Friday, October 29, 2010

WikiLeaks and the ongoing stalemate

Along with unprecedented inside information on American military operations in Iraq, the 400,000 US military reports recently released by whistleblower site WikiLeaks provide several interesting snippets of the role of the Central Intelligence Agency in that ongoing conflict. [. . .] the WikiLeaks documents, which are primarily composed of incident reports authored by US troops on the ground in Iraq, include frequent references to operations by "Other Government Agency" or "OGA"-- a term usually reserved for the CIA in internal military documents. Collectively, the reports referring to OGA activities reveal significant paramilitary functions performed by CIA personnel until as recently as 2009.

The above is from Ian Allen's "WikiLeaks documents reveal CIA's role in Iraq" ( Last Friday, WikiLeaks released 391,832 US military documents on the Iraq War. The documents -- US military field reports -- reveal torture and abuse and the ignoring of both. They reveal ongoing policies passed from the Bush administration onto the Obama one. They reveal that both administrations ignored and ignore international laws and conventions on torture. They reveal a much higher civilian death toll than was ever admitted to. And there are many different ways to address the documents. Sitting down with McClatchy Newspaprs' Sahar Issa, The Real News Network's Paul Jay addressed the civilian death toll in the video below.

More at The Real News

JAY: So let's talk a little bit about WikiLeaks. There are various pieces of the documents that jumped out, but the one a lot of people have been talking about is the numbers of civilian deaths, over 100,000. How have Iraqis reacted to all of this?

ISSA: Iraqis know this. Iraqis know that they have lost hundreds of thousands.

JAY: So people think the number is low.

ISSA: People think the number is—no, people know that. McClatchy has done a piece on this. A long time ago we walked the streets of Baghdad, just Baghdad, and we spoke randomly to people on the streets all over the neighborhoods, asking, have you lost someone in this war? And invariably the answer was, yes, either an aunt or an uncle, a brother, a husband, a wife, a son.

JAY: Off camera, before we started the interview, I asked you about this, and you had been in Washington when WikiLeaks broke, and you got on the phone, and you talked to people in Iraq.

ISSA: Yes.

JAY: But your first reaction is, when you asked them what they thought, you said they laughed.

ISSA: They laughed.

JAY: Why?

ISSA: They laughed.

JAY: Why?

ISSA: Because they said, isn't it strange that it is only now that the people outside of Iraq are saying there are more than 30,000 or 40,000 (that was the official number)? Of course they are more. Of course. And there are much more, even, now.

"To the disgust of many, both Iraq's new leaders and the world as a whole lent a deaf ear to such crimes, shutting their eyes to accounts of atrocities and refusing to investigate reports of intimidation, abuse and killings," Salah Hemeid (Al-Ahram Weekly) observes, noting, as Issa does, what Iraqis knew and what the media and governments didn't want discussed. "However, by giving a fuller picture of the US legacy in Iraq through its leaking of secret American military documents detailing torture, summary execution and war crimes, Wikileaks has both done truth a great service and has proved, once again, that truth is the first casualty of war." Watching America translates an editorial on the topic from Spain's El Pais:

The new leaks from WikiLeaks furnish conclusive proof concerning the cesspool of a war like Iraq, undertaken for motives increasingly seen to have been foolish in the extreme and carried out with a brutality that was in complete contradiction to the propagation of democracy invoked by Bush and his Azorean colleagues* as a justification for war. If the strongest argument against the invasion was that democracy could not be imposed on another country by force of arms, the new leaks from WikiLeaks make it necessary to add a corollary which, until now, might have seemed obvious: even less by means of torture, rape or indiscriminate slaughter of civilians. An end, such as democracy, does not justify such execrable means.
Not all the outrages cataloged in the documents published by WikiLeaks -- up to this point, not denied by any source -- were carried out by American troops. But this doesn't offer even a small consolation in the face of such barbarism, inasmuch as the perverse mechanism installed after the invasion consisted of leaving the dirty, if not to say directly criminal, work to the Iraqi forces, who were guaranteed impunity against any possible investigation. Even more: The American command menaced Iraqi prisoners with the threat of being turned over to the police and army of their own country as a means of exerting pressure.

Meanwhile Najba Mohammed (Rudaw) notes, "Although Iraq’s budget for the 2011 fiscal year is estimated at nearly $86 billion, the anticipated delay in approving it by parliament is expected to negatively affect reconstruction projects across the country including the autonomous Kurdistan Region in the north. Around $10 billion of the estimated budget is expected to go to the coffers of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)." When your newly elected Parliament's only met once -- and for less than 20 minutes at that -- it can be difficult getting a budget approved.

March 7th, Iraq concluded Parliamentary elections. The Guardian's editorial board noted in August, "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 twenty-two days and still counting.

Commenting on the stalemate, the San Angelo Standard-Times' editorial board states, "There was some thought that the leak of nearly 400,000 classified U.S. documents bearing on Iraq might galvanize the parliament into action with its revelations of the torture and killing of civilians, especially Sunnis, by the security services and of meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Al-Maliki, who was in titular charge of the security services during the worst of the sectarian violence, said that the release was an attempt to discredit his bid for a second term. And the Sunnis renewed demands that the implicated services be disbanded. But most lawmakers, like most Iraqis, perhaps inured to violence, seemed unfazed by the revelations."

TV notes. On PBS' Washington Week, Dan Balz (Washington Post), Jeanne Cummings (Politico), Major Garrett (National Journal) and Jeff Zeleny (New York Times) join Gwen around the table. Gwen now has a weekly column at Washington Week and the current one is
The End of Prognostication: 5 Questions for Election Night." This week, Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Avis Jones-DeWeever, Angela McGlowan, Sabrina Schaeffer and Amanda Terket to discuss the week's news on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary. And this week's To The Contrary online extra is on attempts to win over women voters. Need To Know is PBS' new program covering current events. This week's hour long broadcast airs Fridays on most PBS stations: "The security of the voting system; modern gerrymandering; California's Proposition 23, which would suspend the state's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. Also: Rebecca Traister and Melissa Harris-Perry discuss the number of female candidates in 2010." And for those confused, Lie Face Harris-Lacewell got married and, like a complete idiot, has again tacked on a spouse's last name to her own. (I'm long on record in believing that you NEVER change your professional name and have noted a very good friend whose marriage ended decades ago and has happily remarried but is still stuck with her ex-husband's last name due to the fact that she changed her professional name after marriage number one.) Turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:

Newton, Iowa
Scott Pelley reports from Newton, Iowa, where the closing of an appliance factory is causing a negative effect on the community's economy.

Tax The Rich
David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's budget director who once preached tax cuts, is now in favor of putting a one-time surtax on the rich. Lesley Stahl reports and finds just such a proposal on the ballot in the state of Washington. | Watch Video

If Zenyatta wins the Breeder's Cup Classic next week to cap an undefeated career of 20 straight victories, some say the 6-yr.-old mare might just be the greatest thoroughbred race horse in history. Bob Simon reports. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, Oct. 31, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio note, The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live starting at 10:00 am EST) today finds Diane joined by panelists George Condon (National Journal), Shailagh Murray (Washington Post) and Sheryl Gay Stolberg (New York Times) for the first hour (domestic news dicussion) while, for the second hour (international news), Susan Glasser (Foreign Policy), Roy Gutman (McClatchy) and Martin Walker (UPI) join Diane. Right now Amped Satus offers a must-see video and, from LGBT Asylum News, we'll note this:

Action alert: Gay Nigerian threatened with removal by UKBA

Hope Nwachukwu is gay and faces persecution if he is returned to Nigeria. He has already suffered years of attacks and torture by fellow citizens who hold strong views on practicing gay men. Hope arrived in the UK at the end of 2009 to try and escape his persecutors but since then he has spent six months in detention - where he has suffered attacks by fellow Nigerians who see he is gay. For Hope, the thought of returning to life in Nigeria is terrifying but the UK Border Agency insists that he is not gay.

Update 27 October:

Hope's lawyer won at the High Court a judicial review of his fresh claim. This was at the last minute as Hope had been prepared to be removed.

This reprieve means we need your help now if we are to save Hope
[. . .]

What can you do to help?

Please write to the Home Secretary
Please join the campaign to save Hope from certain persecution. Write to the Home Secretary and express your alarm that Hope has received removal directions and ask for his removal to be canceled.
Rt. Hon Theresa May, MP
Secretary of State for the Home Department,
2 Marsham St
London SW1 4DF
Fax: 020 7035 4745

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