In his car, he played loudly a frenetic strain of Arabic pop and, in jest, swerved toward a neighbor riding a bicycle. (The neighbor frowned.) On the trail, he walked with the swagger that a 9-millimeter Beretta in his leather holster brings. Most of his sentences seemed to end in an exclamation point.
"Listen to me!" the married Mr. Hais barked into the phone at his girlfriend.
He hung up, shaking his head. "She’s driving me crazy," he said.
A politician running for Parliament having an affair? An extra-marital affair? In a country in the grip of fundamentalism?
The paragraphs above could lead to an exploration of society and meanings, of facades and realities. Instead, it's just another detail for Shadid to bury in his article entitled "Across Divide in Iraq, a Sunni Courts Shiites."
The big election story remains Nouri's efforts to force out his political rivals ahead of the expected elections in March. Deng Shasha (Xinhua) reports on Saleh al-Mutlak's response to the proposal to ban various groups and politicians including himself:
Mutlak's party had joined a larger alliance named the Iraqi National Movement, which includes the former prime minister Ayad Allawi, a Shiite secular, and Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, a Sunni Arab, along with 20 other political parties to run the March elections as a one bloc.
"The committee's decision is politically motivated as the national bloc becomes too popular and it would possibly be the biggest bloc in the coming parliament, so they want to weaken it before the elections," Mutlak said.
Diablo Valley College poli sci professor Amer Araim provides the backstory on Ba'athist for today's Contra Costa Times:
Many political leaders in Iraq today are former Baathists. Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi and the former prime minister Ayad Alawi as well as many members of Parliament were Baathists, but left the party due to disagreement with Saddam Hussein.
Many other Baathists were willing to do so, but they did not have the chance due to the repressive machine of the regime. It is also a fact that a number of members of the Baath Party are accused of criminal activities during the 35-year Baathist rule.
The occupying powers as well as the special courts in Iraq (which have become known for its bias and lack of justice) have not establish a reliable justice system to deal with those Baathists who committed crimes during the previous regime.
For many Sunni Arabs in Iraq the Baathist label is used to prevent them from participating in the political process.
If Nouri's attempts to bar his political rivals from participating stick, the most likely response will be an increase in violence not just before the elections but well after the polls close. On the topic of violence, Reuters reports today a Baghdad roadside bombing which left four people injured and, dropping back to Friday for the remainder, 1 Iraqi soldier shot dead in Kirkuk and a second one shot in Kirkuk but left injured and not dead.
The following community sites have updated since Friday evening:
Doug notes this from "Call to Action: Shut Down Guantanamo!" (World Can't Wait):
"I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture, and I'm going to make sure that we don't torture."
- President-elect Barack Obama, November 16, 2008
From Witness Against Torture
On January 22, 2009, President Obama committed his administration to closing the prison camp at Guantanamo within a year. Since that time, the process of releasing, relocating, or prosecuting its remaining detainees has become mired in bureaucratic machinations, Congressional grandstanding, fear-mongering, and political backsliding. Despite his claim to break from the past, President Obama has upheld many of the worst Bush policies - from the denial of habeas corpus, to immunity for torturers, rendition, and indefinite detention without charge or trial.
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