Saturday, December 11, 2010

Stalemate and (in London) checkmate?

What if minutes showed you'd agreed to do something that you swear you hadn't? What if your own legal advisor warned you what you were planning was against the law and you denied you'd ever received that advice? Apparently those aren't problems if you're appearing before the Iraq Inquiry in London because Tony Blair managed to breeze through what should have been his public farewell. This week, came news that the Iraq Inquiry would be calling him back for further questions next year. There are no strong reasons to expect that things will go any differently in round two, however, Richard Norton-Taylor and Chris Ames (Guardian) report on a new document that has surfaced:

The Foreign Office was planning for the possibility that Britain might attack Iraq without UN approval more than six months before the invasion, according to a hitherto classified document written shortly before a meeting between Tony Blair and George Bush at Camp David.
The document, drawn up by John Williams, press adviser to the then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, spells out ways to soften up the media, including "critics like the Guardian". Under the heading Not taking the UN route, Williams wrote: "Our argument should be narrow, and put with vigour – Iraq is uniquely dangerous."
His memo, titled Iraq Media Strategy, is dated 4 September 2002, when the government was still trying to get UN support for military action and when Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, was advising that clear UN authority was needed. The document was also written as Whitehall and MI6 were being wound up by No 10 to provide much-needed ammunition for the government's Iraq weapons dossier.

And just when some truths about Blair might be publicly aired, Brendan Carlin (Daily Mail) reports, "The man described as Tony Blair's 'echo' and closest adviser in government is bidding to oversee the BBC, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Jonathan Powell, the ex-diplomat heavily implicated in Mr Blair’s controversial decision to go to war with Iraq, has applied to be the next chairman of the BBC Trust, the body that polices the Corporation."

As the Iraq War nears the eight year mark, claims of progress are refuted daily by Iraq's inability to form an executive government nine months after elections. Nouri al-Maliki, prime minister-designate, swore he'd form the government by December 15th. AP reports he's going to miss that promise -- though they apparently don't remember he set a date in April of 2006 and missed that as well; goes to pattern -- but he just knows, just knows, he will be able to form one by the December 25th deadline. They quote him stating, "We are facing a constitutional deadline and we will not tolerate exceeding it." Of course you won't, it's a Constitutional deadline. If you miss it, if you past the 30-day limit, the Constitution demands that the President immediately name a new prime minister-designate. That's not 30 days a few extra hours or maybe a few extra days. That's a hard 30 day dealine written into the country's constitution. It's not debatable.

Which doesn't mean he won't try to ignore it. Nouri's pattern suggests that he would. But if the international community goes along with it, just drop the damn pretense that anyone ever wanted Iraq to be a democracy. In order for Nouri to stay in charge these last months, the will of the people and the votes had to be ignored. Those are key components in a democracy. If Nouri's going to trash the Constitution to remain in power, the international community will be publicly confessing that the Iraq War never had any altruistic motives.

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 nine months, four 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."

Nouri's making public noises because he's got problems. He's creating new positions and posts in a desperate attempt to keep the promises and back-door deals he made to form the power-sharing agreement. But a lot of people who, for example, were promised Ministry of Oil (Chalibi was promised it and he's had some rather heated conversations about not getting it), aren't really pleased with the consulation posts with titles that sound like "Assistant Boo-Boo Kisser" and contain no real power. Nouri's starting to sweat that he may not get his cabinet nominees approved. (That's part of the 30 day deadline. They don't just have to be named, they have to be voted on by the Parliament.) And it's not just the Shi'ites from various Shi'ite political parties who are mad at Nouri. Nor is it just Shi'ite Ayad Allawi who heads the non-sectarian political slate of Iraqiya (he's stated for over a week now that he may walk out on the power-sharing agreement). It's also the Kurds.

He made a lot of promises, that Nouri. And the first problem he faced after being named prime minister-designate was the census and the referendum on Kirkuk. He'd successfully (and illegally) postponed it (the Constitution demanded it be held by 2007). But it was looming and then it was announced, days before December 6th, that it was called off. The rank and file Kurds were furious. We noted it here. We noted that they were and that the international Kurdish community was. Domestic news outlets in the US weren't covering the story and aren't. We noted Jalal was once again slitting his political throat and that the move was a gift to Goran -- the CIA-backed political party which seeks to end the two-party dominance in the KRG.

Jalal's an idiot. He's always been one, he always will be one. That's why his party did so poorly in the July 2009 elections. Massoud Barzani's party benefitted from drawing a clear line and stating that they still supported Kurdish independence. (US outlets have just ignored the entire Kurdish story, by the way.) Massoud Barzani is the KRG President and he's once again playing the game better than Jalal. (Which is why his party, the Kurdistan Democratic Party is currently the dominant force in KRG politics.) Shamal Aqrawi (Reuters) reports, "Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani said on Saturday that his semi-autonomous region has the right to self-determination and to the disputed city of Kirkuk, which is located above some of Iraq's largest oil reserves. The fate of Kirkuk is one of the main issues of contention between the Kurdish region and the central government in Baghdad, which are locked in disputes over land and some of the world's richest oilfields." "Main issues of contention." So where's the coverage from US outlets? AFP adds:

On the subject of Kirkuk, Barzani pointedly told the audience that "when it returns to the region... we will make Kirkuk an example of coexistence, forgiveness and joint administration, but we cannot bargain on its identity."
The region first attained a modicum of autonomy in 1974, but Barzani’s father and then-leader of the KDP, Mulla Mustafa Barzani, returned to war with the Baghdad government rather than accept that limited autonomy.
Kurdistan won greater freedom after the 1991 Gulf War, but Barzani and Talabani, the region’s other dominant political leader, waged war for control of smuggling routes that provided valuable tariff revenue while former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was still in power.

Turning to the US, a country that doesn't take rape seriously. As Naomi Wolf, Naomi Klein, Dennis Bernstein, Ray McGovern, Robert Knight and so many others have made clear last week, rape can only take place when the rapist is someone that we on the left hate. Otherwise, it can't take place. Otherwise, any woman is a liar. See, it's not just the myth that rapists must be strangers to the victim that these Whores have sold all week, it's the new component, the rapist must also be someone that the left gives thumbs down to. They've succeeded in sending that message all week long. There's no excuse for it. But in such a country -- and let's be honest about what we're living in -- NOW's action alert is especially needed:

House Must Pass the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act Now!


The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act S.3817 (FVPSA), a vital source of funding for programs that aid survivors of domestic abuse, has been reauthorized by the Senate as part of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). Now the House MUST pass FVPSA to ensure that violence survivors continue to receive this critical assistance. Contact your representative NOW, and urge support for this vital piece of legislation -- this is a must-pass before the end of the lame-duck session. Use our message or write one of your own.

Take Action NOW!

In order to address your message to the appropriate recipient, we need to identify where you are.
Please enter your zip/postal code:


The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act is a federal grant program that funds domestic violence shelters and support services, such as counseling, crisis hotlines, basic needs and legal advocacy, for survivors of domestic abuse. Unless the House reauthorizes funding for FVPSA, countless shelters in the U.S. and millions of women and children could be left without life-saving services. During hard economic times, support of these shelters and services is more important than ever.

FVPSA, which expired in 2008, was first passed in 1984 as part of the Child Abuse Amendment. It was included in the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 and approved again in 2003 as part of the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act. If reauthorized, FVPSA will approve $250 million per year to shelters and other outreach organizations that aid survivors of domestic violence. It will also include new programs to help prevent children in abusive homes from continuing the cycle of violence in adulthood and fund intervention, employment training for survivors of domestic violence, school-based prevention projects and parenting skills development. It will also update the National Domestic Violence Hotline to keep up with changing technology.

For decades, NOW has worked to prevent and reduce domestic violence in the U.S., describing it as an "epidemic" that primarily harms women and teenage girls. Millions of women are physically, emotionally and economically abused by someone they know, love or trust. Every year, more than 1,000 women die from physical abuse inflicted by an intimate partner.

Children also are seriously affected by domestic violence. About three to four million children witness domestic violence in their homes, which causes severe emotional trauma and makes them twice as likely to become abusers when they reach adulthood. Children who live in homes in which their mothers are abused are also more likely to experience abuse.

With domestic violence affecting so many women and children, we hope that you will contact your House member right away to urge that the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act is reauthorized before the end of the 111th Congress -- not many days away. Take action NOW!

Tell your friends about this action alert.

ADDED: 12-11-2010. I'm in the e-mails and someone has sent a link to Mary Elizabeth Williams' "This week in crazy: Naomi Wolf" (Salon). This is an amazing piece of writing that captures so much and will also have you laughing. Thank you to Marci who e-mailed the link and I'm forwarding it to several friends (and I rarely forward articles to friends).

The e-mail address for this site is