Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Stalemate and WikiLeaks

Iraq's been using 'wands' purchased from England to 'find' bombs -- they require you 'start' them by basically high stepping in place for a half-minute or more. They are a joke and ineffective and that's been known for some time (the UK has banned their sale) but only now can the 'government' in Iraq catch on. Ernesto Londono (Washington Post) reports today that this 'new' finding by Iraq's Minister of the Interior "was unsurprising. But in today's Iraq, it had the potential to be politically explosive. What the ministry did in response to the inspector general's conclusion speaks volumes about how the Iraqi government works these days - and why so often it doesn't."

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-seven days and still counting.

Suadad al-Salhy (Reuters) notes
that Iraq's Parliament is currently set to meet on Monday -- that may or may not take place (court order not withstanding) -- and that it's possilbe a motion could be put forward favoring Nouri. Should that be attempted, it's equally possible that enough members could storm out of the session leaving the Parliament without a quorum.
Tanya Nolan (Australia's ABC) explores the waves of violence in Iraq and the stalemate's perceived role in them:

A former senior analyst with the CIA and now senior fellow at the National Defence University in Washington DC, Doctor Judith Yaphe, says the political instability is a perfect storm for militants wanting to wreak havoc.
Dr Yaphe says militants may be trying to encourage a civil war while incumbent prime minister Nouri al-Maliki leads a weak government.
"One thing they're probably testing is to see how strong are the security forces. Will they stand behind Maliki?" she said.
Dr Yaphe says she believes Iraq will not be able to form a government before the end of the year.
The latest reports in the Guardian newspaper quote Mr Allawi as threatening to pull out of a US-backed power sharing deal with Mr Maliki and the Kurdish bloc.

Martin Chulov is the author of the latest reports and, at the Guardian, he reports on Allawi's emerging position:

"I have come to accept that opposition is a real option for us," Allawi said in an interview with the Guardian. "We are in the final days of making a final decision on this issue."
Until recently, Allawi had been clinging to hopes that a compromise would be reached between his bloc, known as Iraqiya, and the coalition of the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, whom Allawi's bloc narrowly edged by 91 seats to 89 in the 7 March election.
However, interminable rounds of shuttle diplomacy, mostly conducted in neighbouring capitals, appear to have convinced him that a US-backed power-sharing government is not viable.
"We are not ready to be a false witness to history by signing up to something that we don't believe can work," Allawi said, in reference to a mooted plan to create for him an office with executive powers equal to those of the prime minister.

Friday October 22nd, 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. At Huffington Post, Human Rights First's international legal director Gabor Rona writes:

The trove of Iraq war documents recently made public by Wikileaks underscores several important truths.

One, the American people have a right to know when Americans or their allies commit violations of the laws of war. Two, the American government has been woefully nontransparent. Transparency is key to accountability, to minimizing violations and to preventing the civilian population from turning against US forces. This, in turn, protects, rather than endangers, US troops.

Travis Gumphrey (Daily Cougar) notes what so few in the US will:

The primary force in the latest leaks is that of detainee abuse and torture. Shortly after taking office, President Barack Obama promised to return America to a “moral high ground” by vowing to ensure that terror suspects weren’t tortured or abused and ensuring American personnel comply with the Geneva Convention.
Additionally, the implication was that US forces would make sure that the authorities to whom the detainees were handed over to for detention or interrogation were not torturing or abusing them.
One document filed on April 2, 2009, details the claims of a prisoner who says he was hog tied and beaten with a shovel as a part of a day-long torture ordeal. The report makes note of “minor injuries” including rope burns and a busted ear drum.
While there is no proof in any of the files of direct detainee mistreatment at the hands of US forces, there are allegations of abuse even after President Obama signed the order to put an end to torture.

Ali Bharib (Columbia Journalism Review) provides
an overview of the release focusing on Iran and those who put forward false claims about what the released documents mean.

Bully Boy Bush is in the news cycle. When the hysteria dies down, we'll note it but that may be weeks from now. We are not going to promote his book release. John Howard made similar attempts at curry public sympathy for his book and we ignored his book. No one -- rightly or wrongly -- really believes that either Bush or Howard has the ability to write a book on their own. Poodle Blair, by contrast, wrote his bad book and it needed to be called out. We're going to try to wait weeks before commenting on Bully Boy Bush's 'book' and, when we do, we'll do like we did with Blair -- never mention the name of the book. We are not here to advance the tomes of War Hawks.

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