Sunday, October 17, 2010

And the war drags on . . .

Members of United States-allied Awakening Councils have quit or been dismissed from their positions in significant numbers in recent months, prey to an intensive recruitment campaign by the Sunni insurgency, according to government officials, current and former members of the Awakening and insurgents.

The above is from Timothy Williams and Duraid Adnan's "Sunnis in Iraq Allied With U.S. Rejoin Rebels" (New York Times). What they're describing is what a functioning Thomas E. Ricks once called "the unraveling." (These days he links to bad Laura Rozen gossip where Rozen 'forgets' that one big problem with Barack nominating Colin Powell for Secretary of Defense would be what Collie calls his "blot" and others note are his lies in the lead up to the Iraq War including that infamous United Nations' testimony.) "Awakenings" or "Sons Of Iraq" or Sahwa are fighters the US put on the US tax payer payroll because, as Gen David Petraeus and former US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker explained repeatedly to Congress one week in April 2008, that would get the fighters to stop attacking US military equipment and US service members. (That order -- equipment and the people -- is the order Petraeus used repeatedly. He also testified that they weren't all Sunni, that some were Shi'ite.) Paid by the US tax payer. Williams and Adnan wrongly state that they were paid by the US military. No. The US military had no money to pay them. It's not a profit-making enterprise for the US government. It brings in no dollars and is totally dependent upon tax payer handouts to continue. The US military paid out US tax payer dollars to the Sahwa and anyone present for the April 2008 hearings is fully aware of that fact and that both parties in the Senate were very troubled by the large pay outs. (They were then also troubled by the CERP funds but with the death of US House Rep John Murtha, no one appears willing to lead on that issue these days, and should US House Rep Ike Skelton lose his seat, no one probably will.) Williams and Adnan note that estimates are "hundreds" have rejoined al Qaeda in Mesoptamia and that those who haven't include a number who are, however, tipping of the domestic group.

The reporters state that this breaking with the recent past by Sahwa is due to the fact that Nouri has refused to integrate them into security or civilian government jobs, the fact that they are being targeted with arrests and due to the fact that the political stalemate has sent a message to Sunnis. The reporters write, "As of July, less than half -- 41,000 of 94,000 -- of the Awakening's fighters had been offered jobs by the government, according to the United States Defense Department. Much of the employment has been temporary and involved menial labor. The government has hired only about 9,000 Awakening members for the security forces, with officials blaming budget constraints." We're using 94,000 now?

We have public testimony of the then-top commander in Iraq which goes higher than that but we're using 94,000? As they were supposed to be on the verge of being moved off US tax payer dollars, Gen David Petraeus (and Ryan Crocker as well) testified repeatedly to higher numbers but we're going with a lower one? Hmm. That's interesting. I guess public, Congressional testimony really doesn't mean s**t. I wasn't aware of that jounalistic 'rule.' In fact, once upon a time, public Congressional testimony trumped all else -- Department press releases, Department statements, Department reports, everything.

Sahwa was started and sputtered out quickly. That's part of the Sahwa history no longer told. When it was initially started it was small and sputtered to the point that reports being filed on this 'new trend' were already out of date. The US used various sheiks and, yes, Iraqi mobsters (concrete is, apparently, a universal mafia business no matter the country) and others. When they finally got it to take, they were convinced the problems were over. (Mohammed Tawfeeq, CNN, reports on the denials by Sahwa leaders that there are any defections -- whether the denials are true or not, you'd say so if your 'power' was based on the perception that you can corral others.)

The problems were only beginning. You can't pay off a bully and expect to be in the clear unless you're prepared to pay forever or switch locations. Yeah, Nouri dropped the ball completely. That was always going to happen. Nouri was making statements to the effect that he didn't trust Sahwa and would only bring a tiny fraction of them into the Iraqi forces. Under US pressure, he began to allow that he could find civilian jobs -- non-security, non-police -- for some of the others. But it was said under duress and that was rather obvious as well. (He did, however, say it -- regardless of why -- and Iraqis who heard his statements have every right to expect him to honor them.) When you pay a bully, you either agree to pay forever or you do one of two things: a) you switch locations where they're no longer near you or b) you prepare for what happens when you stop paying.

Nouri's shorted them on pay checks and had the police target them. He's antagonized them. And these are people whose egos were stroked and tended to by the US military. The US puppet aided in this problem, to be sure, but this is another US-created problem in Iraq. It was a stupid idea and a huge waste of tax payer money. It did allow violence levels to drop. While money was being paid. But the protection racket is never a good one for any government to be in.

It's a strong article and one worth reading in full. Be sure to read until the end so you don't miss the prison phone call threat.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4428. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD still lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4428.

Turning to some of today's reported violence . . .


Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reports Baghdad jewelry and/or gold robbers had an armed clash with police in which 7 people were killed. Reuters notes the death told rose to 12 and that includes 3 shop owners as well as 2 suspects, 2 police officers, 1 Iraqi service member and 4 by-standers.


Reuters notes a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed the life of 1 person and left two by-standers injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured two people, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured three people, a Baghdad sticky bombing which injured three Ministry of Housing and Construction workers, a Baaj roadside bombing which claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soldier, a Mosul mortar attack which injured "a father and his son" and a Mosul sticky bombing (attached to a home's door and not a car, for a change) which injured a teenager.

As the Sahwa article referenced at the top noted, the stalemate appears to be influencing Sahwa defections. 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 seven months and ten days and counting.

Liz Sly (Los Angeles Times) reports that repeated cries of 'hurry up!' from the US government (which has included many dignitaries and officials visiting Iraq -- the biggest name being Vice President Joe Biden) have been replaced with a shrugged, 'Hey now, what's the rush?' Iraq's already achieved the 'record' as the government that's gone the longest between elections and the formation of a new government, so what 'records' are there left to achieve? Apparently none. Sly reports that the US government is very reluctant towards the proposed merger of Nouri and Moqtada al-Sadr. Sly explains that the US 'advocated' for a power-sharing deal between Nouri and Allawi and that they are very concerned about the Nouri and Moqtada alliance and that it might "marginalize Sunnis and is likely to [lead Iraq to] be more closely aligned with Tehran than Washington."

Journalist Ron Brynaert has posted "I'm Back And I Still Got A Sledgehammer Break!" at his old website Why Are We Back In Iraq? and he has a longer post which is an introduction to his earlier reporting on spikes of activity. So a Blogspot/Blogger welcome back to Ron, you have been missed at Good Intentions Paving Company. I don't know how long he'll be blogging at his own site. You'd be smart to check it out now while he is.

New content at Third:

Isaiah's latest goes up after this. Pru notes "Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike: 'People need music, not just images of decline'" (Great Britain's Socialist Worker):

A strike by Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians is sparking a debate about art and the cuts, writes Simon Basketter

Music plays a huge role in people’s lives. It can offer hope and time for reflection. In a time of cuts and austerity across the world, you could argue that now more than ever we need musicians in our lives.

In the US, as in Britain, the cuts aren’t just hitting the likes of health and education services, but the arts too. Look at Detroit. Videos on the internet show a pretty interesting picket line there.

Some 80 musicians from the Detroit Sympathy Orchestra (DSO) are decked out in formal black concert dress, waving signs—on all-out strike.

Members carried signs reading “DSO Quality since 1887,” “On strike DSO unfair” and “Keep your DSO in the Top 10”. The horn section played a musical accompaniment. The musicians are on strike against management’s attempt to slash pay—and for the future of the orchestra.

The players had offered a staggering 22 percent pay cut. But management rejected this and immediately imposed its contract terms—a 33 percent cut.


Under these conditions, new musicians would start at 42 percent less than before, and there are also cutbacks in pension and health benefits. So the musicians called the strike—the orchestra’s fifth since 1969.

Haden McKay, a cellist and the players’ spokesperson, told Socialist Worker, “We have been out a week so far. Detroit is a city hit hard by the crisis. Its economy is one of those worst hit by the recession.

“Management are playing on that by saying we can’t afford a world class orchestra. This strike is about more than money—but there is a certain point that we can’t go below.

“We don’t want to change the whole structure of the orchestra. It is a strike that management forced on us by refusing to negotiate. Basically they want us to be their servants.

“We need things in our lives that lift us out of the everyday. Music is one thing that can do that. It is not a case of jobs or orchestras, we need both—indeed in tough times we need more things that take us out of misery.

“People come to concerts for inspiration. It is not just for the elite—we do free and cheap ticket concerts.

“Detroit needs symbols that aren’t just images of decline or difficulty.

“It’s not a step that we take lightly. But at the same time, we feel that the alternative to continue into that contract would have been so damaging to the long-term health of the institution that we had to strike.”

The musicians denounced the cancellation of their instrument insurance policies once the strike was declared even though players said they were willing to pay the premiums themselves. The amount of money involved can be high as the value of their instruments.


“The only word I can use is punitive,” Haden said. “The bottom line for us is, we want the artistic quality of the orchestra to stay the same or get better. The cuts are so deep, it’s really going to damage the quality of the orchestra long term.”

The strikers are putting on benefit concerts. At the same time orchestra management claim they are continuing with the autumn season.

According to Haden, “They are trying to pretend they can put on a season without an orchestra. But the strike is the only weapon we have to save the orchestra.”

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