the FBI the benefit of the doubt that it had some incriminating evidence when it raided the homes of eight antiwar activists in Minneapolis and Chicago September 24th except for the fact that its past record in such cases is stinko. The F.B.I. broke down Mick Kelly's door around 7 a.m., and it wasn't to get an early cup of coffee from a man employed as a food service worker at the University of Minnesota. The agents were probing to see if the occupants of any of the homes they burst into were supporting “terror organizations.” Uncle Sam here might be a trifle jealous of private citizens' backing violent entities when it has always assumed it had a superpower's exclusive franchise to fund violence. The Midwest raids are correctly seen as “a U.S. government attempt to silence those who support resistance to oppression and violence in the Middle East and Latin America,” by the International Action Center of New York, an anti-militarist group. Kelly, after all, was a key figure in organizing the successful 2008 anti-war street protests that embarrassed the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. In today's America, standing up for peace automatically makes you a terror suspect.
Concerning the FBI's record of past transgressions, the Chicago Tribune reported Sept. 21, “FBI agents improperly opened investigations into Greenpeace and several other domestic advocacy groups after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, and put the names of some members on terrorist watch lists based on evidence that turned out to be 'factually weak,' the Justice Department said Monday.” The evidence against the 1-million other Americans on the no-fly lists likely is equally flimsy. Last year, Justice Department's own Inspector General(IG) found many subjects of closed FBI investigations “were not taken off the list in a timely manner, and tens of thousands of names were placed on the list without appropriate basis,” the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported. And The Tribune added that an internal review by the IG concluded that the FBI was guilty of improprieties but did not purposely target the groups or their members. (See, it wasn't on purpose. The FBI just makes tens of thousands of mistakes with other people's lives and reputations.)
The travails of Mick Kelly increasingly are being repeated across the U.S. against many others in a variety of unconstitutional ways, according to a review of President Obama's first 18 months in office by the American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU), which fears Obama is “normalizing” some of the egregious practices of predecessor George W. (“The Invader”) Bush. There is a very “real danger,” the ACLU says, Obama “will enshrine permanently within the law policies and practices that were widely considered extreme and unlawful” during the Bush regime. These include denying the very rights of torture victims to bring suit in the U.S. Court, the refusal to release torture photos and refusing to prosecute the torturers, plus keeping secret the records of his predecessor's policies on rendition, detention and interrogation. Like any odious dictator of the past, Obama claims he can hold 48 Guantanamo detainees indefinitely without charge or trial; and that, like Russia's Joseph Stalin who had rival Leon Trotsky assassinated in Mexico, he can reach out and kill any of his citizens anywhere in the world without trial.

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