Sunday, February 20, 2011

And the war drags on . . .

Iraq has had non-stop bombings for weeks resulting in massive deaths and massive numbers of wounded. This has gone on without a Minister of National Security, without a Minister of Defense, without a Minister of Interior. How can that be? Didn't they have an election? Yes, they did back in March of last year. Didn't Nouri assemble a Cabinet? No, he didn't. Not a full one. But the US government pressed the Kurds to back up the claim that despite the fact that Nouri gave himself three positions in the Cabinet (those three) and despite the fact that he left 10 other positions empty, Nouri had formed a Cabinet, had done so in 30 days and could move from prime minister-designate to Prime Minister.

For those who haven't read the Iraqi Constitution, if you can't form a Cabinet in 30 days, the President of Iraq (Jalal Talabani) appoints a new prime minister designate who gets 30 days to form a government.

So when Nouri was unable to form one in over 40 days (Nouri was named the second week of November however Jalal put off making the 'official' announcement until November 25th to give Nouri extra time -- no, the Constitution doesn't allow for that either), that should have been it. Another person should have been named prime minister-designate and given the chance to start a government. That didn't happen. In part because Nouri promised the US government that US forces would be allowed to stay in Iraq past 2011. The CIA had their candidate they wanted, the oil industry had their candidate. The White House blew off both supposedly powerful blocs to instead go with Nouri because he was promising US forces would stay on the ground in Iraq.

Today Dar Addustour reports that it will be late this month or early next month -- a year after the elections -- before the security posts are filled.

No, that's not how it is supposed to work. In 2006, things moved quicker. The same man is prime minister and it's moving slower and slower and slower. What's his argument going to be for the next election (he's already stated that he did not promise AFP he wouldn't run for a third term)? "Elect me or it may take ten years to form a government!"

That Nouri cannot do his job was never in question. You only had to look to the continued lack of basic services for Iraqis. You only had to notice how high on the hog his family (which does not live in Iraq) lives. It was very obvious that someone was taking home much more than a salary and it's been obvious to the US government for some time; however, they didn't care because Nouri was going to give them this and that. He's now failed two administrations. He was supposed to energy the theft of Iraqi oil but still can't get that through the Parliament. Once upon a time, you'd hear in DC that the US military would leave when those draft laws on the oil were passed. You don't hear that anymore. Instead, you hear that the US military will need to stay because pushing those through will make Nouri even more unpopular and the US military will need to stay in order to prop up the puppet, to protect him from the Iraqi people.

They're just there to try and make the people free,
But the way that they're doing it, it don't seem like that to me.
Just more blood-letting and misery and tears
That this poor country's known for the last twenty years,
And the war drags on.
-- words and lyrics by Mick Softly (available on Donovan's Fairytale)

Last Sunday, the number of US military people killed in the Iraq War since the start of the illegal war was 4439. Tonight? PDF format warning, DoD lists the the number of Americans killed serving in Iraq at 4440.

In other violence, Reuters notes a suicide car bombing in Shirqat claimed 3 lives (that includes the driver) and six people were left injured.

Yesterday Al Mada reported on MP Jaafar al-Sadr decrying the corruption, cronyism and nepotism at play in Iraqi politics and he expressed the belief that all Iraqis shared a disappointment in the government. This evening, Al Rafidayn reports, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani declared his support for the protesters and called on the government to be peaceful and not attack the protesters. In his letter he blamed the suffering on fthe Iraqi people on the government's own failures. reports that the Parliament has set aside 20% of the budget 'for the people.' But wait, this is a government whose own members speak openly about the corruption. So possibly creating a 'grants program' to distribute the surplus wasn't the smartest way to go about it? Along with the vote, Al Rafidayn notes there was a physical clash between a State of Law and a National Alliance after the vote (and you can check out the picture even if you can't read Arabic).

Many protesters, especially college age Iraqis, are gearing up for this Friday when they hope to hold the biggest protest Iraq has yet seen. They're not the only ones preparing. Dar Addustour reports that an emergency security meeting decided the Green Zone on Friday will be protected at all entrances with many armored vehicles and riot police and that police and the Iraqi military will take part in the protest. Some will carry banners decrying corruption and calling for much needed services. Shamal Aqrawi (Reuters) reports Sulaimaniya saw more protests today and that forty-eight people were injured including eleven who were shot. Aqrawi notes a protest in Falluja where "about 300 protesters demanded the firing of the governor and provincial council members in Anbar province. Dozens of people rallied for jobs in the southern province of Nassiriya, Abdul Hadi Mohan, deputy head of the provincial council, said.

New content at Third:

Susan e-mailed to ask what I was listening to (Susan and Julia are among the many music junkies in this community -- include me on that list). Sadly, not an album. I was too lazy to grab one and too lazy to grab a flash drive because I thought I would be done about three hours ago, so I've just been streaming this video at YouTube over and over and over and over for the last three hours. I'm not joking. Now, warning, NOT WORK SAFE, I also really enjoy this song by Devendra Banhart and the subversive video. While the song is work safe, the video contains nudity and violence and S&M and is not work safe. I'll probably listen to that a few more times while I try to finish up in the e-mails. Reminder, tomorrow's President's Day. I haven't been to sleep since I woke up Saturday morning. Do not expect any early entries. We're not only on holiday schedule, I am exhausted. Pru notes this from Great Britian's Socialist Worker:

Is this a revolution or just a coup?

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by Alex Callinicos

Leon Trotsky recalls in his memoirs that, immediately after the Russian Revolution of October 1917, Lenin said to him in German, “Es schwindelt”—“It makes one dizzy.”

The last few weeks has made plenty of people dizzy, revolutionaries and non-revolutionaries alike. It took just under a month from the suicide of Mohamed Boazizi for the Tunisian masses to bring down the dictatorship of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on 14 January.

Two and half weeks later an even mightier tyrant, Hosni Mubarak, was forced out by mass protests in Egypt. But how much has changed? Very little, claims the voice of imperialist realism, George Friedman of the strategic intelligence website Stratfor:

“What happened was not a revolution. The demonstrators never brought down Mubarak, let alone the regime. What happened was a military coup that used the cover of protests to force Mubarak out of office in order to preserve the regime.

“When it became clear Feb 10 that Mubarak would not voluntarily step down, the military staged what amounted to a coup to force his resignation.”

For Friedman, the Egyptian revolution is nothing more than an episode that allowed the military to resolve its conflict with Mubarak over his attempt to install his son Gamal as his successor.

Now this analysis isn’t completely false. It underlines that, even if Mubarak has gone, the regime over which he presided continues to exist. More fundamentally, the core of the Egyptian state—its repressive apparatuses—survives.

The Central Security Force may have been shattered by the street battles on 28 January, but the army definitely wasn’t.


Indeed, one reason why the generals acted on Friday of last week may well have been to preserve the army intact. They may have been worried about retaining the loyalty of their conscript troops and junior officers, many of whom had been fraternising with the protesters.

What broke the Shah’s regime during the Iranian Revolution of 1978-9 was the cumulative effect of months of bloody protests and strikes that wore down the cohesion and morale of the army.

Mubarak’s stubborn clinging to power conjured up such a scenario. Hence the ruthlessness with which the US and the military dumped him.

But in forcing him out and assuming power themselves, the generals have put themselves centre-stage.

The appearance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces recalls bodies like the Command Council of the Revolution, the military junta through which Gamal Abdul Nasser ruled Egypt after 1952.

But Mohammed Tantawi, the head of the Supreme Council, is no Nasser. A US embassy cable published by Wikileaks quotes a source saying “one can hear mid-level officers at [Ministry of Defence] clubs around Cairo openly expressing disdain for Tantawi. These officers refer to Tantawi as ‘Mubarak’s poodle’, he said.”

This evidence underlines that the military junta will strive to preserve the status quo. But this then brings us to what is wrong with Friedman’s analysis.

However much friction there may have been between Mubarak and the army, it was the self-organised masses throughout Egypt who forced the generals to act.

Now the military is striving to get the genie back into the bottle. This may not be so easy. One of the decisive developments in the days leading up to Mubarak’s fall was the spreading strike movement.

This didn’t come out of the blue—the past few years have seen the biggest wave of workers’ struggles in Egypt since the 1940s.

What we may well see now develop is the kind of interaction between economic and political struggles that Rosa Luxemburg analysed during the Russian Revolution of 1905.

Their political victory may encourage workers to demand satisfaction for the economic grievances that helped to drive the revolt in the first place. And these struggles can strengthen the political movement to get rid of the regime altogether.

The Egyptian revolution is far from over.

The following should be read alongside this article:

Egypt: 18 days that shook the world

Ahdaf Soueif: ‘Revolution has captured the imagination’

After 30 years of market 'reforms' we're fighting back

Egypt: Strike wave deepens the revolution and threatens the power of capital

Egypt: Workers have taken to the stage of history

Egyptian workers challenge the bosses’ control

Egyptian socialists: 'This won't stop at Mubarak'

Egyptian tax collectors: ‘We need your support’

Middle East round-up: ‘The gates to our freedom have been opened’

Iran’s protests show up the hypocrisy of the West

Libya, Bahrain and beyond - revolt continues to spread

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