Monday, November 22, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, Iraqi Christians continue to be targeted, the US military announces another death, the puppet government in Iraq can't get it up, and more.
Friday a roadside bombing targeted Iraqiya's Mohammed al-Khalidi. John Leland and Khalid D. Ali (New York Times) reported Saturday it was three Members of Parliament who were targeted (with, as known Friday, one bodyguard killed and two others injured), that the bombing took place between two military checkpoints and that "police issued a warrant for two soldiers at the checkpoints, who then fled their post, heir weapons behind, said Atheel al-Najafi, the governor of Nineveh Province, who is a brother of the speaker." As violence continued to plauge the country, Parliament met on Sunday.
Jack Healy and Yasir Ghazi (New York Times) report that this was "only the fourth time" and it apparently 'accomplished' the feat of grasping that Iraqi widows, unemployed, etc. will just have to do without money because it long ago ran out and no new budget has been passed despite Iraq holding elections over eight months ago. Lara Jakes (AP) adds that while Iraq can no longer pay the benefits to widows and the poor because, according to Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujafi, they don't have the money, MPs have each received over "$100,000 so far this year in salaries and stipends" even though they've only held four sessions all year. Gabriel Gatehouse and BBC News live on their own little cloud which floats increasingly further away from reality which is how they manage to insist that the MPs got "down to work" on Sunday. So little happened that Nouri wasn't even officially named prime minister-delegate as was expected. Healy and Ghazi explain, "Mr. Talabani appeared to have all but done so more than a week ago, naming Mr. Maliki to a second term a day after the power-sharing deal was announced." What's going on? We already noted it long ago. To build his support, Nouri promised several of the same ministries to several different people. Now he's having difficulty with regards to building his cabinet. So Jalal Talabani keeps hitting the snooze button with the hopes that Nouri can pull it together. Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) observes, "Constitutionally, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is supposed to announce a cabinet within 30 days of coming to power, but officials argue that President Jalal Talabani hasn't officially appointed Maliki as prime minister yet, so the clock hasn't yet started on this deadline." Mo Honge (Xinhua) explains, "Talabani's delay was aimed at giving the prime minister- designate more time to negotiate ministerial portfolios with parliamentary blocs, as Maliki will have 30 days to form his cabinet from the date of receiving Talabani's letter, [Nouri's spokesperson Yassin] Majid said." Asharq al-Awsat interviewed Jalal Talabani this weekend.
Asharq Al Awsat: When will you officially designate Al-Maliki to form the government?
Jalal Talabani: After the Id.
Asharq Al Awsat: But the Id is over.
Jalal Talabani: That's true; but we celebrate the Id for four days. I have written a letter of designation to Al-Maliki. It will be issued after the Id and the prime minister-designate will begin discussions on the formation of the government.
Ashar Al Awsat: It took eight months until you agreed to distribut the responsibilities to the various parties. Do we have to wait for another eight months for the government to see the light?
Jalal Talabani: We expect the government to see the light within one month, God willing. In fact, we did not wait for eight months but for five months. The first three moenths were spent on the court's ratification of the legislative elections and other legal measures. But the reason why it took so long is because we are determined to form a national partnership government. We could have formed a majority government but we insisted on a national unity government and the Kurdistan Alliance insisted that the Al-Iraqiya List should be present in the government. That is the formation faltered. Now, however, there is a consensus among the parties on a national unity government. What remains is agreeing on the distribution of the ministerial portfolios.
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. November 10th a power sharing deal resulted in the Parliament meeting for the second time and voting in a Speaker. And then Iraqiya felt double crossed on the deal and the bulk of their members stormed out of the Parliament. David Ignatius (Washington Post) explains, "The fragility of the coalition was dramatically obvious Thursday as members of the Iraqiya party, which represents Sunnis, walked out of Parliament, claiming that they were already being double-crossed by Maliki. Iraqi politics is always an exercise in brinkmanship, and the compromises unfortunately remain of the save-your-neck variety, rather than reflecting a deeper accord. " After that, Jalal Talabani was voted President of Iraq. Talabani then named Nouri as the prime minister-delegate. If Nouri can meet the conditions outlined in Article 76 of the Constitution (basically nominate ministers for each council and have Parliament vote to approve each one with a minimum of 163 votes each time and to vote for his council program) within thirty days, he becomes the prime minister. If not, Talabani must name another prime minister-delegate. . In 2005, Iraq took four months and seven days to pick a prime minister-delegate. It took eight months and two days to name Nouri as prime minister-delegate. His first go-round, on April 22, 2006, his thirty day limit kicked in. May 20, 2006, he announced his cabinet -- sort of. Sort of because he didn't nominate a Minister of Defense, a Minister of Interior and a Minister of a Natioanl Security. This was accomplished, John F. Burns wrote in "For Some, a Last, Best Hope for U.S. Efforts in Iraq" (New York Times), only with "muscular" assistance from the Bush White House. Nouri declared he would be the Interior Ministry temporarily. Temporarily lasted until June 8, 2006. This was when the US was able to strong-arm, when they'd knocked out the other choice for prime minister (Ibrahim al-Jaafari) to install puppet Nouri and when they had over 100,000 troops on the ground in Iraq. Nouri had no competition. That's very different from today. The Constitution is very clear and it is doubtful his opponents -- including within his own alliance -- will look the other way if he can't fill all the posts in 30 days. As Leila Fadel (Washington Post) observes, "With the three top slots resolved, Maliki will now begin to distribute ministries and other top jobs, a process that has the potential to be as divisive as the initial phase of government formation." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) points out, "Maliki now has 30 days to decide on cabinet posts - some of which will likely go to Iraqiya - and put together a full government. His governing coalition owes part of its existence to followers of hard-line cleric Muqtada al Sadr, leading Sunnis and others to believe that his government will be indebted to Iran." The stalemate ends when the country has a prime minister. It is now eight months, fifteen days and counting.
What are they waiting on?
This is nonsense and the US should not be putting up with it. Currently Fat-Clogged Arteries Jalal Talabani is stating he will name Nouri prime minister-delegate on Thursday -- to give Nouri as much time as possible. He's rigging the system for Nouri. Thursday, the 25th is also the LAST day he has to name the prime minister-delegate (see Article 76 of the Constitution). Yesterday, US military announced: "BAGHDAD -- A United States Forces -- Iraq Soldier died of wounds sustained from enemy small arms fire Sunday during advisory operations in Northern Iraq. 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 http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/. 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 currently under investigation." So while Nouri and Jalal DICK AROUND people are dying, widows and orphans are going without and US soldiers are dying.
Sunday's New York Times carried a ridiculous column entitled "What We Must Do for Iraq Now" and the byline only made more ridiculous: Vice President Joe Biden. Iraq does not have, as Joe insists, a government reflective of the elections. That's crap. When the biggest vote getter isn't getting the prime minister post, don't claim that the deal reflects anything that the people wanted. Iraqis risked life and limb to vote. And they did so -- as the results demonstrated -- because they were not pleased with what was going on. Shi'ites demonstrated that more often by staying home. In 2005, the Sunnis stayed home (December 2005), but this year the Shi'ites felt misled, lied to and hyped and a large percent stayed away from the polls -- and, yes, that is a vote in and of itself. Iraqiya supporters (Sunni, Shi'ites and others) turned out despite the fact that they were under assault from Nouri. Jailed, banned, murdered. It wasn't easy to be Iraqiya.
Joe Biden needs to face reality and speak reality. The March 2010 elections did not say: WE THE IRAQI PEOPLE LOVE THE WAY THINGS ARE GOING! Therefore, why did the posts not change? Jalal remains president because . . . Well because his fat ass wants it. Nouri schemed and planned to hold on to the prime minister post.
The message these 'results' send to the Iraqi people is that not only are their representatives crooked but the US endorses crooks. This is an appalling message to send to a country the US government has repeatedly asserted that it wants to 'give' 'democracy' to. This is appalling.
And Joe's column is appalling on those grounds. It is even more appalling when you grasp that these puppets, these exiles who returned when the US made it safe for them to return (and whom the US then installed into power) won't get their s**t together.
Obviously there's not going to be democracy in Iraq. The US government killed it and wrote the coroner's report this year when they allowed Little Nouri to become the new Saddam. Jameel Theyabi (Dar Al Hayat) observes:
It is no secret that there are Iraqi political forces accusing Nouri al-Maliki of sectarianism due to his "unclear" positions toward the violence that is invading the country. Moreover, the army whose formation he supervised is accused of being involved in crimes and torture operations -- according to the Wikileaks documents. In the meantime, Al-Maliki is insisting on remaining in his post and rejecting all the initiatives, which confirms he is taking orders from other sides and is implementing agendas that do not serve Iraqi concord. This could cause the thwarting of political stability and the inauguration of a new Iraqi stage.
Consequently, there is no difference between Saddam Hussein, who appointed himself as the "sole" leader of Iraq, and Al-Maliki, who is refusing to give up his post even if this is at the expense of Iraq's interests, stability and relations with its Arab surrounding.
The corruption that is destroying the state from within, the oppression that is affecting many factions of society, the bad services, the weak performance of most of the sectors, the expansion of sectarianism and the deep disputes between those participating in the political process, all require a true national and democratic spirit that can allow the best to assume power and pave the way before the active Iraqi political leaderships that are able to secure Iraq's interests, security and stability in the face of the problems and challenges. This would prevent the country from becoming an arena for the conflict of the agendas that are serving Tehran and Washington and blocking the way before the Arab interest.
The US government has made quite clear it doesn't give a damn about Iraqi citizens. Feisal Amin Rasould al-Istrabadi (Today) observes, "Seven months after Iraq's national elections, the United States has publicly denied taking sides in the wrangling over who will be Prime Minister. Privately, however, the US is backing the incumbent, Mr Nouri Al Maliki. The US has applied tremendous diplomatic pressure on Iraq's Arab neighbours to get them to accept another Maliki term. Most have refused. Initially, the US backed Mr Maliki in order to keep the Sadrist bloc from gaining a share of power. However, that has now backfired, since the Sadrists are the only group other than Mr Maliki's coalition of Shia parties that supports him."
Well what about the US citizens?
Another US soldier dies in Iraq and Joe Biden's flapping his gums about what the US has to do for Iraq? In what world does that make sense?
Maybe in the same world where everything he publicly predicted about Nouri has come true but, being vice president, he has to toe the line when, if he'd stayed in the Senate, he could take credit for just how right he was about Nouri.
Once upon a time, not all that long ago, the US Congress expected Iraq to be wrapped up and for the puppets to get their act together enough for the US to leave. Let's drop back to April 2, 2008 and the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing, that then-Senator Joe Biden chaired, which was entitled "Iraq After The Surge." Let's zoom in on US Senator Barbara Boxer speaking to Stephen Biddle:
Barbara Boxer: Did you just say that Maliki uses the Iraqi security forces as his militia? Did you say that?
Barbara Boxer: If that's true and Maliki uses his military as a force to bring about peace -- that's scandalous and that we would have paid $20 million to train [it] and someone that we consider an expert says it's a militia, that's shocking.
She then attempted to question Rosen who attempted to add details. Details weren't needed and ate into the time needed for Boxer to make the case she was making. "I come out with a picture of Iraq today," she explained, "as a bloody lawless place, run by militias, a place that has undergone ethnic cleansing and the Shias won that . . . and also that the US presence there is only putting off the day when the Iraqis will find the way."
Eight months after an election and no government. Does Barbara Boxer think that's evidence of the puppets finding the way? In that hearing, she declared, "There is no good solution to this nightmare so why not just figure out a way to tell the Iraqis, 'We've spilled the blood, now it's your turn'." It's over 2 years later and still the US government isn't sending that message.
Is there any accountability at all? Does no one but US House Rep Lloyd Dogget even remember the 18 benchmarks the White House proposed and Nouri signed off on in 2007? Dropping back to the September 16, 2008 snapshot for that day's US House Committee on the Budget hearing on Iraq's Budget Surplus and this exchange is between US House Rep Lloyd Doggett and the GAO's Joseph A. Christoff:
Lloyd Dogget: All of us remember, except maybe President Bush, that in January of 2007, he selected the benchmarks, the guidelines by which to measure success, by which to measure victory in Iraq and when we sought an analysis so we would have an objective information instead of just the propaganda from the administration about whether those benchmarks had been met the Congress turned to the Government Accountability Office. And my recollection is that when you came out with your report on August the 30th of last year that you determined that . . . 11 of the 18 benchmarks that President Bush had set were not met. Is that correct?
Joseph Christoff: Based on that prior report correct.
Lloyd Doggett: Yes, sir. And you found that of the 18 benchmarks the president set himself to measure success in Iraq that only three had been met as of August 30, 2007. Now this year, a year later, you did some evaluation again. You did not evaluate every single benchmark but you really found that there had been very little progress in the year. We know that fortunately fewer Americans are being killed there. But in terms of the objective of the Bush policy in Iraq, you had a grand amount of success in that they met one more benchmark than they had the year before, isn't that correct?
Joseph Christoff: Well we didn't go through a benchmark by benchmark analysis but we did provide a report that talked about progess on the security front, the legislative front and the economic front in our June report.
Lloyd Doggett: Right and I believe you found one more benchmark met than the year before.
Joseph Christoff: Again we didn't do a benchmark by benchmark analysis, sir.
Lloyd Doggett: Well if you look at the -- it may not have been called a benchmark analysis -- but you looked at some of the same factors you had the year before. Just to begin to go through them, on the Constitutional Review Committee, you found that they'd formed the committee but the committee hadn't done anything. Right?
Joseph Christoff: And that's still true.
Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met that. On enacting and implementing legislation on de-Baathification you found that they had enacted the legislation but they hadn't implemented and of it, right?
Joseph Christoff: That's correct.
Lloyd Doggett: Well they hadn't met the second benchmark. On the question of enacting the hydrocarbon or oil legislation, you concluded that they had not met that again this year, did you not?
Joseph Christoff: Correct, and no progess this year either.
Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous regions -- that was the fourth benchmark President Bush had -- you found that that was only partially met. Again they passed a law to allow the provinces to act but it hadn't been implemented.
Joseph Christoff: Well on that one it will be implemented when provinces come together to form regions so that's an open --
Lloyd Doggett: Right, but we're not there yet.
Joseph Christoff: Well no provinces have voted to form regions other than the KRG originally.
Lloyd Doggett: On enacting and implementing legislation for an Independent High Electoral Commission you found only partially meeting it. Again, they passed a law but hadn't implemented it.
Joseph Christoff: The commission was established. The provincial election law -- the date was established for October 1 but the implementing laws have not been enacted.
Lloyd Doggett: Right. And they won't have the elections they've been promising us they'd have for a year in October.
Joseph Christoff: October 1, they will not meet that date.
What was the point of the benchmarks? The people were told it was to ensure progress in Iraq and that progress could be measured. Why present the benchmarks to Congress, get Nouri to sign off on them and then ignore them?
It makes no sense and it cheapens the lives lost in this illegal war.
No, we scream in cathedrals
Why can't it be so beautiful
Why does there
Gotta be a sac-sac-sacrifice
Gotta be a sac-sac-sacrifice
-- "iiiee," written by Tori Amos, first appears on her From The Choirgirl Hotel
Was Saddam Hussein a man of peace? Was he the new Ghandi? No, he wasn't. Not by any means and it's indicative of just how badly the US government screwed up everything that the exiles they have put in place, installed into power, have made things worse for Iraqis. This is the US-installed regime that's targeting Iraqi Christians. Iraqi Christians have been targeted since the start of the illegal war. The latest wave started on October 31st when assailants attacked Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad and at least 70 people died with at least another seventy wounded. Iraqis covered in the press -- in the foreign press, little coverage on this comes from the domestic press -- would state in that immediate aftermath that they were thinking of moving to Mosul but a relative or friend warned them that it wasn't safe there. Mosul was the focus of a 2008 wave of assaults on Iraqi Christians and, since the siege of the Church in Baghdad, Mosul's again become a place where Iraqi Christians are targeted. Over the weekend Sam Eyoboka (Vanguard) reported, "Peeved by the continued massacre of Christians in Iraq, the umbrella body of Christians in Nigeria, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has appealed to the United Nations, UN, to intervene and save the lives of the Christian hostages in interest of world peace. Speaking in an interview, the National President of CAN, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor also appealed to the Muslim fundamen-talists in that country to take advantage of the Muslim feast of Eid el Kabir to ensure that lasting peace reigns in that region." From Nigeria to Rome, Asia News noted, "Card Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI), said that the Italian Catholic Church was close to all 'those who are victims of violence'. He made the statement as he promoted a Day of Solidarity with Iraqi Christians, who are persecuted in their own country. The event includes prayers in all Italian parishes this Sunday." Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco is quoted stating, "Inviting everyone to pray for the persecuted Christians of Iraq in all the churches of our country on the occasion of the Solemnity of Christ the King is a concrete way to express our faith and show our closeness to all those who are victims of violence, like the people affected by the 31 October carnage in Baghdad's Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral." Catholic News Agency reports, "Pope Benedict XVI prayed for Christians suffering from persecution and discrimination throughout the world, especially those in Iraq, during the Angelus on Nov. 21. The Italian bishops invited the faithful to a day of prayer for the persecuted and for their persecutors after the Oct. 31 massacre of dozens of Iraqi Christians celebrating Mass in a Baghdad cathedral. Violence continues to be directed against the country's Christian minorities. The day of prayer was promoted as a sign of closeness and solidarity to Iraqi Christians and all those persecuted for their faith."
The targeting continues today. Jomana Karadsheh (CNN) reports two Iraqi Christians, brothers, were at the Mosul welding shop they owned and worked at when assailants burst in and shot them dead while "an elederly Christian woman [was] strangled in her home in central Mosul." AFP identifies the two brothers as 40-year-old Waad Hanna and 43-year-old Saad Hanna. Asia News reports that "Saad dies instantly, Hanna, two hours later." Catholic Culture notes, "After months of occasional bombings, the targeted attacks on Christians have taken a more personal turn, with murderers breaking into homes and workplaces to murder the Christians they have targeted."
Internal and external refugees are created by the violence. Internal? Asia News reports that 40 Chrisian faimilies have left Baghdad for northern Iraq while Randa Habib (AFP) reports the latest wave has resulted in many Iraqi Christians seeking safety in Jordan:
On Sundays families gather at the Syriac Orthodox church in Jordan's capital Amman to pray, socialise and mull over the best ways of securing a visa to enable them emigrate to the United States, Canada, Australia or Europe. There are always new faces in the crowd, like Suzanne Jilliani, her husband Hani Daniel and their year-old baby who fled after the October 31 attack on Baghdad's Syriac Catholic cathedral that left 46 worshippers dead. The couple, who now live in a furnished flat provided by the Syriac church in Jordan, dream of joining Jilliani's family in the United States.
Turning to other reported violence . . .
Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roadside bombing which left six people injured, a Baghdad bombing which left three people wounded, a Ramadi roadside bombing claimed the life of Col Abdul Kareem and injured two of his bodyguards and, dropping back to Sunday, a Baquba roadside bombing targeted a Sahwa member.
Meanwhile how stupid is Kevin Spak? The Newser 'writer' cites Christopher Hitchens as a reliable source. Impending death has not redeemed Hitchens shoddy and trashy reporting. Kevers Spaky wants everyone to know that Jalal Talabani did something great -- he knows because Chris Hitchens said so -- see, Jalal won't sign the death order on Tariq Aziz! Tariq Aziz is currently still scheduled for execution. That's why Catholic News Agency and Europa Press report that Archbishop Louis Sako is calling for Aziz to be spared. Belfast Telegraph adds that his attorney -- Giovanni Di Stefano -- states they will attempt to get a presidential pardon: "It's a risky legal move, considering Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has granted few, if any, pardons in his more than five-year tenure and could be prevented from doing so in this case." Like Spak's 'reporting' all the links prior were stories published today. But if he'd placed his trust in Leila Fadel (Washington Post) instead of the questionable Hitchens, he could have known reality last week. November 17th, Fadel reported Jalal's declaration that he wouldn't sign the order: "The president's stand did not come as a surprise and may not prevent the controversial execution. During Talabani's earlier tenure as president, he never signed off on a death sentence, but Iraqi authorities nevertheless hanged several senior members of the former government, including Hussein."