Monday, December 6, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, WikiLeaks remains targeted, tomorrow Julian Assange is scheduled to appear in court, cables demonstrate Nouri purged Iraqi forces this year to kick out Sunnis, the Iraqi census is not an issue that is fading away, Iraqi Christians remain targeted, and more.
WikiLeaks remains under attack but more defenders are stepping forward and common sense might yet win out. Max Calloway (Daily Collegian) weighs in, "What these cables represent, however, is a level of hypocritical foreign and domestic policy that even the most paranoid conspiracy theorists couldn't have foreseen. We are fighting two wars for freedom and democracy, but heaven forbid another country contests our actions – cough, Spain, cough. Foreign policy aside, these cables and the international reaction surrounding them are unbelievably frightening. Since the end of the Vietnam War, our government has relied on increasing secrecy in order to pursue agendas which often stand in direct opposition to public opinion. If there was ever any doubt to this statement, these cables should serve as proof of our representative body's true motives." Luke Cherney (Daily Titan) contrasts Hillary Clinton's bad spin last week with reality, "She argued that this kind of reporting is dangerous to individuals and state representatives alike saying, 'There is nothing laudable about endangering innocent people, and there is nothing brave about sabotaging the peaceful relations between nations on which our common security depends.' One of the functions of news is to be a watchdog for the public, not the administration, not diplomats or government agents. That means that there should be news that can be antagonistic to the current administration or whatever the party. The ability to disclose unfavorable documents is part of our freedom of the press." Thomas Harvey (St. Louis Beacon) argues, "WikiLeaks directly threatens the power and credibility of both government and media. Governments seek to control information and bristle when anyone threatens their dominion. While the media historically played this role, (and ended up on enemies lists as a result) they now see their role as patriotic defenders of government secrecy. At its best, WikiLeaks lays bare government lies as well as the media's failure to point them out to us. Ultimately, the unseemly collusion between government and media in the defense of secrecy threatens more than just WikiLeaks and Julian Assange; it threatens our democracy." The latest support comes as Max Fisher (The Atlantic) reports, "British police say they are now seeking to arrest WikiLeaks founder Juilan Assange, who is thought to be in London." Owen Bowcott (Guardian) adds, "Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, is expected to appear in a UK court tomorrow after his lawyers said he would meet police to discuss a European arrest warrant from Sweden relating to alleged sexual assaults." And it comes as Saturday Night Live elected to attack WikiLeaks and Julian Assange in a smutty skit which aired Saturday -- a smutty attack which demonstrated just how far gone SNL had become. Friday, Reporters Without Borders noted, "Reporters Without Borders condemns the blocking, cyber-attacks and political pressure being directed at cablegate.wikileaks.org, the website dedicated to the US diplomatic cables. The organization is also concerned by some of the extreme comments made by American authorities concerning WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange." Marcia's called for a boycott of Amazon for dropping WikiLeaks and Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com) points out:
Echoing the government-Big Media lie that WikiLeaks is purveying "stolen property," Amazon is making propaganda for the regime and its efforts to take down WikiLeaks. Although it isn't very convincing propaganda: after all, who "owns" those 250,000 diplomatic cables – or the "Collateral Murder" video, for that matter? Why, the people whose involuntary contributions paid for them, i.e. the American taxpayers. Now, instead of being kept in the dark about the often dangerous and provocative shenanigans our government is up to overseas, the American people have access to what is their property, not the government's.
Far from stealing anything, WikiLeaks, in effect, returned stolen property to its rightful owners. To argue otherwise is to maintain a deeply statist and proto-authoritarian stance: that the state exercises sovereignty over the people, rather than vice versa.
AFP reports that the latest cables released include one on Iraq where the State Dept gets a report on Saddam Hussein's execution, with Saddam being told to "go to hell" by the man walking him to the hanging platform, with observers videotaping and filming the hanging, with attempts to interrupt "his final prayer" with a chant of "Moqtada, Moqtada, Moqtada." David de Sola (CNN) adds that "six Iraqi government personnel arrived at the scene an hour before the execution. These six are described as the Iraqi government's 'video personnel' and personal security detail." The National Post notes this on the cables having to do with Iraq:
Today's Iraqi leaders are struggling to restrain the ambitions of the countries that share Iraq's porous borders, eye the country's rich resources and vie for influence. "All Iraq's neighbors were interfering, albeit in different ways, the Gulf and Saudi Arabia with money, Iran with money and political influence, and the Syrians by all means," Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president and the senior Kurdish official, told Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a Dec. 10, 2009, meeting, according to a diplomatic cable. "The Turks are 'polite' in their interference, but continue their attempts to influence Iraq's Turkmen community and Sunnis in Mosul."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki fired dozens of officers from the security and intelligence services early this year and replaced them with inexperienced political officers loyal to his Shiite Dawa party, U.S. officials reported in February, according to newly leaked diplomatic cables. The firings were carried out under the guise of purging members of Saddam Hussein's long extinct Baath party, but U.S. officials in Baghdad fretted in cables that Maliki would do "serious harm to the intelligence institutions by drumming out experienced and proficient officers," including many Sunni Arabs. The cables, published on the website of al Akhbar, a left-leaning Beirut daily, bolstered U.S. and Iraqi critics who've accused Maliki of building a sectarian security structure during his first term in office.
The Baghdad cables are part of a cache of 183 U.S. State Department communications from the Middle East and North Africa recently published online by Lebanon's Al Akhbar newspaper. It's unclear how Al Akhbar got the cables, which they say are "exclusive," and whether they posted them with the permission of Wikileaks, which has tightly controlled who publishes which of its cables and when. In the week before Iraq's election began, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad warned that Maliki and his office "directed the removal" of security and intelligence officials, including "some of the highest quality personnel" and "some of the most experienced intelligence officers," over dubious allegations of ties to the long-defunct Baath party. Maliki, the cables say, then replaced those officials with "political officers" from Maliki's Da'Wa party who "lack intelligence or related backgrounds." They cite "troubling" concerns that Maliki's changes were designed "to eliminate internal opposition in the run-up to the elections." The purges and political replacements targeted the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Interior (which oversees intelligence), the Iraqi Joint Headquarters Intelligence Directorate, and the Iraqi National Intelligence and Investigation Agency. Those agencies handle much of Iraq's internal security and the ongoing battle against still-present sectarian and terrorist groups, both roles that are increasingly important as the U.S. reduces its troop presence. "The politically linked command changes are corrosive to Iraqi Security Force command and control integrity and unit readiness," a February 2010 cable from Baghdad warned. Maliki, they say, was likely "trying to hedge post-election fall-out by seeding security forces and intelligence services with allies."
And that's who is the prime minister-designate today. Nouri has 21 more days to propose cabinet ministers and have them approved -- individually, one by one -- by the Parliament. He's pushed back the census (again) which is having at least a small spillover effect in terms of the Kurds. Whether it will be large enough to cost him votes or not is an unknown.
But he barely put together a power-sharing coalition. When he did put it together, he did so with the promise of the census and the promise of a new post for Ayad Allawi. And neither of those things have come to pass. If they don't come to pass before the thirty day deadline (they've fudged his being named prime minister-designate and are stating it didn't occur until November 25th), Jalal Talabani is supposed to nominate another prime minister-designate and that's written into the Constitution.
Alsumaria TV reports, "Iraqi political leaders, political parties' representatives and provinces administrative units officials held a meeting on Sunday night in Baghdad attended by appointed Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki and President Jalal Talabani." It was decided that they would attempt to find a solution to the problem "by December 19." Kick the can, kick the can. And Nouri hoped he could kick it on past December 25th. He used the promised census to woo Kurdish support. No sooner was he declared prime minister-designate than the census was called off. What's forcing the issue now is Kurdish outrage as Kurdish rank-and-file grasp how little their leaders got out of the deal with Nouir and demand action, fueled in part as a result of a leaked cable. Wladmimir Van Wilgenburg (Rudaw) reports:
In leaked US diplomatic cables the Turkish ambassador to Iraq, Murat Ozcelik, told US officials on January 11th that for the first time a Kurdish official understood that Kirkuk would not be included in the semiautonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, indicating to Turkey that a compromise and a special 10-year status for Kirkuk was needed. Ozcelik said that, during tri-lateral negotiations on December 21st 2009 in Erbil involving Turkey, the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Kurdistan Interior Minister Karim Sinjari said the KRG had now understood that Kurdistan would not be incorporating Kirkuk into the region.
The KRG is a wealthy region of Iraq. More importantly, it has support from Kurds around the world (including in the US). Certain Kurdish leaders might have thought they could play off the Kurdish desires for their own selfish reasons (hello, Jalal) but they underestimated both the desires of those living in the KRG and what the KRG has come to mean for Kurds around the world. Their actions were ignorant and may have resulted in turning Goran into a real political party.
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, twenty-nine days and counting. Thursday November 25th, Nouri was finally 'officially' named prime minister-designate. Leila Fadel (Washington Post) explained, "In 30 days, he is to present his cabinet to parliament or lose the nomination." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) added, "Even if Mr. Maliki meets the 30-day deadline in late December -- which is not a certainty, given the chronic disregard for legal deadlines in Iraqi politics -- the country will have spent more than nine months under a caretaker government without a functioning legislature. Many of Iraq's most critical needs -- from basic services to investment -- have remained unaddressed throughout the impasse." Jane Arraf (Al Jazeera) offered, "He has an extremely difficult task ahed of him, these next 30 days are going to be a very tough sell for all of these parties that all want something very important in this government. It took a record eight months to actually come up with this coalition, but now what al-Maliki has to do is put all those people in the competing positions that backed him into slots in the government and he has a month to day that from today."
Saturday, November 27th, Nouri held a press conference and made noises that could be interpreted as the advance roll out in case he misses his deadline. His remarks could be interpreted as, "If I don't meet the 30 day deadline and someone else is appointed and has to start over, it will toss the nation into further chaos." Nouri's often done that, prepared the press for his failure to uphold and obey the law. Meanwhile UPI quotes US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey stating of Ayad Aallwi, "We're very, very interested in all of the key major players here having important roles. Ayad is one of the more important ones."
The Constitution was completely tossed aside following the March 7th elections. Nouri knows that. Nouri damn well knows all the laws he's broken since the US first installed him as prime minister in 2006.
For all the fabled talk of "democracy" in Iraq -- talk not just from the lips of George W. Bush, Barack Obama has repeated these lies -- the US government refused to (or was to weak to) stand up for democracy in Iraq during the continuing political stalemate. Which is how the lesson from the 2010 (Iraq) elections is that elections don't matter. A losing party can retain leadership. Elections don't matter and there's no reason to even vote.
Many of the pieces in the last months have echoed Iraqis voicing just that sentiment.
So if Nouri tries to blow off the Constitution, there needs to be worldwide outcry. Or else the world just needs to stop kidding itself that Nouri isn't the new Saddam. He's already ignored the ballot and if he next ignores the Constitution -- and gets away with it -- the message will be very clear that Iraqis were not handed the right of self-governance, they were handed over to a new dictator.
Friday Sam Dagher (Wall St. Journal) reported, "Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani paraded in front of reporters on Thursday 39 suspected members of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al Qaeda-linked terror group responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks in the country." Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reports the US military is concerned by the arrests and quotes military spokesperosn Jeffrey Buchanan stating that, noting that the US was not involved in the arrests and that no US intel was used. He states, "I think you've got to be very, very cautious [about] leaping too far ahead for conclusions that if you arrested a bunch of guys, even if you got exactly allt he right people, that this means the end of Al Qaeda or this means the end of ISI or the end of terrorism [as] we know it in whatever part of Baghdad."
Alsumaria TV notes that Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini met yesterday with Iraq's Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and prime minister-designate Nouri al-Maliki and they "discussed the situation of Iraqi Christians in light of recent mounting attacks targeting them in addition to Italy's stand from the death penalty against Tareq Aziz." More talk as Iraqi Christians are targeted. Deutsche Presse-Agentur reports that unknown assailants blew up a Baghdad home today killing 3 family members and injuring four more. CNN reports "an elderly Christian couple" was shot dead in the Baghdad home Sunday. Vatican Radio reports there were four assailants and that they used guns with silencers. Asia News identifies the couple as Hikmat and Samira Sammak and that they were moving to Erbil: "Two days ago, they had returned to Baghdad to complete the transaction and sell their funiture. During the night the criminals broke into their home". The latest wave of attacks began October 31st when assailants stormed Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad and over 70 people were killed with at least seventy more left injured. Since then, news reports have noted a steady targeting of Iraqi Christians. RomeReports.com (link has video and text) notes Pope "Benedict XVI called [today] for the respect of human rights in Iraq and Egypt. The Pope asked Catholics to pray during Advent to resolve these situations of violence, intolerance, and suffering. In hope that the memory of the bright of Jesus brings 'consolation, reconciliation and peace'." Ahmed K. Fahad (Lebanon's Daily Star) explains, "Average Sunni and Shiite Iraqis are also standing in solidarity with their fellow citizens, and have been appalled by the anti-Christian attacks. In addition to the support of neighbors, some academic institutions are doing their part. For example, the University of Kufa in the city of Najaf has invited Christian professors and students to come and study, and the Kurdish government has officially offered to host Christian students and professors in their institutions as well."
Every day in Baghdad Our tears fall The mother suffering Cause she lost her son Who was playing outside And killed by a gun.
Reuters notes a Baghdad roadside bombing wounded two people and a second Baghdad roadside bombing wounded a Sahwa member and claimed the lives of 2 his sons (and left three more people injured). Meanwhile three recently kidnapped Emerati citizens have been released. Khaleej Times reports, "Three UAE nationals, who were kidanpped a few days ago in Iraq have been freed. According to Juma Al Junaibi, Director-General of the UAE Foreign Ministry, the three Emiratis -- Sultan Rashid Nasser Al Mansouri, Saeed Salim Humaid Al Mansouri and Ahmed Shaban Saleh Al Mansouri -- along with their seven companions, were on their way hom eby air." Khalifa bin Abdulla bin Hassan bin Al al-Thani died in Iraq. Xiong Tong (Xinhua) reports that the member of Qatar's royal family was hunting in Anbar Province "when his vehicle-rolled over, critically wounding him" and he died before he arrived at the hospital. Alsumaria TV reports that a Sunday Baquba home bombing claimed the lives of 2 children and left "their parents and brothers" injured while a corpse was discovered in Baquba and they noted the latest attack on Iraqi Christians (Baghdad home invasion in which an elderly couple was killed).
In the US, Kevin Baron (Stars and Stripes) reports the White House continues to press Congress -- in the midst of an economic recession -- to find the dollars to continue the US 'civilian' presence in Iraq. The answer should be a loud "NO!" Nouri al-Maliki signed off -- in 2007 -- to the White House benchmarks for success. If the benchmarks were not achieved, funding was supposed to be cut off. They were not achieved. While they want to send more money overseas to prop up thug Nouri, Lisa Chedekel (New Haven Independent) reports, "More than 1,800 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been treated for PTSD by the VA and vet centers in Connecticut -- a patient count that has climbed 23 percent over the last year. The data, obtained from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, also shows that the West Haven VA and other New England-region VA facilities had treated close to 9,000 veterans with potential post-traumatic stress disorder through June 30, 2010 – an increase of 1,480 cases over the prior year." This bill is coming do and this bill must be paid (treating veterans). If Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama think money grows on trees, they might start planting those trees on the White House lawn -- as it is, Lambert (Corrente) notes the US government can't even print money correctly.
Christophe Ventura: In the newspapers, Barack Obama is referred to as the new hope for the United States, the embodiment of hope for peace in international relations. Your criticism toward him is clear: He's an opportunist and wily politician, "a president of rhetoric" who practices "the politics of slogans" and tries "to bring together contradictions." What does it mean?
Tariq Ali: It means he's good at useless things and bad at setting true policies capable of helping the unemployed and the non-privileged. The disparities regarding access to health care arose again in 2009. Obama's first year in power favored the rich! As in Europe, there was austerity for workers and the poor, but luxury for the rich. The background music has changed at the White House. But that's all, as the background music has no effect on those 15 million unemployed Americans and the Iraqi, Afghan and Palestinian population. Yet, there are few illusions left with the American liberals and their European "avid followers" from the moderate left. The Europeans thought that if they had to grovel to the hegemonic great power on the other side of the ocean, it would have been better for it to have happened with the emperor of the Holy Roman Europe rather than his disastrous predecessor. For the European élite, the change in the background music counts more than any other real change.